Wednesday, February 28, 2007
And I think tonight I really became a bass player. To my legit bass playing pals like Mike Bradburn (who was the previous owner of my wonderful '70s-era Fender P-bass), Todd Miller, John Kerns, and Justin Rimbo: you'll be proud of me...I did an entire song without a pick. I played with my fingers! I've been a bass-playing hack ever since about 1990 when I started playing on my own 4-track recordings (you can hear what I'm talking about on my new Myopia bonus disc), and I've always used a pick, out of necessity. A lot of my favorite rock-star bass players like Adam Clayton of U2 and Glen Burtnik of Styx use a pick most if not all of the time. And ultimately, I've fancied myself as a bassist in the tradition of my bass-playing uber-hero, Mike Mills of R.E.M. (pictured here). This is a man unafraid to use a guitar pick on a bass, and unafraid to play all sorts of weird melodic and riffy stuff (oh, the intro to "Cuyahoga" that I love so!)...the Millsian approach has always been my bass-playing goal.
I've stayed away from using my fingers because it sorta hurts (especially on fast/loud songs), and because I just don't have the "soul" to ride that pulsing groove along like real traditional bassists can. There are some examples of real finger-powered bass guitar super-grooves on my new Best Of album: check out John Kerns' delicious playing on "Continental Divide," Mike Bradburn's loop-de-loops on "Ask Me in Nebraska," and Todd Miller's blazing runs on "Meeting Nixon," and then contrast them with my pick-powered New Wavey bass riffs on "Read The Signs" or "My Helen." It's just a whole different approach. But anyway...tonight at the 400 Bar I used my fingers on a quieter mid-tempo tune, and man, it just felt GOOD. I used to hear Mike Bradburn talking about turning down the volume on the bass amp so he could "dig in," meaning really attack those strings with his fingertips and manually playing the instrument louder in order to achieve a great "feel" on the strings. Tonight for the first time, I understood the physical sensation that he was talking about.
Mike Bradburn (bass) and Matt Thobe (drums) of the band Dolly Varden were really my education on the philosophy of being a truly musical rhythm section. They used to rehearse just the two of them, without the other band members, and concentrate on getting into a groove...the bass guitar player locking into what the drummer was doing with the bass drum. It seemed kind of obsessive and anal to me at the time, but I became aware of it myself while overdubbing bass parts on recordings, and realizing what a HUGE difference it makes. I played most of the bass on the Sound Theology album, and I really tried to be like Mike & Matt as I locked into those drum tracks. Ever since then, I've seen the light regarding what a rhythm section should be doing. Tonight there were some beautifully grooving moments with drummer Andy Hertel, and it was a blast.
This is precisely why I'm nearly brought to tears of delight and awe when I listen to the album "Seconds of Pleasure" by the band Rockpile. Here is a record where the bassist (Nick Lowe) and drummer (Terry Williams) achieve such profound groove perfection it nearly causes me to faint. I don't think I could've appreciated this stuff as much without realizing how talented and sublimely ROCKING the Rockpile rhythm section is.
So anyway, it was a good night of bass playing. The word on the street is that Michael Morris will take up another residency at the 400 Bar on a different night of the week, and that shall commence in the next month or two. I'll keep you informed...you owe it to yourself to come hear us play. Oh, and you owe it to yourself to click the above link and buy that Rockpile CD. Pure joy in audio form. Okay, orange juice, brush teeth, and bed.
Monday, February 26, 2007
The movie itself was very well done (especially for a first attempt at filmmaking), and it tackles a really complex issue. I've been struggling myself with the issue at hand, so it was quite challenging to see it addressed on the big screen. Here's the big question: What's the difference between kindness motivated by love, verses kindness motivated by virtue? The film features interviews with church leaders in Africa, as well as some heavy-hitters from America like Tony Campolo. The film confirms my own values regarding the issue, but at the same time, makes me feel like I don't really have a clue how to respond effectively. I guess I need to fester over it some more...
For my own entertainment, to challenge my own thinking, and to force myself to be confident in my own opinions, I like to listen to right-winger AM talk radio. And as a media observer, I know the conservative political talking points about this love/virtue problem. They are:
+ Action matters more than intention: regardless how somebody "feels on the inside" about something, the important thing is their virtuous behavior.
+ Liberals are accused of having "misplaced compassion," and doing things only based on "feelings" instead of more practical motivation.
Listen to Dennis Prager's radio show, and you'll see what I mean...and I can't help but think that the theme of this film would really make him squirm.
This film suggests the opposite: that all the virtuous behavior means nothing without love as the motivating force...and the movie quotes 1 Corinthians 13:
"1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing."
It's pretty powerful to see these Africans listing sobering statistics about poverty and AIDS in their communities, and then hear them quote this Bible passage and talk about the essential element of love that they need from their American benefactors. The initial reaction from the viewer is kinda like "Uhh...shouldn't you just be thankful for the help you're getting, without questioning the intentions of the giver...you're not exactly in a position to be too picky, here..."
This is messy stuff. Myself, I've gotten the creeps many-a-time hearing about American youth groups traveling down to Mexico to build houses, seeing the poverty, getting shocked, feeling a boost of self-esteem for lending a hand, and then spending a few days partying at Disneyland on their drive back home. Virtuous actions, I suppose, but a pretty twisted take on "love." Doing true service motivated by genuine love while not objectifying or dehumanizing the people you're trying to help is a tough tough tough thing to do. Well, anyway, this movie didn't bring me any closer to figuring out what to do, or how to do it, but it has certainly made me think and reconsider my own service work and motivation (or staggering lack thereof). Whew...I'm feeling pretty clueless about the whole thing.
To change the subject, and almost to illustrate my own brazen ego-mania in the face of disease and poverty: I'm very happy to say that my album Protestant Rock Ethic got reviewed in the current issue of The Christian Century magazine, right between reviews of the new Bruce Cockburn and Lloyd Cole albums. Here's the review, written by awesome rock journalist Lou Carlozo:
"From the groovy Lutheran rocker who brought us Sound Theology—a 52-song megaproject tied to the liturgical year—comes something nearly as ambitious: 42 songs on two CDs, combining originals with hymn interpretations, scripture settings and curriculum music. Though the collection is meant for church musicians, Rundman throws in some grand wrinkles—from the percolating banjo that drives "Texas Kyrie" (part of a larger "Heartland Liturgy") to the poppy, poignant C-key piano on "When Rising from the Bed of Death." Not all is airy and light, though; "Hey Hey Samuel" snarls with fuzzy guitars, while a live version of "Wide Awake" (from Sound Theology) sounds as if recorded in a top-down convertible streaking through a twilight-painted desert."
