Eight years into doing “Granite State of Mind” and Monday night’s show was my favorite of all time.
What was scheduled for this Friday night turned into a special Monday night edition, and the regular one-hour show quickly turned into two hours, then into three hours long. I could have gone till midnight, I swear. I was all alone in the studio, the whole building in fact. I had the speakers cranked, CDs were scattered everywhere, grooving in my own personal nirvana.
But, at last, the coffee was gone, no water was left and I had chewed my lip raw. I played every CD and Youtube clip I could find by as many NH musicians, and beyond, that I could get too.
And, for the first time in eight years, I took phone calls into the show. Rarely attempted, often just bad, I never liked the phone interview. I’m not getting all highfalutin either. I’m a caveman, plain and simple. I have no idea how to work the phones at either radio station. Ask my producer in Concord at WKXL, AJ Kierstead. He can tell you some harrowing stories about my technical impotence. If AJ was only 50 pounds heavier, he would have knocked me out years ago.
Thankfully, the best motherf’in radio host around, Peter White from “The Morning Show” on WMNH, gave me a tutorial on how to take a phone call and off I went. For three-hours I played over 30 songs and took eight calls from various artists from around NH and the border towns, like Newburyport, Mass. That’s the beauty of local radio. Outside of driving your car drunk through the front window of the studio, you’re pretty much good to play and do what you want.
Each caller was candid about how they’re managing life during the musical drought inspired by the Coronavirus. Some were more upbeat than others. Some hid the despair better than others. And some just didn’t give a fuck. Instead of taking a mental pounding from the fear and consternation, they just started writing new songs, they said, peeling through the unfinished numbers and piecing that shit together. Hit the ground running with a new bag of tricks when life resumes, which, by all indications by our President, you’ll be back to work before the big spike hits.
Rockwood and Taylor, a duo from down in Newburyport, called in to promote a new song — a “world premiere” — called “Mr. Boss Man.” A very cool bluesy number laid down mean and true. Charlie Rockwood says he’s playing more guitar during the imposed lock out. He just bought, I think, a new Strat, and that’s been keeping him busy, he says. I always picture Charlie with a hollow body strapped around his shoulders. I don’t know. Lynne Taylor always got something creative going on in her head, so the music in that region isn’t going anywhere.
Songwriter Amanda McCarthy called in and I was happy about that. I don’t know her well, but I’ve thought about Amanda a lot recently. I’m a fan. Amanda is one of those working musicians that plays music full-time. That’s how she pays the bills. Absurdly talented, McCarthy performed all week long at various spots around the state and beyond. Now, she’s not. And by the sound of her voice, she’s stressed. And maybe a little sad, maybe a little mad. Maybe all the above.
Just three weeks ago, McCarthy was playing at one of her haunts off Route 89 and none other than Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, who lives nearby, walked in for some food and watched Amanda sing one of his songs. McCarthy, well, holy shat, that was a pinnacle in her young music career, a defining moment, meeting a musical hero and getting the chance to sing to him. Come on! That just doesn’t happen. Not around here. Pictures were taken together, the whole deal. Cloud 99.
Then, bam, as if that magic encounter happened a million years ago, Rona comes along and carpet bombs Miss McCarthy. Dang, son. You crude.
Dean Harlem called in and was just happy to have a rented room and a stack of books to read. That’s how he plans to spend his time during the crisis. Fatten the brain, fill the neglected pathways with new words and images. The songwriter says he hasn’t been writing a ton since the release of his new CD, “Asbury Park,” a very solid collection of songs about fringe players trying to keep from hitting rock bottom. Although Harlem did report he’s squeezed out a new song recently, don’t expect him to release it anytime soon doing a Facebook live concert. He doesn’t see the longevity in the platform.
“It might last a couple weeks.” Dean said. Translation: We all need to play live. Real live.
Talk about a double whammy. Eli Autry, originally from Milton, NH, called in from East Nashville. Just weeks earlier a tornado tore through the small neighborhood where he lives in Tennessee and missed his home by a mile and a half. The brawny country singer riddled in tattoos plays country music, mostly for a living, around Nashville. He comes from a heritage of musicians that has seen the ebbs and flows of the music business and he doesn’t seem too roughed up by the whole dilemma. Autry is writing songs and says he’s enjoying the Facebook live shows. It keeps him in touch with his audience, which stretches far beyond Nashville and Milton. Stay strong, Hoss.
Dusty Gray from Concord called to report that he’s got too much on his plate to worry about the virus, let alone growling it out in a bar with the boys and the PBR. His beautiful and charming wife is having a baby boy, like, right now! Ol’ Hank is what the boy will go by. Perfect. Well, keep combing through those forgotten lyrics, keep doing what you do. Crush it. See you on the other side Dusty Gray.
And on it went, with Jimmy Tyrrell calling in from the Plymouth area, just weathering the storm, planning out his live feeds, each with a “theme,” like the music from the 70’s show he did last weekend on the book of face. Gold. And that’s not just because Holly Furlone popped in for a song or two. But that never hurts either.
Senie Hunt is doing just fine in Concord, waking up to his guitar in bed, refueling the tank after a hard fought year of playing live consistency. Good time for a breather, take inventory, write new lyrics, shave and carve. Let the Songbird sleep … then watch him fly.
So, that’s that. Write, breed, revisit old friends, build out an afro, make peace with the situation and “Dream on, dream on, dream on…” What else are you going to do? Stare at all those guitars for weeks? Ignore those lonely notebooks? Collect phlegm in your throat? Nah, get it, get it, get it. And goodnight.
Rob Azevedo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book “Notes From The Last Breath Farm” is available at The Bookery and Gibson’s and on Amazon.