Composer, singer/songwriter, and banjoist extraordinaire Danny Barnes is contemplating his instrument’s bad rap.

“Folks are overwhelmed with images and sounds in contemporary life,” Barnes says. “And they deal with this overstimulation by grouping things in the easiest way. ‘Oh, that guy, well, he’s rich. That guy over there only has one leg. What’s the easiest way to group them so we can get on with it?’

“I look at a banjo like a pencil. You can draw whatever you want with a simple pencil. It’s a channel to get the idea out, it isn’t the idea. But that’s not really the way our world is ordered in a meta-narrative sense, I don’t suspect. I like the way the bible talks about seeing things the way a child sees things; that’s perhaps a more creative way to see things. I like the way the philosopher George Berkeley talked about how things only exist in their particulars.”

IT was a damp, wind-whipped Thursday night in Astoria, Ore., but inside the Fort George Brewery & Public House an eclectic, standing-room-only crowd kept warm and dry. Ol’ Danny Barnes, a Washington State-based singer and banjoist, twanged and crooned before a hooting audience of Astorians who had poured into the space on their way home from work. In the crowd were Coast Guard officers, marine biologists, nursing students — and the waitress who had served me lunch earlier that day.

I finagled a stool at the pub’s sturdy wooden counter and, taking a cue from my bar mates, ordered beer-battered fish and chips and a dark, potent stout. Occupying the next stool over was Josef Gault, a Fort George regular and self-described “wild Hungarian.” Mr. Gault — actually a native of Detroit — is a musician and cultural events coordinator at the local community college. In his estimation, the town’s blustery climate and its cultural vibrancy are intertwined. “Because of its turbulent weather,” he said, “Astoria attracts artists.”

{gain twenty years of road experience with a five minute read}

here are some free suggestions for engaging in this type of behavior successfully. i have spent a fair amount of years working and logging miles as a sideman, and likely will do so again at various points. i wanted to give you some ways to perhaps operate more smoothly within this role. what follows are some hard earned/learned lessons for your consideration.

to determine if this article might apply to you, go out and look at the marquee of the club where you are playing tonight. is that your own name up there? if not, this article is probably for you. have you found yourself in a musical version of death of a salesman, and you're not playing the part of willie loman? is the act you are working with called stumpy bill mcknucklehead and you don't happen to be stumpy bill? read on.

the principle rule to remember: your number one job above all else is to make the leader sound good, look good and feel good. {read that again. we will come back to it over and over. we will refer to this as the rule.}

your primary benefit in the transaction: you get to play, learn, work, travel, work with and meet great musicians, get paid, and gain valuable experience, all without having to sweat the business details. it's the modern musical version of apprenticeship.

your path for achieving success is two fold: 1. play great. 2. in all things, be easy to deal with.

reconcile yourself to these facts every waking moment of a tour, or other business engagement of any kind within this scenario. if you forget the rule for even a very short time span, there's going to be static. you can also reverse engineer this, detect some static? have you remembered our little rule?
there are some that will never get these concepts, there are some that can learn them, and sometimes people come along that are pretty much born for this role. you can easily determine if you are in the first group by taking an accurate inventory of your self-centeredness. folks that are really all about their own trip are miserable in this role of sideman. and they make everyone else miserable as well. i'm not intimating that this type of person is bad or anything, however, they might should consider forming their own band.

here is a little test that can be very instructive and may help create that win/win environment on a recording session, gig, tour, practice, writing session, jam, or whatever:

ask yourself, "okay..self….who is The Dude here?" most likely, it is not you. {depending on the size of the band, the odds are one in four, or five.}
who is the dude? who is the person that comes up with the ideas, signs the checks, negotiates the deals, writes the music, does the interviews, provides the credit for all the travel arrangements, keeps the books, collects the receipts, pays the taxes, mails the checks out, has likely spent years starving and building his scene before you ever got there, and as well takes the heat if things go in the crapper? that's probably the dude. identify him or her and make sure they are happy. if they are happy, things stand a chance of going great. if they are pissed off or depressed, you are screwed. {you may be operating under a band name, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a dude. and just because the dude is mellow and easy going, or a zillionaire, that doesn't mean the rule isn't in place.}
if you want to participate in making some art, get along with other musicians, get other jobs, make some bread, travel with some like minded souls, learn something, contribute in the lifting up of the battered human spirit, and otherwise maximize your opportunity, figure out who the dude {or dudette} is, and apply the rule. it's pretty simple.

