I WANNA PUT YOU IN A BLOG


TORONTO - 09.10.11

I don’t know how this happens, but every time I’ve made it to Toronto, it ends up that I go the whole day without getting a chance to experience the city.  And this time is probably the most pathetic of all, because we were right smack dab (that’s Hoosier-speak for “precisely”) in the middle of downtown, as the picture above denotes. 

Fantastic show though.  As you surmised from the last blog entry, there’s a lot of “newness” on this tour, and I think having one show under our belt with all of the new-icality helped us de-newify and relax a little.  KP had a few ideas about re-arranging the flow of the set, too, and it all worked together much better than the previous evening.  Newtastic.  

The show was at the Air Canada Centre - home of the famous Toronto Maple Leafs!  Maple Leaves?  Maple Leafs. 


Neil from the tour’s catering showed me how to properly make a mocha latte using the tour espresso machine (complete with steam wand), and I’m exceedingly grateful, because knowing how to make these on my own from now on is going to save me a lot of money.  Not that I still won’t make the occasional visit to Tim Horton’s while we’re up here, but this is something I’ve really, REALLY wanted to learn how to do for a long time.

Speaking of, the tour’s catering crew is comprised of Kara, Christian, and the aforementioned Neil.  Good people that we’ve taken to already.  And I was able to work out a little understanding with them that while most of the dining hall is shut down by 8:00PM, they leave the coffee station up long enough for me to pack up my stuff and make a mocha post-set.


While in Toronto, several of my friends were back in Indiana celebrating the marriage of Chris and Bri Thomas.  Really wish I could’ve been there for it; thankful that everybody understood my being out on the road.  Congratulations to Chris and Bri though!

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HAMILTON - 09.11.11

Several of us in the band and crew try really hard out here to get a workout in every single day, but sometimes it requires a logistical miracle.  The logistical miracle that we all needed on Sunday though was simply to wake up about an hour earlier.  I didn’t want to pay $10 to work out at a gym for only 45 minutes, so I opted to get a Spinach, Mushroom, and Swiss Omelet at this cool little local breakfast nook next to the lot where we were parked.  Fantastic mocha there, too.  

We loaded into the Hamilton Convention Center around 1PM to set up for a Canadian Country Music Awards performance later that night.  Soundcheck went quickly, so we had plenty of time to get a workout in for free at the hotel’s gym.  

After cleaning-up, it was pretty easy to talk Andy Davis into grabbing a little Tim Horton’s on the walk back.  


Played the Awards show, then packed up to jettison across town and play the Gibson Guitars Afterparty.  You know me, right?  So you know how excited I was to play at this?  The stipulation was that you had to use Gibson guitars during your two song performance (one original, one cover.)  Busted out the Goldtop for “You Lie,” and used the Deluxe for “Fat Bottom Girls.”  

Luke Bryan and a few of his boys were there to play at the afterparty, too!  I regretted not making it back to the Tim McGraw tour in time to say goodbye to everybody, so it was good to see LB and his boys again.  


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LONDON - 09.12.11

Up in plenty of time, Boone, Fitz, and I grabbed breakfast inside the John Labbatt Centre, and found a YMCA within walking distance afterward.  I gotta say… I’m a huge fan of the Stationary Handcycle, and wish they were standard at every gym.  


Fitz, our violin player, is the biggest Oakland Raiders fan in the world.  He refuses to refer to them by anything except “My Beloved Raiders.”  For weeks, we’ve been warned that if it’s a Raiders gameday, he will commandeer the back lounge and TV, and will scream and jump and cuss for the duration.  Tonight is especially important, because it’s “the only night that they’re guaranteed to have an undefeated record.”

As I type this, the Raiders are about to kickoff to the Broncos.  Fitz is ready to go with all manner of Raiders paraphernalia and about 4 Barq’s Rootbeers.  I’m standing in unity with Fitz tonight, but still keeping my distance.  Thirty seconds into the game and he’s already racked-up about $2M worth of FCC fines.

Anyhow… fantastic day and show here in London, Ontario - a particularly beautiful city.  Every time I’ve been here, I’ve gotten a good vibe from it.

And to top things off, Keith’s videographer - The One They Call “Buttergold” - scored some Pearl Jam tickets for us on our day off in Vancouver!  Zeppelin and Pearl Jam are always fighting it out to be my favorite band.  I’ve never seen PJ live, so this is earthshaking, people.  Dan, Keith’s utility player, caught Pearl Jam last night in Toronto (they played the ACC the night after we did), and said their show was totally boss.  I.  Can’t.  Freaking.  Wait.  

