Steven's Blog

Summer Tour Diary – July 29th (Day 39): Lord, I Was Born a Ramblin Man  

Today was a day that we were looking forward to for a while now, as we were going to Maidstone to play the large Ramblin Man Fest. It’s an interesting event, that mixes indie rock, country, blues, and a healthy dose of 80’s heavy metal. You might not think that Jessica Lynn belongs in a festival with such bands as Extreme, Dokken, Glenn Hughes or UFO, but there we were. 

The event has 4 stages – including a “Groove Rider” stage for indie rock (which was being headlined by the awesome Rival Sons today), and we were playing the “Outlaw Country” stage, opening for incredible guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd

We arrived at the festival at our scheduled time of 11 am, and having played many festivals at this point, I’m sorry to say that this was extremely poorly run in regard to getting the artists inside. Events like this are enormous, and it’s important for the staff to guide everyone properly to where they need to go, but we were misdirected numerous times. We were even told to park, unload our instruments, and as we stood at the gate, instruments in hand, obviously looking like a band, we were told by security we couldn’t enter the very gate we were told we had to go into by someone else. And, Jessica had to get inside quickly because she had an interview scheduled. No one  had a clue was going on, and it was truly frustrating. 

But after a few missteps, we finally met our artist liaison Hannah who sorted everything out for we had our credentials, and were guided to the side of the stage where we could park and unload our gear...and from that point everything ran smoothly, and the staff inside the event was very helpful (especially the incredible stage crew run by Adam!).  Caitlin Koch (From “X Factor” season 1) was up first on the Outlaw Country stage, and while she was doing her set, which included our new friend Steve Marks (no relation, but he’s the guitarist from our tour mates Gasoline & Matches, playing bass this time for her), we were getting our gear together in the wings. The large crowd loved her – she got an awesome reaction, so we were getting psyched to get in front of them too. 

The stage was in a large tent, which was all for the best as it rained on-and-off throughout the day (and sometimes quite hard). At 2 pm, it was time for our set, and we kicked things off with a cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Play Something Country,” which pulled the crowd right in, which at this point not only jammed the entire tent, but I could see the crowd spilling outside, trying to see inside. As we went through our set, it was obviously that this was the most enthusiastic audience we’ve played to so far on this tour…and we were definitely feeding off their energy. I thought this was a great show all around. Here’s a shot during our show...

And here's what it looked like from the stage… 

After our set, we had a meet-and-great session in another tent on the grounds, with Jessica and the rest of us signing autographs, posing for pictures, and talking to fans. The positive reaction was overwhelming…and I think it’s safe to say at this point that the U.K. really loves Jessica Lynn. 

After that, the time was our own, so we had lunch in the artist catering tent while mingling with some of the other bands, then had a drink in the VIP area, and did some browsing in the tented shops on the grounds. I caught some of Glenn Hughes’ set on the main stage (heard him do “Burn,” and man, that dude still can sing!). We finished by watching the super fun Steve N Seagulls band back at the Outlaw Country stage, and then after the long day…we were all wiped out and it was time to go. 

We hadn’t yet checked into our hotel, so we first went there, and found there was a snafu with our reservation, which was made by the promoters. It was all worked out, but we had to chill in the lobby for a while, so Brian and I ducked into the lobby bar for a really well-made Bloody Maria while waiting. We finally got up to our rooms, quickly showered, and then met down at the hotel restaurant for a late dinner (first at 10 pm). 

It was a bittersweet day for me, because although today’s show could have been my favorite so far on this tour…it was also my final show for this tour. Unfortunately, I had important prior commitments back home in the U.S. before this tour was fully booked, so as I write this I’m at London’s Heathrow Airport waiting to get on my plane back home. 

Fortunately, the Jessica Lynn Band are an insanely-talented bunch of musicians, so in preparation for my eventual early departure they’ve worked out alternative arrangements, for which Jessica is going to have to play a lot more guitar during the set.  It restricts her performance ability a little (hey, it’s tough to run around the stage AND play guitar AND sing at the same time!). But no matter…they are going to continue winning every audience over for the remaining few dates on this tour. 

And because of that also, this is going to be my final entry in this Tour Diary. If you want to know what’s been happening in Europe with the band, you’ll have to ask them yourself! 

