Category: Actor/Musician


The 1st Annual Austin Tribute Band Community Awards

To not bury the lede, today I was voted “Best Multi-Instrumentalist” in the first annual Austin Tribute Band Community awards.

As a member of the Beatles tribute group The Eggmen, we also won Best One-Off Show for our show where we played the entire albums of A Hard Day’s Night and Abbey Road, and we were also voted into the Hall Of Fame.

Amusingly, I was not visible in either photo because in one I was behind someone else, and the other was taken before I joined full-time. I say amusingly because there’s a joke among keyboard players that we are never in photos. We always end up getting cropped out, obscured, or otherwise forgotten. It doesn’t actually bother me but I do find it funny and weird how true it often is!

These awards were started because the hugely popular Austin Chronicle music awards made the bad decision (in my opinion) to remove cover and tribute bands from the categories. If you are one of those cover/tribute band snobs, don’t even bother commenting as it will be deleted. It just shows you know nothing. The most talented musicians I’ve ever known throughout my life all play covers as well in addition to whatever other projects they have going. Most make the bulk of their living from cover music and only a very tiny, lucky fraction get to a place where they can make a living from original music. Most big bands like The Beatles started playing mostly covers if not all covers.

First and foremost, let me say how immensely grateful I am to be recognized at all and for everyone who took the time and effort to go fill out the form and vote. It really does mean a lot to me and please don’t let any of what follows undermine that very important point. I say that because I have a very complicated relationship with awards “competitions.” I always have. Not just this one. The main reason being that for every one person who is ultimately lifted up, there are countless people who end up feeling kind of bummed, “less than,” not-enough, unappreciated, or unrecognized and that’s a bummer to me. Being an artist of any sort is a very difficult life and I know how it feels to feel unseen or underappreciated. It probably doesn’t help that a LOT of us (maybe even most of us) suffer from imposter syndrome quite a lot!

Competitions such as this one can be extra frustrating in that they are purely by popular vote. No panel of industry judges, or academy or anything, although the ATBC is looking to remedy that next year with a combination of popular vote and industry experts as well. So it mainly just ends up being who can get the most people to go vote. Who has the largest base? Who is going to campaign and hustle and try to rally them to go vote?

This is where it gets complicated on a more personal level as well for me. I’ve been lucky enough to have a handful of videos go viral on Instagram and Tik Tok. This led to an influx of followers, so unlike most people I had a potential audience of 90K people on IG and 144K on TT (though as most people will tell you, you generally only reach a very infinitesimal fraction of those people). I am also someone who is very active on social media. In a contest where it’s purely about hustling voters to the poll, these things give me an edge. Now, the other side of that is that hopefully these people don’t just go blindly vote for me because I said so, but because they’ve seen all my various videos playing various instruments and singing so it’s not necessarily unearned in any, I just have the luxury of more resources and greater reach. There were many other nominees who I know to be some of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever seen, much less played with. Some of them weren’t even aware of this competition at all. Some of them got nominations but don’t live online all the time of have a huge audience to tell to go vote. I’m bummed for my friends who didn’t win or weren’t even nominated because I’m their biggest fan and think they absolutely deserve the recognition but hey that’s just not possible in awards competitions.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always said that you absolutely should enjoy any kudos that come your way when they come. Enjoy that moment in the sun. Just don’t let it, or that lack of it define you or your validation. I can 100% guarantee you that there’s many folks out there you’ve never heard of (or maybe even you) who are light years beyond me on every instrument I play. My motto that I’ve repeated many times in life is “Keep your head down and do good work.” Do it for the journey, not the destination. Not the awards, not the praise. I will enjoy this moment in the spotlight, but I also enjoy it because I didn’t do it by myself. It took all of you as well, and I’d go so far as to say, your part in it was way more important than mine. I didn’t think I stood a chance. If you voted for me, I do not take that lightly and I do fully think about and appreciate each and every person who thought enough about me to do that. It’s not for me, it’s for us.


“Better” Is Out Now!

I dropped a new song tonight!

This year was the first year I watched The Oscars in as long as I can remember and I really enjoyed it. I was particularly happy that “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish won Best Song as I thought it was the most powerful. It made me want to write something like that. I took a walk that night and the words started coming to me immediately. I knew I wanted something simple with just piano, vocal, and a string quartet.

I was house/pet sitting for a friend so when I got back to the house, I sat down at the piano there which was a bit out of tune and had some dampers that didn’t work. At first “What Was I Made For” was stuck in my head and I was having a hard time getting away from it to write something original, but enough experimenting finally got me there. Interestingly, my last song, New Year was also written while house/pet sitting for a different friend on the keyboard they had at their house.

