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Posted March 2020

LisaFischer TwentyFeetFromStardomLisa Fischer As Seen In 20 Feet From StardomWhen one hears the name, Lisa Fischer, one of a few scenarios come to mind.

The first might be her 1991 Grammy Award-winning album, So Intense, and her hit song, How Can I Ease the Pain. Sexy. Smooth. Sultry. An incredible range. The entire package. Even today, she commands attention and accolades from her legions of fans who have followed her since. More about that in a moment.

Most likely, one will think of her as the sole – and soulful – female backup singer for the likes of Tina Turner, Luther Vandross, Roberta Flack, Teddy Pendergrass, Chaka Khan, Sting, Anane Vega, and, Chris Botti.

Oh, yeah. And the Rolling Stones.

For some of you, the light bulb has now lit up in your heads.

Yes, Ms. Fischer is THAT sexy singer who commanded everyone’s attention during her vocal solo during the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”. The solo first recorded and made famous by the legendary Merry Clayton and that Lisa owned – lock, stock, and barrel – for the twenty years she toured and recorded with the bad boys of rock and roll.

All of this led to Lisa being among those featured in the award-winning documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom. This led to an even greater interest in her and her talent which has led to a tour that is underway. For that reason, I had the personal thrill and opportunity to finally get to interview Ms. Fischer by phone to talk about her tour – among other things.

I started by telling her that I had just recently stumbled upon a video of her performing the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” with Scotty Sharrard that blew me away. When I shared that I felt that they both fed off of each other’s energy, she shared:

“That was my first time working with Tony. It was wonderful. It was at the Brooklyn Bowl - I think last year. Yeah. He's awesome.”

When I think of Lisa and her work and the energy that she projects when she performs - solo and otherwise - I sense a spirit of humility, confidence, and serenity. I sense a type of spirituality that is the foundation of her talent. I asked her if I was correct in my perception.

“Yeah, I think that's true. You know, kind of like you, as a person, you feel like everything around you affects you. When I was little, both of my grandmothers were church people. On my father's side - my paternal grandmother was the mother of a church in Brooklyn. My maternal grandmother, she was ill, but she read the Bible every day so she had church in her bed. And, so, I would always try to help her read the Bible and all that kind of stuff. So, I was always aware - or made aware - I was taught the awareness of something greater than that we're all just kind of here trying to figure it out. So, you know, this to me - there's so many threads in different spiritual practices that seemed to resonate with each other. It's just different colors and different names and different things. But the essence of it, if you were a baby and couldn't speak a word, it's the same feeling to me.

“It's interesting because my niece just had a baby last summer and the baby was smiling when she was born. It was just beautiful because, in my mind, I imagine that she's just fresh out of heaven and is still smiling, still seeing angels and maybe still seeing God. And still, you have all these scenarios in your mind like, why do babies smile? Why are you so happy? Certain babies are happier than others. And others are just kind of like more thoughtful. You have to kind of work on them to get them to giggle. But this one, she's just constantly smiling. She smiles in her sleep.”

I added that Ms. Fischer exudes level-headedness but, yet, a forcefulness of power behind her voice and in her stage presence that is much different than other excellent performers. She responded:

“It's so interesting you say that. It's funny because I think it's a background thing, which is, most of my life you have to learn how to listen, learn how to feel and listen. Sometimes, people say things without saying a word. And, so, you have to listen to those silent conversations as well. I've always had to be sensitive outside of myself, not just what it is I want to do. What does this person need? What do they require of me? What's the best way I can serve them and serve the music that they want to promote, promoting the dreams and their visions. And, so, having to shift gears so often, sometimes he's the same person, call you back to do something and they totally switch their whole perspective. So, it's like I have to constantly stay really open, really sensitive to what the job is, which really isn't work to me. It's really just a beautiful service. But when I get to do lead vocals, then the music becomes the boss. The music starts to become the boss in a melodic sense and a lyrical sense. The choices that I get to make become more intuitive. It's a lot of fun just shifting and molding, you know? Looking at a particular situation and go, 'What's required here?' It's just so much fun to feel that you're in service to a purpose.”

I didn’t plan on doing it, but I made a comment about the blinding glimpse of the obvious: It took a lot of guts and a steel spine to decide to walk away from a cushy gig like singing backup for the Rolling Stones as she had for twenty years. I asked her to tell me about what led to taking such a giant step.

“I was there. I was touring with the Stones. And though it is stable from the outside looking in, there's still a lot of instabilities on a day-to-day level for me because I never assumed that they're going to call me back. I never assumed that they may change their mind or find someone that they really want to try out because it's really the artist's decision what they want to do. But luckily, you know, everything worked out and then they continued to ask me back. I just felt so grateful that I would still be useful to the tour.

LisaFischer Djeneba Aduayom 2830 2 reducedPhoto by Djeneba Aduayom“But I never had any control over when I would work. And then there'd be times and huge spaces – years, maybe - that we wouldn't work. And, so, we’d have to go back to finding other things to do, which has also been a blessing. But it's definitely not stable in a working musician's mind if you know what I mean.

“With that said, the decision to kind of focus on myself came because I was trying to balance both worlds. I was trying to balance the Stones tour and then the aftermath of '20 Feet from Stardom' and the success of that. I had no idea what was going to happen. I just kind of did it as a labor of love and there was no money involved. I just kind of did it, you know, because it felt good to do. Gil Friesen, who - it was his brainchild and he sort of brought the whole thing to life - was such a beautiful man and it's such a beautiful purpose. I was just like, 'Wow, what a cool idea!' You know? Ask about background singers because he came to a show and he was, 'Oh, yeah, it's so great to see what you guys do and think about doing a movie about it.'

“So, fast-forward: The film wins an Oscar and I was getting offers to do shows on my own. It was so different from me. So, I said, 'Well, let me get a manager or someone to help me.' And I did. I have found Linda Goldstein who manages Bobby McFerrin. I've known her for a while and done some work with her. We had a really good rapport. Still do. And we worked it out to where I'd find out the Stones tour schedule, which was top secret even to me. Ha! Ha! I like it because it shifts and changes and it's their worlds, you know? You sort of ask, like, 'Hey, when are you guys working?' It's kind of like not such a comfortable conversation; not such a professional conversation. So, they were kind enough to give me the information that they knew. And then I would try to - not I - but my team would work on booking shows around the Stones tour. Fast forward. The Stones - some of those Stones tours got canceled for various reasons and they would have to reschedule. So, then I would have to reschedule.

“So, I'm thinking. 'I'm a new artist, even though I'm old, right? But I'm a new artist to these promoters and I don't want them to think I'm a flake. I call and I go, ‘Gee, well, you know, I know he kind of said I was going to do 30 shows, but I can't because the Stones are doing blah, blah, blah blah blah.’ It got to the point where I just felt like it's not fair, one, to the audience. It's not fair to the promoters. It's not fair to me as far as building my reputation in the business if I really want to do this.

Posted March 2020


“So, I had to make a very difficult decision. It's like I don't think I'm in the position anymore to try to work it out - with this scheduling - because life is a mystery and we never know why things have to change. But, you know, I have no control over that and, sometimes, neither do they. So, I had to kind of say, ‘Okay, it might be time.’ I thought that was one reason - just to sort of promote my own life and my own choices. And then also, too, I felt like, you know, I'm in my 50s now. I'm older and heavier now.”

To which I interjected: Aren't we all? Lisa laughed and continued:

“Yeah, well, everyone but the Stones. For some reason, they're just locked in time. Oh, my lord. And that's the truth. It's amazing. I think that's one of the reasons why I just get such a kick out of them. They give me hope, you know? So, it is LisaFischer Djeneba Aduayom 2934 reducedPhoto by Djeneba Aduayomhumanly possible! I just haven't figured it out yet for myself! Ha! Ha! It's humanly possible, you know what I mean? I always look at them with this wonderment and joy and appreciation. And it's so difficult to walk away from such a nurturing situation. It's like family. I watched the kids grow up. I've seen grandkids. It's just so much beauty and love and respect and joy. All the guys are just amazing and even all the side musicians - just love them. And, so, it was really emotionally difficult.

“I was doing a show in Canada and I had to call the promoter and I cried after I hung up the phone. It took me a while to pull myself together to do the show because I just like - it felt like a death. It felt like someone had died. Then the fear sets and it's like, ‘Did I make the right decision? Should I have, say, invested in my own path?’ It's a scary thing.

“It's been - I don't know - three years, four years now, maybe more. And so luckily for me, taking the chance was worth it. But I still miss them to pieces. I keep threatening to come and visit at a show, I just want to see them from a perspective that I've never got to see them. I've never gone to see a live Stones show. I've been in the shows. Yeah. It's like I keep threatening - before they decide to never tour again - to go and see them. I want to do that. So funny.”