I'm really fighting the urge to delete this record review from my comments on virtue and love. I would prefer to appear virtuous to all you readers, but who am I kidding? Everybody sucks in this regard, so no need for me to pretend that I'm Mr. Holy. The Shadows of Virtue film had an interesting scene where the viewer is reminded that we all have our own gifts and talents, and we're called to use them as best we can to serve in everyday life, so I'm gambling that writing songs, performing, and making records is my main vocational outlet for sharing some love, and hoping I can have some virtue in there as well, without being just a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Tommy Womack has been busy these last few years as a side-man in Todd Snider's band, and I, too, have been enjoying the life as a supportive band member. Here's a photo of Matt Patrick (dobro), Micah Taylor (guitar), and me (mandolin) performing a couple months ago at Concordia College in St. Paul for Micah's CD release show. Micah and I will be gigging together again in a few days, this time playing in Todd Miller's band. We'll be doing a few songs at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis before the premiere of a new documentary film called Shadows of Virtue directed by filmmaker Chad Amour, and with soundtrack music by Mr. Miller himself. I also anticipate another fun gig this coming Tuesday night at the 400 Bar playing bass for the talented Michael Morris.
Finally, we're a few days into my favorite season of the church year, Lent. Our family went to Ash Wednesday services, but it was tough to get into the groove of seriousness and introspection since Paavo was pretty squirmy...we had the ashes imposed, and immediately I took Paavo back to the Fellowship Hall so I could still hear the sermon as we raced toy cars back and forth underneath the tables and chairs. Very reverent, I must say.
I've felt like I've needed a bit of a butt-kicking in my own life lately, so I'm joining my wife in what she's brilliantly calling FrugaLent. The discipline is: no spending money on anything except necessities. That's not too tough for me, EXCEPT my frequent recreational restaurant-patronizing. I LOVE eating out, so to stop that is gonna be a huge chore...especially as I drive Paavo around the city to attend pre-schools, etc. Am I supposed to make myself a ham sandwich at home, pack it in a lunch bag, and eat it in the hospital parking lot in downtown Minneapolis while sitting the car with the heater on? Not my idea of a soul-reviving lunch while Paavo goes to school. I already violated the FrugaLent rules...got a drive-thru cheeseburger and giant iced tea for myself today while Paavo and Svea napped in the back seat of the car. It was weak and lame of me I know, but man the food was good, I truly loved the caffeine-boost, and it was blissful to sit there with sleeping children, with time to myself as I listened to the Michael Medved show on AM talk radio. Yup, it took 36 hours for me to cheat on my spiritual discipline. Bah! I'm back on the wagon once again. I'm too much of a cheap-gracer to commit to all this self-imposed discipline. Good thing I don't smoke crack. Britney, I'm with you, girl. To quote myself, "I will follow out of love, 'cause there is nothing I can earn."
Speaking of my song "Ashes," I want to thank all the folks who've emailed me about the song during this past Ash Wednesday week, those people who are using it as their MySpace profile music (yes, "Ashes" is up on my MySpace site if you want to play the song on your page this season), and those folks at many churches around the country who are playing it in classes, sermons, devotions, etc. I really appreciate it! Read how Zion Lutheran in Des Moines is using it, and check out how "Faithfully Subversive" radio station WDBX in Illinois is playing the song next to Indigo Girls and Natalie Merchant.
Tommy, if you read this, have a great Lent, and thanks for the great songs. And to all, let us face our mortality.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A few years earlier Glen had toured with Chicago rock legends STYX as a replacement for singer/guitarist Tommy Shaw, so my editor knew that this story would have big interest to the local rock fans who read Showcase every month, and I was pleased to call attention to Glen's excellent solo career and his then-current album Palookaville. When I wrote the piece for Showcase it included Glen's career history and a review of the Palookaville CD, interspersed with quotes from my telephone interview. The whole thing got edited down quite a bit for publication in the magazine, so a ton of really nerdy and detailed info was omitted. I'm pleased to publish the interview transcribed in its entirety, seen here on this blog for the very first time, over a decade after the fact.
Glen was a great "first rockstar interview" for me to do...he was really enthusiastic, polite and appreciative. His attitude about his vocation as a songwriter/performer was realistic and refreshing, and it shaped a lot of my perspective about my own music career. Not long after this interview Glen had returned to Styx (this time with Tommy Shaw) as the bass player. In 2003 I executive-produced a Styx Tribute Album, and Glen was the one guy in the band who communicated with me directly and gave some feedback on the project. He's always been really cool, grounded, and positive. Check out the interview:
GLEN BURTNIK INTERVIEW: OCTOBER 17, 1996
JR: Sorry I missed your call last night. My wife and I went to see James McMurtry in concert. Do you know him?
GB: Yeah! Great songwriter!
JR: And a good guitar player, too.
GB: Is he? I saw him once and he was in a songwriters circle thing. So I didn’t really get to see a lot of the playing, as much as just listening to his lyrics. His Father’s a writer…it’s pretty interesting.
JR: So, that’s where I was when you called.
GB: Well, that’s a worthwhile night out.
JR: I’m glad I can talk to you! I really love the Palookaville record, and I hope when I write this piece we can really get a lot of people in Chicago interested.
GB: Well, I’m happy to hear that you like it.
JR: To start out, I’d like to tell you that you’ve nailed it with “Learning to Crawl.” What’s the story behind that?
GB: I wrote it with a guy named Darden Smith. Me and Darden kept bumping into each other on airplanes and at different shows when I was playing with John Waite. We did a number of acoustic shows where I’d play acoustic guitar and John Waite would sing. We did a couple of those where I’d bump into Darden. We’d always saw each other and spoke to each other, and we finally got down to writing a song. We wrote it in a little room in NYC with a piano in it. Actually it’s at Warner/Chapel music, and they have a grand piano in this one office that belonged to George Gershwin. So Darden was playing his acoustic guitar and I sat down at the piano. It really didn’t take that long…maybe it took two afternoons. I play gigs here regularly in the New York area, and when I brought it to my band it just flowed so well. It’s a very simple song, and it felt so good that I thought I should record it. I thought it would be a good opener for the record.
JR: It’s one of those songs where you hear it and you think “I’ve got to put this on about 5 more times.” You mentioned playing the piano…your keyboard playing is all over this project. I knew you played a little bit from the “Talking in Code” album and other things, but man, you really play the keyboards! Is that how you started instrumentally?
GB: No, but when I was a teenager there was this old lady that a girlfriend of mine knew, who was getting rid of her upright piano, so we went over there with a van and I got this free piano when I was a kid. I learned to play enough so I could write songs on it. I’m really not like a great pianist, but as a songwriter you get a lot of ideas and you want to hear things a certain way, and sometimes its just easier to do it yourself, instead of telling somebody who can really play how to play simply. Maybe it’s good to play simply. A lot of my favorite songwriters are very basic keyboard players…Randy Newman and people like that who are great writers and, actually, much better pianists than I, but know how to play simply. I’m glad you noticed!
JR: My little brother was over here right after I got your CD in the mail, and he listens to all these indie rock bands. The whole ethic of that music is poor performance, poor recording, but it’s still kinda fun. And with your album…he just never hears anything like that in his do-it-yourself scene. Your album is so amazingly performed, and recorded so clearly…
GB: That it’s a detriment?
JR: No, but it’s just way different than this indie rock alternative movement. We were listening to what the guitarist Jimmy Leahy was doing on your album…it was just incredible.
GB: yeah, he’s a great player.
JR: so, it’s nice to hear music that’s well-played and well-recorded in the 1990s.
GB: I actually have a son who is into that music. He brings a lot of indie rock home, and it’s like anything…there’s a lot of great acts, and a lot of bad acts, but I agree with you, there’s a real movement about non-slickness, and leaving the edges raw. I think that’s good to clean out the music business every so often. My concept in making this record, though, was that I wasn’t going to try to follow any trend, I wasn’t going to try to be anything I’m not. I’m not an 18 year old. And I just have some firm ideas about music, and I’ve been around in music long enough that I wanna hear ideas a little more developed, and I feel like Palookaville is an album for an older audience anyway. This is the first time I ever made a record without having to answer to anybody. Without having to deal with and A&R or a band leader or whatever. I was just trying to be true to who I am, and honest to my own tastes, so it kinda came out the way it did. I really love great musicianship, so when I’m lucky enough to have a guy like Jimmy Leahy in my band it’s like, hey, let this guy PLAY. Let him rip, as opposed to telling him to play dumber. You sound like you really listened closely to this record!
JR: Yeah, well, I like records. I noticed that you’re pushing this to AAA radio, which I think is perfect for what you’re doing, but it’s interesting listening to your music from the late 80s, when I first got into your music, and how it was geared, in my opinion, to AOR radio format. It seems like some of the things that move it away from the AOR crowd…I’m trying to describe how it sounds…if it’s more like power pop, or if your doing more chord-things, or using more unusual melodies. One song that really stands out that way is “Doesn’t Mean I Love You” where you’re using Chamberlains or other keyboards, and it sounds like some of my other favorite artists like Sam Phillips, Aimee Mann, and the Rembrandts.
GB: Love ‘em!
JR: They’re using these ‘60s instruments, and these unusual chords. Was that your goal there?
GB: I’ve been joking that after recording that song that I’m wanted by the Beatle police. I love those three acts…I think Aimee Mann is unbelievable, Sam Phillips’ records are great. I listen to a lot of that stuff, and I’m kind of in the same head as some of those people. I’m a little torn, too, though. I really listen to a broad spectrum of music…I listen to anything from jazz to Pete Seeger records, to electronic music, and I’m all over the place in my listening habits. When I recorded this record it was one of my fears that it was a little too much variety for most people, but then again, my ultimate template that I base everything on, or that I compare everything to, is the Beatle catalog. And I think of the Beatles as being very versatile and varied in their music, and I don’t think that any of my chord changes are any zanier as “I am the Walrus.” Those guys took it as far out as you can go and still be a pop band, and that’s really what I wanted to do with Palookaville. When I first started it I said if I could make a record that was something like The White Album by the Beatles, I’d be happy. I don’t know that I reached that height, but that might explain my adventurousness on some of the tracks. Yeah, and “Doesn’t Mean I Love You”…we kind of pushed the envelope there.
JR: You mention all these different genres that you enjoy playing…for example “Learning to Crawl” is pretty straight ahead, and “Doesn’t Mean I Love You”…has the Beatles thing, and I really love “Hold that thought” which is…soul or something?
GB: Completely, I know.
JR: And then there’s “Don’t Give Up” with all this Irish stuff going on.
GB: I still have a concept where I’ll make four albums…I have all these different things that I’m into. There’s a number of songs I’ve written that are kind of a celtic folk thing. And then there are songs I have written that are more classic pop. There are a lot of different things that I do, and I’d like to release them all separately as different projects. In any case, I like lots of music. I don’t want to write the same song over and over.
JR: I noticed that you wrote “Don’t Give Up on Your Love” with Fran Smith and I have his solo album…it’s frustrating when guys like you and him are making such fun music but you can’t go to the record store an buy it!
GB: Yeah, you know, what are you gonna do? I look at it like, my job is to make my music as good as it can be and that’s that. I can’t change the acceptance level, and I can’t change the music business. Those are things that are out of my power, so I just try my best to write good songs and record good records.
JR: I think you’re in a really good position, though, because you get to do a lot of really amazing things in the music community, and you get to hang out with and work with really talented people.
GB: Absolutely. I’ve been blessed. I’ve had a pretty doggone good thing so far…I’m not the wealthiest man on earth, but I’ve got a job in the music business, which is alright.
JR: I want to ask a little bit about your history. Before I got your press kit I didn’t realize that you were in Beatlemania. Was that the same one with Marshall Crenshaw?
GB: We were in the same band. He was John Lennon and I was Paul McCartney.I actually got out of it before Marshall did, after about a year. That’s how we met and we’re still good friends. I just played bass on a gig with him recently. After Beatlemania I did a record with Jan Hammer, the synth guy…I was the lead singer in his band.
JR: Did Beatlemania lead to you’re a&M contract?
GB: Not at all. Completely different world. After Jan Hammar there was an LA group called Helmetboy that I joined. We got a record deal, and put out a record that went nowhere. But I met in that process, the guy that produced that record got involved in my career a little bit. Years later after I’d gone back to New Jersey and played in bar bands, he helped me get a record deal with A&M records. In the meantime I’d gone back to NJ and I played in a band called Cats on a Smooth Surface which was the house band at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and every Sunday night Bruce Springsteen would come in and play with us. It was a real education playing in bars in New Jersey…it was a lot of cover songs, but nevertheless it was very educational. Then I got the deal with A&M Records, put out two records, got into a horrible legal nightmare, and then Styx called, which gave me the opportunity to get out of my horrible legal nightmare with A&M Records.
JR: About your a&m albums…I bought Heroes and Zeros right when it came out. I was with my cousin and we bought it ‘cause we thought the record cover was cool. We didn’t recognize you. But I remember looking on the album credits and seeing that Neal Schon and Bruce Hornsby were playing on there, and we thought, oh, this is pretty interesting! So we bought it, brought it home, put it on, and “Follow You” just blew our minds. We thought who is this guy! Then we picked up Talking in Code and worked our way backwards. I especially enjoyed Heroes and Zeros…that was almost 10 years ago. Do you approach things differently now?
