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ThrowBackThursday - On the Road with John and Charley 

Looking back on a blog post of recent yesteryear (and bringing it over from the old website for further reference):

A recent short book I thoroughly enjoyed, especially since I do so much travel (more so by bus than by plane), was: "Travels With Charley: In Search Of America" by John Steinbeck.  It reads like a autobiographical slice of his life in the early 60's - very cool.  He writes:

"The Mojave is a big desert and a frightening one.  It's as though nature tested a man for endurance and constancy to prove whether he was good enough to get to California."
Guess I've passed the test many times! How about you?

He Ripped It Off His Jacket! 

We recently played a show at Buffalo Hollow in Petersburgh, Ohio.  We did our three song encore starting with Don Henley's "The Heart of the Matter". After the show a guy climbs up to the stage holding a embroidered patch of an American flag.

His name was Matthew and he proceeded to show me the spot on his jacket where he ripped off his patch (that he got from serving in the U.S. Army - jacket and patch) to give to me as a thank you for singing "Heart of the Matter". While he served, this was a song that meant a lot to him and still does. 

Hats off to the men and woman and their families who serve in the armed forces. Talk about real rock stars!

Oh! I noticed in this "selfie" the flag shows as backward. I thought, "Oh, oh, not good!" But....

Army Regulation 670-1..."states that when authorized for application to the proper uniform the American flag patch is to be worn, right or left shoulder, so that “the star field faces forward, or to the flag’s own right. When worn in this manner, the flag is facing to the observer’s right, and gives the effect of the flag flying in the breeze as the wearer moves forward..."

History of Christianity & a Mob Star 

In preparing for another road trip, it seems I find myself riding on not only a tour bus, but a literary seesaw once again. 2 books at once - Let's go!... 

On one side I sit with a book I've had for quite a while, given to my by a good friend, on a subject I've always wanted to delve into. Eerdmans' Handbook to the History of Christianity 

And the opposite side you can find me with a book I "checked out" from the library on my iPad: "Mob Star - The Story of John Gotti"

Next thing you know, I'll be writing a song with Mafioso metaphors! I already have one on the way with space metaphors orbiting throughout after seeing the movie "Gravity"

I leave you with this from historian, Bede (673-735) in "Eerdman's":


The Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah" 

After recording my version "Hallelujah", I posted a first copy of it online sort of like a preview. Weeks down the road, as I was considering the idea of releasing the song myself, a thoughtful friend of Hotel California from Arizona, Marilyn, brought me this book ("The Holy or the Broken - Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley & the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah") by Alan Light before one of our shows:  

It was very timely - I'm actually glad I waited till after recording and singing this song, before I read the book. There are so many ways to interpret the lyric. I enjoyed the read very much! This quote says it all.Thanks again, Marilyn!

You can check out my version of "Hallelujah" HERE 

"Do you sing Seven Bridges Road?" 

Last summer of 2013 I was enjoying two slices of mega-size pizza with some good friends in Bryant Park, one of my favorite green spots in all of NYC.  A stranger walks up to our green metal table and asks me:

"Do you sing Seven Bridges Road?"

Strange question.  I answer, "Whatzit to ya?"  (kidding)

I answer yes, of course. 

Turns out he recognized me from back in December of 2012 at a show we (Hotel California - A Salute to the Eagles) did and he attended at the Mohegan Sun Casino all the way in Uncasville, CT!  I just thought, "What are the odds of this happening?!"

It just amazed me that our paths would cross within this city of 8,405,837 million Of course it's nice to be appreciated for what one does, but what was really wonderful was the whole serendipitous aspect of that sweet but brief moment in the middle of the Big Apple.

"Give me such shows - give me the streets of Manhattan!" ~ Walt Whitman

P.S. We're playing there again July 20 ,2014

P.P.S And sometime in July you'll find me back at Bryant Park. Pizza anyone?

Old Dog - New Trick: Good Dog! 

I have been working and traveling with Hotel California going on 9 years now. It continues to be a rewarding journey in stage performance.

So hey - I've discovered a new thing! It's called: "Warming up your voice". Have you heard of it?

A spot of tea at the Florida State Fair - Tampa, FL

After spending a good amount of months lightly going through any old song backstage, warming up before a show, I have allowed the old dog in me to learn a trick - Plain old fashioned scales and annoying but performance strengthening buzzings and stuff.

I'm pretty much tired of warming up during (as opposed to before) the show.

A typical beginning to a 90 minute show, with all it's "Steve challenge points", will go like this:

1. TAKE IT EASY: Lot's of high harmonies to get to throughout, and then I sing a high harmony above the melody during the second verse. Not really the place to start your warmups! I want to be ready to go when I get there.

