At the dawn of this blog-site, I told myself and you my precious readers that I was documenting my musical progress and pursuits in order to hold myself accountable to my stated goal of making music my livelihood. I knew that I was going to make a living with music— I simply gave myself no other choice— and publicizing my goal on this blog was a way to further solidify that destiny. What I didn’t know was what exactly my musical work would look like, and whether I would be really really poor or just poor.

Lo and behold, all fall and winter I have indeed been getting plenty of musical work to keep myself afloat. Furthermore, it seems to be getting easier and easier for me to find new and steady work (yesterday alone I was offered three gigs). But as it turns out, actually playing, practicing, and working on music seriously cuts into my blogging time. My life lately has been full of subject matter for this blog (quick generic summation: playing with six different bands, practicing jazz and classical guitar, teaching four guitar students, booking and performing numerous shows, attending countless rehearsals, writing and recording original music, applying for grants and music contests, etc.); yet the more subject matter I create, the less time I have to write about it. I am certainly much more comfortable with this catch-22 than the converse (i.e. me blogging about music so much that I rarely actually play music), however I do still feel that this blog is an important cornerstone of my musical life.

Socrates allegedly said that “the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being” (or something like that). I’m not going to unpack all my thoughts about that quote because this isn’t a philosophy blog (this is). Suffice it to say that I think that guy Socrates (and/or Plato) was on to something, and I think that taking time to examine, reflect upon, and reveal my musical endeavors and ambitions does in fact make my musical life more worthwhile.

Thus, I am here rededicating myself to this blog. I am not quite as ambitious as my first go-around when I said I would blog like every weekday (what?! that’s like professional bloggers status). Instead, I’m aiming for two short blog posts a week revealing what I am currently planning for, working on, and thinking about in music. If you are reading this now, please continue to check back in on my progress as I attempt to fulfill my goals of completing my 10,000 hours to mastery, getting paid for original compositions, becoming the most famous Lucas Murray on the internet (more famous than this one), and continuing to stay comfortably poor by playing music. Peace.

I’ve been putting off this blog post for far too long… Even now, as I am beginning to write it, I’m also playing a TED talk in the background (the one about how body posture influences how we feel about ourselves), grasping at any last shred of distraction and procrastination. Ok, I’m turning it off— I know I can’t write and listen at the same time.

If you’ve stumbled upon my blog for the first time, you should know that I had tasked myself with documenting my shows, activities, and experiences with Little Rock Indie Rock mainstay The See during our two and a half week tour around the country (a component task of the overarching purpose for this blog). For the first two weeks, I did well to post my reflections every couple of days. Then, suddenly, all the loud shows, late nights, long drives, and deficient food caught up with me, and I didn’t have enough fumes to spare for a blog post— I reserved my energy for the stage.

Thus, having not posted anything in over a week, I’d like to give some quick thoughts about the final shows of our tour.

Thursday July 11, Kansas:
This was actually the one day of the tour which we did not have a show. We played in Kansas City the night before and were playing in Denver the next night so we decided to drive halfway to Denver, find a hotel in the middle of Kansas, and relax for the evening. We first stopped in Salina for a delicious hamburger lunch at the famous Cozy Inn (voted best burger in Kansas!) and a game of catch at a local high-school football field before arriving in Hays and checking in to the Ramada Inn. We enjoyed the indoor pool, water-slide, and hot-tub, and then wandered in to the hotel bar to discover that they had a stage… We asked the bartender if we could play a show there that night and she was open to it. Three of us wanted to do it (we wouldn’t be paid— simply the novelty of it was very appealing), but one of us (you know who you are) was adamant about having the night off. We ended up going to see the movie Pacific Rim instead. This proved to be possibly the worst mistake of the tour. Now I know Pacific Rim is actually getting a lot of good reviews from a number of sources, which is why I want to go on record and say that it as actually a terrible film, filled with forced dialogue, racial stereotypes, rehashed movie cliches, plot and logic holes, and mediocre CGI action sequences. Instead of playing rock and roll at a random hotel in the middle of Kansas (and having an awesome story to tell), we saw a dumb movie (which I want to point out, I told my bandmates would be bad) that we could have just as easily seen in Little Rock.

Ok, that’s as negative as I’m going to get in this post. On to better things…

Friday July 12, Denver:
Denver was the site of the first show of this incarnation of The See (bass-man Jason Tedford and I joined the band in March and played at Denver’s Walnut Room in April). It was nice to return to what is becoming a home away from home—we have a number of friends living there (who kindly let us stay at their homes) and now three different venues at which we have performed. This night we were part of a five band bill at a club called Herman’s Hideaway. We were tacked on to this show only a week before, so we performed at the very beginning of the set, kicking things off at 7:00pm. Surprisingly, people began steadily trickling in at this early hour and by the time we finished, there was a decent number of people who had heard us play (albeit, many were in the other bands). We sold some CD’s and met some cool Denvernians; yet most importantly, we impressed the sound guy, bartenders, and other bands enough for them to tell us that they definitely want to have us back. Making a good impression on the people most influential in booking shows was a primary purpose of every show, and we achieved it not only with our stage performance, but just as much by showing up on time, having efficient sound checks, being friendly and cordial, and setting up/tearing down our equipment as quickly as possible (at Herman’s we had all of our amps, pedal boards, guitars, and drums packed up and offstage in only seven minutes). We didn’t expect to make a ton of money or achieve instant fame on this one tour (our expectations were met), yet we do hope that by creating a network of helpful musicians and club-owners in other cities, we will be able to draw bigger audiences and receive more payment for future shows.

Saturday July 13, still in Denver:
Case in point: We played this night at Denver’s Merchant’s Mile-High Saloon, one of the two stops on our tour at which we had previously performed. Having impressed the sound guy and bartenders when we played there in April, the good folks at Merchant’s did a great job of promoting this show. This was perhaps the most well attended, high-energy show of our tour— absolutely the one that made me feel most like a rock star— the audience was clapping, dancing, yelling, and some even singing along to our songs. Feeding off of this energy, we played with passion and joy, savoring the moment, enjoying the zone. My single favorite moment of tour happened onstage during this show: at a particularly heavy moment in a song called Yul Brynner, Joe slammed-strummed his guitar with the force of Thor’s hammer, breaking a guitar string and shaking his guitar out of tune. There was a sudden quiet moment coming up of Joe singularly singing and strumming his guitar so he gave me a wordless look, we both nodded at each other, and when the time came, I played his guitar part as he sang and tuned his remaining strings. The song could have easily been derailed by the string-break (and it probably would have been had it happened earlier on in our tour), but instead we communicated with a single glance, adjusted seamlessly, and finished the song as strongly as ever.

Sunday July 14, Lincoln, NE:
I had never been to Lincoln before, and am not aware of any particular cultural stereotypes about Nebraska, so I didn’t know at all what to expect from this part of the country. What I found there was an attractive downtown, gorgeous weather, and an engaged supportive crowd at Duffy’s Tavern. We played our set and people responded extremely well, buying our merchandise and giving us shots of whiskey, but personally I was unsatisfied with our performance. Had this been our first or second show, it would have been fine, but we honestly didn’t play with a very high-level of rhythmic or technical accuracy. I got off the stage and was happy to meet and greet people, yet it didn’t feel to me like it was time to celebrate. As we play more and more shows, my critique of the band will get more and more demanding and this band will only remain satisfying to me if we continue to improve individually and as a collective. As Joe and I sat in the van that night, getting ready to fall asleep instead of joining the nearby after-party, we talked about what is not working in the band, what is going well, and how to improve. These are always useful conversations to have, but especially important after shows with such a favorable audience reaction. For the temptation is to use the audience as a measuring stick of our performance, but the truth is that many audiences are drunk and uncritical, responding well to any loud noises and high-energy— only we in the band have the perspective and familiarity to know whether or not we have played to our full potential. We simply have to be honest with ourselves, own up to poor performances, and strive to continually improve.