GB: I’ve turned it down a bit, you know? I notice when I listen to music around the house I usually don’t listen as loudly as I once did. I’m a little more interested in the subtleties of music, rather than the over the top stuff. Like I said before…I’m not trying to capture any specific audience. I’m just trying to make a good record, and something that I won’t be embarrassed of in a few years. Although I have to say, I like H&Z a lot more because I really did take the reins a lot more at that point, and started battling with my label about what it was that I wanted to do. So I’m not embarrassed by H&Z, although it is an extremely 80s sounding record. It was of the time.
JR: Do you still play a lot of the songs live?
GB: Yeah, ‘cause a lot of people who come to see me want to hear “Abilene”, and “Follow You” and “Love Goes On” and that stuff. I recently played really long show, and I devoted one half of the show to really old music, so we did :”The Day Your Ship Gets Through” and all kinds of stuff of Heroes & Zeros and Talking In Code and the audience liked it. My following here in New Jersey is really into that stuff.
JR: is “Follow You” the song you’re most known for?
GB: Well, I can tell you which one has made me the most money: “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” (a big hit recorded by Patty Smyth).
JR: How did you end up on the Styx project?
GB: I had met JY at an industry convention and thru Al Cafera(?) who works at A&M, now he’s the president. We were introduced, we got along…he’s a nice guy, and years later I got a call on my answering machine from Dennis DeYoung and I pretty much knew instantly what it was gonna lead to. I knew Tommy Shaw cause we had both shared a manager, and I knew Tommy was not in the band at that time ‘cause of Damn Yankees. I could just tell…I figured “Oh boy, they’re looking for a replacement for Tommy.” It worked out OK. It was a good opportunity for me to get out of my legal nightmare that I had with A&M.
JR: Did you join them knowing it would be a short term thing?
GB: I didn’t know what it would be. I was very happy to get my songs placed on a Styx album. I’ve often said “I’ll do anything to get a cover…I’d even join the band.” In that case I was really pleased. After Heroes & Zeros I was getting ready for a third solo album, and A&M just kinda strung me along for awhile, so I was under the impression that there was a third album in the making and many of the my songs on the Styx album were songs that were written for my third solo album that never came out.
JR: I think your music really kicked some new energy into Styx.
GB: Well thanks, I guess that was my job. I really admire what Tommy Shaw did with the band, and I clearly had that role. JY was like the heavy metal guy, and Dennis was the ballad guy, the position I was in was to bridge those two worlds. That was my gig, and it was OK. It was a good exercise for me, and we had a fun tour. It was fun to tour the way big rock stars tour.
JR: I saw you play with Styx in Escanaba, MI, and I think it was the night one of your kids was born.
GB: Yeah, that’s right!
JR: You announced it on stage.
JR: I’d been a Styx fan since 1978 and to finally see them live was just great. I’ve seen Tommy Shaw with Damn Yankees, so I know what he does live, but to see YOU do it just blew me away.
GB: Well, I think Tommy does his songs a heck of a lot better than I do, but it was fun to sing some of those songs.
JR: How did two of your songs end up on their Greatest Hits project?
GB: When we finished Edge of the Century, we did a tour, and we were talking about another record. So I was writing music for another Styx album. At least one of those songs that Dennis really liked a lot, called “It takes love to make love.”
JR: Yeah, it sounds to me a bit like “the Day Your Ship Gets Through.”
GB: Well, same writer! That was slated to be another album song, and then when Tommy came back, Dennis called and asked if I had any songs that Tommy could work on or be a part of, so I sent them a number of songs. Kind of as a last minute thought I threw down a version of “Little Suzy” not thinking that Dennis would go for it, and of course that’s the one Dennis perked up for. So Dennis and Tommy made a few changes, and they put that song on their Greatest Hits album. It’s pretty weird.
JR: Yeah, I was wondering what you thought when you heard their version of it.
GB: Actually, they had sent me a copy of it all, and I was really busy and I didn’t have a chance to listen, and this Summer I was on vacation and I went to a restaurant and they were playing pumped in music, or DMX or something, and in any case, I realized as I was eating “wait a minute…this is “It takes love to make love” and I realized that’s its ME playing piano, and it’s ME singing the final note of the song in this high falsetto thing! And I said “Wait a minute, I’m ON this!”
JR: My gosh, so they left your tracks on there!
GB: That was a surprise. But when it comes to songwriting, I can be such a ho’. I’m so happy to get the cut, I’m happy that somebody is recording my music, I’m happy that a major label is releasing versions of songs that I wrote, and then I just move on to the next thing. I try not to be too critical, because 99% of the time I’m unhappy with the way other people record my songs. That has a lot to do with why I recorded Palookaville. I had this urge to do it my way. It’s just one of the pitfalls of being a songwriter who has songs cut by other people…I’ve already been spoiled by having the taste of controlling the my own music myself. Inevitably I always feel like “Nah, they didn’t do such a good job.” I feel that way often enough to know that it’s probably me, and not everybody else. So I try not to judge to harshly, and just move on to the next thing.
JR: As far as I can tell, your fan base must have exploded. I’m on this internet mailing list for Styx, and it’s seems like there are hundreds of people who have all your albums and road trip to your shows, and fly out to see you on the East Coast.
GB: Yeah I met a lot of sweet people through the whole Styx thing. It definitely opened up some doors, but conversely, it closed a lot of doors. I knew that when I joined Styx I was selling my soul, in terms of the snob rock critic element. I was probably the most un-hip thing to do, to join that band. For me, I’m a musician and that’s my job, so when somebody comes a long and offers me the opportunity to make music, I do it. In any case, I’ve since felt the crunch where if I’m introduced to a project, or if somebody’s looking for songs, and they ask “So what’s he written, what’s he done,” it’s certainly a detriment to say I was a member of Styx. The good thing is that I’ve met a lot of nice people that were Styx fans who might not of heard of me otherwise, so I’d like to concentrate on the positive instead of the negative.
JR: Right after the Styx project was done, is that when you were doing the Slaves of New Brunswick record?
GB: It was actually during Styx. It was the weirdest thing. I was in Chicago staying in an apartment working on the Styx album, and at night I would go back to my apartment and start writing songs about my home. I had to be 1000 miles away to do it, but I pretty much wrote an album of songs about New Brunswick, where I grew up.
JR: The first two cuts of that album are just great. That must have been fun to make a record with those local people.
GB: Yeah, it was an extremely zany idea, and I’m still amazed to this day that we actually did it.
JR: I noticed that the Slaves album appears on the cover of the Palookaville album. Did the Slaves album lead to your solo album in any way?
GB: No…I was pretty blown away to the reaction to the Slaves album.
JR: More than you expected?
GB: Absolutely. I thought, here’s a record that nobody will have any reference to. Maybe 1000 people in New Brunswick that would relate to it, but otherwise, who would be interested in an album about New Brunswick, New Jersey? But sometimes the universal comes out of the local. You talk about something really small, but there’s a bigger picture there that people can relate to. It wasn’t a giant hit record, but it was a great exercise.
