I have always told people ‘you don’t want to listen to music with me’. I am the guy who will rewind one obscure part of a song 10 times when something strikes me.
I was running today and Pearl Jam’s “Alive” came up on my iPod and during Mike McCready’s guitar solo I heard a part of it that I’ve probably listened to a thousand times before. Because I played it over and over a thousand times. Its a something he does that lasts all of a second and a half, but as I was running I was immediately transported back to being 13 years old in my bedroom at my parent’s house rewinding that part over and over.
Disclaimer - Listen to the entire song or at least the entire solo from 3:39-5:41 first before reading further.
It happens from 4:39-4:40 of the song. That’s it. That one second of music I’ve listened to way more than anyone would have ever thought.
Its the set up of that moment. That deep slide on the guitar’s lowest string that makes it what it is.
The slide UP at 4:29 is the first thing that peaked my ear, you can hear him slide on the guitar and its really no discernible notes. It’s just him in the moment sliding his hand up the neck. I always pictured that’s the set up where he’s saying “watch me, its about to get ugly”.
Listen first to his version and then the 3:51 mark of this vid from my solo in Living A Lie: <a>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S731TCGrTs4<a>
Sound familiar? It’s the little things that wow you as a kid and stick.
But that’s just the set up. At 4:39 of he slides his hand DOWN the neck on the lowest string and I remember thinking it sounds like he’s shifting gears in a Porche and taking it to another LEVEL right now. Like dude is SERIOUS right now. Take a listen.
It’s like he’s giving the middle finger to everyone saying “I’m a bad man, I’m not even gonna play notes here” and “I can do what you can do, but you can’t do what I can do”. TOTALLY AWESOME.
Now watch 4:03 of the same video: <a>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S731TCGrTs4<a>
I never tried to imitate it, it just happened in my playing as I got older, when I felt it, never forced. My guitar teacher once told me the notes are important and the expression is even more. Those two moments in Mike McCready’s solo brought that lesson to life for me. And as you can see, those little moments made their way subconsciously into my playing.
Los Angeles, CA
The title of this blog (novel) is not meant to diminish the value we have for EVERY Honor Society fan that comes to see us regardless of crowd size. Some of our favorite shows ever have been for the intimate crowds on this past tour. This is just a bittersweet look at the fact (my feeling) that the guys and I are hitting a very special creative stride while factors like: time of year, a recession, and college finals among other things hurt concert attendance this time around.
Lets start at the top.
A mountain had to be moved to even get this tour to happen. We had just released A TALE OF RISKY BUSINESS PART 2 (which had required its own mountain-moving) and knew we had to tour. No booking agents were biting (as part of the “those guys came and went with the Jonas Brothers” syndrome) but luckily, and kudos to them, Zack Iser and Megan White from ICM came to the table. Apparently a fan-base, a range of great songs, musicianship and an insane work ethic isn’t attractive these days.
I’ll save you the hundreds of logistics that have to be approved before you can even start packing for tour to keep the mystique that we just grab our cases and go.
However as soon as the tour was confirmed, about a month before the first date, I started to brainstorm daily (actually nightly) about the set list. With 4 major national headlining tours, and two monster opening runs for huge artists in the last two years, and with mostly repeat customers, I knew if we didn’t bring something new and exciting we’d be dead in the water.
So I holed up in our home studio where we have a chalkboard wall and went to the drawing board, literally. Open with ‘Full Moon’? been there. ‘Here Comes Trouble’? definitely been there. Close with ‘Here Comes Trouble’? I wouldn’t come see us if we did that again. You get the point.
So night after night, hours in the studio, a word finally popped into my head, ‘new’. If its going to sound new it has to be new. We just released an album of our most honest music to date, why wouldn’t it be featured in the set? So, a-ha! Open with ‘Living A Lie’ and close with ‘Wherever You Are’. Technically ‘99 Probs/Nobody Has To Know’ was supposed to be a game time decision encore every night but with the size crowds and venues, it morphed into the last song, encores seemed (minus some special occasions) to be a bit out of the element. So with the bookends in place I meticulously filled in the rest, called it ‘first draft’, and started sending it around to the guys. We all had our two cents but this isn’t our first rodeo and we knew the only way to really tell how this puppy was gonna fly was to get into our rehearsal space and PLAY. So we did, daily, for hours. We typically set up in a circle facing each other and as rehearsals progress we start to morph into the usual formation you guys see us play in.
I will admit I was a bit (a lot) of a drill sergeant but I love and appreciate that the guys let me be that, because they know at the end of the day I’m just trying to get the best out of them, myself and most importantly, us.
COMMERCIAL BREAK. I refuse to bow down to corporate sponsors but now would be a great time to grab a diet coke.
Alex and I were watching Inception and he commented on how commanding Leo looked in a suit. Two nights later I hit the guys with a text that said ‘Suits. Its the answer.’ Now look, will we always wear suits in concerts? No. But we might sometimes, and that’s the beauty of this line of work, honesty. Nothing forced. But I will say in the spirit of ‘new’, the suits definitely brought some new heat.
COMMERCIAL BREAK OVER.
As rehearsals started to gel we knew we were on to something very exciting and special. But again if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, who cares right? So anticipating it would be a tough touring season (most acts, unless superstars, won’t tour after Thanksgiving through New Years because the factors I listed earlier) my next obsession became to find the right person (ended up being people) to document this entire tour in a way that was honest and artistic. In front of the scenes and behind them. I had just seen a short video that my friends Ruby and Summer Spiro (Ruby and Summer are sisters/singers/mermaids) had directed for themselves and was blown away. There was literally no one else I wanted for this task than these two girls. And I fought for them, hard. They have the gift and they have the eye(s). Our initial conversation had me saying, “Film everything. When you think you shouldn’t be filming, film, when it gets uncomfortable, definitely film, when myself or someone says ‘turn the camera off’ you better keep filming”. They were on the same page from day one, knowing their artistic integrity was on the line as much as ours and with that the pact was made. This was a direct inspiration of watching Madonna’s Truth or Dare tour documentary and I couldn’t help but be moved at how honest it was and how unmerciful it was. Needless to say, because at this point you’ve all probably seen at least Part 1 and maybe Part 2 of our tour docu-series, the girls delivered. I am grateful to them for bringing their gift to the table and capturing the guys and I in such a unique time in our career and life. They caught everything on camera, most of which you will see and some of which you will never see.
Some of the really special moments from this tour were moments some of you were witness to but never saw. As an artist, every show I try to grow, and on this tour I won some personal battles from a performance/musical perspective. Its always a line I keep purposefully in front of me, the balance of performance vs. musicianship. If its musical but not captivating then I’m hard on myself, it its flashy but bad musically, I will have a freak out. But on this tour there were some really special shows that had the balance, the whole way through. Bittersweet. And that goes for the guys too. To be honest when I’m at an Honor Society show, I’m listening to Honor Society. There were moments from Alex, Jason and Andy on this tour that blew me away. I was a lucky one who got to experience these moments.
The point of this blog was not to say ‘oh man Chicago was great’ or ‘this really cool fan got us a starbucks gift card in Cleveland’, or ‘in Atlanta we had technical difficulties’ its really more to give you guys a real look inside me because this tour was a personal challenge, a line drawn in the sand to myself to say “a lot of people think they’ve seen Honor Society, but they haven’t seen nothin yet”.
So every night we left our hearts on stage in every city as a sign to say ‘go tell people what you saw here tonight’. Show me another band doing this. NOT saying we’re the best thing ever, but we’re orignal. We gave a show that was designed for arenas in small clubs.
Am I venting? obviously. Complaining? Not at ALL! I love our fans’ incredible support and I love my life. But there are realities. Most asked tour related comment when we announce a tour: “Why aren’t you playing my city?” Answer: because we don’t sell enough tickets there to have the promoters and booking agents and crew break even financially. Its the harsh reality of this business. It breaks our hearts we can’t play more places where there are Honor Society fans. This industry more than EVER is a team effort. Us AND you. Your favorite bands are moving mountains to get to you. Just know that.
COMMERCIAL BREAK. Guys. c’mon. I don’t need to tell you I would never take money to tell you quickly to check your iPhone or iPad to see if anyone messaged you and then continue reading.
*Small victory: more guys, bad ass club bouncers & staff, and boyfriends of girl fans then EVER saying how much they dug the show. Someone once told me, ‘when the guys accompanying the girls coming to the shows start digging it, you’re about to hit the next level.’
COMMERCIAL BREAK OVER.
The major victory of this tour is that the word did spread. It honestly felt like when people left the show they were saying ‘HS is back’. By Los Angeles (the last date of the tour) we played to our largest audience (not true of LA our last tour) and I saw fans I recognized that I know we haven’t seen in a year in a half. So leaving our heart on stage in 17 previous cities wasn’t in vain.
The beauty of it is we’re still not a household name, meaning, there are (thankfully) still heights in front of us that we will accomplish, more honest albums to make, more set lists to toil over, more of all of it and we feel like its all possible. I said this once before but every ‘overnight success’ took 10 years. No exceptions.
I love you all, and thank you for letting me be me. And for real, thank you for an incredible tour. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
"all we are, are vagabonds following that spark…"
And if all else fails I heard Harry’s Mountain-Movers is hiring.
p.s. and yes I am aware the title of this blog is a homerun humblebrag.