Monday July 15, Wichita, KS:
Kirby’s Beer Store is a tiny, deteriorating, graffitied, stickered-up, unpretentious dive bar, too tiny to host a full band and we just love it there. We love it there because back in April, with only a week’s notice, Kirby’s was kind enough to set us up with a show and a place to stay on our way home from our first Denver trip; we love it because we get to see our friend and stellar singer/songwriter Ryan Stoldt whenever we play there (come to Little Rock Ryan, you’ll have a place to stay!); and finally we love it because the room is so small that if you have seven people in the audience, it’s a packed house. Having such a relaxed environment for our final show and being relatively close to home made for a pleasant end to a long tour. We played well and with poise (sounding like we had indeed played these songs for 16 days in a row), and plodded on through some technical mishaps (the power to my guitar pedals went out mid-song, so I quickly plugged directly in to the amp). After the show, we took our time packing up, drove back to our hotel, watched National Lampoon’s Vacation, slept, ate a terrible breakfast the next day at a local restaurant, and eagerly drove back to Little Rock.

It’s good to be home.

Thursday July 11, The See tour day 13, leaving Kansas City:

Missouri was rejuvenating.

We stayed and played in Springfield on Tuesday and got the star treatment from Joe’s parents Bill and Peggy— they let us stay in their beautiful home, cooked us a delicious steak dinner, stayed out late to see our show, made us french-press coffee in the morning, and then took us out for Mexican food in the afternoon! Luckily we were also well received by Springfieldonians not blood related to our lead singer. We played at the charmingly hip, if decaying club, The Outland Barroom to a friendly late-night crowd of PBR drinkers and received more compliments (and sold more merchandise) than any other show of our tour thus far. Though my first impression of Springfield was unflattering (the land of strip-malls and mega-churches), I thought downtown Springfield was groovy— I enjoyed some delicious pre-show caffeine at a local coffee shop called the Mudhouse, strolled the spacious sidewalks, and even got to view Saturn through a powerful telescope that a man had randomly set up on a street corner (seriously).

It was hard to leave the fine accommodations, food, payment, and people of Springfield. We were there just long enough to get really comfortable before having to depart abruptly for Kansas City. The touring rock-band experience is highly romanticized*, with uproarious shows, adoring fans, ecstatic partying, and fiery liaisons being the enduring stereotypical images. Yet for us (and I have to imagine the majority of touring bands), touring has included a lot of driving, packing/unpacking the van, sleeping on floors, and eating cheap food. In Springfield the perks of a settled, domestic life were made explicitly clear— never has a bed been so soft, steak tasted so delicious, or a shower felt so cleansing to me. Luckily we were spoiled again in Kansas City by Joe’s sister Mo who gave us cozy couches and beds to sleep on after our early show at the large, sleek, downtown venue, the Czar Bar. We played a short solid set, sold some merchandise, watched the other bands, went to Mo’s house, showered, got a full night’s sleep, and woke in time to watch a comically bad Kansas City morning show over cups of coffee. It was great.

Friday July 12, The See tour day 14, on the road to Denver:

