This is the second in a series of articles. To read part one, click here.
Part 2: Music & Me
Those who know me understand I’ve written songs for my own enjoyment since I was a teenager. Though I view the songs more as a personal form of journaling and general creative outlet than any means of achieving recognition or compensation, I am proud of much of the material I’ve created and as I get older, I feel more and more that some of it deserves to be brought to life and shared.
But to this point, pretty much everything I’ve recorded and performed has been acoustic. The reason for that is simple: I can pick up an acoustic guitar and sing a song all on my own without having to rely on anyone else or having to lug around a bunch of gear. It’s as economical as you can get if you’re going to perform or record music. And I really love a lot of those songs. But I’m betting that most of my friends who have seen that I write music probably think, “Oh yeah – Kevin does that acoustic stuff.”
Yes. But that’s only part of the story.
There are many artists in the acoustic vein that I respect greatly and whose work I absolutely adore. But my true heart and soul have always belonged to rock music. Ever since I first saw Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme (yes, the “More Than Words” guys – the most completely misunderstood rock band of my generation) perform for the first time, I was hooked. When Cherone climbed up from behind Paul Geary’s drum perch, over a stack of speakers and onto a makeshift walkway high above the stage while Nuno (guitar) and Pat Badger, the bass player, crashed into the opening chords of “It(‘s a Monster)” at Molson Park in Barrie in 1992, I thought, “Oh, wow. I want to try that!”
It was then, after Extreme’s “III Sides to Every Story” spun my head off my shoulders, that I first began to write my own lyrics in earnest, and eventually took vocal lessons and taught myself how to play guitar by trying to fumble along with Nuno on songs like “Cupid’s Dead” and “Peacemaker Die.”
Extreme wasn’t the only band I liked, of course. They were simply my favourite, and remain so. But I love all sorts of rock bands and artists. Off the top of my head, some of them are: Volbeat, Saigon Kick, King’s X, Zakk Wylde (Pride & Glory, Black Label Society), Green Day, The Trews, Thunder, Airbourne, Rival Sons, Harem Scarem, Jackyl, Buckcherry, ZZ Top and sooo many others. Like anyone else, there are certain songs by bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith and Van Halen that I simply must listen to every now and then.
And by the way, I’m not asking you to like what I like. I’m past the point of needing to validate my own tastes. Like what you like! And if we agree, great! If not, that’s cool too. I’m just explaining a little about how I got here.
But after my band favourite broke up (in 1996), I got away from listening to that kind of music for a while, and wandered toward artists like Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earle, then later to the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Great Big Sea, David Francey, Will Kimbrough and Todd Snider (Springsteen and Earle’s songs inspired me but I was attracted to their darker material, which wore me out after a while. I found the optimistic nature of Buffett, et al, very refreshing in the early 2000’s).
But then, in the summer of 2006, the members Extreme came back together to do three shows in the New England area. Ecstatic, I drove all the way to Connecticut to see them perform (I’m in Ontario, Canada, so that was an 8-to-10-hour drive). I thought I’d never have the chance to do that again. Since I’d last seen them, in 1995, I’d finished school, started my career and started a family. Indeed, my entire life had changed, and because of work and, well, life, I had not even taken my guitar out of its case in years.
Seeing the musicians that initially inspired me perform together again was an electric jolt that was like having a missing piece of myself reattached. Theirs were the songs that resonated with me when I was an 18-year-old kid trying to figure out who I was, and I still get emotional when I consider songs like “Am I Ever Gonna Change.”
The experience reminded me of what I was really passionate about. After the long drive back home, I ran straight into my basement, took my electric guitar out of its case for the first time in years and immediately began to play the riff from a song I later titled “Dangerous,” which goes something like this:
Then and there, I committed myself to exploring my music more from that point on (I recorded and released an acoustic EP the following year, put out a full-length CD in 2010 and another EP in 2014). I have been planning and thinking about my rock project ever since then. And it’s my opinion that the best music I’ve ever written is my rock music. I believe it’s my best because I am so passionate about it and I make little effort to filter it. And yet no one’s ever heard or seen it.
Somehow, I’m going change that, with a project called “Mutineer.” I’ll share more about that in part three, tomorrow.
I recently was afforded the great pleasure of serving as Master of Ceremonies for a really neat event called “Rock for Dimes.” A key fundraising initiative for the March of Dimes Canada, the “Rock for Dimes” night featured a variety of rock bands and special guests, all coming together to help raise money and awareness for a great cause.
As I took in each performance, I was struck by the variety of music that was played, and I noted what songs were covered and what other famous artists had been represented. I was interested to see what kind of songs these performers had so deep in their souls that they would be willing to dedicate so much time and effort into rehearsing and, ultimately, sharing them on stage.
