HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGGIE! One year ago today Lynn and I had a day that was similar to today. I had just finished a show the night before, just like last night, and had another one that Friday... so we went for a hike/walk at the Reddies River Trail in North Wilkesboro... something we do a lot. That day turned out to be a special day. About half way down the trail we were startled by something running out of the woods. That something turned out to be Maggie. She didn't look like she does today. She was dirty with mangled, matted hair and missing fur. She had ticks literally all over her, with one actually inside her eyelid. To our surprise she started walking with us... actually happily, tail wagging between us. When we turned around she turned around too and kept walking with us.
By the end of the trail we had decided that she must be lost and belong to someone and that if she'd ride in the car we'd take her to our vet to see if they could determine her owner and get some of the ticks removed. Lynn drove and I sat in the passenger seat and Maggie, who didn't have that name then, jumped right up into my lap. The vet took her as a walk-in and while we waited the ladies at the desk gave us some dog treats to give her. She devoured them. So, they went in the back and got some water and dog food in a bowl. She tore into that too and then jumped up and sat between us on the bench as we waited. Lynn went on to get groceries while I waited, her heart nor mine was not even close to healed from the loss of Jake just a few months earlier, so I thought putting some distance in while we learned about Maggie's fate was a good thing for her.
Well, she was not listed on any lost and found and she did not have a chip. (she does now). The vet and her assistant worked for more than 30 minutes removing ticks. Maggie had over 200 on her that they could guestimate. She even had one that was attached to the inside of her eyelid. She sat there calmly looking at me while they removed even that one. From her condition the vet said she felt like Maggie was more than likely about one year old and that she had sadly probably spent that entire one year fending for herself in the wild. That broke our hearts just to hear that and with those words Maggie was adopted into our family... a family that was still very much mourning the loss of our 17-year old 4-legged son, Jake.
May 8th also became Maggie's adopted birthday so at midnight last night Lynn and I sang happy birthday to her and lay there laughing as she looked around trying to see which one of her girls (Carrie or Abby) was here for us to sing to. Many believe that we adopted Maggie when the truth is, Maggie adopted us. She is so "famous" with all of you guys, with many of you asking to "be her". Granted she does have a good life now but she gives more love and attention than any living being we have ever known. A trip inside Walmart or a restaurant with her waiting in the car that has the A/C running is always, always, always greeted with the happiest welcome you could ever expect. She runs from seat to seat kissing, wagging and smiling. Every time! I once left her in here at home while I walked around the house picking up limbs while getting ready to mow. 5 minutes later I came back through the front door and you would have thought I had been gone for a week. Maybe it's because she was alone for so long and has now found us, but she does not let us get out of her sight if she can help it. And I guess the joy when we return when we do have to leave her is happiness from being glad we did actually return. She wakes up every morning between us just waiting for one of us to open just one of our eyes, then she pounces with kisses. It's almost like she wakes up every morning thinking I wasn't dreaming. She goes everywhere with us, as most of you know. She is a constant companion, protector and friend. She seems to know she hit the lottery on May 8, 2014 but we feel like we're the lucky ones. I still every now and then call her Jake and I miss my buddy more than words can ever say, but even though she had big shoes to fill, Maggie is the best pup in every way and is loved so much, not only by us but by our family as well as our family and friends in Florida. It's almost been a month, but I can still hear Rick yelling out Maggie as she'd run full speed every time to get loving and a treat. Sharon came by every morning to give her a treat too and love on her. John, her husband at first was distant with her, seemingly not wanting a dog... but Maggie won his heart too and he would make excuses to just come by rub Maggie's belly. They have learned what we learned last year... if you spend any time with her she steals your heart... but that's OK.
In just one year she has touched so many lives. Especially ours. We can't imagine life without her in it. I guess things happen for a reason. When you're not looking for a gift like her the gift just comes running out of the woods into your life.
Happy Second Birthday Sweet Maggie!
Today I had the pleasure of a what turned out to be a 3-hour lunch with my musical brother, James Vincent Carroll. Both of us semi-grew up in Wilkes "By God" County and have been music buds for as long as I can remember. It may have been the water, but neither of us seems to have completely grown up, but from what I hear, growing up is not all it's cracked up to be.
So what do two guys who are making a living playing music at local bars and pubs talk about for 3 hours? Music and family mostly. It's a crazy combination but it appears he wants to be more like me and I want to be more like him. I get to travel all over the country doing this music thing and James wants to do more and more of that. And he is a venue booking wizard and is constantly booked solid for more than a year, which always amazes me and motivates me to be better at the booking side of the business.
There was also a lot of discussion about the consequences of choosing to play music for a living. Every time I say that I'm reminded of one of my favorite movie lines, "Dying ain't much of a living boy". The line has a lot to do with choosing to base your ability to buy groceries and keep the lights lit on continuing to be successful playing music as a working, never-made-it-big musician, something I've been doing for many years now and something James just began doing. Both of us do not regret that decision and I remember many conversations about James wanting to get to where I am and be able to do this thing we love fulltime. In just a few months since making the decision he's worked hard to flat out book out the rest of 2015. I'm both happy for him and proud of him.
What we figured out today is we are both lucky to have someone in our lives that is so supportive. This "job/career" takes a toll on a musician's mate/wife and it's almost impossible to succeed when the person you spend your life with doesn't support your dreams and the work that goes into making those dreams come true. I guess that's true even if you're a doctor or lawyer but I know it's true for a working musician. There's not a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for the love, encouragement and support I get from my sweet wife, Lynn. It takes a special person to put up with this craziness and it seems my musical brother has the same support in his life now too. I personally believe it's required to make this struggling musical life work. You need someone to push you, listen to your music, tell you you look stupid and pick you up when your latest dream hits a road block.
Speaking of doctors or lawyers, I am always amazed at how non-competitive and truly supportive my musical friends are. Today two friends who make their living playing music shared lots of business critical information... leads to help with booking gigs, tweaking websites, writing songs, manufacturing CDs and lots more. I just can't believe the lunch conversation between two lawyers in the same working area would be as supportive of each other. Granted, not all musicians are as easy to work with as my buddy James, who by the way will always just be Jamie to me, but you'd be surprised how many of my fellow musicians are just as supportive. Musicians seem to know "To have a friend... you have to Be a friend". In the coming weeks if you're not coming to see me I highly encourage you to try to get out to see James Vincent Carroll. As I pointed out, you won't have a hard time finding a place to hear him since he's booked so much this year.
We sure enjoyed our time in Florida this winter... all the sun... the fun.. the friends... and all the venues and shows. I did 110 shows in our 5 months there. Whew! But, it is really nice to be back home in NC. The last two weeks have been busy... booking more shows for the summer and playing shows here locally. So far my shows here have been public shows at bars and coffee houses.
But tonight in Hendersonville, NC I am providing music for a wedding event, something I do a lot of. As I'm preparing for tonight' show it hits me how very different these events are compared to what I've been doing for the last 5 months. There seems to be more pressure when you're an integral part of someone's most precious life event. There's lots of "thinking" going on about my setup... should I revert back to my previous Pearl drums on the rolling cart with a stage skirt or just go with what I've been doing for the last 6 months. Both look nice, but at the moment I'm leaning towards staying true to the suitcase setup. It sure looks nice to me. What do you think?
By the way, if you or anyone you know is getting married and needs music, I'd appreciate you letting me know. Even though there's more pressure, I have played at over 1,000 wedding events so far and feel pretty comfortable doing them and love the interaction with the families and friends.
Friday night at 7:00pm I have a show at The Listening Room in Ron Ireland's studio in Wytheville, VA. If you play music like me, you have to love a place where folks come to "listen". How cool is that? Ron and I first became friends though mutual friends on Facebook. I've shared the stage with him before and in becoming friends with him have always felt that I have met my match in being a gentleman. He is that, a gentleman, in everything he does, so headlining his Listening Room has been something I've been looking forward to for nearly a year now. He is also a fine writer and performer too, so we hit it off from day one. If he and I are the only ones there Friday night I'll be just fine, but I hope you guys will come out and support his unique place and his stand to support musicians just like me.
The music starts at 7:00pm and goes until 8:30. I'm going to be performing many of the songs from my latest two CDs, Down At The Beach and Long Road To No Where as well as a few new originals. I'll also sprinkle in a few John Prine songs, a few Wood Brothers songs and who knows what else.
The address is: 420 E. Main St. Wytheville, VA
Here's a link to my interview on Blues Radio last week. I first met Sandra three years ago when she was my timekeeper at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Since then we've become friends and her friendship and advice mean a lot to me.
I gotta tell you it's a surreal moment hearing your music on the radio. I don't think I could ever grow tired of that.
My morning routine makes me smile, remembering my grandfathers. I can, with a smile on my face, remember watching my Poppa and Granddaddy Viles reading their newspapers. They did it every day and every morning. I don't receive a single newspaper at my home and never have. But like many of you I'd be lost without my daily reading routine. First thing each morning is to check e-mail. Usually there's a little "work" to be done related to gigs and events. Once that's done and with my first cup of coffee in hand I turn to Google reader and check up on all the things that interest me. I remember my dad's dad always pulling the sports section out and almost memorizing it at the table. He'd then go back to the front page and the locals section. My mom's dad would do just the opposite... start at the front of the paper and read it like a book.
