Since college, I have maintained a shoe box filled with scraps of paper, clippings, polaroids, found objects, cartoons, but mostly hastily scrawled lyrics all assembled during phases of living in St. Cloud, MN; Merida, Mexico; Hamburg, Germany; and Switzerland.
Access Royale were headlining a festival in Warrenton, VA and the crew hadn't supplied a proper mat for the drums to stay in place. Mid way through a song, the bass drums started to slide away from Robzie (drummer). So the bass player thought to place his foot on one side of the drum head to prevent it from sliding any farther but it started to slide sideways instead. Robzie's foot was fully stretched at this point, still trying to maintain a bass drum rhythm.
Unknown to Vee and Charles (vocals), both the bass player and drummer had left the stage to try to remedy the situation. As Charles and Vee turn to que up for the next song, they noticed Robzie off stage speaking to the sound engineer and crew about her dilemma. Without breaking a stride, Vee and Charles decide to do a cover by Oasis called Wonderwall, which neither one had never played before. The crowd ended up loving it, and it gave the crew just enough time to remedy the drums situation so that the band could get back to the normal set. No one suspected a problem was occuring. In fact, the crowd thought it was all part of the show. And now Wonderwall has become the only official cover for the band. However, the band has yet to play the cover ever since.
When we started writing "23", we had been talking a lot about fugue states--psychological phenomenon wherein people inexplicably wander off from their lives and find themselves somewhere else later, with no recollection of the time in-between. (I think it started, actually, from talking about the use of fugue in music, where various melody lines work together to create a single, complex melody).
Fans of MOTU recognize that many of MOTU’s songs have a political or social message. An example of this is “A Better Day” from the “MOTU – Time Runs Faster” CD. Seeing the hardships that have come out of the housing collapse, and subsequent job losses that resulted from this recession, reminded me that we live now in a much harder time then the world I remember in my youth. The erosion of the middle class in America is a sad truth. However, America has seen tough times before and I do believe that better times are ahead. So this hope for tomorrow was the inspiration for this song:
The most amazing place I've ever been...... I'm from a small town, things are slow here and if you don't pay attention, this place will take time away from you. It's all so the same that weeks can go by without ever noticing it and no one really notices you, which I guess can be a good thing at times. All of these people who have accidentally acquired responsibilities and worries and addictions in the form of bills, kids, spouses (whether you like them or not), the bar, drugs, gossip etc. All of them with limited knowledge of the outside world and all so opinionated and uninterested in learning cause.......they all already know.
So for me it's become a bit of an addiction, the most amazing place. A place where every second is valued by everyone there. Everyone in your presence, taking in the spectacle that is your art. It can be 5 seconds away but things are so different once you get there. It's your place.
Black Dimes by James Gilmore
There are many things I'd like to see before I die. As a generation, we've been a part of incredible change, a two steps forward one step back progression that frustrates and inspires all at once. I was born in the opening credits of the 1990's, January 4th. By the time I could crawl, Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait which led to the Persian Gulf War. I was barely forming sentences when it and the Cold War had ended, and Los Angeles was ablaze with riots. When I was a toddler Bill Clinton was sworn in as the President of the United States.
I was sitting in my first classroom when the bombing in Oklahoma City killed 168 people, and I was nine during the shooting at Columbine High School. The first election I was ever allowed to stay up and watch was the close race of Al Gore and George W. Bush, and the first tragedy that I was old enough to be devastated by was the attack on 9/11. At 13, the US and Britain went to war with Iraq. During my high school years, I watched terrible storms sweep homes into the ocean in Florida, tens of thousands of troops sent to train soldiers in Iraq and fight terrorists, and the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech. I voted in my first election my first year of college. My guy won. The economy did not. Bin Laden did not. Marriage equality efforts reversed Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA. BP sprung a leak that landed them on nature's most wanted list. Health care continues to be a topic of disappointment for all sides involved, except insurance companies, but Health itself has slowly become trendy somehow. Excusing gaps in my memory, that about brings us up to present time. I'm now 23 years old, and I wrote a song last year called Black Dimes that describes what I've seen and what I've still yet to see before my time is up. It's about rising up and fighting for what you believe. It's about using the tools of older generations to chisel at the obstacles between us and tomorrow, so that when death is upon me I can say "I lived to see the days."
On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 4, 2011, a group of us were gathered to celebrate and play music in a friend's backyard here in Marfa, Texas. One of my friends played a song called No Soy De Aqui, by Facundo Cabral, and it moved me so much I asked her to play it again. When I got home I looked up his song and music on the internet and found he was a beloved folk singer from Argentina and an icon in all of Latin America, much like Bob Dylan. He was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1996, the same award given to Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.