I mentioned Mick Jagger’s health scare last year and that showed us that we’re all mere mortals. Lisa replied:

“Indeed. But, you know, you know, he does all the right things. And he's such a health-conscious human being. I think his dad was like a gymnast, a gym teacher. So, yeah, you know, health was really important - everything that he did and does. So that fragility that you're talking about – yeah, it's a crazy thing. And I know it's inevitable that we all happen to pass this way. You know, for some reason, I just feel like people live forever and ever - forever on certain planes. I look at Mick and Keith and Ronnie and Charlie and they're just so alive. They're alive beyond their living. I mean they live within us all as fans. People who love them. They live on different plains.”

While on the subject of the Rolling Stones, I asked Ms. Fischer if she was friends with her replacement, Sasha Allen, and if she had anything to do with her getting the gig.

“We've become friends. I've met her and she's just - I shouldn't say, like friends in the sense of, like, we go out to dinner. We are friendly and I really adore her. I think she's amazing. I didn't know her until after she was hired. I was trying to help them with names of different people to audition. You know, people that they hadn't seen before because they'd seen so many people some years back; to see who would be available and who would be a good fit. Only the Stones know what works for them. So, you put the name in the hat and you pray for the best for each person. I'm not sure how Sasha's name came into play, but it did. It wasn't through me, but it was a beautiful fit and they seem to love her. So, yeah, she's been doing a great job. She's got an awesome voice, a beautiful personality, a gorgeous girl, and the fans seem to really love her. So, it seems like a wonderful match.”

Lisa Fischer is embarking on a tour so I asked her to tell me about it and what fans can expect.

“This is a vocal piano duet show. It's a very personal show in the sense that it's very intimate. It gives me the chance to pick beautiful songs that have passed through me in my life. Some Stones tunes. Some Luther Vandross tunes. A couple of my songs and just songs that I like. Everything is really based on the message of the lyric for me because, as I'm walking through this path and realizing I can't really sing a lie, you know what I mean? It's kind of like I really want to sing stuff that at least makes sense to me in my head and my heart - mostly in my heart - and that has some kind of lingering energy and lingering message. So, it's a show of just intimacy between myself and Taylor Eigsti, who is an amazing and sensitive player. And we get to really dig our heels into the song - the craft of the song, not how it's made, but how it tastes, you know, what it smells like, what it feels like, what it breathes like. And, so, that's basically what the tour is about.”

All this begged the question: Can we expect a long-overdue solo album from her in the near future?

“Yeah, we've been talking about it. So, we hope to record this joining. It’s really beautiful to me. It's just something about the LisaFischer Djeneba Aduayom 2Photo by Djeneba Aduayom
way Taylor plays. He plays like a singer with as many voices as he has fingers and it's just so colorful. His choices are so tasty. And, so, I get to glide upon these beautiful choices and it makes me react differently to the melodies that are already set. It starts to become this other thing; not what you think you know; a little bit of what you know, but not completely what you know. It's almost like a new breath, a new kiss, a new experience when we're going through the music.”

As for what is on Lisa’s radar for the next year or two, she shared:

“I'm really interested in doing a Christmas record. I haven't done one ever and I've always wanted to do one. And, so, I’m in the process of collecting songs that I find really interesting. Some classic things. I also want to do some funny things, too, because I have a kind of sick sense of humor. Ha! Ha!

“I grew up with two boys. I'm the only girl so, a lot of times, they're giggling and teasing and doing all kinds of things. What would be funny to a boy sometimes isn't funny to a girl. But a lot of the stuff that my brothers did was hilarious to me. My sense of humor is a bit more boyish. So, yeah, I want to do a couple of things that are just kind of mischievous and other things that are a bit more classic. So, I'm looking forward to that.

“I'm also looking forward to just doing different joinings, different joinings with different people, different musicians; doing house concerts and different things like that where it's just personal. I just love the personal touch, even though I really enjoyed doing stadium work, because it's almost as though the whole stadium is one person. It's like all these people come together, all the different human beings come together in one space at a particular time to have and share an experience. So, in that sense, they are one body. I do love the sense of just the madness and the excitement of a stadium. And luckily for me, I've enjoyed so many different realms as far as concert halls or clubs or arenas or stadiums or just different places, you know, in someone's home. To me, it's music. It's all connection. It's all this conversation. It's all personal.

“I'm looking forward to just having different experiences and I never know what's going to happen, which is kind of exciting, too. You know, you may get a call to do X, Y or Z. Like, last year I got to sing with a woman named Ledisi, who's freakin awesome! She's an amazing artist and she was with Jules Buckley, the conductor and the Metropole Orkest and it was just so much fun. We did a Nina Simone tribute. It was on the BBC and it was really great. So, situations like that where I get to do art for art's sake. It's just so fun for me.

“And, then, my pet project in my mind, even though it's hard to find time, but I really do need to find time - is that I sort of believe that melodies and the vibration of sound can heal people on a - not only on a spiritual level but a medical level.

“Let's say, for example, sound breaking glass. I feel that certain illnesses could be healed in the same way, the same thought. We destroy cancer; you destroy mental illness; we destroy diabetes. I know it sounds crazy, but I'm sure there's been - there's been a lot of work, I think, that on it and I just need to read up and see what has been done. I can see where I can be useful in that realm because I have memories of pitches of songs and keys from years ago. I think I can remember the sound of the color of a note. It doesn't matter how long ago I heard it. So, I'm hoping that I can use that gift in order to help heal people in that realm. So, that's something I'm looking forward to exploring, as well.

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Lisa Fischer how she hoped to be remembered and what she hopes her legacy is.

“Actually, I haven't really thought about a legacy. I would hope that people feel a sense of feeling when they think of me singing something or any recording, perhaps. It's all about the healing, for me.”

Join us in keeping up with Lisa Fischer by visiting her website, While you’re there, check out her tour itinerary to see if she’ll be appearing near you. It will be a show that you won’t want to miss!


Greg Chaisson Talks Life, Lyrics, & Kings of Dust

Posted March 2020

KingsofDust002The ‘80’s and ‘90’s. Though normally, the music of those eras would mostly fall outside the Boomerocity wheelhouse of coverage, there are several exceptions. While I could name many, I’d likely forget some so I won’t. Who I will name for this piece is the supergroup, Badlands.

Badlands was an incredible band in the early ’90s that was made up of former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist, Jake E. Lee; vocalist Ray Gillen; drummer Eric Singer (yes, THAT Eric Singer), who was later replaced by Jeff Martin; and bassist, Greg Chaisson. While together, they released three albums (their 1989 self-titled LP; Voodoo Highway in 1991, and Dusk after the band had broken up) and still have a loyal fan base all these years after the band split.

While there’s no real chance of a Badlands reunion, the legendary bassist, Greg Chaisson, has put together a great band to reconnect with fans. The band is called Kings of Dust and they’re releasing their self-titled debut CD and let me tell you, it’s smoking hot with each cut from it worth the entire price of the album.

Yeah, it’s that good.

Because of our mutual adoptive roots in Phoenix, Arizona, I connected with Greg several years ago. We have mutual friends from our high school years and I grew up well aware of his pre-Badlands band, Surgical Steel, that was a Phoenix favorite. As Chaisson was putting the Kings of Dust disc together with his bandmates, I begged him to promise me an interview when the disc dropped. A man of his word, Greg and I chatted about the album when I called him at his Phoenix home.

I started by asking Chaisson to give Boomerocity readers a peek into his pre-Badlands background.

“I moved here (Phoenix) in 1969. I moved here for the beginning of my junior year of high school. I lived here until ’82. I moved to L.A. and I was there from 85 to 95 – just strictly for the music business. And then we moved back here. I didn't want to tour anymore. My son was a couple of years old and I wanted to be there to raise him as opposed to - I had a lot of friends that were in bands that toured and they didn't get to raise their kids. They were always gone. I didn't want to do that.”

I’d asked Greg if he knew good Boomerocity friend, Andy Timmons, from Danger Danger who was a happening band around that time.

Greg Chaisson04Greg Chaisson of Kings of Dust“Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we're all from that same generation when I was in Badlands. You know, I was in L.A. at that point and not a hundred percent sure they were an L.A. band. But you know, a lot of the bands from that generation of music - that early to late ‘80s, even early 90s - they all kind of met each other on the road or they all met each other at a band bar. If we happened to play in the town that they were in, they would show up and that sort of thing. So, yeah, I know a lot of those guys, I guess, peripherally, you know.

“The bands that were for sure in L.A., we all actually knew each other. But unless you are actually kind of on the scene, it would be kind of hard to know who everyone was. But at least you were familiar with their work and familiar with some of their personal stuff. So, it's all good.”

