Posts tagged: Shipe

Sittin’ in on Lap Steel @ Bend Roots Fest (Sunday 9/29)

An entire weekend of sitting in with friends as a side-man! What better way to kick myself back into gear? This afternoon was my third guest spot in as many days.

Friday night I was at Ninkasi in Eugene, perched on my Fender Twin wearing a strapless stratocaster for The Stagger & Sway.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), at the Bend (Oregon) Roots Festival, my old friend Brad Tisdel spontaneously invited me to accompany him on lap steel. It was an hour of sweet, sublime, rainy-day folk music, on which I trod delicately. (Mostly swells, paddings and eerie, moody melodies.)

And this afternoon, third and final day of the festival, again I was on lap steel. Sean McGowan let me wade sonically through a diverse dozen-song-set of originals. (In case you’re asking what a few others have asked: No, this is not “Shane MacGowan” from The Pogues who used to give drunken interviews and was in the news for having his rotten teeth fixed.)

Sean McGowan, is a Eugene songster colleague. And like Brad, he is a longtime friend going all the way back to high school in the 80’s. He’s also the Radio Americana DJ at KLCC.

I did have solo slot of my own, after playing with Brad. It was one of my best, deeper and smoother than ever, thanks to a generous audience and a well-warmed-up space. I didn’t even have to make a set list. It felt like a house concert, where it’s easy to read the emotional trajectories of the room. (And that is the sweetest spot to be in.)

That said, what I’m really taking away from this weekend is that I’ve fallen in love with my lap steel all over again, and I will be looking for more opportunities to caress it. And… I dare say, I am re-thinking the bad attitude I have towards my beast-of-an-amplifier: Fender “The Twin,” 35 years old, road-ugly, weighing in at something like a thousand pounds. I can’t tell you the countless times I’ve left it on the sidewalk hoping someone would steal it. But now, it’s sounding pretty frickin’ good!

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“Better Off” in 2013

A friend from Eastern Washington (who goes by the nickname “Puck”) recently sent me a touching post, thanking me for a certain song that lifted his spirits, and sharing one of his own, thusly inspired.

Whenever I perform at Hogan’s Pub in Clarkston, (usually w/ Scott Cargill & 7 Devils) Puck requests my 12-year old break-up song “Better Off Without You.” I wrote it a dozen years ago — a paradox of anger & levity — and it got me through a difficult time. (It was cheekily deemed “the greatest break-up song ever” by a Eugene Weekly writer.) Here is a version from my former “Alternative Rock” incarnation (from Pollyanna Loves Cassandra):

The song seems to have helped my friend see the hard times through. That is the best news a songwriter can get. And, even better, Puck paid it forward by writing a similarly-themed tune “Better Off.” He graciously allows me to repost his video here:

As much as we performing/recording artists strive to get good reviews from the press, nothing gratifies like finding out that a fellow human being has been emotionally affected by the work we do. And even better, that someone would be inspired to put their own creativity to work and keep the collective torch burning.

Artists work for real human beings, not just Entertainment Biz entities.

Thank you, Puck. Keep up the good work. See you in April to celebrate happier times.

Here is the live acoustic version from the 2001 A Stealthy Portion, featuring Elisabeth Babcock on cello. (It was selected for Michelle Malone’s compilation of independent artists):

Shipe @ Saginaw Vineyard, Cottage Grove 2/15

Sometimes the demographic in the crowd is so mixed, it’s hard to connect, and hard to choose what songs to play from my 150-tune list.

Last night’s gig at Saginaw Vineyard started at 6:00 pm, with unfamiliar folks in the audience. So I started out with a bunch of cover tunes. Unusual for me; it’s not my style to lean on covers so heavily. I prefer them as palette-cleansers as I move through my original compositions.

(Did I just refer to my songs as “compositions?”)

When I first inquired about this gig, Karen (who is an absolute sweetheart) rejected me. The music on my website is not what they want. For the first time in years, I had to sell myself. She described the typical Saginaw performer as an easy-listening, semi-country, lots of classic singer-songwriter covers…. basically a “rural James Taylor.” (Admittedly, my latest album is produced with a light-indie, full-band tweak on my Americana sound.)

