Showing posts with label Aaron Lee Tasjan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aaron Lee Tasjan. Show all posts

Jan 12, 2021

Video Premiere / Stuffy Shmitt / "Sweet Krazy"

Photo by Stacie Huckeba.


Today we have a fun video premiere from Stuffy Shmitt. From his December album release (physical copies ship this month - see the link below) Stuff Happens, “Sweet Krazy” is an intense guitar and horn driven alt-country rocker with a rockabilly flair and a punk soul. The video is pure energy and color. It kicks all kinds of ass. I'm really happy we got to debut this.


Stuffy’s take on “Sweet Krazy”:

"Sweet Krazy" is a song about getting sprung from the machine I’ve been locked up in forever and going totally psycho-powered free-swingin’ fast—fast out of my mind, wowie-zowie wham-bam. Translation: when my bipolar bullshit kicks the depression out of bed and I go right into 10th gear out of the sheets and into the world—look out, it’s mania time! They call it manic depression and when I’m lucky enough, or forget to take my meds, I torpedo into mania, I have superpowers and there are no rules, no consequences. Being in a total fired up mania frees you to the point of electric-zap danger, who cares, cross the damn wires, boom and accelerate. 

When I moved to Nashville, my New York City depression moved with me, but I’ve bounced back hard now, who knows why—the caliber of players down here maybe, or the East Nashville community that adopted me and my music.

I was in complete abandon with my new soldiers on "Sweet Krazy." Chris Tench (Media Pig) produced my new album Stuff Happens and played guitar, and Brett Ryan Stewart (Wirebird Productions) and I co-produced. Brett played and sang anything he wanted. Dave Colella on drums and Parker Hawkins on bass knocked it out of the park.

The beloved singer/songwriter Aaron Lee Tasjan, who played in my band and on my records in New York, moved down to Nashville about the same time I did. He introduced me to an unbelievable songwriter and rip-it-up guitar player named Brian Wright. One night, I exploded all manic, scream-writing this song "Sweet Krazy" in my car, and called Chris, Brett, Brian, Aaron, Dave and Parker, and said, let’s rock this one, boys.

It’s basically just a blues on steroids, so it took me very little hopping up and down for them to get it. We all played at the same time—1,2,3,4 and out of the gate. They cranked my mania up and we rocket blasted the tune straight through the collapsing soundproofed ceiling! One take and we went home. 

It’s just a sweet little American rock & roll tune about girls and cars and being totally messed up. Tradition where I come from.

More info about Stuffy and his new album below the song player.


Stuffy Shmitt - Stuff Happens

 

Stuff Happens is Stuffy Shmitt’s first record in eight years because, well, he went crazy. “I was living in New York and my brain was on fire. I got that bipolar thing. I was bouncing between full-blown depression and a jailbreak manic buzz rush. After nearly a decade of getting 86’d from bars in the West Village, I made it to Nashville six years ago and finally got my head screwed on tight enough to make a new record.”

 

This album finds Shmitt not quite exorcising his demons, but exercising them—wrestling with them until they’ve been knocked around enough to be manageable. “I didn’t realize until the record was finished and my wife, Donna, pointed it out,” Stuffy says, “but this album is all about trauma. Disasters big and small. It was an accident, though. It was all subconscious. I guess, eventually, that shit’s gotta come out.”

 

A madcap tour through the folds of Shmitt’s charmingly off-kilter brain, Stuff Happens runs the full spectrum of manic depression in glorious stereophonic sound. There are bizzaro blues rockers and exhausted, desolate Americana ballads—some bleak to the bone, and others begrudgingly grasping at hope; never so naive as to look for a silver lining, but dogged enough to skim the horizon for the dull glimmer of aluminum. And when you need a jolt, there’s plenty of naked, unapologetic, torn-and-frayed American rock & roll to carry you kicking and screaming through all that beautiful sad-bastard music; the full-tilt end of the spectrum best represented by “Sweet Krazy,” a revved-up ode to mania that features fellow Nashville songsmith guitar shredders Aaron Lee Tasjan & Brian Wright. 

