About Ordinary Miracles

This music has been over 35 years in the making.  Well, probably longer than that… My Dad got me started when I was about 10 years old.  I was classically trained on clarinet by the principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra.  Great training, but I had other stuff cookin’…  By the early 1970s I taught myself guitar (started off with those good ol’ folk songs at summer camp), and once I heard Elton John, I just HAD to teach myself piano!

And then I moved to California and began the rock-n-roll life…

Since the mid 1970s I’ve been playing and touring, and all that time had been writing songs.  But I was usually either a sideman for folks like Elvin Bishop, Peter Tork or David Rea, or I was fronting cover bands.  So there was very little opportunity to play any of my own stuff.  My only opportunities were the short-lived groups The Big Picture alongside my brother Adam, and a stint with John Nady, inventor of the Nady Wireless microphone system (our band was perhaps best known for John literally buying the largest club in San Francisco so we could headline there, and be the first band in the world to perform completely wireless).

So most of my mojo has gone into other people’s music all these years.  I had the absolute pleasure of working on many albums with the likes of Grammy-winner Steve SeskinDavid Maloney, Zoe Burke , Grant Baldwin , Douglas Closson, Mary Miche and got to be a part of the wonderful project The Best of Blasphemy (along with the FABulous Tom Lehrer) produced by my very dear friends NJ Young and Ann Callicrate (aka Sister Helen Earth).  I also produced lots of singer/songwriter recordings for other folks, which was really enjoyable and fulfilling.  Since I could play most all of the instruments, I got the opportunity to help them flesh out their material and bring it out in the open.  And during the many years of touring, I’ve shared the stage with lots of terrific musicians such as Buddy Guy, Boz Skaggs, Joan Jett, Taj Mahal, Robert Jr Lockwood, Greg Kihn, Marty Balin and many others.  But my own music stayed mostly in my basement…

I figured I’d just work on it gradually on my own and make the album in my free time.  Uh huh.  And anyone that knows me knows that I am really the last person who understands that I don’t have free time…  So anyway, after too many ridiculous years of trying to do this in my home basement studio, I finally realized I’d be a bazillion years old before it’s done, so I finally took the plunge and started recording at a REAL studio, Lava Room Recording after meeting the producer I never thought I could find.  Chris Ebbert, half my age, and a Full Sail grad really GOT it.  He understood my songs, understood me, and had the skills, talent, determination and insanity to partner with me to make it happen.

Things got extra cool when Joe Vitale came on board…

This was a freakin’ dream come true for me.  Joe is one of the most famous and most respected drummers in the world.  For over 45 years, he’s toured and recorded with The Eagles, Joe Walsh, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, John Lennon, Peter Frampton, Dan Fogelberg, Ted Nugent, Ringo Starr (dood played drums for Ringo, knowhatI’msayin?!?), Bill Wyman, John Entwistle, Zakk Wylde, Keith Richards, Rick Derringer and many more. Joe’s been on over 50 Gold and Platinum albums.  He was incredibly enthusiastic about my music and has been a real friend and supporter.  So Joe, Chris and I spent three glorious days laying down the drum tracks for the album–Joe used the same kit he used on the Buffalo Springfield reunion tour.  It was one of the ultimate highlights of my life!

Our original game plan was to have the album done in 4 months.  After all, it was 19 songs…

FOR THE NEXT 20 MONTHS we spent over 1,400 hours in the studio.  Just about every week I would be in there 2-3 days a week or more trying to get these songs out of my head and out into the world.  I played guitars and more guitars (hey here’s a new idea, have you ever heard a Les Paul through a Marshall?!?!  No shit, you should try it!), piano, piano again, all sorts of keyboards (including Joe’s awesome B3 and Toy Piano), bass, a different bass, oh wait let’s try a different bass, sax, clarinet, banjo, harmonica (oh HELL yes!), bongos, congas, shakers, tambourine (ok look, it’s freakin’ harder than you think!), digital drum toys, my own heartbeat (um, dood, can you slow it down to the song tempo so I don’t have to edit?!?), vocals, squirrels, vocals, and more vocals……

My casual basement demo style had to be brought up to the quality of Joe’s drums and Chris’ sound.  That was a tall order, my friends…  Chris would keep me focused as best he could, but there were lots of days where we both had to let the music take us where it needed to go.  It was more fun than I can describe (I’ll never look at Dr Pepper the same ever again), and it was also at times incredibly hard, frustrating, ego-crushing, gloriously magical, and inspiring at levels I had only dreamed we could reach.  But we did it.  Blowed up Pro Tools more times than I can count, and wasted more innocent electrons than anyone before us, but it was all worth it!

I was helped out by some of the best session players in town, and also got big-time musical love from the extraordinary Vincent Ruby and the wonderful Anne E DeChant: more on their contribution can be found here.

AND DON’T MISS THE TWO BONUS DOWNLOADS (especially all the Anne E fans out there!) because profits from these two as well as Change Your World will be donated to Save The Children, so please get in on that!

Please be sure to visit my Thanks page for more acknowledgments, but the Ordinary Miracles story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the team at Lava.  They are the BEST!  Mike Brown, the one and only Michael Amadaeius Pfaff, Sarah Bailey, Don DeBiase, Dave Polster, Chelsea Haines, Sam Osborne and many other interns who were in on the sessions.  Now if we could just get some real pencils in here, some non-pansy coffee creamer and would somebody stop stealing the damn Sharpies?!?, we’d be ready to do that remake of Pet Sounds.

So, a guy walks into a bar with a toad on his head…… Oh, never mind.  You should probably just click here now.  Or have a listen: