The back booth at Hi Life was dark. The bar was crowded and frenetic. I was tired, but wound like a top. I was talking a lot, but not saying anything.
We were discussing plans for our new records (The Nadas “Listen Through The Static” is due in September, my as-of-yet untitled CD is due in October). I had a pretty good idea just into my first beer.
“You should do an iTunes exclusive. Record a few of the new songs acoustic and talk about ’em: the inspiration, the process. Like Aimee Mann did. That way, you whet your audiences appetite without blowing the album for them. Plus it’d be fun to do.”
“It takes CD Baby about three months to get an independent album like ours on iTunes. Do it in a weekend. Play a few new songs, talk about them, do an older song of yours that people love, and a cover tune, and have it to Apple by June 1. It’ll be on iTunes by Labor Day.”
Then I thought, ‘Snap! I should do that myself!’
The second beer washed away my turkey burger with cheddar cheese.
Then, somewhere near the bottom of my third, I found honesty.
“Dude,” I said to front man Mike Butterworth, “I envy you guys. You have a tour bus. You play 200 shows a year. You make music for a living. Me? I compromised. I had a backup plan. And now my backup plan is my plan.”
I finished my Stella in silence, watching a basketball game on the big screen TV. I hate basketball.
“I’ve worked really hard to be ok with this little rocknroll cottage industry of mine,” I said. “But you know, when I was kid it was all about the cover of Rolling Stone, not writing for it.”
Mike picked at his sushi, eyes adrift. He lifted a glass of whiskey to his lips and emptied it.
“Dude,” he said, “I envy you. You’ve got a cool job — a steady job — a nice pad in the big city. You play gigs and make music because you want to, not because you have to.”
Mike and Jason tell me stories: some war, some horror, some hilarious. They talk about taxes and overhead. They talk about fatherhood. Mike falls quiet, eyes glazed, thinking (I imagine) of his wife and child asleep some 1200 miles away in Iowa.
“I dunno,” he says. “Seems like you have a pretty good thing going.”
I thank him, think for a minute, then flag down our waitress. “Who wants another?”
* * *
In the morning, Jason and Mike put their guitars in their truck, and head to a show Connecticut. I put my guitar on my back, and head to work in Times Square. In the evening, The Nadas perform while I rehearse for Saturday’s show. And so it goes …