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Sunday, 15 March 2009


I’m finally relaxing on a Sunday, drinking coffee, and watching Louis Theroux dissect the phenomenon of plastic surgery. For those of you who don’t know, namely Americans as Mr. Theroux’s show is a BBC production, Louis is a TV journalist of the highest caliber who does one hour documentaries on the cultural insanities of the United States, from evangelical cult members to degenerate Vegas gamblers to hardened criminals in San Quentin prison, and everything in-between. What makes Louis so good is his innocence. He identifies with his subjects, asking them simple, direct questions without judgment. He makes people feel safe so they open up and give the camera an insight into their psychology.

My current UK tour over the past couple weeks has been, at times, reminiscent of a Theroux special. Problem is I can’t tell whether I’m Louis or one of the people he interviews. I’ve been doing a promotional work, playing each night at Living Rooms, a bourgeois chain of restaurants fitted with white digital Pianos in the bar area. My 45-minute set is routed through the house speakers, gently backing people’s dinner conversations, a gig reminiscent of my cabaret days in NYC. My mornings are spent visiting music colleges where I play for eager students who throw a barrage of questions at me, desperate for direction in the wild world of the Music Business. So far, I’ve lost my voice twice from singing through inadequate sound systems, and been in a car wreck, our van totaled by a side on collision with a commuter bus in Edinburgh. I keep waiting for my cockney tour manager, Jamie Franklin, to pull off his fake mustache and shout, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.”

Jamie has been great company, keeping me sane during this sometimes torturous journey. He’s the positive to my negative, the Laurel to my Hardy, the Derek to my Clive. All the madness has been chronicled on my Video Tour Blog, its regular updates the reason this Blog is so long overdue. Throughout conversations with Jamie during the long drives, I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy. The definition of a Cynic is a person who believes people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honorable or unselfish reasons, someone who questions whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile. Reading this now, it sounds more like the description of a realist to me. I dunno if it’s the streets of New York coursing through my veins this sunny London afternoon, or watching Louis interview a Hilton Casino Marketing Executive about keeping gambling addicts at the tables as long as possible, but I find that nobody gives anybody a break. You get a break when you win it.

It’s in the midst of this self-examination and search for generosity I find myself each morning trying to give 18-year olds good reasons to become musicians. This is, perhaps, the deepest irony of all. What I am supposed to tell them? Yes it’s possible to sign a record deal, make a classic album, sell millions based on the merit of your work and live happily ever after with your supermodel wife and beautiful children, be honored at awards ceremonies for your contributions, future generations forever influences by the unflinching honesty of your music. Here I am, a 29-year old boy who can’t cook for himself, traipsing the countryside playing dinner music, lucky to be alive after a disastrous crash, all in the pursuit of some farfetched dream I had when I was their age.

But then I take another look, and I see myself as one of the fortunate ones. In a time where people are losing their jobs left and right, the world facing the darkest economic gloom of the past 80 years, here I am playing my tunes to strange people in a strange land. In the past three years I’ve toured England, Scotland, and Ireland, played shows in Paris, Amsterdam, and all across the continental United States, including Montana. Just recently, my record label put me on a plane to LA to work with some of the best producers in the business. And even though I’m in the middle of an ill-advised promo tour that feels like a massive step backwards, it still beats boarding the A Train on 172nd Street at 7:15am, traveling an hour plus in a packed car to downtown Brooklyn to teach 5-year olds how to Hula-hoop. It’s times like these I must remember that it’s the experience, with all the glorious and shit moments, that is the reward, truly the break that I’ve won.

And this is the message I try to impart to the wide-eyed would-be Rock Stars every morning. There are no guarantees in this world. People will fuck you if you let them. Life as a musician is continual series of somersaults. Your best move is to look down, tuck your chin, and perfect your form. And eventually, though you’ll be dizzy and dazed, you will get somewhere. And who knows where that somewhere is, be it commanding 80,000 people on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage, or a Wednesday night in Newcastle playing Piano tucked away behind the hostess stand (yes this happened to me a week ago). Take the highs and the lows in stride, not out of modesty, but necessity. It’s survival.

If Louis Theroux asked me a few simple and direct questions about being a musician, this is what I would tell him. Hopefully I wouldn’t come off as crazy as the desperate, body modification obsessed middle-aged men I’m watching right now. However, there are no guarantees in this world.

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