ABOUT THE ALBUM
My second album, Pleasurecraft, is out today, January 20, 2023. The album was conceived during the recording of my last album “The Road to Tomorrow”, written during the pandemic of 2020, and recorded and mixed during the first half of 2022 at Studio G in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Though my musical roots have remained firmly planted in rock’n’roll, blues, and early soul music, the album marks a stylistic departure towards pop and soul music of the 1980’s.
I was inspired by the music I heard during several cross-country drives in 2019 while making my first record. I was making a living on the road, playing blues music and rockabilly and simultaneously, I was listening back to all this classic 1970s and 80s music I grew up with as a kid: The Pointer Sisters, Earth Wind & Fire, George Michael & Wham, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, in addition to the “revival” groups that were playing early Rock’n’Roll during that era — J. Geils Band, The Blasters, The Stray Cats, Dave Edmunds. The thing that tied it all together for me was how most of the songs could’ve been written in the 50’s or 60’s, but produced with drum machines, synths, and generally edgier recording techniques. Take “He’s So Shy” by the Pointer Sisters. That’s a real old-school sounding song- it could’ve been recorded by Phil Spector with Darlene Love singing lead. Same with “Sugar and Spice” - Luther Vandross. It sounded like Jackie Wilson, but with synths and multi track vocal overdubs. I wanted to make a record that blended those two worlds - the world of 80’s soul with the world of vintage rock’n’roll.
I put a pin in the title of “Pleasurecraft”, which was the name I gave a touring van I owned - a Gold 2001 Toyota Sienna (with leather seats & rear TV). I figured I would get to recording it after I released “The Road To Tomorrow”, which came out February 14, 2020. As we all were, I was blissfully unaware that the pandemic of 2020 would upend my life as I knew it - my touring plans for that album had to be shelved and I had to pivot. Having cancelled two months worth of tour dates, I was in my room and unsure of where to proceed next. I think I sensed that the coming months would be a fertile creative period for me, because I invested some cash into an old Tascam Portastudio 4-track tape recorder and some studio monitors I found on ebay, and I began to write songs, using the tape machine to make demos and experiment with new (and old) sounds.
The pandemic forced me to turn inward and confront demons I hadn’t yet faced. I became sober for the first time in my adult life. I was facing a failing relationship and I was wondering what would become of the career I’d built for myself so far. Somehow, I instinctively knew to write about it. The songs that would become “Pleasurecraft” were written during that time, and to varying degrees they were all about finding the willpower and the creative spark not to lose hope and to keep the faith that things would get better. “Music in My Mind”, a simple, catchy hook, was my tribute to the music that keeps me going every day. “Keep Moving” was written not long after and was, similarly, a song of self-encouragement and a way to tell myself not to despair, that I would find my way through. I continued on this journey, moving back to New York and continuing to write about my experiences.
The album isn’t just about dire circumstances, though. It’s also about love. In 2021 I started performing live again, and I found a whole new meaning in my performances. I was baring my soul on stage every time, instead of just going through the motions. I began to really fall back in love with music, and it was during that time, in late 2021, that I met my partner Amanda. She and I were friends for a long time, but when I fell in love with her, it really showed me how love was the true answer to the question I’d been asking - “How do I keep going?” I was discovering how to earnestly dedicate myself through love to the music and relationships I cared about. So the album became partly about the love of music, and partly about coming out of a shell of bitterness and rigidness towards the world, and accepting new love into my life with an open heart.
As recording began in January, 2022, I dove headlong into the process, taking my band through 10 songs in 5 days. Though only a handful of those early recordings ended up on the album, we went back in the studio each month, being exacting with the sound to craft the hard-hitting sound I knew I wanted. “When You Get Home” was recorded on 3 separate occasions (I actually have four entirely different versions of this one. Maybe I’ll release them on it’s own EP of remixes one day!) Through this process of filtering and reworking material consistently over the year, I feel that each of the songs that ended up on the record is there for a reason. When I listen back to the record now, I love that each of the 9 tracks sounds fully distilled to its essence (and I hear a whole lot of groove in there, too!)
There really are so many individuals to thank - starting with the core band of musicians that I’ve been working with for years now. Cole Stone-Frisina, JC Myska, and Trevor Brown really built this album with me, piece by piece - three of my best friends without whom this record would sound vastly different and for any of whom I would gladly give my left toe. (yes, that would mean I’d have two messed up feet.) And to my friends who sang and played - Brittneyann Accetta, Billy Aukstik, Brandon Brooks, Mel Johnston, Alexandra James, Jonathan Lovett, I’m in your debt. Track 9 was recorded live at Rockwood Music Hall and the band featured, in addition to some of the aforementioned, Mike Lucchetti, Robby Schwartz, Kevin Hailey and Kim Foxen. Thanks to you all for one helluva live show. Then there’s Richard Salino and really the whole team at Studio G for helping me build the project’s sound, piece by piece. Richard really is the whole package, dope-ass musician, effortlessly solid engineer, gentle and patient human. His mixes scream. I also have to thank Omar Colon and Fairweather Studios for the live session in November 2020 that brought us “Music in My Mind." And “Doctor” Dan Millice’s masters make the whole record listen like a dream.
Thank you to Julianna McGuirl for the set of compelling visuals, Lindsay Lavin for the whimsical and Bowie-inspired makeup, and to Marc Parroquin for the music video and for helping to document the whole process starting with the studio photos in January. I must also thank Club Groove for having us in residency on Saturday nights for over a year now (wow, that feels crazy to say) as we workshopped a lot of these new songs live alongside the classics (turns out, trying to hype up a crowd with a new song you just wrote yesterday is a great litmus test for a song’s power). Of course I can’t sign off without giving thanks to Amanda - for showing up for me, for believing in me, for contributing your creative ideas to the music and visuals, for contributing your voice to “Music in My Mind” - for showing me how to love and live openly and fearlessly, for showing me what true generosity is, and for loving me like you do. I love you.
This album is really dedicated to, well, everyone - all of you! It’s dedicated as much to our fans and friends as to anyone who is a fan of music, real live music, and for whom music is your drug. That’s what “Pleasurecraft” is to me. A way to get through your day, your month, your year, knowing that love will get you through, and it’s all going to be ok. I’m so happy and so proud and so many things. I could go on. Mostly grateful, grateful to my big music family for coming on this journey with me, and grateful that it’s coming out into the world for your listening ears.
Oh, and grateful that now, it’s time to write a new one. OMG. 😳