So I sent an email, fibbing that I am “exactly” what she has in mind. And I figured that when I showed up, I could approximate the requirements just barely enough. Although I have some sort of block against James Taylor, I have twisted two Van Morrison songs into my own unique personal indulgences, which go over well at wineries.

To liven things up, I had Pat Kavaney sit in. If I’m going to play my safest (oldest) material — and covers — it’s a lot more fun with a jammin’ friend.

However, I was pleasantly surprised (knocked out, actually) by the arrival some unexpected friends… including the drummer from Hot for Chocolate. And I did not want to feature my “safe stuff” in front of them. Poor Pat! I put him through my most challenging tunes, and new stuff he hadn’t even heard before — in keys like E flat and C#. (“Just play slide, Pat. you’ll be fine.”)

I know he’s gonna get me back by making me sit in on his Steely Dan set, a task of nightmarish proportions for a hack like me.

The good news is that the gig went great. House was full. Patrons were happy, CD’s were sold. (I am nearly cleaned out of “Villain.”) Karen said that a house record was broken.

“Love Ain’t Easy” (for Valentine’s Day)

Here is a close-up of my latest song. A gift to struggling lovers on Valentine’s Day.

Meet TC Ragstix

For the past couple years, I’ve had a casual, informal writing partnership with a friend I made in California named TC Ragstix. Through my well-advertised dryspell, he has been almost as encouraging as Ehren Ebbage.

Looking over the material I’ve eked out over that wretched stretch, I dare say that some of it is my (our) best work. (Believe or not, this often happens to artists during their worst creative droughts. They keep poking and digging, seemingly without any inspiration, despising the execution of every stroke. Finally they step back and look at what’s there: “Hey! That’s not half bad!.”)

TC’s contribution is substantial enough that I will be sharing writing credit on my 2013 release (whenever that happens — hopefully before 2014).

I credit TC for getting me unstuck when it comes to creating absurd, fun characters. He said: “Don’t be afraid that humor is gonna overshadow whatever serious stuff you’re talking about.”

Me: “Yeah, but I don’t to write novelty songs.”

TC: “If you do it right, your songs will be more meaningful. You disarm the listener by creating something fun, and then you melt their hearts, or you hit ’em the gut… or maybe you just wanna make them think.”

He went on to say, “What is wrong with you Northwesterners, always so deep and meaningful… All that grey wet weather?”

When I ran these thoughts by Ehren Ebbage, he nodded: “Humor has always been a part of your work, Shipe. You didn’t already know that?”

No, I didn’t know that. But now that he’s mentioned it, I’m thinking of “Imitation Man,” “Villain,” “Honky Tonk Romans,” “Another Disaster,” “Junkies on Film,” “What Right Do We Have to Fall in Love,” “American Wisdom,” “Livin’ in Exile,” and “Better Off Without You,” “Surfin’ the Shock Wave.”

But what’s really funny is that, in every one of those songs, I was being deadly serious, broaching subjects that i find profound and unsettling, if not downright dark. It seems like every time I dive into stuff that affects me most deeply, at my best, humor naturally arises.

It reminds me of what Bruno Kirby said about acting in comedy: “You can’t really play a result (comic effect)… I just play the character’s point of view…”

The humor comes from fully and sincerely embodying a characters value system and all of its associations. The humor is almost unintentional, which is the best kind of comedy.

Anyway, I am convicted into sharing songwriting credit, even though he doesn’t want it. If it weren’t for him, my live solo acoustic sets wouldn’t be kickin’ forward with “Jesus,” “Beast is Back,” “The Decider,” “A Drinkin’ Man” (he preached me into playing on ukulele). Oh, and “Pit Bull Rescue Woman” which was originally the brainchild of John Grimshaw.

Shipe Tour day 1: Richland, WA (Bookwalter Wines)

New wineries are popping up all over Eastern Washington, and I intend to inhabit each and every one.

