This is the third in a series of articles. Click these links to read the previous entries:
Part Three: What is Mutineer?
In fact, I established a rock band name and concept almost a decade ago, and even had a logo made for it. The band/project name is “Mutineer,” a brand concept that has very little to do with sailors taking a ship away from its captain but everything to do with recognizing that this current culture of celebrity, entitlement, comparison and consumption is something that I feel needs to change. It comes out clearly in the song lyrics: that the way we are here in North America is largely not okay with me, and that the “mutiny” is about accepting yourself for who you are, being accountable to the person in the mirror and being brave enough to treat others with empathy and compassion and to not just blindly follow the herd.
Mutineer is not about pointing fingers. Mutineer is about looking in the mirror, being accountable, and being strong enough to say, “You can point fingers all you like and tell me who and what you think I’m supposed to be. But I’m not falling for it. I’m brave enough to love myself no matter what I have or don’t have, and courageous enough to wish you well, regardless of what you may think of me.”
I did not set out to write songs to fit this theme. Rather, looking back on the content and tone of the lyrics I’ve written over the last 10-to-15 years, the consistent message clearly showed itself to me.
Rather than a call to confrontation, Mutineer is a removal of resistance and rally for accountability and self-acceptance. Instead of bearing arms, a Mutineer, in this case, is simply saying to this society of celebrity worship (and consequent abandonment), instant gratification, entitlement, blame, criticism and self-judgement, “No. There’s no more of this for me. I don’t believe these lies any more. Being like someone else does not make me worthy. Being me makes me worthy. I am responsible for everything that happens to me, and I accept that, and am setting sail to a life well-lived and will take what comes and know that I can handle it.”
In a way, Mutineer is about all the things it took me 40 years to learn about myself, even though I’d written about it in my 20’s and 30’s. Rather than “taking over the ship,” we’re simply stating, “You know what? We don’t like where this one’s been going. We’re getting on a new one, and going in a different direction. Meantime … good luck to you.”
I feel I can say things as Mutineer than I wouldn’t necessarily say with my acoustic voice, as Kevin Bulmer. Here’s an example of lyrics that are, essentially, about accountability:
“Don’t drag your heels and tell me you’re runnin’
Don’t run me around and say I’m a square
Don’t serve me dirt and say it’s delicious
Just do better.”
That’s from a fun little song called “Do Better,” a Jimmy Buffett-sounding track on my “No Schedule Man” CD. It’s kind of light and breezy and a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s meant to try and get a bit of a point across without rubbing anyone too raw.
Now, here’s a similar thought, but from the Mutineer voice, from a song called “High Road:”
“Though it’s been swell, I might as well tell you
That it’s time for me to go
I don’t want to stand here watching
While your noose runs out of rope
I wish you hadn’t tied that knot yourself
I coulda’ told you so
For what it’s worth, I’ll say a prayer for you
From up here on the high road”
That’s a little edgier, I’d say. And it feels really, really good to sing and play that song, and others like it.
Here’s another passage, from the same song:
In my opinion, if you look around at the world these days, sadly, you’ll see a lot of folks lazily “volunteering a soul into where ignorance thrives” (and you can interpret that however you wish). But it’s also true that, if you look for it, you’ll see a lot of good things happening too.
Mutineer tries to shine a light on one while celebrating the other.
But, how exactly am I going to make it happen? I’ll outline some of those challenges in Part 4 tomorrow.
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!
Kevin’s brand new song, “Deja Vu,” is now available for streaming and/or download at Bandcamp.
A video with lyrics to the song has also been posted to YouTube:
Here is a little info from Kevin about the song:
I wrote this song in 2006. Aside from a couple of different chord implementations and a few arrangement tweaks here and there, the song remains the same as when it was originally conceived. However, the first home demo I made of this track featured electric guitar and a driving drum beat. I always figured it would be a pop departure on an album of rock songs that I still hope to make one day. But when this particular project came to life, “Déjà vu” held up best as the song that sounded like a few folks on a front porch could bring it to life with just a couple of acoustic guitars, a shaker and a couple of voices. In that sense, this song became the backbone of the project.
As for the lyrics, I have often experienced the sensation of déjà vu. When it happens, I figure it means I’m on the right path. Whether or not that true is anyone’s guess.
I also used to dream, frequently, of tornadoes. Whenever a “tornado dream” would come along, I would take it to mean that major changes and/or shakeups were afoot. And it most often turned out to be the case. I’m glad to say I don’t have tornado dreams much anymore (although, I did have one in September of 2013, during the post production of this project).
What really sealed the deal with finally trying to record this song is how much my oldest son, Eddie, seems to love it. He has consistently encouraged me to record it pretty much from the moment he first heard it, which was six or seven years after it was first written.
This one’s for Eddie, who has been a constant encouragement and always an inspiration.
I love you, Eddie!!
What a week. I’m whipped. And looking back in my day planner and listing out all the things I’ve tried to tackle, I can understand why.
Got my taxes finished, submitted and processed this week. I got our car e-tested and the plates renewed. I also had to turn to Tracey’s dad for help in solving a water-in-the-basement issue that had been going on for almost two weeks. He and I gobbled up an evening and part of the next morning diagnosing and fixing it. However that was only after I’d contacted the company that provides our water heater and had it replaced (which turned out not to be the issue).
That was Monday.
I won’t even get into the puzzle that exists in the land of CPT Entertainment. It’s too much to describe. It’s all good, but too much to describe. I bet I would exhaust you if I tried to explain it. So I won’t.
My role (through CPT) in assisting our partners at Delaware Speedway has also become one that I won’t bother attempting to articulate, other than to say that we are on the doorstep of another season and we are all under a crush of deadlines. It’s fun and exciting, but it’s the kind of thing where you need to stop yourself from time to time, take a deep breath, focus, re-prioritize and then cut to the heart of the matter. Fast. And then do it again. And again.
And then there is the music, which sees us creeping closer and closer to various deadlines, the latest being our promise to release the first two singles from the new CD on CKXS FM next week. Since they are featuring us in their Local Spotlight program, we have the wonderful opportunity of having our music played on an FM music station and around the world via their internet stream. It’s important to me that we take advantage of that opportunity by having some new material to share.
You might think that several months’ warning would be enough. Me too. But it never seems to matter; when I come up on a deadline, there always seems to be a scramble. Maybe that’s why I set deadlines. Anyway, the time is upon us and one way or the other, we’ll be ready
Monday morning, I asked KG (Kevin Gorman) if he’d make me a CD copy of the two songs we’re releasing next week (“Hope Over Hurt” and “Do Better”). Now, in order to understand why I asked for that, you must realize that, for the last few months, we’ve been hearing the songs in bits and pieces; a vocal line here, a piano part there. It’s been a while since we just sat back and listened, start to finish, to a couple of full songs. The parts of what I’d been hearing of each were good. And the individual performances were also pretty good. But I wanted to get a sense of how it felt as a whole, and how close (or far away) we were to being ready. So I popped by to KG’s around lunch time on Monday and collected the CD from him. I promptly put it in my car stereo and turned it up full.
Soon after that, I felt a little ill.
We’re always our own worst critics, but I felt that we were off the mark on “Hope Over Hurt.” Now, I knew that there were edits and mixing issues that we hadn’t yet attacked and would be fixed, but I was still jarred at the overall lack of “feel” in the whole thing. That was my honest impression.
“Do Better” gave me a slightly better feeling, although there were some things missing that made me a little uneasy. And I know better. I asked KG for the songs before they were done. I knew there were things missing. But I felt I needed to stand back and hear it as a whole and when I did, I thought, “Oh boy; we’ve got work left to do.”
I wonder if painters do that; just stand way back from their work and take it all in from time-to-time. KG and I do. It’s just that we’ve been so focussed on a lot of little things over the last few weeks that we haven’t stood back to hear the big picture.
After listening to “Hope Over Hurt” several times, it started to become clear to me that the song was okay, but it just needed some adjustment, sort of like a race car that’s just not tuned up quite as well as it can be. The more I listened to it, the more I felt confident about what we needed to do, and none of it was a big deal.