Long entry, I know.  Sorry for cramming three blog entries into one.  Would a few more pictures appease you?  If yes, look below.

Au Revoir,
Thom

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Catering.


My girlfriend’s favorite color is “indie green.”  I use an indie green plate for every meal.


This is a picture of a salad.


J.B. goofing behind Boone’s kit.


Solidarity.


"We got a line in the sky. We got a thing that’s called…"


I shined her up today.  She looks good, doesn’t she?


John Labbatt Centre.



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ADVANCE-OTTAWA-EN AVANT



Hey, errrrbody…

Yesterday, we started the Get Closer Tour w/ Keith Urban in Ottawa - the capital of Canada.  Coolest government buildings I’ve ever seen.  Anywhere.  And the Rideau Canal, originally created in case of war with the U.S., becomes the “world’s largest skating rink” when it freezes over in the winter. 

Boone (drummer), Fitz (violin), Andy (other guitar player), and I walked into the venue, looked at each other, and Boone solemnly says, “Holy crap. We’re opening for Keith Urban tonight.”  There are very few people whose records I’ve consistently bought over the years, but Keith is one of them. 

And all of the reasons why Keith Urban has commanded my respect over the years were all the more reinforced yesterday.  Though not necessarily dangerous, it’s hard to make superlative statements like this one, but I’m going to go ahead and say that Keith might be the best guitar player I’ve ever seen.  Total control of his instrument.  Unmatched tone.  Flawless phrasing.  It was one of those moments that either makes you so sick to your stomach that you give up playing altogether, or you decide right then that you’re not finished progressing - you have more to learn, and you’re going back into The Woodshed to do precisely that. 

I’m going back to The Woodshed, and really excited about it.

Everybody in Keith’s band was super cool, affable.  But while standing backstage just before we started our soundcheck, Keith walked over and struck up a conversation with Boone, Fitz, and me.  First things first, he wanted to know about Andy’s Morgan AC20 (Andy is killing himself for not being around when that happened.)  He loved to talk shop - it was pretty apparent that he still gets off on the idea of being a musician. 

"A cool hand-wired amp, and a good player with good hands.  I don’t know why you really need any more than that."

Amen.

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This tour is a really exciting one for us, not just for the reasons mentioned above, but also because we’ve added a significant amount of production this week - light show and LED screens behind us.  A lot of new stuff to get used to, but we’re loving it.  Got to watch a video of the show on the bus afterward, and we were blown away by how cool it looks and what an enhancement it is.  And the good news is that we’ll be using all of this on our upcoming tour with Reba McEntire this year, and subsequent tours of 2012.

Which, are a surprise.

And no, I can’t tell you.

But yes, they are going to rule.

Anyhow…

Most of the venues we’ll be playing on this tour are massive hockey rinks. Go figure.

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Enjoy a few photos from Ottawa, and as soon as I get a chance, I’ll come back and write an entry about tonight’s show in Toronto! 

True North - Strong & Free,
Thom


My nice, clean Lack-of-Pedals Board.


My rig. Matchless DC30 through a Rivera Silent Sister Iso-cab (for FOH guys who are afraid of Volume.)

)
Boone sitting at his exquisite Ludwig Keystone kit.


Andy Davis and Fitz.


"I am America and so can you."


Andy Davis.



Mo’ Production.




These guys really should offer me an Artist Deal.


Mr. Keith Urban

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LEAD-OFF TRACK OF AEROSMITH’S “ROCKS”

Hello!  It’s been over a year since I’ve blogged.  Not for lack of things to share, but mainly because I hated the design of my blog.  Decided to spend a few dollars on a design somebody else made so I could start writing again.  Silly?

It’s been an interesting year for me since The Elms’ final show.  In this day and age, especially for musicians, you do what you can, you know?  I feel really fortunate that people have called to have me play guitar and bass on their records, some asked me to produce (which is something I’d always wanted to try!), and some even asked me to learn their tunes and play with them on the road (which was the most comfortable, since it’s what I’ve spent most of the past 12 years doing.) 

One of those touring opportunities was with my friends The Band Perry, who had just signed to Republic Nashville.  I filled-in with them for about 3 months, while they auditioned guitar players, until their dad called one night after a show in Florida and asked if I’d come on fulltime and be their guy! 