Last night it was Bookwalter Winery in Richland. Gorgeous place, complete with Bocci and Croquette.

In the last several years, these wineries have become the bread-n-butter gig of choice for singer-songwriters. The people who come here like acoustic music. They listen and tip well; they even buy CD’s (instead of downloading from iTunes.)

And they like original music. In the old days, you couldn’t even get this gig unless you were an easy-on-the-ear act playing jazz standards Either that, or a human juke box serving up James Taylor, Van Morrison, and Joni Mitchell. (I confess that I do, indeed, serve up sheepish versions of two light Van-the-Man songs.)

Summer still lingers East of the Cascades, so I was set up outside on this warm night. As I was settling into my stool, strumming the first few sound check chords, a table of elderly people was seated right smack in front of me. I could hear them wondering aloud about my potential volume. “Well,” joked one fellow, “If he’s too loud, I can just turn down my hearing aid. I don’t know what you’re gonna do.”

It’s a good thing I have box chock full of mellow tunes that I love to play — and I don’t get to play them often in the louder bars. And I respect my elders; so the first set was really lazy and soft. Later in the night, I ramped it up. (It blows my mind how many CD’s I sell when I play “Yellow House,” “Villain,” and “Jesus.”)

By the way, my wine of choice has become Riesling on the dry side — one glass during set-up, one glass per set, one glass while winding down with the staff. (That can end up being 5 glasses.) Since I’ve been playing gigs like this (and since my Hungarian friends in Florida, of Zemplen Oak Barrels, started schooling me), I’ve learned a thing or two about wine. No red for me, please; it gives me a headache.

Last time I was here, I chatted with the owner — J. Bookwalter — an appreciator of the Oregon-based McMenamins company. He frequently spends weekends revitalizing at The Edgefield in Troutdale, OR, which has inspired him to start building cabins on his own vineyard. So we can lounge and drink wine for days on end!

Pit Bull Blues T-Shirts/Fort Wayne, IN

New T-Shirts sold like crazy yesterday at the event in Fort Wayne. (Damn good-looking shirts, too, thanks to Claire Flint @ Three Seed Design and Webfoot Printing.)

(Check them out on the “Merch” page.)

They worked me in Fort Wayne, I gotta say — three staggered sets in Midwestern heat-n-humidity. I broke my cardinal rule of “Never play a song twice at the same show.” But things are different at these 6-hour Pit Bull Rescue fundraisers. I played all three of my canine-oriented songs once at the beginning, and once at the end. (Needless to say, I’m appealing to the kids. And by kids, I mean children –young children. Like cigarette companies, I’m cultivating that next generation of Shipe fans, so I can keep doing it ’til I’m old and gray. But, I also sneak in some adult-oriented stuff like “The Beast is Back Again.”)

I had a really nice moment with one of Fort Wayne’s best local artists, Sunny Taylor. She did an amazing version “God Only Knows” (Beach Boys). This is not an easy song to learn or play. Such a beautiful piece and she really nails it. Then, as I was going into my 2nd set opener — the intro notes to Temptations’ “My Girl,” Sunny said, “Hey I almost played that song!”

“Well,” I said, “Do you wanna sing it … key of C?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Modulate to D?”

And she the verses. We sang harmonies during the chorus. I love that impromptu stuff with fine musicians you’ve never met before.

Warm thanks to Kim Sargent of Fort Wayne Pit Bull Coalition for inviting me out there to Indiana and the almost-anonymous donors who sprung for my plane ticket. (I hadn’t been out to Indy since my Renegade Saints days.) And thanks to Janet & Jerry for taking care of me for 3 days and nights. Thank you all so much.

Shipe song among “Best of 2011” in region

My new year kicks off nicely with a boost from the Eugene Register Guard (specifically, musical writer Serena Markstrom) who lists “Hard to Believe” as one of the Best Local Songs of 2011.