I texted Kev, telling him that I “Had some thoughts about ‘Hope’ and would email him later.” He said that was fine. So after dinner and after putting the kids to bed, I sat down at my computer and typed out my thoughts. In the interests of giving you the inside look on how this stuff comes together, here is exactly what I wrote to KG that night:
It’s going to look like I’m being hyper-critical. I’m not. I love both songs. Just giving you my gut feeling on a few things with each:
Hope Over Hurt
Piano – are we overdoing it? I’m wondering about something more basically “rhythmic” like what you do in “Glass.” The fills are nice but it almost seems to slow the song down. Plus, I wonder if we did less of that through the verses if, as a result, the solo would really pop more? Just a thought. This is my fault, I know. Seems you would have learned by now!
Bass – I know what you’ve got in there is just a placeholder. I think there can be more from the bass, especially in the solo, to help drive the song along.
Beginning – I’m not convinced we need the beginning to be that long. My gut says we should go back to the way we had it before and cut the intro back to half of what it is now. Start with just the guitar for 4 bars and then the piano would come in with the vocals when my voice says “pilgrims” (by the way, the opening lyric starts just a hair too late … easily fixed!)
The Ending – I’d like to hear how it sounds if you filled out the ending on the piano a little more. Sounds too sparse to me. Sorta’ my feeling about the song as a whole … needs more balls to give it that subconscious confidence right off the hop. Just a thought.
Percussion – I have an idea. Ask me tonight and we’ll see if it’d help or just make things a whole lot worse. Hahaha.
Vocals – There are a few shaky moments for my voice but we’ll just have to live with it I guess. I wonder about the descant. Part of it sounds off to me (at 2:58). Not sure if you were going to do that over or if my ears are screwy.
Too much echo/reverb on my voice. I sound way too far away. Rough mix though, I know. Just thought I’d mention it.
We need your voice in the chorus and in the “na-na-na” part to balance it out. We have to have you in there!
There is a little “pop” in the vocals after the line “permanently gratified state” (I think). I could hear it in the car but not on my computer speakers and I can’t quite place it on my iPod headphones. But in the car, it comes off as an audible “click” from an edit. Easy to miss.
Tuesday night, I returned to KG Records (albeit 2 hours late because of the basement water woes I mentioned earlier). Kev smiled and held up the paper with the email you’ve just now read. He chuckled and said, “Now, you may not remember this,” (I smile) “But just about everything you’ve mentioned here, we’ve talked about before.”
“I know,” I said.
KG smiled. “I know you know. And the good news is that I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.”
The only thing Kev talked me out of was my proposed change to the beginning. He convinced me we should leave it the way it is. I’ll be interested to know what you think of it when you finally here it.
The rest of the night, we worked on some minor editing and arrangement issues and I felt better about things when I left.
Later in the week, I saw Kevin again, along with Alyssa Sestric, a cool young lady who is lending her talents to some harmony vocals on our CD. Alyssa is a big fan of country music. As you might know, I spent over three years working with BX 93, the FM radio country music monster in this market. Weeks ago, I asked Alyssa if she’d like to go and see the station and meet some of the people that work there. It didn’t take much convincing. She was enthusiastic, to say the least. So, after clearing it with my radio pals, I met KG and Alyssa at the station Thursday afternoon, gave them the “tour” and introduced them to anyone I could find that was willing to talk to us.
Of particular interest to Alyssa was my great good pal Chris Harding, the afternoon drive host and Music Director at BX 93. I’d told Alyssa that Chris would be willing to offer her some advice and share some stories, and he did just that. Chris has a great ear for music, far more so than you’d be able to tell by simply listening the station (regardless of what you think about the song selection that actually goes to air, I can promise you that far more work goes into it than you could possibly imagine).
It was fun to watch Alyssa. She was clearly excited to be there. She listened intently to everything Chris had to say. I am very grateful to Alyssa for the time and energy she has put to what is largely my project. And I am also very grateful to Chris for being a great friend, mentor and just an overall good person. To see them together was especially gratifying to me.
We also stopped by to chat with Barry Smith, the Operations Manager. Barry is another person I hold in the highest of esteem. I will never forget that he took the time to offer me his constructive feedback about 15 years ago, even though I worked in another market (Sarnia) and for a rival broadcasting company. Little did I know that he and I would cross paths again, and that he would throw me a lifeline back in 2007 when I needed it most (but that is another story). It was fun for me to go back to him and say, “Here is a young person I believe has a lot to offer by way of talent and personality” and to see him agree and encourage Alyssa.
In any event, the whole thing was fun. It generated some positive energy, got me back to see some of my radio mates and got KG, Alyssa and I together away from the studio for the first time.
Moving on to today, I popped in to see Kev at his studio again for a couple hours and we worked out more of “Hope” and I got him to sing the parts I wanted him to do for “Do Better.” The results were great. We’ll be back at it again tomorrow. And when 99.1 CKXS FM comes a-callin’ we will be ready. Besides all that, I’m so ready to share some of this newer music, I feel about ready to bust. Today I felt like just screaming at Kev: “Just FINISH it!!” Hahaha. But of course it’s not that simple. He’s working as hard as he can and so am I.
In the rest of the world, I must admit I am a happy guy. In terms of the things that entertain me, it would seem that the stars are all lining up to put on a show just for me. I’m delighted! Earlier this week, the mail carrier brought me my copy of Craig Werth’s new CD “The Spokes Man.” It’s terrific; a gorgeous collection of songs (matter of fact it’s on right at this very minute; the song “I Had To Get Here”).
On top of that, my favourite band of all, EXTREME, is on the verge of releasing their first-ever live CD/DVD combo. I have pre-ordered it from Amazon and will try to be patient while I await its arrival. I have had a love affair with Extreme’s music in a manner than I’m not sure I can explain. Their 1992 album “III Sides to Every Story” not only changed the way I look at music, it changed the way I view the world and myself. That view still holds. There is something intangible about the combination of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt together that hits my music nerve. I don’t know what it is. But I do know that others out there like me share the same affliction. When EXTREME’s “Take Us Alive” CD arrives at our door, we’re going to have a hard time listening to anything else for some time.
It is also not lost on me that Jimmy Buffett (another one of my absolute favourites) has released a new collection called “Encores.” I look forward to hearing it, though I’ve decided I’m going to wait to get that one until I’m really in the mood. For all I know, that’ll be tomorrow. Or maybe months from now. I don’t know. But I do love Jimmy Buffett and I look forward to hearing “Encores.”
As for this last one, you might find it funny. But I’ve always liked the rock band Jackyl. Tracey and I went to see them a few times in the early-to-mid nineties. I’ve always liked their attitude and their straight-ahead, no apologies brand of rock and roll. So when I learned that they have a new CD on the way within a couple of weeks, I was pretty happy. I bought their new single on iTunes the other day and have been pushing the limits of my car stereo with it ever since.
I am also looking forward to Carl Hiaasen’s next book and the new TV series “Caprica” (now that I’ve watched all my Battlestar Galactica DVDs). That’s all good.
Gotta’ have things to look forward to.
And I am looking forward to finally getting this CD completed, releasing it and sharing it with whoever will listen. The work doesn’t go away; it just changes from creating it to playing and promoting it.
And I wanna play.
PS – A week ago today, my ‘big’ sister Karen was born. Today, one week later, I celebrate the arrival of my baby sister Janna (or, as I know her, “J”). I am constantly inspired by both of my sisters. But what J has accomplished, I’ll never quite understand. It amazes me. Years ago, she ventured up north as north can be: to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. I didn’t think she’d last three months. Instead, she adapted to the climate and the culture and she has not only made it her home, she has become so involved in the community as to make a truly positive difference in the lives of many people. She has married a terrific fellow named Kurtis and I am just so proud of my sister, I can’t tell you. My lone regret is that J is as far away as she is. Of course, she could say the same thing about me. We may be a long way apart, but I love my kid sister as only a proud brother can. I love you J. Happy Birthday.
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.
From one of my favourite Jimmy Buffett songs:
“Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
Through all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane”
I took to a different latitude last week, jetting to Orlando, Florida to attend the Performance Racing Industry Show with the team from CPT Entertainment. My latitude changed, but my attitude did not.
We went full tilt.
It was a fun time but also a very hectic few days that took my busy head and made it busier. We scoured through the event, which featured more than 1,100 exhibitors, and went steadily for three-straight days in an effort to get to know more people and build our own business. I feel we succeeded with our goal, but we worked hard to do it. Those two-and-a-half days in Orlando were no vacation.
