inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #26 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 23 Mar 01 06:36
    
Um, what's the Incident?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #27 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 06:49
    

Another word about song selection.

I have a gigantic repertoire after playing the guitar for nearly 32 years.
There have been long periods when I haven't been learning new stuff, and by
no stretch of the imagination can I be said to be "keeping up" with new
stuff. But I love the music that I love, and these days I will be reminded of
a great old song and discover that I remember it well enough from hearing it
over the years that I can figure out how to play it and sing it pretty
readily.  It's best if I don't actually sit down with the record, because
what I'm after is an interpretation rather than a replication.

The "oldies" stations that are so easy to find on the open road these days
are a great source of both horrifying and delightful stabs from the past.

Just the other night, I heard "Leavin' the Straight Life Behind" (Bobby
Goldsboro, I think) for the first time in 30 years, and jeeziz what a piece
of shit that song is.  ("Suddenly all my silly thoughts disappear / she comes
to me softly with crackers and beer / Winkin' and blinkin' and blowin' my ear
/ Runnin' away with my mind..."  And the MELODY?  Don't get me started!)

But I also heard "Darlin' Be Home Soon" by the Lovin' Spoonful.  There is
something that works for me in that song despite its cloying sincerity.  I
think it hit me in a good place because it says pretty much what I hope and
trust my wife is thinking as I leave town on a longer-than-usual tour:

 But darling be home soon
 I couldn't bear to wait an extra minute if you dawdled
 My darling be home soon
 It's not just these few hours but I've been waiting since I toddled
 For the great relief of having you to talk to

Those last two lines certainly characterize my feelings about Rita (we were
in our 40s when we married, both for the first time); and I feel that she
supports me in this quest, which is the fulfillment of a long-cherished wish:

 Go and beat your crazy head against the sky
 try and see beyond the houses and your eyes
 It's ok to  shoot the moon

So after I got past the really bad '60s string arrangements, I started
thinking this was a song I could adopt.  My friend Gary found the lyrics 
online for me, so I'll work it up over the next few days to see if I can
present it convincingly.

The main factor that seems to dominate the process of song adoption
(leaving aside the fundamental matters of whether it's possible to
arrange it for solo guitar and voice and whether I have the skill to
deliver it) has less to do with the overall theme of the song than with
the presence of at least one line or idea that resonates with me.

"Return of the Grievous Angel" (Gram Parsons), which is on the "Solo
Acoustic" CD, works as a road song, and it works because of the
glorious marriage of melody and lyric that was Parsons' genius.  But
there is one particular line in there that links the song to some of
the other material on the CD.  I'm not going to explain that any
further.  It wasn't something that necessarily guided the selections,
but I wasn't surprised when the CD was laid out to find that this
particular thread was apparent (to me, and probably to others).

I sometimes find myself choosing songs in a live concert along a thematic
line that I'm only barely conscious of.  And often it's only one line or
verse that furthers that theme; that's all that's necessary.

When I have a whole night to myself -- which in some clubs means more
than two and a half hours of music -- I can really stretch out and
explore.  I'll do more instrumental improvising, and I'll string songs
together in ways that offer musical and/or lyrical continuity.  That's
one of the most enjoyable things about the solo trip: the ability to
pull stuff from the deep reaches of my memory and trust that I'll be
able to pull it off.

I have also had that blow up in my face once or twice.  Forgetting a
chord will cause the whole system to freeze.  I have a couple of live
shows in circulation in which I just stopped cold, apologized (with a
smartass remark) and moved on.  And one night I did that, moved into
something else, and then went back and did the song I had fucked up.  I
told a story of being backstage at the Pickle Family Circus once
when an acrobat had messed up a move during the show: the trainer took
that guy backstage and made him do the move again and again, until his
muscles and his mind had forgotten the error.  That was a very
important lesson.

I guess this has been a somewhat rambling post, but I'm on tour, in the
middle of doing this thing, and it's a good time to be reflecting on
how it all works.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #28 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 06:51
    

>Um, what's the Incident?

That is a reference to The String Cheese Incident, a band that a lot of
Deadheads are following these days.  Their scene offers the same sort of
ecstatic group getaway that the Dead did for so many years, and a lot of my
middle-aged Deadhead friends are on that tour now.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #29 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 23 Mar 01 08:29
    
Ah, thanks for the clarification!

