8/8/2017 On Glen Campbell ...
"If ever there was an example of one man being given too much talent in one body ... it'd be Glen" - Merle Haggard
Glen Campbell ... that's the measure for me. The video I'm posting below is the first song/performance I ever heard by him and it immediately became one of my favorites. When I visited the Annenberg photo exhibit on Country Music a few years ago, they had a wall at the end that allowed people to write what their favorite country song was. Without hesitation ... "Galveston". Such a beautiful story/song written by the great Jimmy Webb about a soldier in Vietnam longing for home, released during the early days of the war. My second favorite would have been another Glen Campbell tune ... "Gentle on My Mind".
There's something so pure about his voice in those early recordings. It hits you right in the heart and I always get emotional listening to him sing. But you ain't seen nothin' til you've watched him work his fingers up and down the fret board. Lightning. His battle with Alzheimer's the last few years has been well documented and I'm so glad I caught him on his farewell tour at the Hollywood Bowl in 2012. You could tell his mind was slippin' from the jokes he kept repeating, but his singing and his playing were still that of a young man.
Glen Campbell is one of my biggest inspirations and his voice is something I aspire to sound like in its honesty. If you get a chance today, look beyond "Rhinestone Cowboy" and you'll find a "Wichita Lineman". This man was truly one of the greats.
7/31/2017 On Sam Shepard ...
We LOVED the movie ‘Steel Magnolias’ in our house when I was growing up. Such memorable and quotable performances set in the very town I ended up going to college in. The guy that played Dolly Parton’s husband always stood out to me, though. In a movie surrounded by actors who were hamming it up (wonderfully, I should add), it was very noticeable how reserved that guy was. He seemed way too real. Like someone I recognized in some of my friend’s parents. Stoic … somethin’ eating at him.
Now, imagine being an absolute novice in the world of professional theatre and one of the first things you’re given when you arrive at your college drama department is a book of plays … with that guy’s face on it.
“Wait … THAT GUY writes plays?!?!?” … Yeah. And not only does he write plays, he’s considered to be an American master.
Reading the headline of his passing stung. Though I never met him, he is responsible for some of my fondest experiences and memories working in the Chicago theatre community. I think of staying late at Yondorf Hall in the hopes of saving the ‘Fool for Love’ scene Anna, George and I were doing for the Steppenwolf School showcase that year (thank you, Audrey!). I think of my lil’ Crow, Jennifer Shin, and the way Monica worked us and the rest of our castmates through ‘Savage Love’ (was there ever a sexier publicity poster?!). When a guy I considered a rival (at least in my head) gave me a genuine compliment after that show, I could tell his opinion of me had changed and he didn’t realize I could go there. And I remember thinking, “That’s right, mother fucker … I bring it.” But I owed it that night to Sam Shepard. There was something I connected to in his plays and it gave me the confidence to cut loose. To go for it.
But as great a writer as Sam Shepard is rightfully considered, it’s his persona and presence that I have always been most drawn to. As an actor, if is his name was in the credits, I was watchin’ it. His presence on screen and so many of pictures of him personified a quiet and intense dignity. To me, he embodied what is left of the American west. The myth of the romantic and lonesome cowboy. I used to give city trolley tours in Natchitoches, where they’d filmed ‘Steel Magnolias’. One of my favorite pieces of trivia on the tour was that when they were filming the movie, Sam Shepard had driven to town with a small camper in tow. And that was where he stayed throughout. He and Jessica Lange, his longtime girlfriend and muse, befriended the locals, hanging out at the bars and restaurants along Front Street. When I had the opportunity this past Christmas to take a road trip from California to Louisiana, I thought about Sam Shepard pulling his camper through the desert.
For about twelve years now, he’s been an inspiration to me. He’s what I’ve imagined I’d like to grow into as an older man and what kind of body of work I’d like to leave behind. As I write this, all I wanna do is get on a Chicago theatre stage with Cyd Blakewell and tear into some Shepard. Cause if anyone embodies what it is to be a “rock n’ roll Jesus with a cowboy mouth”, it’s her. Of all the things that’ll be said about him, what I love most is reading and seeing the memories people have from working together on his shows. There’s a good chance he’s inadvertently responsible for more friendships and professional relationships than anyone in the American theatre over the last forty, or so years. I’d say that’s a legacy worth celebrating.
5/30/17 - WHAT's THAT NOISE?!?!?!?
Our quarterly Spotify playlist of tunes we're into has been updated. Kick out the jams ...
3/18/17 - "Hail, hail" ... the greatest guitar-slingin', song-singin' rock n' roller you ever did see.
1/28/17 Date Night With My Best Friend's Girl
1/22/17 For The Kids, Ya'll!
Twice a year, my good friend Eric Stolze asks me and my pal Sue Redman to interpret monologues written by his students at the 826LA organization. Am always blown away by the imagination and intelligence these kids p
1/22/17 The Women's March in L.A. Was a Magical, Punk-Rock Affair
1/19/17 There Goes My President
I moved to Chicago in June 2004, which happened to be right before an election Illinois was having for the U.S. Senate. It was a few months away and the nominee, Jack Ryan (real guy, not the Tom Clancy character) was involved in a sex scandal that had made him unhappy with his constituents. At the last minute, he withdrew from the race, leaving the Republican Party to scramble for a candidate. The search was all over the news and somewhat entertaining. For a while, it looked like legendary Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka would be the nominee, but it eventually went to Alan Keyes (with a platform apparently 12 years too soon). At the time, because of the coverage the Republican search/race had gotten, I honestly couldn't have told you who the Democratic nominee was. That changed about two months later. Because our tiny Gold Coast studio lacked in cable, or internet, my then girlfriend and I decided to watch the 2004 Democratic convention when it aired in late July. We'd run out of things to rent from the corner Blockbuster store, so eh, may as well. With that unbridled enthusiasm for our nation's political discourse, we lay in bed and watched as they announced the Illinois Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate would be the keynote speaker for the evening. Some guy named Barack Obama.
For as long as I live, I will never forget where I was, who I was with, and the feeling I had over what happened next. He came, he spoke, he left. We were silent til the end. Transfixed on the screen, listening to every word. This man we'd never seen, or heard held our attention with his presence, delivery, and message. When he was done, Jules and I looked at each other with smiles and eyes wide, full with the expression of "Did you see that?!" As vivid and clear a memory as I may ever have, I remember saying out loud with full and knowing confidence, "That guy's gonna be President one day."
As I sat here and type this, my tear ducts have suddenly become full. Yes, it's hitting me that he'll no longer be in office. What's making me more emotional, though, is realizing how lucky I've been. For some, the President is often just a figurehead they can affix the rest of the government to without much personal meaning, or relationship. For 8 years, though, my vision and dream of everything I think a President should be actually got to sit in the Oval Office. I want my President to be calm in the face of adversity, thoughtful of all sides, the smartest person in the room, strong-willed, well-spoken, adaptable to a situation, not afraid to be perceived as weak when doing what they believe to be right, but also copping to shortcomings when they know they could've done a better job. I want a President who cuts to the heart of the matter and I want a President who is able to maintain an idealistic outlook while looking the real world in the eye. Barack Obama has been all of those things for every day of his Presidency. In that summer of 2004, for the first time in my very young life, I believed in the promise of what a politician could truly be. He's kept his promise.
One day, the headlines will carry the bad news, a large part of the nation will openly mourn and the TV will broadcast the procession to Arlington. If that day comes and I am still here, I will once again feel lucky to revisit the memories I have of this person I may have never met. And I will proudly, proudly thank him for having been MY President.
1/10/17 On This Day Last Year, 2016 Reared Its Ugly Head
1/5/17 On George Michael
Tonight was my first chance to sit on the couch and veg out to George Michael videos since his death. I was never obsessed, but I've finally started to process how much his music has been around my whole life. (Ok, I said I wasn't obsessed, but my Mom would probably tell you different when it comes to me as a child of the 80's and the song "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go". She had to hide that 45.) But watching these videos ... gah ... what a charismatic performer and what a GREAT songwriter. Pop songwriting doesn't get the credit it often deserves. "Everything She Wants" is my jam ... Sean and I kuuuh-ruuush "Careless Whisper" as a duet at karaoke ... I do the "Gi-gi-gi-gi-gi-gi-come ooooooooooooon!!!!!" from "I Want Your Sex" enough to where it's maybe not that random ... "Last Christmas" is one of the few Christmas songs that gets played over and over that I actually welcome hearing over and over ... That hilarious scene in Key and Peele's 'Keanu'. The guy gave us some gems. But, man ... when you watch those classic videos, or videos of him performing live ... he's in a class that few could touch. If you want proof, look up the video of him singing "Somebody to Love" at the Freddie Mercury tribute. Kills it. Nobody can touch Freddie Mercury, but if I hadn't known any better I'd have totally bought he was the frontman of that band.
I guess I didn't realize just how special an artist George Michael was. Looking forward to educating myself.
12/20/16 Tucumcari, NM
A few years ago I auditioned for a play called 'Tucumcari'. When I read the script and did a little research, I developed a crush on this little SW desert town. Had never set foot in Tucumcari, but had this vision of it as an old cowboy town caught in transition along Route 66. Have even carried around an unfinished song about it for years.
As I was driving along I-40 East this morning, it popped up out of nowhere and said we were long overdue. We grabbed coffee like old friends
12/4/16 Beats on a Boat ... Amsterdam
When I knew I'd be taking a trip to Amsterdam, I started to look for places I could possibly play music. Having lucked out in Paris with the meetup.com site, I gave it a try a few weeks ago and came across an event titled "Beats on a Boat". It was an acoustic house concert on a converted boat in Amsterdam's North district, right across the river. I found the event listing on Facebook, R.S.V.P.'d , and messaged the event planner to see if they may have space for me. Whether I got to play, it still sounded like something special and I wanted to check it out. Within a few hours, I was on the phone with Dean, the host. He was a songwriter himself and was very keen to have me come and experience the show. The lineup was pretty full already, but he said there may be an opportunity to squeeze in. In any case, I was happy to now have a friend and a plan before I got there.
Beautiful and spiritual are the first words that come to mind when trying to describe my experience at "Beats on a Boat". The space was intimate, with enough room for 45-60 people. Sitting and standing, we gathered around the artists while they performed their songs and went along for the ride. A young Dutch girl named Lyka broke my heart with her voice, stripped and pure of any affect. Before she sang her first song, she told the story behind it. She'd written it a week ago, after a conversation in which her mother lamented to her daughter that she was so lucky to have grown up during this time, when so many more opportunities were available. The song, though, was about the young girl wishing she'd experienced the same things her mother had. It gutted me and the moment is a musical memory I will be able to describe in detail the rest of my life. Lyka was only the beginning, though.
Dean came up to play dutiful host and led us through a few songs of his own before introducing the next artist. Dean's a strapping fella, tall and handsome with a beautiful, soulful voice. He comes across as a very sincere and gracious person, perfect as a host for how welcoming he is. This was not lost on others in attendance, as the general summation about him when I told them my story was that Dean was "the best".
Next up was a male artist from Syria who sang and played traditional Arabic music. I couldn't tell you what the songs were about, but the knowledge of what's going on in his country carried an emotional weight that seemed to connect with everyone in the room. By this time, the space had filled up to max capacity and all were mesmerized. I sat directly across from a woman I'd met earlier in the night that I was very attracted to, but any hope I had of advancing the evening with her died over the course of his set. When he sang, her eyes glazed over, her heart beat louder, and I could sense the effect his voice and presence were having on every part of her body. She was clearly in love with this man and other suitors need not apply.