JR: What was the first song you wrote that got covered by somebody else?
GB: I think it was a Christmas rap song recorded by Monyaga called “Got the beat for Christmas.” That’s a really good question, and nobody’s ever asked me that before. How unusual is that? Me writing a Christmas rap song, completely goofy, completely nutty, and I think that was it. An actual release…it was on A&M Records. Go figure.
JR: That’s what you’re known for these days…you’re always showing up on other people’s albums as a songwriter.
GB: Well you know, just trying to make a living.
JR: Do you see your self more as a songwriter, than a recording artist or performer?
GB: Part of the reason why I made Palookaville was I missed it. I felt like I had started something I never got a chance to finish. It had a lot to do with my situation at A&M Records, when I was very psyched to make a 3rd album and I was convinced that it was gonna be my main piece of work, and then the plug got pulled. I guess there was that sense of closure or something. Then I discovered that I could make a decent living writing songs for others, and basically, necessity is the mother of invention for me. I really wasn’t making enough money as an artist, but then as a songwriter I was a lot more successful. And ultimately you get to a point where you have to make choices about your life, especially when you’re married and you have kids and stuff. So I started concentrating more on the path of least resistance.
JR: Describe the first time you heard one of your own songs on the radio.
GB: Oh man, it was just unbelievable. And it’s something that never goes away. No matter times I have records out, or records are cut of mine, it’s just absolutely thrilling, moving…it’s not actually enjoying the music as much…I still like hearing other songs on the radio in anther way, musically. I fall in love with other records, and I’m more excited about hearing those on the radio. But personally, it’s just such a nice pat on the back, and vindication that all the work and all the crap you have to go through is worth it, cause a lot of strangers are getting to hear your songs. It’s a really amazing thing to take in…you just feel on top of the world.
JR: Did that first happen with your solo albums?
GB: No, the first time it happened was…when I was in Beatlemania with Marshall Crenshaw, me and Marshall put out a single and we called ourselves The Sides, and we went in the studio and cut two songs and pressed ‘em up. It was a song called “I hate disco music.” The other side of it was called “Ooka Shala Bango.” So anyway, we released this record. I came home from Beatlemania, and I was driving in my car one night, going to a bar, and I turned on the radio to the local college station here in New Brunswick, and they were playing “I hate disco music,” and that was the first time I heard it. Another zany first for me. It was a big thing…it was unfathomable. I’ll tell you, a really great thing about it, when you don’t know it’s gonna get played and you’re caught off guard…that’s really fun. Probably one of the great thrills about it. It’s different if it’s like “At 6 o’clock they’re gonna play my new record.” But when you don’t expect it, that’s really a thrill. It’s like 10 times more exciting when you don’t expect it.
JR: How did the “C” get dropped from your last name?
GB: I don’t even have a good explanation for it. I just felt like it. Actually, the best I can tell you is that one time there was an article in the newspaper, and that’s how they spelled my name accidentally, and I looked at it and thought it was kinda cool.
JR: Is it Czechoslovakian or something?
GB: The name Burtnik…it’s hard for me to track down my lineage, but my father’s father came from Russian Jews.
JR: It sounds eastern European.
GB: That’s how I feel about it…kind of Eastern European, probably Jewish. So I dropped the “C,” so it’s a little quicker to sign checks.
JR: Do you have any stories or memories about Chicago that I can put in the paper?
GB: I love Chicago. I lived in a little apartment there and I loved it. I used to walk all over town ‘cause I was exercising a lot at the time. I used to spend hours walking around town. I bought a beautiful Elvis bust that I have in my window…I bought it at an Italian dry cleaners. I forget where it was. He’s a dry cleaner but he sells Marilyn Monroe velvet paintings and Elvis busts. I love Chicago! How close is Champaign?
JR: Close…about 2 hours maybe.
GB: WEBX in Champaign is playing it heavy.
JR: Which is your single?
GB: We never picked one. We thought we’d just send it out there and see who is playing what. I would say most stations are playing “Learning to crawl.” It’s probably the closest thing to a first single. In AAA radio there are a lot of different types of stations that fall into that category. There are some very soft stations, and they’re playing “Watching the World Go By” and “Spirit of a Boy” so it’s unusual. But my second choice would be “Doesn’t Mean I Love You.”
JR: Anything else that the readers of this paper need to know?
GB: Uh…my hair is really short now.
JR: How can people buy your disc?
GB: Good question. They could probably contact War Bride Music and that’s the best way to do it. I think $15.50 with shipping, and they make the check out to War Bride.
JR: Thanks for talking to me, Glen! It’s really cool, after listening to your music for so long.
GB: It’s really great to talk to you, and you obviously paid close attention to the music, and that’s very cool. It makes it fun for me, too! Do me a favor…send me a copy of this, okay?
JR: When it’s published I’ll send a couple copies of the paper out to you. Thanks a lot, Glen!
Here's the newest thing: This photo is me posing with my very own Stray Eggplant...a lovely purple ceramic veggie created by Iowa artist Laura Gentry. Laura is one of the four friendly folks from my college days with whom I still cross paths (yes, I only went to college for one semester back in 1991...four months at Luther College in Decorah, IA). Laura makes eggplants for people, inscribed with personalized messages. Mine says "beige slacks," referring to the song "Beige Slacks" that I wrote with my cousin Bruce years ago (that song appears on the Salt Lady Records: Extra Credit CD sampler). The new owners of the eggplants send photos and commentary back to Laura, who posts all the info on her Stray Eggplant Blog, where you can see another shot of me and read more details about this unusual mass-art experience. AND you can see pix and read stories of dozens of other folks who have been granted their own personalized eggplant. What a brilliant way to get original and thought-provoking art out to the world! Great work, Laura Gentry...you're an inspiration.
I also get the pleasure of hanging out regularly with my favorite artist, Kelly Newcomer, who just happens to live here in Minneapolis. Dawn and I have been fans and patrons of Kelly for a loooong time. Not only do we have quite a few paintings of hers in our home, I've also utilized her skills as a package designer for some of my albums, including the aforementioned Extra Credit CD sampler, Protestant Rock Ethic, as well as the masterpiece Styx Tribute Album. The painting pictured here is Floating Electronic Friends...I think I bought it in honor of Dawn's completed PhD program. It's hanging here in our living room right now. I love the idea of using an ancient medium (paint on canvas) to address modern themes (technology, robots, Japanese pop culture, video games). Kelly rocks.
Walter Salas-Humara has been an inspiration to me for two decades. He, of course, is the leader of legendary New York City indie rock band The Silos, and also the brilliant producer for my own Public Library album. I think Walter planned on being a visual artist as his "real job" way back in the early '80s, but when his music career took off, he put the visual stuff on the back burner. I'm excited to see that he's getting back into 2-D art...and he's really cranking out a ton of paintings of dogs (one pictured here), available from waltersdogs.com. I like these pups, and I'm gonna buy one.
