I’ll be releasing some music to the world, via all the usual digital channels, this Friday, July 27. To celebrate I’ll be performing those 5 songs and others at Barbes that very evening, at 8pm, joined by Jason Nazary and Ryan Dugre.
I’m so very proud of this song from Ana Egge’s new record, and happy to see this incredible video by Taylor Ashton. You should see it too!
And/or you should catch me playing with Ana, live ….
(dates here: http://www.anaegge.com/shows/)
And you can also catch me playing some other music in Brooklyn this month …
July 11 me and Grant Gordy and Jared Engel and Raphael McGregor are gonna do something fun at Rockwood 1, 9pm
July 27 me and Jason Nazary and Ryan Dugre are gonna play all these songs I’ve been writing the past year while listening to the national news nonstop, at Barbes at 8pm. And if I can get it together (and I think I can!) that same week 5 of those songs will finally be made available on all the contemporary digital music distribution services of note.
ps — I’m in Brooklyn these days working on records (for and/or with Lissa Schneckenburger, Zoe Guigueno, Taylor Ashton, Zusha, Roy Williams, Teddy Thompson, Mike Robinson …) Wanna make a record? Let’s make a record. It’s fun.
A song I wrote with Ana Egge, for her new album (out next month) got some attention this morning from the folks at Billboard.
(My parents have heard of Billboard!)
not this winter, though that’s been weird too …
i wrote this one LAST winter, as unprecedented weather matched unprecedented national news, and I was thinking about it all watching a fire burn itself out in my good friend’s Philadelphia backyard.
Uproxx published some nice words about the just-released first single from Ana Egge’s new record (which I produced):
And it’s all the other electronic places, if you look for it (like Spotify, Apple Music, and the like). Listen! It’s good!
I’m joining Ana at Rough Trade on April 12 (see the sidebar on the right) … and all sorts of other places in the coming months. (I’ll add them to the calendar, too … just gimme a minute)
I do really love to live in Brooklyn. Lot’s of fun projects, many of them facilitated by our new fine friendly-neighborhood studio, are either recently or just-now or shortly available for everyone to hear.
More wonderful music, soon to be released, includes the new Okkervil River record (featuring lots of snaggle-tooth tiger horns) and an album of incredible songs by Ms. Ana Egge which I was given the honor of producing!
I have shows upcoming in NYC and Boston, as well as a trip to SXSW to play with Cuddle Magic and Okkervil River, and other trips …
Mar. 8 – Solo – opening for the Stash Band at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA
Mar. 14-18 – SXSW in Austin, TX – showcases wi/ Cuddle Magic and Okkervil River
Mar. 23 – Cuddle Magic at the Finger Lakes Thaw, Ithaca, NY
more stuff to be shuffled around and confirmed very soon — i’ll update as I figure it all out.
Here is a Wichita line, in homage to the late Glen Campbell and to Jimmy Webb, who is still on (and entirely of our) time.
Thanks to Trevor Dunn (heard here on electric bass), Jason Nazary (on the drum set), and Robin Macmillan (as recording engineer for our productive first day in Williamsburg).
Andrew and I are playing two duo concerts at this end of this week. Friday Oct. 6 in Montague, MA (details upon request) and Saturday, Oct. 7, at Barbes in Brooklyn. The Barbes show is the first of four Saturdays I’ll be in-residence at Barbes … presenting different ensembles each week at 6pm.
The entire month of Saturdays at Barbes includes so many of my favorite musicians, friends both new and old. I could not be happier:
Oct. 7 wi/ Andrew Dimola
Oct. 14 wi/ Taylor Ashton & Akie Bermiss
Oct. 21 wi/ Jennifer Kimball, Maeve Gilchrist, Daniel McDowell
Oct. 28 wi/ Wes Corbett, Brittany Karlson, Duncan Wickel
There’s a funny shame–a discomfort with presumed privilege–in attending Harvard, that institution at the pinnacle of American higher education. So this is a very old joke: A liberal and civic-minded alumnus will speak only of having attended college in Cambridge, near Boston, and reveals even that information only when pressed.
I have enough comedian friends (professional and amateur) that I get to regularly enact a post-modern variation. I answer simply, straightforwardly, careful not to shy from the embarrasment of my own privilege. And they respond very quickly, “Where is that?” I like this joke a lot.