once the determination is made, don't forget. but it's okay. if you do forget, you'll be able to tell very easily by detecting static. it's like if you are driving down a country road and you start hitting mailboxes, that's a sign to get back onto the road and get out of the ditch. the indicator is wired up with a hair trigger. you'll know instantly.

here is a list of ideas to help you, in no particular order {and i'm assuming you are nailing the music so much that the dude [hereafter referred to in union parlance as the leader], rest of the band, audience, and office staff would have great difficulty imagining the music without your presence. if this is not the case, guess what? you have other problems than this stuff. best to finish the dishes before remodeling the kitchen as it were. i'd hit that woodshed and practice. learn the music better, and get better at what you do in general. then you can wonder about all this other jazz.}

a. money:

don't hammer anybody for money. ever. typically the leaders i've worked for, if they were at the level where they are putting out records on labels and touring and doing stuff, it is in their interest {and they will want} to pay you as much as they can. let them do that on their own. if you like the music, your role in the group, the hang, and you feel as though you can learn something, then go ahead and play with them for a while and let the money scene develop over time. then you can make an informed call on whether or not you would like to stay on. before the first gig is a bad time to start the money hassle. i wouldn't get overly worked up about economics in a brand new situation.

it's a common misconception, that is borrowed from the corporate world i guess, i don't know where this comes from, that you have to really get in there and fight and play hardball to get what you want. the odds of this working are slight. go ahead and try, but i don't think you are going to like the result. i call this "negotiating against your teammates."

here's an issue to consider. let's say you and i go into a lemonade stand together. we agree to split the money after expenses. and you find you aren't making enough bread. the answer to this isn't to hammer me for more money. the problem is our overall collective income, not our deal between each other. if you go up to 52% and i go down to 48%, you may win that argument. but we haven't changed the cash flow. i see people make this logical error over and over. and over. our fixed costs are the same, and our net is the same. we are merely changing the clothes of the corpse so to speak. tie or no tie, that bastard is still dead.

so what i'm suggesting is to relax about the dough. you stand a better chance of making more money by applying the rule than by negotiating against your teammates. help the leader make a better record. help him or her do better shows. help the leader feel like the work is important if you think it is. in the long run this is going to be way more fruitful than pitching a fit because your girlfriend is mad at you about being gone and not bringing home enough cash.

also remember, if you have lots of outgo in your personal finances, this is no one's problem but your own. do not sweat the leader with this. remember the rule.

b. do not get involved in discussions about collective business affairs.

if you are asked a direct question about your opinion in a business matter, perhaps give a general response, but i would try to stay out of it. everyone thinks their clock has the right time, and musicians all love to speculate about how to do things. especially if they aren't personally at financial risk. just remember our rule, and keep fairly quiet. you'll contribute more by playing really great, and being in a good mood. never forget that one of your main benefits in the sideman modality is that you don't have to sweat the arrangements. all you really have to do is show up on time, play your ass off, and be easy to deal with. worrying about all the business stuff is simply not your bailiwick. enjoy this. it's the great asset of the sideman. don't blow it.

never ask for exact numeric figures on business deals that aren't directly yours {you'll be able to tell if you are involved because you will need a pen to sign something}. a gentleman or lady will never discuss money.

c. while on a tour, or in a business situation, do not, under any circumstances, self-promote your own work outside of the group you are in.

that is the lamest of the lame. this behavior directly violates our simple rule. one of my teachers told me a story about going out on a tour with a particular banjo player guy who would get out of the car at the jobsite, and rush in with a cd to give to the venue owner, before the rest of the band had even walked in. i don't think it would be possible for me to lay out verbally how much i am NOT a fan of this behavior.
don't self-promote anything. play really good. be easy to get along with. don't complain or talk too much. help carry gear. offer others some encouragement. but do not hand out your cd. do not try to "get their number" and all that. if the leader says, "hey the guy that plays keys in my band here has a really cool cd you might like," then by all means, hand it over. but the deal is, you should be asked for it directly. that type of "networking" is totally wack, and i think the term sounds a lot like "not working."

d. do not be weird about the calendar.

if someone asks, can you play march the 3rd? the answer is yes, no, or maybe, let me check. this is not an essay question. if you are unsure, get back to them. quickly. a typical musician will have this conversation about 120 to 200 times a year {one for each gig}. after a few years, it should be very smooth and easy. it's the same question over and over.

e. do not be weird {overly pedantic or confused} about the traveling arrangements.

basically, you are splitting at a certain time, and coming home at a certain time, and in between, you'll be practicing the rule, playing your ass off, and taking care of yourself, and getting along smoothly with a group of other people, productive stuff like that. some folks can never really get it straight in their heads what the order of daily events will be on a tour. i would offer that in a sense, it does not matter. you will be traveling en masse. is it really that big a deal if the in-store is at 5:30 instead of 5:00? who cares? it will be fairly obvious. hint: if you see everyone get out of the van, do so yourself. if you are at a hotel, go brush your teeth. if you are at a venue, set up. if you are at a cafe, get some food.

it's the same deal over and over:
get up
check out
sound check

perhaps there's a periodic in-store or radio interview thrown in there. but that's it. it's not a big mystery. you'll be able to tell because you'll pull up to a radio station, or record store. and get out. and go inside. and guys with clipboards will start telling you stuff.
the reason i point this out, is you'll stress the leader or tour manager out, if you are constantly confused about what is going on. the music is the fun part, the travel is the hard part. do everything you can to make the travel go smoothly.

another word about the schedule, on tour, do not slow down the group by having some personal thing you want to do on your own. "oh i'd really like to go to this hot air ballon museum in thus-and-so town." well forget it. just concentrate on your job and remember the rule. you aren't on vacation. if it works out where you can split for a bit or if you have a day off, by all means. but do NOT hassle the other folks in the group with this kind of stuff. remember our rule.

f. be really careful about getting your annoying friends into the backstage area.

some folks i've traveled with, i don't know, i guess they just don't have enough to think about, and they will look at a tour as a social event. they see "washington dc" on there and they think, "oh well i'm going to invite six of my friends to come backstage." this is a bad idea. you are there to work, do so. if it works out and you can see friends of course that's cool, but remember, the other folks in the group likely have zero interest in your cool pal frank that you went to summer camp with.

g. try to be the easiest person the leader will ever deal with.

if you do that, they will be delighted to have you back. you won't get your needs met by being difficult. or passive aggressive. or endlessly bewildered.

h. transport behavior:

don't bug the leader or office about plane tickets. they will magically appear. check-in online in advance and print out your pass, always. show up at the airport two hours early and get your bags checked-in, get to the gate and relax. have your gear where you can fly with it with no hassles. don't show up to the airport with extra bags and weight. have your trip together where you can roll it on down the street with no hassles. have your scene together going through security. never miss a flight. don't complain about air travel. an adult should not be confused by an airline. it's the same thing over and over.

keep your personal items together in the physical realm, it's bad form to be spread out all over the vehicle. a good packing plan is to work out how everything can go in, and do it the same way each time so you don't have to re-invent the wheel. have a book and some music so you can entertain yourself. always help load and unload. don't slam doors. try not to make a mess. help the driver.

and when it comes to driving:
if called upon to drive, remember, a good driver never makes the passengers aware that he is driving. he drives really smooth and easy, and is easy on the machine. there are no jerky moves and no one ever gets scared on account of his lack of technique. at this point you are basically commercially driving. be super safe and easy. remember the rule. you want everyone relaxed. if you aren't a good driver, don't. just be honest and tell them.

my suggestion for navigation is kind of inspired from aviation ground school. one person drives safely. another person reads the map {or gps} and never the twain shall meet. the way to tell the driver the directions is like this, "turn left at the next light." "drive forty miles and merge onto I80 W. i'll remind you about two miles out." let the driver drive smoothly and not hit anything. don't hassle him about the directions, just tell him simply and clearly what the turns are, one at a time. and don't give him the leo tolstoy version of directions. "well this road goes parallel for a while, we just came from back here when the gig was over, over there was where we ate the last time we were here, and anyway, this road reminds me of some other event that you aren't interested in that isn't now, so when you get there, don't turn on jackson street. oh we should have turned back there."

one person drives safely, the other person reads the map and communicates with all due clarity.

when the vehicle stops for gas, help pump the gas, check the tires and oil. i can't tell you how many tours i've been on where the band all goes into the store leaving the leader to service the car. over and over and over.