I was immediately inspired and I began hearing the music to a song and picked out the melody and chords within two days, but the words would not form within me. That following Thursday Facundo Cabral was mistakenly and brutally murdered in a drive by shooting in Guatemala on his way to the airport. I felt like I had lost a newly found friend.
That night I struggled with the words and music. I sat outside beneath a black, star-filled sky at about 3:00 a.m. The words began to form within me. I said aloud to the night, "this song will be called For Facundo Cabral, and the first words are the dance goes on, the song goes on". Immediately after I spoke the words a shooting star sailed across the sky above me, from north to south almost to the horizon, leaving a green trail of light. The next instant, another shooting star split the night from over my right shoulder, traveling east to west leaving a golden trail and almost seemed to skip out of the atmosphere. I laughed aloud. I felt like Facundo Cabral was telling me, thanks, see ya.
The words formed easily after that and the song was finished the next day. It is a tribute to him and his vision of a beautiful world that sings to us, if we only take the time to hear it.
One of the most memorable trips in my life was backpacking in Mexico, taking a semester off from college. And though there's a myriad of experiences that rank high, including playing music on the street during carnival in Mazatlan, learning the subway system of Mexico Citygetting around one of the biggest cities in the world for pennies, and standing atop the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan; the spring equinox at Chichen Itza was probably the most amazing.
Pull Out a Rabbit
Originally this song was part of a group of songs that were written in a tuning of my own devising. As first conceived, Pull out a Rabbit was just a simple, unusual melody and some soft backing organ, the chief inspiration being Elliot Smith's "Angeles". When I decided to present this song to the full band as part of our latest recording sessions, we all agreed that it worked well as a quiet song but something was missing. In a moment of rare inspiration we decided that what was missing was a full on rock out ending, a la The Flaming Lips or Granddaddy.
Lyrically the song draws from that place in each of us where we know something isn't right but we do it anyway. And from the feeling that you just want to give up on everything, but know in your heart you aren't that type of person and most likely you'll get out of bed even if you don't want to :)
This was the first song I wrote lyrics to for Mojo Radio. When I write lyrics I usually split the difference between what roles off my tongue on the first jam- through, and whatever I can eloquently fill in around that. In this case, upon hearing the chorus part, the phrase "My gilded cage has been rattled." came out of me. I have the easiest time writing lyrics when a chorus comes to me first, it lays the groundwork for my thesis.
Next I think of how to lead up to the message of the chorus, in this case, I went for the commonly used young-old blues stance: "Used to feel that I could fly so high...nowadays feeling the weight of my time, it's much easier to close myself in...my gilded cage has been rattled"...etc. I'm particularly happy to sneak in any double entendre bits such as birds out the window to shake my loose seed at (huge Steven Tyler fan). All in all I feel the song's about two main themes, not growing old complacently, and the blues theme of busting out of a bad relationship you're stuck in. Specifically in some of my pentameter, you can hear that I was just coming out of playing reggae music, with crammed in triplet bits like "whatever it was, whenever that happened to be, I said I'd surely love to feel it again."
"The Ship" is the first single released in May of 2012 from alternative folk rock trio 2nd & Broadway. The Ship has a universal meaning that anyone who has experienced being taken advantage of emotionally can relate too. The tone of the song is set in the first line. "Rig it up from the highest sail and point it towards the sea, let it take you wherever you want oh don't you worry about me" The nautical references are metaphors for a vessel that is quite literally carrying the singers heart on board. Using it to their advantage and utilizing it as a guide for themselves. The meaning comes to fruition in the line "and when it beats know it beats for you, it's iron forged, it's strong." The song comes to an end with a melodic chant one could hear through the smoky haze of a pub as the last drinks of the night are finished.
I was asked once, what was the funniest gig experience I have ever been through. While I have several hundred stories I could tell, one event on the road really sticks out for me. First a little background on my childhood. My name is Joe Vitale Jr. and I am the son of veteran rock drummer Joe Vitale, who has played drums for the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, Joe Walsh, Crosby Stills & Nash, Dan Fogelberg, Peter Frampton, and the list goes on. I had a normal childhood but I also grew up going out on tour with my dad. My mom and I watched my dad perform with a multitude of groups and at nearly every show there would be something hilarious worth mentioning.