I hit Chaisson with a trifecta of questions about what made him decide to put the band together; how long they’ve been playing; and what is behind the band’s name.

“Well, the start of the band was around eight years ago with the singer that's in Kings, Michael Beck, he owns the studio. He was always recording other bands and he wanted to basically do something that he got to sing on. He knew a drummer who knew a guitar player who knew me. So, the four of us got together and we wrote a few songs and did a little recording. Then, over the course of about a year or so, the drummer and the guitar player left for their own reasons and that whole thing was dormant for a couple of months. Then Michael Beck called me and said, 'You know, I really liked the songs. Why don't we get another drummer and guitar player and we'll keep going with it?' So, we did. We found the guitar player, Ryan McKay, who played on the record - the Kings of Dust record. We went through a few drummers. And, then, around 2014, I was offered to join Jake E. Lee's Red Dragon Cartel, who is the guitar player in Badlands and Ozzy, as well. So, with that, the King's thing kind of went on hiatus while I did that.

Then, in 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer. So, the whole thing went on hold while I went through that. I had Stage 4 cancer. I went through all the cancer treatment and all the side effects of the cancer treatment.

“Lo and behold, it's 2019 and, you know, that this whole time Michael Beck has been saying, ‘Let's finish this! Let's keep KingsofDust003going!’ I just didn't have the energy or the interest to do it. You know, after dealing with that cancer crap. Finally, after some time last year, I said, 'You know what, I'm ready. Let's finish this.'

“So, we all got together, finished writing the record, and recorded it. The official release is the 13th of March, but we've been putting it out on our own and it's been relatively, modestly successful. I mean, we're selling it our own. We sold almost a thousand copies in less than a month and that's hard CD copies because we have not made it download available at all, which we probably won't for a while.”

Greg then shares who makes up Kings of Dust and the story behind the name.

“The band is Michael Beck on vocals, Ryan McKay on guitar, and Jimmy Taft, he's on drums. And these guys are all from other places, but they all moved here in the last 10 or 20 years. So, collectively, we are Kings of Dust and they're all excellent musicians. They are great, great songwriters and great guys to be around.

“As far as the name, the original name was a joke name, which was called The Prehistoric Steamroller, which we were just kinda goofing around with it. And then we were going to be called Deep Black Led because everyone said we kind of sounded a little bit like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath or Zeppelin. And then we realized a name like that was kind of confining. And, so, I came up with the name Kings of Dust and it really means kings of nothing but kings of everything at the same time. There's no real mystical meaning behind it or anything like that. I just like the way it sounded. And, lo and behold, no one else had used it. And, so, that's how we became Kings of Dust.”

Greg was kind enough to send me an advance copy of Kings of Dust and I love the whole disc. I was curious, however, which song he would point to as a calling card for the entire album.

“Well, to me, one of the compliments we've got on the record, so far, is that none of it sounds the same. There's 13 songs on the record, which most people put 10. But we couldn't decide which one to leave off, so we decided to put them all on there. The first single is 'Like An Ocean'. And that - it's a really good song. It's got a good groove. It maintains the groove throughout the whole thing. It's got a good - an interesting message. So, you know, I would say that's a good place to start. And if you like that song, you'll probably like the rest of the record.

“The record is very ‘70s influenced. I know bands that are doing the ‘70s sort of vibe are really popular right now and there's a number of younger guys out there doing it. And that's I think that's great. For us - and especially for me - I mean, that's the generation I grew up being a musician in. I started being a musician in 1971. And, so, the influences that are on the Kings of Dust record are pretty authentic because I come to it from first-generation as opposed to the third or fourth generation. Not that there's anything wrong with where you come from, where you get it from, which is, for me, writing these kinds of things is really second nature to me. My influences are all from the ‘70s.

“You mentioned Badlands. This record doesn't sound like Badlands, but what it does do that's similar to Badlands is the influences that Jake E. Lee wrote - the way that he wrote was very ‘70s influenced and he's from that generation as well. So, because of my affiliation with him and also coming from the ‘70s, it's very ‘70s oriented. Those are my influences. The songs aren't short. We don't have any three-minute hit songs. The other songs are all at least four minutes long. There's a lot of moving parts in the songs. It's not just your standard verse, chorus, first chorus and solo and a chorus out. There's none of that on there. I use a lot of parts because I find that interesting.

“That would be the other thing that would be relatable to Badlands: Jake wrote with a lot of moving parts. We had a lot of moving parts in those songs. And that's what made it interesting to us. So, that would be the closest relationship to those two. Other than the fact that I was actually in the band. But is it us intentionally trying to sound like anybody? It's just us sounding like everybody that we do like and that we were influenced by.”

Since Chaisson’s recording career spans four decades, I asked him what some of the significant changes are he’s seen that have been for the better and for the worse in the recording process.

“Back when I first started recording and then everything I recorded, which was just kind of local stuff. What we recorded at withKofDguitaristRyanMcKayRyan McKay & Greg Chaissonreal studios like Chaton and Pantheon - that was analog two-inch tape . . . and a real board and all that kind of stuff; with racks and effects and it was all tube oriented. And, so, you were going to get that real warm analog sound that you got in the ‘70s. Badland was recorded at real studios with tape and was done in the real way.

“As time, technology and time moved, the whole ProTools thing and all that made it easier to, for lack of a better word, fix things in the mix. Where back when I was recording in the ‘70s and ‘80s and even early ‘90s, you couldn't fix a drum track in the take. If something screwed up - for example, if the bass screwed up and you wanted to fix it, you wanted the drums to play to the bass, because the bass screwed up and it sounded cool. You had to do the track over or you had to find a break somewhere, cut or splice the tape, tape it back together and then go from there. Or if the drummer screwed up a part, you couldn't fix this part. You had to basically rerecord it. So ProTools made it possible to move things in and out. And that's a good thing and a bad thing because, when I was first recording, you had to know your stuff. You had to be able to come in and lay down the track and you had to be able to nail it from the get-go.

“Now, you can just kind of put it together however you want, especially vocally because of all the pitch shifting and all that. If someone's flat. You can just fix it in ProTools. If the guitar solo is a little off, it's all fixed. The guitar in the ProTools, it's all convenient. I prefer the way it was done back in the day because it was a more honest way of doing it, in my opinion, and you had to actually know your game.

“I will say this about Kings of Dust: the advantage of ProTools now as you have a lot of guys - they call it guys that have studios to call guys that have ProTools rigs, 'equipment in their living room'. So, if some guy with a living room studio and a computer and, basically, he fakes the drums, there's nothing wrong with that. That just makes it more fun for everybody. The way that Kings of Dust is recorded, Michael Beck owns the studio - Sound Vision Studios in Tempe (Arizona). It's an actual building. It actually has a real studio in it. It is a ProTools studio but he also has a lot of analog sort of things in there. And, so, the Kings of Dust record is recorded with modern technology but it has a very analog sound and feel. Everything is recorded in one take. There's no splicing together. If anything, there's no pitch shifting. There's no fixing. If we didn't get it right, we re-did it. I wanted it to have that 70s, 80s sort of vibe to it. There's no sample drums. There's no nothing. It's all done for real. The real bass recorded with a real 8 by 10 cabinet; loud as hell; yadda, yadda, yadda. The mix of the record is very ‘70s. It's very spread out.

“If you listen to music these days, most of the mixes, everything - you've got one hundred percent of sonic space. Fifty percent on either side of the middle. Most people record is right near the middle. And that's where all the instruments are placed. The way that Kings of Dust is mixed, it's widened out quite a bit. Very early Van Halen with the guitar way on one side, again, the guitar away on the other side with the bass somewhere off to the side of the drums. So, it almost sounds like the way something would sound live. That was very important to me - that we were able to do that way. Again, nothing against people that do the ProTools thing. I just wanted to make it more, again, authentic. I guess authentic and real, would, I guess, be the two words.”

Did the band record in the same room/at the same time?

Greg ChaissonMVHSDaysGreg Chaisson During His High School Days“It's live, together in the studio. All the drums and bass tracks are recorded at the same time. Most of the rhythm guitars are recorded at the same time. And then whatever they wanted to add to the rhythm guitars later was added later, which is how we also did it in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And then there's no fixes on the tape. We didn't use the advantage of Pro Tools to fix things. I didn't want to do it that way. I don't think the rest of guys did either. We wanted it to be what you hear is what you hear; what you see is what you get. And you know, consequently, there's certain little mistakes that are on there that no one else will hear but I hear 'em. And to be honest, I kind of went in and had that stuff fixed ProTools style - edited like what you're talking about. But I didn't do that because I wanted the realism of the recording session to be maintained. When I was in Badlands, if there was a mistake or whatever that no one would hear but the rest of the guys in the band, we left it on there because that was real life. That's the way our influences did it in the ‘70s and in the ‘60s. And, so, we wanted to remain faithful to that, which we did, especially on the second Badlands record and the third one. So, we wanted to maintain that same professionalism, consistency, whatever, while we were doing Kings of Dust. So, the guitar solos are all added on afterward because for any other reason, that's just the way that's always been done, too.