I knew I wanted to do something simple not only because of the inspiration of Billie’s song, but also because I knew I had a tendency to feel the need to make things more complicated to try and feel more “musically advanced” or original even though there’s plenty of very simpler songs that I love. So the song is largely one repeating motif with a few variations. Of course me being me, I could just keep it to simple regular chords but had to find interesting voicings and changes. Writing 4 parts for the string quartet (which I played using the BBC Symphony Orchestra plugin from Spitfire) keeps lots of motion and variety in it as well.

Another sort of exercise is that I generally write pretty autobiographically and have always admired songwriters who could write purely fictional “story” songs. So while there’s definitely plenty of elements from my life, I also decided to pay homage to a song written by Elvis Costello and Paul McCartney called “That Day Is Done” where it is eventually revealed that the singer is dead and watching his own funeral. So my bridge was written from the perspective of someone who lived a long happy life but ultimately died alone with no real friends or family. I think the last verse manages to finish on a positive note though.


Forgotten Treasure

While looking for some past info on my blog last, I stumbled upon this fun collaboration I did with the late Craig Davis. I had first met Craig as a kid when he was friends with my Aunt and Uncle, but then had crossed paths with him as an adult when my band served to be his backup band for a show playing his originals at The Palace Theater in Bryan, TX (I still lived in College Station at the time). WE stayed in touch and started doing some musical collaborations.

Craig actually came to College Station and helped me and my then wife move to Austin. He and I did a lot of really great collaborations where he would send me a demo, and I would add all my touches and fully produce it into a finished song. It is still some of the best work I think I ever did but sadly none of it ever saw the light of day and I’m not aware of any of it existing anywhere anymore. 

So I was thrilled when I stumbled upon an old blog entry where I had posted one such song and the story of how it came to be. And I’ve been earwormed by it all day today. Craig was a great and prolific songwriter. He and I did a duo performance ridiculously early on some news station locally here in Austin. We performed as a duo at the funeral of Tommy Smith, another great guitar player who was my neighbor and a major influence when I was just a kid learning guitar. Craig was a wonderful, eccentric, unique, and talented figure. I hadn’t really been in touch with him for many years when he died in 2021 but I still love so many of his songs.


The Human Fight Against Envy

I feel like envy is a hard-wired human trait that we must actively and constantly fight against. I’m sure there’s some evolutionary, survival-based reason it seems so hard-coded into the fabric of our being. We seem to naturally want to focus on that which we lack, and take for granted where we actually are and the always countless things we have to be grateful for. It takes constant, sometimes exhausting vigilance.

Today I had one of those moments. I have several friends who are full-time musicians playing all the time with great bands. Sometimes touring, sometimes mini-tours, sometimes just occasional jaunts to other cities and states. Big crowds, great venues, and busy all the time. I had a moment of sadness when I thought about how none of my full-time bands can ever be what those bands are. We have a ceiling we will never break past due to the fact that everyone (including myself) plays in multiple bands and even coordinating just occasional dates can be like orchestrating a rocket launch. Also, most of my band mates don’t do this full-time. They have jobs and families and other bands and even if Yacht Z, my Yacht Rock band started to really take off, we couldn’t do the things that my friends’ bands are doing. I’m the only one who could conceivably do this full time (and, well, kind of do along with all my other creative irons in fires as well). So it was kind of a let down for a moment knowing that we can never be [insert band here]. There is a pretty hard limit to how far we can go and how much we can play.

However, being someone who tries my best to always reframe from a place of gratitude, I had to remind myself that every journey is unique. I have to believe that I am exactly where I need to be. Like most of humanity, there is so much more I want to do, wishing I was so much “further” (a loaded and ambiguous word). I continue to believe that my whirling maelstrom of a constantly churning mind is both my biggest asset as well as my biggest flaw. Always thinking at the speed of light, layers upon layers of multi-dimensional overthinking. I haven’t had a “day job” since 2013. I play with some of the best musicians in Austin. Many people wish they had what I have, yet this human hunger plants that voice deep inside us always yearning for more, MORE, MORE. Insatiable.

If I was in the “enviable” position of some of my peers, I could probably only play with one band. Maybe two at most. Neither good nor bad, just a fact with pros and cons. It would probably make it much harder on my acting career (not that there’s been much of that for the last few years, but that’s another hunger that will be forever fed as long as I’m alive). I most definitely am grateful. I actively try to always keep perspective. I am a paradox, both always at peace, present, and grateful, and simultaneously a slavering beast, straining at my chains and fighting frustration and dissatisfaction.

I don’t know if I’m extra thinky because I just had a birthday, because it’s the end of the year, or just because it’s a new day and I am me.


Cover Songs

Mysteries of Heath, #127:
I cannot stand doing a cover song and not doing it “right.” Now this is a complex and possibly volatile subject among musicians so let me be clear that I do not think that my personal preference is “right” and other opinions are wrong. The mystery here is really why it bothers me SO MUCH. Like it actually sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of a song for me. It’s painful.

I LOVE getting the details right. It’s fun. Will most listeners even notice? No. Hell, most listeners are content with half-assed, butchered, mediocre covers, but it matters to me. Now I’m not talking about purposefully doing your own spin on things. I’ve released many covers, some of which were painstaking recreations which are fun and educational in their own way, and some were very different takes, such as my all guitar versions of “Eleanor Rigby,” “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or the theme from “Downton Abbey.” Or my rock version of “Kiss The Girl” from “The Little Mermaid.”

The most egregious version of the “incorrect cover” to me is the “lazy” cover. People just can’t be bothered to put the work in to getting it right, so they get “close enough.” Luckily, this doesn’t apply very often to the awesome folks I get to play with. There’s lots of other reasons it happens, but it almost always really bothers me. Every time I play an altered version it’s like a little stone in my shoe.

Now of course, this often works in my favor when people are impressed with how prepared I was, or how accurately I got some cool details right, but it can also be a PITA both to me and those around me. I usually try very hard to be diplomatic and polite and bring it up in a way such as “So, I just wanted to check if this was an oversight, or a purposeful deviation…” I try my best to hopefully be easy and fun to work with and to feel out the tenor of every individual situation and be a collaborative team player. And believe me, I very much WISH that it didn’t bother me as much as it does, because that’s not fun for me. But it does. And I guess for better or worse, it’s part of what makes me who I am as an individual.


First Impressions Of My Zoom B2 Four

I had been using my Line 6 Helix as my bass rig either direct to house or run through my QSC 10.2. It’s an awesome bass rig but I’m a pretty simple man when it comes to bass and I didn’t need that many options and I also wanted to see if I could find something smaller.

First I tried the Tech 21 Bass Fly Rig. I just didn’t click with it. I had looked at the new Zoom B3n but it didn’t have an XLR out which was a deal breaker for me. Then a friend and bandmate said she had the Zoom B3 and loved it. It’s the older, now discontinued version and in my opinion (and others I’ve read) superior to the newer B3n, and it has an XLR. I was looking at used B3s when I decided to search “bass multi-fx” here on Sweetwater and see if anything else looked promising. The Zoom B6 looked great but again, way more than I needed. Then I stumbled upon the B2 Four. PERFECT.

Small, simple, yet still LOTS of options, and it had an XLR out. I was also very impressed by the design in that the navigational buttons are on a raised corner meaning you can use them fairly easily with your foot too. Looks sleek. You can “only” have 5 FX at a time (that includes amp sims) but that’s plenty enough for me.

Today I went through all 250 presets and was very impressed. They sounded great and spanned lots of sounds and genres and most were very usable. It’s fairly intuitive and if I have one complaint it’s that the manual is pretty sparse and basic but has all the information you absolutely need. My first impression is that there are tons of great emulations and a huge variety of ways to run it. I’d be surprised if you couldn’t find many sounds you like and cover anything you would want.

There’s many varieties of all the different kinds of FX, plus a great selection of preamps, amp/cab emulations, and a dedicated switch that steps through 6 different modeled DI boxes, 3 tube varieties and 3 SS versions. Or you can just turn it off, which I do since I run amp/cab sims so it seems weird to put a modeled DI after an amp/cab sim.

I also wasn’t exactly sure how the preamp models should be used. It seemed strange to me to put a preamp in front of an amp/cab sim, but some of the presets definitely did that, and I mean there’s really no “rules.” If it sounds good, it sounds good. I might just be too mired in old analog thinking of “Bass into amp/cab.” I mean who knows, maybe a preamp into an amp/cab and running one of the DI models might produce something cool. I haven’t tried yet. The presets also serve as a great way to learn the unit by analyzing them and seeing what’s running verses what you’re hearing. I remember one preset that was running the pitch shifter module but not actually doing any pitch shifting, but the unit itself definitely drastically changed the tone just being on. Another one used that same unit with a pitch shift of 1 cent to get a pretty good “With A Little Help From My Friends” sound. I never would have thought to use it in those ways.

I’m very happy with it and can’t wait to give it full run at next week’s gigs where I’ll probably run XLR straight to front of house. I have a simple patch set up with a noise suppressor, compressor, drive, and chorus, into an amp/cab, and I can use the 3 footswitches to toggle the compressor, drive, and chorus on/off. Your mileage and needs may vary but this unit was EXACTLY what I was looking for.


The Entertainment Industry

I made a post today about the SAGAFTRA and WGA strike and why I support it. It’s only noon and I’m exhausted already by the trolls and uninformed idiots with an agenda who have come out of the woodwork like roaches.

I want to make people understand the entertainment industry but also must accept that it is an impossible task. I’m curious as to how anyone with the spoons would have replied to the troll I deleted who laid out average salaries of TV writers and such as if it was ridiculous that they were asking for more. I couldn’t even. I’m tired. I can’t explain to every idiot why our industry is so weird, misunderstood, complex and abnormal. How making $2000 for a day of shooting a commercial may seem like a lot to people not in the industry but is NOT when you consider all things such as cuts that go to agents and such, and how that might be your only payday this month. How residuals are fair compensation and make up for the unsteady nature of our business and yes people do deserve to get paid not just once, but every time something is shown. The naysayers always have some come back like “Well then learn a real trade” or “Get a real job.” I want to make people understand and yet do not have the will. They just see the seemingly high numbers and have no understanding how that breaks down and can not be compared to a salary or hourly wage.

EVERYONE enjoys and consumes art. Needs it to survive. All the creators of it deserve what they get paid. Billions of dollars are made off it and the distribution of that is extremely uneven. Yet so many want to paint us as spoiled children who get paid ridiculous amounts of money for “playing pretend.” I want to make them understand, but I haven’t the spoons. And their minds are probably dense and impenetrable anyway so any attempt would be futile.


Kvetching About “The Biz”

I don’t generally like complaining on the internet, but sometimes it is a really helpful part of the process to just get it out. Acting and music are the reasons I am in this universe. The things I have the most passions for and that make me feel the most fulfilled and alive. The “business” part of “show business” however is brutal, exhausting, and demoralizing. I’ve mentioned before how not many days go by that part of my doesn’t want to just quit, but also I know I can’t. I’d never be happy.

My acting career has been in what feels like the most stagnant slump ever for the last couple of years. Now of course, much of this could be simple skewed perception and many of my peers have expressed similar feelings that the business in general has been much slower and tougher. I realized last week that I felt like I have just kind of “given up.” Not given up acting, as I don’t think that could ever happen, but I realized I had only been doing things that just happened to come to me. When my agent sends me an audition, I do it and do my best. When someone comes to me with a role or a chance to audition I take it. Outside of that, however, I’m not doing anything for myself. I’m not hustling, chasing, looking. I’m not working on putting demo reels together or scouring casting sites for roles I can submit myself for. I’m just tired and demoralized and feel like nothing is really going to change unless some equivalent of a lottery ticket win just somehow finds me and drops in my lap. I feel stuck and frustrated.

While “fame” has never sounded like something I didn’t want, it has also never been the goal. All I’ve ever really wanted is to the things I love and do them well, and hopefully pay the bills while doing those things. And truthfully, from a certain perspective, I am doing that. I definitely try to never lose sight of that fact and that I’m living a life that would make younger me scream “Holy shit! You are living THE LIFE!” I definitely try to be happy in every present moment and not constantly adjust my sights so that reaching one goal is no longer satisfactory and I just push it further to something else I don’t have, but I don’t think that’s what this is. I’ve always had a vision for what I wanted to do and the life I wanted to live, and this isn’t it. It’s a good life, and on the path I want to be on, but I want more (a seemingly perpetual human condition).

I think the frustration stems from feeling like I just don’t have access to the opportunities I want and feel equipped for. There’s so much luck and things beyond our control and that’s always going to be the case. It’s almost as if I’m so close to it but still kept away from it, which in a ways is more frustrating than something seeming so far away as to the path to it being incomprehensible.

This is not necessarily anything new and I feel like it’s a common phase that all my artist friends go through. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating though. To those of you still hustling and busting your asses trying to make things happen, I salute you. I wish I could at least say “Well I’m doing everything I can on my end so I have no fault in any career dissatisfaction” but that would absolutely be a lie.

I shall try to heed my own words from the past and “Keep my head down and do good work.”


Nord Stage 3 Compact Review

Nord Stage 3

I love it. I love everything about it. The sounds. The quality. The efficient and smart design of every facet of it. The more I dig into the more I’m just blown away by it and can understand why it’s a professional standard seen on the biggest stages around the world and in seemingly every television or video performance I see. Yes, they are crazy expensive, and worth more than many used cars but now I understand why. They are hand-built in Stockholm. The side caps and pitch bend stick are made of wood. The wood pitch sticks are all hand-carved by a man named Aaby Henriksson who is now in his 80s. Of course you can find endless information on line about specs, features, details and all, but so much of the ingenious design is in the more subtle things that you feel when you’re using it and hard to quantify in words. I have yet to encounter a single moment of wondering why they did something a certain way or wishing they had done it a different way. With so many knobs and buttons on the keyboard itself, you are very rarely diving into any menus. Many of the controls have other functions as well if you use the Shift key or hold them down which makes for more efficiency and simplicity without trying to find room to add even more controls which might start bordering on overwhelming and would also surely add to the already sizable expense, but also thanks to the smart design, is also just unnecessary.

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