The last artist to perform that night had a boisterousness and style about him that made me assume he was American. He and the musicians playing with him did a soundcheck consisting of dustbowl and Delta blues era songs. When he introduced himself, I learned he was Dutch, but my original suspicions about his country of origin weren't far off. He had spent some time in the American south, working his way through Louisiana and Mississippi, jamming on front porches and learning our musical language. When he spoke of dangling his feet off a bridge into the big brown muddy, I knew he'd had the true experience of a muggy summer night in the south. He tore through some of his own songs, some classics, and found a space for me to join him when I made it known I was from Louisiana and happened to have my harmonicas on me. Away we jammed ...
Not bad for a first night's adventure
11/20/16 'Appy Birthday to mah bestie & right 'ahnd mahn
11/18/16 Excusez Moi ... Do You Know G, C, D?
11/12/16 I Can't Keep Track of Each Fallen Robin (2016)
"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel
you were famous, your heart was a legend.
You told me again you preferred handsome men
but for me you would make an exception.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us
who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,
you fixed yourself, you said, "Well never mind,
we are ugly but we have the music."
"Chelsea Hotel" - Leonard Cohen
An original and inspiring voice. May he rest in peace in the great tower of song.
1/11/16 ... On David Bowie
Before iPods, I jogged around the NSU campus with a CD Walkman. One day I walked into Michael Rorex's office for a voice lesson, said Walkman in tow. (The following convo happened 12 years ago and the exact wording may be paraphrased, as well as a bit truncated but the final moment is exact)
Michael: What kind of music do you listen to?
Me: I listen to everything.
Michael: Well, I'm sure not EVERYTHING.
Me: Just name an artist, or a band and I'll tell you if I listen to them.
Michael: ... David Bowie.
I smirk and open up my CD Walkman to reveal the one CD that happened to be in it. A purple disc with white lettering ... David Bowie's Great Hits 1969-74. :-)
I think David Bowie is the single greatest artist of my lifetime, or the few generations before. When I was in high school, I taped the David Bowie episode of VH1 Legends on the VCR and became obsessed with it, watching it over and over again. I also remember feeling a little uncomfortable about the argument that happened when VH1's 100 Greatest Artists in Rock n' Roll History countdown placed Bowie 1 slot ahead of Elvis Presley. I mean, I really love Elvis, too ... but I was team Bowie in that moment. Side note: We MAY have watched a little too much VH1.
There's really no way to describe his impact on me other than to say I was completely fascinated and awestruck by him. It was almost impossible for me to comprehend the fact that he'd created this whole persona of Ziggy Stardust, turned it into a phenomena, and then BLEW IT UP!!! At the height of his newfound fame and popularity, he walked away and dared himself to evolve into something else. He created music that sounded nothing like what he'd just built a fanbase on, which is something that will, at the minimum, test your audience's patience to the extreme, or make them revolt entirely. But David Bowie dared to be different ... and he succeeded. He not only succeeded, but people came to want and expect "new", "different", "change" from him. The only way he achieved this, though, and was able to hold on to it, staying relevant for 45 years, was the fact that he was a brilliant, brilliant songwriter. Without that, who knows if anything else he tried would have been as successful. But thanks to amazing songbook, we got all of him.
I honestly don't know what constitutes being a genius, but if there's one artist out there who had it all figured out (and on a whole 'nother level at that) it's David Bowie. Artists are still ripping him off to this day and I hope they continue ... because a world full of people influenced by David Bowie's groundwork is a much more interesting one. He dared to be great by daring to be himself. Because of David Bowie, there is now more room at the table for those who are different.
eagles of death metal - they only want you...to have fun 11/14/15
Eagles of Death Metal are one of my favorite bands. First saw them open for The Strokes back in 2006 and, having never listened to EODM's music and always being suspect because of the name, I was an instant fan for life. Such a fun, fun rock n' roll band. When The Strokes were done, all I wanted to talk about were Eagles of Death Metal and it's a love affair that's continued since. The people who died at their concert in Paris were there to dance, there to boogie, there to have fun. There are multiple storylines that can be covered and many ways to pay tribute to those who've been senselessly murdered by cowards, be it in Paris, Beirut, or seemingly everywhere else in the world, but I choose to ask you to dance Eagles of Death Metal. It won't bring the dead back to life and it probably won't change yours, but it's fun, it's joyous and it's a "fuck yeah, fuck you" gesture to those who weren't gifted with a sense of human decency.
So, if you're near an iTunes, or a Spotify and you wanna know where to start, go back to the beginning ... 'Peace, Love, and Death Metal'. If you need instant gratification, though, this one's my favorite -
"We'll Dance in the garden in torn sheets in the rain" - 9/14/15
As much as I love music, there are only a handful of bands, or artists that I would say carry an emotional weight with me. The most unlikely of them, since they're billed as the world's #1 party band, would probably be The B-52's. One doesn't usually think deep, emotional and meaningful resonance when you hear the term "party band", but that's what The B-52's mean to me. Their music, specifically their album 'Cosmic Thing' represents the end of childhood innocence for me. That time right before the shift ... Right before something happens to you as a kid that makes you realize things have changed. Things are different and that's just how they're gonna be.
'Cosmic Thing' by The B-52's was the first album we had on CD in our house. Before that, I think we even had it on cassette. It came out right after my parent's divorce and right before we moved to Lafayette. I remember my mom playing it around the house, or in the car, dancing and singing with abandon to "Roam" and "The Deadbeat Club". As an adult, with a little bit of perspective, I can look back now and realize those were probably tough times for my Mom. Having just divorced my Dad, she was raising my two sisters and I, at the ages of 9, 6, and 3, in a town she desperately wanted to get out of. She was a single mom to the max. But when that album was on, I remember her being happy. Care free. She "danced in the garden in torn sheets in the rain".
Last night, Bridget and I stood in the aisles of Section M-2 at the Hollywood Bowl and danced our messes around ... "We were wild boys and girls, goin' out for a big time" ... I'm not usually a fan of the Hollywood Bowl as a space to see rock bands,but this was perfect setting. The party never stopped, the hits kept coming, the people were dancing, and there were fireworks to cap it off. For a solid hour, the Hollywood Bowl became a little Ol' place where we all got together ... "A love shack, baby" ... It's one of the best, most fun concerts I've ever been to, but most amazing of all, the evening as a whole matched the fantasy I'd always built it up to be. It was perfect. And for an hour, at the Bowl, with the perfect partner in crime, I was as recklessly, stupidly happy as I remember that 9-year-old kid being on his best day. This time, though, I'd lived enough to know how much the moment meant to me.
Lafayette (What's it Gonna Take?) - A Response to the Theater Shooting in My Hometown of Lafayette, LA
scotus decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) - the human element
Witnessed a cool moment Friday night and wanted to share:
Friday was obviously a very big day for friends of mine, friends of yours and, for many of you, people you've never met whose rights and cause you support/believe in. As a display of solidarity, Facebook was awash with EQUALITY and Rainbow filtered profile pics. It's always pretty cool to see people rally online like this. Unfortunately, for most of Friday, this was the only way I was able to take in what was going on . . . online and watching the news. I was at work from about 11, or so to 9 p.m. and so busy that I didn't have a chance to have a moment of humanity, or personal connection with someone who'd been effected by the outcome. It's somewhat ironic to work at a news station, have the entire day revolve around the SCOTUS decision, but not be able to actually reflect on what it means. Cut to . . .
Finally got home around 9:30 Friday night and walked through the courtyard to my apartment. I could see my next door neighbors coming from the other direction to theirs. Gotta be honest . . . I was pretty wiped and hoped we'd keep it to a polite hello. Being that they're much nicer than I am, though, they waited for me before entering they're place, just so they could say hi. I've lived next to these guys for almost 7 years and our conversations usually center around their biking expeditions, their dog, or college sports. We've never gotten too personal, but I've always gotten a sense they were genuinely kind people. I asked them what they'd been up to tonight, and they said they'd just gone out for yogurt and were planning to call it an evening. When I asked them if a long day of work had pooped them out, they said, "Nope, we've been out celebrating all day." (Oh yeah ... duh). We started to talk about the day and then they started to reveal that, for the last 11 years, they'd been actively working towards this day with different grassroots organizations - canvassing, messaging, meeting with politicians and business leaders, etc. They'd been champions for their own rights for the last 11 years and, considering they're both in their 60's, this was something, in one way, or another, that they'd been working for their entire lives. Mid-conversation, and now having even more context for it, I could tell they were beaming. Not a loud, boastful pride, but a pride so deeply rooted and internalized that it couldn't help but spill over into an outward glow, no matter how much they tried to play it down. They looked truly happy. And it was so, so cool to see. To know the effort they'd put into it. This was the human element of the court's decision. And it was so well-deserved.
We said good night and throughout the weekend I continued to think about them. Even went as far as to buy them a card. The impact of the decision resonated when I pictured their faces. A common, decent, true love was all it was about and all people wanted for themselves and for others. There's some ugly, ugly stuff that goes on all over the world and, as we continued to see a couple weeks ago in Charleston, some of the ugliest occasionally happens in our own country. And for all the progress that people make, there are those out there who wanna push it back. Well, this one's not being pushed back. This one's here to stay. From here on, with each generation, the second-glances and snickering will be less and less. It won't always be perfect and I'm sure there'll be times when intolerance makes itself known, but it'll only be considered extremism and addressed as such. It may not be the end of the road just yet, but when asked for directions, the highest court in the land just looked at your map and said, "Hey, as far as we're concerned ... you're here."
Lots of love to you all.
ruby and martin - episode 8
My scene in this episode is one of my favorite things I've ever shot as an actor. The webseries was written by Taylor Coffman, a great friend of mine, and the song I perform was written by Zachary Lupetin of the The Dustbowl Revival. The song and performances in this episode are fun to enjoy on their own, but if you'd like a little more context, go back and watch the series from the beginning. It's a charming little love story that I think will make happy you invested your time in it.
May 20, 2015
. . . He would've loved us.
jail guitar doors
May 14, 2015
For the past two months, I've been volunteering for an organization called Jail Guitar Doors, a reform program that provides musical instruments, one day a week for about 3 hours, to any inmates with musical ability, or aspirations. The program was originally formed in the UK by Billy Bragg as a way to rehabilitate inmates serving time and the U.S. version of this program was started up by Wayne Kramer. Each week, we go down to the L.A. County jail and spend a few hours with these guys, giving them themes and helping them craft new songs within that small amount of time. Politics aside and strictly speaking as a person volunteering his time, I have witnessed firsthand the good this program is doing for all involved.
Our goal is to teach these guys they can have a different path when they get out and help them find the ability to communicate and express themselves in non-violent ways. The output so far has been some of the most powerful songwriting I've ever heard and I look forward to going each week because I can't wait to hear what they come up with next. The majority of our group are in for non-violent crimes, but each of them would be the first to admit they're there because they made a mistake. Our goal is to give them an outlet and educate them in the hopes that when (and in some cases, if) they leave, they will not go back to making the same mistakes that led them there in the first place. That they will, in turn, go back to educate their communities with the hope that other people won't make the same mistakes they did. It's truly been a pleasure to work with these guys and see the support they give one another during these classes. You can see what it means to them and there've been a few instances where I could tell someone was discovering something they didn't know they had inside them. You can see there's a chance for real change there. And as great as it is to see the pride the inmates take in the program, it's just as moving to take note of the effort the officers make. They've brought us in and allow us to work with these guys because they, too, feel that just because they made a mistake and wound up in prison, it shouldn't discount them as human beings. They want just as much for this to be the start of a second chance for these guys.
It's an incredible organization to volunteer with and, if you're a musician in one of the cities they have a program in, I'd encourage you to reach out to them. I've found it to be an experience that probably means as much to me as it does the people we're working with. If you know someone that you think would be a good candidate for this, I'd appreciate you passing this along to them, as well.
Stay out of trouble,