It’s my simplest, rootsiest country tune off Villain. A broken-hearted country lament in the classic male/female duet style. I credit my duet partner Halie Loren for putting it over the top, and producer Ehren Ebbage and guitarist Al Toribio for injecting just the right amount of twang.

Now, if I can find someone to help me shop the tune around Nashville, I will pay such a person handsomely in foot massages, grilled cheese sandwiches, and untold royalty percentages.

Shipe SW Tour Days 9 &10 – Race to Austin: gig un-booked!

Insomnia hit me bad after my Thursday night Pecan Grill show. I tossed and turned in an El Paso Motel 6. On one hour of sleep, I was awake at dawn to drive 8 1/2 hours for my opening slot at Gypsy Lounge in Austin.

As I drove out of El Paso, along the Rio Grande, I was suddenly hit by a an unpleasant surprise. Although Mapquest had promised me that I would arrive in time, I hadn’t noticed that the drive time was based on West Texas speed limits! Sure, you can drive 600 miles in 8 hours… going 80 miles per hour!

I don’t like riding my beat up 1990 Toyota Corolla Wagon so hard, full of gear. But what could I do? I’m a professional. I pony-expressed it all the way through “no-country-for-old-men,” freaking out the whole time, listening to my car’s every rattle, whistle, squeak and any utterance of old-automobile pain. By the time I got to Austin, my beloved vehicle had acquired 37% more rickitiness. (Isn’t that the technical term? Or is rickiticity?)

The good thing about the drive is the condition of Texas roads. They are so smooth. Either the great state of Texas has impeccable road priorities, or Rick Perry makes good use of Obama’s Recovery Act funding.

When I arrived at the Gypsy Lounge, guess what!? I was not slated on the bill. In fact, there was no “bill” at all. A dj was scheduled to start spinning at 10:00 pm. For the moment, however, I wasn’t even thinking about performing. I wanted a refreshment. Like range-riding cowboy just off the dusty trail, busting through the saloon doors. “Bartender, give me a drink!”

I played anyway. The owner asked me, “Are you good?”

“Yes, I’m good.”

For the time being, I have no will to get angry at my booking contact. I’m mostly here in Austin for the Pit Bull Events this weekend, hosted by Austin Love-a-Bull.

The V.I.P. Kickoff Party is tonight at 7:00. And the Texas-Size Pittie Pride Parade & Festival is tomorrow.

Shipe in Las Cruces @ Pecan Grill – SW Tour Day 8

My first New Mexican gig.

I heard four differing accounts of Las Cruces: a tiny border town, a lonely desert outpost, an art community tucked away in the mountains (like Jerome, AZ), a resort town (like Taos).

Nope. It’s actually a University Town. Pretty big, pretty regular, pretty spread out. Looking at the Pecan Grill website, I imagined a quaint little adobe Bistro/Brew Pub, with a tiny stage in the corner of an intimate engaging room. I was mistaken. The place is huge, with several spacious rooms and high ceilings. It’s more restaurant-like than pub-like. And chock full of beautiful people looking spectacular.

Although the intrinsic intimacy quotient isn’t high, an artist can make a connection one of those rooms. I, however, felt like leaving the patrons alone rather than “talk at them.” I was told by one listener that I could have afforded a bit more engagement had I been in the mood.

I was well-paid, and well-taken care of by Shawn the manager. He is a musician himself, from a reggae/ska outfit called Liquid Cheese. So he knows the travails of the touring artist. In fact, that’s why he booked this out-of-town road warrior, on an off night, in lieu of his regular roster — out of respect and the desire to help a traveller on his way. (Liquid Cheese, although base in El Paso, did much of their work in Northern California where Reggae reigns supreme.)

As a touring artist, I have said this before, and I’ll say it again: When you greet us well, treat us well, and make us feel at home, it means as much as paying us well.

Interesting side-note: In New Mexico, it is against the law to serve alcohol to musicians during the performance. They can drink as much as they want before the gig, and plenty more after the gig. But they cannot drink during the gig, not even at set break. (New Mexico cares about the quality what they put on their stages.)