My little brother Tim Rundman, too, has been cranking out the art lately. He does stream-of-consciousness line drawings using markers on paper and the results are very colorful and beautiful. The often have a subtle native-American (or something like that) look to them. Here's a scan of a neat little bear that Tim gave to his nephew Paavo.
Finally, thought I'd offer a glimpse into one of my only recent attempts at visual art. Way back in the Summer of 2003 I was playing music at Valparaiso University. While I was there I went to an art seminar hosted by the campus Pastor, Jim Wetzstein, who is a visual artist himself. He led the group in a study of iconography, and talked about how pictures and images have been a very important way for people to deepen their faith, focus in prayer, etc. Then he guided us thorough the process of making our very own personal icon...a piece of visual art to represent the prayer concerns of our own lives. We were supposed to pick one main theme, and create an image around it, but I had so many issues banging around in my brain that I made my icon with multiple images.
The creation of this icon was a wonderful exercise, and after about 20 minutes I was done...and I was thrilled with the results! I used skinny and fat permanent markers on a board covered in white paint. I did the whole thing off the top of my head, no planning, no intentional designing...just moving the marker on the wood. And no sketching ahead of time...just ink right on the surface. Amazingly, I had no goof ups or scribbles.
This icon is currently hanging in our bathroom, and whenever I brush my teeth I can see it, and I'm reminded to offer up some prayers for the issues represented there. In the years since I drew it, the little fetus (bottom row, second from left) has been born (Paavo), and Svea has joined our family as well, and the house (third row, third from left) has been sold and we live in a different house, but all the other stuff is still very current for me. So Jim was right, icons can be a very effective tool for prayer and spiritual awareness.
So anyway, there's some art for you. Right now in our kitchen, Dawn has a canvas that's about half painted. She's got the art bug, too. Maybe I'll be like Ronnie Wood or John Mellencamp and get into a painting phase...hmmm...
Monday, February 19, 2007
Here's a shot of the audience at my Saturday night concert, held at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Medford, WI. Initially I was gonna play it solo, but when I heard that the pre-show buzz around town was really buzzin', I invited my skilled rhythm section to join me: John Kerns (bass, lap steel) and Troy Alexander (drums) drove over from the Twin Cities and made me sound lovely and rocking, as they always do. It was a great evening, and I was thrilled to see those 165 people in the crowd.
My childhood pal Peter Warmanen is Pastor at the church there, and he's been a huge supporter of me and my music since I was a teenage rockstar-wannabe. In fact, he was telling me that he is one of the few folks on earth (maybe 75 or so) who owns my VERY first available recording, a 1989-era cassette single of my high school "class song," as well as the B-side "No More Walls"! Anyway, Pete is a fine guitar player and vocalizer, so he joined the band on a few tunes...it was fun to have a ferocious double-guitar attack.
In this photo you can see, tilted up towards me, John Kerns' Fender Vibro-lux amp that I'm using for my electric guitar. That thing sounded SO great...all night long I was reminded of John Hiatt's excellent song "Memphis in the Meantime" where he sings "right now I need a Telecaster through a Vibro-lux turned up to 10." Amen, Mr. Hiatt. What a sound!
Here is a rough approximation of our Saturday night set-list (I changed the order all around, and can't quite remember how we did it), with some comments:
NARTHEX: I love to play this one every time, although most audiences seem indifferent.
WORKIN' MY COMMITTEE: particularly rocking version, I must say
CHURCH DIRECTORY: Kerns and Troy really make this one sizzle...we play it heavy and laid-back...not exactly slow, just that nice stomp tempo.
LIFT EV'RY VOICE AND SING: the African-American national anthem, with absolutely chilling lyrics, and soaring melody. First time I tried it with a rock band, and it really worked!
ASHES: I've been neglecting this one lately, but man, it it felt good to play it
GLORY IN THE HIGHEST: guest musician Pete on acoustic guitar
HEY HEY SAMUEL: Pete on guitar again, on what might have been the most awesome and fantastic performance of this song so far.
COLD, BUT I DON'T MIND: this one was so beautiful when we played it in December that I wanted to do it again, but this time it didn't really work for me. Wrong crowd/venue for it.
BRIGHT FUNERAL: I got knocked out of the zone at this point in the show for some reason...Kerns played nice lap steel but I sang the 2nd verse first, and the 1st verse second and got so messed up I didn't know what was going on. Sorry! Oh well, we faked it, and it was okay.
WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN: Did this one 'cause it was a Mardi Gras concert, and I wanted to have some kind of New Orleans vibe. Kerns tore it up on lap steel...very fun.
NO MORE WALLS: considering this is the first song I ever wrote by myself (back in 11th grade) I still like to play it, and it really smokes with a full band. Kerns and Troy always request that we play it, and having Pete on acoustic guitar and harmony vox was a huge plus. I got to try it on electric guitar, which is very rare...I found myself duplicating the sweet guitar solo that Mark Balletto plays on the "Best of the 20th Century" recorded version of this song.
Got up on Sunday morning to play the Heartland Liturgy with the folks at St. Paul's. Highlights included guitar versions of the crazy seasonal hymns "O Wondrous Type O Vision Fair" (I've recorded this one with its other set of lyrics "Oh Love How Deep") as well as my current favorite "Oh Morning Star How Fair and Bright." It was also quite nice to play my arrangement of "The Great Thanksgiving/Holy Holy Holy" with Pete singing the leader's part, and me singing with the congregation. Ah, nerdy fun with liturgical music! Thanks to the folks at St. Paul's in Medford, WI for having me as your musical guest and for utilizing my music!
Drove home to Minnesota in the afternoon while listening to This is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw. What a record! What chord changes! What snakey melodies and riffy guitar parts!
After dropping Dawn, Paavo, and Svea off at home, I quickly zipped down to Burnsville, MN to perform at a concert in support of The Amazing Change, a movement to end slavery around the world. The event featured multiple bands including Lutheran folk-legend Handt Hanson, acoustic songwriters Paul Dean and Heatherlyn, brother duo Swen & Dean, acoustic-pop band Fuller Still, and me with my band. I got to wrap up the concert with a few songs. We played:
ASHES: three days 'til the imposition
LIFT EV'RY VOICE AND SING: full band again, second night in a row, and equally powerful
I WANT JESUS TO WALK WITH ME: like I said tonight, "if this song could talk, oh the tales it could tell..."
NO MORE WALLS: this old tune surfaces again, with special guest Fuller Still players Justin Rimbo on acoustic guitar and Gail Brecht on piano
The tone of the evening was pretty serious, due to the cause we were focused on, but the music was nice and varied. Occasionally I'll play at an event with Swen, and it's always a bit surreal because I remember so vividly seeing him perform when I was a high school kid. Little did I know back then that 20 years later we'd be singing "Amazing Grace" together in Burnsville, MN on a cold Sunday night.
