Produced by John Alagia at Haunted Hollow in Charlottesville, VA featuring Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam, David Bowie, T-Bone Burnett) on drums and guest appearances by Dave Matthews.
3) Pizza Box
5) Misty Swan
10) Broken Clock
11) Sparta, TN
This exclusive pre-order bundle includes the 'Pizza Box' CD plus a high quality cotton t-shirt featuring an illustration by Dave Matthews of Danny used for the cover art of the album. The back of the shirt features 'Pizza Box' lettering and an ATO Records logo.
10/06 Millvale, PA- Mr. Small's Funhouse
10/08 Philadelphia, PA- Keswick Theatre
10/09 Washington DC- 9:30 Club
10/10 Baltimore, MD- Ram's Head Live
10/11 Northampton, MA- Pearl Street
10/14 Burlington, VT- Higher Ground
10/15 Burlington, VT- Higher Ground
10/16 Boston, MA- House of Blues
10/17 New York, NY- Nokia Theatre
10/18 State College, PA- State Theatre
10/21 Milwaukee, WI- The Rave
10/22 Madison, WI- Orpheum Theatre
10/23 Chicago, IL- House of Blues
10/24 Chicago, IL- House of Blues
10/28 Columbia, MO- The Blue Note
10/29 Omaha, NE- Sokol Auditorium
10/30 Lawrence, KS- Liberty Hall
10/31 Lawrence, KS- Liberty Hall
Fans, friends, and neighbors,
Thank for you for your interest in my work, for coming to shows and singing my songs, telling other folks about them, buying and downloading my music, and supporting my efforts in all ways. Bless you for this.
I am now writing to tell you about this new project I've been working on for about three years. There's a batch of songs that's coming out called 'Pizza Box', and it's the most developed and realized stuff I've ever released. My team and I are supremely excited in this regard.
Here's the story. So I just kept writing and editing and working on these songs. Trying to make the clearest most interesting, happening statement I could get together. The songs are like scenes in a movie in my head. Professionally, I was working on 'Folktronics' as my live show, and playing in other folks' bands (~150 dates a year), which left me some head space to develop and tend to some songs. There was no home (band/label/market) for them or any context to put them in at that point, and I just kept writing, kept editing, and kept developing ideas.
I had talked to a few labels about putting out the record, but none of it felt really right. Typically they wanted me to tone down this stuff and be more of a banjo player and trim down the contemporary elements of my current tableau. It's a very odd conversation with a record label when they want you to be less commercial than the music you have written! Think on that. Let that work on you. That has happened to me more than once.
I held off signing anything.
So I just went back to editing this batch of songs and writing new ones and getting the poetry right and developing these characters and the overall story arch, figuring how to make the arrangements very simple and to my ear, powerful...chords that were boulders instead of pebbles, making a movie in my head where the songs were scenes and there were common elements that tied everything together to tell this one big story.
The story is, this group of people (they intersect in their physical environs) are on various sides of the life decision that they are not victims after all but rather, the cause of their own misery. Some of them realize it and much jubilation ensues, all they have to do is stop doing that and they can have a life right NOW. Others ignore this philosophical leap and proceed into the gates of insanity and death taking down others as well. Being wrong about 95% of the time, and the 5% of the time they are right, they don't know why. One of the characters just suspects this, but he never implements this into his life. He robs another person in one of the other songs.
In this process of developing these ideas, one of the things I ended up doing a few times with my friend, Dave Matthews, was to sit around and eat sandwiches and swap songs....new stuff we were working on. "Here's one...(jam)...now play one of yours! (jam)." It's a great way to spend a day. Anyways, Dave had mentioned to me, "hey man, these songs are really cool, we have to try and figure a way to help you get this stuff out." He was working on songs for 'Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King', his new record, and I went to some sessions to play banjo and hang out (those guys are my friends).
So one day about a year ago, I got a call from Coran Capshaw (Dave's manager), and he says "hey we want to help you with this record. Dave is very excited about your songs and we have lots of resources, how can we help? What can we do? What do you need? what musicians would you want?" In the meantime, I had been calling Dave's cell and teasing him with these cool little choruses and things I was writing and playing them into his voicemail. I was also playing and developing these songs on the road in my 'Folktronics' set.
So I thought about it for a sec and just asked for keys to the DMB studio for a couple of weeks, their house engineer (Rob Evans, a talented man of various musical interests), and Matt Chamberlain (one of the most recorded drummers in the world right now, a real nice guy, and a someone I had worked on another record with previously...he's really one of the greats), and could I please speak with John Alagia, an LA producer that Dave had been mentioning to me, perhaps get him? Coran basically said, "hey, let's go to work".
Dave and Coran wanted me to do what I was doing! That felt good.
My idea was to have a very small group of people as the core group, but the best guys we could find.
So I talked to John Alagia for about an hour on the phone, and realized in my spirit that this was THE guy to work on this project. I had always thought of my music as pop music; fractured pop, but pop nonetheless. Most of my career, I guess because of the banjo in my palette, I usually end up working with bluegrass/picking/country/americana whatever that's called type bands/producers/venues/etc; which is of course, cool, but I always felt somewhat out of place because of my experimental and playful nature vis-a-vis the audio process. Typically picking/bluegrass music is recorded with a documentary type approach. Because of my training in audio, the years of having my own small writing studio, my interest in contemporary composition, and also my own vibe as a fan myself, I like more experimental sound palettes. I like to use the traditional music as a jumping off place, but consider myself a contemporary musician. This is my vision. So in talking to John Alagia for a short span of time, it was pretty obvious that we spoke a similar language, could reference the same records, had a similar work ethic and approach, and we could, in effect, go to work! He seemed like a positive vibed, talented, humble cat that did not have a trip so to speak. This turned out to be very true.
So that's how it all came about. We went out to the DMB studio and worked almost around the clock and made this record. Dave came by and checked our work and jumped around for about four hours in glee. He sang on some stuff and made some mix comments on how we could bring out some of the ideas. Rashawn Ross came by and graced us with his killer horn arrangements and his wonderful approach. We ate good food, drank lots of espresso, and worked really hard. In the downtime, we listened to other music, played frisbee in the yard, and laughed a lot. We took two evenings off and went and played with DMB in Charlottesville.
What's awesome about this stuff, and what keeps me so engaged, is when you make something that turns out way better and way beyond what you thought you were going to be able to do. That's a very exciting thing to be 47 years old, and to make the best record you've ever made! Man, as my old friend Bill Frisell says, "what a world!"
I played most of the parts myself. The record is elementally Matt Chamberlain and myself. I played the pianos, banjos, guitars, bass, assorted stuff, and sang and wrote the music. Dave, Rashawn, and John put on some nice strawberry frosting.
When you have guys in your life that are way better than you are at stuff, way beyond you in so many ways, and they let you know you did a good job and encourage you, that's really a great thing. Those three guys let me know I was onto something really good! They were very clear about that, and that makes me excited to get up in the morning, and makes me happy to get out on the road and play and tell folks about this work.
So that's what's going on in my life. My hope is that you will listen to this music and tell someone else about it.
Word of mouth is still where it's at. That's where everything happens...friends talking to friends (leave those complicated people by the side of the road)!
Remember two things:
a. Hey, we're all in this together
b. Music is good!