So to conclude, I want to thank Jessica, Steve, Peter, Victoria, Bob, Matt and Brian (and Wilma too, who left us last week) for an incredible 6 weeks on the road. It’s been an amazing journey, and I couldn’t imagine taking it with a better bunch of people. I’m going to miss you guys…now go out and show ‘em how it’s done!   And I'd also like to thank you too, for following along on our adventures here with me in this Tour Diary.  Thanks for reading and commenting!

And since I’m still in the U.K – cheerio, for now…

​​​​​​​Summer Tour Diary – July 28 (Day 38): Live in London  

As it has been on many days during this tour, the Jessica Lynn Band started the day on Friday with breakfast at our hotel, packed the vehicles and hit the road toward London, where we were playing tonight. The drive was pretty uneventful, and took just a quick break at Starbucks at a rest stop to refuel ourselves. 

After a little while, we finally reached the outskirts of London, and I enjoyed watching the scenery from the window of the van. Each city we’ve visited has its own personality, and London revealed its own right away from the look of the buildings, the iconic “Underground” signs, and the phone booths. 

Our show was at a club called “The Lexington,” which is just outside the heart of the city, and it was a very cool place. Downstairs, it looked like a pub, with lots of people hanging out seemingly having a great time. Upstairs, it’s a concert venue that reminded Brian and I a bit of The Bowery Electric in NYC. 

We met up with our UK tour mates Gasoline & Matches and each did our sound checks, during which we rehearsed our final tune “Johnny B. Goode” together, just so we could tighten up the transitions and soloing order. We had so much fun doing that, I knew this was going to be another great show together. 

Before the show, Jessica did a lengthy interview in the dressing room for a new country music TV channel that's launching in the UK, and then it was showtime.  And I was right about the show...we had a great crowd, and it’s interesting to see them drop their inhibitions as the set progresses. Yes, they were with us from the start, but by the time we hit our last couple of songs everyone was dancing, arms in the air, and having as much fun as we were. What’s been really cool to see is that many people are now coming to our shows and singing along with a bunch of the songs…they’ve heard the single on the radio, or bought the EP. This kind of international recognition feels really good, I must say. 

During our song “Roadhouse” we each take solos, and we love interacting with the crowd while this is going on. When Steve took his guitar solo, he jumped off the stage and down into crowd. One female fan got so excited she threw her drink, ice and all, right in his face! I have no idea what she was thinking...I’ve never seen anything like it.  How he kept his composure and kept his solo going was beyond me…guess the man is just a true professional. (Good job, brother!) 

After the show we mingled with fans, and said a sad goodbye to our new friends in Gasoline & Matches. I watched some of their set again tonight, and the more I hear their songs, the more I love them. Please do yourself a favor and check them out…I’m super impressed with this crew, both musically and personally.  Here's a shot of all of us together...

But then it was time to leave and drive to our hotel (we hadn’t checked in yet, as we had to get right to The Lexington this afternoon). The route took us through the heart of London, and it was great to see Big Ben and much of the city during our journey. I wished we could have had some time to really explore the city, but I had to remind myself that a tour is not a vacation…so I’ll just have to make a point to come back. 

When we arrived at our hotel, we found it was a lovely, old-school place on a golf course. But it’s only a short night here, as we once again have to be on the road early to get to the big Ramblin Man Fair in Maidstone, where we’re playing the “Outlaw Country Stage” (there are 4 stages at this festival) opening for Kenny Wayne Sheppard. 

I had never played a concert in London before, but have always wanted to…so today was a good day. Crossed something off my bucket list.  Next report from Ramblin Man...

Summer Tour Diary – July 25th – 27th (Day 35, 36 & 37): To the North in the U.K. 

After a great day off in Liverpool on Monday, we awoke on Tuesday to a long travel day…a 5 hour drive north to head towards Glasgow. As we got further north in the U.K., the landscape suddenly changed to the rolling hills that might associate with Scotland. But as is typical for the weather here, it was colder, grey and rainy. 