 

The story of the album begins with a chance encounter Shmitt had in an East Nashville dive. “I walked into The Five Spot, and there was this tall, skinny guy with a beat-up hat at the bar,” Stuffy says. “I didn’t know him, but I walked up to him and said, ‘Didn’t you push me off a ferris wheel once?’ Which actually is a Steven Wright line—I stole it, I admit it—but it's a great line. So I said that to him, and he looked at me and shot back, ‘Oh, that was you?’” Yes, it was love at first sight for Shmitt and Nashville singer-songwriter and producer Brett Ryan Stewart.

 

Meanwhile, that same night, as Shmitt was performing at The Five Spot, his wife sat down at the bar next to a long-haired character who was throwing back Jameson and talking in word pictures about the lyrics he was hearing. That guy was Chris Tench, who would become the guitar player in Shmitt’s band and ultimately the producer of Stuff Happens. “So here’s where it gets really freaky,” Stuffy says. “come to find out, Chris and Brett not only knew each other, they had partnered on music projects for years, owned a killer studio together and were both razor-sharp rockin’ madmen.”  

 

Brett wound up engineering and co-producing the record with Stuffy and Chris. “I’ve always produced all my own stuff,” Shmitt says. “Don't get in the way, don't tell me what to play, don't say what goes where because I'm the boss. But this time I did a trust fall. It was the first time I gave up the reins, and I’m glad I did because they’re brilliant. It was magic how we fell in together.”

 

Stuffy took his band out to Stewart and Tench’s studio, 20 miles south of Nashville in Franklin, Tenn., where they could clear their heads and work without distraction. The measured pace and attention to detail and mood helped ease Stuffy out of his comfort zone. “Chris and I did two months of pre-production, sitting in my living room with acoustic guitars breaking down the songs. It was a new thing for me. I hate to admit it because I like to do stuff on the fly, but it made a big difference. The pre-production work gave us a roadmap and freed us up to get lost in scenic detours. Working with Chris and Brett was all about groove and flow. They connected with the stories I was telling, and so did the rest of the band, which was Dave Colella on drums, and Parker Hawkins on bass. By then I’d worked with the band for a couple of years, so they got me, no learning curve, they knew the groove and the flow, too. We’re all brothers and everything clicked in a big way.”

 

The lush sonics of Stuff Happens make a compelling backdrop for Shmitt’s austere, blunt-force poetry and gutter-of-consciousness lyrics. His songs are disarmingly direct and personal, built with words you might find scrawled on a crumpled napkin in some sawdust jukebox bar with chicken wire on the window and a pig foot in the jar. These are not your garden variety genericana tunes. He’s weird. And honest, too. When he opens his mouth to sing, Shmitt can’t help but tell the truth, consequences be damned. Even when he’s doing his best to lie his scoundrel ass off, he falls face first into the truth. His stories are our stories. He makes us feel stuff. 

 

“They were looking at their photograph / Black and white of a catered night / In Madison Wisconsin / Tuxedo and ball gown / The future dead ahead / Bright and shiny like the long smooth silver car / Now they don’t know where they are,” Shmitt sings on “Mommy and Daddy,” a heart-crushing rumination on his folks’ final years.

 

Shmitt grew up in Milwaukee in a family every bit as wild and unhinged as he is. “I don’t come from a family with a culture of tradition. I had a drunk drummer mother who wrote poetry in her sleep, and a dad who played guitar and had a thing for fast cars. We read a lot of books, listened to a lot of music and protested social injustices. Our home was loud and nasty and violent. We didn’t spend a lot of time hugging or talking about feelings. We didn’t have religion. I didn’t understand spirituality until I dropped acid as a teenager, and when I nearly died of pneumonia a while back. And then I got manic, which comes with superpowers and parties with angels.”

 

Stuffy ventured to New York, then L.A. then back to New York, playing in an endless parade of rock & roll bands. It was a gas. Loud, fun, kickass shit. He was in Actual Size, X-Lovers, Petting Zoo and a whole bunch of other projects. He snorted coke with Johnny Rotten at The Cat and the Fiddle in Laurel Canyon, and he made his bones pumping through blown-out speaker cones on both coasts, stalking the stage with his gang of musicians, and recording with greats including Willy De Ville, David Johansen of the New York Dolls, The Band's Levon Helm, Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano, and Jayotis Washington and The Persuasions. But after a while all the drummers in his life kept blowing up like it was This Is Spinal Tap, so Stuffy decided maybe he’d better start playing solo acoustic gigs instead. Half a life and a half-dozen albums later, with Stuff Happens he’s managed to synthesize the disparate sounds of his past into his finest, most impactful record yet. And what better time to release your lighting-rod masterpiece than in the midst of a global pandemic?

 

“Staying inside all the time makes me absolutely nuts—I start crawling the walls,” Shmitt confesses. “But what are you gonna do? God, I miss just walking down the street and feeling my boots on the pavement, going into a club and saying, 'Ok, this band sucks, let’s go to another other club.' I feel caged. Rock & roll is supposed to be live. You’re supposed to turn up the bass and listen to a person’s guts. If you play the new record loud enough you’ll definitely get some of that, but I’m holding out hope for when we can all get back out there in the flesh, pile into a club, order two shots of Jack, a pint of Kahlua with a side of Pop Rocks, and just go wild. Let the bass echo in our chests.”


You can get Stuff Happens on vinyl & CD here… https://www.stuffyshmitt.com/storebackend/p/pre-order-stuff-happens-cd

Jul 10, 2020

Album Review / Ray Wylie Hubbard / Co-Starring

By Megan Bledsoe

It’s either a hilarious coincidence or an intentional and profound irony that the first line of this album is: “Don’t get any on you if you go to Nashville.” Certainly that is the concern when our favorite independent artists sign to a mainstream label; we’re all happy they got the recognition they deserved, but we’re hoping Nashville won’t change what made them cool artists in the first place. As bizarre as 2020 has been, it seems almost natural that this year brought about the wildly unusual development that Ray Wylie Hubbard would release an album on Big Machine. The seventy-three-year-old artist has long been deserving of more of an audience, but the alliance between Hubbard and the label that produced Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line was one none of us saw coming. It’s not the first time Scott Borchetta has signed an unexpected artist, but this is no doubt the farthest into left field he has yet ventured, and the coolest thing about this partnership is that it has culminated in Co-Starring, a Ray Wylie album that is better and more infused with life than his  recent records.

There’s an energy in these songs and in Hubbard himself that wasn’t as present on his last couple of albums. The hooks and melodies are more infectious, the material is generally more lighthearted, and the parade of cool artists who contributed to the album all did their part to enhance these tracks. Perhaps most importantly, Ray Wylie is clearly having a blast with every line and guitar lick, and that vibrancy shines through and brings the album the life so often lacking on Americana albums these days. All of these factors serve to give these songs lots of replay value, and ultimately, that mileage is what matters most; it matters little how deep and profound a song is on first listen if you’re not compelled to listen to that song months and years later.


There is no crown jewel of the album; rather, Co-Starring has three. “Rock Gods,” featuring Aaron Lee Tasjan, certainly hits the hardest of the three, as Hubbard sings with sorrow about Route 91, Tom Petty’s death, and the brokenness and sadness permeating every corner of our world today. The opener, “Bad Trick,” featuring Ringo Starr, Don Was, Joe Walsh, and Chris Robinson, with its many great observations and little pieces of advice like the line about Nashville, remains the most infectious track on the album. “Drink Till I See Double,” featuring Paula Nelson and Elizabeth Cook, claims the honor of having the most brilliant hook, with “I’m gonna drink till I see double, and take one of you home.” This one is also easily the most stone cold country, for all you strict traditionalists out there.

It’s exciting to see Ray Wylie Hubbard getting his just due and to see such a rootsy album being released and promoted by a label like Big Machine. But the greatest aspect of it all is that Ray Wylie Hubbard didn’t get any on him when he went to Nashville, and hopefully, this record will see him enjoying even more of the recognition and success he has always deserved.

Co-Starring is available today everywhere.

Apr 24, 2020

Americana Band Actually Doing Better Financially During the Pandemic

Tupelo, Mississippi Americana band Natchez Trace is riding out the Covid-19 pandemic in a shared rental house and doing just fine, thank you. In fact, they say things are actually more profitable for them during these uncertain times.

“I was worried, I’ll be honest.” said bassist Lee Sturgeon. “No tour dates, no merch sales, and even our Spotify streaming royalties are down from $1.54 to $1.34 for some reason.” Despite the lack of income, the band, who has opened for the likes of Aaron Lee Tasjan and Nikki Lane, is living high on the hog during this challenging era. 

“We’ve actually gone 22 straight days without our van breaking down,” said lead singer Vance Upton. “The previous record was 4 hours… so we’re saving a lot of money on vehicle maintenance.” “Also, we haven’t had any gear stolen since last Monday. Usually we’re replacing amps and guitars on a pretty much daily basis.” 

Low overhead isn’t the only thing keeping Natchez Trace afloat. “When those stimulus checks hit the bank accounts, we threw a party,” laughed Sturgeon. “$1200 dollars a piece? Man, that’s like six months driving from town to town, playing for 23 people, and sleeping in a rest stop parking lot.” “We’re rich bitch!” yelled Upton in the background. 

So what is Natchez Trace doing during this downtime? “Video games, beer, Netflix, repeat.” said drummer Matthew Chandler. “We might do a live stream or something one of these days but we’re usually too hung over.” 

At press time, Natchez Trace was drunkly considering continuing to not tour after the pandemic is over.

Aug 7, 2019

What Keeps Him Alive: A Conversation with Kevn Kinney of Drivin N Cryin


By Kevin Broughton

For Generation X-ers in the Southeast, Drivin N Cryin is at once familiar and enigmatic, not unlike the Yin-Yang tension of the band’s very name. But in any case, they’re a constant. They made seven albums in a dozen years – from 1985’s Scarred But Smarter to a self-titled release in 1997 – then went essentially off the grid for the next twelve. The one thing fans could count on throughout that run was the tension summed up in the band’s name: hard, three-chord, guitar-driven punk, balanced by a tender folk sensibility. Patti Smith versus Bob Dylan, as DNC front man Kevn Kinney summed it up in his 1990 album MacDougal Blues. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. 

If you’re somehow unfamiliar with this “Southern” “rock” band, do yourselves a favor right now and dial up the documentary – on Amazon Prime – Scarred But Smarter, by Atlanta media fixture Eric Von Haessler. Released in 2012 after three years of shooting and production -- on the heels of the then-new release of What Ever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory -- the film chronicles the band’s origins, highs, lows and rotating personnel. Kinney and bassist Tim Nielsen are the two constants, both transplants from the upper Midwest to Atlanta. The premise of Von Haessler’s movie was to answer a fair question: Why has a great band like this never been more than a regional success? 

The film gets around to answering the question, but the explanations are as complex as the band’s own seemingly existential contradictions. Again, it’s definitely worth the watch.

But 2019 welcomes DNC’s first full-length album in a decade – a few EPs and Kinney solo projects notwithstanding. Live The Love Beautiful, produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan, the new record is a blast of full-spectrum rock & roll, with Kinney singing about the troubled times of modern-day America; the trials and triumphs of an adulthood logged on the road; the benefits of appreciating the small things in life; and even the legacy of the Faces' late keyboardist, Ian McLagan. Together, these 11 songs connect the dots between the sounds that have shaped DNC’s career since the beginning, mixing together the jangle of folk music, the weirdo textures of 1960s psychedelia, the punky slash-and-burn of old-school rock & roll, and the sweep of Kinney's southern ballads. 

Live the Love Beautiful also shines a light on the band's revamped roster, with guitar hero Laur Joamets — an Estonian-born instrumentalist who first moved to America to perform with Sturgill Simpson, making his debut on the singer's Grammy-nominated Metamodern Sounds in Country Music — recently joining the ranks of Kinney, Nielsen, and longtime drummer Dave V. Johnson. 

While Nashville Scene might have overstated things a tad when it called Live The Love Beautiful “the best Drivin N Cryin album to date,” it’s certainly in the top three or four, in a tier just below Mystery Road and Scarred But Smarter, comfortably snug with Wrapped in Sky and Fly Me Courageous.

And if it’s true that DNC is a regional power, the band is never more potent than when playing Atlanta or the surrounding confines. On an afternoon in late June the van is parked outside MadLife Stage and Studio, a unique venue in Woodstock, Ga., part of the ever-expanding ‘burbs to the northwest of the capital city. Two years ago, the band played the city’s brand-new amphitheater to an estimated crowd of 12,000. The skies opened before the show and dumped three inches of rain in two hours, and no one left. If you’re looking for a vignette for Drivin N Cryin’s legacy in the Southeast, that was it: thousands and thousands of soaked, shivering forty- and fifty-somethings patiently waiting out the storm. 

This day, it’s almost sound check time, but Kinney has to attend to a couple things first. 

“Let me check on Kevn right quick,” says the road manager. “He’s doing a Reddit.” This is apparently a milestone for the 58-year-old troubadour. Moving toward the green room, one catches a bit of side-eye from the ever-skeptical Nielson in the wings. Best to look away…

“How you doing? I’m Dave, the drummer,” says Johnson, unprompted and with an outstretched hand. “Are you here to interview Kevn? He’s in there doing a Reddit, but I think he’s almost done. You gonna make the show tonight?” Oh, yeah. 

The road manager is back. “Okay, he’s almost done with the Reddit, but I have to run out for a bit,” he lets it hang there, expectantly. It’s all good. “Cool. I’ll just see you in a little while. I’m pretty sure he’s almost done.” One really couldn’t ask for a more accommodating road manager and half-a-rhythm-section.

The greenroom door opens. “Hey, are you Kevin? I’m Kevn,” says the front man with a smile. “Come on in.”

How was the Reddit?

Oh, man, pretty good I think. It was my first one. Hang on. [Types one last answer on iPhone before beginning the interview proper.]

As someone who’s followed the band since 1985, I’m curious about what affect the Scarred But Smarter documentary had, if any. It filled in some gaps in the band’s timeline for me; did you get any kind of bump in exposure or coverage when it came out?

I don’t think so; I think it was mostly – for the fans – a look backstage. It was a chance for people to see how snarky I am, or how funny I am. You know, I’m a very private person; I don’t do a lot of interviews except for when a new album comes out. I prefer to just leave an enigma thing out there. But director Eric…I love Eric. We just hit it off. I don’t know if it’s because we both grew up in Northern industrial towns, but Eric…it was like he didn’t get it, then he got it, and he just wanted to express it. 

Now, if it were me – and one day in the future I would like to do this – I would do it as a puppet show with marionettes. That’s the thing about documentaries: Anybody can do one. But if I did one it would be part Claymation and lots of dream sequences. 

After the movie though, here’s the reaction I got: Hang in there, Kev!

Ha!

We love you! Don’t die. 

Just about anybody who went to college in the South in the 80s and 90s saw and heard and knew Drivin N Cryin. You’re almost 35 years in as a band now. Have y’all gotten any second-generation fans? Are those former college kids bringing their kids to shows now?

Yeah, I think so, yeah. Like the thing in Woodstock you were talking about earlier, a lot of parents bring their kids to shows to let them see what it was like. And we are seeing a lot of younger fans at shows but I don’t know if that’s a generational thing. Because it’s a universal message that we have: to be yourself, to be proud of who you are. It’s a working-class message. Nobody said it would be fair, so don’t quit. I think a 20-year-old can listen to “Scarred But Smarter” and get it. 

Since the release of Bubble Factory ten years ago, y’all did four EPs, then last year there was a re-release of the 1997 self-titled album, as Too Late To Turn Back Now. Was the re-release a deal where you got to capture some old publishing rights? Why that record at that time?

The guy who owned New West Records? It was stuck in the CD player of his car.

Yeah?

Yep. He said, “I love this record. We should put this one back out.” I wanted to call it The Kosmo Vinyl Sessions, because I wanted to figure out a way to incorporate producers’ names onto album covers. But that was a very special time for us as a band. We had no label. We had gone back to being a three-piece…we were paying for it ourselves. And Kosmo really was a very important part of it, but he said (mimicking British accent), “Well, it’s really not about me!” (Laughs)

But I really didn’t want to call (the reissue) Drivin N Cryin, because when I called it that [in 1997] I made the cover look like Scarred But Smarter – where we were sleeping in the back of the car. Because I was thinking at the time that it might be my last record. I thought, “Maybe this is the arc of my career; maybe this is it.” Then we toured with The Who for that record. And I really didn’t make another Drivin N Cryin record until Bubble Factory (2009.) At the time I thought it was our last record, and it never came out on vinyl.

And when it turned out it wasn’t our last album, I decided to call it Too Late To Turn Back Now!

Well, that makes sense because when I heard the name I thought, Wait. That’s actually the first line of the first song, “Keepin’ It Close To My Heart.” 

Yeah. I wanted it to be the first vocal line that you hear. 

Live The Love Beautiful  has a peace about it, an air of contentment. It also seems – to me, anyway – a close cousin to Wrapped In Sky.  Somebody in the documentary – it might have been Peter Buck – described Wrapped in Sky as “a return to hopefulness.” Does this record remind you of any other album you’ve done in the last 30 years?

I would say it’s probably closest to Wrapped In Sky, which was also a very hard record to make, and it never came out on vinyl. And it was quickly cut out and disappeared until it came out on iTunes. It was just gone. We were dropped [by Geffen Records] the week it came out. 

That’s messed up.

Well, in all fairness, Geffen signed us when I was having a temper tantrum in Memphis when I did three songs and destroyed all my gear. And they were like, “You’re amazing!” (Laughs) Yeah, I was having a mental breakdown. But by the time we got to L.A., I was over it, and on to more of a healing life, you know? 

And this album has a healing life to it, too. There’s a back-and-forth between confrontational life and healing life. And all of my songs, I’m singing to myself. I’m letting you watch and listen to me talk to myself. I don’t do a lot of preaching. 

If it sometimes comes out that way, it’s because I’m preaching to myself. I’m just here to sing to myself. Like in “Step By Step,” I’m writing about a time in my life when I wasn’t sure who was in control of me. And I don’t think we all have that; some people are lucky enough not to have that.  They should embrace that. I have not been that lucky.


Aaron Lee produced this album, but he’s also the guy who was your lead guitarist between Sadler Vaden and Laur. How did that dynamic work out? 

Well, he was also my guitarist on my solo album Sun Tangled Angel Revival, and we’ve done a lot of solo tours together. He was part of the Golden Palomino album I did with Anton [Feir.] Aaron’s just been my go-to guy for so long. He knows every song I’ve ever recorded; he just knows what to do. And like with Sadler or anybody who plays with us…you know Col. Bruce [Hampton] and I were very close friends. And part of our philosophy was, “let your musicians shine.” And if they move on to bigger or different opportunities, let’s encourage that.  Bruce would never be like, “That dang Derek Trucks!” (Laughs) You know, Derek moved on. 

Because they’re helping me out. I’m not helping anybody out, except to keep my songs simple so they can express themselves within the songs. 

A couple of years ago, Tim made the observation that DNC is a Southern Rock band with two guys from Milwaukee and Minneapolis leading it. The Replacements, Husker Du and the Violent Femmes are all over y’all’s music. The fusion of folk and punk is obvious; how did the Southern element work its way into the mix? Just by being here?  

Yeah, you know we were both drawn to the kudzu. I always say the greatest Southern rock band I know is R.E.M. The Southern rock bands I knew were Let’s Active, R.E.M., Pylon. One of the first things I remember after coming to Atlanta was going to Stone Mountain to see the laser light show, and saw an exit sign for Athens. And I thought, “Whoa! B-52s!” 

But I’ve never owned a Lynyrd Skynyrd record. I like Lynyrd Skynyrd; they’re good people, and Leon [Wilkinson] and I were friends. But that was never one of my goals – being a “Southern Rock” band. But when you come from some place like the Midwest you can see the softer edges, the patience and the inherent beauty and the gracefulness that I fell in love with when I came here for the first time.  And I never left. Right after I got down here I was trying to get my car fixed, and I overheard the guy say over the phone, “Some Yankee wants his car fixed.” (Laughs) I was still kinda pushy back then. It’s a tricky world in the South, but I fell in love with it here. And Tim went to high school here, so I’m the carpetbagger.

Well, as carpetbaggers go, you’re one of the good ones.

I worked as a carpenter on a big sewer treatment construction project. So I got quickly immersed into Southern culture from an Alabama-based construction company.

Thirty-five years on, how many dates a year do y’all do? And as a follow-up, what percentage of the gigs are within a couple hundred miles from home?

I have no idea. I think we play every other weekend, so we probably do about 50 or 60 shows a year, maybe? I don’t really know. I don’t want to do Tuesdays anymore. 

Um…what’s Tuesday? 

Tuesday sucks! Wherever you are! I ain’t doin’ it! I’m done doing Wednesdays in Wichita and Mondays in Omaha. I’d rather go camping, and play Thursday-Friday-Saturday. That’s kinda how we are.  We don’t just tour for the sake of touring. 

Some of these songs have been floating around on YouTube from live shows for a year or more. How long had you been writing and working on this batch of 11 songs? 

Ah, it wasn’t that long. A bunch of them we just came up with in Aaron’s living room. Tim wanted to make a record. And I said, “Okay we can do a record.” Then it came down to actually wanting to do it and I was “Oh, wow, I don’t know what to do.” So I just started going through my voice recorder. [Picks up iPhone] I’ll just pick one out randomly here…[strumming in 4/4 time comes from phone] I have no idea what that is.

Kind of has a Dixieland feel. So you just play into your phone when an idea comes to you?

Everything that’s on the record you’ll find on this phone! (Laughs) Yeah, we’ll record sound checks and things like that. A couple of the songs are from a session we recorded on Sept. 10, 2001. “Spies” is one of them. And “Someday.” Those are songs that had never seen the light of day, because…well, we recorded them on Sept. 10 and woke up on 9/11 and said, Oooh. I don’t think the country is ready for the line “I’m a spy for the underground in America.” I think we’ll put that one on the back burner! Then when we got together in Tim’s basement to do Bubble Factory a lot of the songs from those sessions finally came out. Does that answer the question? What was the question? 

How long have you been working on these songs?

Oh, yeah! (Laughs) “If I’m Not There I’ll Be Here,” that song’s probably 20 years old. I’ve tried to put that one on every record, but it’s never made the cut. Either it wasn’t finished or didn’t have the right vibe. That one – I had been listening to Zeppelin’s “Achilles’ Last Stand” [mimics intro from that song] and said, “Yeah, let’s put that song on this record.”

Ian McLagan…I can think of a couple of more high-profile members of Faces, but I never really thought about that band’s being a big influence of yours. Then there’s the line, that he “kept doing what keeps him alive,” with a change of verb tense in the same phrase. What made him the subject of a song?

Well, I never met him. I wanted to meet him, because he was in Faces, one of my favorite bands as a kid. Want I wanted to do was tell a story about a guy who could have done one thing. I just told you that I built sewage plants. I’ve been telling people that story for 30 f*cking years. I built three sewage plants, and I loved being a carpenter. But I’m not functioning, now, as a carpenter even though I was really proud of what I did. And I could sit in bars and tell stories about being a carpenter.

Ian McLagan is a catchall. It could be Peter Buck. He could say, “Yeah, I wrote ‘Radio Free Europe’ on that first record and haven’t done anything since,” and I would be impressed. But some people do one thing and talk about it all their lives. And some people keep “doing,” and that’s what keeps you alive. 

Again, I’m singing to myself. “Kevn, why are you doing this? Well, it’s kind of keeping you alive. You idiot.” (Laughs) Ian McLagan was a guy who could have said, “I wrote ‘Itchycoo Park.’” And if you saw him at the coffee shop you’d say, “Itchycoo Park! That’s amazing!” But in Austin, where I have a lot of friends, Ian played with everybody. And I really did see him – after he played a set with Peter Buck – carrying his keyboard in one hand and his amp in another. He kept doing it. I love artists who love to be artists and want to keep doing it. 

“Sometimes I Wish I didn’t Care…” I swear I hear the same female voice as on “Good Night Rhyme,” a song buried on MacDougal Blues. Am I right? 

No, that was my sister. 

Yeah, I know. It was beautiful. Who’s on this one? 

“Sometimes I Wish I Didn’t Care?” That’s Elizabeth Cook.

Oh! She’s dreamy!

Oh, yeah!

I love her radio show.

“Apron Strings!” Love it. One of the best radio shows ever. She’s one of my best friends. We met at Todd Snider’s house. And I was unaware of how many albums she had made. I mean I knew she was great, I knew she was funny; I’d seen her on Letterman. But when I started researching her I saw that she’s got like nine albums out! And they’re all awesome. She her next album, produced by Butch Walker – I don’t know if I’m telling stories out of school – it’s fantastic. It’s a power pop, great rockin’ record. She makes great records, and I really wanted her on this one. 

Man, thanks for the time. Go do your sound check.

Thank you. Gotta go learn a couple of these songs. We’re making a live album tonight.

Wait. What? 

----------

But it makes perfect sense, of course. The venue’s name says it all: “MadLife Stage and Studio.” Part restaurant, part live music venue, with an actual recording studio attached to the room. And what Kinney and Nielson have planned also makes perfect sense: On the night before the new album’s official drop date, you make a live record for future release. “Yep,” says Kinney. “Live The Live Beautiful Live.”

What’s more, the execution is brilliant. The audience is made up of hard core fans from the band’s mailing list and about 100 of them have paid anywhere from $75-$125 apiece to be part of this intimate gathering of kindred spirits. The doors open two hours before show time, but there’s no opening act. No way. There’s an hour-long meet-and-greet, followed by a huge group photograph, then a rock show. 


At photo time, Shay Meaders asks if she can squeeze in to get her own shot from the mezzanine level. She and her husband, Eric (who serves in the Coast Guard), have driven from Fairfax, Va. “This is my husband’s favorite band,” she says. “When we heard about it, we left the 20-year-old and 17-year-old at home. We weren’t gonna miss this show.” 

And it wasn’t a show to be missed. Upon taking the stage, Kinney re-explained what the helpful road manager had told the crowd earlier: it’s a live recording of the new album, track-by-track. “Bear with us,” he says, “if we have to do a couple of them over.” 

But the band is on, man. Tighter than a tick; only one do-over out of the 11 tracks on Live The Love Beautiful. Kinney stays on top of things between songs by donning his reading glasses and scanning the back of the vinyl album cover he’s perched on a Marshall amp: Oh, yeah, this one’s next. It’s a joyous affair for him, the band and ready-made crowd, eager to capture a moment in time. 

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