“Now, there is a song on the record called '’A Little Bit of Insanity’. That song is recorded live. I wanted one live track on there. It's just three instruments. There's no rhythm guitar. It's just the guitar. It's basically like one long guitar solo outro thing and it's kind of a nod to - if you look at the song, it says, ‘For JEL’, which is Jake E. Lee. Jake's my best friend so I dedicated it to him and we tried to kind of catch a little Badlands magic there - a little vibe - by doing one live track on there that is about four minutes long and it's got a lot of stuff going on in it, but it's an honest, live track. It came out really good. When you get a chance, you'll get to listen to it. I think it's right after 'Wolves'. And it's an interesting little track.

As for touring to support the new Kings of Dust release, Greg said:

“Well, we're working on that right now. We have a promoter that we're talking to in Texas that I think they're trying to put together a week and a half or so - ten days’ worth of shows through Texas and Oklahoma, and you can spend a couple of months in Texas. It's so big and there's so towns and they love rock so much. So, we're trying to see whether that works. We've been offered other dates - festivals and stuff - later in the year so we are talking about it. I mean, none of us really want to get on a tour bus. I have the store I have to run so I can't be gone for three or four months and everyone else has businesses as well, and lives. So, I doubt that we're going to get on our tour bus. But we are going to do some shows. I know we'll eventually KingsofDust001go play in L.A. and Vegas and Tucson and San Diego. Those kinds of places are within reach pretty easily. Michael Beck is from Nebraska so he has a following in some of those states. I know we'll go do something there. And then there's talk about us going to Japan. Apparently, because of my résumé, I'm relatively popular over there because of Badlands and other things that I've done - my relationship with Jake and stuff - my affiliation. I would love to go to Japan again and there's even talk about doing a couple of festivals overseas.

“So, yes, we are going to play. That's the long answer. We're just trying to make sure that it makes sense for us to do it. And it's not even whether it makes money, it's just whether we can put it together, sell some CDs; sell a T-shirt or something and see what happens. So, yeah, it's all on the table. It's all on the table.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked Greg how he would like to be remembered and what he hoped his legacy will be when everything with him is said and done.

“Well, I mean, what I'd like to be remembered as a decent human being who was always honest with people; a person that gave 150 percent at everything that he did. I'd like to be remembered as an excellent father and husband and I tried to try to maintain that. I have a background in coaching, so hopefully, people that I coached will remember me fondly as someone that helped them get to wherever it is they wanted to go. And as a musician, I would like to be remembered as one of the guys. I didn't become a musician to become famous or become rich. Probably I should have aimed higher. I don't know. I wanted the respect of my peers. So as long as people thought I was a decent songwriter and a decent bass player, I'm pretty good with it. I believe in God. I'm very active in that part of my life, as is my family. And so, you know, hopefully, God gives me a break on some of the things that I wish I hadn't of done or that I did wrong and allows me at a spot up there. I hope people never forget that I was a good person.”

You can keep up with Greg Chaisson and the rest of the good guys in Kings of Dust by following them here on their Facebook page. While you’re there, be sure and order their self-titled debut CD.

The Side Deal Becoming The Real Deal

Posted February 2020

The Side Deal 002If one hears the phrase, “side deal”, it can conjure up different images. It could mean stepping aside formal, “main” deal negotiations to craft an alternative deal (as is often the case in politics). It could mean a relationship “on the side”.

In the case of Charlie Colin (formerly of Train), Stan Frazier (Sugar Ray), and brothers, Joel and Scott Owen (PawnShop Kings), their “side deal” was a fun little band they’d put together amongst themselves to play the occasional gig while not working with their aforementioned respective main bands.

The four have known each other for many years so getting together for those occasional gigs was an easy no brainer. Add to that mix the encouragement and participation of the legendary Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (of Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan fame), viola! A great side deal became a great main deal named, well, The Side Deal.

I was recently offered the phenomenal opportunity to chat with all four of the band members shortly after their arrival at the Sundance Film Festival. After they were settled into their hotel rooms, they called me to chat about the band and its forthcoming CD. Before the call, I was given a copy of one of the songs, “Ghost”, from that album. Phenomenal. Absolutely amazing. Stay tuned for that one!

After introductions were made and some small talk shared, we got down to business by asking Joel and Scott Owen about at least some of their past having been somewhat rooted in my home state of Tennessee. Joel answered.

“We grew up in Orange County. We all grew up in the same hometown of Newport Beach. However, my brother and I have a lot of roots through Memphis. So, we spent our whole life coming to Tennessee. Our mom grew up in Memphis. Our grandpa was a farmer just over the bridge in Arkansas. Once we started playing music, Nashville became like a kind of a second home to us there for a few years.”

I just had to ask what the whole story was behind the band’s name. Charlie Colin responded by saying, “Well, I think it's safe to say that all of us had spent a lot of time with our respective bands prior to this and everybody was immersed in a number of projects. And so, what happened is we all grew up in Southern California. We all moved away and had careers and lives and we all seemed to move back and we got reconnected. That kind of was a really cool coincidence.

“We were asked to do things because we have people who knew our old songs . . . and Train and all the songs were hits. And so, we were asked to do some charity shows and stuff. So, we kind of got together to do these things once in a while. And the thing was, it was magic. And I think it's also safe to say that all of us know that bands are . . . there's a true cliché, but there's so much sacrifice involved and they can be painful, like any great family or anything that's valuable.

“I don't think any of us were like, ‘Yeah, let's start a band, all of a sudden!’, you know? But then it became to where I know, for me, after we played a show or two, it was just a fallout; it would be almost like a depression afterward because we just got along so well; the way we sang together was something I hadn't experienced and it seemed that we would instantly connect with these audiences where it wouldn't just be a cool event. It would be like people would say, ‘Hey, that was surprisingly meaningful!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, me too!’ We felt the same way. I know at one point - I mean, I know we all thought this, but at one point I said, ‘I think we have to, unfortunately; we have to organize this. We have to make this a band. I think I have to - I want to do this.’ And so, we did it basically because, when I went to sleep at night, I thought, ‘If I don't do this, I'm going to regret it.’ And so, we took the plunge.”

Joel then chimed in.

“The real big losers in that was, of course, was our wives. They're, like, (mimicking a voice dripping with sarcasm), 'Awesome.'

“Then, the genesis of the name that happened actually was kind of an ironic story, because each one of us, I think at different times in our previous bands, had some kind of funny business with somebody in the previous band doing some kind of shady operating at some point.” Stan Frazier added:

“We commonly referred to it as a ‘side deal’. We bonded over that like, you know, 'You experienced that, too? Oh, my gosh! Your manager stole from you and your bandmates were not above the board? Wow! That's weird!'

“So, we were just we're toying around with a few names, but we were calling it just ‘Side Deal’ in the beginning. And then a friend of ours said, ‘You should call it, The Side Deal. It sounds a little more like it's a thing.’ That's the whole reason behind the name: The Side Deal. So, there you have it.”

The SIde Deal 001(L-R) Scott Owen, Charlie Colin, Stan Frazier, and Joel OwenColin then concluded by saying, “We also have a lot of friends - because we've all toured for years and years and years - and so we have friends in other great bands that we actually really love and admire and, so, a lot of guys started sitting in here with us. We had side guys popping in and out. It was kind of a revolving door of talent coming through it. So, we were kind of like this for sure - the core of the band - but we have friends that when we're in certain towns, they're sitting with us.

“One of the producers that we work with is Jerry Harrison. He was the guitarist and keyboardist in the Talking Heads. And he wrote ‘’Roadrunner with Lou Reed and White Light Way and whatever. And, so, he will come. And when we record him, if we have a show coming up around that time, he'll sit in with us and then we'll play some of his songs.

“At a Side Deal show, you can see us playing some old Train; some old Sugar Ray stuff; some old talking head stuff. But it’s someone on the stage who wrote the song. So that's why it's not cheesy.

“Also, we had other things on the side, too. And then this became for me - I was, like, ‘Well, this is actually my main thing.’ It's funny, this is The Side Deal. Now it's like what I want to do with all my time.

As I mentioned earlier, I heard the band’s song, Ghost. I love it. When I asked what the story was behind the song, Scott was the one who spoke up.

