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.
Howdy, winter’s almost gone and I’m almost back.
Finally on the mend and starting to almost feel myself after this spinal disc fusion surgery thing. Long story short – it worked great and by the end of March I can probably start to carry my own amplifier again. Back to work in a week or so and back to a normal grind.
Speaking of backs…The band has had a few rehearsals and we will be back out playing shows again in March. We also have back to back shows at Bernice’s the 22nd and 23rd. then back to Honky Tonk BBQ for a Switchyard Sessions CD Release…See how I did that. All shows are FREE.
Sat March 9th -Blue Island Beer Co.
(W/ Jimbo Delta)
Friday March 22nd Bernice’s Tavern
(w/ Otto and the Moaners)
Saturday March 23nd Bernice’s Tavern
(w/Otto and the Moaners)
Saturday April 13th Honky Tonk BBQ
(Switchyard Sessions Album Release)
Switchyard Sessions Release Schedule – All streaming platforms. If you are a Spotify User can you Pretty Pretty Please “Hyper-Follow” the on Spotify- Just Click link for each. This really helps prime the Spotify Algorithm and helps the song get out of the gates so to speak. It would be a great help if I can get a few clicks.
Single- BALTIMORE – March 15th (automatically saves to your playlist)
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/joerian/baltimore (visit) “Hyper-Follow”
Single- PRAY – April 26th (automatically saves to your playlist)
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/joerian/pray (visit) “Hyper-Follow”
Switchyard Sessions Album is being released May 23 (automatically saves to your playlist)
Since the new record is coming out I have had some Roots – Folk Radio Programs coming on board to play it. BIg thanks to the following program directors and Host DJs.
Kevin Yavit and John Whitsell –KBAC-FM
Ron Cooke -KTAL 101.5 FM
Michael Stock -WLRN Radio
John Sillberg – CKOL 93.7FM
Dan Murphy –The Acoustic Outpost
David Sears – WBGU-FM
Gaye Auxier – WDBX 91.1FM
Don Jacobson – KBOO 90.7FM
Susan Hansen – WHUS 91.7fm
Len Holton – KUAR
Rich Warren – 98.7 WFMT
Artie Martello – WIOX 91.3FM
Mara Obrien – KXCJ-LP, 105.7fm
Joltin Joe Pszonek – Blues and Roots Radio.com
As some of you know I have switched my email list. Soon I will be releasing an “Album Experience” component. Links to each song from the record complete with an “inside The Song” interview, lyrics, studio cut, download mp3 and some duo performances with myself and Jimbo Delta.
Here is a quick rundown about the show Saturday Dec 1. If you have children this may be a win win situation with a good ol’ music show and bbq at the end. Looks like there is a tree lighting and santa thing happening before hand a few blocks away. There will be BBQ being served at the Blue Island Beer Company taproom. Come grab some BBQ from Blue Island BBQ, have a Beer and listen to some tunes. This is a full band show. Playing 7pm to 10pm. No guarantees that Jesus will show for this one but I did get a picture of the last time we hang out. He usually goes back to Baby Jesus mode after Halloween.
If you are interested in the parade and santa stuff here is the info from the City’s website: “Plans are underway for a fun-filled, family friendly day to kick off the Holiday Season. The highlight of the day will be the Blue Island Light Parade that will take place on Saturday, December 1st at 5:30 pm. It will begin at Western Ave. and Prairie, go south to New Street.
Join Mayor Vargas at MetroSouth Park following the Parade to light the Christmas Trees in the park. Then bring the kids over to the Santa House at High and Western to take their picture with Santa and Mrs. Claus, bring your phone or camera (from 6:30 pm until 9 pm).
Earlier in the day, the Blue Island Public Library will be showing Christmas movies from 1 pm to 4 pm. There will also be a Kringle Mart under the tents in the parking lot located at High and Western from 2 pm to 9 pm. Free train rides, Kiddie Carousel and Ferris Wheel rides are also available for the kids from 2 pm to 6 pm while you shop!
Your can do a little Christmas shopping or get something to eat at the annual Business Open Houses up and down Western Ave and Olde Western Ave. There will also be free horse-drawn wagon rides down Greenwood from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Pick up is by the Kringle Mart at High and Western. The Blue Island Public Library will have their annual Open House, lighting their tree and serving refreshments following the parade as well.”
This past week I found myself attending a funeral of a friend that had committed suicide. Gut wrenching shock with 100’s in attendance. A definite crying out loud in your car on the way to work kind of moment. Less than a week later I find myself at a show playing this song called Dirt Farmer. A dark story of a Nebraska farmer in the dust bowl era that takes his life. I’m honestly struggling to stay focused with this song. Actually I may have to put this song down for a while, or for good, as I find it very hard to get through since his death.
Suicide is a very real problem. This is my third friend that has committed suicide since 2009. You can’t tell someone depressed to pull up their bootstraps but you can listen and try to have a serious conversation. Depression is a very serious illness and there is help out there. It starts with you – listening with empathy- and trying to find help. If you know of someone that is in the darkness, do not delay. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline to learn more about what YOU can do.
Just a quick reminder that we are playing Uncommon Ground on Devon tonight at 7pm sharp, opening for the Iowa songwriting duo Society of Broken Souls. The Reservations are doing well but could always use a few more friendly faces. They just released a new record which will be show casing tonight. You can listen to it below. This is a listening room show, which in my opinion are the BEST!
$12 Reservations $15 Door
OR CALL Edgewater (773) 465-9801 to request Listening Room Reservation
I was telling you about my adventure to the Acorn Theater in Michigan and how I met the next big thing Meg Robinson. As usual, it seems that I had forgotten about the time change heading over to Michigan after work. I get off at 5pm, hell it’s an hour away so 7pm is no sweat. I realized this when the map application on the phone changed my arrival time changed to the OH SHIT time zone as in “Oh shit I’m going to miss my time slot”. I got to the theater just in time to check in with the director Sarah. I grabbed a beer to calm the nerves. Two if I’m being perfectly honest. This theater was packed for a songwriter open mic. Oh the glory I thought. With both hands full of brew I notice this guy with a shit eating grin, who himself was holding two cups of beer and I think a glass of wine. I looked at him and thought “Now there’s my kind of guy”. I think I said something like: “What…double fistin not enough?”. He laughed, said his name was Jon. We tried to shake hands but then realized we couldn’t. I ask if he’d ever been to this thing before. He told me that it was their first time. I ask is he is performing he says: “No my little girl is, we don’t know what to do with her. We take her to these singing competitions and talent shows and she keeps winning them. She just wrote her first song this week.” She sings, writes songs and is 12 years old? I can’t wait to see her I said.
I finished my couple songs, packed my gear and headed to the van to check messages and have some tobacco. When I ventured back in I ran into the guest host who opened the show. Laura Joy who is from the Chicago area, is a fine singer and songwriter. Heck of a guitar player as well. You can find Laura Joy stuff here. We had a nice conversation, traded cds and that’s when I heard a young girls voice on the sound system. I stuck my head in and standing on stage in front of 150 people was Little Meg Robinson.
I’ve been calling here “Little” just so you know I’m not talking about the accomplished Harp player of the same name. She starts with her dad’s favorite cover. A Blondie song, kills it. I look in the crowd and see her parents. They are both grinning from ear to ear. Beaming the only way a parent can when their child is doing something extraordinary. Meg then introduces herself again says she just wrote this new song earlier that week and she’d like to play it for the first time.
I’m thinking to myself wow this kid has got some panache! 12 years old and standing in this theater on a fairly large stage with her ukulele in front of a full house. Her timing and stage presence is perfect she sings like a bird…and she’s 12! Here she is singing “Call ME” by Blondie.
See what I mean when I say that she is the next big thing! I have heard a lot of people sing, but this gal has something so pure and natural in her voice it’s just transcending. I’ve stayed in contact with team Robinson and a month or so later I had a house concert at our place and asked Meg if she would like to open for the main act Nick Dittmeier. She agreed and there she was in our living room running a bunch of songs and crushing it as usual. Below is some video of her doing one of her songs called “Silver Spoon”.
Meg will be opening up for me this Saturday at The Blue Island Beer Company.
She hits the stage 6:30ish and will perform a set of select covers and very nicely written originals. Team Robinson just took her to Nashville where she shared the stage at the Bluebird with some past American Idols. Here she comes. Little Meg Robinson. See her now and you can one day say “I saw her when she was just 13”.
FREE SHOW, EARLY SHOW, KIDS OK.
A little over a year ago I was hosting the open mic at Bernice’s Tavern. I had been hosting and co-hosting it for the last ten years. One thing about your local open mic is the element of surprise. Once in a great while someone will walk in you’ve never heard or met and simply move you. Walsh is exactly that guy.
Usually an artist will woodshed for a time practicing songs they’ve written and get themselves to a point that they think they should go try them out on someone besides their Aunt Kate. Aunt Kate is totally cool but you can’t meet girls playing your guitar in Aunt Kate’s kitchen. Over time you will see the regular open mic players come in week after week, slowly getting better and like in a year or so they end up getting a band together or basically get good enough they leave the nest and eventually move on to regular gigs of their own. It’s really cool to see the progress.
Now I don’t know alot about Ryan other than he walked in with the shitiest god forsaken guitar I think I’ve ever seen. The whole back end of it was peeled off and was like a diving board. Seems this kid was busking his summers away between college semesters at UIC. Who needs internships when you can breath in the life of a city on the streets. I did the exact same thing when I was going there 15 years previous. This kid had a twinkle in his eye that only the Irish get, That’s all I can say.
The night was just right, It had slowed down enough that the few that were in the bar were listening attentively. Which if you didn’t know, is the best case scenario. Well everyone but one person who was too drunk to know that a young kid that played great and sang like Chet Baker was singing.
I was instantly taken aback. This kid must be like 23 and he plays not good, but very good. Sings not good, but very good and unique as well. I promptly got on the phone with my favorite sound engineer nerd “The Captain” Jaime Gartelos. I told him that there’s a kid in here that we need to record. I figured if his guitar is split down the back and he’s busking on the streets during school breaks he more than likely doesn’t have any recordings. Jaime asked me why I was doing this, and I replied “I have to, he’s a talent.” This kid is in his young 20’s. If I had money and time I’d manage him, be his booking agent and buy him a van to make the rounds in.
He was fluid in the songs he was singing and it would be an optimal time to capture them. I got his number and told him that we needed to record a few of his songs immediately. He said when? How’s tomorrow sound? It took some convincing, I imagine he thought I was nuts.
Here are the four songs we tracked at Jaime’s apartment. He walked in, I handed him my guitar and he knocked out four songs. I think he nailed the first take of each one, I believe we maybe did two takes of each song just in case. Perfect every time. You may want to turn this up a bit as these are unmastered tracks. Enjoy. Ryan will be opening for me this Saturday at Blue Island Beer Co. 7pm. FREE SHOW
Let’s talk about our residency show coming up this Saturday night April 14th at Blue Island Beer Company. We will be playing as a three piece. Myself, Jim Parks on Slide guitar and Michael Dumont on bass. We’ve added a few new songs so we will be doing two sets of music starting at 7pm.
Following our first little set we will be bringing in our guest performers to play a small set. Driving in from my hometown of Rock Falls Il. is a trio that goes by the name Wrong Element. If you read my last post about Rock Falls in 1990 you’ll remember I spoke of the very first people I got a chance to play music with, the Padilla Brothers. Joining them on percussion will be Scott Seally. Scott is a music aficionado, he always knows the hot performers before anyone else and has great taste in music. That taste is heard in the songs he writes. Both he and Tom Padilla are pretty avid songwriters. Saturday they will be performing a stripped down acoustic set of original music. It will not suck.
We will follow their set up with another set of songs (and a few solo pieces from both myself and Jimbo)
We will finish up at 10pm. Just in time to take your glass of Metamucil and watch Murder She Wrote and Madlock that you DVR’D on METV.
I will have the “Suitcase of Broken Dreams” filled with old Additives CDS and maybe a t-shirt or two. I will have a few of these neat residency posters there as well. Donations or beer always accepted. Please give me your email at the show or subscribe to the blog so I can keep you informed about the FREE LP VINYL RECORD I am releasing here in a few months. It combines Switchyard Sessions No.1 and No.2 on to a 180 gram vinyl record. I will be giving 2 away (one for you and one to give to a friend) to anyone who signs up on the list.
If you are looking for a bite before the show might I recommend Giussppe’s Trattoria. A no frills family joint that’s been serving up some pretty kick ass Italian fare at a very good price for over forty years. You may want to phone ahead for seats or you can always get a pie to go and bring it around the corner to the brewery. There is also good Mexican and Cajun food in walking distance.
JOE RIAN’S ADDITIVES 7:00-7:45
WRONG ELEMENT 8:00-8:45
JOE RIAN’S ADDITIVES 9:00-9:45