I also wondered what it was that got each of the members of these bands to pick up an instrument in the first place? It was clear that they loved what they were doing, and that they were singing and playing as an extension of their spirit, rather than just a means to an end.
It was nice to watch, and it all got me thinking about what had inspired me musically. Once I started to really think about it, I was amazed at how many wonderful things in my life have come as a result of embracing and expanding upon the music I love. I had fun looking closer at which artists and albums had actually had the largest affect on me over the years.
Most of the truly “iconic” bands were a little before my time. While I appreciate them, I never had a love affair with the Beatles, the Stones, Zeppelin, Queen, the Who or other bands of that caliber. In that sense, I feel I was born a decade or two too late. I bet I’d have loved following along with groups like that.
Some of the big hit-makers of the 80’s, such as AC/DC and ZZ Top, are among my favourites. I still listen to their music and enjoy them from time to time. But they didn’t particularly influence me to do or try anything beyond just listening to their songs.
The albums listed here are not necessarily my “favourites,” or the ones I still listen to the most. But each of them will have made this list for having had an incredible impact, in one way or another, on my own creativity, curiosity, thirst for further knowledge and happiness in general. To have made this list, the album had to have had a considerable influence on me in one way or another.
I consider these the 10 most influential albums in my life (so far):
Here we go:
10. Volbeat – Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies
Granted, this one is very recent, so it may be a bit of a stretch to include it here. But I’ve no doubt that Volbeat’s “Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies” will not only hold up over time, but will probably move even further up this list as the years go by.
A year ago right now, I had never heard of this band. I first encountered the track “Heaven Nor Hell” while listening online to an out-of-market rock station last summer. The song practically jumped out of the speakers at me. I’d not had that kind of exciting, “what the heck is that?” kind of experience in a long, long time.
I wrote down the name of the band, and looked them up online once I got home. For years, I’d hoped to find a current group that wrote heavy, solid riff-based rock but with really attractive melodies and insightful lyrics. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find one. And so, when I did my online search, I was astounded to learn that Volbeat had been around a while, had already sold millions of records and had a very large and loyal following, particularly across Europe.
As my taste for Volbeat grew, I eventually got to “Outlaw Gentleman and Shady Ladies” and it resonated with me right away, from start to finish. I remember the first time I listened through it. I had my headphones on and was in the kitchen, preparing to make dinner. Just after the opening instrumental (“Let’s Shake Some Dust”) rattled to a close, the cold opening of “Pearl Hart” practically body-slammed me with an immediately likeable melody. I instantly giddy. That song is so infectious that it got into my bones straight away. I thought, “That was awesome, but the rest of the CD can’t possibly be this good.”
But it is.
After “Pearl Hart,” another stellar track came next. Then another. And another. And another.
I cannot pick a favourite song from the disc. Looking further into the band’s inspiration for the whole concept of the record helped me to feel the spark of my own creativity again. The excitement over hearing new music I loved as much as Volbeat got me back strumming the guitar again after having been away from it for the better part of three years. At the time, I’d been wavering on completing and/or releasing an acoustic EP I’d been working on. Volbeat’s arrival in my life helped me to see that it was important to me to finish that project, regardless of what anybody else might have thought of it.
Bonus points for this record: my 11-year-old son, Eddie, LOVES Volbeat. I don’t know why. But he does. He insisted upon seeing them live. We are going to see them in May.
It will be his first concert ever. And it’ll be with his Dad.
9. David Francey – Skating Rink
David Francey writes astonishingly beautiful songs. They are brilliant in their simplicity, in that they sound somewhat minimal at first blush, but are in fact quite complex, insightful and thought-provoking. Francey is the most efficient lyricist I’ve heard, and he packs more wallop into just one or two lines than any other artist I can think of.
This CD has had a massive influence on me. I’d have put it further up the list, except for the fact that we’re going to run into Francey again in a bit.
I remember listening to “Skating Rink” for the first time. Back then, I enjoyed the title track (which is also the first song on the disc). And the second track, “Broken Glass,” is also lovely. But it was the third track, “Exit,” that initially stopped me in my tracks. I’d not heard many artists include a song with vocals but no music accompaniment, but it’s not uncommon for Francey, and he does it with “Exit.” The song is just Francey’s voice alone until a sweet little musical bit appears and then fades the song out, like a reluctant acceptance of what he sings about before the instrumentation comes in: “Rich or poor or young or old. Some of us carry a heavy load.”
“Skating Rink” is a beautiful CD from start to finish. Standout tracks for me include “Belgrade Train,” “Nearly Midnight” and “Come Rain or Come Shine,” an absolutely beautiful song that would be a massive hit if it were covered by the right popular band.