And having always thought "Darlin' Be Home Soon" was Sebastian's
finest song, and he wrote some fabulous ones, I'm delighted you've
added it to your repertoire!
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #30 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 23 Mar 01 08:31
    
Meanwhile, I think Linda's going to be opening the doors pretty 
soon here, so I'd just like to remind folks that they should feel
free to jump in with questions of their own when they feel so inclined!

What's the process of making a record, as you did it with Solo Acoustic?
A lot more people are able to make their own and bypass a lot of the
usual industry machinery, so just exactly what does that involve these
days?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #31 of 500: Mary Ellen Bates (mebs) Fri 23 Mar 01 13:39
    
One other question... As someone who is in the process of editing a bunch
of interviews (and cringing at her own words), did you find it difficult
to evaulate the recordings of your performances to select the best
ones?  Is it easier as a performer than as a writer? - and I know you have
experience in both arenas.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #32 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 14:38
    

>did you find it difficult to evaulate the recordings of your performances to
>select the best ones?  Is it easier as a performer than as a writer?

There are empirical criteria that are pretty stringent, which narrows down
the field of candidates pretty quickly.  Obviously you want the guitar and
voice to be in tune, a minumum of missed notes on the guitar, etc.  And then
there is the quality of overall sound, which is a function of the quality of
the sound system at the venue (these are recordings from the sound systems at
various clubs and festivals).  Once you've gathered the acceptable record-
ings, then it's a matter of picking the one that delivers the emotional
goods.

The best performances are almost always in front of the best audiences, and
that usually comes through on the tape.  But there are one or two songs on
this CD, I think, that came from an outdoor performance on the campus of FSU
in Tallahassee, where there were a dozen or so people scattered over half an
acre or so of lawn, so there's no audible reaction at the end of the song.
But the performances were clean and strong, and I didn't manufacture ay
audience reaction for the CD.

I am not sure wat to say about the music vs. writing thing.  I learned to be
brutal editor of my own work under the tutelage of David McGee, my editor at
Record magazine, in the early '80s.  He took the time (and spent a mess of
Jann Wenner's money) to talk me through the editing process on dozens of
major pieces, teaching me how to be an editor by demonstrating great patience
and explaining what needed to be done.  I am sure I've brought a good deal of
that with me into the musical domain.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #33 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 14:46
    

Mary asked:

>What's the process of making a record, as you did it with Solo Acoustic?
 A lot more people are able to make their own and bypass a lot of the
 usual industry machinery, so just exactly what does that involve these
 days?

It's amazingly easy to get stuff onto CD these days.  I have a professional
CD mastering system in my home studio, because that's the tooll I use for my
day job: producing the Grateful Dead Hour, a weekly radio show.  And the cost
of pressing CDs is pretty reasonable, as well.

My wife, Rita, a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art (now the
University of the Arts), contributed the photographs.

The hard part is having good music, of course.

Getting distribution is a challenge, because the music industry is getting
crazier and crazier.  I invested a couple thousand oif my own dollars to get
a small run of CDs that I can sell on tour, and I succeeded in getting i
adopted by amazon.com's new program for independent releases.  I'll plow the
poceeds from this first run of discs into another pressing, and if I do well
enough I'll probably do another disc of solo acoustic stuff, too.

I woulkd like to get a "real" record deal, but the economics of that
business are ugly and punitive, so it's not likely I' ever make any money
from that.  But there are marketing advantages, which may be a reasonable
tradeoff for the feeling of being robbed.  Hard to say.

In an ideal world, I'll be able to make enough money selling CDs myself that
I don't have to put myself at anyone else's mercy, and the gigs andthe record
sales will synergize to my benefit.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #34 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Fri 23 Mar 01 14:59
    
Do you prefer live performance to working in the studio?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #35 of 500: police riots (dwaite) Fri 23 Mar 01 19:11
    
please tell us more about this new amazon program?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #36 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 20:12
    
I don't know much about it, Dave, except that it's now possible for little
dnky independent DIYers like me to sell our stuff through amazon now.  The
URL is <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005AUFQ/truthandfuninc/>
Thhey take a pretty large bite out of the selling price, but it's gret to
have it available online.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #37 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Fri 23 Mar 01 20:16
    

>Do you prefer live performance to working in the studio?