I’m certainly not saying that the comforts of home are better than the fun of touring. The comforts of home are good in relation to the adventure and struggle of touring. A soft bed, morning coffee, frequent hot meals, friends/family, and a regular routine all sound extremely appealing to me right now and I know I will cherish them when I return home… for a while… then slowly but surely these things will become the norm again, I’ll probably begin to take them for granted, and eventually my home life will seem a bit boring; I’ll again crave the thrill of new people and places. Yes it is tempting to dream up “have your cake and eat it too” hypotheticals: What if we were famous and could afford to travel in a tour bus with all the luxuries of home, have a crew of roadies to unload for us, and still get to enjoy the excitement of playing shows in new places? Though I would certainly never turn that scenario down, I know that if we were to gain it, we would lose much of what is making this tour such a rich, authentic, and humbling experience— staying night to night with friends and friendly strangers, impressing new listeners with our performances, eating and hanging out for cheap (i.e. picnics in parks), loading/unloadiing our own equipment (great exercise), and truly appreciating any small temporary comforts. I daresay that I will never be ultimately satisfied by any particular circumstances (e.g. wealth, fame, romance, talent, victory)— every gain in one area is counterbalanced by a loss in another. I think that the only way for circumstances to actually be satisfying is for them to perpetually change. Knowing this, I hope that I continue to have opportunities in my life (both musically and personally) to shift between periods of comfort and adventure, abstinence and indulgence, and consistency and novelty.

*I have no doubt in my mind that in the future I too will romanticize this tour and this time in my life. This is one of those “tell your grandkids about it” experiences, and I can easily see the story of the tour growing in stature as I get further and further removed from it. To be fair, much of this experience has been truly incredible: driving up to so many attractive skylines (Nashville, Louisville, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc.), meeting so many interesting people (Ben, Darren, Valerie, Sarah, etc.), growing closer to my bandmates (Joe, Jason, Tyler, etc.), really hitting a strong stride in our performances, and enjoying the nightlife every now and again. This is likely, and thankfully what I will always remember about this tour. But to only remember the good times will be to create an idealized and inaccurate image of this tour. Yes it has been wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but I just want to point out now, while I still remember it, that it’s not all fun and freedom.

Monday July 8, The See on tour day 10, at a club in St. Louis:

I’m blogging right now from the back of The Firebird in St. Louis. The band in front of me is as loud as anything I’ve ever heard. Even though it is inordinately loud, I have know idea what the music is saying. I hear some wholehearted “woos” from the crowd at the end of the set, so maybe they know. We were tacked on to this four band show at the last minute so we had to play a short opening set before two local bands and the main event, Brooklyn based three-piece Lemuria. This show would have made much more sense if we had played third in the line up. These first two bands are at a much more amateur level than The See. Yes that statement probably sounded snobbish and judgmental, but I’m not trying to be harsh. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that most every band sucks when they first start playing. It takes a large amount of desire, trial and error, and practice to simply not suck. The See has been putting forth great effort at home and on tour, and I feel confident in saying that we do not suck. I try to resist focusing on rewards (to be able to play music should be a reward in itself), yet it is hard not to wish for higher populated, higher paying shows when we are pouring so much time and energy into this project…

Whatever, I want to talk about Chicago. We played there the past two nights at two bars right down the street from each other. Saturday we played at an old, dark, dirty dive bar called The Mutiny (most every Chicagoan I talked to gave a mischievous, knowing smile when I mentioned I played there). The sound quality at the Mutiny was low as expected, on par with the sound at our first stop of the tour, The Nick. Yet whereas at the Nick we sort of folded under the dual pressure of poor sound and an apathetic crowd, we rose above the circumstances at the Mutiny and played a great set. Encountering such different crowds and environments every night has provided us with the crucial realization that we should only worry about what we can control: our performance. Luckily playing every night has naturally sharpened our performance. Sunday we played another solid, streamlined set a couple of blocks down the street at Quenchers, a newer, cleaner, better sounding venue. It was also helpful and energizing that for both of these shows we played with my favorite band (personally and musically) of the tour so far, Planar Ally (yes that’s a Dungeons and Dragons reference). Planar Ally played precise, melodic, rhythmically-advanced instrumental Indie-Prog-Rock comparable to Battles (but unique all its own— check them out!).