I have a strange yet wonderful and satisfying music career. I discovered a bit of career encouragement tonight: it's an interview with legendary rock producer Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, as well as the Jayhawks, and Kansas!). Here's a couple quotes from Ezrin:
"The days of hit records are over,"" he said. "It’s about being something real. . . people need to change their goals in order to survive as entertainers....
Sometimes the weirdness of my music career causes me to second-guess the whole thing...it's just missing the glamour and hip-factor that drives so much of showbiz. But when I read what Ezrin says (he should know, for Pete's sake), and when I see Britney Spears with a shaved head I am reminded that glamour and fame and hipness do not a happy person make. Maybe Bob Ezrin should produce the next Britney Spears record. Now THAT would be something to hear!
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Thanks also to the media outlets who are now beginning to offer some coverage for my Protestant Rock Ethic album! There's a nice little story in the current issue of Metro Lutheran magazine here in Minnesota, and a full review of the album appeared in a recent issue of the national publication, Christian Musician magazine:
Rundman has made truly worthwhile pop-rock records for over a decade now. Always possessing an ability to merge classic rock tendencies with a keen sense for pop song hooks, Rundman has created some of the most overlooked albums of American music in the last few years, including his masterwork Sound Theology: a 2 disc epic that collects 52 songs to commemorate each week of the liturgical calendar. Protestant Rock Ethic is another two-disc offering that draws from Rundman’s vibrant, Lutheran background and gathers songs that he has written for a variety of settings, including liturgical, Sunday school classroom and youth group conventions. What all songs have in common is a dedication to theological accuracy and a desire to make these somewhat antiquated stories and settings accessible to a specified target audience. Mostly performed in a folk/bluegrass setting, with lots of violin and acoustic guitar, Rundman adds variety with the winsome pop-rocker “I Got a Problem”, the beautiful guitar and vocal, folk duet arrangement of the Christmas madrigal, “Lo How a Rose E’r Blooming” (with Beki Hemingway) and a stab at hip hop called “Running the Race”, which features rapper Agape. While never meeting the slick production standards of Christian Radio fare, Protestant Rock Ethic offers something much more potent: authenticity and a real desire to connect with those who have ears to hear.
Thanks to writer Shaun McLaughlin for providing this review! I'm particularly glad he liked "I Got A Problem" which is sort of the odd-song-out on that album.
I'm always thrilled and appreciative whenever I get radio play or press coverage. When I first started writing and performing songs, I dreamed of someday getting the chance for the general public to hear and read about the music. Now that it actually happens, I can't quite believe it!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Saturday was spent on campus at Augustana College. I was the guest musician at an event for 150 young people from SoDak, Iowa, and Minnesota. Got to play a concert for them on Saturday night...here's a picture of my view from the stage. They were a good crowd, and they had great taste in cover tunes...right when I got up on stage some kid yelled "Rolling Stones!" so I began my show with a cover of the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter." Then the same kid yelled "CCR!" so I played "Proud Mary." It was fun. During the show I took an audience poll: MySpace vs. Facebook. Facebook won by a landslide, which really surprised me. Those crazy kids these days!
After the gig at Augie I got on the road around 10PM and drove 30 miles South to a town called Canton, SD. As I zipped across farm fields with blustery snow drifting over the highway I listened to the most recent album by Jim White, which has the wonderful title Drill a Hole in that Substrate and Tell Me What you See. Featuring such brilliant songs like "Static on the Radio" and "If Jesus Drove a Motorhome" this Jim White album allowed me a rare moment: it was one of those divine glimpses where my personal energy level, the outdoor environment, my visual surroundings, and the music in the background all locked in together in perfect appropriateness, unity, and satisfaction. I tell you, I would've been happy to just keep driving for 10 more hours in that car, on those dark empty farm roads, with Jim's music on. In my immediate reality, everything was perfect. Does anybody else have those moments, or is it just me?
I arrived in the small small town of Canton, where I stayed at the one place in town that provides lodging: the Gateway Motel. This place was clean and comfy, but man, it was right out of 1955. Check out that neon! Thankfully, they had VH1 on their cable TV, so I settled into my cozy little bed for a couple hours of the "Super-Group" marathon. This is the reality show were a bunch of non-connected rock musicians are assembled, and in 12 days they have to form a new band, write songs, rehearse, and prepare for a big performance. I hadn't seen this show before, but I totally loved it. I failed to see the musical value in lead singer Sebastian Bach (of Skid Row fame), but Ted Nugent was amazingly likable, and almost honorable in his own special carnivorous way. Their music was lousy, but their TV show was great.
Got up on Sunday morning and played my own Heartland Liturgy with the backing of the local country-ish band there at Canton Lutheran Church. It was fun to do the tunes with a drummer, upright bassist, additional guitarist, pianist, and multiple harmony singers. The whole place smiled, sang, and got into it. I got to be the preacher too...the lesson of the day was The Beatitudes, so my sermon checked out the contrast between "blessed are the poor" and the fact that my motel TV was flooded with coverage of Anna Nicole Smith, and how last week's Newsweek magazine had Paris Hilton on the cover. We're obsessed with money, fame, glory, and excess in this country, so I'm thankful that when I go to church on Sunday I'm given a different way to see the world. After church I packed up the rental car and headed for home. Had to stop for a nap at a rest area on I-90 'cause I was so sleepy, but I made it home a-okay.
Thanks to the fine folks in South Dakota for welcoming me, singing along on the Heartland Liturgy, and requesting Rolling Stones songs at my concert; and thanks to Jim White for recording the Drill a Hole album for me to enjoy. I'm always thankful and appreciative of my vocation as a travelling musician/songwriter/performer, but this weekend was especially sweet and fulfilling. I won't take any of it for granted. Amen.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
This past week was major (no pun intended) in my life as a keyboard player. It has been eight years since I had an acoustic piano in my home, and both Dawn and I agree that we've really missed having one. When we first lived in Chicago we had my Grandpa's old upright, but when we moved to a little condo the it was sent back to Upper Michigan, leaving us pianoless. A few months ago Dawn and I saw an ad for Carlson's Piano World so we cruised out to their warehouse to check out the scene. There I discovered a lovely little $99 (yes, that's the correct price!) acoustic Wurlitzer from 1959 that I fell in love with, but chose not to buy 'cause I didn't want to mess with delivery charges, etc. But ever since that day, the memory of the piano has been haunting me. My parents were in town this past weekend, driving in my Dad's minivan, so I knew I had the option of picking up the piano myself in the van and avoiding the delivery costs, and I thought "If that piano is still at the warehouse, I'll buy it." Sure enough, it was still there, in its $99 glory, and I laid my money down.
