>I’m writing this on Monday, November 30th. Tomorrow (today, as you’re reading), is December 1st. If history and technology is any guide and iTunes chooses not to be a merchant of propaganda and lies, my third album Up will hit the interwebs as you’re reading this! That’s worth repeating:
My third album is on iTunes right now!
Now that I’ve got my shameless plug in, I wanted to talk/type a little more about the record. It’s a digital-only release, meaning it’s only available for purchase online. You can’t get a hard-copy unless a friend burns you one, which, by the way, I really encourage.
I chose to release the Up as digital-only–at least for now–because it’s much less expensive, and much more efficient, in terms of getting the music straight to you as soon as possible. Fewer and fewer people consume music in a tangible way–CDs or vinyl–and I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing. But I know this much:
I’ll miss the liner notes. And album art. The packaging of an album is an artform unto itself. So, I wanted to use this space to give everyone who contributed to the album their due proper. Here are my Liner Notes for Up, an album with a story. Here’s my short story behind the story.
In January 2009, I was exhausted. I had recently released the Tin Angel EP, and had been touring on and off for a few years promoting it and Leaving Tennessee, my first album. I’d been in Tennessee my whole life, and lived in Nashville for seven years.
I was spent. Dead, flat, tired, exhausted, and close to emotionally bankrupt. I’d spent the last three years chasing everything in one direction, going 100 mph, without stopping, and without stopping to consider that I was tired. So, in January 2009, I finished the last few shows on my calendar and booked nothing else.
Then, I did what anyone in my position would do: I went to Arkansas.
For two months in the dead of winter, I did nothing but write songs in an upstairs room in Arkansas. I took no calls, answered no emails, booked no shows, pursued no angles. I told my entire life in Nashville–professional contact, personal relationships–that I’d see them in April.
For eight straight weeks, I forced myself to do nothing but consider where I’d been, and where I might go next. I was amazed by what happened. I wrote. A LOT. I wrote about everything I’d seen and heard over the those past few months and years that had built me up and worn me out. I woke up every day at 7AM and wrote until sundown. Some songs were hard to write; others were easy. Some took a while; some arrived fully-formed. The floodgates had opened, and eventually song after song came pouring out. Handfuls, then dozens. I just tried to keep up.
I came back to Nashville on April 1st with a mountain of new songs, a handful of cash, a window of time, and a plan: I was moving to New York in the fall. I was going to make a record before I left, release it in NYC, and start the next chapter in my life and career.
So, I took a stack of songs neck-deep to my friend and producer Steve Martin and asked him what he thought. He said, “you have to make this record.”
I said, “I’ll only make it if you produce it.”
He said, “how’s August.”
I said, “I’ll have a week.”
The session was booked, the plan was set: August 16-23 we holed up in Steve’s East Nashville home studio and started to make an album. No session players, no independent contractors, no background singers, no support staff, no extra engineers, and no sleep. If Up was going to tell my story, I had to tell it my way: with the most stripped-down, intimate sounding record I could make. Two guys, nine songs, seven days, a roomful of instruments, some microphones.
The result is Up. It is the most narrative and deeply personal album I’ve ever recorded. Leaving Tennessee was a starting point; Tin Angel was a pop showcase. But Up is my story, told in a new language, spare and intimate and honest, unabashed and vulnerable, explicit and implicit in every turn. It’s unlike anything I’ve done before, and I’m proud of it. Its story began in January, but it happened in a flash. It was a long time coming, but it’s the work of a moment. It’s a little time, a little room, a lot of inspiration, a lot of energy, and some luck. We hit record, then hit print.
Then, I moved to New York in October. And, as usual, I came with a suitcase, a guitar, a stack of songs, and a plan.
Now I’ve got a new home, a new lease, a new album, and a new story. I tell it every time I step onstage, and every time you hit play. I hope some part of it sounds like your story, too. I hope it can keep you company if you need some. I hope it can bring you up if you’re down. I hope it can keep you there, too. I hope you like it. I hope you love it.
I know I do.
1) In the Air Tonight – Lyrics
2) Maria, Maria – Lyrics
3) Up – Lyrics
4) Thirteen Hours – Lyrics
5) If You Don’t Love Me By Now – Lyrics
6) Coldweather Girls – Lyrics
7) Melanie – Lyrics
8) Edge of the World – Lyrics
9) The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon cover) – Gotta buy it!
Of course, I take pride in Up because it owes itself to the talent, support, hard work, and inspiration of so many other people. I was a small factor in its creation, so I’d like to list the handsome majority now. Here’s to everyone who had a hand in Up, whether deliberately or tangentially, front to back, inspiration to publication.