I would love an opportunity to get tired of working in the studio :^)

I really really love performing live, solo and with other musicians.  But I
also enjoy the craft and precision of working in the studio.  My most recent
recording experience was producing a CD by The Persuasions
<http://www.trufun.com/persuasions> .  It was profoundly rewarding to help
those great musicians find their way into a body of work I know so well: the
songs of the Grateful Dead.  I learned so much about music, about recording,
about singing, about creativity.  I look forward to my next opportunity to
produce anotehr record, be it my own or someone else's.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #38 of 500: David Crosby (croz) Sat 24 Mar 01 07:45
    
good luck with this record David and good on getting it into Amazon
and thence to the net.....also thanks for the recent GDH with "Kids and
Dogs" .....nice to think of it going out on the radiowaves 
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #39 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 08:59
    
Thanks, croz!  I look forward to hearing that new CPR record of yours, too.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #40 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 24 Mar 01 09:37
    
David <tnf>, I know you've told the story in detail elsewhere, but
seeing as some people may not be familiar with the Persuasions, can
you explain briefly who they are, how you came to connect -- and
how that recording project had similar challenges to Solo Acoustic--
or not. 

Some of your studio projects (SMR comes to mind in addition to Solo
Acoustic) involve working with existing live recordings, and some
involve making new recordings in the studio. What's different?
What's the same?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #41 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 11:31
    

I'll compose and answer offline and post it later today.  I'm right in the
middle of a huge day of music here at the Suwannee SpringFest.

My road schedule is quite heavy for the next few months.  The specifics are
posted at <http://www.trufun.com/gigs.html>

Information on the "Solo Acoustic" CD, and MP3 sound samples, are available
at <http://www.trufun.com/perfectible>
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #42 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 24 Mar 01 12:16
    
No problem, and feel free to give us on-the-spot SpringFest reports.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #43 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 13:33
    

> seeing as some people may not be familiar with the Persuasions, can you
> explain briefly who they are, how you came to connect -- and how that
> recording project had similar challenges to Solo Acoustic-- or not.

My old friend Rip Rense, a journalist who has been working with the Persua-
sions for several years, told me a few years ago that he wanted to see the
Persuasions do a CD of Grateful Dead songs.

I have seen the Persuasions many times over the years and enjoyed their a
cappella magic every time. Rip told me they were working on a CD of Frank
Zappa material, and I agreed with him that a Persuasions Dead set would be a
very good thing. At the time I was in the process of collecting material for
"Stolen Roses: Songs of the Grateful Dead"*, so I invited the Persuasions to
record a song on spec.

With Rip's counsel, the Persuasions chose to record "Black Muddy River," a
sweet and spiritual Hunter-Garcia composition from the Dead's 1987 album In
the Dark. I was sorry to displace Norma Waterson's excellent take on the
song, but delighted to have the Persuasions on board.

With an endorsement from lyricist Robert Hunter (who also assisted in select-
ing the songs we presented tot he band for consideration), Rip was able to
persuade Grateful Dead Records to commission a full CD of Dead songs. To my
great surprise and delight, Rip wrote me into the proposal as co-producer.
So I spent much of last spring and summer in the studio with the Persuasions
<http://www.thepersuasions.com>.

The band made some great connections with this great body of music, and I
can't say they needed my help in creating their arrangements. My most sig-
nificant contribution was in the selection of players and singers to support
them: the brilliant a cappella band Mary Schmary <http://www.schmary.com>;
pianist Vince Welnick; Peter Grant on the  tenstring Zephyr dobro; man-
dolinist Eric Thompson; percussionist Joe Craven; and vocal percussionist
Andrew Chaikin. I trusted my instincts, and it worked out magnificently. And
t hey let me do a little singing and playing, too.

The CD, "Might as Well: The Persuasions Sing Grateful Dead," was released
last fall to excellent reviews. There are many session photos, links to
reviews, and other material at <http://www.trufun.com/persuasions>.



>Some of your studio projects (SMR comes to mind in addition to Solo
>Acoustic) involve working with existing live recordings, and some involve
>making new recordings in the studio. What's different? What's the same?

What's the same is the concern for the flow of music from one track to the
next, musically and sonically. This is more of a challenge on a project like
"Stolen Roses,"* where every track is from a different audio source and a
different performer.

What's different is just about everything else. Collecting material for a
compilation is a creative act, but it's creativity once removed; recording
something from the ground up is much more risky, because any mistake you make
early in the process can cause big problems later and because it's not a
repackaging of work that has already proved itself on some level.