2. WITCHY WOMAN next. Singing the lead vocal here, I want to be ready when I get there. No more wondering if my voice will answer back "Ooops, dang; why didn't you warm me up?".

3. ALREADY GONE: More high harmony!! Second verse harmony, etc, etc...

4. SEVEN BRIDGES ROAD: This is where a noticeable difference caused me to say, "Okay, I think this warming up thing is working" I notice I have much better pitch (extreeeemly important) and breath and resonance here on this one!  ¡Muy importante! - a lot of acapella

That's just the first 4 songs.

In conclusion, being the old dog with a new trick, I have become... my own best friend? (Get it? Dog = Man's best friend)

That's it for now.... ruff!

Book Quotes - Nathaniel Hawthorne 

“Life is made up of marble and mud. And, without all the deeper trust in a comprehensive sympathy above us, we might hence be led to suspect the insult of a sneer, as well as an immitigable frown, on the iron countenance of fate”  
“People in difficulty and distress, or in any manner at odds with the world, can endure a vast amount of harsh treatment, and perhaps be only the stronger for it; whereas they give way at once before the simplest expression of what they perceive to be genuine sympathy.”
“I find nothing so singular in life, as that everything appears to lose its substance the instant one actually grapples with it. So it will be with what you think so terrible.”
“As a general rule, Providence seldom vouchsafes to mortals any more than just that degree of encouragement which suffices to keep them at a reasonably full exertion of their powers”
Excerpt From: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “House of the Seven Gables.” iBooks. 
This material may be protected by copyright.
Check out this book on the iBooks Store:

Object Writing - Illegal (Criminal oozings, forced sniffles, ewe) 

The word, "Illegal", unedited writing practice, 10 minutes, go!...

This illness is illegal to my plans as far as I'm concerned. If it had any rights they would be read to it and then locked up for further judgement. A judgement and jury that would never come. Criminal oozings and forced sniffles. Unlawful nuisances of scratchy throat grumbles. My strength has been stolen from me from out of nowhere. I stand to a dizziness that's murder on my energy level. I fear a nausea may overpower me like a thief in the night. Handcuffed to my bed is what it feels like. The law of health thrown and broken to pieces like Moses throwing the covenant stones in front of the Israelites. Chicken soup, like prison's bread and water, is my lot in life today. A kleenex that will never wipe away the charges completely until the virus is banished from my society of thoughts.

Object Writing - Swift (not Taylor) 

The word, "Swift", unedited writing practice, 10 minutes, go!...

...and finish the last sentence if you'd like! :)

The dust danced around me to the song of her swift leaving. Dragging, spinning feet race away with the fury of a dragster in a sweepstakes race. I gave her the green light with my word of, "Go find your green ball". Joy flew to her face with a smile as wide as an olympic swimming pool is long. I still could taste the mac and cheese, made instantly, for our father/daughter Saturday. We jumped from our kitchen chairs like race horses out of the shoot, her laughter like from a winning bet. She knew I had time for her. Cheese sauce stains on her shirt like...

Object writing bonus! Lol  "Mallet"

I will take a mallet to my fear and smash it to bits. Like an empty bottle with nothing good in it for me, I swing hard and watch the pieces shiny and sharp splatter across the room. A shower of glass. A firm resolve as though holding the smooth wooden handle in my calloused and tightly gripping hand. Death instrument to scary imaginations. Their last final screaming presence in the hail of fragmented realities. Hard rubber impacts my life forever, for good. Your words to me became a Home Depot of personal strategies and tools I could find to build a better life outlook.

Object Writing - Tribe 

Like working out the body on a somewhat daily basis, this is like working out the [song]writing muscle. I'll get to some real songwriting later in the day.

The word, "Tribe", unedited writing practice, 10 minutes, go!...

We are like a tribe. The passion of song is in our blood. We share the same bloodline. The desire to communicate by the language of songwriting. A finished song another feather in our caps. Nomads of imagination. Sitting still yet we are miles away, off in some distant setting. Our campfire sending smoke from burning embers of thought. Dancing eyes for the heavens to send down nourishing drops of ideas, places to go next. Watering our fertile minds where inspiration grows. Turquoise, silver, desert sands.....Shuffling feet kick up the dust from our wandering. The dust of stagnant paths now forgotten. Horizon ahead welcomes our...

Object Writing - Castaway the words of The Police, "Sending out an S.O.S"

The word, "Castaway", unedited writing practice, 10 minutes, go!...

