Author Archives: chris
This weekend I drank two 12 ounce bottles of grape flavored Johnny Bootlegger. Johnny Bootlegger is an adult beverage sold in gas stations across the Southeast. It has the consistency of cough syrup, contains 12% alcohol, and tastes like someone soaked a urinal cake in purple Kool-Aid. You might be asking yourself, “Why would you drink that twice?” Fair question. Allow me to explain.
At 3pm on Thursday, somewhere in Mississippi, we had stopped at a gas station to re-fuel and use the facilities. Justin was the last person to get back to the bus. He was holding a brown paper bag in his right hand, the contents of which were unknown to the rest of us. I asked him what he had bought. His response:
“I have invented a new game. It’s called King of The Mule Challenge. From time to time, I will be purchasing an item from a gas station. Sometimes this item will be great, sometimes it will be terrible. None of you will know what this item is. Before I reveal the item, all of you will have to declare whether you’re in or out for that round. If only one of you is in, that person will immediately receive the contents of the bag. If more than one person wants to play, each contestant will have 30 seconds to tell me why they should get what’s inside the bag. Once the item is revealed to the winner, that person has 24 hours to use or consume whatever is in the bag. If you don’t use or consume the contents within 24 hours, you are automatically disqualified from the game. Over the next month or so, I will decide who the grand prize winner is. The grand prize winner will receive a free dinner at Foothills Milling Company. Keep in mind, you don’t have to play. But if you don’t play, you can’t win.”
I have absolutely no self control when it comes to stuff like this. I had to play. I pleaded my case to Justin like a seasoned politician. I needed what was in that bag, I deserved what was in that bag, I had to have it. The possibilities were endless. Anything could be in there. A lottery ticket? A $20 bill? A bag of delicious sour cream and onion chips?
A 12 ounce Johnny Bootlegger goes down like a hot stream of radioactive plasma. It instantly numbs the throat and senses, travels to your stomach and settles there like a pool of sludge. Just when you think it’s over, the aftertaste hits. Your hands start shaking, the hairs on your neck stand up, and the next hour of your life is filled with uncomfortable anxiety. Why a person would ever knowingly consume this is beyond me. But you have to play to win, right?
Four hours later, we found ourselves outside a gas station in Alabama. The scenario was the same. Justin entered the bus with another bag and interviewed potential contestants. Again, I pleaded my case. There was no way Justin was going to purchase two terrible items in a row. I can read Justin like a book. I knew he needed to purchase a good item this round so everyone would stay excited and engaged in the game. Two terrible items in a row makes no sense. It was like taking candy from a baby. I was guaranteed to get something awesome.
A second 12 ounce Johnny Bootlegger gets immediately rejected by the body. The moment your brain recognizes the horrible liquid, it sends your body into emergency mode. This time, the hairs on my neck were already up by the time the sludge hit my lips. My ears started sweating and my chest broke out in red blotches. My gag reflex was barely suppressed. I finally got it down and was rewarded with another hour of shaking and numbness. This stuff is truly horrible.
The game changed a little bit the next round. I don’t remember where we were at this point. Probably somewhere in Alabama. This time Justin came to the bus with two bags and a new set of rules. People could choose option #1, option #2, or both options. I chose to remove myself from the competition this time. The thought of what might await me in either bag was more than I could bear. Aaron chose option #1. James chose option #2. Aaron was rewarded with a lottery ticket. James was rewarded with a tin of gas station sardines. Hilarity ensued.
We played a few other rounds, but the final round for the weekend was played on the way home Sunday afternoon. We were somewhere outside of Asheville, NC when Justin offered the last two bags. Aaron, emboldened by his previous streak of luck, decided to play again and chose option #1. He got an Airhead candy. Lucky little turd. Cozmo, who chose option #2, was not so lucky.
Gas station cat food has a strange glisten to it. A shiny thin film covers a perfectly molded lump of brown substance. I believe this particular can of cat food was “liver and beef flavored.” Only Cozmo can tell you if it actually tasted like liver and beef. I can tell you that it didn’t look like either. It looked like shiny, slightly off-colored bean dip.
Here’s a comprehensive list of contestants and their winnings this weekend. Stay tuned for more announcements and videos concerning the King of the Mule Challenge. This will, undoubtedly, provide entertainment for everyone involved for the foreseeable future. I wonder if other bands do stuff like this.
Contestant #1: Aaron Hoskins
Rounds Played: 2
Winnings: 1 lottery ticket, 1 Airhead candy
Contestant #2: James Trimble
Rounds Played: 1
Winnings: 1 tin of gas station sardines
Contestant #3: Chris Doody
Rounds Played: 3
Winnings: 2 Johnny Bootlegger 12oz. ass drinks, 1 bag of Doritos
Contestant #4: Cozmo Holloway
Rounds Played: 1
Winnings: 1 can of gas station cat food (liver and beef flavored)
Contestant #5: Scott Murphy from Badland Pictures
Rounds Played: 1
Winnings: Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter feeds this week to find out. I promise you will not be disappointed with this one.
Contestant #6: Michael Jenkins
Rounds Played: 0
Winnings: Nothing, because he is allergic to fun.
The true meaning of Thanksgiving, like the true meaning of many other holidays, can be drowned out by distractions if we’re not careful. I love Thanksgiving for a variety of reasons, some more important than others, but it is important to remember why we’re thankful and what we’re thankful for. After the turkey is gone, the football games are over, and you have woken from your turkey and stuffing induced coma, this holiday is really about being thankful for what (and who) we have.
This year, our band has so much that we appreciate. We have met so many incredible people on our musical journeys. So many folks have supported us, taken a chance on us, encouraged us. People like Charles, Peggie, Joey, Tracy, Al and Dana who donated $500 to our band for a new bus that we desperately needed. Their gift could not have come at a better time. People like Sarah “Ripley” McClune in Roanoke VA, Mark Fishman in Jackson Hole WY, and Stacy Towar in Breckenridge CO who decided to go out on a limb and start giving air time on their radio stations to an unsigned band. Because of them (and others like them), our music is now getting played on the air in over 40 cities.
Blessings come from unlikely places sometimes. Robert Fillhart had been working at ASCAP for 4 days when he saw our band for the first time in Nashville this summer. When he tells the story, he makes sure to point out that he was less than excited about seeing us. In fact, he was trying to skip watching us all together and just watch the headliner, because “who wants to listen to some band called ‘The Dirty Guv’nahs”. Robert ended up showing up with about 5 songs left in our set. Fast forward 5 months – Robert has become our band’s most trusted friend and ally in the music industry. He’s introduced us to managers, booking agents, legal teams . . . and he’s done it all because he just wants to help. On paper there’s not much in it for him. He doesn’t get a commission check if we experience more success. But he’s gained 6 friends who will never forget his kindness and support.
I confess – it’s easy for me to view the world as a negative place sometimes. Bad things happen, people disappoint you, plans don’t work out the way you wanted. But if you stop long enough to reflect, I’ll bet you can find some reasons to be thankful. There are people all along the way in our lives who help restore our faith. Some people simply don’t have a motive. Some people really do just want to help, or do what’s right, or offer a kindness without the expectation of a return on their investment. Thank God for those people.
We have so much to be thankful for. This is a great time of year to think about what that means. We’re thankful for each and every one of you who has shown us love and kindness. We say it all the time, and we’ll say it again – we (literally) can’t do it without you. Peace to you, your families, and your friends during the holidays.
The Dirty Guv’nahs.
We love everything about Asheville, NC. Taking a trip to Asheville is like visiting an alternate universe for a weekend. The food is amazing, there is good music and good beer everywhere, the people are hilarious, we love everything about it. This past weekend was no exception. We rolled into town and were immediately greeted by 150 people running down the street in full drag. When we parked the van, one of the cross-joggers stopped and handed me an evergreen tree branch that he was carrying with him. “Smell the wild man.” Later that night I saw him jubilantly throw that branch at Grace Potter during her show. She looked confused.
Which leads me to my next point – Asheville is a little confusing. How did this quaint town of 80,000 people turn into such a stark contrast to everywhere else around it? Where did these people come from? Certainly they didn’t come from Knoxville, or Atlanta, or Charlotte, or Raleigh, or anywhere else within 500 square miles. It’s like one day a group of people from San Fransisco got on a bus, drove to Austin Texas, picked up another group of people and drove to Asheville. Then they all had a bunch of babies. And now their offspring inhabit this city.
However it came into being, Asheville is now home to one of the coolest city-run music festivals we’ve ever played, called Belle Chere. Every year, the entire city blocks off its streets, puts up 4 or 5 stages, and throws a party. And people in Asheville know how to throw a party. This year we had the privilege of opening for Grace Potter. There were probably 2,000 people who came to rock out with us in 103 degree weather. It was so hot the asphalt was pulsating. No one cared. I watched an incredibly hairy shirtless 50 year old man jump up and down in the front row for an hour and a half. By the end of the show he looked like a Sasquatch that had been sprayed down with a fire hose. I don’t think anyone minded, except for maybe the group of tween girls who were standing next to him. They didn’t appreciate anything that distracted them from staring at James.
