laying down drum tracks, piano tracks, bass tracks, getting ready for mixing, experimenting with GameBoy ©Nintendo 1984
Hi! We’re starting a Kickstarter campaign for the new record. We could really use your help, so we’ll be offering some fun toys. The plan so far is to finish a few of the tracks so you guys can hear them and get super motivated, and then try to get a few thousand buckaroos to really make a fantastic album happen.
So far, incentive ideas include: an EP of cover songs, piano sheet music, custom kick-drum heads, Paperface CDs, etc. And much more….
We’re going for $10,000. It’s really what we need to finish a masterpiece….we need monitors, new equipment, horn players, string players, mastering, these things get expensive. I’m also thinking of releasing this as a phone app that has to be developed…
I also want to do an 8-bit version of the entire record and release it on GameBoy cartridge…..
Experimenting with some cutting-edge HD recording technology. Putting 8-bit sauce all over the next album.
After twelve years, Ben Folds Five is making another record….or, at least that’s what my mom told me.
It was weird. Only hours earlier, my bass-playing friend Jake Thro and I were having our age-old discussion: why doesn’t Ben Folds Five get back together? We’ve re-imagined this music-nerd fantasy almost every time we hang out, so I guess it wasn’t that much of a coincidence that I got the news mere hours later. With a phone call to mom to let her know we were driving semi-close for the Northern Virginia show, I got the coolest news I’ve heard in a while (my mom is my finger on the pulse of music news and good bands…..).
Jake and I usually hit on the same points: “There was just this….magic with that band.” “The harmonies are just so good….the production is so raw….” “Rheinhold Messner was the album that really got me….and it’s still my favorite.” “Really? I love that album, but Whatever And Ever Amen is just so….perfect…..” “The first one though…Jackson Cannery….Underground…” “Jesus, I know. How did they write that stuff? I just can’t write like that.” “Ben Folds has gotten so diatonic….he used to be so chromatic.” “Look at the chords in Battle Of Who Could Care Less..” “WHAT? It’s like the whole-tone scale! That’s so insane….but it sounds so natural.” “Eddie Walker is the best…..there’s this rawness that Robert Sledge brings to the bass….” “Darren Jesse…he was the perfect drummer for that band….those fills….”
I remember the first time I heard Ben Folds Five. I was a kid. I was a weird kid. Since five or six, I was obsessed with jazz and blues on the piano. All I did was play the piano. All I wanted to hear was jazz. It annoyed me that people even listened to anything else. But then when I was 13 or 14, this red-haired rich girl my brother knew burned me a CD (they had one of the first CD burners ever made…we couldn’t believe it…it took hours…weird right?) of Ben Folds Five. My brother was into all these great “alternative” bands, but Ben Folds was my gateway drug. The CD was a mix of their first and second album, mostly in order. I remember putting headphones on and listening to the whole thing. I can see the couch I was on, the window, the shadows moving across the carpet as I listened to the whole CD once, and then twice, and then again. I couldn’t believe how good this music was. I can remember every detail, the smell, the texture of the living room table, the moment that probably changed my life’s path forever.
I went downstairs and for the first time, I tried to sing while playing piano. My mom came downstairs and said, “what are you doing?” It was embarrassing. I don’t think I tried it again for a few months.
Since then, I’ve written almost two thousand songs, by my rough count. I’ve opened for Ben Folds to a few thousand people, talked to him in all his kindness and intelligence a couple times (no help to my career, thanks), and I’ve also opened for Robert Sledge’s brief side project, International Orange. Snuzz (Britt Harper Uzzell – check out his incredible music here….and you can tell who inspired Mr. Folds, can’t you?) was playing guitar and singing. After the show, he said that he saw great potential in me, and since he was Ben Folds’ teacher and mentor, that meant a lot to me. He said he saw the same thing in me that he saw in Ben Folds. I swear I’m not making this up. It was like hearing Yoda telling me the Force is strong with me, in some kind of lame piano-rock Star Wars.
Here it is: my ultimate Ben Folds Five playlist: Cigarette / Underground / Redneck Past / Jackson Cannery / Eddie Walker / The Last Polka / Narcolepsy / Air / Selfless, Cold And Composed / Fair /Lullaby /
And I know this doesn’t count, but this is one of my favorite songs of all time. In Love. Is it a song? What is it? It’s incredible.
Mitt Romney? Seriously? “I’m sexy and I know it”? Seriously?
I’m glancing at the newspapers (various shades of bias) as I wait for my bagel. The deli has the radio on. I’m waiting for Brett (drummer, Virginia Is For Hoverers 1 & 2) to pick me up and take me to the studio. Cold diarreah falls from the sky. It’s nasty out. My laundry is tumbling in the laundromat next door. Lately, I run around New York nonstop, working, playing cafes, playing open mics, working on the Dirty Girls album, meeting people, “networking”. Mixing. Doing laundry when possible. Working out or at least playing on my phone at the gym. I only spend three nights, on average, sleeping at home. I’m wondering who will win the race: reason and progress or stagnation and bad politics? Beautiful new music or vapid, thoughtless jingles? Brett or my laundry?
Chris Merritt And The Dirty Girls show 8:00 pm tonight in Upperville, VA at Buchanan Hall:
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It’s the town over from Middleburg on RT 50. Buchanan Hall is the first building on the left. Upperville has a population of like 12! Come one and all for great music…..beer and food as well……great venue and a great band…..
Friday, Jan 27th, 8:00 PM
Recording has started! After lots of writing songs, arranging, rehearsing, hustling, it’s finally time. Now the hard work begins.
Brett and I tracked drums in the studio all morning before hunching back into the bitter freeze. New songs, old new songs, and new old songs.
Scheherazade is finally close to being arranged after five months or so. It’s going to be……epic, beautiful, ridiculous. If, of course, it doesn’t fall flat on it’s face….many of these new songs feel risky…..which is a good thing…..but is why I’m insisting on doing close to thirty before choosing the record’s playlist. That might not be “rational” or “humanly possible”, but I’m doing it anyway. New songs The Itch and One Man To An Army are exciting my inner fake vibrations.
Here’s a couple (random) snippets of sketches/demos I have sitting on my desktop. The Dirty Girls have been working hard to make these into something legendary…
UPDATE: Here’s the show info for tomorrow (NYC, Jan 16th, 8:30 PM) http://www.facebook.com/events/273146779413891/
When did this happen? The band and I have some great shows coming up.
In New York this Monday night (that’s January 16th) I will be performing with some good friends at The Cake Shop. Michael Holt (incredible, prolific pianist/composer/songwriter as well as hilarious performer) will be there as well as some other amazing artists from all over the world. David Celia and Scotty Mack from Toronto we be there as well as Will Hunt from London. Everybody is top notch.
In Richmond, VA Chris Merritt And The Dirty Girls will be playing with legendary Nashville songwriter David Mead. Awesome? Yes. New songs, great artists. (January 25th, 2012). You can’t beat it – it will be an amazing night of entertainment and hot men. Also with Harper Blynn.
(Northern VA – we’re playing a show on January 28th 2012. More info to follow.)
UPDATE: Here’s the show info for tomorrow (NYC, Jan 16th, 8:30 PM) http://www.facebook.com/events/273146779413891/
When I site Third Eye Blind as one of my top ten bands of all time, people usually think I’m joking. Ha. Well, it’s no surprise, given their appearance in every crappy teen-comedy made in the 90s. Stephen Jenkins voice has a flamboyant lisp, and the band has many overused/awesomely cheesy devices – Third Eye Blind is an easy target. Singing “doo-doo-doo” in their most known song didn’t help.
But Third Eye Blind has an element of irony. Semi-Charmed Life, under the bubble-gum pop facade, is the darkest drug-abuse song to ever be played on the radio (and probably will be forever). The brighter the songs get, the darker the lyrics (check out Slow Motion).
They also released some incredible albums after their enormous hit record. Subsequent albums flew right under the radar and contain some of the most masterful, heartbreaking, ass-kicking rock-and-roll songs ever recorded. I love the contrast of Jenkins cheesy, horny, inch-deep lyrics when the man also happens to be a melodic genius.
Here is my challenge to you: suspend your forgone conclusions momentarily and pretend these tracks make up an album and see what you think. They’re some of my favorite songs of all time.
And by the way, Blue is a great album from start to finish.
As far as I’m concerned, there are a few things that once were staples of our society and are now conceptually obsolete (whether they are pragmatically is a different matter).
Music piracy and the music industry have been hot topics in the past ten years, but oddly, no real solutions have been reached. In my opinion, that’s because there never was an argument: technology makes things free and easy – music has been set free. It never was a core physical human need like food or shelter, nor a product, nor a service. Music has never existed on a practical plane. It sits on a cloud above the heads of human animals with science, literature, and all forms of art (in other words, all the best milk our beautiful brain-nipples produce). Capitalism only played well with Art before that sexy home-wrecker Technology came along and made everything free.
By the way, I think even more indispensable to the explosion of piracy is the ease of it’s perpetration. It’s not necessarily that it’s free, but it’s just so much easier to start a torrent download than to put in a bunch of debit card numbers on a website, or go to a store, or deal with iTunes and DRM issues or whatever. I would bet that things would be much different if we had something like the following (and I’m not saying this is a perfect idea, but hypothetically for a minute): what if there was a mandatory tax at the beginning of the year, where everyone had to put 400 bucks into a paypal-like Arts And Sciences account, that was super-easy to use to download new music or movies or fundraising opportunities or whatever. I think people WANT to support the artists/projects they like, but their laziness gets the better of them. I know, at least, that’s what happens with me….
There are a billion asshats out there who are making worthless (to anyone but themselves) music on Garage Band or Pro Tools or whatever. I’m not being mean. It’s great. Sort of.
So anyway, here is my point. With the spread of technology, music has been set free. That’s it. Get over it. It’s discouraging, but then again, I had a very encouraging thought…..
How easy and ubiquitous has paint on canvas been for hundreds of years? Anyone can make a painting. But how many great artists have we had? Many brilliant artists, but probably only the top 1% or less who have ever put brush to canvas. There’s still a blank canvas out there. You can still be great at something. It still matters if you’re great at something. I, for one, plan on making three records this year that have never been made, and are better, more fun, more insane, and more unique and touching than any collection of notes and rhythms out there.