One evening last week I went down to WRFG-FM in Atlanta to visit Dave Chamberlain on his show “Sagebrush Boogie”. We played some records, told some stories, and I sang a few songs live over the air.
“No Difference Now” is a new song that’s been going over well at solo shows. I wrote it first on piano, then bounced the song around several instruments to find where it would sit best. On Dave’s show I played a koa Weissenborn-style acoustic steel guitar built by David Dart of Dart Instruments in Philo, California.
Yesterday I drove over to Athens, Georgia, to pick up a new guitar — new to me anyway. Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitar refurbishes old Harmony and Kay guitars. He has a way of converting and upgrading the interior bracing and other features to turn them into finer instruments than they had ever been back in the day.
The guitar was a Harmony Roy Smeck arch-top from 1957 or ’58. When I first saw it a few weeks ago Scott had done nothing with it. The strings were loose and the instrument was unplayable. I didn’t exactly fall in love with the guitar then, but I knew that, in theory at least, I liked everything about it.
One of my favorite acoustic steel guitars is a 1930s Gibson Roy Smeck Stage Deluxe. So the name of “the Wizard of the Strings” was a point in the guitar’s favor from the start. (Roy Smeck was a great vaudeville musician — very showy and fun to watch. There are many videos of him on YouTube, including one calling him “Eddie Van Halen’s Dad”.) I also liked the guitar’s “cupcake” knobs like the ones on the Harmony Stratotones I play with Delta Moon, the Gibson-built “speedbump” pickup and the midnight blue and gold sparkle finish.
I swapped Scott an old Kalamazoo Hawaiian guitar as a down payment. And for two weeks I’ve been shaking my head and thinking, “I don’t know.”
Then Scott called to say the guitar was ready.
Guess what? From the first note I loved it.
Just before I went out the door, Scott handed me a flat-top Sovereign. Hoo boy. One guitar at a time, I say. But I may have to make this trip again.
The last post on this page was seven months ago. Dear readers — if there are any of you left — please accept my apology.
By mid-February I’d already played four solo shows in 2017. I was writing and recording a new batch of songs and starting to build up a website and e-mail list. I just needed to set aside a little time to run a Delta Moon campaign on PledgeMusic, release a Delta Moon album and do some touring behind that.
I turned around and it was September.
Not that I’ve been ignoring the solo project. I’ve never stopped writing. That’s what I do. Now that Delta Moon is shifting to a more collaborative form of songwriting (which I’m totally into) all tunes I come up with on my own will be going into this project. I’ve completely retooled my little home recording studio and have learned a ton about how to use the new equipment and software. It’s time to have some fun.
Outside of a two-week trip to Europe and a few hometown gigs, the band will be taking some well-earned time off in the next few months. I hope to get things moving around here.
Stay tuned. You shouldn’t have to wait seven months for the next post.
With a new album coming out in March, Delta Moon has kept me pretty busy the last few months. Nevertheless, I’ve already played more solo shows in 2017 than I did in all of last year and am hungry to do more.
Sunday’s show at the City Winery in Atlanta with Michelle Malone and Eliot Bronson — both great performers — was big fun. We each played a brief solo set, then returned for a set in the round. The evening ended way too soon.
Performing these live shows has taught me a lot about the new songs I’m singing. Mike Tyson said, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Well, the good news is nobody’s punched me yet. The songs have been going over well. But writing and rehearsing a song is sort of like planning things you would like to say. When the time comes to look someone in the eye and say them, those things might come out differently — and often the change is for the better. Now that these songs are seasoned a little I need to find time to get back in the studio and get them down before Delta Moon takes off for six weeks in Europe.
For the next couple weeks, though, my main focus is crowdfunding Delta Moon’s new album through a PledgeMusic campaign:
I had a fantastic time at the 30A Songwriters Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida — or actually spread out in many venues over 22 miles of Highway 30A, running along the beach of the Florida panhandle.
I played three shows as a solo acoustic act, each time paired with a duo: Marti Jones and Don Dixon on Friday, Sarah Potenza and her husband Ian on Saturday, and an old friend Michelle Malone along with a young guitarist named Reno on Sunday — all great performers. It wasn’t so much songwriters in the round as songwriters playing ping-pong. But it wasn’t at all adversarial, and I never felt outnumbered on stage. Even if we’d never met before, everyone understood how to work together to create a unique experience both for ourselves and the audience. Several fans told me that what they liked best about this festival was seeing performers interact with each other. And it felt good, halfway through our set, to hear Sarah Potenza exclaim, “We’re forming a band!”
Michelle Malone and I had so much fun together that we’re doing it again at the City Winery in Atlanta on February 12.
I look forward to hanging with a lot of old friends and hope to make some new ones at the 30A Song Writers Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, January 13-16. They’ve booked a great line-up of artists, and I’m honored to be a part of it. South Walton County, on the Florida panhandle, is one of my old stomping grounds — though it’s changed a lot since I first knew it. Well, so have I.
Not long ago a friend who is a commercial airline pilot asked me if I ever got scared before a performance. I said, “Not as much as if I were landing a jet plane.”
“Hey,” he said, “I’m terrified every time.”
The solo radio show on WRFG went really well, despite the massive amounts of adrenalin pumping through my system. Thanks again to host Dave Chamberlain. The response to the five new songs has been great. According to the comments and e-mails, each one was somebody’s favorite. And there are more. I’m trying to write every day now and finish everything I start. A song a week is the goal.
The next step is to make some solo recordings. In the last few weeks Delta Moon has recorded demos of a few of these songs. Soon we’ll start trying them out in live shows. But not all of my new tunes are Delta Moon’s type of songs. Besides, now the band is putting emphasis on writing in the studio as an ensemble. I enjoy that approach, but it doesn’t keep me from songwriting at home and wanting to perform the songs I write.
When ten or twelve songs are ready to go — and that won’t be long now — I plan to go into a studio alone and record a batch of demos, which I’ll post here to share with you. I’m finding my direction, and we’ll see where it leads.
Solo performance is a great exercise, paring the presentation down to exactly what the song is, no more and no less. It’s a process of discovery. A song can surprise you. Sometimes you can surprise yourself.
I’m working on this every day. Things keep moving right along. Please stay tuned.
Hi, my name is Tom Gray. I front the band Delta Moon. But from time to time I also perform solo acoustic gigs. It’s something I enjoy and want to do more of. So welcome to this new website, and thanks for coming by. You’re one of the very first.
Tonight, June 10, 2016, I plan to debut a batch of new songs along with a few old favorites on WRFG-FM Atlanta in host Dave Chamberlain’s portion of the Peach State Festival. Here’s the proposed set list. I hope to get them all in:
Rock and Roll Girl
You’d Break My Heart If You Could
The Day Before Tomorrow
Clear Blue Flame
The Coolest Fools
Hell Bound Train
Don’t Make No Difference Now
Money Changes Everything
Five of these songs are brand new, written within the last month or so. If you heard the show or just want to say hey, please leave a comment. I’d like to hear from you.