The Fun of Home-Ownership

I come from a family of do-it-yourselfers. It keeps us busy on the weekends – every weekend, actually. My mom says my dad does better with projects, which probably explains why we’ve built a dock, a barn, a greenhouse, and countless other projects over the years.

Earlier this summer, we had a little issue pop up, as they do, as we were headed out the door to Wisconsin. I got home from work, we were packing up the car, and I decided to get a quick shower before we hit the road. As I turned off the water, I realized the tub was not draining. I did not want to leave standing water in the tub as we left for a week.

First I tried snaking the drain – no good. I tried plunging the drain – nothing. I called my dad. He said he and mom were out “checking the mail.” They check out mail when Jessie and I are out of town because they like being helpful and, more importantly, they have to pass a Sonic (their favorite dessert date spot) on the way to our house. Dad said to get on the road – he and mom would be over in a few minutes.

The bad news came when dad figured it was just time to replace some of the old pipes. Lucky for us, below our bathroom is another bathroom in bad need of renovation. This meant drywall could come out.

We replaced a section of drain pipe, and now we are back in (the showering) business. I’ll save you the gory details (mainly because it’s hard to type these things on a mobile device), but I will give you a few gory pictures below.

Next time, I’ll update you on my dad’s gardening skills and greenhouse project.

Old pipe that needed replacing

Clogged old pipe

Clogged old pipe

Clogged old pipe

Dad inspecting the newly installed drain pipe

Burning up the Road

Apparently Jessie and I have been burning up the road.  How do I know?  In the last seven days, we have replaced seven tires.  I already posted about the two camper tires last week.  Today we brought five new tires into the family.

This weekend we had a show in Florida, and Jessie’s car needed an oil change.  I decided that I should do a tire rotation too, so I took it to my grandfather’s shop Thursday night to do all of the work.  I jacked up the car and took off the tires while the oil cooled.  As I was rotating them, I noticed one tire was so worn on one side that I could see the cords that are embedded under all the rubber.  That was not good.

I went ahead and changed the oil (it’s much easier with the front passenger-side wheel removed), and I put the bad tire in a position where I thought it would get the least amount of wear.  It was 9 p.m. the night before we leave for Florida – no time to get new tires before we leave.  The rest was going to be luck.

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Jessie kissing a gator at Bayou Bill’s in Florida

We made it down there, did our gig, had a fun weekend on the beach with our friends, and then headed home Sunday afternoon.  Monday morning, I was at the tire shop having my tires (I thought) balanced to remedy some shaking I noticed as I towed the camper back from Paducah.  Unfortunately, one of my tires was beginning to separate, meaning I needed a new tire.  $$

I had made an appointment for Jessie to get new tires today too, somewhere between teaching music lessons and meetings.  $$$$

All this on top of the two camper tires, having work done on my truck, and my gas-and-tire-saving bicycle being stolen.  It’s been a rough couple of weeks around these parts.  My friends suggested we start a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to replace my bike so I can get back and forth from work.  It seems more and more like a good plan every day.

We have a couple of shows in Wisconsin this weekend.  I’m hoping we sell a bunch of merch at these shows to help offset all of these recent costs.  For those of you who won’t be in Wisconsin, feel free to check out Jessie’s merch over at Swampicana.com – there are even a few new items I have yet to add to the online store.  That reminds me – I need to add the new Jessie Smith tank tops to the store.

Maybe we can make a case for a tire endorsement…

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This is Cam and me getting the spare tire out to put on the camper somewhere in Nebraska.

Saving Money + Healthy Living

I’ve always been pretty active. My wife will tell you I can’t sit still, which isn’t far from the truth. I completed my first half-marathon this April. On Saturdays, I’m always working in the yard, on the house, or on the pop up camper. I started thinking and then talking to a few coworkers about commuting to the office on a bicycle.

When I was a kid, I biked every day to school. It was about four blocks of freedom. I knew every crack in the sidewalk that created a mini ramp and every curb that would jolt me through the bike frame. I’ve always loved bicycles. I searched online for several days and found a good road bike in good shape for a good price.

Last Saturday, I took a test ride from home to the office. I wanted to make sure I could do it, and I needed to know just how long the commute would be. It took me just over an hour – only 20 minutes longer than it takes to drive. I couldn’t wait for Monday.

Monday I made it to the office, and I felt great! It was a long, hot, sweaty ride, but I felt great that I did it. On the way home, my chain popped loose, but that was an easy fix. It delayed me only a minute or so, and I was back on the road.

Tuesday came around, and I had to stop by the jewelry store to pick up my wife’s ring that had been repaired. The store is only just off my route to work, so I biked again. As I left the store, I decided to take a shortcut through the local college campus. As I turned into the parking lot of campus, I couldn’t hit the curb head-on. This popped the tube in my back tire. Luckily, the first thing I did when I got my bike was to purchase a helmet and a repair kit for my tubes. A couple minutes later, I had a new tube installed, and I was once again back on the road.

Today I drove to the office since an early meeting would have had me waking up too early to make the trek via bicycle. It has also been a welcomed day of rest. Tomorrow I’ll be back on the bike.

Doing some math, I save almost $7 per day that I ride my bike. I also get a killer workout. I’m hoping to keep biking about three days a week. I want to the bike to pay for itself, then start saving for A/C for my truck. I get some savings, I get my workout, and I save on my carbon footprint. Hopefully I can keep it up for a while.

A Fly-Fishin’ Musician

I got into fly fishing in August of 2016. It has quickly become my escape from music; my outlet to help me clear my head. More on that in a different post.

