Conan, 2011

It’s October 2011, and the Allen Stone Band’s playing “Unaware” on Conan O’Brien.  It’s our first national TV spot, and I’m so nervous I black out on-air.  But that’s ok, because I also look homeless.  I’m wearing billowing Levi’s and an Iron Maiden t-shirt.  As we’re escorted to stage, the journalist traveling with us insists I wear his over-sized suit jacket.  He’s taken pity on me.  

You should really check it out.  Both our performance and the jacket. 

If I’m honest, we all look like we’ve wandered onto the soundstage accidentally.  We’ve been a band for, what, four months at this point?  We’re green.  As green as Kermit the Frog singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”

But there’s something powerful about our performance on Conan almost seven (!) years ago.  

I’d say we were unprepared, but that’s unkind- in order to be unprepared, there has to be some sort of reference point, which of course we didn’t have.  We’re a band that makes deals with God every morning that our van sputters into life.  The week prior, we’d played in San Louis Obispo to five people.  That’s including the bartender and doorman.  National TV?  Really?  

That’s like Giselle saying she’s had enough of Tom Brady’s dimpled chin and wants to leave it all behind and start a new life with yours truly.  Zero reference point.  You either run for the hills, or put on some deodorant and try your best.  

It’s precisely because we have no idea what we're doing that makes our performance that day special.  Preparing, and therefore overthinking, wasn’t an option, so we just put on some deodorant and tried our best.  We winged it.  And, honestly, we captured a vibe we haven't corralled since.  

As artists, 100% of us are prone to overthinking.  Experiences like the one above remind me that, at some point, we have to throw ourselves out there.  Rolling with the punches really isn’t that bad.  Often, it’s the most enjoyable part of the whole deal.  AND, Conan has a popcorn maker in the green room.

But if Giselle actually comes calling, run for the hills.  Unless you want a life of obscure moisturizers and not eating strawberries. 

Quick Thoughts on a Busy Monday

I’m having a happily busy day, bouncing around from meeting to meeting, and I’ve finally found a couple minutes to write while waiting on a sandwich.  

I'm grateful for this daily newsletter- today's bananas, and I ordinarily wouldn't have taken time to breath and nourish myself.  Thank you all for subscribing and holding me accountable.    

If you’re lucky, you have lots of busy days filled with edifying conversations and inspiring challenges.  On days like these, it’s that much more important pausing the game for a moment and taking stock of the little things.  

I’m thankful for:

-Becoming better at asking for help.  

Being an independent artist can be isolating.  With limited time and even tighter budgets, we end up doing a lot on our own.  It’s easy forgetting we exist in a community of like minded people facing similar challenges.  I know I’m eager to lend an ear, offer advice and extend a helping hand, regardless of the financial reward- all you have to do is ask.  It’s tempting, and even a bit romantic, believing we operate best in a vacuum but, objectively, the realty couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’m learning to trust friends and embrace my community more completely.

-Wanting to ask questions. 

There’s so much about which I’m curious and know precious little.  Rather than being ashamed or intimidated by this, I’m trying to listen more and move patiently in the world.  I’m focusing on little things.  For example, making an effort, rather than nodding along in conversation, to mention if I don’t know that band, song, author, movie, or whatever it might be.  I want to learn.

-Not having twins.  

Holy smokes, the couple next to me at the Frothy Monkey’s having a hard time.  I’m gonna buy their coffees.

I’m a work in progress, but I’m trying my best.  Thanks for taking this journey with me.  

January 15!  Hooray!

Not Famous Podcast

Excited to announce that the Not Famous Podcast rides again!  

Well, almost.  New weekly episodes starting in February.

Some background:

The Not Famous Podcast is a long-form conversation show hosted by myself and good bud Jeremy Hatcher.  With independent creatives, we discuss art, music and the role fame plays in our culture.  

Starting in April 2017, Jeremy and I produced 33 episodes in six months, learning as we went, each one better than the last.  The show built a neat cult following and became a catalyst for so much positive change in our lives.  

When Jeremy got a gig in LA with Rick Rubin last fall, we decided to put the show on hold until balance to the Force was restored.  Now, we’re rested, ready and excited to fire things back up!  

The timing for Not Famous was perfect.  In 2017, the Allen Stone crew spent most of January and February writing music for the next record, with the expectation of going into the studio in April.  The album got pushed back, Al took a solo tour with Hall and Oates and, all of sudden, I was staring at an empty calendar.  I was enjoying the ride of a lifetime with the band, but I hadn’t carved out a lane that was uniquely mine. 

Friends suggested I start a podcast, which was intimidating.  I was afraid I’d sound like an idiot (about which I'm less concerned, given that literally anyone can be elected leader of the free world, it turns out, and nut shot videos still reign supreme on YouTube).  Eventually, as I do with most things, I bounced the idea off Jeremy.  In a calming matter-of-factness only he can pull off, he said ok, we’ll start on Tuesday, then.  End of discussion.  