if you pump the gas, the leader or tour manager needs the receipt. always.

hey hollywood, get your rear end out here and wash them windows.

be a very clean person. spend lots of time in your bunk. maintain a cheerful attitude. try really hard not to get sick on a bus {or van/car of course}, as they become germ incubators pretty quickly. be really nice to the driver and help him. he has a hard job and you need him to be safe and happy. never make the bus wait on you. don't collect a bunch of weird food and stick it in the fridge and never throw it out. just because you are on a bus, don't have a bunch of crap on there with you. you should be able to hop on a plane and fly away easily {you'll thank me for this should things ever get weird}. remember the bus is kind of a crucible. don't get into big heavy discussions about politics or religion in a cramped environment. always be aware of other's space. don't talk much. do not invite your friends onto the bus. that's everyone's home. never make the bus stop for you. bring a bunch of vitamins and hand them out like candy. be a really good listener but don't talk very much. stay out of other's way emotionally. if someone is making a personal call in the back lounge, leave them alone. don't take sides in disagreements. if the band starts to have a really heavy business conversation in the middle of long tour and everyone is exhausted, say things like "we should get home to deal with this, let's rest and just play as good as we can and take it easy with each other." don't hassle other's with your drug and alcohol use.

i. in a radio {or print} interview situation, do not speak unless directly spoken to.

and don't talk about your own work unless the interviewer directly asks you. be quick about the answer and divert the attention back to the person that hired you. it's like being in a play. divert the attention back to the main character. that's your job. do that during the gig as well.

j. keep your intent off the merchandise.

it's not yours. remember the rule. let's say i just got a job playing with the dick nobles review, and i pass by the merch table at the show and he's got cds out there for sale. someone had to take the financial risk of manufacture. and that wasn't me. so if there is a debt to be serviced, and it's not my debt, this transaction is none of my business. if your name isn't on the debt, your name isn't on the profit check. also technically if mr. nobles sells five cds, yet is in debt 50G on the record, there is no profit.
as a sideperson i don't WANT to get involved in his business. what i want to do is play great and be easy to get along with. also, i would never hassle the leader with wanting to put out my own records for sale at the merch table. he may ask if i want to put something out and that's fine then.

k. hotels

never charge anything to the room that you don't pay for yourself. i can't count how many times i've road managed a tour with a group of people, and i go to check-out and someone ordered room service. so i pay the forty bucks and go out to the van, "hey someone spent forty bucks on room service." "oh sorry man i forgot." how does one forget that? answer, they don't. order whatever you want, but pay for it.
i keep the hotel room really neat, the maids have a tough job. tip them. also when you leave for check-out, secure the door to your room. don't go down to check-out and leave the door open. why? someone could come in and call long distance on the phone or eat the food in the mini-bar or whatever and the leader would have to pay it. if you rent me a room, you are basically giving me access to your credit line. if i then make a mess or buy a bunch of crap, i could really screw you up. remember the rule.

and i wouldn't call the leader if you have problems with your hotel room. if you are having trouble getting onto the internet or something, call the front desk, not the leader or tour manager. if you need to move because of the party in the next room, call the front desk. on numerous occasions i have had sideguys that i hired, call me in my room in the middle of the night and complain the internet wasn't working. my 85 year old mother would know to call the front desk. yet mr. cool alternative thinks waking me up is going to help. and also everyone knows, the nicer the hotel, the more expensive the wi-fi is, and the less channels on the tv. so, don't be shocked. your tour manager can do nothing about this to fix it for you. pony up.

l. touring is a series of "what's nexts."

after the show, guess what? you will soon be going to the hotel. after that guess what? travel. and then…i don't know, a load-in, a sound check, dinner, and a gig. what's next in the series. while you are finishing up one thing, get your stuff ready for the next thing. move with ease. a,b,c, what's next in this series? d.

m. don't make others work harder through your own inaction, or inattention to detail or inability to grasp the overall schema.

when it doubt, stop talking and just look.

n. you will be 1099'd for every dime you receive.

this is as it should be.

o. offer to spring for dinner or coffee once in a while.

it's a fine gesture.

p. it would be good for your head to have your own little band or business on the side, just to experience the realities of bidness if nothing else, and to keep a set of real books.

this will help you to understand.

the end.

if any of these comments offends you or rubs you the wrong way, try setting up a tour yourself for a group. try functioning as a leader and see what you think. go ahead and take the financial risk. you'll soon see my point here. the short version is just remember that little rule in all things.