On Saturday's FREEZING cold morning, my Dad, my brother Tim, and I picked up the piano and stuffed it in the minivan. Of course, most pianos would never fit in a minivan, but this little baby is a rare six-octave model...missing eight keys on the high end and eight keys on the low end, resulting in a very narrow width, as well as a short height. It slid very nicely into the van and we took it home. Since it's so small, it also wasn't too difficult for us to carry into the house and down the steps to my studio, where it now sits, prepared for future appearances on a variety of recording projects! For their trouble, I paid my Dad and brother by taking them to lunch at Chipotle. The instrument still needs to be tuned (right now the whole thing is about a quarter-step sharp), but soon she'll be ready to rock. I'm thrilled to have a REAL piano in my studio. Maybe my next album will be piano-based. Hmmm...
In other studio news, I had the very rare opportunity these last few days to work on some unfinished recordings. Before I drove to the 400 Bar for the Michael Morris gig, I took a couple hours to finish vocals on some songs that have been languishing in the hopper for literally years and years and years.
One song is a minor key rock-band tune that I initially recorded way back in Fall of 1999 for inclusion on the Sound Theology album. I had played electric guitar while my pal Matt Thobe of the Chicago band Dolly Varden played drums. This recording was intended to be the song "Are You Speaking Through The Radio" but after I recorded it, I felt like the groove and vibe were a bit too close to a Sheryl Crow song, "My Favorite Mistake." So I scrapped the whole idea and re-set the "Are You Speaking..." lyrics to an entirely new set of chords, etc., which became the version on the album. The guitar/drums tracks I had recorded with Matt sat unused for years until I wrote a whole new set of lyrics and melody for them (in an un-Sheryl Crow fashion)....it was going to be a song called "My World is a Blur Tonight," another tune about the hassles of corrective lenses and nearsightedness. For years I intended to sing the vocals for this song, but I never got around to it, and as time went on I got less interested in the "Blur" lyrics. Finally, last Fall I had a lyrical brainstorm and wrote a brand new set of lyrics for that music, this time entitled "Daniel and Peter and Thomas." This was the lyric I sang today, and I'm thrilled with the result. It was eight years in the making! Now I've got to find some way/reason to release this song!
Also, I did an additional harmony part on an acoustic demo I made a few years ago called "I'm a Liar." The demo was pretty cool as it was (two vocals, two guitars) but it needed a third vocal just to wrap everything up. After I first made this initial demo I recorded a very slick full-band version of "I'm a Liar" in about 2005 that remains unreleased...it features the viola playing of my friend (and Svea's new Godmother) Anne Lindell, as well as some smokin' lap steel guitar courtesy of Scott Malchow. Who knows when the full-band version will come out, but I might leak the acoustic demo on my webpage sometime in the next couple months.
It felt great to finish those two songs that have been clogging my creative system for so long. I've got a stack of other unfinished tunes I'm gonna keep banging away at...and I'll probably end up banging away at my new piano for a few of 'em! I suppose in reality I'm mostly a guitarist, but since I started out on piano way back in 4th Grade, in my heart I'll always be a keyboard player.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Some of the most musically inspiring shows I've ever seen occured last year when I played a series of gigs with Zack, Brandon, and drummer Charlie Paxson. I knew Zack from a shared bill we played in Columbus, OH last Spring with Tom Freund. When I saw that Zack and friends were gonna be on a Summer tour through Texas at the same time as me, we arranged a couple shows together there, as well as my big birthday show in Minneapolis later in July.
JULY 10: Our first gig was at The Red Room in San Antonio, and when I first heard these guys play together I about fainted with awe. Zack played guitar, Charlie played drums, and Brandon played Wurlitzer electric piano AND synth bass, everybody sang, and they rocked, rocked, grooved, and rocked again. I was lucky to have my friend George Baum (of the band Lost And Found) with me playing keys that night, and I'll always remember our super-group jam session on Annie Lennox's song "Little Bird" featuring me on guitar, Zack on saxophone, Charlie on drums, Brandon on synth bass, and George on Wurlitzer. It was a thrill. That night I heard Brandon Rogers do a few of his own tunes, and his song "Joy" was that, indeed (in fact that song is still rocking on my iPod). Pure pop deliciousness with Stevie Wonder soul...it's no wonder this guy had spent the previous years singing backup for Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake...truly inspired and gifted.
JULY 11: The next night I joined Zack, Brandon, and Charlie again for a show up in Austin, TX, at a venue called Red Eyed Fly. My friend Troy Loken was there in the audience, and pals Kjel & Amy Alkire, Nate Houge, and Marty Marty stopped in at the gig on their drive from the far North. By this time, Zack and Brandon had totally picked up on the double-high harmony parts on my song "Librarian" and they joined me on stage to sing it. Goose bumps abound.
JULY 24: Their tour takes them up to Minnesota where we gigged together at the mighty 400. This time my whole band was present, and Brandon and Zack rocked "Librarian" with me once more. A great way for me to celebrate my birthday!
For any of you blessed enough to witness any of those shows, you'll agree with me that there was something absolutely magical and heart-stopping about the voice, musicianship, and charisma of Brandon Rogers. So I was not surprised this afternoon to pick up the purple Life section of the USA Today newspaper and read about how someone named Brandon Rogers had wowed the judges this week on American Idol (which I haven't been watching this season, sorry to say).
This evening I sniffed around the internet, and sure enough, it was the same Brandon! Here's a little screen cap of his audition. According to the Reality TV Magazine website, here's what happened when Brandon met Randy, Paula, Simon, and Olivia Newton-John:
Brandon Rogers is twenty-eight years old and is from North Hollywood, California. Brandon has been a back-up singer for Anastasia and Christina Aguilera. For his American Idol Los Angeles audition, Brandon Rogers sang “Always On My Mind.” After Brandon’s audition, Paula Abdul applauded. Simon Cowell said “I think out of everyone we’ve seen today this is by far the best audition. I say that because for the first time today I think I can see this guy making the finals. And you have a likeability about you, which is something you and I share.”Guest judge Olivia Newton-John said “I felt you in my heart and that’s how I can tell…beautiful.” All four judges put Brandon Rogers through to Hollywood. After Brandon left the audition area, Olivia Newton-John said “He’s excellent. I haven’t seen anyone as good as him yet.”
Watch Brandon's audition on YouTube by clicking here!
Well, I'm thrilled that Brandon auditioned for "Idol." There have been a few people who I've met and played music with who seemed worthy of huge mainstream fame and success, but I must say I've NEVER met anybody with more natural charm and blazing talent than this guy. Congrats, Brandon, and I'll be rooting for you to destroy the competition on "American Idol." And anytime you wanna sing harmony on "Librarian" you're always welcome!