Quick side note: Instrumental Indie-Prog-Rock? That may seem like superfluous genre labeling, but as more and more people around the world play and share music, musical subcultures are becoming more and more specialized. We can either try to lump these musics into broad genres (i.e. Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, Blues, Jazz, R&B, Soul, Classical), eschew genre entirely, or get more and more specific in our genre labels. I’ve certainly met musicians and bands in each camp. Because I believe that music is a multiplicity and not a universal language (with every instance of music inseparably linked to its own specific cultural and historical context), because I believe that specificity is better than generalization, and because it is just a fun game, I prefer to get particular (and yes a little facetious) with my genre titles.

The See’s genre? Atmospheric Indie-Mystery-Rock. It’s brand new. Get with it 😉

Tuesday July 9, The See tour day 11, on the road to Springfield, MO:

In Chicago we stayed with Planar Ally’s stellar drummer, and overall cool guy Ben Simpson. He composes a lot of the music for Planar Ally electronically, using Ableton Live, creating complex, multi-meter drum-beats that he then learns to play live on the drum-set. I admire this process because it doesn’t limit Ben to simply what he can play at any one moment. It frees him to compose in accordance with his musical imagination (rather than his muscle memory), and eventually increases his drumming dexterity as well. Listen to Wolf Lover for one of Ben’s creations. I’d like to adopt this strategy of composing and performing going forward, because as much as I feel like a relatively good guitarist and musician, I do get stuck sometimes playing through the same old patterns that my fingers know so well. I want to shift my musical output away from what is merely physically convenient and towards new tonal possibilities.

Overall Chicago was a great experience. It was extremely refreshing to simply stay put in one place for longer than a day. Though we didn’t get to explore much of the city, it was inspiring to see such great musicians and to be surrounded by so much cultural achievement.

Wow, that sounded like the ending to a seventh grade book report. I’m sorry y’all. I’m going to level with you, this was a difficult post to write. The lack of sleep is catching up with me. I’m happy that I’m posting this because I told myself that I would keep this blog going on tour, but man, this blog has seen better posts. Catch you next time.

The See on tour Day 6, on the road to Muncie, Indiana:

A couple nights ago we played at the Irish pub Murphy’s in Memphis on our drummer Tyler Nance’s birthday. Fortunately Memphis is Tyler’s hometown and he had about a dozen people come see us play. Unfortunately there were only about five other people in the audience. This is to be somewhat expected on a Tuesday night (and a Tuesday night in which we were competing with Bob Dylan’s AmericanaramA), yet it is hard not to wish for a larger crowd. A full room of engaged listeners is extremely energizing for a band, and by contrast an empty room can be utterly draining. On nights when attendance is not as high as we would like, our task is to avoid discouragement, and just focus on the precise execution of our songs. There is a strong temptation to not play with much effort or care when the audience is small, but to give in to this temptation is to give up a wonderful opportunity to improve the performance and, more gravely, it is to disregard the potentially life-affirming experience that can happen any time you pick up an instrument and perform music with others. I am happy that we did play well in memphis and generally do a good job of playing with high energy and focus regardless of our audience size.

Tyler told me he thought that it was the best show we had played yet. While I was generally satisfied with how we played, I felt like we rushed the tempo on a few songs and could have played with more dynamic flexibility— I definitely did not think it was our best show. Joe too expressed some minor frustrations with the show, and eventually we all began to talk about what went right and wrong and what each of our favorite shows had been so far. Jason thought that the night before in Nashville had been our best show; I thought the night before that in Chattanooga was the best; Joe hadn’t yet been completely satisfied with any show. It was strange to me that we all had such different opinions. Yet I realize now that we are all at least somewhat guilty of believing our own personal best show to be the band’s best show. It is a difficult but necessary step to take in performing music to focus less on your individual sound, and more on the collective sound. The worn out sports adage “there is no I in team” holds true for musicians as well: there is no I in band. As we get more and more comfortable and accurate with our individual performance, I will certainly be expecting us to improve the collective quality of our sound. This means adjusting our volume in real time (not with pedals or knobs, but through the tried and true technique of playing with varying strength/pressure) in accordance with what is the most prominent voice in the band at any moment— when Joe is singing, the rest of the band plays under his volume; when anyone has an instrumental solo, the band plays under that person; otherwise, our sound is balanced so that the audience can clearly hear everyone. There is no great effort needed to accomplish this— often the simple, but intentional act of listening more to each other than oneself will produce this wonderful musical effect naturally.