I was the castaway and she was the ship that never came for me. A world of beauty all around me but I never noticed it. And it got further and further from my heart's notice the longer I waited for her to sail for me. My hopes fell like an old, bug-infested palm tree. My heart as empty as an unripened coconut  knocked to the ground too soon. My own thoughts were sounding as sad as the echoing cry of the seagull. Ocean air once smelled so sweet; now was a bitter air of defeat. A losing game of wishing for the non-inevitable. Wishing for the kissable lips moistened by the salty spray of ocean travels. I bow my head like the setting sun, like day turns to night.

Object Writing - Ding 

The word "ding", unedited writing practice, 10 minutes, go!...

Ouch! Her blunt words put a ding in my pride like a front side panel of a car sideswiped from out of nowhere. Unexpected concussion like crunching metal against metal, both our wills moving in opposite directions. Trust is our insurance that disagreements will be softly pounded out to more peaceful moments. I sport this indentation temporarily until some emotional muscle is applied to mend our collision of thought. Collision insurance of devotion covers our future. We will continue to drive ahead with assurance.

"Ding"! Time's up. Lol

Object Writing - Prime 

The word "Prime", unedited writing, mining for interesting metaphors and such, 10 minutes, go!.....
He was as primed for action as a lawn mower on a warm Saturday morning. Red rubber button cover protruding like a bulbous clown nose. Freshly brewed coffee wafted by his nostrils like unleaded exhaust fumes from a sputtering grass chopping machine. It was as if his hands were on the gear handle, his mind strolling back and forth across the list of items he must mow through to feel a sense of accomplishment that day. He filled his cup with java fuel, brought it to his lips, and felt the warm cream and sugar and coffee mixture fill his empty tank. First three sips like a weed-eater string pull with the choke on.

Writing Exercise - Tinkling eye rolling, hanging sarcasm, etc 

1. List 5 interesting adjectives
2. Find interesting noun to make a "breathtaking collision" ie: interesting metaphor
(Writing Better Lyrics - Pat Pattison)
Okay, I can do this...
1. Grating >> Feather
Her presence to him was like a grating feather to a person that hates to be tickled.
2.  Walking >> Picture frame
He gazed on the photo in the dark brown wooden border surrounding it that practically became a walking picture frame leading him by the hand down memory lane.
3. Splashing >> laughter
She bounced into the room, her vibrant sense of humor and splashing laughter turning every head and washing over every stodgy heart.
4. Tinkling >> Eye rolling
Her tinkling eye rolling sent chimes of disapproval to his sensitive, listening heart.
5. Lifted >> Wedding
The lifted wedding rose to new dazzling emotional heights as they exchanged vows in their new American language.
6.  Hanging >> Sarcasm. (Okay, so I did six)
Hanging sarcasm adorned his every un-festive word.
My first attempt at hanging/friendship turn into a verb. Try again! Still I liked what I wrote for it....
They each boarded their respective flights and left their friendship hanging like an old familiar snugly coat, knowing they could pick it up again on a moments notice.

Taxi Music Forward - New Age Instrumental 

Yanni I am not.  But it was nice to get a nod of recognition by getting this track moved on to the next step of possible usage.  The pitch called for:

NEW AGE INSTRUMENTALS as calming and tranquil as any Yanni, David Arkentsone, or David Lanz track are needed by the Owner of an incredibly successful Music Library. We just started working this company a few months ago. They’ve got tons of placements in some of today’s hottest TV Shows, Films, and Commercials. Your tracks must be engaging and compelling from beginning (no long intros please!) to end through use of sophisticated grooves, creative sounds, and an interesting arrangement. They’re looking for melodic instrumentals that will leave the listener feeling as though a sense of peace has gently washed over them. We’d advise that you stick to one central motif, and keep it moving forward by adding new layers and interest as you go. All tempos will be considered. 

I and my primal screaming self (who you hear way down in the mix) submitted this:

Taxi Music Forward - Classic Rock 

The pitch called for:
GUITAR-DRIVEN RIFF ROCK INSTRUMENTALS are needed by a Publisher who’s placing tracks in an upcoming Feature Film. He’s looking for virtually ALL styles of Riff Rock for this one. Quoting the Publisher: “Classic Rock like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin will work. Current Rock like Jet, or The Hives will also be cool. I’m even open to aggressive Heavy Metal and Grunge, as long as there’s a big juicy guitar riff on the track. The most important thing is that the instrumentals have an edgy attitude that will work in both suspenseful scenes, and in action scenes.” He wants your tracks to sound like authentic band songs, not like under-sore that has been composed for scene. 

I had just the track for it!

I modeled "Ocean Strut" after this song. Perhaps you've heard it?: