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Talkin' bout this road I'm on

December 16, 2017

Hello friends!

The year ending is upon us. Christmas is here and so are all the interesting year end lists and year in reviews. Those lists and articles always make me reflective and have a look at myself from 365 days ago to today. So I figured, what a better first blog post then to take on myself for review.

A year ago, I was in front of a microphone with my old ‘59 Gibson J-50 over my shoulder and in hand for a small crowd in a small venue, opening for my friend Holli, a beautiful and talented musician I adore (www.holligaret.com) in downtown San Angelo, TX where I now reside. I had taken a two-year break from writing and performing. I really didn’t have much desire to do anything with it, let alone pursue it again. But I figured, what the hell! It’ll be fun. So, I did.

A month later, a radio DJ friend of mine, Ben Ryan (another close friend I love and have learned a lot from), was on air in Fort Worth hosting the Sunday Send Off, a show that now no longer runs (I’m holding out for a come back!) on 95.9 The Ranch, played an old song of mine from my first record. I was completely unaware this was happening, but the response was enough to make me wonder if maybe I should rethink doing music. Time had passed after two years. I was a little wiser, a little older, was coming off from the experience of living in a big city  and adjusting, that maybe, just maybe my time was now to make music. Circumstances were all much different than from before. I was getting over a terrible illness and having to start life all over again, but was more grateful to be living, and humbled by the illness itself that a new perspective settled in me.

Let’s rewind a bit; say June of 2016. I had spent the last several years residing in Houston, TX where I worked in the electrical field as a dispatcher and thrived on record collecting, craft beer, and Houston Rockets basketball. Let me just state that none of this has changed and probably never will.

That month, I left the company I was working for that I loved like family, to pursue a new avenue in oil and gas sales, making more money than I ever had, especially with not having a college degree. Things were looking up. I could finally afford to get out of my old Westchase District apartment and into a decent place in Montrose, where the quality of life was much better. They say that home is where the heart is and I had certainly made Houston my home and had no plans or desire to ever leave. (Oh, yeah, and my heart is still in Houston)

After a few weeks of working at my new job in my own office, I became ill. I was missing so much work that it was becoming a cause for concern and I ended up losing my job a month later. During that time, I was making doctors visits at least once a week. The dizzy spells and nauseousness along with the intense headaches and chronic fatigue were becoming increasingly straining and scary. So scary that at one point, I’m certain that I was almost going to die. I remember calling my mother that night to tell her what was happening and that I loved her because I was so afraid of what was happening to me. I knew that it was much more than just a sinus infection as the doctors had been diagnosing me with.


I soon got notice that my employment was terminated, leaving me filled with loss and worry over what was to come. I was now without medical insurance and had a drained bank account.

I began to find mold in my apartment and suddenly my symptoms made sense. What I found was black mold and I had been breathing it in and sleeping amongst it. I immediately vacated and retreated to a suburb of Houston and stayed with family there for some rest and attention to my needs so that I could get through the horror of my illness. But with that, each day was different and sometimes increasingly worse. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed, talk, eat, dress myself or barely make it to the bathroom because of the weakness. That’s when my family came to take me home to San Angelo to be under their care.

With the right medical attention, medications, and treatment, I was recovering well and fairly quickly. For months, I was battling black mold poisoning and finally began to find light in my time. But I was also battling the resent that had settled. I was angry that life had played a dirty trick on me. How dare I have to come back to small town Texas where there’s nothing for me here. I was soon to find out different.

The new year came, Ben was continuing to play my music on the Ranch, and I was, as Cat Stevens sang, “on the road to find out”.

And on that road, I went. I began to play music again. This time, blindly. The way I should have all along. Not worried about what genre my songs are or what “scene” I belonged in. I started to write songs again and be involved in song circles and attending open mic nights, building and honing my craft again. I would play gigs in various towns and cities (Ft. Worth, Lubbock, Houston, Galveston, Austin) and make new friends and gain a little bit of a fan base here and there. I made compilation CD’s from my computer and gave away copies to anyone who showed interested or cared to keep in touch and see me play again.

 

By March, I was flirting with the idea of making a record. Initially, I was to record with a very talented friend, musician, and producer who showed interest, but found after months of prepping for it, it just wasn’t in the cards. So I took initiative and booked studio time at Lucky Run Studios in Houston with studio owner and engineer Michael Mikulka behind the board, and hired my good friend, Matt Harlan (www.mattharlan.com), to help produce the record with me and play guitar on it.

{The control room (and board) at  Lucky Run Studios}

The thing with Matt is that he’s an influence to me. His humbleness speaks so much about him and I look up to him because of that. In my own pursuit of things, maintaining that sense of humbleness grounds me. But that’s not all about Matt that I admire; he’s been a huge encourager to me and believes in me and my abilities and that’s why I’ve done many shows with him this year as well as had him produce this new record with me. I value his opinions and he’s always steered me right.

{Matt Harlan playing the producer roll}

Also, on the record I have my other good friend Sean Heyl on percussion keeping in time and adding flavor. Sean and I have always have a great chemistry together when we play, just as I have with Matt and his guitar. And of course, I have my other great friend and fellow singer-songwriter, Nicolette Good (www.nicolettegood.com) singing harmonies. I had the pleasure of having Nicolette on my last record and it’s great having her back again. In this journey of my year, reconnecting with her has been a highlight of that.

{Sean Heyl, drummer extrordinare}

{Nicolette Good and I after a show, just a few days before recording the new album}

Before I went into record in the studio, I attended the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance conference in Austin. I had so many take a ways from that. It was a great weekend and I felt challenged and inspired just as I had hoped I would. My greatest moments were finally meeting my favorite honky tonker Emily Herring (www.emilyherring.net), seeing my old friends Pete And Crystal Demore who make up the folk duo Ordinary Elephant (www.ordinaryelephant.net), and a new friend I made and fellow songwriter, Lynn McCracken (www.lynnmccraken.com).

 

In April, I returned to Houston for a few weeks to visit and get to say a proper goodbye to my home. I visited the breweries I loved, the record stores I spent hard earned paychecks in, caught a Rockets game, hung out with friends over meals and beers, and played open mics at the venues I love best there - JP Hops House, the Mucky Duck, and of course, the Old Quarter in Galveston.

 

That May, I was given a weekly residency where I was able to bring in some great songwriter friends - Ronnie Eaton, Daniel Thomas Phipps, Zoe Carter, Jana Pochop, amongst a slew of others. I hope to continue it this year.

 

I have found my place at home here in West Texas, finally. While it’s not Houston, it is home, but in a different way for me. I host an open mic every week as well as a monthly songwriters group  where I mentor and encourage other songwriters to work on their craft.

 

This coming year, goals are set. Many are goals I set last year but weren’t yet achieved. And that’s okay! I’m looking forward to new gigs, new friends, new songs, and especially a new album.

 

Happy holidays and a great new year everyone! Thanks for reading.

 

 

 {Wrapping up the first day of recording}

 

 

 

 

 

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