Jessie and I had a great weekend this weekend. It started off with playing for a private event on Friday night. We had a great time, and it seemed that everyone else did too! Then it was off to my parents’ lake house for the two of us.

We got up to the lake around 2 am and settled into bed pretty quickly. We were the only ones there, so we had a quiet house to sleep late into the morning. Saturday afternoon, we joined my cousins for a birthday party for their two year-old’s birthday party. We had a blast sitting around and watching him play on the inflatable water slide.

We headed back to the house for some afternoon naps. Well, Jessie napped. I cut the grass. We laid around the house the rest of the evening. It was so refreshing to get some much-needed rest! We finally felt like we caught up on sleep!

Sunday was a very lazy day. We did take some tome to go fishing. I had been fishing already on Saturday, but on Sunday, Jessie and I fished together. Jessie took a fly fishing class with me a couple of weeks ago, and she was ready to try out her skills on the water. We spend a little time by the boat ramp with no success.

Later in the afternoon, just before sunset, I took her out in the canoe. I hit some spots that usually hold fish, but nothing was biting. Finally, after about 45 minutes, we found one! Jessie caught a little bluegill all on her own on a fly! She loved it! A few minutes later, she also caught a small bass. I think she got the hang of it.

Monday morning rolled around, and our weekend of relaxation was over. We woke up early and drove to Knoxville for WDVX’s Blue Plate Special concert series. We had a blast and met some really great people. Then it was back home where we are preparing to jump back into our “normal” routines. Nothing is normal when you’re a musician.

What a great weekend! It was a much needed respite in between gigs, and I’m glad we took advantage of it. Bring on tomorrow!

All It Takes Is a Little Progress

Sometimes music gets hard.  It gets frustrating.  It feels like it is going nowhere.  Fast.

That’s when a little progress can help.

This last week, we found a little progress.  My wife has written some new songs and found one by a fantastic and well-decorated songwriter here in town, and we are itching to get them recorded.  This week, we made progress on finding a producer/engineer to help us make those songs come to life.  There is still much to do, but every little bit helps.

On top of that, several shows are coming together.  A show here, a show there.  Each one means another $1 in tips (really, that’s what we average – Nashville apparently doesn’t believe in tipping for music), more exposure, and if we are lucky, one CD sale.  Riveting stuff here, folks.

One day at a time.  One show at a time.  One song at a time.  It all starts with a song, and then that song must be sung.  That song must be heard.  That song must be loved.  Then that song can be sung back.  I can’t wait for that last one.

Can’t wait.

You Get For What You Pay

“You get what you pay for,” or as the grammar-nerd in my likes to correct, “You get for what you pay.”

Music doesn’t make a whole lot of money.  Sure, there are some superstars, but that’s the exception.  For every superstar, there are hundreds and thousands of musicians (and drummers) who play for fun, play for tips, play for food, and play for beer.

Music, even as a hobby, is not cheap.  Let’s break it down to it’s cheapest form:

Buy a guitar.  That’s a couple hundred dollars, at least.

Take lessons.  You can either take lessons and pay someone for it, or you can learn yourself.  Either way, you’re spending your time.  Someone once said time is money.

Learn songs.  You have to hear songs before you can learn them, which probably means purchasing (or stealing, whichever your conscience lets you do) songs.

There you go.  You’re still looking at several hundred, maybe even thousands, of dollars.  No biggee.

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The masses don’t always understand what it takes to have music for an event.  I get that.  I don’t know what all it takes to build a hospital.  But I do ask others that build hospitals what kind of money it takes to build hospitals.  If I can’t afford it, I don’t build hospitals.  If music is expensive, I guess you’ll just have to go without.

Something that also goes into having music is amplification.  Most every bar, restaurant, clothing shop, and gas station in Nashville has a PA system because they all have live music.  However, go outside of the city limits, and people don’t always think about these things.  I get it.  However, it then puts the musician in a tough place – somehow it becomes the musician’s job to now track down a PA system.

The life of a beginning artist – you learn who your friends are.  The ones that have PA systems.  The ones that let you borrow those PA systems.  The ones that have it ready to go at a moment’s notice.  The ones that let you use it rent free.  Man, I love those friends.

Give Up

Music is hard.

“The perishing is more likely, and will be a lot easier anyway.”  – Samwise Gamgee, “Lord of the Rings”

It’s easier to give up.  Chances are success will not be attained.  Why go after dreams in the first place?

I’ve always been a dreamer.  I used to sit in my room at night and play guitar, imagining I was playing (and sometimes singing) in front of thousands.  I never actually thought I would get to do that, but I didn’t care – I was dreaming.

As a dreamer, I’m not really sure what motivates the “non-dreamers.”  I’ve never met someone that labeled himself a non-dreamer, but I suppose they are out there.  What motivates him to wake up in the morning and get out of bed?

For music, it’s my dreams that motivate my practice.  I want to fulfill my dreams.  Maybe it’s a sense of duty for non-dreamers to practice.  That sounds like it would quickly lead to burn out.  That ain’t my style.

I was fortunate enough to have parents that supported pretty much any extracurricular activity I fancied.  Baseball and guitar were the two with which I stuck the longest.  Music longer than baseball.  I’m thankful for that support – showing up at every game, tee ball through senior year of high school; buying me my first guitar and lessons at age 8; allowing me to take over weekends and summer vacations with days at the ball park; chipping in to help me buy my Taylor in 8th grade; loving me all along the way.

It’s late and it’s time to head off to dreamland.  Luckily, I’m a dreamer.  Tonight looks to be filled with dreams of songs and stories, and I couldn’t be any more excited for what’s ahead.