It’s been wild, busy, and extremely rewarding.  I’ve gotten to do some things, see some places, and meet some people that I never thought I would.  Maybe a few of those things are blog-worthy, even? 

So here we are…

And if I start doing a much better job of updating this thing, maybe it’ll be compelling enough that you’ll start visiting regularly.

We just started a 3 week Canadian tour with Keith Urban last night, and this seems like a good place to start. 

Before I go, what do you think of the new blog layout?  I already know my girlfriend won’t approve (“Too many neutral colors. Why do you hate color?!”), but what do you think? 

Also, apologies that the other pages are blank right now.  I’ll put something in them soon!

Thanks!  Love you muchly.

— Thom

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THE GREAT AMERICAN ANNIVERSARY

Two days ago was the anniversary of “The Great American Midrange.”

Life is good. Things have picked up. I’ve worked three 70 hour workweeks in a row lately. Financial needs are being met and exceeded. Helping others achieve what they hear in their head. Learning a lot. Stretched. Pulled. Ever expanding. On an adventure. A lot to be thankful for.

But if it’s ok for me to get pathetic for a moment, I’ve had a very sad heart this week thinking about where I was and what I was doing a year ago. On September 15th, 2009, my buddies and I released what I consider to be the pinnacle of my creative output thus far - TGAM. I dearly love that album.

I wish we would’ve toured heavily this past year so that more people could know about and experience “The Great American Midrange.” I wish more people would’ve heard our best album.

There are three options:

1) If you’re a sweetheart and would like to purchase the album, you can find a physical copy plus a digital download (with a free acoustic re-interpretation of the album thrown in) in The Elms’ webstore HERE.

2) If you know what you’re doing, you can find anything on The Internet. But please re-consider option #1 before you go this route. Not guilt-tripping you; just doing my due diligence.

3) If you don’t know how to snoop around on The Net to find things, and if you can’t afford to buy the record here in these times of War and Recession, get in touch with me. I can probably figure out how to get you a digital copy if you’d like to hear it.

Cool?

Hope everybody is doing well. No matter what phase of life you’re experiencing at the moment, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.

— Thom

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  • Mike Barthel's Life Is Good (MP3)
  • BETA-TESTING 001

    The Fender Tonemaster is in the shop, and I’m hoping to get it back on Saturday. It’s got an incredible top end that I really need for Eric Baker’s record. So we’re waiting until Saturday to start guitars on E’s album.

    In the meantime, MP and I decided to finish something else we started a few weeks ago.

    I can’t remember how long it’s been, but it was the night I drove up to Columbus to buy El Toro (my exercise bike) off of Craigslist from a man named Abu (not making this up.) My friend Laura (from 92.3 WTTS) called me to say she had a friend named Mike Barthel who really wanted to cut an edgier country album, but wasn’t sure who to make it with. She mentioned me, and then asked if I’d be up for that.

    And my general attitude in life is, “Why not.”

    I’d actually met Mike some time before - he also goes to Grace Community Church in Indy.

    Today, we cut guitars on three of Mike’s songs. Here is a rough mix of one of them, and bare/bear/Baer with it, because it’s a work in progress.

    To be honest, playing Country really isn’t that much of a jump for me.

    This is Chris on the drums, Mike Petrow engineering, and yours truly playing bass and guitars. Hoping to get fiddle on this soon (something needs to pull it into the realm of Country.)

    And we’ll need to record vocals too, of course.

    This one is called “Life Is Good.” A song with that title should make you feel like you’re speeding down the interstate, top down, wind blowing through your hair, and you’ve got a girl with big… personality… riding in the passenger seat.

    With that in mind, am I getting close?

    — Thom

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ERIC BAKER 001



Several months ago, my friend Eric Baker - a talented singer/songwriter/piano-player - asked if we could get together and have coffee. Said he’d written a bunch of tunes over the past couple of years, and it was finally time to record them. I assumed he was about to ask me if I’d play guitar on the album, and I was prepared to say, “Absolutely. I would be honored.”

But then I heard the words, “How would you feel about producing it?”

The idea of producing is something that I’ve always filed under “I really should try that someday”, but I never took it very seriously, even though an engineer and friend here in Indianapolis (Mike Petrow) has been telling me for a few years, “Have you ever thought about producing? I feel like you’re built for that sort of thing.”

I think my grand plan for life was just to play guitar in The Elms for the next 15 years and not do much else, but… well… you know.

Here I find myself. All points converged at me finally seeing if this is something I can do effectively or not.

We chose 10 out of 11 potential songs. We enlisted the help of Chris Thomas on drums. We rehearsed. We spent awhile cutting pre-production demos. We strategized. We strategized some more. And finally, this week, we loaded Chris’s drums into Mike Petrow’s studio to begin work on Eric Baker’s debut record.

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First off, where I feel like I’m qualified to do this is in the realm of listening to the songs and making sure they roll out in the right manner. Dynamics. Instrumentation. Motion. Where I feel like I have a bit to learn is in the way of capturing sounds (engineering.) But thankfully, we had enough in our budget to leave all of that to Mike.

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Monday night, Chris and I drove up to Indy to set up. Mike had all of the mics ready to go, and soon they were all placed and working. 20 tracks of drums, people! Wild. I’m sure we won’t use it all, but it’s certainly nice to have options. I think we’ll be able to create pretty much whatever we want to when it comes to mixdown.

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Tuesday, August 24th:

Eric showed up for breakfast at 9AM, and after a little Sausage & Egg Quiche and Banana Bread, it was time to get to work. All of the sounds were up and rockin’ by 10:30AM. The drums were very lively and exciting! First off, Chris’s kit would sound great even in a janitorial closet, but secondly, Petrow’s drum room is a nice environment, too. Two of the walls are brick, which act as a natural wave diffuser. And dimensionally, it’s perfect for what I wanted to hear.

The plan this week was to cut three songs a day Tuesday-Thursday, and then spend Friday doing aux perc for Eric’s record as well as recording drums on one song for another album we might be starting soon.

But as it happened, instead of knocking out 3 songs on Tuesday, Chris barreled through 5. The last take was pretty much always the money shot, but I’ve got a few other takes if I need to grab something from a previous playlist. I don’t mind the tedious work of editing drums to a grid, but I don’t feel like that would be right for this album, so it’s nice to have the options elsewhere if need be.

Eric played a scratch piano track, sang a scratch vocal, and I played bass in the control room so Chris would have a guide. Eric and I will recut our parts later, but it was nice playing together as a band as opposed to having Chris follow the pre-production demos I’d made. Allowed us to make tempo and arrangement tweaks as we went along.

All-in-all, we finished drums for:

-Kingdom Breaking Through
-Life Is Beautiful
-Come And Be Our Peace
-Tearing This House Down
-The Last Amen

After seeing those titles, you might be asking yourself if this is a Christian album. And I’m not really sure. Eric is the worship pastor at the church I call home in Indy - Grace Community. But I’m not sure how to characterize this one. People ask if it’s a worship album, and it’s not. Then they ask if it’s a Christian album, and I say, “Not really. If people went into listening to this hoping that it’d be a Christian album, they’d probably be disappointed.”

So then… what is it, exactly? And I’d say it’s just… very… Grace Community.

Songs about Justice. Songs about Mercy and helping “the least of these.” Songs that will hopefully wreck us and inspire us to think outside of where we normally live. Tunes that espouse a very practical, others-centered Theology, I suppose. Make sense?

Anyhow…

Tried something really cool with “The Last Amen.” I used Pete Yorn’s “On Your Side” as a reference, and wanted something that sounded almost loop-y, but played loop-y. A really simple drumbeat that we then put an eighth-note slapback on (kick, snare, and hats.) And when I say hats, I mean two 18” crash cymbals that Chris threw on his hi-hat stand. Pretty crazy. Reminded me a little of something Soul Coughing would do. Slight distortion, a lot of room mic, and the slapback make everything sound pretty trippy!

——————————-

Wednesday, August 25th:

Since nobody had expected for Chris to blow the roof off the place like he did the day before, we sensed we’d be finished with the full kit way ahead of schedule. Decided to start the morning with the song we were planning on doing Friday for someone else. Guessing Eric didn’t mind hearing, “Hey, the good news is you don’t have to show up so early today.” And once again, Chris learned and blitzkrieged his way through the song in 23 minutes. Fantastical.

When Eric got there, we finished the following:

-Eyes To The Hills
(I’m pushing for it to be spelled “Eyez 2 Tha Hillz.” Probably shouldn’t get too attached to that idea though.)
-Square Peg In A Round World
-The Chair
-Bridges Burned

I’m tempted to go into more detail about how these songs come off sonically, but think I should wait until we at least finish the bass, piano, and guitar tracks. Even then, who knows if you’d be hearing the same thing that I am.

Nine songs on drums for Eric Baker (the last song on the album will most likely be just piano and a vocal) and another one for a project to be named later. Ten songs in two days. Nothing to scoff at.

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Thursday, August 26th:

Chris had to head back to Seymour last night, and got back up to the studio in Indy today by 9:30AM. In the past, when it came to aux percussion, I’d always used a nice large-diaphragm condenser. Mike’s done a lot of work with Ray Kennedy (part of The Twang Trust - any Steve Earle fans here?), and Ray awhile back told Mike he thought his aux perc tracks could stand to be a little dirtier - told him to cut them into a 57 from now on. And like it does on most other applications, the 57 just seems to outperform all of the higher-end microphones. I was shocked at how cool it was.

Took about two hours to cut shakers and tambos on the 7 tunes we felt needed it. Hung out for a bit, processed (conversationally) what we’d done this week, and then everybody went home except for Mike and I - we felt we deserved a little Chicken Tikka Masala from India Diner for all of our labors.

And that’s it for now, I’ve got a weekend full of drum-comping to look forward to. Hoping I can get around to cutting all of the bass guitar tracks starting Monday or Tuesday? We shall see!

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Thanks for reading. I know it was long, but I had 3 weeks or so of non-blogging to make up for.

As Garrison Keillor tells me every morning…

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

— Thom

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IDENTIFY THYSELF

“It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma. I was working with churches, and the Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me. They saw that I knew their Book and that I shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, that I was an observer in their midst. In time, I came to realize that something was missing as well—that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart and alone.

As the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn not just to work with the church, but to be in the church. For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the biblical call to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and challenge powers and principalities. In its historical struggles for freedom and human rights, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world, as a source of hope.

Perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship—the grounding of faith in struggle—that the church offered me a second insight. You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away—because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on the South Side of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to God’s will and dedicated myself to discovering God’s truth.”

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BUT WEIGHT… THERE’S MORE!

Strange week here. This Saturday will be The Elms’ final rehearsal. One more time to set our instruments up in a circle and bash it out. One more lunch/dinner to convince Chris that he’ll have to order Chicken Teriyaki because the rest of us are getting Sushi. One last time.

I’ve never really understood Escapism before, but the past two months, I’ve been all about it. Really poured myself into Hockey, World Cup, and now the Tour de France. I’ve not really wanted to think about what was approaching.

And that is… next week, Friday the 30th, will be our final show.

——————————-

We’d worked things out to record audio of the show and perhaps release it as a live album if everything turned out alright. But then some good friends of ours - who did the camera work for the “Back To Indiana” video - offered to film the evening as well. Why not go for it?

And the immediate thought here was, “Oh. Crap. This means I have 4 weeks to trim down as much as possible for the shoot.” If it was said a long time ago that “the camera adds 10 pounds”, then how many pounds does an HD camera add? As far as I know, nobody has yet to take up a definitive study.

——————————-

So in the past 2.5 weeks, I’ve dropped 9 pounds. I’m not celebrating just yet - the first few are the easiest. I’d love to fight off another 2-5 pounds before the night of the filming.

And you all are signing up to be my online accountability, right?

I know it sounds really bad, but basically all I’m doing is avoiding meat, avoiding carbs, and LOADING-UP on vegetables. Drinking plenty of water. And spending a lot of time on my exercise bike, El Toro (he looks like a bull - have we been through this before? Perhaps not.)

I love to put El Toro in front of the TV while the Tour de France is on every morning. And since Vs re-runs it desperately all throughout the afternoon and evening, I’ve got several opportunities to ride along with Lance Armstrong, Andy Schleck, and the Spaniard we shall not mention by name (because he’s a jerk who took the Yellow Jersey from Schleck unethically a few days ago.)

And though I’m not a big fan of “The Daily Line”, Jenn Sterger somehow always makes having to sit through it a little more tolerable.

Anyhow, this method seems to allow me to exercise for longer periods of time with more intensity. I’m becoming more and more hep to the idea that I need to save up for a legit bike and start doing this for real. There are several really nice bike trails throughout Indiana that I should be taking advantage of.

And making cycling a hobby is probably the only way for a guy like me to ensure that once the weight comes off, it stays off. If this works, I will have to thank Nathan W. Bennett for saving my life.

(He did 160 miles last Saturday for the R.A.I.N. ride. Averaged 20.2 MPH. It’s just sick, isn’t it.)

——————————-

Can I tell you one last thing? I’m ridiculously excited about the new scale I purchased recently. It’s a Weight Watchers WW78. Records your weight, body fat weight, body fat percentage, water composition, bone mass, BMI, and gives you your lucky lotto numbers for the day. I’ve really no need to ever walk into a Flying J again.

Something tells me that a good habit to develop would be to weigh oneself at the beginning of each week. Then you can keep tabs on whether you’ve been going off-the-rails or not, and if so, adjust accordingly, and reign things back in before it gets out of hand. Because you never know when your band is going to wind up filming a live concert in HD.

It could happen to you.

Thanks for reading! Hope everybody is doing well. Some of you will be traveling to Indiana next week, and I can’t freaking wait to see you guys. One last hurrah, ok? Let’s make the evening legendary.

XXXO,
Thom

p.s. The new M.I.A. record ”/\/\/\Y/\ rules if you don’t already have it. Been loving it this past week.

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ON A COLD WINTER’S NIGHT…

A: “We’d like to thank you all for coming out tonight. We know what a busy time of year this is for all of you. For some of you, you’ve had Finals. And for most of you, you’ve been preparing for Christmas.”

B: “And for some of you, this is your Final Christmas.”

*end scene*

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PRE- & POST-

I was 17, sitting in Mr. Goade’s Advanced Government class my senior year (I am proud of this and bragging - it was considered an honor to be there), looking out the window, listening to everybody recap their summer vacations. My sister Tandee and I lived with our dad, and the man worked his tail off so that we could keep the house 3 miles outside of town that we loved so much. So when it was all said and done, “vacation” for us looked like spending a week at Church Camp, and then driving an hour and a half to Tulsa, OK to eat at Casa Bonita and watch a Tulsa Drillers game (minor league baseball.) Go ahead and laugh, but I really didn’t mind it.

But here I had to sit and listen to these people in 2nd period talk about going to exotic places like CHICAGO, and Florida, and… oh my lord… CALIFORNIA. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, another kid said their family had traveled to London. I thought, “I will never get out of the 4-state Area. I am stuck here; will never do anything cool.”

When Owen Thomas and his family moved to Neosho, MO in 1987, I knew deep in my guts that this guy and I were going to play music together one day. We’d go to every concert that came to Memorial Hall in Joplin and say to each other, “That’s going to be us one day. We’re going to make records. We’re going to be on that stage.”

Owen and I were locker partners at Intermediate in the 6th grade, and I still have a very vivid memory of him walking up between classes one day and saying, “Last hour was Math class. I finished designing our 3rd album cover.”

My 8th grade year, Owen’s dad accepted a job as the new worship minister at a church in Ft. Worth. They would eventually move to Seymour some time later. The move(s) split us apart, but the Thomases were my second family, so obviously, we kept in touch.

Flash forward to age 22. I’m working at Massey Music in Joplin, MO, and I get a call from Owen: “Hey man… Chris and I signed a record deal. Our guitar player and bass player quit because they don’t want to go on the road. There is only one guy in this world who is meant to play guitar in my band. This is our chance. Will you move to Indiana?”

I packed my stuff and showed up on his front porch days later.

We were finally fulfilling what we’d always talked about. Livin’ in the 21st Century, doin’ somethin’ mean to it. Making music we believed in.

And it was taking me places that I’d never been before. I saw the most exotic places like… CHICAGO, and Florida, and California, Canada, and eventually Europe, too.

——————————-

Somewhere, right now, a 34 year old mother and her 16 year old daughter each have a glittery animated gif banner on their respective Myspace profiles that says, “Don’t be sad that it ended; be happy that it happened.”

I’ve known about The Elms’ dissolution for about 6-7 weeks now. Despite having all of that time to prep myself for the June 1st announcement, Tuesday was still an incredibly emotional day. I thought I was going to be fine, but I’d underestimated one element that was to later become a part of the mix: your reaction.

I didn’t know what the feedback was going to be. I was taken aback reading a lot of your comments. The response that seemed the most eloquent to me was simply some people who wrote “Nooooooo!” You guys said many, many wonderful things that absolutely mean the world to me.

