PLEASE NOTE: The nominal goal has been met, but the actual budget is significantly higher than the Kickstarter goal. So if you're thinking of supporting this project, please do! Every dollar helps tremendously!
To paraphrase Robert Hunter: I know these songs like I know my own name.
I have been a working musician since I was 16 years old, and I have been playing Grateful Dead music (along with many other styles and songbooks) since I was turned on to the band in 1972. I’ve been touring nationally as a “solo electric” performer since the late ’90s.
I have never been interested in copying another musician’s style, probably because I became a songwriter at the same instant I started playing guitar. (In the summer of 1969, my brother set a couple of my tortured-teen poems to music and taught me how to play ’em, and I was off and running.) I have always felt free to adapt other people’s songs to suit my vocal range, guitar style, and personal narrative.
To be sure, you’ll hear aspects of Grateful Dead in my playing and singing, just as you’ll hear echoes of Jorma Kaukonen, Merle Haggard, Cat Stevens, David Crosby, and other early role models in my performance. No musician exists in total isolation. But it’s been my practice for decades to develop my own voice and tell my own story. I have been playing Grateful Dead music in public since the mid-’70s. All the bands I was in featured original music along with interpretations of songs by the Dead and others.
It’s a Hand-Me-Down is a collection of my interpretations of Grateful Dead songs, in roughly the same format I use in my solo shows: an acoustic guitar accompaniment, solo vocal, and overdubs of guitar solos and orchestrations. This will be the first record I have done that contains no original material, and the first that presents these songs in my unique style.
I have already recorded several songs, in two studios: at Megasonic, with Jeremy Goody at the board, I have been laying down acoustic guitar, lead vocal, and solos. At Berkeley Sound Artists, with Jim LeBrecht, I have recorded the more elaborate pieces that use looping technology. “Lady with a Fan->Terrapin Station” includes a couple of passages with multiple guitar tracks, the way I do ‘em live with the help of a Boss RC-30 Loop Station.
Recording this way is relatively inexpensive. I don’t have to pay sidemen, which keeps costs down considerably, and since I have been performing all of this material for quite some time I am having no trouble getting excellent performances in the studio.
To do this project right, I need to be able to get it to market for real. I have a book coming out in November – This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead (with Blair Jackson), to be published by Flatiron Books – so I’ll be getting some national attention for that. My budget includes funds for radio promotion and national publicity — both of which will be handled by friends who happen to be very good at their jobs: Rich Mahan will handle radio, and Erin Scholze of Dreamspider Publicity will handle the media campaign.
Risks and challenges
This is a fairly low-risk undertaking for me: I know the material well, I have GREAT collaborators working with me on it, and with a book about the Grateful Dead coming out in the same month I will have plenty of opportunities to promote my work. And since I tour nationally all year, I have plenty of opportunities to sell discs directly to the fans.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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