“Hey, man, we're Southern California raised. All of us love the ocean and it’s super inspirational. At this point in our lives, any time we can get out there and surf, we're gonna do it. I was out surfing one day and got an idea for a riff and got the ideas for the beginning of the lyrics and it started to come pretty quick. I jumped out of the water and raced back to my car to try to get my phone before I forgot it. I sent a really rudimentary version of it to Charlie and he heard it and flipped. So, we all started to develop the song. It was our first kind of like - I mean, we had written a couple of songs together as a band, but that was the first one that we took to the finish line and it ended up being the one that everybody responded to the most, whether it be live or recording or whatever. So that's the first one we released. We're really excited about it. It's been really cool. The writing process has been collaborative because we all tend to really bring a strength that is unique and specific out of the four of us. We kind of look to each other to round out the edges of the songs. It's really a pretty unique experience for us as collaborators.”

Charlie added: You know, Scott and Joel. started - amongst other projects they started the Pawnshop Kings and made a bunch of great recordings with that band. I heard that and I was floored. And then also, Stan is the drummer and also plays guitar and, I think it's safe to say, the main hook writer and the guy of Sugar Ray. So, it's a really eclectic band. I love it.

“When Scott wrote that riff - I just want to say it's funny because I called him (and said), ‘Man. It feels like you wrote that about and for me.’ And I said, ‘But I know you didn't.’ I mean, I know what's going on and I think everybody's going to feel like that. I think that the cool thing about the writing in this band is that we're at this spot in our lives where we're writing about real motifs. And even though the songs are like a blast, I was put in this great mood, but we're talking about addiction and lost friendship and then redemption and loyalty, which is, you know, tough stuff. And, then like stuff like 'we used to party like it would last'. It was because Grandmaster Flash and we're thinking about Soft White Lines in that way. And, so, then when it goes into stuff like that. Where I'm in recovery, it's stuff like that really means something to me. So, we do touch upon these heavy subjects and some of that's intentional. But it's kind of cool to be in a role where people can put themselves in these songs, even though it's just wonderful to listen to it. You know, it gets my heart beating. there's some depth to that.”

It goes without saying that there's going to be comparisons to all the guys’ other bands and their musical past. I asked what The Side Deal 003their thoughts were in response to that. Frazier answered first.

“You know, it's funny. I was expecting a lot more of that at this stage of the game. But, personally, I really haven't gotten a lot of comparisons. I think what we're doing is – we were talking about it on the way up here in the car. It's like we're still developing our sound and we're trying to figure it out. I mean, we're a vocal-based band for sure with a lot of roots and different sorts of genres. But I feel like I haven't got one, 'Hey, that sounds like Sugar Ray!' Not one! And I definitely think that's a positive thing in a lot of ways because we're really trying to do our own thing here. That stuff might creep in in some places, but I'm sure I haven't heard any of the comparisons, which is refreshing to me.”

Joel added, “One thing I have heard people say is they go, 'Whoa, Train and Sugar Ray and Pawnshop Kings. Like, what the heck is that going to sound like?' And we say, 'Modern-day Eagles.' But then we all come in the same way. We have these strengths in writing. We have these strengths of playing and sonic sensibilities. And as Stan just mentioned, we're still figuring out what it does sound like. But it has been so exciting to hear these things come out because I think about, personally, I think about Train, Sugar Ray, and Pawnshop Kings - what the heck is this going to sound like? Charlie talks about the motifs, the themes were singing about. There's a depth to the music and the melodies that we're writing. And it's, for us, it's just really overwhelming to kind of watch this thing and feel this thing and experience this thing take shape.”

Hearing the guys talk, I thought that it all sounded as though their musical collaboration is a much more fluid and natural process than they might have experienced in the past. I asked if my perceptions were accurate. Joel answered first, comically:

“I'll say, for me, personally. I've just been writing with only my brother for a long time, so there's nothing fluid about that.”

Colin then added: “There were a couple of good years out of the fifteen that I was with my old band. I mean, those couple of years were really happy, but I was going to say, like, when it was really working and the original band was together, I was like aware of something. And I remember that. I haven't thought that since with these guys. Scott started coming over to my house sometimes before we actually needed a band and we had so much material that it was ridiculous. And then, every time we had a practice, we would write two or three ideas that I thought were better than the ones we had before. I thought, ‘You know, it felt so natural that I didn't want to overreact. But it's like, that's magic. It doesn't happen forever. I think this band is so prolific, it's ridiculous. But I also thought, if that's happening, let's take advantage of it because who knows how long that will be? But it seems to just be getting started.”

I then asked if it is a lot different recording as The Side Deal compared to recording with their previous bands. Scott led off with the answer.

“I would say we're more excited about this than we have than about anything that we can really remember. And I think the recording process often falls in line with that. I mean, Stan has produced quite a bit. We've all made a lot of records. So, at this point, it's exciting to be in the studio together because I feel like, for the most part, that fluid nature that we kind of collaborate within the genesis of the songs happens in the studio as well, because we continue to, basically, come up with ideas that we unanimously enjoy. And then it's a matter of choosing the one that we think is the best. It’s not, 'No, not yours, mine this time' or whatever. It's pretty unique. I've never experienced anything like it.” Then, he jokingly added, ‘I mean, to Joel's point, it's just been him and me, it's really hard...”

Charlie then added, "It’s just that this is one of the things I know that maybe this is unique, here. Maybe it isn't. But at this point in our careers, we all play - like sometimes we'll write on different instruments. Live, we kind of figure out a way that we play certain things, that we have consistency there. But in the studio, it's like we're passing guitars around. Somebody will jump, you know, Scott will play the piano but Joel came up with it. It's like it doesn't really matter. And it's like I've never had - it's not that nobody cares because I used to be so concerned about my parts. But, like, we joke around and I'll look at Scott and I'll go, 'We're a great guitar player', because, between the two of us, we'll work on a part for a little while and come up with something that we wouldn't have come up with alone. And that's, like, cheesy. It sounds corny because it's so nice. That just doesn't happen.

“I remember my other band, there's an inherent kind of, let's say, that is so, you know, counterproductive and unnecessary. At this point, there's just absolutely none of that . . . as long as these guys know that I'm the boss. Ha! Ha!”

With all this phenomenal camaraderie that is fostering amazing songwriting collaboration, I had to ask when The Side Deal’s debut album will be coming out. Scott said:

“The record is due to come out in the spring. We're finishing up the songs and we want them all to be at the same caliber. We want everything we put out to be excellent. Different producers, different situations that we've already found ourselves in, that we're realizing different strengths come out. We have an intrinsic kind of unanimous vote. Like, when it happens, we all know it. That's what we're going to fully put the music out. But there is a tentative plan to put it out in the late spring.”

What else on the band’s radar for the next year or two? Stan said:

“You know, all the things that we do leading up until that, we're getting ready to do some corporate shows and we've got a few like hometown gigs kind of in the works. But we plan to get out there and we'd like to do some opening slots for some bigger acts to get in front of some real eyeballs. And so, yeah, we're putting the team together with a booking agent and we just got a manager and a business manager. There's no real need to rush that stuff until we get to a body of work finished to where we feel like it's worthy to listen to. So, the next couple of months are really big for us.”

Colin then added: As I mentioned before, we're working on the record, we had little pockets of regions where we had a demand so we would play shows there and they would sell out and we did great. We felt like it was time to take it to that next level.

“But one other thing that I wanted to mention is that we really do have some really interesting people involved. And I was thinking because you said yours is a boomer magazine that, for example, an old friend of mine - and now he's kind of a part of this band - is Skunk Baxter. We do a song fairly well with him. We flew to Washington, did some shows with him. He comes in town, sits in with us. We get to do his Steely Dan stuff. I've known him since I was a 19-year old. He, basically, got my first band signed. He was like a mentor. At the same time, we're surrounding ourselves with kind of these people that have - I don't know, there's no way they can teach us what they know unless we just do it with them.”

Clearly, The Side Deal is poised to be a big deal in the music business. Join me in following them at their website,, where you can also connect with them on social media.

Marty Stuart's Pilgrimage

Posted February 2020

Marty Stuart David McClister 10 CroppedIf you’re a long-time, baby boomer country music fan or are a younger music aficionado who knows great country music when you hear it, then you are, undoubtedly, more than aware of country legend, Marty Stuart.

Whether it’s through his earliest work as a child musical prodigy with Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass (appearing with the band on Hee Haw at fourteen years old) as well as his work with Vassar Clements, Doc Watson, and Johnny Cash before launching his solo career.

