Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?
I drive a black Chevy Equinox. I’ve always driven SUV’s as opposed to RV’s or beat up old vans. I’ve always felt like a frat boy in those although I’ve never joined a fraternity and I didn’t graduate college. As I get older I have a feeling that I will start drifting towards RV’s and beat up old vans…
I can’t think of any notable breakdown stories but I can say that with all of the money that I’ve spent on fixing cars from touring, I might rent cars to tour in instead of taking my own vehicle.
How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?
It’s hard to do.. My wife and I have started to try and bring healthier snacks with us but that takes some planning ahead. I recently saw that Darell Scott had an RV camper attached to a pickup truck that he was touring in..I heard him talk about it on KNBT with Mattson (Rainer). It sounded like the perfect vehicle. My wife and I have talked about getting one of those… We decided we’d need to sell a song first or maybe a kidney if the song doesn’t sell. I’d prefer to keep all of my organs though.
How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?
I am a lazy string changer and i try to avoid changing strings unless I have to. I buy the bronze coated guitar stings… they seem to last longer.
Where do you rehearse?
We don’t typically rehearse in fact I’d say that, except for a few rare cases, I’ve never rehearsed… I guess that’s one of the luxuries of playing solo for most of my life…
Roger Marin is a Canadian singer songwriter who has been a big supporter of my songwriting over the years. Roger played steel guitar for Fred Eaglesmith and started his own festival in St Catherine’s Ontario Canada. In fact, that’s where I met my wife Chris. She and I were playing on the same stage there. She asked me to jam with her. I told her I didn’t jam but I sure liked what I heard from her and now I get to be her sideman and she hasn’t fired me yet.
I’m happy to say Roger introduced us. Roger would always teach my songs to his band and then he would lead the band while playing steel to my songs….playing with Roger’s band was always kind of a special thing.
What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?
“Picture Show” was the title. “I hate going to the picture show alone” – that was the original idea/concept, taken from all of the John Prine and Tom Petty that I was listening to at the time.
Describe your first gig.
Well my first real gig was opening for Slaid Cleaves in my home town of Tyler TX in the late 90’s. Some old hippies (there were only a handful of those in my hometown) introduced me to the music of Guy Clark and Robert Earl (Keen) and Townes (Van Zandt). They asked me to open for Slaid and I think I even brought my own tip jar.
Slaid has been very supportive of me as a songwriter. In fact, he told me to go and meet Kent Finlay in San Marcos when I put out my first album “South of Town.” I ended up moving to San Marcos into a house that had been recently vacated by Terri Hendrix. It was right near Cheatham Street Warehouse so I always went over there and Kent made me feel like it was my home. What a treasure.
What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?
I used to work for an oilman named James E Smith in Tyler TX. I was kind of an errand runner for him. I got a lot of my song ideas from him. I was also listening and discovering a lot of our Texas songwriting heroes around the same time. When I heard “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train,” I felt like Guy (Clark) could have written it for the oil men in East TX
There used to be a Green Frog Cafe in Gladewater TX and a lot of those guys I worked for were “old school men of the world” just like in the song… I guess it’s an example of how wonderful of a writer Guy was and how his songs are intertwined with everyday Texas Culture.
How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?
We seem to be making more income now that I used to make when I was younger, but it’s a hard way to make a living. The income has always been up and down for me. I’ve always been told that if you love what you do, it’s not work. I’d have to say that there is some truth in that statement but you do have to work hard. I don’t expect to get rich but i do love my job.
What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?
Hmmm……. I think that, although I had some critical success with my first two records in Texas and some in Europe, I got kind of complacent in my early notoriety and took it for granted. I didn’t tour as much as I could have outside of Texas. I wished I would’ve put myself out there more as a touring act when I was a younger man. I also went a long time between albums where I didn’t have any new material.
Now as a 40 yr old guy I feel in a a sense that I’m making up for those years that I took for granted. I wish I’d have know that then when I was in my 20’s that you can’t afford to get complacent about your music career and songwriting if you want to be successful and happy doing it. I’d say that’s been my experience.