I Quit

It’s the morning of Day 2 on my campaign to quit smoking. I’ve quit about 10 times, once for over two years and every time I say it’s the last. I started when I was 14 or 15 and now I’m 37. It freaks me out that I’ve been a smoker for over 20 years so I’m calling it quits. Day 1 was super easy, a hangover occupying my physical day and no alcohol consumption. I’ve never really been a daytime smoker so this afternoon should be no trouble but I plan on having a drink at our gig tonight. Willpower!!!

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JazzFest: Week One!

JazzFest started off with a bang last Thursday and just kept right on until yesterday. One day of rest today and then we get thrown back into it. There’s so much to write about and you folks who didn’t make it into town have been asking, so here goes my recap of Saturday and our performance.

Our set on the Gentilly Stage was an amazing experience. Dave and I had made a goal a few months back to do a mostly original set this year, which we met. Before leaving out from Los Angeles in late March we uploaded six new, original demos for free download on our website. Go get you some! Four of them made it into the line-up along with our originals on Set Two, one from our first release and some popular covers we play. Deciding to take a chance, we closed out the show with a cover of Pat Benetar’s song, Love is a Battlefield which the very talented guitar player, Chris Adkins did a killer arrangement of. We were asked to learn it for The Big Easy Awards and it was so much fun that we decided to add it in! Someone caught the last couple of minutes on camera, too which is super cool. Click here to view it! And here’s another video of our version of, Plastic Jesus.

Joining on stage was my long time musical, business and all around partner, David Brouillette (upright bass) as well as Chris Adkins (guitar), Dave James (guitar), Steve Spitz (pedal steel guitar), Clyde Thompson (fiddle) and Chris Pylant (drums).

JazzFest 2012 Gal Holiday set

Cryin’ Over You
Give Up Honky Tonkin’
Rainy Nights, Sunny Days
Not The One For You
Don’t Think Twice
The Long Black Ribbon
Louisiana Waltz
You Mean The World To Me
Send Me Away
Plastic Jesus
I’m Coming Home
Love Is A Battlefield

After out set was over I had a quick word with festival promoter, Quint Davis and then booked it to the CD tent for a signing. This is the first year I was asked to do one and I felt quite honored! Three sisters, all under 10 came with their mom toward the end and I have never been so entertained. They were all dressed in hot pink and chatted with me, telling jokes and generally cracking me up. What a time!

Then Dave picked me up and we went back to the Gentilly Stage where an air-conditioned trailer awaited. By this time the backstage area was starting to become a literal circus with the arrival of the New Orleans Bingo! Show. I got a cute snap of Dave with our good friend, cellist Helen Gillet and he took one of me with another friend, vocalist extraordinaire Debbie Davis.

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It’s a shame to go to JazzFest and not eat the food…and I’m not talking about the sandwich plate in the trailer. I dashed off to get some crawfish bread and a couple of beers while Amanda Shaw was setting up. The festival provides awesome viewing stands in the wings at the two biggest stages and we took full advantage while eating our snacks. We have two friends in the band, Tim Robertson (guitar) and Ronnie Falgout (bass) and the show was really great. I’ve been watching Amanda for years, as we all have in New Orleans and as she grows up (21!) she is really becoming one hell of a performer. She’s got the moves down and puts on a super show.

Want more? Because there’s more…

Having a four o’clock interview scheduled with WWOZ in the Hospitality Tent, I popped into the paddock and the Lagniappe Stage for a shady seat to watch Meschiya Lake and dem Little Big Horns. She is one of my favorite singers in New Orleans and has been picking up steam in NOLA and far beyond. If you like traditional style jazz singing you HAVE to check her out.

I also made sure to get to the Fais Do Do Stage to see the Carolina Chocolate Drops who I have loved ever since hearing a piece on NPR years ago. They are dedicated to creating fresh takes on African-American songs that helped to shape popular music in America. Y’all know how much I love the history of music, so of course I love their band! They are so terrific on stage; fiddle, banjo and guitar all singing and stomping. They added a cellist, too which I was happy to hear included on their album that I received as a birthday gift on Sunday.

The craziest thing about walking around JazzFest after our set this year was that I felt like somewhat of a rockstar, which is a new thing to me. I can’t tell you how many times during the day I was stopped to sign autographs, take photos or chat. It’s really amazing, totally humbling and we have you guys to thank for it. Lots of love to all our fans and here’s to JazzFest Week Two!

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Photo: Ed Treece

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Photo: Lucas Davenport

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Photo: Ron O’Connor

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Photo: JonGunnar Gylfason

F**k You, I’m Folk

Some of our long time New Orleans fans might remember back more than a few years ago to a Gal Holiday show at d.b.a. when yours truly had a Jameson fueled microphone moment in which I tried to explain why we’re not a country band. As everyone now knows, the “establishment” has ceased categorizing bands like ours as Country and started using the broadly generic term Americana. While there are many groups, like online magazine Turnstyled, Junkpiled who continue to campaign for the return to proper classification in the genre, I fear that we will be lumped in with Folk music for many years to come.

Two events transpired which added to the steaming brew in my brain which so erupted as previously mentioned. The first of which was a phone conversation with one highly respected female manager, “Jane” who is the driving force behind her well known Louisiana musician husband. Jane mentioned that if we ever decided to submit our work to the Grammys, we would NOT fall under the Country category but rather submit as Americana/Folk. This was my first concrete assertion of something I had been suspect of for a while.

The second event that set the wheels of our new movement in motion was something funny that happened to Domenic, a fellow musician who at the time was our roommate when Dave B. had his recording studio in the French Quarter. Dom was looking for a dobro guitar in a catalog and having difficulty finding one. Maybe it’s listed in guitars? No. They’ve GOT to have one somewhere in here! Hmmmm. He flipped the pages and there it was, nestled amongst the mandolins and banjos under FOLK instruments. WELL.

*On a side note, I can certainly understand the dobro being classified as a folk instrument. Without going into a deep discussion of what Folk music specifically IS as well as its history, suffice it to say that I guess ALL instruments of the stringed variety are “folk” instruments. And all that said, Domenic’s music would most likely be considered “Folk Rock” or as he says, “Cosmic Rock’n’Roll for the Soul.”

We had a good laugh about it and the thoughts kept stewing in my noggin. And then Dom had a t-shirt made that gave a name to our new movement…F**k You, I’m Folk. That phrase hilariously sums up all the frustration and the resignation to what I find an interesting subject. Yes, we are most certainly Americana. But technically aren’t jazz, blues, zydeco and even rap? It just seems like such a BROAD generalization and the grouping with Folk seems a bit odd to me.

So why talk about this now, years later? I’ll tell you why gentle reader. Because recently, another incident came up that made me think about what the differences actually are. But first a little back story…

On our last trip to New Orleans this past fall, we introduced our new sound which we are calling, The Recessionaires featuring Dave B. driving the rhythm section with his slaps and popping of strings. Born out of necessity on the road during these tough economic times, we’ve stripped the band of drums for our smaller shows, a la Wayne Hancock who totally rocks this style. Our intention was not to change the sound of the band so drastically that our status as a “dance band” would be affected and so far we’ve gotten a positive response. In a look to the future with a simultaneous nod to the past, we’re taking things back to the real roots of the style with great songs and solid playing. It has been a highly rewarding decision all around in choosing to experiment with this new “drummed down” sound. Here’s a video of us debuting this sound at Mimi’s in the Marigny in New Orleans, taken by Andrew Evans, Nat Geo’s roving blogger.

A couple of weeks ago we showed up to a gig in California without drums and a comment was later made that we had scared the promoter half to death. He’d heard the band before WITH drums and thought we were going to “Folk Out” on his dance night. I wish I’d had Domenic’s t-shirt on that night!

After hearing a few songs he quickly felt relief and mentioned that he didn’t even miss the drums. Which is a comment we’ve been getting a lot. Nothing against you drummers out there, but y’all are LOUD. Which is why we’ll reserve our use of drums for festivals and larger rooms and stages like Rock ‘n’ Bowl and Tipitina’s in New Orleans. And because I truly do believe that we’re stuck being categorized where we are for quite some time, I will embrace it and proudly announce to world…F**k You, I’m Folk.

Auditioning for America’s Got Talent

Last Sunday we auditioned for America’s Got Talent in New Orleans. Being that the Crescent City wasn’t an open call location, like Tampa or Anaheim I was curious to see who the talent scouts for the show had dug up. It turned out to be quite a scene of some of the city’s finest, mostly as yet “undiscovered” talent. I’m not naming names, but there was a singer from a top burlesque troop, a well know trombone based band and a crazy Ukranian band just as a tantalizing wink, wink.

We showed up at the Hyatt Regency at 1:30pm for our 2pm audition and finally turned in our paperwork at 2:30. They asked all kinds of questions about why we think we’re America’s next great talent, who our heroes are, events that have impacted our lives, struggles we’ve faced keeping the act going, etc. When we finally got called for our audition at 3:30 we were more than ready to head in.

Now, you will recall that this songbird was battling laryngitis. My nerves were steeled to push through, and the whole performance was to be only 90 seconds anyway. Since we were allowed only acoustic instruments, we decided two guitars were better than one and invited Chris Adkins, a guitarist and singer who’s been playing with us in New Orleans and who came with us to Colorado last summer to round out Joe Ransom on guitar and of course, Dave Brouillette on upright bass. We did “Satin Sheets”, a song made famous by Jeanne Pruett in 1973 and has a powerful vocal melody, gets right to the chorus and has a great harmony part. I should also mention that they specified that the selection should be a cover song. Here’s a good video of her version: http://m.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgZutNGdcqH0&h=GAQHt8t4x&refid=0

We walked into the room and there was a woman on her laptop sitting at the table who didn’t even look up. The handler who led us in took a picture of us holding our number and then another guy came in and sat at the table. First things first…we performed, my voice held up although I wish it had been stronger but all in all I think we did a great job. Then there was the Q&A with the fella at the table. So here are answers to those questions like, “What happens next?”

They don’t make any decisions until January and basically, if they call you back for the second round, that’s when you audition in Los Angeles in front of the celebrity judges from the show. Then if you make it through THAT it’s a week long process in Vegas and the final round is the show where you spend four days in Los Angeles for rehearsals and the taping of the show. And they let you know ahead of time to make sure that’s all something feasible for you to do. If you get selected they want to make sure you’re not going to bow out unexpectedly because you can’t get time off from your “real job.” So now you know how it works.

They also asked what we hoped to get out of the process. Although my joke usually goes something like, “people die from exposure” there didn’t really seem to be any better answer. And apparently there was a band a few seasons back who only made it to the second round, got 30 seconds of tv time and were able to parlay that into upping their asking price and tons of new fans. The first round judge also seemed quite impressed when he asked if we were on iTunes and we replied “yes and we’re also on Pandora.” Eyebrows went up. Our impression is that the foks at American’s Got Talent are interested in working with acts that already have something going for themselves and know how to translate any exposure into tangible results. Do we fit the bill? Only time will tell.

Laryngitis

Ah, laryngitis. By now alot of you might have heard through social media that I had to end the show at Le Bon Temps Roule early last night. It’s absolutely frustrating to have a tool that you trust and rely on just totally give out on you, particularly when it’s a part of your body. I feel defeated, deflated and let down but I have to remind myself that I’m human.

A little background…
I got sick this past Sunday and it was a weird sort of sickness with no congestion or cough at all. I felt better on Wednesday and put on actual clothing, washed my face and brushed my hair. Then Thursday found me feeling ick again, although no congestion still. We played at Mimi’s in the Marigny on Thursday where my voice felt strong, full and I didn’t push it at all to get the same results as I always do. Then Friday, wham…no voice. Normally if my chords are a little over worked or tired I might loose a bit of my high register or get a little raspy. This time I totally lost the low end and, at least at first had all the high notes. Then I pushed through and lost that, too. Of course, cigar smoking at yesterday’s event didn’t help nor did the two packs of second hand smoke I inhaled at the bar last night. I went through six 500 ml bottles of water on stage yesterday and despite keeping hydrated, tea with honey, whiskey, Mucinex and 15 minute head steaming I still lost my voice. At least I got a good facial.

So…I think I can, I think I can get through one or two sets tonight. And breaking news…we’re supposed to audition for America’s Got Talent tomorrow. We’ll see what happens with that!

My Halloween in New Orleans

“Halloween is finally over” I said with mixed feelings of relief, longing and fond rememberence. Until last week we had been staying in Marrero with our bass player Dave’s mom. It (mostly) kept us out trouble but we needed to be closer to downtown so that we could be walking (er, stumbling) distance from all the festivities. We took a friend up on her generous offer and spent the weekend right outside the French Quarter in the Marigny. And use the facilities we did indeed. So much so that it took me two days to recover. Literally.

New Orleans is, of course a well known destination for Mardi Gras madness and the Jazz and Heritage Festival, but throngs of party goers have been flocking to the Crescent City for All Hallows Eve for years. And for good reason. The city has ghost stories gallore going back hundreds of years and even some more recent ones that would curdle your blood. (Keep your ears peeled for a new Gal Holiday song based on the American Murder Ballads of yore.) And now that the Voodoo Music Experience has become such a popular music festival, the city is even more swollen with folks itching to kick up their heels.

And it was a night of ghosties and ghoulies in abundance on the steets along with plenty of young gals proud to show off a little skin. In fact, our show on Saturday at Banks Street Bar got a little shaken up by a posterior flasher and her mud flap girl tattoos. Truck driving songs always seem to get ’em going and it’s not every day a woman pulls her pants down for us.

Where was I? Oh yes, Halloween. To brass bands galore, we walked down the overflowing Frenchmen Street, a favorite of locals and tourists alike and we popped around the corner to Checkpoint Charlie’s. It’s a place where bikers, hippies, boat captains and people who need to do their laundry while drinking tend to congregate. It’s also the place where Gal Holiday first got our feet wet, way back in 2004 and where we learned how to deal with obnoxious drunk people during our show. And nothing much has changed of course. Although the clienele has changed slightly over the years, as has the management they still know how to make a damn good late night burger and pack in the crowds.

I had my introduction to Spoonfed Tribe this year, and they were great but the real treat of the evening was Voodoo Town, the band who played before them. Our friend, trumpeter and loop master extraordinare, Trace Barfield and his bandmates were in fine, improvisational form and they left me wishing I’d gotten there earlier to see more of their show. All in all it was a wild time in the French Quarter but we had places to go, people, places to go.

My ultimate destination was Mimi’s in the Marigny ( where we’ll be playing one more time on Nov. 10th) and a very special lady named, Meschiya Lake. She’s the ultimate siren of song and occasionally of debauchery, too. She and dem Little Big Horns really make my feet go tippety tap and my heart go pitter patter with their jitterbug, classic jazz sound. They were a joy to listen to as was Meschiya’s friend from New York who sang a couple numbers with the band. Wish I gotten her name and BOY do I wish I had gotten more pictures of the night. I took about two and they stink. So much for a photo blog.

Most of the rest of the night is a blur but as I said, we were stumbling distance to home. Until next year, New Orleans. Oh wait, we’re here through Thanksgiving. More time for trouble. Except that we’re back in Marrero…and headed to Mimi’s tonight.