That career encompasses eighteen solo albums, two live albums, a soundtrack album, a ton of compilation albums, and thirty-three singles. This earned him prominent screen time in last year’s acclaimed PBS Ken Burns documentary, Country Music. He’s been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for twenty-eight years and is a member and past president of the Country Music Foundation. The icing on the cake of his life is his lovely wife of twenty-three years, country star, Connie Smith.

Stuart recently added “author” to his list of achievements, with his book entitled, The Pilgrim: A Wall-to-Wall Odyssey. It’s a phenomenal book inspired by his 1999 album, The Pilgrim, that is chock full of photos reflecting his career and his own amazing photographic work taken while on the road.

To chat about the book, I contacted Marty while he was on his tour bus, headed for a show at Chattanooga’s Walker Theatre.

I started my questioning with a comment as to how the book seems to reflect the depths of his heart and where he currently is in his life and asked if I my perception was correct.

“Absolutely. Because, it was, at the time, it was a bold move. Part of the circumstances forced me to do it. But, you know, when you keep getting away with something that keeps working, whether it's right or wrong, you tend to go with it because it's easy. And that kind of played out. And at the end of the 90s, I was kind of forced to either keep going and become a parody of myself or turn around and go back into my heart and remind myself who and what I really believed in and who I think I was set on earth be. So, that sounds like me, me, me, me, me, but that's where I had to go at that moment. And, so, I think what Scott Somar said in the introduction, this book is absolutely true. There was kind of life before The Pilgrim in life after The Pilgrim.

Because of the depth and intensity, I read and felt from the book, it begged the question: Does Marty have a Pilgrim sequel in the works as a result of all this?

“I don't know that there is a sequel to The Pilgrim. It's one of those movies - it's a standalone thing that I can always refer to. And I'd never - even though there was not a lot of commercial success that went around it at the time, I knew the power inside the record and I knew the heart and the soul and the passion and the tears that went into making The Pilgrim and living through it. And I knew that it would come back around. But it was not one of those things where I go, 'I'm going to do The Pilgrim Part Two.' It just didn't work that way. It was too organic to work that way.

“What happened right after The Pilgrim was kind of a good indication because after The Pilgrim, everything kind of fell apart. I came up out of the ashes and put the Fabulous Superlatives together. And, so, we decided to take one more run at country radio and we made a double-minded record. It was on Columbia Records. It was called Country Music. Half the record was reaching for that parade that I was kind of trying to be a part of it. And the other side was reaching toward the heart and soul of the matter. It was a double-minded record. Some songs were really good. And I knew that I had to get on one side of the line or the other after that record.”

Continuing his reflection, Marty shared:

“I was in New York City and I walked into Bleecker Bob's bookstore on Bleecker, the Bleecker Box. There was an Ella Fitzgerald box set. Beautiful! It was linen-covered - lavender-colored with linen fabric and embossed with silver. It just said, ‘Ella Fitzgerald - The Verve Years.’ I bought it just because it was pretty. I didn't buy it for what was in it. But when I opened the box when I got back to Tennessee, there they were: all of Ella Fitzgerald's recordings from the Verve label. It was eleven things, Porgy and Bess. Ella sings with Louis Armstrong. Ella does this. Ella does that. Here's the Christmas record.

“I thought, 'Wow! Right there is how a musical life should- might ought to be lived.' And I have always remembered that box set that I still have. And whether it was The Pilgrim and after The Pilgrim, I don't think there has been any missteps there. You know, there came Soul's Chapel, then Badlands, Live at the Ryman, Way Out West, Compadres. It's all been meaningful stuff that I could listen to without coughin' at any point. But it was still The Pilgrim that lit the fuse on that and became a way of life after The Pilgrim.”

I asked Stuart to share what the book itself is all about.

Marty Stuart David McClister 10“Well, The Pilgrim, as far as who I am, I don't know. If you're a mandolin player, I'm a mandolin player. I'm a guitar player. But I think what I have become without trying is just - I’ve lived long enough that I think I'm one of the touchstone figures of the culture of country music. I think I'm one of the go-to people for the world of authentic country music. I'll buy that. I can back that up. And The Pilgrim was a record that happened in 1999, 20 years ago. That was a return after a long commercial voyage - an incredible run - back to the heart and soul, to the bedrock, the timeless place, to a timeless place in country music. Authenticity. As every evolving artist reaching for his roots and his true self, the authentic self buried within, I suppose. There was a lot of heartbreak and disappointment when the record didn't work. But, you know, the lesson in it for all of us is sometimes you have to wait around for things. So, my friend Tom Allen said in this book, I think he said sometimes paintings don't sell the first go ‘round. Monet, whoever. So, this is a painting that didn't quite sell the first go ‘round, but it comes back 20 years later. It teaches us all that authenticity and the real stuff that comes from the heart usually finds its mark however long it takes one. Is that good enough?


I thought the cover had a bit of a Stevie Ray Vaughan vibe going on with it. I asked Stuart if that was intentional or just him being him.

“Aw, that's just me wearing black clothes. And, you know, it looked a whole lot more Edwardian than Stevie Ray Vaughan to me, at the time. You know, The Pilgrim was this character that I had to makeup; a black hat; I don't know why I thought of a cape. But a lonesome character making his way through the world, you know, covering up his pain and misery.”

What section or chapter of The Pilgrim would Marty point to as a calling card for the entire book?

“Well, you know, I know that there's a true book buried inside me somewhere and I keep puttin' out books with a whole lot of pictures so I don't have to sit down and write the book. For a true music fan, the photographs alone in this book are, alone - out of the archives - are worth the price of admission. But as far as the story goes, I think you could look at Billy Bob Thornton's intro or what Johnny Cash advised me to do after the record failed; or you could look at the first chapter that talks about Memphis and what it was all about. Perhaps that would do it. Or, if you're a guitar collector, just the guitars there in the back of the book that we used on the record is pretty cool.

The book includes a re-mastered copy of its CD namesake. Why?

“I think that music was the entire story was - I think I alluded to in the book - in my mind, it started out as just one - a big ol' song, but it turned into a bit of a Shakespearean opera. And my friend, Jack Clement, though, great old record producer made a comment one day. He said, 'I promise you that Shakespeare would have been a great George Jones fan.' Ha! Ha! That kinda took me to a place like this. It's kind of a tragedy, a classical tragedy, in a sense. It needed voices along the way, in my opinion, to move the story forward. So, I just got my phone book and called my friends. And they came by EmmyLou and George Jones and Connie Smith and Johnny Cash and Pam Tillis, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs. They all came by to help me get the project taken care of.

About the current state of country music, I asked Marty if he felt that the business was broken and, if so, (and if he was made “country music czar”), what would he do to fix it.

“Is it broken? No. It's doing the same thing it did in 1930. I read a review somewhere along the way from the mid-thirties, once upon a time, in a trade magazine about a Bill Monroe record that had just come out and he had taken a Jimmie Rodgers song and sped it up to a breakneck tempo. He sang in a high voice. And I think that review went something like what is this: ‘Is country music crashing? Is hillbilly music crashing and burning?’

“Now, this man has taken a sacred Jimmie Rodgers song and singing in the voice of a woman, playing at a breakneck L R Jerry Lee Lewis Carl Perkins Marty Stuart Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison ReducedL-R: Jerry Lee Lewis Carl Perkins Marty Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison Photo Courtesy of Marty Stuart

tempo that no one can listen to, you know? So, the question of what's happening to country music goes back that far. Old-Time fiddle bands thought it went to hell when they brought drums to the Grand Ole Opry and Ernest Tubb brought in an electric guitar. So, you know, that's the deal. We all have our points in which we think it's authentic and that speaks to us. So, if you look at the modern chart, I think it's doing the same thing now that's been spoken all along.

“It's a little bit more unrecognizable now because it's a little more homogenized if not a whole lot more homogenized than I think it's ever been. If I were the czar, I would probably just say take it back to the original blueprint to where you go to the Bristol sessions. The Bristol sessions had gospel music; it had fiddle things and they had your bawdy tunes and they had the Carter family. They had a little bit of everything. And I think that's what country music - the world of country music - still is. The beauty of it is now, it's big enough that whatever you truly believe in, as far as the music goes, there is a space for you. I think if you if you just look at the CMA Awards and what happens at CMAFest; and if that's what country music is to you, you're just getting started because there's a vast world that goes beyond that. I wish we could level it out for the masses where everybody had a bit more voice. So, that’s what I would do is level it out.

Congress of Country Music LogoClick Above To Donate To The Congress of Country Music!Fans know that Marty hosted The Marty Stuart Show on cable TV’s RFD-TV. The channel still runs the re-runs but I wanted to know if there are any plans for new episodes of the TV show.

