In 2012 I was working for a salon furniture manufacturer in Chicago. This particular company was a small mom and pop place that used to be a big thing back in the day. The owner had taken his father’s company to the next level by building a large distributorship across the country. He would regularly service the accounts visiting each account twice a year. In 2012 the owner was now in his 70’s and he had long since forgotten about his distributor network, instead concentrating on large, profitable corporate deals. Building 10 or 20 stores at a time for Fantastic Sams or a giant beauty school chain became more important than than the small orders from the mom and pop distributors.
I joined him in 2010 after the big recession. In fact I had concentrated on only playing music and odd jobs from 2006-20011. I was broke and the recession just killed me. My now wife and I toured the summer of 2009 in support of my second record “Should It End”. I guess in some ways it did. I was turned off. The internet was changing everything. It seemed people suddenly would only buy a t shirt and let the hard copy of your music sit on the merch table. I retreated into the garage to work on vintage motorcycles and picked up a design job with this salon furniture manufacturer. After a year or so i was starting to get my feet back financially. I asked my wife to marry, we bought a house and very soon after a child was being formed.
It was this time while being out on the road visiting distributors and designing furniture when I wrote this song called Baltimore. I had been on the road for a good week. I traveled up and down West Virginia coal country, through Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Cleveland, and somehow ended up at the Baltimore airport with a half a day left after returning a very stinky rental car.
I didn’t mind getting out on the road every month for this company. Hell, it was kind of like being on tour. but instead of playing to 10 people in LA or 1 person at the Women’s bookstore in Portland (yes the same on that was in Portlandia all the time); I was on the road, getting paid and seeing one or two people at a distributor and being told “what happened to you guys..it’s been years”. Well the later part was fairly lame but the driving on the road was great.
I had recently watched All The Right Moves at a hotel room. You know – the Tom cruise movie where his dad and brother worked at the steel mill and he got kicked off the team – and blew his chance at the big scholarship. Craig T Nelson was so mean!!!
This got me wondering where it was shot at…which got me wondering about a lot of things I guess. You see I grew up in a steel and farming town much like that movie. I had also flunked out of college. I did get a little scholarship to play some ball, but that sucked. About the only thing I like do do was art. . All of this reminiscing made me want my guitar. The next day I went to the town were that was movie was filmed and I picked up a little travel guitar to bang around on. I can remember my dad coming home from the steel mill, I could remember the angst of being that age. I hadn’t been writing any songs anymore. I had kind of given up on the music. It had beat me. So this job at least gave us some money and I did still get to travel a bit. I didn’t even have to worry about gas money to get to the next gig!
Drive and drive, stop and talk, drive and drive, stop and talk, drive and drive, get hotel. Think about that movie. Think about the 80’s and how vibrant the middle class here in the rust belt used to be. Sad state these days indeed. but that’s a whole nother story..right.
After a week of this I found myself sitting under the escalator at the Baltimore Airport. Drinking beer and fingerpicking away. The only place you could really hear this little guitar was in small spaces and the space under the escalator by the glass windows was pretty nice. There was also a bar…so that was nice as well.
Drink a beer, have a smoke, play guitar, wash and rinse ’till the boarding time.
My wife was pretty darn pregnant, I was a little homesick. very tired and was wondering if we’d have a girl or a boy. The line in the song “tuck the baby girl in tight” was my gut feeling knowing that when I got home soon I’d have a little girl to tuck into bed. I remember trying to play this song for my wife when I got back home. She got kinda teary eyed and so did I. Sometimes it’s just nice to be home!
You can listen to Baltimore on any of the digital streaming channels as of today! March 15th.
I am going to donate $2 for each person that follows me on Spotify for the month of March, April and May. Giving the money raised to the American Cancer Society. Two of my good friends right now are doing rounds of chemo as I type. Maybe something like this would be a neat incentive. Life is short so it’s best to make the most of it.
See you out there!
P.S. ….If you like the behind the song type of stories like this…sign up for my “album experience” on the form below. I break down the story on each song of the new record. Kind of like you read here. It’s FREE and comes to your mailbox each Tuesday.