The day after my gig at the Disquaires with Félix and Virgile it felt really odd to be back at an open mic all alone with just me and my guitar and a mic. I arrived late at the Tennessee Bar on a night where there were a massive number of musicians, so I opted to watch a few acts and then leave for the Galway.
So it was at the Galway that I found myself “naked” behind the mic with just me and my guitar. I practically could not recover from the sensation and did my four songs feeling there was a lot of sound – and even emotion – missing. Just goes to show what a good practice it is to play alone without a band so that when you do get up with other musicians you are that much more prepared.
ANYWAY… I thought I would just put up three videos, two from the Tennessee Bar and one from the Galway. The common thread to these is just different sounding voices – oh, and also that I thought the American guy singing at the Galway looked a lot like Don Henley of the Eagles does today!!!!
Haylen did a very cool gospel number with her friends at the Tennessee, and as I arrived I heard this young man with the beard and cap who I had not heard there before and who had some definitely interesting qualities and personal style in his voice.
Did it! Played a gig with Félix Beguin of “The Burnin’ Jacks” on lead guitar and Virgile Arndt of “Natas Loves You” on bass. Both contributed some harmonies too. It was the first bona fide gig that I have done with a backing band, aside from playing here and there in open jam sessions, and we did it last night at the Disquaires bar in Paris, near the Bastille.
The evening started with Calvin McEnron, who played his set with his songs, including everybody’s favorite, “After the Rain.” In fact, Calvin invited about five of us up on the stage to sing the chorus to that song. I did not realize that I had placed the Zoom Q3HD in a bad position, so we get the sound, but very few of the faces. Want to put it up anyway.
The Romantic Black Shirts played the final set and they entertained us with their great covers from everyone from Bob Dylan to Daniel Lanois, and a nice sound of violin, jazzy guitar, cool voices… very nice ambience.
I played five of my songs – including one I wrote at about 22 years old and never ever played in public before – and three cover songs, “Crazy Love,” “Mad World,” and “Father and Son.” The ambience was wonderful, a great warm audience, and the sound system worked out okay, and Félix and Virgile were brilliant. Unfortunately the limitations of my Zoom Q3 – operated my son here – does not do justice to the whole vibe. But I would say that, right?
I nevertheless got out of the studio at 11:30 AM and that gave me time to go over to The Highlander for the tail end of the open mic. And who should I see playing as soon as I enter but Rony Boy, who is also part of the bill at the Disquaires on Sunday, as he will play with his band “The Romantic Black Shirts.” So suddenly I had a theme for the blog….
Actually, it was cool to see the power of Johnny Cash songs in an open mic situation, as Rony played a Cash song and got the crowd clapping and banging. And the theme runs away with itself now, as Thomas Brun also got the crowd clapping and banging, but through a different method – as you will see in the video below. For my part, I managed to play two songs, starting with “Miles From Nowhere,” by Cat Stevens. And since that went over pretty well I decided on a theme and played for second song, the Cat’s “Father and Son”… which I had also been rehearsing with Félix and Virgile. (Félix of the “Burnin’ Jacks” and Virgile of “Natas Loves You.”
Normally you have to be at the Highlander by 8:30 to get a good spot on the list. But as I arrived after midnight, I had a spot immediately as the last performer – around 1 AM….
I mentioned last week that I recorded four of my songs live in the studio at the Point Ephemere last week with a couple of guitarists, a drummer, a bass player and me singing and playing my guitar. Here are the recordings. Remember, these are live: We are playing all together in the studio as if we are on a stage in front of you. First time I’ve done this. I hope you like it. I am happy with the experience, and what I found that was fabulous was the way the songs transformed from my living room experience of sitting in the corner playing by myself – same in an open mic alone – to this collaboration that changes the songs and helps them grow.
I have decided to put them up here in the order we recorded them. On drums was Hervé, on bass Virgile, me on vocals and guitar. For the first two songs Félix played lead guitar. For the second two songs, Laurent played lead guitar. If you get bored with one, go on to the other. Oh, oh, oh – let me not forget the beautiful touch of harmony by Virgile on “Since You Left Me.”
But taste them all, if you get a chance, because they are all quite different…:
Lighter, shrimpy, easy to download but less good quality file versions:
I had been going step by step towards a musical epiphany since I returned to writing and performing music after a several decades long hiatus, and the next natural step was to get into a recording studio and record with a band. And I wanted to do it live. I did not want to piece together every morsel bit by bit, or I could do that almost by myself at home in my living room.
But the idea was not entirely mine. It was Earle Holmes who first suggested to me that I meet up with Hervé Bouétard, of the band Control Club, that Earle’s BPM company manages. Hervé had worked with another one of Earle’s musicians to do some good recordings in his studio at the Point Éphémère, and Earle thought there could be a good vibe for me to try working with Hervé too. Earle was right.
It was a dream come true my sessions on Wednesday and Thursday in the studio with four other musicians – three per day – and all of us recording live four of the songs I have written since my musical adventure really began in November 2008.
It took months for me to move on it, and it took another couple of months for Hervé to move on it – i.e., get the time – and then it took me a while to get together my dream group of musicians – including Hervé on drums – to record the four songs I decided to do. But it all came together on Wednesday and Thursday, and thanks entirely to Hervé and the generosity and professionalism and talent of the musicians that accepted to play with me.
Hervé was very cool in not only playing drums on all the songs, but also working the sound in the small studio in the back of the art/concert/cafe/restaurant space on the Quai de Valmy in Paris. Hervé used to be drummer for a very cool and successful French band called A.S. Dragon, that was formed as a back-up band for the iconoclastic French novelist, Michel Houellebecq. The band decided it wanted more than just to be that writer’s backup band when he went on tour with some songs, and they added a gorgeous woman singer and did very well after that….
I had a real conundrum to solve with the lead guitarist, though. I had two guys I knew I wanted, both for different reasons. So in the end I decided to do two days of recording and do two songs with each guitarist, if they accepted. Thank goodness they did. One was Félix Beguin, with whom I had played many times at Earle’s open mics since the beginning. Félix also plays in a band called The Wasters and another called The Burnin’ Jacks, and he is in his early twenties, and a bloody natural born genius guitar player. He is also studying sound engineering now and music will be his career, one way or the other. So Félix played with me on the first day, and we did “Memories” and “Except Her Heart.” The latter, remember, is the song that Félix so kindly arranged for me a few months ago with a midi system and added guitar lead, piano, bass, etc.
The second day my guitarist was the neighbor I’ve been working with for the last year and a half intermittently, who goes by the stage name of Zarby. He wrote the chords for “Let Me Know,” and asked me to do a melody and lyrics, and we were both happy with the result. So there was no question but to have him play on that, and I enjoy working with him anyway, so there was just no question of NOT doing it. We also did “Since You Left Me,” both of these songs on the second day, the Thursday. What was very cool too is that Zarby started his musical career as a jazz drummer, and so with “Let Me Know” he not only had an idea of what kind of drumming would sound good with it, but he was able to show on the drums to Hervé what he meant. The song, written about a Turkish woman I know, has a very Middle Eastern music sound to it, and indeed, Hervé’s drumming just gives this hypnotic, trance-like, mantra-like feel to it.
The big problem from the beginning was to find a bass player, and I had all sorts of ideas, but nothing was panning out. Until my son, Paul, said, “Why not the guy from Natas Loves You?” In fact, I had thought of him myself, but I had only ever heard this fabulous young band from Luxemburg live doing acoustic performances. Paul had heard them electric, however, and said the bass player was good. So I wrote Virgile on Facebook, and he immediately responded that he would do it. And am I glad he did. I had met the band during their first week in Paris almost a year ago when they performed at their first open mic here, at the Truskel, in Earle’s open mic. I immediately thought they were great and I spoke to them. Only 20 years old, Virgile is not only a very cool guy to work with, but his bass playing was really good for what I needed and wanted, and I got the added bit of icing on the cake when this master of harmony – all of Natas Loves You are great at singing and harmonies – accepted to add some harmonies on “Since You Left Me,” which gives it a sudden completely different life in spots, and even, dare I say it, a little addition of youthful something.
What can I say about these two days in the studio? I think ultimately the statement will be in the sound of the music that resulted from it. And I will make that available as soon as Hervé has finished tweaking it. But the idea behind it was to do four recordings of four musicians playing live in the studio. This was not an overdubbing exercise, and it was very important for me to recapture the essence of my musical and emotional journey of the last year and a half and more as I have travelled around the world and played in open mics and jam sessions. It was essential to capture these four songs – at least – that speak my heart at this period in my life (even if much has changed since I wrote some of them), and to do that best, I wanted a live performance.
It was NOT easy, but it was smooth, and in the end, I was happy with the result. I don’t know if I will say the same thing next week when I hear the recordings after a while away from the studio, and a while away from listening to them – with a new perspective – but whatever may be the summation, it is clear that I spent two excellent days in the studio. Even if it was exhausting and I did not even sleep the night between them!
I’ve put up a couple of short videos of some quiet moments of taking a break in the studio on the first day with Félix playing my acoustic guitar with a couple of soft melodies, and then Félix on bass and Virgile on my guitar and Hervé on drums, just jamming away, the three of them. I had gone off to take a leak, what with all the water I had to drink in the heat of the studio and to protect my voice from breaking. And when I returned, there they were jamming away this funky tune, as if they desperately wanted to get away from my sad songs!!!! But the key point is, even when we weren’t working, all these music lovers were playing music for fun and amusement, which was for me also one of the biggest points of the whole exercise. And in that, it was a success.
The two days in the studio last week were the musical epiphany I had been working toward. But I’m now fired up for having many more….