My sister giving me this CD turned out to be the impetus for many inspirations and wonderful experiences in the years to come, including getting to meet and visit with David Francey on several occasions. And spending time with him has only deepened my appreciation and sincere affection for these wonderful, beautiful songs.
8. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
I held a strong dislike for this group for a long time. They became popular at a time when the band that I still consider my favourite (more on them a little later) was not getting anywhere near the attention I felt they deserved. Partially because of that, I didn’t like Green Day and never paid them any mind. I thought they were childish punks. And maybe they were. But they certainly were churning out better music than I ever gave them credit for.
Ironically, it was it was another fan of that same favourite band of mine (the one I’ll reference in just a bit), that suggested that “21st Centrury Breakdown” was a “masterpiece.” I laughed at the thought and challenged him on it. He challenged me back. So I went and gave it a listen, and was floored by the scope of it. There was so much to dig through in this one record alone. For some reason, its tone and lyrics spoke to me at the time in a way that kept this CD in my stereo for months.
The style of writing and overall concept of this album left me considering different ways to write, and to listen to and enjoy music. I’m still finding things on this record I’d not notice before.
Green Day may be best known for “American Idiot” or their debut, “Dookie,” but it’s “21st Century Breakdown” that had the biggest influence on me, and made me a fan of the band.
7. The Trews – Hope and Ruin
The Trews are a Canadian rock band from Nova Scotia, and I absolutely love them. All of their records are among my favourites, but this one came out at a time when it almost felt as if it had been created just for me. Having just been through a marital separation (and eventual divorce), the very title of this collection had me feeling as if the band was inside my own head.
Songs like “Hope & Ruin,” “Love is the Real Thing,” “I’ll Find Someone Who Will,” “You’ve Gotta Let Me In,” “If You Wanna Start Again” and “Dreamin’ Man” all hit home for me in a deep and profound way. I clung to this record for many months, and felt rather emotional when I got to see them live on the headlining tour they did to support this effort.
I’ve got a bunch of songs kicking around that I wrote in the months following this CD’s release. It both held me up and inspired me.
For a time, I held on to this record like a life preserver.
6. Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska
I love the story about how Bruce recorded these tracks alone, at his home, and when he brought the songs into the studio for the E Street Band, they just couldn’t recapture the original emotion and feeling, no matter what they tried. And so they ultimately decided to master and release Springsteen’s original demos, a gutsy, bold move. The results are downright spooky.
It’s a good lesson in the power of a good song not needing much instrumentation or production. If the song is solid, it will still remain (and maybe even become more impactful) even with much of the instrumentation stripped away.
“Nebraska” is loaded with heavy, heavy tracks about common people and their daily struggles, their simple hopes, collective fears and frailties.
I tried to write some songs in this style in the mid 90’s, but I realized I didn’t have the knack for it. Most don’t. Springsteen’s ability to tell a story in the framework of a song is absolutely incredible. His characters appear on the scene fully developed, and the settings are clear from the get-go. I don’t know how he does it. Some novelists take pages (or even chapters) to do what Springsteen achieves in a single lyric line.
To me, the album is absolutely heart wrenching, but a good reminder of the thin line between happiness and despair that lurks within us all.
It’s also powerhouse songwriting that leaves me a little breathless if I really dive into it.
5. Great Big Sea – Courage, Patience and Grit (Live)
In trying to remember how I first came upon this disc, I think I may have been going through a phase of enjoying all things about pirates and found the song “Captain Kidd.” If memory serves, I think I found this double CD at the local Wal Mart and bought it without having heard anything from it. In fact, that would have been an odd thing to do, as I’d previously been aware of Great Big Sea as the band that performed “Ordinary Day” and “Sea of No Cares” but, to be absolutely honest, I never much cared for them. It’s not that I disliked them as much as I just really wasn’t interested. But when I listened through this collection of songs, that all changed.
As with Springsteen, I don’t listen to Great Big Sea all that much anymore. But I still love them. And for a time, I played this particular album over and over and over again. The Celtic, folk, pop, rock and traditional tones that run through all of Great Big Sea’s music strongly influenced a lot of the stuff I was writing at the time (I consider my songs “Hope Over Hurt” and “Glass” to have been heavily influenced by Great Big Sea).
I love my country and feel even more deeply Canadian when I listen to this band. And most of all, I suppose I just truly appreciate the sincerity with which these fellows perform, particularly Alan Doyle. At the time I found this CD, I had just come off of a particularly draining job change. This music helped me to feel revitalized, and I will always remember and be grateful for that.
