Of course, the concert was a triumph, and it was recognized as such at the time. There was a big write-up about it in the Tampa Tribune the next day, there were lots of videos of the concert that went viral immediately after it was done, and within a couple of days some of the live tracks from the concert started appearing on radio. Yes, of course it was a triumph. It was a good thing to have been able to plan it with him, as he was particularly concerned that others would see him as only a reclusive studio figure and not realize that he could perform well live in person as well. Once people saw that he was agreeable and personable a lot of people became far more favorable to him, and that was definitely a release of much of the burden that he faced as an artist. It’s a hard thing to toil away in obscurity and not to realize the appreciation that people have for personal interaction with someone who can make good music. I’m sure he would have done it a lot more often if he would have had the chance, but no, that was the only time we got to see him like that. I’m sure the tickets would have been even more expensive if it would have been seen as the only full set of live concerts that he would ever do as a solo musician.
As soon as the concert was done, we were all pretty excited about what to do next. I gave him a call and told him to get up to Nashville by the end of the week, and that we had some business to discuss that needed to be done face to face. I think he would have come that day, but he had some work he needed to do on a track that was for a Real Estate compilation disk, and so once that was done, he told me, he would come right up. The concert had been a success, and we had at least a couple of tracks from the afternoon concert in particular that we wanted to push to country radio. The duets he had on “Make The Rain Go Away” and “My Old Man” were two obvious songs that we wanted to make singles immediately to capture on the momentum as the rest of the album was recorded. We also wanted to push “Seven Stars” as the lead single for his country debut “Home,” while preparing the “Star-Spangled Banner/Freedom” medley for release after that. These were good times, and we were definitely sure that the performances were going to help him establish a sound reputation as performer in country. His combination of honest friendliness and genuine patriotism was something we were definitely happy to see, and his populism had some punch that would appeal to ordinary people, even though he was obviously a brainy sort of guy.
We heard about the concert the same time that everyone else did, and we had wanted him to sing a song on our Real Estate tribute album. He agreed to sing “Crime,” and we were happy that he was familiar with the band and his music. He said that he had first heard the song when he would eat lunch at Panera while writing book reviews, and the song really resonated with his own life experience. He recorded some video of talking with me about the song, that could go along with the promotional materials, and we were grateful that such a busy person as he was would take the time to give us some details that we could use to promote the tribute album. I think I can find the video of that somewhere for you to watch.
I wouldn’t consider myself to be a huge fan of the band, but I have listened to and enjoyed their music.
My favorite song of theirs is “Crime,” without a doubt, and I’m glad you are willing to have me perform it for the tribute album to them. Atlas as a whole is a great album, though.
I first heard Crime at a Panera Bread restaurant near where I lived outside of Portland. On Sundays I would stay there for a few hours and write a bunch of book reviews while using their wi-fi before going grocery shopping, and the song played pretty often there. I like to look up songs when I enjoy them, so it was easy to add the song to my favorite ones to listen to on YouTube. Eventually I listened to some of their other songs as well.
I enjoyed the song for several reasons, I think. First, the song itself has gorgeous instrumentation and really restrained vocals, which clashes with the image you get when you hear or read its title of “Crime.” I’m really a big fan of songs where there is a big disconnect between the lyrical content of the song and the musical presentation of it. It’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of the solo material of Christine McVie and her songs in Fleetwood Mac, for example, because they have that same tension between pleasant and easy-going music and gut-wrenching lyrics. In “Crime,” the lyrics keep the matter ambiguous. What is it that happened between the narrator and the other person that was so momentous? The song itself doesn’t say, it leads the listener to interpret for oneself. For me, I interpret the song relating to my own early childhood and my relationship with my father, but plenty of other interpretations are possible.
I remember recording that single too. It was a really poignant moment in the studio as he laid his vocals down and made sure it was what he wanted to be. Then he said that he would have to leave for the airport to head to Nashville, and even then we knew that he was just too busy. It wasn’t as if we feared that he would do something wrong, we just knew that too much was going on and that this was not a moment that would last forever. We just didn’t know how little time there would be.
Thanks for talking to us.
We’ve had a bunch of people call in about the concerts. It appears like they were a great success.
Yeah, we were all happy about how they turned out. The sound was great, the audience was friendly, and I was able to keep my voice up until the end.
So, you’re pretty content with how it turned out?
Yeah, I am. You should be receiving a few songs to perform from the concert.
We definitely look forward to getting those.
Yeah, a few of the songs are being mastered as we speak and you should have them within the next few days.
So, tell me how you felt on stage there.
I was pretty anxious, but the crowd was supportive, so that made it easier.
Everyone gets stage fright.
That’s true, but not everyone gets so anxious they almost pass out and their limbs tingle because of the loss of circulation.
So anxiety is a real problem with you?
Yeah, it’s a real problem. Why do you think my first album was called “High Anxiety.” I’m not someone who jokes about the sort of struggles I face, and when I refer to them in my music I’m being serious.
I must admit I never got familiar with that album because nothing got released to country.
That’s understandable, I suppose.
Do you think you’re going to want to do this again?
I think so, yes. I mean, I’m not someone who is ever likely to spend years at a time going on massive world tours, but I could definitely see doing tours broken up by time in the recording studio on a regular basis. I’m working on some contracts now that should allow concerts to be more common, likely after I finish up the album I’m working on.
So you’re going to want to tour in support of it?
That’s right, and I have released enough music that I can get a good enough concert that isn’t too short.
You did two of them last night.
That’s right, without any repetition of songs.
I’m glad to hear that has inspired you to perform some. You think you’ll be coming back to the Tampa Bay area on those tours?
I’m sure that will be put on the schedule. It’s possible we may end up having dates on both sides of the bay as well as in Lakeland or somewhere else nearby as well.
When do you expect to be done with your album?
I’ve already laid down my vocal tracks for two albums worth of material, much of which was played yesterday. We’re still working on some instrumental tracks and then we will do the mastering, but I expect all of it to be done within the next few weeks, after which the album will be scheduled for release probably late spring or early summer.
Is it going to be a change of direction for you?
Yeah, I think these songs are much more direct than most of my material. There aren’t any Latin titles, and there aren’t a great deal of literary allusions or anything like that. You heard the songs yesterday–they are songs about my life experience, my search for home, the principles that have guided me. I hope it’s an album that people are going to be able to relate to.
You said you had two albums wroth of material, right?
Yes, that’s right; it’s going to be a two-album set. The first album will be focused on songs about my geographical travels, the second album about principles and standards.
So, what are you doing now?
I’m just finishing up a song for a tribute album to an indie group named Real Estate, and when I finish work on that song I’m going to head up to Nashville to work on some songwriting and some contracts.
So we’re going to see some big news soon?
I hope so. I’ll talk with you when I get back, assuming I have something to report that isn’t already in the news.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
I look forward to talking to you again, and I’d like to thank your listeners for being so supportive yesterday during the concerts.