Sold Out Paradise Rock Club

We have been on the Honda Civic Tour since October 1st, and it has been a wild ride. I have caught up with old friends in California to Texas to Atlanta to Chicago and now: Boston. This show is particularly special, as it is our first headlining sold out show in the city where we all met and started our professional careers. I saw The Blue Pages play here seven years ago, AA’s former band name with the same four members; and it has taken them this long to get their name up on that marquee with those two amazing words, ‘SOLD OUT,’ next to it.

We walked around the Berklee campus after soundcheck and ran into a couple of my old songwriting professors and chatted about the music biz, publishing revenue, Billboard charts, etc.; but we also recalled how terrified we were upon graduating (or dropping out) and moving to New York City with a hope, a prayer, and a mountain of student loan debt. We talked about bellhopping, waiting tables, flipping MacBooks on Craigslist, anything we could do to keep the dream alive. Watching all those students walk around Mass Ave all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, carrying guitars or drumsticks, I wanted to take them and slap them around (figuratively speaking), and tell them how much hard work and degradation they have ahead of them. I wish someone had done that to me in 2010, when I too was naively optimistic, full of piss and vinegar, ready to be the next John Mayer.

We half-joked on the way back to the venue: Berklee should offer courses in bartending and waiting tables, because it’s a necessary skill set for musician survival…

Halloween in Minneapolis

So we decided to be Batman villains for Halloween. We went shopping in Chicago, and managed to throw together some decent costumes from various thrift shops and Halloween stores. Zac Barnett bought that suit for $10 and ripped it apart. Dave took some convincing to be the Penguin, as the Penguin not the sexiest of villains, but he eventually came around and looked terrifying (and you know what? kind of sexy). Matt actually had to tone down his natural brooding aura to pull off the the Joker. As a huge Jim Carrey fan, the Riddler was a natural choice for yours truly.

So who would James be? Bane? Scarecrow? Dr. Freeze? Nope, they all have things over their faces which would not be conducive to singing. The Dark Knight himself? The rest of the band wouldn’t hear of it (the idea was shot down via group text in the costume shop). So we perused the used costume racks, and voilà: Superman! Not necessarily Batman’s immediate enemy per se, but the next movie coming out is entitled ‘Superman v. Batman,’ so we dressed him up in those red and blue tights, threw on a little red riding hood cape (they were out of the Superman ones), and there you have it (it had a huge rip in the crotch by the second night; there might be some lewd fan photos out there on the interwebs)

The show at Mill City Nights in Minneapolis on proper Halloween was awesome, but the following night at Freak Fest in downtown Madison, WI was the best crowd of the whole tour. We played for thousands of tipsy trick-or-treaters at midnight on an outdoor stage in the 29 degree open air. I swapped costumes with Barnett because he wanted to not wear the pink make up and to also have sleeves. What a wimp! (Hypocrite warning: I put on my hoodie mid-set).

Around the World in 42 days

I turned 30 years old four or five times on a handful of midnights this past August 14th, as we were in a jet en route to Belgium; the time zones affording me many birthdays. We made it to the Pukkelpop Festival in the nick of time after being awake for 30 hours straight. The show was a blast, and I took this selfie onstage during my birthday shout-out from Zac Barnett. My ATL homies Outkast played a few hours later (disclaimer: I personally know neither Andre 3000 nor Big Boi), and it was quite a birthday indeed. More amazing festivals followed in Switzerland, where I had an allergic reaction to the histamines in the best cheese I have ever tasted; Germany, where they fed us schnitzel but we had to leave before Queens of the Stone Age performed; Sweden, where beautiful blonde women flock like the salmon of Capestrano; Denmark, where we played a humbling club show to about 40 people; Norway, where we made lots of naughty “Norwegian Wood” puns; and lastly both the Reading and Leeds festivals in the UK, where we got to hang for a quick minute with Imagine Dragons and the Arctic Monkeys.

After this European festival circuit, I had my first vacation in about three years, not counting going home for a couple days for Christmas, birthdays, etc. First up: Munich; I met up with my old friends Nini and Ben from the band Haerts, who promptly escorted me to Spatenhaus to sample Munich’s finest beer and liverkase (looks like a giant hotdog cut up into meatloafesque slices). Next up was Istanbul, one of the coolest places I have ever been; you can take a ferry from the European side over to the Asian side, and there are islands where cars are forbidden and you have to travel via bike or a horse. And the kebabs there…Oh my Allah. Next I crashed with my friends Nancy and Todd in Budapest; cheap beer and Hungarian bathhouses where you can see all the Eastern European skin you can imagine (the good, the bad, and the hairy).The last stop before meeting back up with the band was Prague, where I saw a chapel made from the bones of 40,000 people.

We returned to Australia on September 15th, where we performed alongside all of the remaining contestants of the X-Factor live onstage in front of judges Redfoo from LMFAO, Kylie Minogue’s sister, and the other two whose names I don’t feel like googling. The hype man for the show was the same guy who hosted live band karaoke at a pizza joint called Frankie’s that we hit up our first night in Sydney. I got onstage to sing Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right (To Party)”, and I grabbed the extra guitar onstage to wail over the last chorus. And wail I DID. And to top it all off, I attempted a heel-click-hop offstage, but instead, I crushed my head on a low hanging speaker, and crumbled to the ground in agony. I have never seen a crowd of people go from cheering to laughing so abruptly. I did my best to play it off, although I still have a bump on my noggin.

Our last stop was Auckland, New Zealand, and much to our dismay, we did not get to hang out with either Gandalf, Frodo, or even Flight of the Conchords. But we did jump off of the Harbour Bridge strapped to a harness, which was positively exhilarating. We just got back stateside, and are currently in Reno prepping for the Honda Civic Tour, which is coming soon to a city near you!

Prank Off

For our last show with One Republic in Virgina Beach on August 3, we felt a tension in the air all day; for we knew that a prank was a-comin’. If you’re the baby band on a tour like this, you will get hazed. During soundcheck, we were looking over our shoulders. During dinner, we were examining our meals for possible laxative content or other such innocent poisons. Their director of security measured all of our heights and acted very fishy whenever we walked by. We were nervous, to say the least. When we walked onstage, there was much more of a 1R crew watching than normal. And as I took my guitar to play the first chord, I looked down at my pedalboard, and there it was, duct taped to the floorboard at my feet: an 8” x 11″ photo of a couple of gay gentlemen in the throes of passion. Yes. THAT was the prank. Graphic gay porn taped on all of our gear. Every drum, amp, and speaker that was not immediately visible to the crowd held up a photo of some a hunky dude on top of another hunky dude, and the crew on the sidelines howled in laughter as we sheepishly played our final set. And for the encore prank, the members of One Republic started removing Matt’s drums piece by piece during the outro of ‘Best Day of My Life,’ so by then end, he had but one cymbal. So they got us…I guess. But lo and behold: we would have the last laugh.

We tried all day to come up with a good prank that would be funny but forgivable, which is not an easy task. Finally at 10PM, with one hour left in One Republic’s set, we thought of a gem: why don’t we run onstage right before the last song when he thanks American Authors (he had done this consistently every show), and give him a big bear hug…in our underwear?! Take a look:

It took a little convincing for some of us, but we ran it past One Republic’s tour manager Mark beforehand, and he thought it was brilliant. We chatted with Ryan and the guys afterwards, and they thought it was hilarious. What a wild summer tour. Next up: European festival circuit. I’ll bring stories back, don’t you worry.

*Thanks to our Stage Manager JJ James for filming!

A Chat with Ryan Tedder

A few days ago in Kansas City we had the night off, and went off to explore the hip neighborhood of this Missouri town (some of us may have thought it was in Kansas…). The One Republic crew was hanging out there as well. I went to buy a round for the boys, and the lead singer Ryan Tedder was seated right next to me as I order the drinks. He is typically around only for show time, because he is constantly recording, producing, and writing with a handful of up-and-comers like Adele, Maroon 5, and One Direction. “Hey Ryan– you need a drink?” I asked. “I’ve been drinking bourbon…and I think I should stick with that. Bulleit on the rocks.” It’s not every day you get to buy a drink for someone who has written dozens of hit songs and is one of the biggest names in music.

He asked me about where we were heading after this leg of the tour, and I told him we were touring all over Scandinavia, and then we had a couple weeks off  in Europe to go wherever we wanted. He lit up like a travel agent and started to map out my whole itinerary for me: Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Turkish baths in Istanbul, this lake in Venice, that club in Prague, fly, train, drink, explore. I thought I was talking to Anthony Bourdain for a minute.

James and I eventually started picking his brain about music, and the hour-plus conversation that followed was easily one of the most enlightening and educational talks I have ever had (Imagine you were trying to start a small business and you got to chat with Mark Cuban; it was like THAT). He not only gave us some sage advice about the trajectory of American Authors, but also told us about his writing sessions with Adam Levine, partying with Harry Styles in London, convincing Chris Cornell to make a cameo in his music video, how Chris Martin splits up his songwriting points with the rest of Coldplay, and which instruments are miked up for live TV shows versus which parts are kept in the tracks for logistical purposes.

Justin Timberlake was playing a show in Kansas City that night too, and Ryan easily could have texted him to meet up, but he didn’t “feel like following Justin around all night doing only what he wanted to do.” So he kicked it with us instead it, and we are certainly grateful.

Yahoo! Music Debut

The filmmaker with his camera and subjects.

Before I blew a bunch of money at Berklee College of Music, I actually majored in TV Journalism at the University of Georgia, and I’ve always had a passion for film. Since American Authors hired me in January, I have been filming our adventures on my iPhone 5S, and recently started editing them together to make video tour diaries. My first completed submission chronicling our European tour actually debuted on Yahoo! Music last week. It has footage from Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and London; one hell of a trip.

It’s fun to capture our journeys and jokes along the road, but I just imagine what it would have been like if one of my favorite bands had this behind-the-scenes footage back when I was in middle school. If the guys in Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden had handheld video cameras with them at all times and I could watch snippets of them hanging out on their tour bus or doing vocal warmups, I would have been absolutely mesmerized.

So I hope the AA fans of all ages dig these videos, especially because I had to edit out all the raunchy parts (of which there are loads). I’ll perhaps upload the director’s cuts one of these days.

Here is the first one. Many more to come!

ZT Birthday Show on July 22nd!

It has been a pretty unreal experience touring around the world with American Authors over the last five months; that being said, I’m terribly excited to play with my band and my horns for my birthday! I turn 30 on August 14th (gasp!), but that day I’ll be blowing out birthday candles out of giant waffles at the Pukkelpop festival in Belgium with AA. So Rockwood hooked me up with a show on one of the few days I’ll be in town in July, and boy oh boy, I’m about to wee myself out of excitement.

Zac Barnett is an amazing frontman; James, Dave, and Matt are also great performers, and they are all clearly an amazing team of songwriters, businessmen, and comrades. I have learned so much about the industry, radio plays, managers, great hooks, live performance, and connecting with the audience from working with these guys (not to mention functioning on a couple hours of sleep, taking selfies with tweens and/or cougars, and gunk to put in your hair to make it look more One Direction-y). I’m excited to bring some of these hopefully improved skillsets to my own show.

So here we go. The last few weeks of my 20s. I’m thrilled to have stuck around this long!

Here is the link to the event; hope you can make it.

Back in Beantown

Here I am back at Berklee practicing some advanced music theory. I know--that haircut!

Near the end of this leg of the summer tour, we played two nights at the Blue Hills Bank (formerly Bank of America) Pavilion by the Seaport in Boston. We all went to school right down the street at Berklee, so it was pretty amazing to come back and perform where we all met and where the band basically started. The last time I was there was in 2008 for Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (insert omg super fan face here).