Nothing feels better than sharing your voice- literally, in this case- with the world and being heard.  We have a blast with Not Famous, and I'm confident you'll enjoy listening as much as we enjoy making it.

You can subscribe on iTunes, or click here.  

January 14!  Let's goooooooooo!

 

Thoughts on Procrastination

Procrastination, folks.  Oh yes!  Everyone deals with it.  As artists, we’re especially prone.  Our livelihood, after all, depends on our being emotionally vulnerable and open to daily criticism (if not hourly, thanks to social media).  Who wouldn't want to sit out a few rounds?  

In procrastination’s mildest form, you may put off doing a few annoying chores.  Thing is, procrastination’s a sneaky SOB- it may start super low key but, over time, as your lack of motivation intensifies, virtually any activity appears so difficult that you’re overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing.  Because you accomplish very little, you feel worse and worse.  Sadly, we often don’t recognize we’re trapped, and this situation can go on for weeks, months, even years.

So many artists suffer in silence with this kind of thing, not wanting to appear less-than.  It’s heart breaking, and I’d like to dedicate the next several posts of the Mind of a Trevor to strategies I’ve used to combat Do-Nothingism.

Strategy 1- Create an Antiprocrastination Sheet

Say you’re avoiding a particular task because you predict it’ll be too difficult and unrewarding.   Using an Antiprocrastination Sheet, you’re able to test your negative predictions.  

-In the first column, write down the task in question.  If it’s kinda big and overwhelming, break it down into small steps, with each one taking at most about 15 mins to complete.  

-In the second column, write down how difficult you predict each step of the task will be, on a scale of 0-100.  If you imagine the task will be easy, keep it low, 10-20, say.  If you predict crazy ninja difficulty status, go high, 80-90.  

-In the next, write down how satisfying and rewarding you predict each step will be, 0-100

-Once you’ve recorded these predictions, complete the first step of the task.  After you’ve completed each step, record how difficult it actually turned out to be, as well as the amount of pleasure gained from doing it.  Record this info in the last two columns, again using 0-100.  

Here’s a recent Antiprocrastination Sheet of mine:

 

Task:  Writing a long, annoying business email (broken down into small steps)

 

Activity                        Predicted            Predicted            Actual            Actual

                                   Difficulty             Satisfaction        Difficulty     Satisfaction

1. Outline email               90                        10                       10                  60

2. Write rough draft        90                         10                       10                  80

3. Edit final draft             80                        10                        10                  85

4. Send email                  60                         20                        5                  90

 

As you can see, I predict that writing the email’s going to suck big time.  After recording my pessimistic predictions, I’m curious to see if it’ll be as tedious and stupid as I think.  To my great surprise, I find writing the email’s really not all that bad- kinda easy, in fact.  Inspired by this small victory, I finally wash the goddamn dishes.

Looking forward to sharing more strategies with you!  Let's help each other and be human beings together.    

Travel, Travel and Travel Some More

“Are you tired of touring?” is a question I get often, and the answer’s no.  I think that’s because I don’t tour so much as I travel.  

What's the difference?  Well, here’s a typical tour day for most- limp out of the hotel room/bus/van, stare zombie-like at an iPhone screen, hit up the Chipotle near the venue, play the gig, drink free booze and pass out after not brushing your teeth.  

Sound good to you?  Me neither.  So, I do none of these (except play the gig).  I get out and see the town, explore, get lost.  I travel.  

Travel highlights what already's within you.  Enjoy people?  Well, you’re in luck- people are, it turns out, everywhere.  Dig exotic cuisine, or at the very least a Chicago style hot dog?  Go nuts!  More significantly, if you’re a person who remains fluid, flexible and good natured in the face of delays, multi-faceted absurdities and people being good ol’ fashioned assholes, chances are the open road will treat you fine.  

If you prefer the company of Netflix over exchanging pleasantries with a stranger, well, travel’s gonna eventually wear you down.  “I just have to sleep in my own bed” isn’t a professional traveler characteristic.   Nothing wrong with being a homebody, by the way.  Who doesn't like growing vegetables and enjoying a low likelihood of hosting a monkey parasite?

I’m odd.  I enjoy being home, sure, but if I’m not traveling in some description after about a week I genuinely feel like I’m letting myself down.  I’m lucky- I can sling a hastily packed bag over my shoulder, book a ticket and just GO.  Few are able to pull that off, and I don’t take my good fortune for granted.  Life won’t always be like this, and I’m not worried about the greener grass on the other side.  The grass is plenty green in Iceland, and I’m going to experience it first hand.  

For anyone who’s new to touring, traveling a ton and feeling burnt, or generally stuck in a rut, here’re a couple things I do that changed the game:

-Rather than Yelp something for lunch, ask somebody

People love talking about where they’re from, and this simple ice breaker almost always leads to additional recommendations.  

-Read a work of fiction set in the place you’re going. 

The good stuff, I’ve found, manifests more readily through stories than Trip Advisor.  It's also made long flights something I look forward to. 