Last night we played in Louisville at a delightful little bar called the 3rd Street Dive. Though it was partially an open mic night, we and two other acts were considered the featured artists. The first two featured acts were an acoustic singer songwriter named Samantha Harlowe (who sung heartbreakingly vulnerable songs in a beautiful, powerful voice) and a great boy-girl folk-pop duo from Dallas called Zach and Corina. We were a little self-conscious about stepping on-stage and kicking up the volume after such a nice light-rocking, but we played through a short set and ended up being very well-received by both the audience, owner, and employees. A delightful couple named Darren and Valerie were kind enough to let us stay at their home.

Ok, so it has been about 24 hours since I wrote all that. Instead of trying to go back and pick-up where I left off, I’m just going to start with fresh thoughts from a new perspective. This may not make for the best narrative, but I had a long, weird, fun fourth of July celebration in Muncie Indiana and my mind is in a totally new place so…

The See on tour Day 7, in a laundromat in Normal, IL:

Did I just say I have fresh thoughts? Fresh is not the right adjective for my thoughts right now. Suffice it to say (I’m not going to go into incriminating detail here) that last night in Muncie was the first time on tour that I indulged in the proverbial “rock and roll lifestyle” and I’m now feeling the aftereffects. Obviously this “rock and roll lifestyle” is not a sustainable one, but last night was America’s birthday, and I am in a rock and roll band, and sometimes rock and roll works better with whiskey! I think it was a good moment for the band to cut loose and just rock out. Thus far we’ve been very deliberate and business-like (read: sober) in our performances and analysis of our performances. This has been extremely helpful in improving the technical execution of our songs, and should remain our standard modus operandi going forward, but last night was the right time to get a little wild. As far as I can tell, Muncie is a lawless land run by friendly, fun-loving, dirty hipsters— I didn’t see any police while I was there, but I did see plenty of thrift store-outfitted twenty-somethings drinking 24 oz. Miller High Life’s, playing tone deaf indie-punk rock, shooting off fireworks in the street, and smoking all manner of plant-life in the open air. Ergo, when in Muncie, do as the Munsters do. We did end up playing a great high-energy set and were very well received at the large quirky club Be Here Now. Unless you are my parents (who are probably reading this actually—hey M & D), please ask me in person about the riotous wilderness that is Muncie.

The See on tour Day 8, on the road to Chicago:

Last night we played in aptly named Normal, Illinois. With it’s clean, tree-lined streets, beautiful parks, and quaint restaurants, Normal offered a pleasant refuge from the Muncie madness. We took a much needed trip to the laundromat and then (because we were saturated with a good two-day bar-room funk, without a shower in sight) we went to a local water park, swam, rode some water-slides, soaked in the sun and showered/shaved in the locker room (all for only six bucks y’all). Feeling like a whole new band, we went to the venue, Firehouse Pizza & Pub, and unloaded our gear. The good folks at Firehouse then fed us all the free pizza we could eat, we listened to the two opening acts (an acoustic singer/songwriter with saxophone accompaniment, and Kyle from Normal band These Old Ghosts), chatted with some locals, played a stellar set, and came away with our biggest payday yet. We stayed at the home of two hilarious Normal residents and Nintendo enthusiasts named Jake and Alex. Jake, if you are reading this, I demand a rematch in Super Smash Bros. Normal was definitely the most materially nourishing stop on our journey thus far: we slept, we ate, we showered, and we were paid. Yet aside from simply receiving much needed sustenance, we were also introduced to a thriving community enthusiastic about art and live music. Normal, Illinois has been the most pleasant surprise of the tour thus far, and I can’t wait to come back.

Onward to Chicago!