“Different TV show. We did 156 episodes of that particular one and called it ‘Mission Accomplished’. I’m working on this cultural center down in Mississippi, the Congress of Country Music. It's my hillbilly presidential library. So, if you're going to be in the backwoods of any state, you must broadcast. We're working on a TV show right now. That will be based around the artifacts and the collection and tell and go from there. Cool stories. Yeah.”

A reader submitted a couple of questions. One of them asked what Marty would’ve done had he not pursued his career in country music and is there anyone Stuart’s wanted to work with that he hasn’t, yet.

His answer to the first question: “Either with my own florist or in jail. I don't know, man! I could have had a photography studio. But I'm glad country-music was there.”

As for the second question, Marty answered: “Well, I've worked with pretty much everybody I ever wanted to. But there's an artist that I've never met and I really admire the quality of her work and the quality of her voice. That's Norah Jones. And, so, I just think Nora's a real artist for real.”

As a prolific musician and accomplished guitarist, I wondered if there were any guitars that he considered to be the Holy Grail of guitars.

“Well, concerning country music, there's two. One is Mother Maybelle Carter's guitar, which is in the process jewels exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. And the other one is Jimmie Rodgers guitar that hangs in a vault in Meridian, Mississippi at the Jimmie Rodgers Museum. Concerning country music in my mind, there's those two guitars. Then there's everything else.”

Wrapping up our chat, I asked the country music legend how he wanted to be remembered and what he hopes his legacy will be.

“Well, I think I think the truest thing I could say to you is that he finally found something that he believed in with all of his heart and, then, he followed his heart at any cost to get the job done without compromise. And I hope I could be true to that.”

That he has, is, and will, no doubt, continue to be.

Order Marty’s book, The Pilgrim: A Wall-to-Wall Odyssey, by clicking on the widget to the left side. Or, order it while keeping up with Stuart's latest goings-on by visiting

Phil Madeira Speaks His Mind With An Open Heart

Posted February 2020


PhilMadeira 76 cropPhoto by Stacie HuckebaAbout six lifetimes ago (the late seventies), as my interest in contemporary Christian music (CCM) continued to mushroom, the Phil Keaggy band put out their debut (and sole) album, Emerging. I bought the album as soon as it hit the shelves of the now-long-defunct store, Christian Discount, in Phoenix, Arizona.

In addition to Keaggy’s always amazing guitar work, I couldn’t help but be equally intrigued by the keyboard work on the album. Reading the liner notes (remember how much fun that was back in the glory days of vinyl?), I saw that the maestro on the keys was another genius named Phil. Phil Madeira. He was (and is) to the keyboards as Keaggy is to the guitar.

While the PKB was a short-lived project, Madeira’s career wasn’t – and isn’t.

Since those days, the Providence (or close to it), Rhode Island, native has become a prolific solo artist in his own right as well as contributing his brilliant musicianship to a head-spinningly (yes, that’s a word. I just made it up because we needed it) long list of other artists – and not just in CCM. No, far from it. That list includes Amy Grant, Charlie Peacock, Kenny Marks, Vanessa Williams, Buddy Miller, Little Big Town, The Waterboys, Emmylou Harris (more about Emmylou in a moment) and others. In other words: Phil Madeira is a trusted and reliable go-to, multi-talented musician that some of the top names in the music business.

Phil has also been prolific in his composition work for such artists as Alison Krauss, Toby Keith, Garth Brooks, Keb’ Mo’, The Civil Wars, again, many others.

He’s played a festival or two in Newport. The folk festival . . . and the jazz festival. Pretty freakin’ cool. He’s a recipient of a Dove Award, an ASCAP Humanitarian Award, and an inductee into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.

When Madeira isn’t creating his music or lending a musical hand to his many friends in Nashville, he is an integral part of Emmylou Harris’ band, The Red Dirt Boys, and has been since 2008.

All of these accomplishments made Madeira one of the prominent names under the broad umbrella of the always-growing Americana genre. I had connected with Phil via Facebook but we hadn’t really communicated other than an informal “howdy” once friend requests were sent and accepted. It wasn’t until a personal introduction via Phil Keaggy, that Madeira and I chatted up about getting together for an interview.

Madeira invited me to his place for the chat. He was immediately gracious and accommodating as a host. From the git-go, we slid into chatting about all sorts of stuff unrelated to the purpose of my visit (talking about his new CD, Open Heart). I’m pretty sure that, in the midst of all discussed, we solved world hunger but I have no proof of that.

Settling into the reason for our interview, Madeira started by commenting on the state of contemporary Christian music and how, for someone who was somewhat involved in it back in the ’70s and ’80s, he’s not so much any longer.

“ . . . because I just don't know who's out there anymore. . . . I think the Christian music scene is shrinking. I'm grateful that I'm very much a believer, but I'm also grateful that I was never really allowed ‘in’ as an artist in that world. The doors that kept opening for me were doors of service, songwriting for others and playing for others.

“A problem I have with Christian music is this: does art have to constantly talk about its source? For me, it doesn't. I'm going to have a much more interesting conversation with another person if it's not just about what I think. And, so it is musically. The Christian music world was so limited musically and lyrically - the door was never open for me as an artist. We're talking 35 years ago.”

Pointing over my shoulder at some wall art, Phil continued.

“Honestly, musically, if you just look over you over there - when you see Thelonious Monk and Ry Cooter, the Beatles- that’s what I love to listen to. The only gospel music I listen to is Mahalia Jackson or something like that.”

Then, circling back to the CCM world, Madeira said:

PhilMadeira 1Photo by Stacie Huckeba“And I don't know how many people in that world go home and listen to the music from their own world. The artists that I think are amazing from that world aren’t really shining there any longer- Cindy Morgan, Nichole Nordeman, Lost Dogs, etc”

Phil leaned in.

“You know it’s funny how many artists who had great gigs found God and then were convinced that somehow the Christian market was where they needed to be. Rick Cua, Joe English- Joe English with Paul McCartney! BJ Thomas. Thank God Dylan didn’t bite that hook! Isn’t it ironic that you’re called to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’, but you get sucked into this insular world that doesn’t really get outside of itself and preach to the choir?

"My trajectory was the reverse, as has been the case for a few friends who started in CCM- Gordon Kennedy, Wayne Kirkpatrick, etc. The irony for me is that I followed my heart, followed my dreams. I basically said yes to most of what has come my way. And I'm fine with that. I've played with every session player I've dreamt of playing back in the 70s, I have played with them all. Russ Kunkel, Lee Sklar or Al Perkins. That, to me, is God up to something, you know.

“I’ve made my Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us” projects as a gentle proclamation of belief and inclusivity, but as for my solo records, I’ve made that statement. Until I change that statement, it still stands. I prefer to write about the journey from here on out. My Providence record- there's a teeny bit in there. But, it's just about growing up in the north and feeling the pull of southern music; eventually winding up here.

“Open Heart”, the new record - it comes out of a place of grief that I wasn't even acknowledging. It's about romantic love andPhilMadeira 5Photo by Stacie Huckeba loss- the ups and the downs of love. And all this comes from a heart that is trying to live in harmony with its creator. I’m broken, I’m joyous, I’ve won, I’ve failed, and I’m still moving.”

As our chat progressed, we talked about how life’s trials prune us and what we thought we knew and believed.

“I think failure can do that. I remember when I went through my divorce. I have two grown daughters. They weren't grown when we went through a divorce, though. Thankfully, their mom and I negotiated that stuff well enough that fifteen, sixteen years after the divorce, we were good friends. You know, I love her. We care about each other. Our kids don't freeze when we're in the same room. We have a very extraordinary divorce, I think. There was no scandal, but when it went down, I took a lot of grief from a lot of people. I still have at least one person out there who hates me because I left, and she’s happy to tell folks that I’m a loser.”

Phil smiles and says, “She’s absolutely right”.

“When we divorced, I was really afraid of God abandoning me. I go to an Episcopal Church and they have a little prayer service, very early. I was there every day and that, honestly - the process of failure made me a more tender person. I'm a more forgiving person because I have much to be forgiven for. Because of this, I'm probably more embracing of whatever comes my way in terms of the difficulties I've had. When people hate you or accuse you, lashing back isn’t going to improve your lot. It’s in those places of feeling the wrath of other humans that you can find God. God’s been through the same thing, only more so.

“But, all that to say is that the good times give you good times. The bad times actually give you character if you know how to embrace them. The bad times teach you about God and teach you about yourself. Bad times generally are the things that produce good art. And so, I'm grateful. Anything you know - my state of mind is essentially one of gratitude. “I know that I don't live the sort of Christian life that my mom would have wanted me to live. I'm a profane individual. I'm very liberal, politically; very liberal theologically, except that I really do dial into the story of the risen Jesus. I don't see Jesus as symbolic. I see Jesus as Jesus. Jesus welcomes all. ‘You're gay? Come to church.’ I can’t get lost in the arguments that Evangelicals want to churn up. I want to make music and love people.