”All cities are the same" is bullshit.  Don't become that guy.  

Travel.  Travel, travel and travel some more.  Especially in these bizarre and unstable times, experiencing people and places first hand is a valuable currency.  Chances are I'll bump into you somewhere out there.  First beer's on me.  

 

Smoky Amps

We’re playing a gig in London a couple years ago, and I’m having a rough night.  The backline (the on-stage equipment- amps, drums, keyboards etc) has been put “through the trenches,” as our cheerful and vaguely criminal promoter puts it.  More accurately, my amp’s held together by duct tape.  

Throughout the show, each of us experiences blow ups, intermittent power drops, electric shocks, and the combination of jet lag and one too many pints of the black stuff the night before makes me want to punch Santa Claus in the face.  Yes, it’s so bad that I want to will a fictional character into existence for the sole purpose of inflicting upon him physical harm.  

In between exasperated glances at our production manager, who’s dealing with his own technical issues, and singing waaaaaay off mic as to not be shocked into unrecognizablity, I notice a young couple in the front row dancing, singing every word and sweetly kissing in between verses.  They’re blissfully unaware of whatever technical issues are happening on stage- this is just a great night out.  I realize that the worst thing I can do, despite threats of involuntary electroshock treatment, is pull these people out of their moment.  

Really, the show’s about this couple, and everyone else who generously paid real money for a ticket.  It’s 100% easier not doing a thing than doing a thing, and these people chose to see us.  Suddenly, my duct taped amp sounding like a farting baboon’s funny rather than professionally embarrassing.  I take out my in-ears, share high fives with the front row and begin dancing.  Badly.  The smoke from my beleaguered amp’s highlighting constellations of dust inside the stage lighting, and I appreciate how lucky I am to be here, making music with my friends and for these beautiful people.

We performers have rough nights.  Any number of things can go wrong at any time, and it’s easy losing the forest for the trees.  No one will remember, or even notice, a shitty amp, but they’ll certainly remember the smile on your face, or your throwing a tantrum on stage.  It’s on us as musicians to takes ourselves out of our heads and appreciate the gig from the audience's perspective.

I’m thankful for:

-Well, perspective

That writing this every morning allows me to reflect on where I’ve been and what I’ve learned along the way.

-Small victories

Focusing on doing little things every single day rather than chasing orgasmic, earth-shattering career wins.  

-Zakk Wylde

Dude uses industrial chain as a guitar strap.

January 11!  It’s real good. 

Seeed (yes, with three e's)

The picture below was taken in 2013 in Dortmund, Germany.  It’s my birthday. 

I’m throwing up in my mouth slightly reliving the post show celebrations.  I recall conga lines and arm wrestling Russian crew dudes- their prison tattoos clearly visible- emboldened by rum and cokes and champagne.  Never mix those two.  Our tour manager mercifully’s carrying anti-nausea medication prescribed to chemo patients.  

And so begins an incredible two week run with the biggest band in Germany.

Earlier that day, I emerge from my bunk to Big News- they have a juicer in catering.  A JUICER!  And we’re parked next to an arena!  In typical music biz fashion, the details are a little murky as to what we’ve signed up for.  Turns out, we’re opening for a band called Seeed (yes, with three e’s).  Who?  I assumed we’d be first of three on a club bill but, hey, here we are, and evidently there's a juicer.  

The first person from Seeed’s camp I meet is their production manager.  Apparently, they sell out stadiums throughout Germany, Austria and Switzerland.  Tonight’s show will be small, he tells me.  Only ten thousand.  And their fans show up for the opener.  Oh, and they’re usually hostile.  The last opener quit. 

Great.

Seeed’s running their new show for radio contest winners, and would I like to check it out?  I’m still convinced we’re actually booked at a beer hall town the road.  Inside the empty arena, an 11 piece hip-hop/reggae/pop/jazz band is practicing dance moves and busting each other’s balls in rapid-fire German. A contest winner's literally weeping with joy.  

Where am I, what’s going on, and where the hell’s that juicer?

I hadn’t realized just how large the music world really is.  As an American, we’re taught that success in the US is the mountaintop.  Here’s a band I’d never heard of, popular in only a few countries, playing to tens of thousands.  They're writing music that would send most A&R folks running.  And they CRUSH. 

As artists, there’s constant pressure to game the system and jump on bandwagons.  Seeed reminds me that it’s a great big world, and inspired artistry always finds a home.  

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Goals

Someone asked me yesterday if I actually plan on keeping the Mind of a Trevor going.  So, this morning, I’m thinking about goals.  

Current behaviors are a reflection of our current identity.  What you do is a mirror image of the type of person you think you are.

A breakthrough for me was shifting my goals from performance and appearance to identity based.  

I’m going to run a half marathon” or “I’m losing 20 pounds” are performance and appearance goals, and they’re awesome.  But how many times have we set similar goals, only to have our year defined by the number of empty potato chip bags rather than miles logged?  

Performance and appearance goals are great if you already have a sustainable routine- without one, you’re destined to carb binge.  So, what’s missing?

In my opinion, a little reverse engineering.  

I’m going to maintain a daily email newsletter for 2018” is a neat performance goal.  Yay!  Good for me!  But, when I think about a year-long challenge, with zero skipped days and subscribers actually reading, etc, it gets intimidating.  The over-thinking floodgates open.  Eventually, I’ll skip a day, because who really cares, right?  A skipped day becomes a skipped week, then month and, eventually, I’m a person who didn’t do the thing I said I was going to do.  That carries over into everything else, whether consciously or unconsciously.  I’ve been that guy a whole lot, and it stinks.

So, I shifted my focus to an identity based goal.  

I’m the type of person who wakes up early and writes everyday.  

I can wrap my head around that.  I’m just the guy who does the thing.  Emboldened by this new identity, I can develop habit.  I mean, the action’s in the description- wake up early and write.  Zero ambiguity.  

Simple.  Not easy, but simple.  And simple's key.  

For 2018, I’m the guy who wakes up early and writes everyday.

I’m thankful for:

-Herbie Hancock

The man’s a genius.  I’ve been binging on the Headhunters lately.

-Spellcheck

I’m a man of many strengths, but spelling simply isn’t one of them.  Been knocked out in the first round of every spelling bee in my life.  

-Broken, Beat and Scarred by Metallica

An under-appreciated tune off the Death Magnetic record.  Check it out.

January 9!  Here we go!

Breakthroughs

Our rickety tour bus barely makes it up the meandering mountain road as we approach the Bilboa BBK Festival in Spain.  I remember thinking, well, if there was ever a place for our brakes to give out, sending us careening down the sheer cliff to our spectacular death, you could do far worse.  The Biscay province of Spain is inspiringly beautiful.  It’s 360 degree postcard vibes, as if the Colorado front range took a beach vacation.  I feel lucky.  Music’s taken me here.

Somehow, our Port-a-Potty on wheels lurches into the bus parking area, and we’re cheerfully escorted to our dressing room.  At festivals, there’s a certain leveling of the playing field- our dressing room’s next door to Phoenix’s, for example- and, for a day or two, you feel like maybe you’re invited to the party.  Just don’t try sitting next to Joe Bonamassa.  But that’s another story.

I disappear for an hour or so, bouncing around the festival, taking pictures, gorging myself on chorizo.  You know, getting “show ready.”  When I arrive back, it’s relayed to us there’s been a mix up: we’re on the bill, just no one bothered assigning us a stage.  Whoops.  But don’t worry, there’s an opening in the EDM tent during the afternoon, we can slot you in there!

Great.  A soul band.  In the EDM tent.  During the afternoon.

We show up, and the attendance is predictably anemic for the poor noon-1pm DJ.  He signs off, the couple dozen people hanging around scatter in search of face drugs, and we start playing.  For 10 people.

A couple songs in, I see people working their iPhones, and soon there're 50 or so new faces.  Then a hundred.  Then two.  Half way through our set, people are literally running down the hill, climbing over barriers, dancing and smiling and clapping and, boom, the tent’s packed.  From ten to a few thousand in 45 minutes.  

There’re a handful of moments I can point to and say ok, this was it, this justifies my not pursuing the actuarial sciences.  I'm looking forward to sharing them.  

Music continues to inspire, confound and challenge me in ways I never imagined.

I’m thankful for-

-My friends

Living these experiences with brothers/sisters in arms makes my life immeasurably full.

-These experiences inspiring me to take more chances

I wouldn’t be releasing my own music, writing this, or co-hosting the Not Famous Podcast if it weren’t for experiences like the one above.  

-This breakfast crepe

-Sunrise crepe with bacon at Red Bicycle.  Go get it.

January 8!  It’s me!

Thoughts on Making Tough Calls

This morning, a Maya Angelou quote comes to mind:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who’s found himself in an all-too-familiar situation: his career’s picking up and his manager, a long time buddy, is out of his depth.  My friend’s tried everything, and his manager just can’t keep up.  He knows he’s got to let him go but is afraid he’ll lose a friend in the process. 

This is a tricky situation, no two ways about it, but you absolutely have to sit down, look that person in the eyes and tell them what’s up.  Will they be upset?  Sure, that’s almost guaranteed.  Will they say things in the heat of the moment they’ll regret?  Very possible.  It’s also likely, I told my friend, that your manager knows he’s out of his depth and will appreciate your honest assessment.  He may even be relieved.  

However it goes down in the moment, it’ll be just that- in the moment, and fairly quickly moved on from.  If you don’t let him go now with transparency and compassion, what results is infinity worse than temporary discomfort- communication breakdown, leading to people connecting dots they have no business connecting, which leads to humiliation, resentment and a whole lot of bridges burned.  

I’ve seen this happen so many times, and it’s stupid.  It makes me angry.  

We artists are typically bad at this kind of thing.  Firing people sucks.  But it’s exponentially worse creating an environment where people feel less-than.  It's said that time heals all wounds, but not that one.  