For years, I’ve had this recurring thought swirling about: “The number one thing that people want is a Feeling of Importance, and we all go about getting it in a different way.” I am guilty, and this week, you completely made me feel like something I was a part of really mattered. I can’t thank you enough for that.

I am thankful that Owen and I finally got to do our thing. I’m thankful that I got to be in a band with three other guys who are as unnervingly obsessed with and dedicated to their musical craft as I’ve always been. Much like Owen said in the official statement on TheElms.net, I really don’t know a better drummer, bass player, or singer/writer. I wouldn’t switch them out for anybody else if I were given the chance to create my own “Dream Band.”

Have you read Owen’s latest blog? I don’t know anybody who is a better communicator than him. To think that I got the opportunity to share in the life of somebody who thinks the kinds of thoughts that he thinks, and says the things that he so effortlessly says… I think one major reason why I’ve not taken the time to pen any lyrics these past 10 years is because, well, when you’re in a band with someone as gifted as Owen, why even freaking bother?!

I’ve been really fortunate to lock-arms with them, play Rock & Roll, and know them as something more than brothers.

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I’m also grateful that I got to work with so many of my recording heroes. To name a few: Richard Dodd. David Bianco. Brent Milligan. Stephen Marcussen. Bob Ludwig. And maybe most importantly to me: Adam Kasper.

Other people can decide for themselves which of our four records was our best, but for me, “The Great American Midrange” feels like our greatest achievement. We’d finally nailed the sound that we’d all heard in our heads for years. That album is the summation of 10 years’ worth of experience. Our best songs. Our best instrumental parts. Our best performances. Our best sounds. Our most-focused statement. I love all of our other records, too, but I’ll always hold up “The Great American Midrange” and feel accomplished.

And it was so much fun to make. For all of you who watched the process via the live stream, I hope you took away from it how much we enjoyed making music, and how much we truly cared.

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I’ve been asked by many to answer the question, “So what’s next for you, Thom?” Hooooo-boy.

I really wish I could tell you that I already have that figured out. Wish I could tell you with assurance that I’m doing THIS and am really excited about IT.

But I don’t. And I can’t.

I’ve been asking God for 6-7 weeks, “What am I supposed to do next? You show me where to go, and I’ll do it. I’m good at Math; do you want me to go back to school and become an Accountant? I’ll do it!”

I don’t have specifics, but what I feel like He’s saying to me generally is, “You’re not done making music. Hang on, and I’ll lead you to what’s next.”

I’ve been filling-in on guitar every once in awhile with The Band Perry these past couple of months. And I’ve driven to Nashville and Indianapolis here and there to play sessions on other people’s records. A really good and insanely-talented friend of mine has asked me to produce an album for him, and we will start that sometime this summer. I’m excited to help him make an album that he can be proud of.

Even as much as an hour ago, I got a phonecall and was presented an opportunity to do something that I would never have expected - not in a million years. Will it work? Will it happen? I really don’t know. It’s just interesting to me how the strangest things will present themselves. Evidence of God’s provision? Quite possibly.

For the first time in my life, I am a blank slate. I am clinging to that Unseen Hand, hoping that it shape-shifts every once in awhile into an index finger pointing me in a certain direction.

It very well might mean moving to Nashville, TN to play guitar.

I think it’ll also mean laying down some of my preferences in order to really be of service to other people as a player. I don’t mind this though. I can’t help but sound the way I sound (tone comes primarily from your hands), but I’m welcoming the challenge to learn a few other techniques that I’ve not needed up to this point.

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Will I make a solo album now? I’ve been getting that one a lot, too. Who knows?! I’d love to. Plenty of instrumental ideas that need to be joined to lyrics. And plenty of vocal exercises that need to be sung every morning for a whole year to beat my voice into shape. Per chance that I feel like the songs and my voice are ready down the road, I’ll enlist a buddy to lay down some drum tracks, and then I’ll go absolutely crazy playing everything else. It’d be too much fun.

We’ll see.

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Really… thank you so much, everybody. You lifted me up during an incredibly emotional week. If you wouldn’t mind stopping for a quick second to say a prayer for me, that God would reveal His plans for my life, and that I won’t do something really stupid to miss them, I would appreciate it.

Love you muchly.

"Be well, do good work, and keep in touch."

— Thom

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