The musicianship, the vocal harmonies, the tone of the songs and the general feeling of being in a big ‘ol Newfoundland kitchen party are all things that appeal to me about Great Big Sea. And maybe it’s because one of my sisters lives in St. John’s. Perhaps this music helps me feel a little less removed from her. In any case, it’s all great stuff.
4. Extreme – Pornograffitti
Here is the band I referred to earlier, writing about Green Day. Back in the early 90’s, I resented Green Day (and a lot of other bands) for getting the attention I felt Extreme rightly deserved. Luckily, I’ve grown up a lot since then!
Still, Extreme was the wrong band at the wrong time. In my view, they are easily the most misunderstood and under-appreciated band of my generation. They were not a “hair metal” band, nor a “grunge” band. They were just a great group of musicians who always showed incredible reverence to their own musical idols like Queen, The Who, Zeppelin and the Beatles.
“Pornograffitti” sounds like KISS one minute, then the Everly Brothers another minute, then the Red Hot Chili Peppers another, and Frank Sinatra the next. They grew even more eclectic in future recordings, and I loved them for it.
Extreme is, and always will be, my favourite band. I have an irrational attachment to this group, and the fact that most people don’t understand or appreciate them at all only makes me love them more. “Pornograffitti” was the record that started my love affair with their music.
Like many others, my first exposure to Extreme was through the smash acoustic song, “More Than Words,” which hit in 1991. I did not like that song at all at the time. Just another hair band, I thought (and, as it turned out, that’s what many others thought as well). “More Than Words” was a Billboard Number 1 sensation and helped Extreme sell millions of records worldwide. The trouble was, that song was not at all representative of Extreme’s real body of work. It turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. While I resented the song somewhat for overshadowing the collective work of the band, I later came to appreciate that it, too, is really special piece of music that went to number one for a reason: it’s good. Really good.
“Pornograffitti” is a brilliant rock record. A theme runs throughout, following a character named Francis as he’s subjected to the allure of money, sex, power, love and the rat race of life in general. It starts with “trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses” in what is still probably my favourite song of all time, “Decadence Dance” (shame about the hideous music video for this song, though. Ugh. No wonder people had the wrong idea!). From there, it follows many twists and turns addressing all of life’s temptations until it comes back to rest with “Hole Hearted,” a song many misinterpret as a boy-meets-girl love song, but is actually more of a statement the singer is making to his or her interpretation the Divine: “There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you.”
Those who feel this record sounds like other 80’s-based rock of the time are missing the message. Extreme was always different, and they foreshadowed their falling out of sync with the popular music industry in general with the very first song of the record: “It’s hard to stop once the music gets started. Til the souls of your feet harden up like your heart did.”
The first big festival-type concert I ever went to, I attended simply to see Extreme. When Gary Cherone, the lead vocalist, climbed up and over the runway/risers behind the drum kit as the rest of the band launched into the opening song, I thought, “Oh my goodness! I want to try to learn how to do this!” It was one of the most exciting things I’d ever experienced, and led me to writing songs, learning how to sing and, eventually, to play guitar.
Extreme was my band. They still are.
They always will be.
3. David Francey – Right of Passage
To me, all of David Francey’s songs are gems. Each of his albums is a gift, and it almost seems wrong to rank them. I’ll just say that, of all of the truly incredible CDs he’s shared, this one means the most to me.
Francey’s story behind the song “All Lights Burning Bright” makes me emotional. I sang this song at my Grandpa’s funeral.
I remember seeing Francey perform in Aylmer, months before the release of this CD. He sang “The Ballad of Bowser MacRae.” When he got to the part of Bowser’s son saying to his Dad, over the phone, “I love you Daddy, good luck and goodnight,” I cried. I am almost doing it again right now. I think of my own two sons and get a lump in my throat every time I hear that song. My sons mean everything to me, as they do to Bowser as well.
I love the stories behind “Kansas,” “The Conversation,” “The Gate,” “Stone Town” and “Under the Portland Weather” (if you’re curious, you can find all the lyrics and liner notes to these songs HERE).
Part of Francey’s liner notes about the instrumental track “Ferry to Cortez” served as inspiration for part of the lyrics to my song, “No Schedule Man.”
I was fortunate enough to be a at Hugh’s Room in Toronto to see the CD release show for this stellar collection. I had never heard (or heard of) a Shruti Box prior to that, but I will never forget its mournful tones as it opened the show with Francey then singing, “Well it was Edmonton late in the fall, and I was done for good and all.” It gave me shivers.
There were only two times that I can remember when I saw someone perform and thought to myself, “Wow – I want to try that.” One was the first time I saw Extreme. The other was seeing David Francey at Hugh’s Room. What an incredible inspiration.
To me, each of David Francey’s CDs rate a rock solid 10 out of 10.
“Right of Passage” gets an 11.
2. Jimmy Buffett – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
I can’t help but chuckle, looking at this album so far up this list. In the late 90’s, I was in a band that played (among other songs), “Margaritaville.” I detested the song. I felt that we were lazy for including it in our sets and trying to appeal only to the “lowest common denominator” (I felt the same way about many other songs we played as well, including “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Brown-Eyed Girl,” “Mustang Sally,” “Honky Tonk Woman” and a whole bunch of others). Of course, I can now admit that those songs are all very popular for a reason. If I’d been choosing which songs to play, the bar would have been empty!
In the early 2000’s, I visited Universal CityWalk in Orlando, Florida. Among the many restaurants and bars at that complex is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. There was a cover band playing in there that night. Their music was being piped out to the walkways outside the restaurant as well, and I distinctly remember the singer saying, “We’re in Jimmy Buffett’s bar. I guess we should play one of Jimmy Buffett’s songs.” They then went into an upbeat track I’d never heard before and I thought it was really catchy. I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did. I didn’t know what the name of the song was but remembered that they kept getting back to singing, “Fins to the left, fins to the right.”
A couple days later, I saw on the news that Jimmy Buffett had been kicked out a Miami Heat basketball game I had attended the day before (in fact, that was the reason for the trip: to see the Heat in Miami playing their arch rival at the time, the New York Knicks). I figured that was a sign. At least Jimmy Buffett and I had the Miami Heat in common.
On the last day of that vacation, I decided I’d try to find a Buffett CD, maybe with that song on it, so I could have it as a kind of soundtrack-type reminder of the vacation. I went into the FYE music store in Florida Mall, expecting to find some kind of collection like “Margaritaville and 10 other songs you’ve never heard of before.” I was shocked when I found row after row of albums by Buffett, in stock. There must have been 25 different selections. I couldn’t believe it. How could a guy that only had one “hit” have recorded and released so much music?
I combed through the bin until I found “Live: Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays.” I figured it would be a good sample of his career, and saw that one of the songs on it was a tune called “Fins,” which I figured was the one I’d heard a few nights before.
When I first listened to the album, I didn’t like it right away. But as I started to go through some of the songs and they began to sink in a little more, I started to realize I’d been way off in my assessment of Jimmy Buffett and his music. Songs like “One Particular Harbor” and “A Pirate Looks at Forty” infused me with a sense that Buffett was a guy who knew what he liked, was entirely comfortable inside his own skin, was happy to share what made him happy, had more insight to offer than it seemed from the surface, and that there were a LOT of people that were happily in on it.
Despite the fact that he’d only ever had one “hit” (and “Margaritaville” never even got to the top of the charts), Buffett had been selling out stadiums and amphitheatres for years. He’d established a successful restaurant chain, began his own internet radio station (eventually picked up by Sirius/XM satellite radio), and had made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list as both a Fiction and Non-Fiction writer.
My curiosity led me to reading Buffett’s books, which resulted in me reading other authors he’d referenced (including Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Herman Wouk and Carl Hiaasen). I began devouring historical books about pirates, privateers and also modern day adventurers. One work led to another, and another, and another.
Listening to Radio Margaritaville helped me discover many other artists that I now love but wasn’t hearing anywhere else (some examples include Will Kimbrough, Sonny Landreth, Todd Snider and John Hiatt).
I eventually acquired Buffett’s entire recorded catalogue (that took a while!) and saw him in concert a couple of times. I wrote scads of songs off the various inspirations from the music, literature and experiences I gained that all started with discovering Jimmy Buffett (a couple of examples include two songs from my “No Scheudule Man” CD, “Orlando” and “Do Better,” the latter of which references the Buffett song, “Fruitcakes”).
In terms of sheer volume of additional influence and inspiration, this album really deserves to be at the top of this list. Looking back almost 15 years later, the inspirational ripple effect of first listening to Buffett has been staggering, and unmatched with anything else I’ve enjoyed.
And I guess that statement alone should give you some idea of just deep into my bones I feel about the only record that could rank ahead of this one, it terms of its influence on who I am, what I’ve created and what I still hope to be ….
1. Extreme – III Sides to Every Story
This album spun my head off my shoulders. It helped to shape the way I think about a lot of things, and still do. This was the one that spoke to me on a very meaningful level when I was an 18-year-old, bordering on adulthood and trying to figure out what my place in the world was going to be, who I really was and what I really thought about things.
Songs like “Am I Ever Gonna Change,” “Stop the World,” and “Who Cares” resonated with me very deeply. It was as if lead singer and lyricist Gary Cherone had lifted the thoughts from my head, made them eloquent and set them to incredible music.
Once I’d truly absorbed this record, I was so moved that I was sure I wanted to try and learn how to write songs to express my own thoughts and feelings. This is where my songwriting started.
When I eventually picked up an acoustic guitar, I didn’t learn by doing basic strumming patterns to traditional songs like “Tom Dooley.” Instead, I wanted to be able to play what I was hearing come out of the speakers when I put on an Extreme record. I bought any guitar magazine that had any reference at all to Extreme and tried to figure out the tablature so I could learn some of what guitarist Nuno Bettencourt was doing. I didn’t beging with basic lessons. I tried to learn how to play “Warheads,” “Cupid’s Dead” and “Peacemaker Die” instead.
I don’t recommend that, by the way!
Three sides to every story: Yours, Mine, and the Truth. It’s still true. And I can’t say enough about how this record just resonates with me deep into my soul.
The use of part of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the song “Peacemaker Die” is breathtaking. The band had to secure permission from Dr. King’s family to use that audio. The family must have sensed what Extreme was really all about, and I thank them for giving their blessing. The song is a masterwork.
The old Dr. Pepper commercial parody in “Warheads” works perfectly. It’s tragic comedy, illustrating just how casually we seem to accept violence and aggression as part of our everyday being. Sadly, that song resonates and holds up just as much today as it did over 20 years ago.
I may have learned a lot about other artists from Jimmy Buffett, as I outlined earlier, but my world expanded greatly because of Extreme long before that. Extreme would constantly nod their respect to the artists that influenced them. Their songs are laced with references, both lyrically and instrumentally, to iconic musicians like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Queen, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin and many others.
For evidence of just how much the members of Extreme respected those that came before them, listen to what Brian May says about them (in the video below) before they took the stage at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. Extreme then effectively stole the show with a spot-on medley of Queen songs in a display of absolute love, appreciation and reverence for Freddie Mercury.
“III Sides to Every Story” was acclaimed critically as a masterpiece. And it is. But it didn’t resonate with the public the way “Pornograffitti” did off the strength of “More Than Words.” It also was released at a time when the Seattle-based “alternative” sounds of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots were taking over the airwaves.
Extreme was cursed to have been the wrong band at the wrong time, at least in terms of sustained public success. But that doesn’t make their work any less impactful to those who found and embraced it
My love of “III Sides to Every Story” was a watershed connection in my life. I’ll never be that same age again. I’m not likely to ever be that impressionable again. I’m just glad it was this particular record that found its way into my spirit, as I believe I am better for it.
So there we have it! That’s my list. Thanks for reading. Please feel welcome to share yours as well, in the comments below. Maybe it will inspire others!
Kevin is excited to announce the concert date for the release of his new EP, “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man,” on Friday, February 21, 2014 in the Cellar Lounge at the London Music Club in London, Ontario.
Kevin will be joined on February 21st by Alexa Kay, an incredibly talented singer-songwriter who was recently awarded with the “Young Inspirations: Shine Your Talent Audience Choice Award” at Hugh’s Room in Toronto.
Kevin’s oldest son, Eddie Bulmer, and his good friend from 1290 CJBK Radio in London, Al Coombs, will also make appearances on stage.
Tickets to the concert are $8 in advance (available through the London Music Club Box Office) and $10 each at the door. Each ticket purchase includes a digital copy of the new EP, which will be distributed at the door the night of the concert.
Here is the poster for the event. Please feel free to share it with your friends!
We’ve almost put January astern and I can scarcely recall any of it. Seems a blur to me. And as I stand at the doorstep of the first weekend in many weeks that does not include work, big events or the like, I hardly know what to do with it. Though I know what I’d like to do:
For a long time.
It’s been over a month since KG and I last recorded anything. But the heart of the project is still beating (much like the “Heart of Rock ‘n Roll”) and I can sense an upcoming return that will bring renewed vigour and momentum to see it through to completion. Right now I’d be happy just to get back out to see Kev again and hash out some songs, as it’s difficult to fall victim to life’s perceived burdens when you’re singing.
Still, whenever I’ve been able to steal a few minutes, I have been playing guitar and creating concepts in my mind over the last few weeks. But when I grab a guitar, it’s been the electric 6-string (rather than the acoustic), and I’ve been dusting off some rock material that I’m excited to work on. Burying myself once again under a mountain of my own expectations, I’ve already told KG that the minute we’re done recording the acoustic album, we’ll get to work on the rock project! Haha.
I’m my own worst enemy. I know it.
At this point, what I need is some rest. We’ve been through a time of very high intensity with my company, CPT Entertainment, and we’ve come through it with some success, more knowledge and more firepower. Of course, as you grow, it all becomes more to manage; an art in itself.