Danny Barnes at Mountainstage

Danny Barnes appeared on Mountain Stage last February (2010.) The episode is scheduled for distribution on affiliate stations on January 28, 2011. For a complete list of stations and airtimes, please check here:

The following week, his set will at posted at and archived for continued access.

You can also connect with Mountain Stage on Facebook at and the podcast is available on iTunes and Feedburner.

Barnes kicked off both nights’ festivities performing solo on the “barnjo” - a custom-made hybrid banjo/electric guitar that he debuted this summer at Northwest String Summit. Melding the hammering drive and fine detail of his banjo-work on an instrument that allows him to fully embrace plugged-in rock-and-roll aggression, it proved the perfect outlet for his own wonderfully mercurial musical nature. Unlike the FolkTronics approach he had previously taken with his music, where he used Ableton software to craft a broad palette with the banjo, looping the instrument and incorporating beats and samples, this method had a considerably more stripped-down aesthetic. But this was some pure diesel, as Barnes travelled between sonic moods and textures with a tight, dizzying quickness.

It was cool to hear the open-throttle versions of songs spanning his career over both nights, from Bad Livers (“Lumpy, Beanpole & Dirt,” “Little Bitty Town,” “Legend of Sawdust Boogers,” “Going Where They Do Not Know My Name,” “Love Songs Suck”) through his latest album, the brilliant Pizza Box. Take, “Sleep,” a claustrophobic tale based on a friend of Barnes who went to jail. He told Barnes he was relieved when the cops finally busted in his door, because he knew they were coming and he could finally get some sleep. On Pizza Box, it unfolds like an unhinged dream, but the barnjo interpretation tapped its murky, shuddering dread in direct, close-to-the-bone cuts.

Meanwhile during “Everything Fades,” on the line “Everything fades/That was made by a man,” Barnes simply let a lonely, lovely hum hang in the air, as if to emphasize that point, before spiraling down into some heavy Stooges-like stomping. Barnes utilized the instrument with equally potency on more delicate tunes like Things I Done Wrong’s “Big Girl Blues,” which he nicely segued into T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” on New Year’s Eve, and “Overdue,” where he let the notes gracefully float and dissolve in the air. Plus you have to appreciate a man who wrote “Love Songs Suck” – which lent itself to a crushing barnjo interpretation perfectly - writing “Overdue.” It’s a love song which, to put it mildly, in no way sucks at all. That’s how you show ‘em how it’s done.

The barnjo also allows Barnes to more-readily tap the punk rock heart that has always set him apart from the often-tired roots music scene. He even played Minor Threat on the first night of the run for, "All the designated drivers out there," ripping out a vicious cover of “Straight Edge." It was a pretty ballsy song choice, especially on the cusp of a holiday that’s become associated with getting as FUBARed as possible. Barnes has always had that element of subversion in his music, and this latest badass development is no exception.

A LABEL LIKE "GENIUS" gets tossed around too often by music critics to be taken seriously anymore. Just about anyone with marginal talent that commits an idea to tape can and will be labeled as such.

But in the case of Danny Barnes, that label is wholly accurate. Listening to Barnes' catalog is nothing short of revolutionary for a music lover.

Successfully flying under the radar for the past decade, Barnes has made a career out of thinking outside of the box.

"I've been blessed with a lack of success and I don't have to worry about alienating any of my fans," he said.

"Most of my audience are musicians and people who have eclectic taste in music across varying genres - vertically and horizontally. I have a lot of freedom and I feel like it's my duty to exploit that."

Danny Barnes is a big ole boy. In jeans and white concert T-shirt, he doesn't exactly overdress for success and comes across very much the common man. As his set began Friday night at Last Concert Café, Barnes moved around the stage like a panther who'd just been let out of his cage.

"We've been in the car all day, so we're just glad to be up here playing for y'all."

And that was about all Barnes had to say for the first 30 minutes as he tore through a huge slice of his latest album, Pizza Box.

Whether he's whanging on something with strings or writing a tune, Barnes has always been an acerbic intellectual. Judging by his two-set performance Friday night at Last Concert Café, the always-choice picker who never stands in one spot musically for long, has moved his game into spheres of virtuosity occupied by the likes of Sonny Landreth.