But because Glasgow is a long drive, we broke up the trip and stayed the night in the small town of Wishaw. The hotel too was a tiny, and not at all guest-friendly in terms of policies and services. It also looked like what you’d expect a typical small Scottish town to be, but I have to be honest…it’s really not my thing. Kind of decrepit, and all grey and brown. Here’s a pic from my window… 

We did have a great dinner at a local hotel/golf course, but once it was Wednesday morning, I was very glad to be out of there and on the road. We made the rest of the trip that morning to Glasgow, checked into the hotel (another ridiculously tiny room. One thing I’ve noticed in Europe is that many chains pass closets off as hotel rooms…which is something we thankfully never see in the U.S.). 

Although we didn’t get to spend any time there, Glasgow looks like a nice old city, with some modern touches here and there. We got the venue to sound check, and met the band members from Gasoline and Matches, the band that we’re playing the next string of dates with here in the U.K. Besides being a great bunch of people (AND, they kindly let us use their entire backline for the 3 dates we’re doing with them), they are also a terrific band. Great musicians, nice harmonies and really catchy tunes (I woke up with one of their songs in my head this morning). It’s a pleasure to get to play with them night-after-night on this UK stint, and we truly could not have done it without them. 

This was another club show, and surprisingly, it was one of the best audiences we’ve had on this tour. From the very first song, they were singing along and having a blast. The show felt more like a party than a concert, and all of us – bands and audience alike – had a great night. 

Thursday morning we hit the road again for another long drive to head back down south to Wolverhampton. Our show that night was at the Slade Rooms (named after the 70’s U.K. glam band Slade, who are from the area). It’s a well-known venue that hosts many touring acts, and it was a great room. David, our soundman for the night, did an awesome mix. 

After the show, Jessica did a radio interview in our dressing room with a DJ from a local station, and it’s great to see more and more of these types of things happening. Both radio and the press are starting to pay attention, and the reaction has been excellent. Check out this piece that ran in a Glasgow newspaper… 

The crowd was a little more subdued at this show in Wolverhampton (and I can never figure out why some audiences go crazy and others are more reserved, when we are essentially doing a similar show each night), but it still was a solid performance. 

If you’ve seen us live, you might recall that we often end our set with a version of Johnny B. Goode where we trade instruments and solos…it’s a lot of fun, and for tonight we asked our tour mates Gasoline and Matches to join us onstage for the tune. We’re a big band to begin with, but tonight we now had 13 people on stage for this final tune…and it was a ridiculously good time! It was a great way to end the night. 

Friday morning, we’re hitting the road already again, making the drive down to London where we all play together again at The Lexington Club. It’s always been a bucket list item for me to do a show in London, which I have not done yet…so I’m really looking forward to this. Will write my next diary entry from there…

Summer Tour Diary - July 24th (Day 34): Beatlemania 

Although I’m most often associated as a guitarist/keyboardist in a country band these days, I’ve been in all kinds of bands over the years, playing everything from synth-pop to heavy metal. But I’m also a solo indie rock artist playing music that’s often categorized as “power pop” – and like many musicians in that genre (and others, of course) , I’ve been heavily influenced by the Beatles. 

In fact, it’s safe to say that the Beatles are the reason that I do what I do. For me, there hasn’t been a band since that has had the same impact on music, culture and society as they have had. Their songs are timeless…I recently listened to the remastered 50th anniversary of Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and was astonished at how fresh it still sounded – both musically and sonically - so many years later. 

So when the tour was being routed and Jessica first told me that we were going to have a day off in Liverpool, the birthplace of the Beatles, I was thrilled. I have always wanted to come here, and as Peter is also a huge fan, we decided we were going to go into full-on tourist mode.  He and I started the day alone, and walked from our hotel to Albert Docks on the Mersey River to visit “The Beatles Story” museum. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and a very nice walk through this vibrant town. On the way, we saw the Magical Mystery Tour bus… 

Once at the museum, via a self-guided audio tour you walk through the history of the Beatles…when they met as school kids, their first efforts playing music together, their first club dates and recordings, and all the way through their astronomical success, eventual breakup and solo careers. 

There were many displays that recreated famous places in their history such as The Cavern Club and Abbey Road Studios, but as interesting and well done as it was, both Peter and I wished that they had more original and authentic items….as in a real museum. Some of the guitars on display were only reproductions, for example. But here are some things that were original and very cool to see:

John's piano that was used on many recordings...

