Spring 2014 Tour Finale – The Electric Maid & Home

Washington D.C.

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Almost show time in Takoma Park.

“I thought I went too long but once your friends walked in I knew I played just the right amount of time” said William Borg Schmitt as I started packing up after my last set of the last stop of what would be a 5400+ mile journey that took me north to Portland, ME then back south to Corpus Christi, TX then back to upstate New York.  Will played right before me at a place in the Takoma Park neighborhood of Washington D.C. called The Electric Maid and towards the end of his wonderful set people began to filter out.  This is to be expected when you are an unknown. Many people were there to see local Abigail Palmer and kindly stuck around until the end of Will’s set.

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Lindsey walking into The Electric Maid in DC

When I started there were a few unfamiliar faces but in the middle of the first set a group of people walked in that I knew with others I didn’t.  The time on stage flew by, as I had been used to playing 3 hour sets for the past three shows and to fit all the songs and stories I wanted into 45 minutes, there just wasn’t enough time.  But the people there were great and I was excited to end the tour on a high note.

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Playing the last set of my first tour

After the show we crammed 5 people into the Focus, grabbed a drink, and headed back to our friend’s apartment in Falls Church, VA.  After catching up, downing a few beers, and coming down from the feeling of a monumental accomplishment I slept.  Huge thanks to Ashley for bringing out people to the show and putting us up for the night.

The next day Lindsey and I headed back into DC to check out The National Zoo.  After that we left town to beat the snow that was on its way to hit the mid-Atlantic coast.  For once on this trip we beat the precipitation.

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Had fun but I was ready to get home and do exactly what this panda was doing. At The National Zoo

The trip back was uneventful (thankfully) and we pulled into the driveway at about 9:50 pm.  I drank what was left of a fifteen year old scotch that I had kept for a special occasion from before I left my job to pursue music full time and watched “Inside Llewyn Davis” before finally falling asleep.  What I’m doing for a living isn’t easy, but I got a taste of the rewards that can come with traveling the road with my guitar and I have a feeling it won’t be long till I’m doing it again.

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Originally thought it was going to be 4800-5000 miles but we had some detours and adventures to get into along the way.

Many thanks to all the venues that let me play, the friends and family that gave us a place to rest, and to the people that came out to hear my songs.  I couldn’t have done this without you and I hope to see you again soon.

While the tour is over, I still got lots of shows lined up for the immediate future and would love to see some of my local pals out and around.

Road Journal – Houston, Georgia, and Greer South Carolina

Avant Garden – Houston, TX

Houston Holly and IanWhen I showed up to Avant Garden, a hidden little house in the bustling Westheimer Blvd. area of midtown Houston, the venue owner told me “The only people that’ll be coming to this show are the ones that come out to see you.  We don’t promote our shows.”  Sure enough I didn’t see any of the show posters hanging or flyers I sent.  Probably should’ve checked the dumpster I parked by.

 

Houston - Scott

The amazing thing about this tour has been the support I’ve been shown along the way by the strangers I meet and most of all by the friends and family along the way.  If it wasn’t for friends and family this trip would’ve not been near as successful.  My friends in Houston showed up for the show and made what could’ve been an awful night into one of the most fun nights of tour.  Thank y’all for coming out and filling the tip jar and buying CDs and shirts.  I will not usually discuss the pay I get from venues on this blog but it was such a ridiculous amount for the people that were there I have to say it. $18. No I didn’t miss a zero or exaggerate.  For 3 hours of playing, using my own sound gear, and providing customers they gave me $18.  If it wasn’t for the awesome people I brought to their “happy hour” the night would’ve been bad for them and for me.  I don’t know what was in the “green drink” Scott bought me before the show but it was much appreciated and needed.

Houston - Will

I’ve played many pass the hat and tip jar only gigs (even a couple on this tour) and I don’t have an issue when we agree to those terms ahead of time.  But I did all the promotion I could to make the night successful for them and they made no effort to bring people out.  Alright, off my soapbox and if that is the biggest complaint for my first tour then that’s pretty damn good.  I couldn’t ask for better people to share my music with.  Huge thanks to my in-laws for putting us up and taking this scraggily musician golfing.

Georgia and How far is a Mississippi mile?

Georgia - Sun Rise

Somewhere in Mississippi Lindsey and I were going to stop for a bite to eat once I-12 intersected with I-20 to head through Alabama.  The car said “70 Miles to Empty”.  I asked Lindsey how far until the intersection of the interstates and she said about 20 miles.  Well I thought we would stop there for gas and lunch but as the miles kept dropping on the mileage and we got to “20 Miles To Empty” I knew we weren’t going to make it to the intersection so I started looking for gas stations and Lindsey had out her phone with the “Road Ninja” app (do not recommend).  She said the closest gas station was in 21 miles. Not good.  I didn’t understand how the math added up that we were only 20 miles from the interstate intersection 50 miles ago and still had 20 miles to go.  AC was turned off and all phone chargers were unplugged (as if that would do anything).  We coasted down hills and upset the truckers who were passing this slow Ford Focus that was just praying to get to Meridian, MS.  Well we hit “0 Miles To Empty” on the car and luckily the car didn’t immediately stall.  We coasted into a truck stop rolling right through a stop sign getting off the interstate and making it to the pump without the car ever dying.

After getting fueled up we headed to Powder Springs, GA just outside of Atlanta and were greeted by all the Georgia family.   I ate so much great food courtesy of Lindsey’s Nanny and I still got a couple of those cheddar biscuits getting warmed by sun in foil on the dash as I write this.

Greer, SC

I’ve been seeing the revitalization of small city and town downtown communities all over the country first hand for a couple years now.  I don’t know what all the driving factors are but people are moving away from the big box stores and restaurants and buying local.  This (in my opinion) is the right direction for the country to be headed. Greer, SC and next door neighbor, Greenville, have both seen this revitalization and it has been great for giving both local and touring independent artists a place to play music.

Greer - Stomping Ground

The Stomping Grounds Café has all the pieces in place.  They have great food, local beer, clientele, and staff that likes Robert Earl Keen Jr.   After I finished playing a version of “Road Goes On Forever” they requested “Merry Christmas From the Family”.  Even though it is March, I still did my best playing it for them.  The crowd there was great and a huge thanks to Tammy and Greg for putting us up and bringing their friends out to the show.  Right now we are heading up I-85 to the final show of the tour at The Electric Maid in Takoma Park, Washington DC.  If this reaches any of you in the area in time to make it I hope to see you there.  This will be a great show to end what has already been a great tour.  I’m moved by all the love and support we’ve been shown along the way.

Road Journal – Ft. Worth and a Corpus Christi visit

Open Road

Highway 77 between Corpus Christi and Houston

Highway 77 between Corpus Christi and Houston

The highway between Corpus Christi and Houston is flat and I always thought boring. This time though, making the trip that I’ve made dozens of times, I find the wide open nature of Texas coastal plains comforting.  Lindsey asked me what I was taking a picture of when I snapped the picture above and I just said “clarity.”  Things seem so much easier when you can see 10 miles in any direction around you.  There is no surprise lurking around a corner or behind a stand of trees because neither one of those things exist (at least not much) south of Houston.

We did encounter rain though.  That has been the theme of the trip it seems when we get into the car the sky is going to let loose some form of precipitation.  Luckily though this part of the trip we didn’t encounter much and as you can see from the picture there are blue skies around.

Fort Worth @ Chadra Mezza

We encountered some clear skies and warm faces on Friday night in Fort Worth.  I played to a crowd that was exclusively made up of family and friends.  There was no pretending, no stage show, just sharing songs with those people that have been so supportive of me.

Tuning Up – photo by Monica Wright

Spending time with family is great and I definitely had some time to rejuvenate after the arduous trip through the south that brought us to north Texas.  Time there was mostly uneventful which is probably the best way that I could have spent the days although games of 42 (dominoes) and jamming late on guitars and banjolele with my Dad and Lindsey are among my favorite moments.

Corpus Christi

The day after the show in Ft. Worth Lindsey and I headed south to spend an evening with some friends we made in college while we attended Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Although our friends have a child and another is getting married it feels like things hadn’t changed and we carried on our conversations as if we had just left a day before.  Our conversations were fun and after a night of good food, drink, and Cards Against Humanity I could sleep happy.

The next day my friend Brett took me shooting.  I’m not big into guns and don’t own any but when he offered to take me to the range I thought well this trip is about trying out new things so I knew this was an offer I couldn’t turn down.

Not bad for my first time ever shooting pistols.  The big holes are 10 mm.  That gun has a lot of boom.

Not bad for my first time ever shooting pistols. The big holes are 10 mm. That gun has a lot of boom.

Still don’t think I’ll be getting any guns but I had a good time shooting with my friend.  After that we went to lunch and headed out to Houston.  Next up I’ll be at Avant Garden in Houston on March 12 then we make the trek back across the south to play at the Stomping Grounds in Greer, SC.

Road Journal – Nashville, Memphis, and the Arkansas Highway Dept Fail

Day 4 – Nashville

After the last post Lindsey and I hit the road through what remained of our trip through West Virginia, Kentucky, and finally Tennessee.  The roads were treacherous and slow moving, but we made it into Nashville without being one of the numerous cars and tractor trailers we saw run into the ditch.  I can see why most touring is done in the warmer months of the year.

Once we made it to Nashville we found The Listening Room Café.  I had a slight panic attack once I saw the number of seats that needed to be filled in the place but people trickled in and we were off.

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I played to a receptive crowd and I think I won over a few people in the audience composed mostly of complete strangers.  I’m extremely grateful for everyone that came out and Lindsey’s uncle for driving up from Alabama for the show.  The next day I realized how lucky I was to be playing at such a phenomenal venue as I walked Nashville’s Broadway listening to people playing at 10am in the honky tonks to no one.  That could have easily been me and my view of Nashville would have been completely different.IMG_1344

After the show we went out to dinner with our awesome hosts for the night,  Rachel and Jeremy Johnson of The Barrel Jumpers and newly formed music collective “Nashville Clusterfolk”.  I enjoyed getting an insight into what the Nashville musicians life is like and have the utmost respect for the dedication and drive it takes to make a name in a town full of big names.  Many thanks to them for putting us up for the night.

The next day, as I mentioned, we did some sight seeing.  Since I didn’t have another show till Friday we thought we would see the town then get into Granbury, TX at a leisurely pace late that night.  If I had known about the craziness happening on I 40 at that time my day would have been much different, but I’m glad I didn’t.  Sometimes you can’t plan a great time, it just happens.  First we went and checked out the Grand Ole Opry which was cool then headed over to Third Man Records.  Inside they had a recording booth that would record you straight to vinyl so I took a turn and recorded a new tune I’ve been working on for the past few months. Once I get back home I’ll get it into a more distributable format and let you have a listen. Inside the record shop, there was a film crew getting “B-Roll” footage for an upcoming documentary so who knows I might make my film debut too.

I'm on Third Man Records

I’m on Third Man Records!!!

Memphis

Once we got done exploring Nashville we headed west.  We left later than intended and knew we were looking at a long drive.  Lindsey and I wanted to stop in Memphis but knew we would have to be quick.  Graceland takes too long so we decided to check out the Gibson Factory.  The last tour was at 4 and we got there at 4:30 so we decided to just go check out the Gibson shop that has guitars along with memorabilia.

There was one other person there playing guitar and talking with the showroom attendant.  I was browsing the acoustic guitars and the showroom attendant asked which one I wanted to try. I chose to play one of Gibson’s “Hummingbird” models.  I started finger picking a little chord progression and the other guy in the showroom started doing a little solo so I kept the jam going for another couple of minutes until it ended.  He turned to me and said “You play pretty good”.  I thanked him and we got to talking.  I told him about the tour, Nashville, and Lindsey mentioned that we had wanted to tour the factory but got in too late. He then said he would give us a tour himself and that “they kinda let me do whatever I want around here”.  We didn’t even know the guy worked for Gibson.

He took us back into the factory and showed us all the steps in the process.  I completely nerded out over the types of wood they were using, the individual setting up of the guitars, and the “artist” models that haven’t been released yet.  I always assumed that modern guitars were made almost completely by machines.  Not Gibsons out of the Memphis plant.  The amount of work done by hand is amazing and I have the greatest respect for the craftsmanship that goes into the ES line of guitars.  Before we started the factory tour our guide said he wanted to buy one of my CDs so at the end of the tour we were walking out to the car when I told him that I hadn’t even caught his name. He told us his name was Mike.  Once we got out to the car I went to go get a CD, which we told him he didn’t have to pay for since he was so generous to give us a free tour, but he declined and insisted to.  After Lindsey and I  were headed out of Memphis I started to look Mike up and it turns out he is Mike Voltz the Master Luthier at Gibson in Memphis.  This was probably the highlight of what was already an amazing day.

Side note:  When we were “jamming” in the show room Mike was playing a J-45 which is the same Gibson I have. I had never seen this style before though. He asked me if I wanted to try it out. Of course.  This was one of the best feeling guitars I’ve ever held and the sound was immaculate. Punchy, warm, and the neck was extremely comfortable.  Mike had built it himself.  I wisely handed it back before I started drooling on it.

Arkansas… then back to Tennessee

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After leaving Memphis we headed into Arkansas and almost immediately ran into stand still traffic.  Not slowly moving, not creeping, not stop and go.  Stand Still.

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Turns out Arkansas completely failed at getting the roads cleared from the storm two days prior (yes TWO days ago) and so we sat, then eventually moved two miles in two hours.  We exited I40 ASAP and headed back to Memphis to head south.  So from Memphis to Granbury is about 7 hours.  Heading south to Jackson, MS then to Granbury takes 10. By the time we got turned around and back to Memphis it was 9pm.  I drove like crazy until we hit the Texas state line at 3am then Lindsey took over the rest of the way pulling into Granbury at 7:30 in the morning.

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I spent most of yesterday sleeping and chatting with family.  I have another day off today then we head into Ft. Worth tomorrow night which will be a bit of a homecoming show.  I’m excited about the progress and trip so far.  We’ll see what’s around the next corner.

Upstate New York singer songwriter, Reformed Corporate Lackey, and Self-Described Beer Connoisseur