Follow the link above for complete review.

Danny Barnes is a study in contrasts, a banjo player who's as comfortable at a punk-rock show or an opera as he is at a bluegrass festival. One night he may be playing his "Barnjo" with a drummer as his sole accompaniment, the next night working with Dave Matthews or Robert Earl Keen Jr.

And although he's firmly grounded in bluegrass, his musical vision stretches from Bill Monroe to jazzman Bill Frisell, from recently deceased art-rocker Captain Beefheart to punk pioneers the Sex Pistols.

Click the link for the complete article.

a. you aren't listing to it in the right format

the other day i did a little test. while researching some new music, i stumbled across a wide array of little labels that were doing cassettes only. i got to digging around within that. whoa, there is some really cool stuff being done within that realm. and also being a person that likes black, round records, i went on the net and researched some new vinyl records that were being released. not re-issues of older stuff but currently made music. guess what?

all my musical dreams have come true! it is as though, viewed through that lens, all of the mainstream has disappeared, and all we have left is interesting, cool music being put out in inexpensive awesome sounding/looking formats. imagine my surprise and happiness at this revelation! damn.

here's a bit of an analogy. i read a fair amount, and i have an electronic reader, plus i read some stuff on my smartphone and some stuff on the net and all that. and i guess virtual reading is a valuable resource and a badass way of tapping into the database of all extant information {symbolized by the letter "e"}. however, you don't really get the experience that way. if i really want to jam, i have to dig the real book. it's kind of like computer flight simulators. they have some really nice ones, where a person can basically fly all over the u.s. within a detailed simulation of the earth with random weather and all that. guess what? it's not as breathtaking as actually getting behind the yoke of a little plane and taking off and flying around.

it's a simulation. it is not the actual experience.

within my own system, that is analogous to the cd/mp3 experience. it's a valuable tool. very convenient on so many levels, and i download stuff like it's going out of style. and gosh being able to get on youtube and research like crazy is an amazing tool. but it's not the real deal. it is a convenient simulation.

the real jam, is cassette and vinyl, and ultimately the live show. for lots of reasons that i won't get into here.

think about this. if you go into a record store, the folks that are the heaviest into music will likely be thumbing through the vinyl. only your friends that are really heavy into music know who is playing next week in that filthy club downtown.

in reference to format, here is a definition to consider: objet d'art: an article of some artistic value.

b. you got so caught up in what you were doing, you forgot to listen.

kind of a cliche story arc to american life goes like this: a person goes through school, and music is part of the fabric of their life. their friends listen, and they listen, and they create the soundtrack of this kind of movie of their lives. then they either go to college or start work. in the former example, they still groove with friends and stuff for a bit, but in either case, eventually, the old clock on the wall starts ticking and the grind starts. the person starts sweating real estate, and retirement and kid's college, or whatever success or goal in their work world, however that gets played out. the result being they get so wrapped up in the struggle of the material world, that music really just becomes burdensome. here are some common phrases of this particular rut:
"well they just don't make music like they used to!"
"i'd go out and hear music but it starts so late!"
"well i used to like music but then i had to get serious about my life!"

all of that stuff. sometimes a person gets to be 40 years old or so, and they often think that whatever was popular when they went to the senior prom is still the best music ever, so since that artist is dead, music is over. the rat race and the propping up of the system will push the search for great new music aside, as well as the search for unheard old music. {the system needs you working a bunch and in lots of debt, and probably on lots of meds.} perhaps that is why the eagles play at casinos, and pretty lights doesn't.

c. you got lazy

you know, even with all this data so readily accessible, the one constant in my life is that it still takes about the same amount of work to uncover cool stuff as it always did. the ratio is still about the same. so one has to spend a certain amount of time digging. and it's much easier to let that slide, and just complain. and not be blessed by glorious music.
don't blame the artists. "they are all so lame now!" actually there is more cool stuff being done now than ever. and there is more access to older stuff than ever. this is really a great time to be a music fan. try just pretending the mainstream doesn't exist.

d. your friends don't listen so why should you?

one of the primary places to find out about great stuff is through having friends who like music. that's where i personally find out about lots of stuff anyway, through my more knowledgeable friends. if a person's friends aren't into it anymore, that can be a bit of a disincentive to a tribe member to seek things out on their own. "well geez no one at the office is jamming, so i better not either. wouldn't want to upset the apple cart."