Note: I had hoped originally that I would be able to post a blog everyday about the previous day’s show. But life is moving fast on tour, wi fi connections are few and far between, and hours when I could write easily get eaten up by naps, games of catch, picnics, pool-trips, warmups, and general socializing. I’m not complaining about this at all—I’m having a blast— but I do apologize to anyone who happens to be following this blog for the infrequent updates (I’m going to try to do better).

“Mountains and Valleys man, mountains and valleys” — I heard the voice of a streetwise Matthew McConaughey repeating these words to me as I woke up yesterday morning. Apparently Matthew McConaughey is the voice of the sector of my conscience that reveals (in quick, folksy quips no less) the wisdom contained in my experiences. What ole Mathew was referring to in this instance was the dichotomy between our show in Birmingham (documented here), and our show in Chattanooga.
In brief, we played what was likely the least enjoyable, lowest energy, most “I want to get off stage right now” show that we’ve played as a group thus far (in Birmingham), followed by (in Chattanooga) our best show yet. “Mountains and Valleys man.” How did this happen? Let me try to list some of the (more objective) factors contributing to the respective failure and success of each show. Birmingham: we didn’t get a chance to practice before this show (always important even though we do know all the songs we played); the show occurred immediately after a 6 hour drive (so we were stiff and groggy); there was a small unenthusiastic crowd (people who most likely just came to drink rather than hear live music); we were the only band playing; the venue was extremely grimy (distractingly so); and the sound was mixed poorly. Chattanooga: we only had to drive about an hour; we spent the day before the show relaxing and enjoying ourselves (playing catch, having a picnic, joking around); we had plenty of time to prepare for the show (vocal warmups, listening to the album etc.); we played at a clean, cozy venue to a decent and supportive crowd (people who actually came to hear some music); there were two other talented and enthusiastic bands playing (Mythical Motors, and Monomath); and the sound was very balanced. Most importantly however, I think the Chattanooga show was a success because the Birmingham show was a failure— after such a sloppy start to our tour, we were all extremely motivated to have a good show, resulting in our most focused and in sync effort yet.
Yet I also have to acknowledge that our subjective experience of each show as good or bad is intimately tied to our experience of every other show. The Chattanooga show wouldn’t necessarily have seemed so spectacular had the Birmingham show not seemed so drab. Similarly, the Birmingham show wouldn’t have felt so terrible had our previous show at Whitewater in Little Rock not been so well executed/received. “Mountains and Valleys man.” It is sobering to realize that this shifting up and down may never end. Being in a band (or simply being human), and having enjoyed the utter bliss of a great performance, I naturally want every show and every experience to be glorious (I want to stay atop the mountain). Yet as we play better shows, my threshold for what I consider a “good” show gets higher and higher, resulting in a greater probability that I experience a “bad” show; then, when I do experience a “bad” show, my expectations are slightly lowered and I am able to analyze and fix mistakes made, resulting in a likely spring-back to a “good” show, ad infinitum… I think that the desire to always succeed (though natural) can have unhealthy consequences, especially in a field such as music (in which success produces such a fine natural high, and chemical highs are often an easy substitute to secure). To realize that there is an inseparable bond between good and bad or success and failure, frees me up to dwell less on the outcome of my musical efforts, and focus more on enjoying the actual process of playing, practicing, and performing (whether atop the mountain or in the valley).

Last night we played in Nashville at The End with a diverse collection of impressive young bands. The Blake Parker Band was a group of 15-16 year olds that played heartfelt folk-rock songs. Abernathy (also 16 year olds) was a tight, bluesy two-piece (a la The Black Keys) with an incredibly talented front-girl singer/guitarist and rock solid drummer. Fable Cry (anywhere from age 16-32), a brother sister duo and self described Adventure-Gypsy/Scamp-Rock band, whimsically garbed in raccoon pelts and feathers, put on a captivating and theatrical performance of acoustic fantasy story-songs (seriously, these guys are something else, check em out). Seeing such young, talented, and passionate bands was extremely energizing for me. Because I am attempting to earn a living playing music, much of it can sometimes feel like a chore. I admit that I do sometimes lose sight of the fact that music is an incredible expression of human potential and my greatest passion. I’m probably too young to feel too nostalgic about anything, but seeing these younger bands play reminded me of how romantic I felt about being in a band and playing music when I was 16. I am (in touring with this band) literally living out a decade old dream of mine, and even though I am now much less romantic about the rock band experience than I once was, it’s nice to be able to remember my 16-year old self, step on stage, cut loose, and just have a blast. This tour is dedicated to you little Lucas.

Hey blog-readers, so for the next few weeks or so, this blog is essentially going to be The See’s tour diary… Because for the next few weeks, I’ll be on tour with The See! Who the heck is The See you ask? Well let me tell you:

Since forming in the summer of 2008, Little Rock’s The See have made a steady climb to the summit of the Arkansas music scene. With their infectious melodies and primal rhythms, cornerstone members Joe Yoder (vocals/guitar) and Tyler Nance (drums) have ferried the band to enduring success despite changing lineups. Audiences and critics alike are consistently delighted by the band’s uniquely crafted high-energy rock songs and cathartic live performance (often comparing The See to bands such as The Pixies, The Strokes, and Built to Spill).
Having recently adopted local rock veteran/recording engineer Jason Tedford (Bass) and virtuoso* guitarist Lucas Murray (lead guitar), The See now look poised to achieve national recognition. They are currently embarking on a national tour in support of their debut album Pretending and Ending and will be playing in major cities across the Southeast and Midwest. Go to http://www.wearethesee.com to hear their music and see when they are playing in a town near you.

That’s a little something I’ve written for us to send out to radio stations, promoters, record stores, etc. to maybe get a little extra press before we perform in towns in which virtually no one has heard of us. Honestly this tour is one huge sloppily-designed experiment, with us simultaneously testing the multiple variables of our stage-sound, crowd interaction, promotion strategies, bandmate relations, sleeping arrangements, meal plans and more. We are having to do a lot of improvising in all areas and are learning things on the fly. Despite the fact that we are navigating mostly uncharted terrain, I feel confident that this will be a fruitful journey because of the amount of effort and care that we in The See are putting forth. For instance, earlier today we started recording for an on tour podcast that we are calling “Get in the Van”. I’ve been a part of other groups and bands in the past that potentially would have had the great idea to start a podcast or some other side-project, but The See is actually doing it! To me this points to the story of this tour, this band, and this stage of my life: Not really knowing fully how to do something, but just freakin’ doing it anyway, because that’s the only real way to learn.

So last night we played the first show of our tour at a bar called The Nick in Birmingham Alabama. A brief synopsis: “The Nick” is one of the dirtiest, grimiest, grungiest dive bars I’ve ever been to. There were plenty of roaches running around, but they didn’t really even look gross because the rest of The Nick was so sticky with filth that the roaches looked at home and even sort of tame by comparison. The stage was spacious; the sound quality was low; there were very few people there and they didn’t seem all that into the music. As a result our stage energy was low and we gave a relatively mediocre performance (compared to what we have done in the past). Yet somehow we must have impressed a few people because we sold more than enough merchandise to get us to our next location: CHATANOOGA (Choo Choo)!

Today has been a glorious day in Chatanooga (a delightful and thriving town that I’d love to revisit someday). We got here early enough to take our time, pick up some groceries, have a picnic at a riverside park, play some catch, record our podcast, relax, and enjoy a traditional irish band at The Honest Pint. We’re just a couple hours away from our show at the rich woodsy-smelling and stylishly decorated beer bar JJ’s Bohemia and personally I’m feeling very good about this one…

*Yes I am bragging about this band, yes I called myself a virtuoso guitarist, no I’m not being humble! I’m trying to get people to put us on the radio. Sit on it.