Big Easy

There’s a lot going on: the day job (MTV News), the documentary (“Mister Rogers & Me”), the side project (Buckeye), the family (Bolsters, Wagners), and relationship (Abbi). Still, I can’t stop thinking about the next record.

Of course, the occasional email (like the one I got from Lee in London last night — thanks Lee!) notwithstanding, there’s not a ton of demand for a new record. Six records in three years may have fatigued whatever audience I have left. Maybe I’m a little too Ryan Adams for my own good (a danger Casey Shea and I have discussed ad nauseum). And since I barely tour (seven dates last year, ten the year before), and perform less and less in New York City (three shows this year, sixteen last, twenty-two the year before), well, it looks like I’m coming in for a landing. Which I sort of am. But still.

But still I have some songs. “Here She Comes” makes the cut. Likewise “So Hard,” “Runaway,” and “Promise.” “Chasing Something” will be great on the back side. I might dip into the unrecorded catalogue. I still like “The Matador” and “Wishes.” I wrote one yesterday morning called “Welcome To The Great Big Something” which will make a great opening track. Plus I have a few more that haven’t made The Morning Mix, including what is sure to be the title track.

And I have an idea how I want the next one to sound. I don’t want it to be all Pro Tooled. I want it to sound like a few musicians playing together in the same room at the same time. I want to here acoustic instruments, real instruments, like mandolins and banjos, harmonica and tack piano. I want it to sound organic, wooden, and full. I want it to sound like Uncle Tupelo’s “Sandusky” crossed with Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” with a little bit of REM’s “Time After Time (Ann Elise)” thrown in.

Because, as much as I love it, I don’t want Heartland to be the period at the end of my recording career.

So I’ve been batting around a couple of ideas. I want the recording to be location-based, to absorb some local flavor. I’ve thought about taking my guitar and laptop to Nashville for a week and doing it myself. have talked with Jon Locker about recording at his new studio in Des Moines. And I owe Kevin Anthony a trip to Minneapolis.

The winning locale is likely to be New Orleans. And the winning producer is likely to be my cousin, Andrew Wagner. When last I saw Andy, he rcokin’ sunglasses in a rainstorm. He wears his year long tour with World Leader Pretend like a badge. And he wears it well. You know the look: oversized sunglasses, jeans frayed at the edges, that just-out-of bed thift shop vibe. More important than his look, though, is his aesthetic. Andrew had great taste, and a great ear. He always turns me onto something interesting. Like two years ago when we recorded Neil Young’s “Music Arcade” and Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.” Plus, he loathes big, dumb studio albums. He once said to me, “We’re not on major labels. Why bother trying to sound like we are?” (Course, he joined WLP on Warner Bros. a year later, but… you get the idea.)

It’s not quite a plan, but it is an idea. One I think about often, like the small hours of morning when I can’t sleep, or a particularly difficult long run. Or right now, when I need something to look forward to.

I look forward to making music.

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