I had some drinks with my friend Kier Byrnes who I used to play with in a band called Three Day Threshold, and we romped around Davis Square, my old stomping grounds, which is two subway stops north of Hah-vud (say it out loud). I actually stopped by my old house, next door to Red Bones BBQ, and lo and behold: there was a letter for me in the mail chest! I haven’t lived there in three years, but the Boston University Dental School still thinks I do, and they’re still trying to get paid for that teeth cleaning all those years ago. Take a hint, BU. I ain’t paying it.

It was quite a walk down memory lane. Walking by the Square where I used to busk. Getting a coffee at Diesel. Meeting some old bandmates at Anna’s Taquería for lunch. When I lived there from ’08-’10, I was studying hard, writing songs, running the school newspaper, and moreover wondering what the hell I was going to do when and if I graduated. If you had told me then that I would have to work at a hotel in Manhattan for three years, but then get to tour the world with a multi-platinum rock band, I’m pretty sure I would have been OK with that.

Check out this article on Berklee.edu about me and the boys. Hope to catch you soon Beantown!

Summer Tour with One Republic & The Script

Red Rocks! Thanks to Margaret Bankoff for the photo

We just kicked off a summer tour with hit-makers One Republic and the Script; and we have said au revoir to the van and bonjour to our first tour bus! I had never been to Colorado before, and the whole tour started with a two-night stint at Red Rocks, perhaps the most legendary outdoor venue in the country. When we first got to our green room, there was a box of Voodoo Doughnuts (just really good doughnuts, no drugs in them or anything), and a note that read: ‘American Authors, Love the tunes! Welcome aboard. We are honored to share the road with you. Mi casa [es] su casa. The OneRepublicans.’

It is easily the most extravagant production we have ever been a part of. 10 bus loads of people and 5 semi truckloads of equipment get set up and torn down almost everyday in a different city. All the 1R staging starts getting set up round 7AM, then the Script gears up downstage from that, and then around 5PM, we squeeze our amps and drums close to the front edge of the stage, soundcheck, and then come back and play our set from 7:00-7:30PM. Not 7:01, mind you; they run a tight ship. Afterwards, we hang side stage and watch Danny from the Script run around the venue wearing an Irish flag like a cape, and then pop into the crowd and watch Ryan Tedder scoot around shaking his tambourine like a madman singing “Counting Stars” and other anthems. These guys are the real deal; we are definitely taking notes.

We have hit all the hot spots in the west coast, including a sold out Hollywood Bowl (during which a boisterous Gavin Degraw ran out onstage during “Counting Stars” and didn’t particularly know any of the lyrics), and there are plenty more dates across this fine land to come. Hope you can catch one! This is easily the best summer camp I have ever been to.

Check out tour dates here.

Schnitzel, Croissants, Fish & Chips

We  just got back from ten days in Europe, and I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in culture. We started in Berlin, and the people, street art, and history of the city was unlike any other. We stayed at the Michel Berger hotel, which is a couple blocks away from the largest standing segment of the Berlin wall that remains intact. In my opinion as a professional historian, some crazy shit went down in Berlin over the last several decades. We exercised the freedom to drink beer in the streets as soon as possible, crushed some schnitzel, and scoped out some underground clubs with the help of our local friend Hannah, who would explain to the bouncers that were hot-shot-rock-and-roll-america-wunderbar-partytime type people. Next up was Cologne, which was a quick stop, as we were excited to get to Amsterdam, where they have some very interesting coffee shops and window shopping.

If you don’t have your wits about you walking around Amsterdam, you will get sideswiped by an oncoming bicycle before you can say ‘red light district.’ Bizzerzoet was as cool of a club as I have ever seen, and the crowd was phenomenal. There were giant red stained glass windows of the devil caressing the buttocks of a young maiden; I’m not sure that would fly in most places in Atlanta. The fans were extremely enthusiastic and almost everyone stayed after the set to hang out with us and down a few Heinekens.

(more…)