When we landed back at home, I was relieved to be back, but everything I’d been working on was still here, plus the new stuff I’d brought with me. Yikes.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
While I was away, our internet kicked out here at home, stranding my wife without computer access to her friends while her husband was gone. I tried to help from down south. Alas, it is still not working correctly over a week later. A crew is coming in tomorrow to try and get that up and running again.
Thankfully, I had my faithful sidekick, “Twiki” the Blackberry. He kept me in touch with electronic communications while my internet was down. Well, except for today, when the entire Blackberry email system crashed across North America.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
I also managed to brave my discomfort of flying by joking with the boys from CPT (I wouldn’t say I’m “afraid” of flying; it’s just not one of my favourite things to do). While up in the air, we shared several laughs as we wondered what had to be faster; a top fuel dragster or an F-14 launching off an aircraft carrier. We wondered how fast our Spirit Airlines plane had to go to get airborne. We asked each other what we would do if we fell out of the airplane (would you just wait for the ground to hit you or would you try and do something?). In general, the guys helped me deal with my anxiety through some dark comedy, like when the landing gear drops with a large “kaahhh-blunk!” and Jory quips, “Uh-oh Kev – I think the engine just fell off!”
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Then, a couple days later, it was back to our music project and into KG’s studio to start putting down vocal tracks. Tuesday night, we started in on a song called “South Carolina.” I sang it three or four times and thought, “Hey, that was actually pretty good.” And then KG called me into the control room and gave me a review that was a little more gentle than what you’d expect from, say, Simon Cowell, but still very direct. His point was: you’re not doing well enough. You can do better.
I confess I felt frustrated and considered giving up. Instead, I decided to make fun of myself and try to sing part of the song with a voice impression of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons. That put KG into fits of laughter and, after about ten more takes, we got the lead vocals for that song done. And after that we got the lead vocals for “Everything’s Just Fine” done.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Now Christmas is coming, and I’m not ready. I ordered some very special custom-made gifts for my family, and they are not here yet. I am supposed to visit with my Dad on Sunday, and his gift is not here.
If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.
Through all of that, I heard myself say something tonight that made me quite happy. In the midst of an interview for a radio program called “Race Time Radio,” I was asked by the host what I wanted most for Christmas. I immediately said, “A little peace and quiet.” He laughed and told me I couldn’t have that. Fair enough. So I considered his question again and came up with the following conclusion, which I shared with him: “Y’know. As cliché as it might sound, I have everything I need. My kids and wife are healthy, I have great family and friends and a nice place to live. I truly don’t need a thing.”
The irony, of course, is that I do honestly feel that way, and yet I keep working and driving to achieve more. Strange. But on the other hand, I suppose you could argue that it’s that very support system and level of comfort that helps me not be afraid to try new things (and to sometimes fail).
After all, I can relate with these words, also from that same Jimmy Buffett song:
“If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Good times and riches and son of a b-tches
I’ve seen more than I can recall”
I’ll drink to that.
Last night we worked on “Kevin’s Prayer” and I’m excited about where that song is headed. I’m equally pleased about the progress of “Sunny Day in November,” which KG seems to like quite a lot. In fact, all I had to do was stay out of the way as Kev played through it time upon time to find what he liked and what he didn’t. I can recall a particularly funny moment when he had put a glissando into an organ part. I suggested he try it an octave higher. He did, and it sounded like a cat being sucked into a high-speed fan. We had a good laugh over that.
Still, Kev (bless his heart), will openly employ my suggestions. And likewise. In fact, that’s the most fun of the whole process.
We’ve still a long way to go. However, I’ve become a lot more conscious of getting my voice and guitar playing back into shape, in preparation both for recording and performing, and the endless rehearsals that go with each. Since my life does not allow for large chunks of time to be put to practice, I have to take little bits here and there and give myself more time to come around. In that sense, I’ve learned that improving my musicality is more like a savings account with interest rather than a big stock market play.
Slow and steady wins the race? We shall see.
In other developments, KG and I have been collaborating with a local radio morning show team on a promotion which warranted the creation of an original song. KG did most of the work, but I feel good for having helped bring it together. Since the creation has yet to be revealed on air, I won’t say any more. But it’s been fun. I’ll explain more soon.
Then, aside from laughing ourselves silly at some juvenile movie clips on YouTube (one was from Austin Powers, and that’s all I’m saying), KG and I also shared some thoughts on songs and voices we remember from our youth. He mentioned a song called “The Heart” by Larry Gatlin. We found a performance of it on YouTube. Wow – Gatlin can flat out sing. Incredible performance.
I told Kev that a song I’d always loved was a tune called “When the River Meets the Sea.” Laugh if you must, but I first heard the song on the “John Denver and the Muppets Christmas” album, which was a holiday staple in my home. We dug it up online and we may even cover it when we work up the rest of the act. You never know.
That led us to talking about John Denver, his life and career. I remember my mom having a lot of his records, and knowing (and liking) a bunch of his songs in spite of myself. I went back and listened to some of his work again. Boy, I never realized what a truly gifted singer he was. His voice had such a beautiful, natural vibrato that sounded so effortless. Many of the songs now sound needlessly over-produced, but that was the style at the time. But a guy like that … all he needed was his guitar, his voice, and his songs. That was more than enough. Shame he’s not still here. He’d only now be in his 60’s.
As Jimmy Buffett would say, “Sail on ….”
We made a little more musical progress last week with one studio session, most of which was spent on the song “Bagley Avenue.” Going into this process, I had imagined that we’d use Kevin Gorman’s piano to carry the lead instrumental melody. Or, maybe I should say it this way; I hoped that would be the case, since Kevin is a gifted player while I … well, I do the best I can and we’ll leave it at that. Trouble was, we quickly found that putting the piano up front gave the tune too much of an Elton John-type vibe, which was not at all what we were looking. The acoustic guitar sound roots the song in its folk roots.
Looks like I have more practicing to do.
We made a few minor modifications to the lyrics and slogged through much discussion over some very nitpicky parts of the overall arrangement (all very necessary), and then tracked what we could of the song. Having then reached the point of redundancy in our constructive discussion about what the song needed or didn’t need, we shelved it and moved on.
We then dusted off “No Schedule Man,” beginning with a question I was not expecting. Kevin asked about tempo and the overall feel of the song. I’m always open to his suggestions, but this time I was quite surprised to find myself (internally) reacting quite rigidly to the thought of tempo tinkering for that particular number.
“No Schedule Man” started as a group of chords I’d deliberately written at 140 beats per minute as a kind of boogie-woogie shuffle so that, at that time, my old pal Dave Cook could fill the song up with his favourite guitar licks while I flailed away on a heavy-strumming pattern that used 6-string chords through the whole song. Later on, when I started playing primarily with Kevin Gorman, we found the same worked even better with his piano. I’d never even considered changing it.
Nonetheless, we went searching to see if we could find a better groove for the song. We didn’t (and I’m still hoping I was open-minded enough to give it an honest chance at changing). So we ghost-tracked what we could (including some percussion and bass we’re not sure we’re sold on) and left it alone so we could return to it with fresh ears in a week or two.
Meantime, it was another crazy week in the land of “real” work. At CPT Entertainment we finally wrapped up a video production that was easily our most ambitious to date. I was responsible for writing and voicing the script (I think we had done seven or eight drafts by the time we were through) and collaborating on the pre and post-production. I even shot some of the footage for the video, down in Bristol, Tennessee last March.
Next, we have another video to finish. It, too, is a project that has been in the production stages for far too long. I have the same duties with it as with the one we just finished, however I’m also being looked at to record the guitar part of the original soundtrack which I also wrote, along with Kevin. We’ll try to get that done this week, which means I better get practicing.
In other events from the past seven days or so, I started and finished a terrific book by Steve Alten called “The Loch”; bought some music from a great songwriter named Will Kimbrough (I found him through Jimmy Buffett, who has recorded the Kimbrough tune “Piece of Work” and has played with Will many times); wrote and recorded more radio commercials for Delaware Speedway; started in on more work for CPT Entertainment’s upcoming trade shows and … oh yeah … celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife Tracey.
I’m not worthy. But I try.
See you next week,