A Million Thanks To:
Steve Martin, Producer, Engineer, Multi-Instrumentalist, Impresario of Beards. For those of you who don’t know Steve, or haven’t read about him in this space before, Steve Martin is a sound-prodigy in Nashville. I’ve known a lot of producers and engineers and live sound guys, and Steve’s talent is peerless. He’s already worked with seemingly everyone in Nashville–twice–and won’t hurt for work in the future. There are a lot of guys with good ears and great gear out there; Steve’s the rare producer who genuinely loves music, genuinely loves musicians, and always wants to get the best out of them. He seeks to understand the album he’s making–theoretically a prerequisite for any production, but actually a rarity. He wants to get to the heart of each song, and serve it in its entirety.
So many times I’d “break,” only to get a text from Steve that he had kept working without me, trying out new things, fixing things that were broken, masterfully breaking things that were fixed, etc. If I slept an hour the entire week, Steve couldn’t have slept 15 minutes. He was tireless, and selfless, and this record is as much his as mine. Its strengths rest on his shoulders.
Steve Martin will not lack work in the near or distant future, but if you’re needing a producer, he’s absolutely your man. He’s a great, great talent; catch him now.
And for all his hot-shot sound guy antics, he’s a better friend than a producer. I owe him thanks for that as well.
Tamara McCray, Master Photographer, Pictographer, Mistress of Soul-Stealing Artforms
The album art for Up came from a shoot I did with Tamara McCray, a Nashville-based photographer, stylist, and all-around Renaissance woman . She is one of those disturbingly talented people who are good at something–anything–the moment they pick it up. She’s got what the EyeTalEeOns call sprezzatura: the gift of doing something brilliantly while never breaking a sweat.
I found her photos off Steve Martin’s recommendation, and he was right: that peculiarly warm, vintage, golden look of her photos matched my vision for the record exactly. She’s a great photographer, a master navigator of the East Nashville backroads, an expert trespasser, and crazynice person. Look her up, twice.
My Parents, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, Extended Family, & Milam’s Everywhere
For every reason I’ve told them before, and every reason I can’t list here for fear of running out of bandwidth. I’m in your debt, and endlessly thankful for whose I am.
Jay, Jerries, Memphians, Nashvillians, Collegians nationwide and abroad. I hope you all know who you are, because I can’t list you here, because listing your names would cause the CIA to flag my site.
Wherever Ideas Come From
Apollo? Jesus? Waking dreams? A part of the brain-as-of-yet-undefined-by-science? A part of the brain-already-defined-by-science-but-unknown-to-me? Wherever you are, whoever you are, you’re the best. Come around anytime. Really, my door’s open.
My first home away from home, and the site of the prologue. I’ll see you soon.
Where I’m from, and whose I am. My first love, and I always miss her.
My second love. Any place with new challenges, things I haven’t seen, heartbeats I can hear, horizons I can’t see, any place that invites a dream, any place that shows the way. Professionally, I came for opportunity; personally, I came for possibility. Every day is a new day here, and I can’t wait for tomorrow. I can’t wait for January. I can’t wait.
Any Place I Haven’t Seen
Cause I got this picture in my head, and I’m always painting it.
To every single one of you who’ve bought a song off iTunes, come to a show, told a friend, read this blog, passed along a link, shared the music, and dropped me a line….
THANK YOU. I really can’t thank you enough. It’s such a gift to do this for a living, and it’s incredibly humbling. This album belongs to you as much as anyone, and I can promise this much: it’s just the beginning. It marks a new chapter for my career: I’m going to dedicate myself every day to sharing music with you, directly, as often as possible. Everyone who listens inspires me to do my best every day–all I can hope is that you love sharing the music as much as I do.
2010 (the official release of Up) will see a new album, a new tour, new opportunities, and many new fans and friends. I can’t wait for it, and I hope you’re as excited as I am.
***IMPORTANT: I’ve written this in the past, but it’s worth repeating. I LOVE PIRACY. I made this album so that as many people could hear it as possible, and hopefully take something from it. Feel free to burn, rip, share, give away, and pirate it as much as you like. Put it on a million mixes for the holidays. But PLEASE–don’t pirate “The Boy In the Bubble.” It is a Paul Simon song and, out of respect for his work and my desire to remain unsued, please, please, please buy his original and my cover.
Maria/Melanie/Everything Between & Hereafter
I owe you royalties. I owe you much more. I hope you like this. It’s yours.
Enjoy-and please, turn it up.