Privilege at Harvard is a complicated thing. All graduates benefit from the brand. To complete the basic requirements of a Harvard degree, even barely and with great difficulty, can still give one entry into a number of well-regarded professional schools. And, should a young man or woman tire, by age 22, of academic pursuits, the same piece of paper can be presented to employers as virtual proof-of-competence. The school helps by giving just about everyone who makes it through ‘honors’ (90% of students, last I checked.) But not all students begin Harvard with the same advantages.
I wrote this song inspired by a classmate of mine. Out of respect for his privacy I will not identify him by name. I should clarify, I did not know him when we were students. I do not know him now. But I did not need to know him to be inspired by his struggle.
For he arrived at Harvard after a very troubled upbringing. Raised amidst repressive religious orthodoxy, with a combative father who presided over his bickering clan’s contentious family business, he was only a mediocre high school student. Nor did he shine, academically, as an undergraduate. His studies were strained by all the time he committed to working (still the family business called!) those four years.
Upon graduating, when most young men would begin a journey of self-exploration, to pursue their own unbounded dreams, he faced a sobering reality. His disreputable father having been sent away to federal prison, he stoically took on leadership of the family business himself.
Never did his path become easy! Through his twenties he made numerous naive business blunders, as well as a not-brief-enough foray in the waning world of print journalism.
But, never once, did he admit defeat.
And today, through all this adversity, he has arrived at a position of influence and power few could have foreseen. He is poised now, to affect the lives of so many Americans, and people around the world, in awesome, truly consequential and potentially irreversible ways.
This song goes out to him.
It’s called “Anybody Can Grow Up to Buy the USA”
Performed and Produced by me (Alec Spiegelman)
Written by Alec Spiegelman & Christopher McDonald
Christopher and I began writing this song at his gorgeous grand piano, in his home, in West Philadelphia. It could be this is the first recording of any music composed at that piano since it arrived at its present address. It is on the open-plan first floor between the sitting area (right where you walk in) and the kitchen, where there used to be a dining-room table.
Illustration by Taylor Ashton
What can I say? — 2017 has been, thus far, an incredibly fertile year for songwriting!
Perhaps it was the unusually warm winter and corresponding ubiquity of massive outdoor social gatherings in public spaces. Or maybe it’s been due to the unusually boisterous online social activity, as it daily demonstrates a growth of interest in the grand traditions and so-artfully-constructed mechanisms of our aspirationally-representative democracy.
I really can’t say. But I can say that I’ve been writing a lot.
So I’m very happy to share with you the first fruits of that fertility, beginning with my own humble contribution to a hoary niche of the faux 18th-century library-of-ideas that is Americana:
the ode to a woman with two first names.
The canon of such songs is not insubstantial.
For instance, there is Bobbie Sue, from that Tennessee-bred gospel-to-the-mainstream close-harmony four piece, the Oak Ridge Boys.
Five other (beach) boys give us Barbara Ann, making similar use of a musical stutter.
In 1957, Buddy Holly loves Peggy Sue. In 1959, Buster Brown loves Fannie Mae. In 1982, toying with convention, Michael Jackson claims not have loved Billie Jean, and protests paternity.
Rod Stewart, from London, adopts the trope in Maggie Mae, among many questionably successful state-side borrowings.
Another Brit, reverses the gender roles: Recall Dusty Springfield singing to us of Billy Ray, who’d grown up in the church.
In all these classic songs the woman proudly standing in for American feminitity is designated in duple, with a compound name: two, separately commonplace, female first names beside each other.
Now I’ve written one of those songs: it’s called Kelly Anne.
Feel free to share it with whomever.
I’ll have four more tracks completed, family to this one, in a week or so, at which point I will post all of them together as an ‘EP’ on bandcamp, I think. I’ve heard that’s the least socially-irresponsible digital platform for the sale of recorded music, at the moment.
I’ve got new songs, which I’ll be playing in public. Wanna hear them? Show up to one of the following:
Club Passim, 3/22 – with Jennifer Kimball
The Owl Music Parlor, 3/23 – with Jennifer Kimball & Hannah Read
Three’s Brewing, 3/29 – with Taylor Ashton & Anna Roberts-Gevalt
Three’s Brewing, 4/16 – with Iris Lune, Rachael Price & Vilray Bolles, and Maddie Rice
For reference, here are some slightly less new songs: