I am a singer-songwriter living in San Luis Obispo, California. I have a wife, two kids, and a day job. We all have our activities we like to do after the work day is done. I really like to write songs. For years I worked in the lo-fi tradition of home recording, which means I basically did everything myself & all songs were certified 100% free range, non-GMO, free trade, sustainably recorded organic. YUM! But with the help of John Vanderslice and Tiny Telephone studios I recorded my last two albums with him and now everything sounds even better!
If you like my music please let me and others know. Say something, buy something, do something to acknowledge that you appreciate what I am doing. Ideally, buy my album. If you like it buy another and give it to someone who you think will appreciate it. Or recommend my music through social media and link to my website. Every bit helps. Please support the arts. Thank you.
I discovered my love of music late in life. I am not one of those wunderkinds who started writing and performing at 5. But in a way that is good because music is relatively new to me. I love everything about being a singer-songwriter. I like it how influences make their way into my words and music. I like the challenge of writing a halfway decent song. I like the process that takes a scribbled idea through several rewrites until it is refined into a presentable song. I like the constant struggle of trying to be honest with myself and the search for a unique voice. I like the gut-check that is required every time I play to an indifferent, chit-chatting audience of 6 people. Why do I keep doing this? Because I have a passion for it.
So feel free to come along for the ride. I plan to keep writing and recording songs for the rest of my life. expect some butt-cringingly horrible moments and expect some great ones. And at some point, if you are not already a musician, I hope you decide to give it a shot, because making music is so much fun and you are never too old to start.
When I was in grammar school, I asked my parents for a guitar for my birthday. They got me one, and they also set me up with lessons. The teacher was a classical guitarist. In that first lesson he taught me the correct playing position for classical guitar and then he told me I had to grow out my fingernails. I never went back and the guitar sat dormant for about 10 years. Fast forward to 1993. I was 21 and traveling with my friend Chip through South America by bicycle. We were in Arica, Chile when the inspiration struck to drop $25 each on a couple of guitars. Back at our hotel, a Peruvian university student eyed the instruments, grabbed one, and started playing. He was good. So we asked him for lessons. He tabbed out some basic chords for us and we were on our way. A few days later, we took a bus to La Paz, Bolivia and we holed up for a month in a cheap, windowless hotel room and practiced chords. When it was time to get back on our bikes and ride to Peru we sold the guitars for a deep discount.
I still think the best way to learn the basics of guitar is to sequester yourself for a month, preferably in a windowless hotel room in La Paz, Bolivia, and learn a few basic chords. Ideally, you broaden your scope after that. As for me, I am still playing the same basic chords today.
I blew my chance to do anything constructive with music while in my early 20′s. I lived in a big old house on the mesa in Santa Barbara, CA with lots of very good musicians. There was even a soundproof band room. Sure, I played a bit and jammed and dabbled here and there, recording one song on a four track, but I never took full advantage of the opportunity. I’ll place the blame partly on that first guitar that had deteriorated since my first lesson. It was a miserable thing to play.
We jump to Y2K. I finally save enough to drop $700 on a decent Martin guitar and everything changes. Don’t listen to those people who say that instrument quality does not matter. Life is too short to play crappy instruments.
With the Martin I started playing a lot more. Granted, I still played the same three chords, but they sure did sound better. Then, for some reason I decided I wanted to start writing songs. I’m not sure when it happened, but I remember one particular catalyst:
I was visiting Chip (my bike trip mate) in Silver City, New Mexico. He was tending bar at an old saloon called The Buckhorn, which sits in the hamlet of Pinos Altos, which is nestled in the high pines (hence the town’s name) of the Gila National Forest. The Buckhorn is a great old saloon, and every Monday they have an open mic night. I happened to be there on a Monday so I went to the bar with Chip for his full shift, from 3 pm ’til close. It was a fascinating evening. I had never spent an entire day in a bar. We were the first to come and the last to leave. I arrived just before the town drunk and left just after him. Our intake was similar.
Anyways, the open mic was a really good one. It made me want to get up there and play a song, but I didn’t know any songs all the way through. So at that moment I vowed to start writing songs so that if I ever found myself at some random saloon on a Monday night with a hankering to sing a song, I’d have one (or fifty) at the ready.
Shortly thereafter, I came up with the idea that i would try to make a record every two years for the next 20 years. I’m not sure why I chose that time frame. It just sounded cool to be able to look back on ten albums at the age of 50. So, the next order of business was to buy a recording device. I got a Boss BR 1180, which is a digital 8 track recorder with a built-in hard drive and a CD burner. The idea was to record in the lo-fi tradition. I would do EVERYTHING (write the words and music, play the instruments, produce the songs, etc.) and the results would speak for themselves. So by the end of 2001 I had recorded 11 songs in the bedroom of my little hovel on Osos street in San Luis Obispo, CA. A few songs were great, a few were good, and a few were forgettable, but in the interest of keeping with my 20 year plan, the collection of songs was good enough to call my Debut. Thus, my first album, entitled The Wedding Industrial Complex, was distributed by Santa to about 10 friends and family members in Christmas 2001.
I didn’t have too may instruments for that first album. I had an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, a vibra-slap, an assortment of shakers, and a beat-up old snare drum. It was just as well.
Album #2 grew out of different circumstances. I had learned how to use the drum machine on my recording device, so for the first three songs I recorded for the album entitled The Sophomoric Effort, I used a synthetic drum track. After that I acquired a real drum set and a real bass guitar, so I started laying down live drums to my songs. Then I had a soundproof room built in my basement. This meant I was able to create my home brew of garage rock without driving the neighbors insane. I could yell into the microphone, play screeching, obnoxious guitar solos, and bang on the drums to my heart’s content. This was not altogether good, but it did mark a certain point in time. And in the grand scheme of my grand scheme, I am just marking the passage of time with my own soundtrack.
The Sophomoric Effort was strategically released just before Christmas of 2005 in order to take advantage of the Christmas buying frenzy. 15 copies were distributed to various retailers around the country.
During the recording of The Sophomoric Effort, I started to get tired of playing all by myself, so one day I asked my wife Melanie if she wanted to try her hand at the drums. Never one to shy away from a challenge, she said yes, and suddenly we became a punk-rock duo. At this same time, she became pregnant with our first child and the impending reality of fatherhood influenced my songwriting, as did the idea that I would be playing songs live with just drums, vocals and guitar. The album Baby In the Belly grew out of this era.
During this time I started abandoning home recording because we suddenly had a newborn to care for. But I was still motivated to record, so in the summer of 2006 Melanie and I went into the recording studio with Diego, our 3 month old son, and we recorded three songs live with no overdubs while Diego slept in the control room. The songs are rife with errors but there is a raw energy to those live takes that is quite dear to me. We rocked.
Our second son Charlie was born a mere 17 months after Diego, on August 25, 2007. Miraculously, Melanie and I managed to keep our little punk rock experiment on life support for the the next few years, but we never created any new product. We played occasional shows and that was about it. Frankly, we were never very good, but it was fun fun fun.
Also, during this time I started playing as a part-time bassist for a friend’s band called The Shamblers. It was a dream gig. I had an obscene amount of fun playing shows with them. We played really fun covers and some great originals. The lead singer of the Shamblers, Lucas Ohio, is still going strong musically in the bay area. Check him out athttp://www.lucasohiopattie.com/
Around the time The Shamblers went their separate ways, Melanie and I stopped our little punk rock experiment. But I kept writing songs and recording demos in my basement and playing solo acoustic shows. And I had an incessant itch that needed to be scratched. After over a decade of doing the lo-fi home recording thing, i wanted to go into a proper studio and cut an album. I knew that the demands of home life would make it very difficult to record quickly and efficiently in my hometown, so I set my sights elsewhere and Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco was the first place I emailed. I told studio owner John Vanderslice what I was looking for, that I was a solo artist with just a guitar and my songs and that I needed help with session players and production. John said he could bring my vision to fruition so I booked a 10 day session. Two months later I was at Tiny Telephone for that session and in 6 days of recording we had completed the album called The Technological Breakthrough. I have an essay in the liner notes of that album about recording at Tiny Telephone, so if you would like to know more about the process please buy the album and cozy up with the music and the liner notes.
In May of 2016 I spent another 6 days recording with John Vanderslice at his new Studio in Oakland. It was there where Avuncular was born. Two in the bag.