After our set we were greeted by tons of fans at the merch table, every one of them genuinely excited just to be there having a great time. Then we sat back and watched Grace Potter and the Nocturnals put on an incredible performance. Watching them live is an experience I’d recommend for anybody. They bring so much talent and energy to the stage. And it doesn’t hurt that Grace and her bass player have a combined hotness rating that’s off the charts. Apparently though, not everyone knows how to handle this kind of hotness.
The only hiccup in the otherwise incredible night happened backstage after Grace and the Nocturnals’ set. This was the first time I had ever seen a real life stalker in action. The guy had been standing on the side of the stage right next to us for pretty much the whole show. We all thought he was part of the camera crew. Turns out he was just a really creepy guy with a telescopic lens and an unhealthy obsession for Grace Potter. He showed his cards when the band was standing behind the stage, getting ready to go back on for an encore. “Grace I love you! (picture snap) I love you so much, you have no freaking idea how much I love you! (heavy breathing, picture snap). He was immediately escorted off the premises. That probably happens a lot more than I’d care to think about. I’m sure Grace Potter doesn’t really like thinking about it either.
When the show was over, we hung out for a while, got back in our van with no air conditioning, and started our trip back to Knoxville with the windows down. It was 2:00 in the morning and the temperature was still 103 degrees. People still didn’t’ care. As we pulled out of town, our rear view mirror contained the silhouette of a few cross-joggers drinking beer in the street. See you next year guys. Thanks for the memories.
Happy New Music Tuesday! This week both Chris and James will be talking a little about the new songs. If you didn’t check out the music video for “We’ll Be The Light” yet, make sure you do here!
I wrote “Seeds on the Rise” one afternoon in the Fall of 2009 while I was visiting my family’s farm in Townsend, TN. This song is about the struggle of loss. Loss takes on a dual meaning in “Seeds”, and the listener is exposed to lyrics that address the loss of a relationship, as well as the struggle of losing faith. The loss of anything in my life usually forces me to deal with the issue of control, and this is where I started with “Seeds”. In my experience, we are all told from a very early age (over and over again) that our destiny lies in our ability to control it. We must take control of our relationships, take control of our financial security, take control of our direction, lest we lose that control and thus lose our ability to dictate our lives. This, of course, is a myth, and we’re reminded of that truth when we see our control disappear. Lives change, relationships, jobs, etc. all come to an end for reasons outside of our control, and we’re left silently asking ourselves the same question – what is the meaning of this? If we recognize the truth that we can’t control everything we desire to, is there something or somebody who does? Or is all of this just a random sequence of events that transpire without any real meaning or purpose? Are we like the seeds that float over a farm’s field in East Tennessee, thrown to a directionless wind to land wherever it blows us? Or is there something else outside of our control that cares about what happens here? Is there someone or something that guides us to places without catering to whether or not we can recognize or understand where we’re going? These are the questions I wanted to ask when I wrote “Seeds”. If we’re honest, I think we can agree that an unhealthy pursuit of control leads to bitter loneliness. If I spend too much time buying into the idea that “it’s all up to me”, I eventually find myself feeling like “It’s only me.” Life becomes very lonely and brief. But as I wrote the lyrics to “Seeds”, I was reminded of another truth – there is hope. The songs ends with this realization – there is hope for everyone plagued by the guilt of not mastering this illusion we’ve created called control. Our hope in part lies in the love that we have for one another, and more importantly, the love that exists for us by the “someone or something” that does care about what’s going on here.
I hope you enjoy it.
“Song for My Beloved” was written during one of the most tiring weeks of my life. It’s a story of one lover radically pursuing the other and reminding the other that it is impossible for her to run away from his love. Without explaining too much, I’ll just say that it was written a couple days after Thanksgiving 2009 and I had been reading Henri Nouwen’s “Life of the Beloved” while relaxing for a couple days at my parent’s home in middle Tennessee. I was really inspired by Nouwen’s musings about “resting in knowing that you are loved and then living out of that restful place.” This is one of those songs that just felt like a complete gift… like something that I didn’t create and didn’t have much control over. On November 29th I was dog tired, so I laid down to take a short nap… when I woke up from taking the nap, these are the words and the melody that came out.
So here we are, about an hour from Knoxville. Over the past two days we have driven over 1000 miles, seen 4 different states, visited Elvis’ birth site, played 2 shows, 1 for about 500 people, another for less than twenty. We’ve seen 2 different college campuses, spent one night at a friend’s farm, spent another night in a terrible motel, and played over 2 hours of general trivia in the van. Justin is the band champion.
All of this, however, fails in comparison to what happened to us last night at approx 3:00am. We had left Oxford, MS around 1:00 after playing a show at Proud Larry’s. The venue was really cool, the sound was great, and there were about 10 people there. Apparently Saturday nights aren’t very big in Oxford. Who knew. Regardless, the bars close at 12 and we were on the road by 1. Our intention was to drive as far as we could back towards Knoxville in order to decrease our driving time today. We made it to a little town called Holly Springs.
Holly Springs is a relatively quaint, unassuming Mississippi town approximately 10 miles from the middle of nowhere. In this town, there lives a man by the name of Paul McCloud. Paul is certifiably insane. His delusions are manifested in a completely unreasonable obsession with Elvis Presley. Over the years he has gained a cult following by turning his creepy 3 story home into a makeshift Elvis shrine, which he calls “Graceland Too”. This museum of sorts is open to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So of course we decided it was a great idea to take a visit at 3am.
We pulled up to this house not knowing what to expect. What we found was a 3 story white Victorian decorated like something you’d see on the Adam’s Family TV show. Ceramic lions stood on top of the perimeter fence, guarding the property like gargoyles. The front walkway was lined with fake miniature trees that had been “planted” in extremely oversized blue buckets. Christmas wreaths adorned the chain link fence. There were no lights on inside.
Paul answered the door immediately. He was fully dressed, wearing blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a black button down shirt. He was balding, but the remainder of his hair was slicked back into a very thin pony tail. We were greeted with firm handshakes and ushered in.
The interior of the house smelled like an old library book that had been dipped in Brute cologne. The front foyer, in which we were now standing, was covered from floor to ceiling in Elvis posters. The most prominent of these posters was a picture of Elvis lying shirtless under a bed sheet. Paul informed us that Bill Clinton had offered him 250 thousand dollars for it, but that he would rather sell it to the Bush twins. He also had a list of famous celebrities that had frequented his museum, including Angelina Jolie, Jay Leno, and George Clooney, all of whom had made donations in excess of 1 million dollars.
As Paul spoke, I noticed there was something strange about his mouth. Something about the way his mouth moved when he talked. It took me about 2 minutes to figure out that his dentures had come loose. At one point, when Paul was telling some obvious lie about making an appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’brien, I realized I was the only person who was still paying attention to him. Everyone else had become distracted by his insane collection of decorations. Apparently Paul noticed this as well, and attempted to regain the captivity of his audience by beating his chest like a wild animal and screaming “Yo Yo Yo!!!” at the top of his lungs. I immediately got the hell out of there.
The rest of the guys weren’t so lucky. After my retreat to the van, they stayed behind for an extended tour of the house that Justin described as “the number one weirdest place of all time”. High points included:
1.) A photo album of Paul’s son, named Elvis Aaron Presley McCloud, wearing nothing but Elvis suits. Keep in mind Paul’s son weighs approx. 300 pounds and has a mustache.
2.) A picture of a pile of money, being raked across the floor, to demonstrate how much money Paul was making at the museum.
3.) A picture of Tom Cruise’s dog. Unfortunately Tom was unavailable for the photo.
4.) A tour of his armory, which includes over $10,000 worth of guns and ammunition that he claims were owed by Elvis, followed by the comment that “It’s legal to kill someone in Mississippi”.
By the time the rest of the guys got back to the van, I had my cellphone in hand ready to call the police. Fortunately we all escaped with our lives. The next visitors might not be so lucky. Take it from us, this is one tourist attraction that is best left to the tourists. Regardless, it was quite the weekend.
The weather keeps getting colder as we keep driving north. The temperature outside fell below East Tennessee’s standard of acceptability somewhere around Washington D.C. The van has proven its reliability, motoring without incident through overpriced New England toll booths that are apparently necessary every 15 miles. Despite spending a small fortune on donations to the great states of this region, our spirits are high. We’re about one hour from Woodstock.