* "Stolen Roses" is a collection of Grateful Dead songs performed by other
artists, including Bob Dylan, the Patti Smith Band, the David Grisman Quin-
tet, Widespread Panic, the Stanford Marching Band, and others. More info at
<http://www.trufun.com/stolenroses>
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #44 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 24 Mar 01 14:56
    
It's not exactly festival weather in Oakland today, so I hope you're
faring better where you are. What's the crowd like there? Old hippies?
Britney refugees?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #45 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 16:32
    
The Suwannee SpringFest is a family affair -- lots of old hippies, lots of
old bluegrass fans, lots of middle-aged representatives of both cultures,
and lots of kids sand grandkids.  This is singer-songwriter heaven!
Yesterday I shared a "workshop" stage with Jack Williams and Annie Wenz, both
of whom have very good songs to offer.  We took turns, talking a bit about
what we do and then playing one.  Jack and Annie each had a song about a
friend of theirs, Al Grierson, who was killed in a flash flood in Texas last
year.  Both were excellent songs.

I talked about songs that a gift -- using "Down to Eugene" as an example -
and on the next round I talked about songs that are "a theft."  For that one,
I played "Who Killed Uncle John?".

Then Annie invited me to join her for her set on another stage today.  She
taught me a couple of her songs, and invited me up during her set (along with
another singer-songwriter, Marie Nofsinger).  That kind of stuff happens all
over this place all weekend.  Musicians who are usually out on the road alone
get to hang out together at these festivals.  It's a very wwarm environment
for the players as well as for the audience.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #46 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 24 Mar 01 16:40
    
Do you find that that type of setting causes you to think about
songs in new ways, or be inspired to write new ones, because of all the
new and different stuff floating around?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #47 of 500: Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 24 Mar 01 17:49
    
Also, since we're in that singer-songwriter space--I was just
following some links online and discovered that Gillian Welch,
one of whose songs appears on Solo Acoustic, is also responsible
for some of that fabulous music on the O Brother Where Art Thou
soundtrack. I don't know a thing about her or her work, so could
you fill us in a little, and maybe tell us a bit about
"Tear My Stillhouse Down" and what about it attracted you?
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #48 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 17:55
    

>Do you find that that type of setting causes you to think about
 songs in new ways, or be inspired to write new ones, because of all the
 new and different stuff floating around?

Absolutely!  Hearing so many wonderfull songs in so many styles, from such a
variety of writers, is a great source of ideas to "borrow."{
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #49 of 500: David Gans (tnf) Sat 24 Mar 01 18:02
    

>Gillian Welch

I was turned on to Gillian Welch by Eric Rawlins (woodman@well.com), with
whom I recorded the CD _Home By Morning_ (released in 1997).  I started
singing harmo0ny and playing guitar on that song with Eric in the lead, and
then I started doing it in my own solo set.

The performance on the new CD features Bobby Miller, a mandolinist who lives
in Atlanta.  t was my first gig in that town, in October 1999; a guy I hardly
know, Al Maxwell, urged me to invite a guy I don't know at all -- Bobby -- to
sit in.  We talked briefly about common repertoire, and we chose "Stillhouse"
and "Ripple" and maybe one other song.  Wth no rehearsal, never even having
met before, we played together that night.  You don't hear it on the record,
but over the applause on the tape I say, "They were right -- you're good!"
Bobby and I have played together several times sincethen, and he will be
joining me in my mainstage set tomorrow morning.

Gillian Welch is a young singer-songwriter who made a BIG splash in te
Americana scene with her first album, whose name eudes my pickled brain at
the moment.  Lots of people are covering her songs.  I've seen her live a
couple of times -- just Welch and her partner, David Rawlings, who sings
subtle harmony lines and plays some terrific lead guitar.  They are life
partners as well as musical partners, I'm pretty sure, and ther onstage
demeanor is pretty interesting.  Her second album, "Hell Among the
Yearlings," ais also well worth hearing.
  
inkwell.vue.107 : David Gans - Solo Acoustic
permalink #50 of 500: Kosher Swan (shmo) Sat 24 Mar 01 18:34
    
I'm a Gillian Welch fan (and love David's version of Stillhouse). While
she's got this very authentic Southern/woodsy persona, she's actually a
"valley girl," from the L.A. suburb of Encino. I find that postmodern
disjunction fascinating and wonderful.
  

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