In 1991, my dad was out on tour with the Joe Walsh opening for the Doobie Brothers. Now as many of you know, Joe Walsh is quite a character... So are the Doobie Brothers. The events which follow started as a simple prank by Joe Walsh and his band serving drinks like waiters to the Doobie Brothers while they were performing their show. This one event started a chain reaction prank war between Joe Walsh's band and the Doobie Brothers and each night they tried to one up each other. This continued for several weeks until the show in Cincinnati, Ohio. During Joe Walsh's song "Funk 49", my dad and another drummer (Joe Walsh likes to have 2 drummers on stage) would toss drum sticks back and forth during the drum solo section. The crowd has always loved this going back into the 1970s. Although I was only 14 at the time, my job was to catch the drumsticks that fell in between the drum sets. This night was no different except that this night the Doobie brothers had lined up behind the wall that separated their equipment from Joe Walsh's gear. Each of them had 2 cans of silly string and when the drum solo started, like a sky full of spaghetti, the silly string flew! It covered both drums sets and due to the wind that evening, the bulk of the silly string landed, covering me. I have all of this on video.
Needless to say the counter attack on the Doobies had already been thought out, planned, and executed. Cincinnati has a wonderful zoo and before we got there, Joe Walsh had his staff contact them and ask them if they could bring out a variety of animals to be paraded across the stage during the Doobie Brothers son "Jesus is Just Alright." The Zoo was happy to comply. So like Noah leading the animals two by two to the ark, Joe Walsh, (dressed as Noah) led the parade of animals, including parrots & emus across the stage. This final strategic strike won Joe Walsh the prank war and forever resides in my memory as one of the funniest on tour events I have ever been a part of.
Joe Vitale Jr
I began writing Reality my senior year of college. A work study at the campus audiovisual department, I was afforded the opportunity to record anytime given it didn't clash with the department's recording schedule. Slow to recognize my blessing, a couple months til graduation I decided I would make the most of my last days and record several songs for me to take with me as I entered the "Real World" as so many adults had hinted toward. Always a defiant and stubborn individual I ignored my Aunt's concerns of graduating with a philosophy degree and being able to survive. I, like every other past, present, and future college graduate, was running on a high. That high of late nights with no consequences, deep conversations with new friends, and an identity independent from my parents and my childhood. I knew things were going to change but I had faith that I was equipped- I would conquer the world as I had conquered campus parties as the resident DJ via smooth transitions and popular songs. I would not compromise, I would continue to fight for social justice, and continue to quit jobs that did not make me feel fulfilled. I did have sense enough to secure a position in NYC as a teacher, expecting to eventually find a gig doing music. Just in case my aunt was slightly correct, I would have income until I could eventually branch out on my own.
Certain I would never be a "slave" or drone, I was still optimistic about my future and changing the world. I had become confident within my four years- the most social and comfortable I had ever been- I was performing poetry at open mics, actually dancing at college parties, and earning a reputation of being "cool and laid back." My work study gig at the audiovisual department was a plus and complimented my cool demeanor. People would walk by me amongst the huge mixing board, quality listening monitors, and top of the line microphone and somehow it reflected me. Thou the equipment was nothing I could afford especially on my work study paychecks, the fact that I even shared the same space was valuable. With graduation steady approaching I realized my 8.75/hour job- though it was only enough for club outings and alcohol consumption- was a rare opportunity and most likely the coolest gig I would hold for a long time.
Dueling pianos is one thing that never crossed my mind when I ventured out to create a career in music. Original music was all I did, and playing in bands was all I ever wanted to do. I quickly learned, however, that the average stranger would much rather give me a few dollar bills to play Tiny Dancer or Sweet Caroline than to hear me pour out my own emotions. This realization led me to a job playing dueling pianos in Chicago to help with the bills as I continued working on my singer/songwriter career.
Dueling piano players are absolute rock stars, for about 3 hours, and only in the bar they're playing in. As soon as the bar closes and all of the drunk fans who listened as if we were the greatest musicians ever go home, the dueling piano player is completely forgotten. You go from rock star to employee in sixty seconds. My song, Almost was born one night I finally started to realize that the glory I thought I had at the piano bar was worthless.
I was sitting in a booth by myself, waiting for the manager to finish paperwork with the servers so that I could get paid and get home before the sun rose when that first verse popped in my head - "The bar is closed but I'm still here/It ain't a glamorous life but the money's real..." I go on to write about the way I felt when the bar goes from ultimate party to hangover silence. Sitting there after such an emotional change would always get me thinking, and it would generally be about regrets - in this instance, a past love.
The chorus of the song evolves with each instance. The theme of the chorus is that I still think of this past love, and at first it blames my surroundings, revealing that "I think of you almost every night." Influences from the dueling pianos begins the second verse as well - "Take another drink just because I can/I'd rather drown in here than suffocate out there" - referencing the free drinks and how easy it is to want to drown your sorrows rather than face them.
The bridge describes the morning after, and how thoughts of the past love are still very apparent, leading the song to end with "I think of you almost all the time." It is a true regret, not simply an emotion triggered by alcohol.
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