Tomorrow morning we’ll begin the two week process of trying to create the best album of our careers. I can’t think of a better place to do it. I’m looking outside the van window right now, watching the Catskill Mountains in the distance. They’re snow covered and still, far removed from the bustle of big city life that exists just 80 miles southwest of here. Woodstock is a musician’s sanctuary, and we definitely aren’t the first band to seek refuge here. In the late 1960’s, before a rock n’ roll festival occurred that would change the world and put the small town of Woodstock NY on the map forever, this place was an escape for famous artists of the time. Bob Dylan lived here, right down the street from Van Morrison, just a couple of blocks away from The Band. This is where The Band’s relationship with Bob Dylan started. Without the quiet allure of Woodstock, it’s possible we never would have heard Levon Helm sing “I pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling bout half past dead”. (I always thought this was a vague biblical reference until I looked at our travel map and realized that Nazareth, NY is just down the road from Woodstock). This historical place is where we’ll live and work for the next 2 weeks.
We are excited and hopeful about our time here. The studio is supposed to be amazing, and I can’t wait to lay eyes on it. Personally, I’m looking forward to playing a studio-owned Hammond B3 organ that so many great hands have played in the past, including The Band’s Garth Hudson. I know Aaron is looking forward to laying down rhythm tracks on a set of drums that were a gift to Levon from the Beatle’s Ringo Starr. Cozmo and Michael will play through amps that donated their tones to Grammy-Award winning albums. The story of this place humbles and amazes us.
As I write this, it seems somehow arrogant to entertain the hope of great expectations for our time here. After all, so many inspirational musicians have made their pilgrimage to Levon’s small home and barn / recording studio during their careers. I’m not sure where we rank on the list of visitors here, but I’m quite sure it’s somewhere near the bottom. Regardless, we’ve gotten this far, and as always, I feel compelled to remind each and every reader that this would not be possible without all of you. From me and from the band, again we say thank you for your love and support.
We’ll keep checking in with you guys every day or so. Tomorrow we start laying down live tracks to build our recordings from. Thus begins our musical journey. We’re not sure where it all goes from here. We just know it’s going somewhere, and we embrace the hope that it’s somewhere good.
Last Friday’s show at Barley’s was a blast for us as usual. It seems like forever since we’ve played there, and it felt good to be home. We’ve been traveling more and more, playing in new places and meeting great new people. But still, there’s something about coming back to where it all started. Knoxville has been more than a hometown for us. It’s been a sanctuary of friends and fans that keep us going. Without this town and the people in it, I think we would have given up this crazy adventure a long time ago.
The memories here are so unique and inspirational. I remember the first real headlining show we ever had. It was at Preservation Pub in 2007. Our setlist was a joke, I couldn’t hear my keys, the stage was the size of a closet, and it was the best night we’d ever had. People actually liked our music. That’s a feeling I’ll never forget. Or the first time we played at Barleys. We opened for Dishwater Blonde to a packed house. It was electric, the biggest and most energetic crowd we’d ever seen. These experiences seem like so long ago, but they never really leave us.
Fast forward a couple of years- we’ve gotten to play gigs we never thought we would, meet people we never thought we’d meet, making friends and music all along the way. But here we were, back in Knoxville, ending our show with members of the Zac Brown Band playing a Rolling Stones cover. This would have been cool no matter where we were, but standing in Knoxville made it that much better. I loved looking out at the crowd and seeing people that were there for our first show, opening for Sister Hazel on Market Square Stage. We had been a band for two weeks when we took that stage. We probably sounded terrible, but our friends stuck with us. To be honest, I’m not sure that would happen anywhere besides Knoxville. This town loves music, and we love this town.
So now we’re looking forward to sharing more memories with all of you. And we’ve got plenty more to come. Some big things have happened for us in the last few weeks. We’re going to Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock NY for 15 days this December. Needless to say, we’re humbled and excited about getting to play music with a legend. We hope you’ll like what we’re working on. Also, we just signed on with Athens-based Nimbleslick Booking. The timing couldn’t have been better for us. It felt like we had reached the end of our rope booking shows and breaking into new venues. Now we think we’ve found the right people to help us. We can’t wait to make new friends and play music in places we haven’t been to yet.
When I sit down and think about it, there are plenty of reasons we could have given this up by now. Jobs, relationships, all our other commitments are affected by our pursuit of music. But we don’t want to stop. We want to keep making the best music we can for all of you who have stuck by us for so long. We want to keep playing shows where you can dance, forget about whatever else might be bringing you down, have fun and experience freedom with us. This freedom is something few people get to experience, and we love sharing it with all of you. After all, we’re all in this together. Let’s enjoy the ride as long as we can.