i am so blessed by having great friends that are way into different musics. it's like having a support system or something. life support.

e. you never did listen to it anyway {music never did mean that much to you}

when i was a young man, growing up in a small town in the 70's there were basically two channels. jock or freak. the freaks were really into music, the jocks, not so much, though they had their own soundtrack to their rituals. i still see this kind of weird dividing line in our society, decades and time zones away. {they have lots of music for folks that hate music, just like they have books for folks that hate reading, and so on.}

f. you are kind of a dick to begin with

the thing about art, it's kind of a one way deal. the person makes it, and you have to deal with it, or not. i think self-centered people may perhaps have a hard time letting this control go. for some odd reason, many folks think that artists are interested in hearing opinions about set lists and other business decisions. kind of like armchair quarterbacks {jocks}. it's amazing to see giant groups of people struggle with, and subsequently not be able to affect, decisions from artists. it just doesn't work that way. {okay, i suppose it does happen in some realm that i have no interest in, where the art is focused-grouped, but i just pretend that shit doesn't even exist.} in order to be really blessed by a music, one has to give up some control, but it's okay, you can always turn it off or leave it it gets too intense but it's worth checking out. for a super control freak, this can be really hard. to a certain mindset, listening to music would involve cessation of self-thought, and lord that ain't gonna happen!

i notice that sometimes if i get feeling kinda agitated and weird, it can be fixed by turning up some great music and listening and being swept away by that. in that place, all the negativity and un-fairness and stuff just kind of melts away and i feel good again. i love hearing new music. i even love finding old music i didn't know about. to me it's a process. and not an event that happened back at some other point than now. for example in my system, music is proof that time doesn't exist, or is at least elastic. i can go and hear music from all these great artists, and in many cases i can find more stuff on them now than i could when they were alive and putting out music. that realization will put a spring in your step!

my point, is that you might be happier with some great music in your life. it's a place where all that other negative stuff can melt away. don't forget about that feeling.

What will you remember most about 2010?
this was a pretty wacky year for me. i think that bringing the barnjo, which is my electric guitar/banjo hybrid, and getting that up and running, has been the highlight of my year. by virtue of that instrument, i can play all my repertoire at once. so that has me pretty excited. i think pizza box is the best record i ever did, that feels pretty cool to be able to say that {it came out this year}. i've been out here since the late 80's driving in vans and playing clubs. it feels good to be getting better. i just keep practicing and working and developing ideas.

one of the main lessons i learned this year, is i'll get to working on something, and in the midst of working, i sometimes realize the goalposts will get moved on me, but then something else really cool will happen that i didn't plan on, that's actually hepper then what was initially conceived. and learning to just trust that process. it never fails, i just worry that it will. as long as i don't wig out at the wrong moment, something badass will happen.

What album or albums appeared most often in your iTunes?
well i've been going to through a hardcore trip this year. lots of hardcore. i like the early black flag and the bad brains. this ep by a knoxville band called koro is really hep. that's older stuff. clockcleaner, homostupids, there's a bunch of newer hardcore that's awesome. that video on youtube of the dillinger escape plan at the virgin mega-store where the singer runs across the crowd is perhaps the best 8 seconds of music ever made. that music, and like, ornette and stuff, sounds like my life. like when you walk down a city street or you're out dicing with the 18wheelers on the interstate. my life does not sound like bluegrass, or contemporary country. my life sounds more like the yellow swans.

What was your favorite show or tour in 2010?
well i really enjoyed playing with honky at emo's in austin earlier this year, that was badass. bobby rock is really one of the greatest metal guitarists in the world, ever. i really dug this last tour i just did with my friend branden harper, we've been playing drum kit, samplers, and barnjo turned all the way up. and that's been such a far out trip, i intend to stick with that oeuvre through the coming year for a record and tours galore. there's about a one minute video this guy sent me of us playing, and it sounds like metallica ornette blues. so. how can you lose?

What emerging band should readers watch out for in 2011?
i'm really interested in this guy stripmall ballads. i guess he's not really emerging, but if you haven't heard it, it's new.

Who would you want to collaborate with next year?
mitchell froom, eyvind kang, josh homme, i like dj shadow's drum sounds. a split 7" with zeke. i don't know, lots of stuff. i'd like to come out with my own skateboard.