I’m thankful for:

-not being a big Vampire Weekend fan

I’m surrounded by hipsters at the Red Bicycle and, I dunno, for some reason I’m just kinda stoked that I don’t dig that band.  

-sitting down and writing this thing

I really didn’t want to.  It’s Sunday, I bargained, and isn’t this supposed to be a day of rest, etc?  But I’m here, and it feels good.

-the cappuccinos at Red Bicycle being a full dollar cheaper than Pinewood Social

Hipster commerce is a frustrating thing sometimes.  But don’t worry, both the Red Bicycle and Pinewood Social are staffed by Brooklyn transplants, so the ironic, distressed sweatshirt game’s strong.

January 7!  YES!

 

 

 

Thoughts on Patience

We’ve officially been given the green light to record the next Allen Stone album! 

We’ll be posting up at Sound Emporium here in Nashville for a couple of weeks end of this month.  It’s been a LOOOOONG time since the band’s released new music, and I hope my unnecessary use of all caps and extra letters conveys an accurate excitement level.  After all, you can’t see me doing my happy dance (arhythmic pelvic thrusting, FYI).  

It’s a wonderful thing, having the music industry machine working on your behalf, with the obvious result being more people in the room and opinions flying around.  We’re all delicate emotional flowers goddamnit, and we (read, I) need nurturing.  I always tell young musicians that if management and label say something’s going to take a month, expect six.  And this has been every bit the case with our record. 

The thing is, if you’re signed or thinking of signing with a label, booking agent, manager, etc, your thing doesn’t really get off the ground unless everyone’s on the same page.  Your manager could be genius, but if the label’s kicking rocks at the project, well, there’s no project.  Your booking agent could be a gem, but if the manager’s routinely disappearing on coke benders, that’s…um…suboptimal.  

It’s hard work lining up the right team.  My experience with management and labels has been good across the board, thankfully.  But people are people- we all move at different paces, communicate uniquely and only push forward when we’re ready.  It’s not surprising, then, that a few dozen people take more time than, say, one.  Meaning you, you sonofabitch.  

So, relax.  As an artist, patience is a virtue.  You’ve written the best record in the world, own the most expensive leather jacket and are brimming with confidence and enthusiasm.  Hooray for you!  But keep that shit under control.  I don’t know, take up tennis or something.  Maybe start a daily newsletter, hypothetically.  Absolutely be a voice in the room, but if you’re fortunate enough to have a team working your project, let them be people.  Give them space to process, listen, and fall in love with your art.  When it’s time to go, really time, then you’ll GO and your life will never be the same.  But you need help pulling that off.  Don’t alienate your team by being an over eager douche.

I’m thankful for:

-Red Wine  

The cheap shit from Trader Joes, in particular.  I’m nothing if not classy.

-The Allen Stone Beanie I’m Currently Wearing

It’s cold.  I have big ears.

-Chicken Thighs

A third of the price of chicken breast, and WAY tastier.

January 6!  It’s a vibe, ya’ll!

Thoughts on Practicing

I was chatting with a student the other day about practicing.  

He’s struggling with a mental block- overwhelmed by all he feels he has to learn, coupled with a familiar perfectionism, he’s finding it difficult playing at all, much less making progress.  He’s paralyzed.  Do I ever come up against anything like this?

The answer is…yes.  More than I should probably admit.  But I’m human, we all are (unless a concerningly intelligent Bonobo’s reading this), and we give a shit about making good art.  We’re all trying our best.  I think it’s vital getting stuck in a rut from time to time.  Ruts, after all, are found on the path to somewhere.

I suggested he begin with positive association.  For example, I struggle getting up in the morning and would 1000% rather sleep til noon everyday.  So, I have a coffee maker next to my bed.  At 6:30am, the gurgling and sweet sweet glorious aroma of freshly brewing brain juice gently suggests maybe waking up might be in the cards.  I like coffee, and it’s right there, so I get up and enjoy a cup.  Since I’m up, I may as well, you know, start my day, or whatever it is normal people do.  I now genuinely look forward to the early AM.  

So, I said, try picking up the guitar while the morning coffee’s brewing.  Just pick it up, that’s all.  I’m anticipating that first shot of caffeine and, hey, I’m holding my guitar anyway, may as well move my fingers around.  Absentmindedly, no exercises, super low pressure.  Well, my fingers are moving, may as well play a song.  Shit, I played a song, lemme try running a scale.  You get the idea. 

Before you know it, maybe like 10 or 15 minutes have gone by.  Nice!  You’ve played guitar!  It was easy, and the coffee’s strong and tasty.  Put the guitar down.  Do it again tomorrow.  

Momentum, however humble, is exciting.  That 10 or 15mins of low-key strumming over morning coffee will, in no time at all, evolve into a focused 30 minute practice routine, which becomes an hour, etc.  And then tendonitis, so don’t go too crazy.

I’m thankful for:

-Bonobos and monkeys in general not being hyper intelligent

I’m just not ready for that bullshit.

-The fine folks at Pinewood Social turning the music down

People complain about Millennial’s attention spans.  Well, turn down the SPDS hipster song.  You try concentrating over that shit, Gramps.

-My friend Jarle Bernhoft being a funny dude

Check out his Instagram profile.  What a goddamn gem.  

January 5, ladies and gentlemen!

 

  

 

A Perfect Nerdborg

Hi!

I’ve never been much of a New Year’s resolution guy.  I’d like to think it’s because I’m the embodiment of human efficiency, a perfect nerd cyborg hybrid (nerdborg?) of Bill Gates and David Goggins.  

Sadly, no.  What’s closer to the truth is my high fructose corn syrup addiction, love affair with graphic novels and obsession with Lars Ulrich interviews on YouTube conspire to demolish any workflow or curiosity beyond determining whether it’s a Red Hot or Very Cherry Jelly Belly I’m eating.  Goddamn things look identical.  

Like many musicians, a main reason why I got into this business was so I wouldn’t have anything to do before 5pm.  “I’ve never had a real job” was a favorite sound bite for a long time, something I wore as a badge of honor along with billowing khakis and the Same H&M Hoodie Everyday.  

I’ve experienced some neat successes over the past several years- which is great, obviously- but a tragic side effect is having to drag my ass up in the morning and actually get shit done.  And here I am, at the Red Bicycle in Nashville TN, sipping a cappuccino at 7 o’clock in the morning, writing this thing.  It’s where I’ll be every morning unless I’m traveling, because I promised myself I’d write something everyday and don’t want to drop the ball- that part’s super important, the accountability. 

And you guys subscribed.  On the internet no less, where there are videos of puppies doing all manner of adorable shit.  Or Lars Ulrich interviews.  You have infinite access to anything, and you chose to follow me.  Thank you, sincerely.  

It’s not a resolution per se, but I’m making an effort to spend a few minutes every morning reflecting on three things I’m thankful for.  Rarely are they big things.  Rather, they’re fun, tiny details that keep me firmly planted in the present.  I’d like to share them with you each day.  Here goes…

Today, I’m thankful for:

-Cappuccino.  

Holy smokes what a beverage.  I even like the acidic film a strong cap leaves in my mouth.  I’m that broken.

-This finely lacquered hipster table in the coffeeshop.  

To complete the picture, I’m wearing a fedora, thick rimmed glasses and Chuck Taylors.  Sigh.  Anyway, I dig this table, it looks like something a bleary eyed hipster should be slumped over, silently pecking away at a keyboard.  It brings balance to the Force.

-The employees, at work since 4am, misspelled “dishes” over the bus tub.  

“Dishs.”  Amazing.  

There’s a lot on my plate in the New Year, and this Mind of a Trevor project’s already centering me and providing focus first thing in the AM.  Thank you again for signing up early.  Like I said in yesterday’s post, if these daily blurbs inspire a discreet workplace chuckle, well, that’s inbox real estate well occupied.

Jan 4!  What a day!

The Mind of a Trevor

Happy 2018, folks!  

Today’s actually the perfect day to launch this daily email newsletter/blog- I’m feeling a little under the weather, travel weary (having just arrived back on the mainland a couple days ago), and generally pissed off by the EIGHTY DEGREE temperature change from the Big Island to Nashville.  I’ve spent most of December in flip-flops with Guava smeared all over my sunburned jowls, and now this?!  Anyway, this is exactly the kind of day I’d ordinarily invent some nonsense justification for how I’ve earned, after THREE WEEKS of vacation, the right to fritter away the day watching Lars Ulrich interviews on YouTube.  But oh no my friends, gone are those halcyon days.  Here I am, dosed up on Theraflu, pecking away at my laptop, getting this project underway.

I write everyday anyway so, I’ll be honest, this project isn’t as much of an undertaking as it may seem (sorry, feel free to unsubscribe if that’s a deal breaker haha).  In some form or another, writing’s how I keep my ol’ noggin’ on straight, and life always makes a hell of a lot more sense when whatever’s rattling around inside is out in the open.  

I’m actually really looking forward to this project.  I like the transparency and accountability.  Like most musicians, I love and overuse analogies, especially sports analogies, and it was put to me recently that you should think about any project like beating a team by four points every quarter.  It’s not sexy, glamorous, or highlight worthy but, by the end of the game, you’ve won by sixteen.  It’s a blow out.  When I look at the successes in my career, they’re all earned by slowly and methodically chipping away until I look up one day and, hey!, I’m playing a festival in France with Stevie Wonder.  HUH?!  How did that happen?   

That’s my goal here- consistency, attainability and not pulling my metaphorical hamstring two minutes in. 

Thanks again for subscribing, and I get it- this is daily thing, which is a lot, and I won’t be offended if you unsubscribe.  But I’m having a ton of fun writing this and, while I hope this is by no means a highlight of your day, if these posts inspire a discreet workplace chuckle, well, that’s inbox real estate well occupied.

January 3rd!  It's a great day!  Who knew?

 

Warming Up for 2018

It’s currently ten degrees in Nashville.  Seriously.  Ten goddamn degrees.  

Growing up in Walla Walla, when it was ten goddamn degrees, I’d sit in my room, fueled by romantic underachievement, and jam along with Metallica records.  It’s how I taught myself to play.  On this balls-cold ushering in of the New Year, it seems appropriate that I crank up Ride the Lightning and begin the journey towards getting my R&B fingers back into shredding shape.  

I’m noticing these days I’m actually able to lay back somewhat over stuff like this, which is thanks to the Al Stone band.  

Guitar’s fun, kids.

Oktoberfest

In Munich, on October 12, 1810, King Ludwig I marries Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghause.  The city holds horse races, spectacle and celebration in their honor and, because drinking beer’s fun, it’s decided the party’s too good to throw just once: so, Oktoberfest’s born and, for the rest of human history, both a proud nation and increasingly fat tourists get shit-faced for the better part of a month.

When the king and princess got hitched back in the day, there’s no way they could’ve predicted a stocky, skinny-jeaned musician from Seattle would one day honor their memory by knocking back seven liters of Munich’s finest and, like a snake shedding old skin, peal off his skinny jeans so that he might shit in a field behind a carousel.  

But let’s back up for a second.  This tour’s been a tough one- I’ve been sick as a dog, and I’m only just emerging from the fog.  There’re few feelings better than not feeling sick anymore, and I celebrate as anyone would in October in Munich.  I limit myself to two liters, which is plenty, and I skip back to the club, overjoyed to be back in the world and confident the audience will be far drunker than I am.

I’m riding a pleasant buzz by the time the stocky, skinny-jeaned musician topples into the green room, ten minutes before show.  He hastily begins showering.  While this isn’t commonplace, it’s certainly not unusual- if you look up “carpe diem,” you’ll find the triumphant, shit-eating grin of a certain stocky, skinny-jeaned musician.  Through thin walls, we hear him gurgling shower water and cracking himself up.  This show’s going to be amazing.  

Still wet from what we later understand is an emergency drunken post-defecation full-body cleanse, the stocky, skinny-jeaned musician tries to go on stage without shoes or a shirt.  Dying with laughter, we convince our buddy to kinda-sorta put on clothes, figuring if it’s not good enough for Denny’s then it’s probably not the vibe for us (though that’s debatable).  He takes his place on stage- wobbling, granted, but with undeniable purpose- and proceeds to intermittently black out.  Hunched over one minute, the next air-punching his way through Unaware, the stocky, skinny-jeaned musician inspires a hall filled with drunk Germans to earnestly chant his monosyllabic name while air cheers-ing and hugging whomever’s closest.  It’s a beautiful moment.  

But, even the mighty fall.  What’s initially wobbling and fist-pumping gives way to audible groaning and massaging of temples.  He’s held it together as long as he can.  Just as I imagine Captain America would after drinking a shark tank’s worth of lager, the stocky, skinny-jeaned musician lurches off stage mid encore and, within seconds, is snoring contentedly while sprawled out on the most immediately available flat service, which turns out to be the desk in the production office.

He’s hungover the next day but, when asked how he feels, the stocky, skinny-jeaned musician answers with a predictably perfect, t-shirt worthy soundbite:

“They say you are what you eat.  But I don’t recall eating a legend.”

A Certain Musician I Know is a Legend

A certain musician I know is a legend.  He's a legend for many reasons, but principally for what happened back in July 2012 when the Allen Stone Orgasmic Noise Orchestra played the Late Show with David Letterman.

A celebratory mood’s in the air.  In early 2012, we’re grinding big time, barely making ends meet, and then, all of a sudden, WHOOSH, we’re here, there and everywhere, opening for giant bands, playing on national TV, frantically trying to adjust to whatever "this" is.  And, make no mistake, we have no idea what "this" is.  The night before our Letterman taping, in the spirit of being generally overwhelmed all the time, we’re tossing back sake like it’s post-marathon gatorade.  It’s New York and we’re excited and everything's new and holy shit our dreams are coming true and then I woke up at the hotel.  

At some point post sake apocalypse and pre coming-to at the Brooklyn Comfort Inn, drunken calamity befalls a certain musician I know.  To this day, it's uncertain exactly what happened, but the end result's a gnarly gash above his lip and endearing embarrassment.  Naturally, we're all laughing like insensitive hyenas.  As we pile into a van bound for the Ed Sullivan Theater, there's every conceivable excuse for a mere mortal to crumble.  These shows are weird enough without temporary disfigurement.    

But, like I said, this certain musician I know is a legend. 

Upon arrival at the theater, he doesn’t head straight to makeup, wordlessly point at his upper lip and, within 15 minutes, come out looking good as new.  Absolutely not, what with that lacking improvisational flare and all.  Instead, this gem of a human disappears into the costume shop down the block and emerges with the most ludicrous fake mustache that’s ever existed in human history.  It looks like a wounded, wet Yorky’s clinging to his lip.  With a maniac’s confidence, this certain musician I know grabs Letterman's production manager and says “don’t show my face.”  Which, of course, is not-so-secret code for “literally the first close up’s going to be me rocking a fifteen pound fake mustache, sunglasses and (if memory serves) a trucker cap, right?”  Genius.  Kaufman-esque.  It's on YouTube.

The lesson here, aspiring musicians, is yes, preserve a modicum of professionalism or whatever but, really, why didn’t you become an accountant?  Because this shit’s really, really fun, and things matter a whole lot less than you think.

Dental Conventions

Playing drunk’s not something I recommend.  I’ve only done it once as a “professional,” during a dental convention at the Ritz Carlton in Coral Gables.  Arriving on site several hours early, a clearly new artist liaison happily informs us the beachside bar will be comping our drinks for the evening.  It takes about 20 seconds for the Allen Stone Electric Ensemble to begin clapping exuberantly on one and three along with the DJ, drooling all over ourselves. 

I don’t know what it is about scraping plaque and yanking molars for a living, but the convention attendees drink like it’s the end of the world.  I’ve never seen anything like it- honestly- and I’ve played a punk show during an arm wrestling competition on an Apache reservation.  Later, it’s revealed they all have IV drips in their hotel rooms- after an evening’s debauchery that renders me zombie-like for two days, these maniacs are fresh as daises, hawking operatory equipment like it’s a bake sale.

I’d have felt bad, except the attendees are turning over tables and started conga lines with cocktail servers.  At some point, I realize Allen hasn’t actually been on stage for quite some time.  A quick glance behind the Leslie (that's a cabinet, not a person thank god) reveals a bespectacled, curly haired lovable doofus sleeping it off, the audience raucously oblivious in their escapism.  In the moment, of course, we think we’re killing it but, the next day, our FOH’s board recording reveals a performance closer to bagpipes on Xanex than Queen at Live Aid.  

We’re asked back the next year.

Sunsets

In the early stages of touring with Allen and the fellas, I took a lot of sunset photos.  We were On Our Way- anything was possible and everything seemed huge, hence my obsession, I imagine, with expansive, fire-red skies.  I remember feeling like the band was anointed.  I was naive, but magnificently so.  The issue isn't so much being naive, I realize now- in fact, when it comes to lunatic tasks like launching a band, it's a wonderful thing- but how you handle the inelegant landing back into reality can determine a whole hell of a lot.    

Now that the dust’s settled and the band’s experienced, along with our successes, several cliched set backs, I’ve noticed a shift in my curated photo diary.  More pictures, now, of me in silly hats, gazing earnestly into the Matrix.  Screen shots from fan profiles, immortalizing ill-advised tank top phases and preposterous cowboy themed stage attire.  Shows photos (literally staged photo ops) and promo pics.  It’s a business now, fun to be sure but an established Thing.  There are new dynamics, egos, politics and comrades in arms.  All of us have grown a bit more guarded and appropriately wearied, as one emerging from the trenches inevitably becomes.  We’ve seen a major label deal sour and new creative interests draw us in unique directions.  We’ve also seen a core fanbase stick by us.  After six years, I’m still standing.  I’m still here.

All this said, I miss those sunset photos.  At what point does wonder give way to self-seriousness?  That I’m aware enough to ask the question means I’m capable of making some changes and, with luck, stumbling upon an answer.  

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Clair de Lune

I’m taking a trip down memory lane, scrolling through old photos.  Debussey’s Claire de Lune's whispering sanguinely in the background.  It can be challenging, sometimes, writing to music.  With each arpeggio's crescendo, I’m no longer me, but rather some super hero, a powerful being trusted with greater purpose beyond singing alone about his feelings.  

Clair de Lune is magically effortless.  Khatia Buniatishvili is the pianist.  It’s no small task taking on a piece like this.  There’s a chasm greater than the Grand Canyon separating a very good player (like myself) and world class soloists like Khatia Buniatishvili.  That kind of single-minded dedication and unerring attention to detail simply is more than most intellects are capable, and the people who genuinely practice ten hours a day and don’t come out coke-addled maniacs who deeply resent their well-intentioned yet domineering parents are, like, unicorn rare.  

I was originally writing about family.  Inspired by a picture of my cousin and me sipping whiskey gingers on a tour bus, I was going to make fun of my hat, compliment my cousin’s lovely smile and express gratitude for music allowing me to travel to far flung corners of the world and knock back cocktails with variously accented Larkins.  And I will, on the next post, probably.  But, now, in this moment, a gorgeous fall day’s given way to a crisp evening, blanketed by a glittering sky.  I stopped writing just now for a full five minutes, closing my eyes, taking in every expertly depressed key, each barely audible squeak from the damper pedal.  What powerful, awe-inspiring music.  Time to roast some s'mores.