One week ago today I landed in Nashville, my gem of a big sister met me at the airport and generously handed me the keys to her car and I picked up a bag of sandwiches and headed to the studio. My flight had been delayed (“O’Hare!!!”) so things had gotten rolling without me. I pulled up to a non-descript white building in the warehouse district of Berryhill and I thought “perfect”. It was a beautiful day and there was a train outside. I heard dueling guitar solos coming out of the building and did a double take. I walked in, set a bag of meat down on the makeshift buffet table, and my week began. My partner for this project is the same as the last one, drummer/producer Siggi Birkis, and along with our great engineer Aaron, he served his role as maestro perfectly. Over the next 4 days we had a revolving door of musicians and singers adding layers to the bones of a project we had just started to wrap our heads around. Keep an eye out for these folks - Sadler Vaden, Chris Tuttle, Devin Malone, Dave LaBruyere, Megan Palmer, and a pedal steel player named Josh who I’m not quite sure how we found but came in and killed it on 1 song. They travel around the country playing with the best and brightest so if you catch them at a show give them a shoutout. We were so fortunate to have these people helping out - most of them played on the last record as well, and their hearts are as pure as their chops, and that’s why we asked them back. Band of brothers. Everyone did an awesome job. Friends and neighbors and Siggi’s manager Jake and my A&R guy George and lots of other folks connected and not connected to the project stopped in whenever they felt like it. And if someone heard something they wanted to contribute on, they jumped in the booth. People who were hired for 1 day showed up for 3 days. It was a good vibes time and in my mind that’s as important to the quality of a record as anything. Nashville gets a bad rap sometimes but if you fall in with the right crowd, it’s the coolest place you can be. Every day about 7 or 8 we’d shut things down, back it all up, and head to our favorite watering hole for beers and chicken cordon bleu sandwiches. Then we’d get a little sleep and hit it again the next morning. It was awesome, we’re still riding high.
A few years ago after I had just put out my first EP, I got a message through MYSPACE from a fella named Kent Fauss – it said something along the lines of “We may be related, I play music too, we should talk”. The idea of a mysterious long lost relative was exciting! I sent a message right back and we made plans to get together, for beers and nachos at Pappasito’s in Dallas. It turns out we were in fact related – second cousin twice removed I think, and we hit it off. We talked about music and family and love gone wrong, he told me stories of our shared ancestors and it was inspiring…..we come from a long line of folks who had the odds stacked against them but still managed to do big things. That explains the “us against the world” Fauss mentality, I thought – finally it made sense! Kent and I became fast friends - I would crash with him whenever I had a show in OKC, and we eventually played a joint gig. We did a Townes song together and a Guy song together. Of all the meaningful things that have come from music these past few years, my friendship with Kent Fauss is at or near the very top of the list. He recently put out his first CD, and plays regularly around DFW and Oklahoma. He spent some years as a Private Investigator, he has stories to tell. Go check him out and give him some love – buy his CD or like his page. But remember he’s a Fauss boy, so even if you don’t he’ll keep playing.
It’s my birthday weekend! In case you’re wondering what I want for my birthday, here’s what I want for my birthday, 2 things. 1 – the new book about Bruce Springsteen titled Bruce, 2 – for everyone reading this to have a copy of my full-length debut “I am the man you know I’m not”. #1 has already been graciously taken care of so it would be outstanding if you would focus your efforts on #2. And here’s what I’m willing to do to facilitate this transaction: I will send 19 songs I recorded from 2009-2011 to everyone who gets my new record. These 19 songs are covers, originals, honky tonk, folk, rock, sad, funny, lonely, exuberant. Also there’s a bluegrass murder revenge tune of course. It’s all there. Proof of purchase, that’s easy – send an email to RonnieFaussFreeBirthdayMusic@gmail.com that says something along the lines “I got your record!”, and that’ll work. You will then receive the songs. If you don’t already have it, it’s very cheap ($6.99 to download) and is at iTunes and Amazon. Like I’ve said before if you’re a fan of Todd Snider, Steve Earle, John Prine, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett, Jayhawks, Wilco, Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo, Old 97’s, Whiskeytown, Drive By Truckers, Jason Isbell, Hayes Carll, Ryan Bingham, Justin Townes Earle, Old Crow Medicine Show, or Ryan Adams….then my album was made for you. That is all and let’s all have a great weekend!