There has been no rest in the radio work either. Hosting a weeknight show, regardless of the fact that it’s pre-recorded, tethers you to a regular routine whether you like it or not. Even though your body and mind cry out for a rest on a Monday after working a trade show all weekend, you still need to find the energy to prepare and perform on the air even if you’d really rather tell people to go listen to something else for a day or two.
I am not complaining. The great news is that all this work was expected. And I am lucky to have the opportunity to do it. Embarrassingly fortunate, really. And on top of that, there is much to look forward to.
This coming week, I’ll be escaping for a few days to do nothing but be with my wonderful wife and two great sons. We are headed to the Sunshine State, hoping it saves for us some of what the state was named for. But if not, that’s okay too. We’re just excited to be together without all the day-to-day distractions life requires. And we know that after a few days away, we’ll be aching to get back home, which is part of the fun of going away.
I’m excited that the Daytona 500 is coming up. I’m excited that the golf season is getting into full swing (with or without you-know-who). I can see that spring is not far off, and that’s a nice thought too.
I’m pumped up about where CPT Entertainment is headed. We have worked tirelessly and in a constant state of change for about three years. We are finally starting to see the roadmap of the future coming into focus. That’s exciting and empowering.
I’m very excited about where Kevin Bulmer Enterprises is going, and you can expect that I’ll be putting more of my time and effort into that in the coming months and years, especially after the “No Schedule Man” CD is ready. Songwriting, performing, speaking and writing: those are my passions. I have promised myself I will make those things a part of each day in some way, even if it’s only a few moments’ thought.
Off the top of my head, some other things that are happy thoughts:
David Francey told me the other day that he was working on a new CD with Keiran Kane. That is very good news!
Extreme fans are impatiently awaiting the upcoming live CD/DVD and, possibly, a chance to see the band live again this year. That’d be really exciting.
Will Kimbrough’s new CD, “Wings” is due in the latter half of February
Jimmy Buffett has announced that a new Margaritaville restaurant will open in Niagara Falls, Ontario, by this summer!
Looming on the horizon: the Masters, the US Open, the British Open and the Ryder Cup; four events that are about the only things that will keep me in front of a TV for more than an hour anymore
NASCAR’s season and the inevitable (and enjoyable) chatter among friends that goes with it
Spring training is around the corner. Tigers baseball will be on the air again soon.
The A-Team movie is due to hit theatres in June. I love it when a plan comes together.
Above all else, my wife and kids are healthy and happy. I’d trade all of the above and anything else in order to be able to continue saying that. After all, what else is there?
As for the whole reason for this journal – our recording project – well, we’ll be back on the “No Schedule” schedule soon enough. And when it gets closer, I’ll put my nose to the grindstone and make lots of noise about it.
But not today.
Gotta have some things to look forward to.
PS – Just “cooked” myself a couple of corn dogs (Pogos) for lunch. Now my office smells like a fall fair! See you at the Tilt-a-Whirl.
It’s Wednesday night. I’m sitting here doing four things:
1 – Writing this journal
2 – Keeping the Kleenex companies in business while I fight a cold
3 – Listening to Aerosmith’s “Nine Lives” CD
4 – “Watching” the progress of the Tigers’ game against those pesky Twins … on the computer
It’s a sad state of affairs when, here in London only two hours away from Detroit, we can’t even hear the Tiger games on the radio. And for the first time in four seasons, I decided I’d rather have my money than the extra cable sports package that lets me see all the games. But right now, I kind of wish I could see it. Instead, I’m watching the updates flash onto the screen on a nifty little feature called “Gameday” on the Tigers official site.
By the way – and I don’t mean any offense to the folks in Minnesota (I’ve been there and loved the place) – the Twins are a real pain in butt and I wish they would go away. As I write, the Tigers are up 4-2 but it’s only the fourth inning so it doesn’t mean much yet.
As far as progress on the song front goes, there’s not much to write. KG and I haven’t worked on anything in well over a week. In fact, to tell you the truth, my guitar is still sitting in its case, exactly where I left it when I came back from a session at Kev’s place nine days ago. So what’s kept me from working on the tunes? Well …
- An appearance at a BX 93 event
- “Meet the Teacher” night with my oldest boy, who is in grade one
- The first soccer night for my youngest boy
- A full day at Delaware Speedway, representing CPT Entertainment for their last event
- The first soccer morning for my oldest boy
- Groceries, errands, laundry and watching as much of the PGA Tour Championship as I could
- Prepping for the London International Travel Show
- Shopping for Stars Wars figures in the brief window while I have both my kids temporarily convinced they like it
- Most recently, a cold that knocked me on my butt to start this week, resulting in the cancellation of a scheduled music session
Other than that, nothing’s up.
I did get to KG’s earlier today though, but on CPT business this time. Once again, we collaborated on some radio ads, writing and producing the original music and then writing and recording the script for our London International Travel Show commercials which will hit the airwaves next week. As always, we got the job done but also managed to slip some great laughs in between. That seems to happen when we get together.
Meantime, a piece of good news is that the new CD from David Francey and Mike Ford, “Seaway”, is apparently complete. I ordered my copy from Francey’s site yesterday. Now I’ll have a reason to look forward to opening the mailbox sometime in the next couple of weeks.
And, with a little luck, maybe some Tiger playoff games too.
Boy, was this a great week for music in my world. After sitting a little stagnant for a while, I became suitably jazzed thanks to two brilliant CDs, each by artists I’d never given any positive thought to previously.
The first was “21st Century Breakdown” by Green Day. Having heard from an acquaintance that the album was “a masterpiece,” I first thought, ‘A masterpiece, by Green Day?! C’mon.’
Sounded like an oxy moron.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never given the band any thought. They’re the punk guys who sing “Basket Case” and that “Time of Your Life” song (sort of like how I used to think that Extreme were only the guys who sang that “More Than Words” song; Springsteen was the guy who sang that “Born in the USA” song and Buffett was the guy who sang that “Margaritaville” song). Anyway, yadda yadda yadda … I bought the CD and, in my humble opinion, the thing is a masterpiece. I don’t like it – I absolutely, totally love it.
The other is “The Foundation” by the Zac Brown Band. You know – the “Chicken Fried” guys. Well, I “accidentally” heard a couple of other cuts from their CD, which were good enough to peak my interest. So I looked into them and very much liked what I learned. So I bought the CD.
Holy cow. The thing is fantastic, but in a totally different way than the Green Day CD. “21st Century Breakdown” is a wall of sonic emotion that twists, turns, rises and dips in and out of all kind of razor-sharp themes and lyrical content. It’s the kind of CD you turn up to ten and wish, like Spinal Tap, that your volume went to eleven (“one louder”).
On the other hand, the Zac Brown Band is an incredibly gifted group of players who know the art of what notes not to play, and which instruments to leave out. The Zac Brown Band CD is great from start to finish, and on every single track, the group gives each song only what it needs; exactly what it needs, and nothing more. It is a wonderful collection of songs. The tune “Highway 20 Ride” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this side of David Francey. Great stuff.
I’ve been listening to – and loving – all kinds of music for a long time now. I know the difference between hearing some good, catchy songs that I’ll enjoy for a little while versus experiencing something that just connects to me in a way that’s hard to explain. The two CDs I’ve described are the latter. My gut tells me that, five or ten years from now, I’ll still view them as being in another class than most of what I own.
Off the top of my head, I recall that had the same feeling when I heard “III Sides to Every Story” by Extreme, “Skating Rink” by David Francey, “Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays” by Jimmy Buffett and “Courage, Patience and Grit” by Great Big Sea.
On top of that, a little internet noodling revealed to me that the Arc Angels are working on another CD and are currently on tour! Those who do not own the band’s only record (“Arc Angels,” 1992) are cheating themselves out of one of the best albums of my generation.
Fire in a bottle is what that CD was. So, in my opinion, are “21st Century Breakdown” and “The Foundation,” in their own way.
Naturally, excited about all this great music, I took to my guitar as much as I could this week. I also managed to take advantage of my lone visit to Kevin Gorman’s studio to start fleshing out a couple of songs. It was the first time we’d played music together since last October, and it felt great.
Having already “ghosted” five of the songs we’ve chosen for the “No Schedule Man” project, I told Kevin to choose whichever one he wanted and we’d work on that. He chose a song called “Orlando” (which I wrote in 2002 and then updated, lyrically, in 2006). We had a total blast trying some different things and re-tracking it. I think we made some decent progress with it.
Next, he chose “Bagley Avenue,” a song I wrote in the summer of 2007. One of the few “story” songs I’ve ever done, it remains one of my favourites. It is more or less just autobiographical verses mixed with a metaphorical chorus. But let me tell you, when Kevin got to putting the emotional touches into the song with his piano … it broke me up. Whether or not we ever actually finish the CD, it is a complete rush and total honour to hear the song brought to life, if only for us to share in those few moments while it’s alive and breathing.
Our schedules did not allow us to stay at it for long, but Kevin and I both left the encounter feeling the same way; it not only felt great to play and work on songs together again; it felt right. It’s hard to explain, so I won’t try. It’s just a feeling of connectedness I get only from music. I guess you could say I felt “connected” all week.
What a great week.