I use Clipboard, USA Today and Smart News like that. I subscribe to sports news, Apple and Android tablet news, music news, the president's Facebook page, financial news about the stocks I own... the things that I feel I need to know about most. I can read this on my phone, my tablet or my laptop. I then read the news of those I care about on Facebook and sometimes get lost here for a long time.
My grandfathers would and probably are smiling. They got a lot of ink on their hands each day. They never had a computer, never had a Facebook account, email address or any of those things that we think we couldn't live without these days. They never had DVR, but would have loved it. My dad's dad would have DVR'd every golf match and baseball game in the world. My mom's dad would have had his set to record every news and fishing show there was. My dad's dad was a master at using the VCR. Much better than I ever was. He never watched a commercial, he'd always record things and fast forward through commercials. I remember him telling me he didn't like to watch them because he didn't need any of that S#$# anyway. :-)
Facebook and these apps will surely be history one of these days. Oh, guys like me will probably still be using them because they still print newspapers and folks still buy them. I miss my grandfathers. More and more each day actually. I miss the simpler life I had when they were around. I miss the security of knowing both of them thought I walked on water and would always be there for me. I miss getting to learn from them. I always knew I had someone I could call or visit if I had a question about life. Now that I'm older I'm supposed to know everything but I find I know less and less. Both of my grandfathers told me the same thing and I remember thinking they were the smartest guys in the world so how could they know less each day. Poppa and Granddaddy Viles I miss you. I might subscribe to a newspaper just to get a little ink on my fingers. :-)
This is my favorite picture of us with our spoiled rotten, 4-legged daughter/roadie Maggie. We are traveling to Birmingham, AL today to perform for a private party tonight. She's a great traveling pup. This is a 20 hour trip in 2 days and she's as happy as she can be. We just counted... she has been in 11 different states since she adopted us 6 months ago. Her life sure has changed since that day in May. Ours too :-)
I am always so humbled and honored that so many couples choose me to provide the music for their wedding day. I do a lot of Toes-in-the-sand weddings, in fact I have one next weekend, but this weekend I'm on top of a mountain at the beautiful Grand Highlands.
Last night I had a great time performing for their rehearsal dinner and tonight I'll be back for their wedding and reception. We live in such a beautiful country full of beautiful people like today's bride and groom, Emily and Justin.
It is always such a blast for me to have new folks hear me and my drums with my feet setup at a wedding. They come to these events not r knowing what to expect. And many, when they see me and my drum setup, think "oh no.... where's the bar?". But when the music starts they go from "I can listen to this" to "where did the night go?". Like last night... one of the guests said those exact words to me. Last night was low key for a quiet dinner. I hope he feels the same way tonight when I crank it up for the dancing. :-)
I've had some busy days before, but this weekend might have topped all of them. I had 4 shows in 3 days that included 8 1/2 hours on Saturday. Whew! Man, I might be too old for that. :-)
It started out on Thursday night in Kannapolis, NC for the Speakeasy Artist Showcase, where I was the "Featured Performer". My friend, Maurice Brines, who runs this great event brought me in and I was honored to be part of that scene there so close to Charlotte. Listening rooms and crowds are a performing artist's best friend and I'm going to try to do more of these types of venues in the future. The way it works is guys show up, sign up to perform a 20-minute set, mingle and network and then they have a "pro" do an hour long set. The guys performing Thursday evening were all top notch players. It was so cool playing for them in a quiet listening environment. I did all original songs and literally let them steer me from song to song many times. Many of the tried and true songs were crowd favorites including Jakes's song, Duct Tape Is Silver and Time Marches On. But to my surprise a few of my newest songs like Water Does That To A Man, Cruel Heart and Where'd You Learn To Teach Your Man To Cuss seemed to be their favorites... maybe because they are new to me and I put more in to them.
Then Friday night I was the "band" at Ham's of Kernersville, NC. Something normal for me, being hired as a band. What was not normal was performing from 10pm-2am. Wow that was a late night for sure but the crowd and staff were awesome. I made new fans, saw old ones and sold CDs, in an age where they're not supposed to be selling. After tear down and the drive home we got in bed around 4:30. That wouldn't have been too bad, but I had a noon until 4pm show in Charlotte the next day so just 3 1/2 hours sleep.
Saturday morning came early but we were up and driving on time for my Summer Solstice party at Tommy Bahama's of Southpark Mall in Charlotte. This was the second year in a row doing this show for them and this year was a treat for me. It was amazing how many folks just sat around the edges of the store listening. To my amazement the staff there was still exactly the same and were very happy to see me again. Apparently having live music in the store makes the day go by faster for the staff... I guess anything different, any variety adds some spice. My contract with their corporate office did not allow me to sell CDs but I was amazed that I met the CEO of one of the largest limousine companies in US... he came back to talk with me about having my music as part of their regular music in their fleet of cars and buses. Who knew... a limo company spins their own mix of music and I'll be in that mix next month. Pretty cool. My 4 hour show was up at 4:00 and we had to hurry to pack up and head out for the drive to the next show, which started at 8:00 in Summerfield, NC.
Mike and Mary Beth came to hear me several weeks ago at a show in Winston-Salem and hired me to provide music for their annual Summer Solstice party. They booked 3 hours with an option to add another hour if it was still rocking at 11pm. By the time I started this show, the previous 3 shows on top of the limited sleep and driving was starting to take it's toll. They had me on the deck outside... humid, hot and sticky... but as they say the show must go on... so off I went into the first set. By the time I'd played the 3rd song the tables on the deck, which were empty when I started, were now filled. I heard one guy tell his buddy, "I don't know what I thought I was going to do all night here but I know now... my a$$ is staying right here in this seat unless I'm walking over to get a beverage". He lied. :-) He later got up with the rest of the crowd to dance the night away... literally. After an hour I took my first break and they lit what has to be the biggest bonfire around. The stack of trees was higher than their 2-story house and the blaze was easily 100 feet high. To my amazement the woods nor the house was burned down and the fire department did not get called in. Not sure we needed a 100-foot bonfire on an 80-degree evening but it was actually really cool and burned all night long. After a few minutes I started back with the music, with my usual cover of Copperhead Road. They must have liked it because now the deck of filled beyond capacity with most of them dancing. I did a few more songs and then broke out into a foot-stomping, harp wailing version of Mr. Cash's Ring Of Fire. Well that did it... the entire party started what I call pogo dancing... you know jumping up and down like you're on a pogo stick. They sang with me so loud I couldn't hardly hear myself, even though Lynn said you could hear me and understand me blocks away. So I mentioned we were on a deck right? A big deck, but a deck all the same. I couldn't count the folks up dancing, maybe 50-60 or so... on a deck... pogo dancning. It didn't take long for the deck to start swaying and bouncing. It did not fall down but I remember thinking and planning what I would do when it did. Was I going to save my old Gibson guitar, the harmonicas or the Bose. I remember thinking... keep the Gibson strapped on and try to get to the bricks and hang on to them.
Well the deck held and I was amazed that it did. The crowd held too... they never once sat down again and 2 hours later when my 3 hour contract was nearly up I was more than exhausted. I remember thinking, man I did this backwards. I should have had the laid back show tonight and the rowdy one Thursday night. But that's not how it works. I also remember thinking wow, I bet they're going to have me stay at least another hour and I'm not sure if I'll make it. By that time I had performed 14 hours and driving 11 hours in the previous 3 days. My fingers, my legs and my voice was tired. But on cue here comes Mike up to the stage saying "We all want the extra hour... you up for it?" At 12:30 we finished the evening. Two of the strongest guys I've ever seen hand carried my cart loaded with my equipment down the steps off the deck. They didn't drop it but I remember thinking that if they did that would be a sign that it's time to retire. :-) I've played for lots of parties but these guys were just awesome. They danced, they clapped and they sang with me... nearly every song. My last song before my goodbye song (Jukin') was In The Air Tonight. They all circled around, locked arms and belted that one out. I thought, every neighbor in this neighborhood must be here because otherwise the police would be here for sure... it was the loudest I've ever heard a crowd sing. :-) They had fun... I had fun... successful party and show. The guy who said I'm just sitting here all night but ended up dancing for 3 hours said the funniest thing. He said, "Man right now I love you more than life, but tomorrow... tomorrow I am going to hate you more than anyone on the planet. I will not be able to walk tomorrow". I remember thinking the exact same thing about him and the crowd. I could walk yesterday... just enough to walk Maggie and make it back to the couch, where I stayed all day long recuperating.
This week I have two awesome shows. First Thursday night I will be back at the Celtic Fringe as they celebrate with a Tap Take Over. Then Friday night I'm back at Stonefield Cellars as I headline another event there as part of their Friday night concert series. That's the same Stonefield Cellars where Live At Stonefield Cellars was recorded 18 months ago. I plan to record another live show there that I think will be called Live At Stonefield Cellars Again. It will be another fun weekend of doing what I love in front of people I love and once again I'll have to pinch myself to make sure it's not a dream. I remember the advice my Poppa gave me many years ago saying "Son if I were you'd I find me something I would do for free because I love it so much and then find someone to pay you to do it... then you'll be a happy man". I'm a happy man!