“I'm sixty-seven. I should be done by now, but I guess I’m a late bloomer. I've never been more prolific. Up until recently, I've stayed out of the spotlight. It's always been about serving - whether it's been Phil Keaggy or Emmylou Harris or go down the long list. Right now, it's just I have that opportunity to say, ‘Well, I'll invest in what I'm doing’, and I've been doing that for about three years. I played the Newport Jazz Festival last year. The residual for me is the music itself. . Relationally, the guys in Emmylou's band are my closest friends. They're, bar none, it's the best band I've ever played with. I mean, it's insanely good.

PhilMadeira 76Photo by Stacie Huckeba“If you see Emmylou Harris with her Red Dirt Boys, that's us. We have the incomparable guitarist Will Kimbrough bringing his special sauce. Brian Owings on drums; Chris Donohue on bass- both of whom are on my new record, Open Heart, and on my Providence record. I built those records around that trio- the three of us. Bass and drums and yours truly on piano and vocals, recorded live and then we started adding stuff. As Red Dirt Boys, Will Kimbrough is our guitar player and, in Red Dirt, I play guitar as well, but I fell back on the keyboards a few years ago. I do love that.

“n terms of band ego versus an individual ego, I've never experienced anything like Red Dirt Boys. When we jam, Will Kimbrough and I will take off; we’ll solo at the same time. It’s like Little Feat, like New Orleans Dixieland, but with guitars. We both sing. We both play. We pass the lead vocal back and forth with Chris and Bryan holding down the groove. It's remarkable. It's not my band. It's as much the drummer's band as it is anybody else's. That's a sweet thing. The spotlight shines on all of us as one”.

“The Keaggy Band days were all about Phil and he was gracious enough to share that spotlight with me each night, but it was his music primarily. The weird cult-like church we were a part took most of the money, and so our bonds were formed in some ways because of our struggle to survive. Lynn Nichols said to me a few years ago, ‘Why didn’t we just up and leave the church, and put some money in the bank?’ Well, we were superstitious; our concept of God wasn’t just about Him loving us. It was also one that was a bit afraid of Him. Our scene was all about staying in line and obeying our ‘elders’, who were all about 32 years old! Crazy. It’s a miracle I believe in anything after all that. But I do.”

“Playing with Phil was an exceptional musical experience because we liked to make up stuff as we went along. It was part of our sense of Spirit, quite honestly. And everyone was on board, all the players. We were just kids, 22, 23 years old except our drummer who was a decade ahead of us; the old man in the band. But we took chances musically, which was a real rarity in Christian music. We were sort of like the Grateful Dead but lacking in great material. As much as people love “Emerging”, our one disc, the writing on it is not amazing, not Phil’s, not mine. The backdrop of being controlled by a religious community lurked in the way we operated, and I think that maybe the reason that there will never be a reunion by the original PKB. But it’s funny how often people ask some of us, ‘When will you guys unite and make another record?’ Well, never say never, but never.”

I then asked Madeira to tell me about his latest CD, Open Heart.

“Open Heart. Basically, what had happened was my partner passed away in 2017 of cancer. She found out around Christmas PhilMadeira 84Photo by Stacie Huckeba2016. Man, it was a terrible time and I was not allowed to speak of it. She had her own little community, but I was forbidden to have mine. Of course, I resented it. I just felt pushed out. I had my daughters and two friends as the support system.

“Eventually, a few months before she passed, I just said, 'I can't do this anymore. I love you. I'll do whatever you need me to do. But in terms of being this guy that you keep rejecting, I can't do this. We've gotta figure out a new way.' That turned into a terrible rumor that I left her because of her cancer, which was devastating to have out there, but it was out there. She had convinced me that she had another ten years of life, and I knew we couldn’t continue in the paradigm of behavior that we’d created.

“And then four months later, she just took a dive for the worse. I saw her one time before she passed away. She passed away eight weeks after I last saw her. She just lived half a mile from here and I wasn’t really given the opportunity to grieve or to be part of her departure. That one little lie- ‘he left because she had cancer’- effectively destroyed me within the community she and I had shared for years.

“During that terrible season of rejection and being scapegoated I wrote six tunes were rootsy and jazzy, upbeat and bitter. It's very almost like 50s, 60s jazz with vocals - like Horace Silver meets Mose Allison type lyrics. Cutting. Bitter. Which was the way I dealt with this barrier to finding closure. Primarily, they weren't directed at her, they were directed at the people who ran with her story.

“Now I realize that I was in the anger stages of grief..

“Meanwhile, she passes away. I'm in the back row at the funeral. The priest at the funeral stared at me when she put the wafer in my hands. It is weird to be hated. I never lashed out. I don't think my non-lashing was motivated by goodness. I think I was just smart enough to know that it was just going to bring more shit on me if I did that, right? I had my daughters as my support system, which was sweet, but also terrible. They shouldn't have had to experience that. They saw me at my most dejected.

PhilMadeira 96 1Photo by Stacie Huckeba“So, she dies. And, then, about four months later, I started seeing someone. I was foolish enough to think, ‘Well, I guess, you know, she made things so difficult for me that I guess she made it easier for me to move on.’ Which was dead wrong but it's what I thought. I started dating this gal and she was going through her own terrible breakup and rejection. We were rescuing each other, which- trust me- rarely works out. I started writing these tunes that became the record that's coming out in February called Open Heart. But what I realize now is that, especially in the songs that are addressing this woman's grief, I'm actually addressing my own devastation.

“The first line of this album is 'You're going to grieve it for a long, long time, your open heart was the scene of the crime, you keep asking me questions. Why, why? Why? Baby, your guess is as good as mine.'

“It took me a long time to get to the point of celebrating this woman I’d given a decade to, despite the bad ending. I loved her then, and I love her still. I miss her, sure. Her ending was terrible, and leading up to writing ‘Open Heart’, I was in denial about my grief. I was dismissive of those beautiful years, because of the hurt her ending heaped upon me. But once I realized what really created Open Heart (my grief), I was able to remember what I loved, long after the photos were tossed out, long after I thought I’d never think of her sweetly again. And now, a picture will show up on social media- the two of us loving each other somewhere caught in time, and I’ll save it and savor it.”

Phil then asks himself out loud before continuing: “What's the last verse? 'You kneel on the tombstone of what seemed meant to be. Sometimes the prayers is a rosary bead. in the grotto of dashed hope and sacred memory, whisper a prayer for your beautiful dream.'

“My heart was addressing itself, even though I didn’t know it. Isn’t that beautiful? And isn’t that how God works? Subtly and sacredly.

“There's a lot of humor in the record and there's some sadness. But I call it Open Heart because that's me. When it comes to my heart in a relationship, I open it right up. I'm looking for that intimacy that I had to a real sweet degree with the woman who passed out. That's what Open Heart is trying to talk about. Meanwhile, there's this crazy back story of grief and the journey, but I still smile.

“I’ve got my basic go-to team on the record- Cindy Morgan. She's a frequent partner of mine in terms of duets. John Painter
on Horns and James Hollihan on guitars. It’s my standard crew. I love the people I work with. I’m blessed.”

Drawing those comments to a close, Phil concluded, “To me, I'm interested in real life. You know, I'm not interested in knowing how good you're doing with God. I'm actually interested in how bad you're doing with God. That's much more intriguing to me!”

“I gotta believe that God's mercy is good enough to know all of the mistakes I'm making about Him. I'm just saying I don't know everything. I tend to be pretty dismissive of a lot of stuff that I grew up thinking was true. But now, I don't worry if my kids are not on the same page as me with spiritual things. I'm not freaking out over that. Whereas my mother took it personally if I didn’t see God the way she saw him, I am content to believe that my kids are on their own unique beautiful journeys, and God is with them. I am not looking to see myself in the mirror of my children's eyes. I want them to be who they are. I trust that God is good and that whatever path they're on, whether He's visible, whether God is visible to me or to them on that path, I’ve got to believe God is on their path. It might look like a path to destruction. It might look terrible. But everything that you know seems to point that way, even in Scripture. Like in the Psalms, where it's saying, ‘I go all the way down to hell, I can go all the way up to heaven, You're there.’ So why would I think, Well, yeah, He's everywhere except on that path of someone I don't understand. I don't worry about it. I don't worry about hell.”

“What I hope the rest of my life looks like is: making great music, traveling, playing, producing and continuing on in the joyful journey God has me on- life's too short to make stuff that doesn't matter.”

Keep up with Phil’s work and appearance itinerary by visiting