UPDATE: Thanks to my friends in Norway for recording this acoustic version of one of the songs from the upcoming record. Imagine it with strings galore, female choir backing vocals, Hammond organ, tympani drums and layers of percussion and Television like guitar interplay. The Joe/John/Sean version. That's a small glimpse of what we are trying to do. As we spend the next year or so bringing The Graceless Age to anyone and everyone that would like to hear it, help me start to get the new songs inside of me out of my brain and onto tape as I dream them.
John Needs to Record Again!
Almost a year ago my primary collaborator, mentor, and best friend, Tim Mooney, passed away unexpectedly. Just over a week after his death, my record - our record (all of my work has been done with Tim almost entirely) - was released in the United Kingdom on Bucketfull of Brains. On May 5th The Graceless Age was re-released by Rubyworks, a great independent Irish label based in Dublin, all over Europe as a double-disc edition with an additional CD of outtakes and demos and a booklet including lyrics and photographs in gorgeous packaging. Since its early limited release last year through the recent release of the Deluxe CD Set, the critical reception has been overwhelming and humbling and...well, downright unbelievable. As has been the outpouring of tireless support and love from fans of the record, many of whom I now am lucky to count as friends.
180 Gram vinyl copies were released through 7thWorld/WIN Records as a limited run and The Graceless Age has recently (April 5, 2013) been released in the United States on Evangeline Recording Co, now issuing Bob Frank and John Murry back catalog recordings, as well.
Much as in Europe. the critical reception in the USA has been quite unexpectedly positive so far. And we've had FUN. The legendary b-movie director John Michael McCarthy filmed a brilliant video of Southern Sky that was premiered by Mojo aside a 5 star review. Billboard premiered Chuck Mobley's beautiful take on Little Colored Balloons using found, vintage footage. Line Of Best Fit and The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as well as NPR and The Huffington Post, have featured the music video for California by Jesse Brodkey. I am touring throughout the year both in Europe and in the United States.And maybe Australia in January. Its been a wild ride.
While all of this is quite moving and exciting and overwhelming and validating and all that stuff, the reality of the music business today is this: artists stand to make very little money off of record sales alone. Touring is a necessity. As is licensing and other paying avenues to allow for the touring. Which, in turn, must all come together to allow for the creation of another record. We are still promoting a record, however, that was made some time ago. And that costs far more than most would want to know. But when others pay, you owe. Not just money, but rights to art. I cannot sacrifice that. Tim taught me better.
The Graceless Age took years to complete for many reasons. But I have much more music trapped inside notepads and funky guitar tunings. I have recordings Tim and I were in the middle of. I have collaborations I'd love to make realities. All of this takes money. And to try to do it with complete sonic freedom and honesty... I am coming to those who love music as I do (YOU) and asking you to be a part of this amazing process.
GOING TO IRELAND!
Ireland feels like home and has since I first played The Kilkenny Rhytym, and Roots Festival in 2007. Music is still an integral part of life there – much as it is in the Mississippi of my childhood - and, if I wanted, I could create a choir of singers just by stopping people on the street and asking them if they wanted to participate. Everyone, it seems, is musical in some way because of the way they were raised and the place they were born into – much like Mississippi, but without the minefield of basic difficulties recording an entire record there would bring.
I feel I’ve found a second home of sorts in Dublin. Quite literally. I have a set of keys for Daragh’s house, a man who was initially willing to provide me with a place to sleep on tour but quickly became a lifelong friend. One key is an actual working skeleton key and, when I open the door with it, he greets me as if I never left every time I return. It’s truly become my home away from home when there. You can see Darragh in the video sitting with me on stage prior to a gig talking. You can also see Mark, one of Daragh’s colleagues whose family has treated me as one of their own, has insisted I learn the sport of hurling and begin teaching my daughter Evie (they sent me home with a hurling set for her) so she can play for Kilkenny one day. These people are my people. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but after losing Tim, these folks: Gerry, Darragh Byrne, Daragh Bohan, Eamon, Dara, Willie Meighan, John Cleere, Mark and Craig, Caroline and Jonah, Roger and his wonderful wife, Niall, Brendan, Flor and their family, and many more – too many to name – have shown me what Tim taught me. That art, when good, is created by a community of people who give of themselves and do so in love and understanding.
They’ve shown me a place where I can create as me, away from the place where I live that, for me, still holds too much pain to find a way to constructively create in. Tim Mooney wasn’t simply a collaborator and producer but rather the family I never really had. What I lost when I lost Timmy was more than I understood until our first European tour in January of this year, The band I tour with in Europe has it’s home in Dublin, where Sean Coleman put it together for that initial tour. He moved to Dublin a few years ago, got married, and started a family. He was an engineer and an integral player in the creation of The Graceless Age. Because it was financially impossible to fly a band over and because I had no band at the time, Sean created one. It's one of the best group of guys, for innumerable reasons, I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with. We are in it together and I can say that with the knowledge that they all feel the same.
I brought along Michael Mullen (who played keys on much of The Graceless Age and on Little Colored Balloons, lest we doubt his genius: imagine Little Colored Balloons without him. Sean brought along my now long suffering but much adored tour manager and drummer, Will Waghorn (or “Pappy”, as we call him). And on the last tour, we added Colm Quearney on bass, though Colm played guitar with Rory Gallagher at the tender age of 17 and is an absolute multi-instrumentalist, proficient on bass, guitar, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, and a great deal more. The same must be said of Sean, who can sit with a lap steel and create some of the most sonically and texturally interesting sounds I’ve ever heard. Pappy isn’t just a drummer, either, but a baritone horn player and brilliant percussionist. So to make this recording happen, we gotta fly Michael over. But we must also fly over Joe Goldring, something of a big brother to me and one of Tim’s closest friends and my closest collaborator here in the United States, to bring everyone back together, in a real sense. To continue the legacy but to connect it to new collaborators and a new community. Joe was also an engineer at Closer and his guitar work can be heard all over The Graceless Age, as well. The tension of the mixture of his recording aesthetic and Sean’s, along with his utterly undeniable guitar styling will result in a dynamic where we will all literally fight it all out till the songs take over. The input and collaboration between all of us is what will create something greater than the sum of it’s parts.And it’s parts are good.
California is home. I can’t deny that any longer, I suppose. But it isn’t the musical home I once had. When Tim passed away, I lost the artistic impulse to work here. I love the ocean. I love the weather. But I miss Tim and believe that honoring the legacy of Closer Recording means re-creating the basic ethos of it in a place that will allow me to do so free from the heartache and pain that creating here without Tim brings. What Closer, as a place, represented to me was much more than a space. It was a community of people working towards a common goal. I believe I have found that in Sean and Michael and Joe, three guys who worked closely with Tim and with me and who carry with them the same ethic we’ve all been instilled with: we are all beholden to the song and what it demands. We work for the song. We work to find it, not to wrestle it into existence. Pappy lived here in San Francisco for 14 years and knows Joe well from those days. Everything seems to tie itself together in planning this project and it seems all I need to do is get a few of us over to Dublin and let the songs begin to breathe on tape. I need, personally, to do what it is I’m afraid of: move on and continue to record without Tim. This is how I can do that. Both musically and emotionally and also with honesty.
AND THEN WHEN WE ARE DONE WITH OUR SONIC MADNESS.......
I take it all home to my Mariano Rivera. My mad scientist. The other one who really "gets" it all. I take it to Memphis, TN.
Kevin Cubbins has a way of taking the sonic mess I create and crafting it into what it ought be. We battle our way through working on records, but in the end, we reach the end. Somehow. And what Kevin adds is his. I began recording with Kevin when I was 20. Even then, he knew what I was attempting to do (as poorly as it may have been executed). He knows how my vocals ought sound and he knows when to NOT listen to me and do as he sees fit. I would like to take everything we create in Ireland back to Memphis and “bring it all back home” like I did with The Graceless Age. I’d like to give room for Jana Misener to do more vocals and cello work there. I’d like to see where Kevin takes this one – and this time in a studio a little better equipped than the one we previously used. Kevin has a gift; he can make sense of what seems impossibly convoluted and do so collaboratively, not with an iron fist and an agenda. And he adds that low end thump and that high end sparkle that I think just exists in Southern air. Gotta have that! It feels right!
SO WHAT SORT OF CRAZY FUN DO WE HAVE IN MIND?
I want choirs, string ensembles, horns, pipe organs, tympani drums, and a symphonic element to this record that is real. A sound that is of the place it was recorded; in ancient buildings and churches. I want to mix those pure sounds with the sounds of guitars feeding back and drum loops and sequencers transposed onto organic natural sounds. I want to create a juxtaposition of sound; something that, on the face of it, feels as if it couldn’t work but I KNOW it can. I want to marry the vicious and visceral world of rock and roll – and the hook laden pop – to the world of symphonic backdrops and hip hop percussive playfulness. I want to create a sound that exists as it’s own. I don’t want to make the record that comes after The Graceless Age. I want to create something new. And I want to be able to dance to it. Maybe. In some form or fashion.
I want to, as William Faulkner said to, attempt to outdo myself and not worry with my contemporaries. I want to create my record. As me. With those I trust with these songs. I want to incorporate sounds that might not generally be expected of a record like this, not to simply do it to do it, but because I believe there is something more to be created and I can hear it. I hear it constantly. Now I want to make it happen.
If you feel motivated to come with me on this journey you are most welcome and greatly appreciated. More than I can ever express. I can't do it without you. Come join us in this endeavor and let's make a record people!!
Risks and challenges
It took years to create the Graceless Age. During that process I learned HOW I create and that the way I create best is through collaboration. I may be producing this record, but in reality we are all producing, writing, engineering, playing, creating. That's why I am building this team. And I think I've learned enough from Tim Mooney and all those I have collaborated with to really "get at" what's inside of me and get it out on tape and not take 4 years to do it this time. I feel confident of that.
There are always obstacles, pitfalls, delays, complications etc. when it comes to making a record. Every great idea won't work. The song determines what works and sometimes we will realize we have followed our own sonic fantasy and not the followed the song. I have put together an adaptable, experienced and highly talented team. I know we will find our way through the things that don't work and the disappointment of the things that we can't make happen, and find our way to the things that are just right.
Logistically, we have already began to plan. Studio spaces in Dublin for August and September, potential symphonic components like local Irish Choirs and string players and a really long wish list that we are already working on. It won't all come together perfectly. But our team has the experience to improvise and that improvisation and working with what is available is the ethos that has linked us all together over the years.
Making a record is a fluid thing. You have to be structured and plan well but also open to the process and where it takes you. I look forward to keeping you all posted through project updates and involving you as this whole amazing process unfolds. There is absolutely no way to predict what will actually happen and the way in which it will happen. But it will happen and we are ready for it. Making a genuine and honest record is a crazy, unpredictable journey. Thanks for coming on this crazy journey.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (29 days)