One evening we were taking a break from recording to go visit the Grand Ole Opry (my producer was playing drums on the show that night) and we had about 30 minutes to kill. I picked up an acoustic in the corner and said “I have an idea, let's roll tape”. So I sat down to play a live acoustic version of Gram Parsons' “Sin City” just for the hell of it. I had been playing the song live for a couple years and figured if it happened to turn out well we could always include it on the album. The 6 year old daughter of the studio owner was hanging out with us at the time and instead of having her leave the room I told her she could sit on the beanbag in the corner as long as she promised not to make a sound. She indeed didn't make a sound, but she made faces at me the whole time….I sang that song with a big smile on the verge of laughing but never gave in. My good pal and label mate Lilly Hiatt of came by later to add some much-needed female vocals and we liked how everything turned out and decided to include it. That version is what you hear on the album. We could have added all sorts of things to the recording - percussion, steel, organ, but I liked it stark and naked. The album as a whole has gotten pretty decent reviews but the handful of negative reviews have focused on 1 thing - my version of Sin City. Out of naivety I expected it’s inclusion to be somewhere between pleasant and inconsequential. Well……I was wrong! It’s been quite the lightning rod! Some people have referenced it as a highlight of the album, and some people have referenced it as the unquestioned low point of the whole affair. My favorite was a review from Switzerland of all places that said “Gram Parsons is turning over in his grave”. Leave it to me to finally illicit a passionate opinion out of the Swiss! I actually appreciated that - I prefer opinions to be hot or cold not lukewarm, I’m like Jesus in that way, so I appreciated the reviewer’s passion. It was intended as an homage, out of respect to one of the greats (RIP) but in many cases it was taken as the opposite! So here it is, my offensive, beautiful, reprehensible, triumphant, travesty of a cover song that has Gram Parsons himself turning over in his Louisiana grave. I hope you like it. Or hate it. As long as you do 1 of the 2.
I got Guy Clark’s new record in the mail today and felt like an 8 year old on Christmas morning when I opened the package. I’ve listened to it twice now and it’s what you would expect if you are familiar with Guy’s work – gorgeous and meaningful. When we were recording my album in Nashville last year, I got the unexpected chance to go meet Guy at his house. A friend of a friend of a friend was delivering him a guitar, and I was told I could tagalong. I dropped everything in the studio without thinking and headed over! We walked in and he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a plate of enchiladas. My plan was to keep a respectful distance….speak when spoken to, etc. I was just there to observe, but he couldn’t have been more gracious. He had no idea who I was and still doesn’t, but he kept asking questions – where am I from, what am I doing in Nashville, etc. I took his cue and opened up and we talked about Mexican food, music, Texas, and moonshine. He offered/insisted I take something home out of his liquor cabinet, and then invited me down to his workshop where he builds his guitars. He let me hold the Randall knife. Then he played a new song he was working on (IT WAS GREAT) and put a guitar in my hands and next thing I knew I was, somehow, about to play one of my songs for Guy Clark. I chose “This Year”, and started in. Well…..what could have been my Big Break turned into anything but – I played the chorus where the verse goes, the verse where the chorus goes, forgot most of the words, sang in one key while playing in another, even completely stopped functioning at one point. He put me out of my misery – “give me the guitar back kid” – and played another one of his. What an hour that was! Guy Clark is a master and he’s a sweetheart and he is an inspiration. He’s a Giant. Here he is – me and Guy (and the Randall knife).
Happy father’s day. As fate would have it I had a show in Oklahoma City this weekend which is where my dad who passed away in 83 is buried. So I got to visit his grave which I don’t do often enough. I also got to spend time with his brother and cousins and hear stories about him when he was young. “With Love” is the closing song on my album and it was written for him. It was also on my original EP of demo’s from a few years ago. I put a picture of us on the cover of that project, which is below. Here is a video of the song from a show a few weeks ago. And here is a link to the demo version of the song from 09. I have good memories of him. He would hit me grounders in the backyard until the sun went down (he called me “Scoop”). He introduced me to Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings via the 8 track player in his Mazda. He enjoyed fishing without a shirt on and he was a simple and pure man. He LOVED spending time with his kids and that’s what I’m gonna do today. All their favorite things. Then tonight I’m gonna go have a burger and a beer and watch the basketball game and I know he would join me if he could. Whatever your situation, I hope you have a meaningful day.