One of George's guitars...

George Martin's handwritten notes from studio sessions for some pretty famous songs...

After a short rest back at the hotel, we were then joined by Jessica, Steve and Victoria to take the National Trust tour of John’s and Paul’s childhood homes, and this is what I was most excited about….you actually get to go inside the homes where they grew up, and for a Beatles geek like me, this is a very big deal. 

Because of street crowding and traffic you’re not allowed to drive there directly, so we had to go to a complex run by the Trust called Speke Hall, where we boarded a mini bus to take us to our destinations (like I said, we were being tourists!). The first stop was Paul’s house at 20 Forthlin Road, which was modest “council housing” – essentially government-built and subsidized housing for low income families, as homes were scarce back then because so many buildings were destroyed in World War I. Just standing on the walkway that led from the sidewalk to the front door, I could image a young Paul (he moved here when he was 13) coming in from school. 

We were brought inside, and were instructed that we couldn’t take photos (otherwise I’d have many to post here). The first stop was the “front parlor,” which was a small living room with just a sofa, a couple of arm chairs, a little fireplace, a tiny box of a TV, a record player, and piano where the family would gather to sing songs, and where Paul learned to play. Our tour guide, Sylvia, gave us a fascinating look at the life of Paul’s family in the house, and told us that in the very room we were standing, Paul and John sat together to write many of the Beatle’s classic tunes. 

We then went to what was supposed to be the dining room, but instead was used for band rehearsals with a drum kit set up in the corner. Paul’s dad Jim was a musician and songwriter too, and the family was very supportive of their son’s ambitions…although Jim did not like rock and roll.  To imagine the young Beatles standing and rehearsing in that tiny room actually gave me chills. This very room played a big part in their musical development, and it was unreal to be there. 

We were then shown the rest of the house and told stories in each – the small kitchen, the backyard (with the pipe that Paul used to climb to sneak into the house through an upper window past curfew), the bedroom Paul shared with his brother Michael until their mother, Mary, died of breast cancer when Paul was just 14…after which he moved to a smaller bedroom at the front of the house. 

When we were ending the tour, Sylvia (who at this point knew that we were a band) said that if any of us knew how to play any Beatles songs on the piano, we could do it. The whole band pointed at me…and at first I was in disbelief. You mean, I can play piano in Paul’s living room??!? But of course I jumped at the chance. With all of all of the talk of his family, and his relationship with “Mother Mary,” naturally I had to pick “Let It Be,” and played a verse and chorus with the other tour members (a small group of 12) singing along. This was truly a special moment in my life - to play one of Paul’s songs in the very room where he and John composed many of their early hits. It was an experience I will never, ever forget. 

From there, we got back on the bus and were driven to the house where John lived for around 16 years, from the age of 5 or so. In contrast to the modest, working-class council housing where Paul lived, John’s house is in the Mendips section of Liverpool, which was clearly more middle class. 

The house actually belonged to John’s Aunt Mimi, who raised John during that time. As we entered the house through the back door into the kitchen (because Mimi was a bit of a snob and reserved front-door entry for “important” visitors like doctors and clergy), we were told of the first time that Paul came to the house to work with John, and the intense scrutiny he received from Mimi and the family. However, he was far more polite and well-spoken that what Mimi assumed a council-house kid would be, so he passed the test. 

Unlike at Paul’s house, where we learned more about him, his musical influences, and the birth of Beatles music there, the tour of John’s house was really more about Aunt Mimi, the sacrifices she made for the family, and her relationship with John. I found Paul’s house tour to be more interesting, but still – it was surreal to stand in the living room where John first rehearsed with his first band, The Quarrymen. 

We were left to explore the house on our own, and it was also surreal to stand in John’s tiny bedroom, where he developed into one of the greatest musical and artistic forces in modern history. Imagining him there sitting on his bed right there in that room with his guitar, working on his songs, also gave me chills. 

As a huge Beatles fan, I’ve known a lot about their early days and musical history, but after seeing their childhood homes and hearing these inside stories about their formative years, I walked away with an even deeper understanding and appreciation of who each of them are, and what they accomplished. From these very humble beginnings, they launched a revolution that truly changed the world. It certainly changed my life.

After the tour, we went out to dinner and then made the final stop in our Beatles pilgrimage…the famous Cavern Club, where the Beatles got their start as a young band in Liverpool. The entrance to the club is not the same as where it used to be, but much of this underground space is still the same...and after seeing old black-and-white films of the Beatles playing there, it was incredibly cool to be standing there in front of that famous stage. 

There was a guy playing guitar and singing, doing some Beatles songs of course. The place is honestly rather touristy now, but we embraced it…and while Steve and I threw back a pint of bitters we bought some t-shirts and such. We then made the walk back to our hotel, and marveled at this hip, lively town, even on a Monday night.

Perhaps because of its musical heritage, and also because of the great surprise this city turned out to be, I have to say that Liverpool was one of my very favorite stops on this tour. I’m so grateful to Jessica for routing the tour through here, so we could experience everything. and I hope to return one day to spend even more time exploring. 

But in the morning, we hit the road again….making a 4 hour drive north to Glasgow, where we play on Wednesday.

Summer Tour Diary – July 22nd and 23rd (Day 32 & 33): Rockin the Aerodrome and heading to Liverpool 

It was another lazy today, with everyone sleeping late and then grabbing food in different places for a quick lunch. Once again, the only place open right near our hotel was McDonalds. It’s unreal to me that restaurants spend so much time closed, when they could be serving food and making money. And it was also disappointing to me that it was yet another meal at an American fast food restaurant. 

When we got there, we discovered they were doing a promotion day for the new Minions movie, and the place was mobbed and swarming with kids to see the costumed characters they had here. Took forever to get our food, and it sounded like a kindergarten playground at recess. Oh, and I knocked over a large display by accident, almost knocking Steve in the head. (I should mention that I frequently am the “bull in the china shop” – the band calls me “Wreck-It Wright-Mark”….pretty accurate.) 

Once we finally got the hell outta there, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the show, and met at 4 pm to head over to the Aerodrome in Cambrai. It’s famous as the place where Louis Blériot frequently flew out of - who is known for making the first flight across the English channel from France to Great Britain in an airplane.

And being an aerodrome, we were playing in an airplane hangar, and if you know anything about sound there’s almost no worse place to put a band. With the high ceilings and hard reflected surfaces, sound bounces around like crazy and it’s difficult to get a good mix.  Our sound check was riddled with feedback, low frequency hums and other trouble. It took quite a while, and although we weren’t really satisfied with the results at the end of it, there’s a limit to what you can do in a venue like that, so we stopped around 7:30.  Although, I should mention that our sound man Philippe did as good a job as possible, given the fact that he was trying to mix 8 people playing multiple instrument in this airplane hangar.  It's a thankless job, so I just want to say "thank you!"

After sound check, we were taken backstage and had the best catering we’ve had at any show so far. So many fresh and delicious salads, different types of fish, freshly-baked French bread, apple tarts and more. We hung out there until show time, and when we reentered the hangar to play, we saw that the place was mobbed with people. 

Most of the crowd was behind barricades around 20 feet back from the band, with other VIPs allowed in the front. It was a little strange as most of those VIPs were seated off to the sides, but the main crowd was completely getting into the show from the very start.  Despite a bit of a rough stage mix, I thought we played well…there was a lot of energy both on stage and in the audience.  I think this is a cool shot from the show...

As we were approaching the end of the set, Peter asked someone if they would open the barricades and let everyone up front…and they did. At that point everyone rushed forward…and this is when the place really started going crazy. It was an absolute blast.

When the show was over, there was an hour-long meet-and-greet that Jessica had to do, because so many people wanted to meet her, take photos, and get autographs. We signed quite a few ourselves and posed for lots of pictures with fans (which it's fun to see surface on Facebook the next day).  Here's one with some of us and our new photographer friend, Remo...

And I have to say…the French fans are incredibly warm and generous. Jessica was given so many gifts – photos books, DVDs of other performances we did in France, frame pictures with lovely sentiments written on them. It was clear they genuinely loved Jessica and the band…and visa versa. 

Once that was over, we once again went backstage for the after party, and it was quite the bash. Champagne flowed…and I mean FLOWED…bottle after bottle came out, there was never an empty glass, and all the VIPs and promoters were there were us carrying on, having a ton of laughs, acting completely silly…it was a ridiculous amount of fun.  Oh, and did I mention lots of champagne?

They also gave us all more gifts…special candy from the region, wine, beer and more. Their generosity and hospitality were overwhelming, and it was among the most fun times we’ve had on the tour. My face actually hurt from continually laughing. 

But at around 1 am, we had to leave as we have a long journey in the morning…driving from Cambrai to Calais, then ending our long stay in Europe (over a month!), getting on the Channel Tunnel train, taking us across the English Channel to the UK, followed by a nearly 10 hour trip north and west to our next destination.

We left for our trip on Sunday at around 10:30 am, and drove an hour-and-a-half until we reached the Channel Tunnel, which was a very interesting experience. Upon arrival, there were long lines of cars having their tickets checked (it's like buying an airline ticket, and about as expensive, for a vehicle).  And then there's UK border control.  Since we're a traveling band, we had work visas so we had to be pulled over to the side and go into an immigration office where they checked all of our papers, passports, and asked questions about the shows we're playing in the UK, how long we're staying, etc.

Once we cleared that, we drove to the loading area, and you drive your vehicles on to a train. Definitely an odd experience, but it was really cool. It was a quick 35 minute ride...and then we were in the UK!  And being in the UK, that meant driving on the left side of the road.  If you've been reading my blog, you know that Steve (who is driving our large van) just learned how to drive a stick shift here, and now he was suddenly faced with the extra task of navigating the roads, driving the "wrong way."  And I have to once again say...he nailed it.  He said he just had to think more about where to go when making turns, but he already seems like an old pro at this.  Great job, brother!

It was a long, nearly 6 hour drive to Liverpool, where we're staying for a couple of nights.  I had no idea what to expect of this city, as I had heard it had been a bit of a depressed industrial/shipping area.  Well, I was wrong, and very pleasantly surprised.  Liverpool is actually a vibrant, hip, young community, and we're staying in an area that reminds me a bit of Soho or the East Village in NYC.  Once we got settled in our hotel, we hit the streets for dinner, and although it was late on a Sunday night, all the bars and clubs in the area were rocking -- jamming with young, good looking crowds.  

We had dinner at an English pub with some great local draft beer, and the headed back to the hotel to pass out after our long day on the road.  We have a day off tomorrow, which some of us are going to spend doing all of the touristy Beatle things here in Liverpool.  I'm a huge Beatle fan, so for me this is a pilgrimage to the holy land...and I can't wait.




Summer Tour Diary – July 20th and 21st (Days 30 and 31): The Show That Never Was 

We had quite the late night party with friends in northern France last night, but had to be up fairly early today so we could hit the road for an afternoon show in Eppe-Sauvage. After yet another delicious breakfast (this time with the freshest papaya I’ve ever had), we got ourselves together and started on our way around noon. 

The venue, which was about an hour-and-a-half away, is a vacation spot for families, and they do regular concerts there over the summer. We knew this show wasn’t going to be as big as some of the others we’ve done on this tour, nor was it a cool small club gig (like we did in Amsterdam and Munich)…so this looked like it was going to fall in between. 

But as we were driving and just about 20 minutes away, Peter (who had gone in advance with our friend/promoter Jean-Marc to deal with the backline) called us to break the news…the show was cancelled. 

WHAT? WHY? It seems that when the two guys showed up, they learned that the outdoor show was to be moved indoors to a convention center, because of the threat of rainstorms. (Bad weather has definitely plagued us at certain stops on this tour). So they went to the indoor venue, which was locked up. They found the person in charge, and, there’s really no other way to put this…the guy was a belligerent asshole. 

He said he refused to open the facility until he felt like it, insulted both Peter and Jean-Marc, and then proceeded to go sit down and eat lunch with his buddies. Jean-Marc approached him again to tell him that we needed to start setting up, at which point the guy jumped up and started screaming, getting in Jean-Marc’s face, cursing at him insulting them further, screaming that he didn't know why they booked "this shit band"…and they knew we were in a bad situation. 

Now, Jean-Marc has produced many other events here, and has a great relationship with the people who run the venue, but he never encountered this jerk before. Unfortunately, all of his other contacts weren’t there today…so he had to deal with this guy. And after this serious confrontation, Jean-Marc and Peter decided that this wasn’t going to go well when the guy in charge is hostile and hates us from the start. And he wouldn't even let us in to set us anyway.  So they pulled the plug on the show. 

When the rest of us arrived a little while later, we met at “Willy’s Frites” (“frite” places are incredibly popular here) and talked it all over. Jean-Marc was really shaken by the incident (I felt really badly for him), and we were in disbelief that a venue would book a band on tour, and then treat them like this. 

The news of what happened took to Facebook, with Jean-Marc posting the true story about what happened, and getting lots of support from fans who were planning to come and were expressing their disappointment.  And that's a shame, because we hate disappointing anyone, but this was really out of our control.

But after having lunch and talking this over, we decided to head back to the Manor to do some other things. We got back in the van, and I immediately fell asleep (still exhausted from overall lack of sleep). And, I was so tired that I missed the excitement on the ride home – slept right through it. 

From what I heard afterwards,  Steve was driving down the highway, when he suddenly started staying “Oh my God, Oh my God!” No one knew what was wrong until he pointed at what got his attention…a HUGE spider that was crawling across the top of the windshield, on the inside. And I mean extremely large. 

It only made a quick appearance, and quickly scurried back to where we’ve discovered that it’s living…in a space just above the rear-view mirror. Once we got back to the Manor, we tried to get coax it out, but with no luck. I was awake then, and did see it peak out for a moment, and yeah - holy crap - that thing is big. So…yeah, we’re now driving around with an extra passenger, in the form of a giant spider. Perfect! 

But since we didn’t have to do this show today, we had some extra time now and had been meaning to shoot some video at the Manor, because the backdrop is just so beautiful. So today, we finally got to do so! We shot a few scenes for the video being produced for Jessica’s new single, “Crazy Idea,” and even did some live acoustic things too. Very productive, and lots of fun.. 

And on a side note, we’re getting daily updates from radio stations in the US who are adding the single to their rotation, and featuring Jessica on their websites. A few days ago we received this chart of the daily streams by radio stations, and the single was at #4...

 It’s great to see such a positive reaction from the industry!  It would be awesome if you'd call your local country radio station and request it...

Anyway – at this point it was already approaching 9 pm, so we all went out to dinner at a great restaurant in the nearby town of Cambrai. When we returned to our last night at the Manor, we all gathered outdoors in the backyard with our host Thierri, sipping French champagne…talking and laughing until the wee hours. It was a perfect way to spend our final night here. 

And also sadly, this was our last night with Bob’s wife, Wilma, who has been on this tour since the start, and has been doing SO much to help out…handling merch sales, taking video and photos during our shows, giving us sound advice from house during sound checks, and of course…keeping Bob in line (the hardest job of all! We don’t call him “Tiger Bob” for nothin’. ;-) ) 

Thanks for everything, Wilma! We’re going to miss you on the rest of this journey. 

On early Friday morning, Wilma took a car to the airport, and the rest of us met for our last incredible breakfast here, And during breakfast, Thierri came in to tell us that one of the cats who live there (and there are many) just had kittens! We ran outside and there was Patrice, holding two tiny, newborn kittens. 

We then packed up, and sadly said our goodbyes. I can’t even really express just how special this place is, and how wonderful both Thierri and Patrice are…so it was truly hard to leave. Here's a shot of all of us right before we left...

But as much as we didn't want to, we had to go…and headed down the road to our new hotel, which is actually also quite beautiful, with flowers everywhere. 

Once we checked in, we took this day again to rest, change strings, catch up on work, and just relax (and I wrote this blog post).  We again met for dinner to go to one of Jessica's favorite places here, and I could see why she likes it so much.  Fresh, delicious food, great wine, and our good friend Jean-Marc joined us once again too.

Once back at the hotel, we gathered on the beautiful outdoor desk to just enjoy the rest of this summer night.  It was also Ed and Carol's last night with us, so we then said our goodbyes and went up to our rooms to pass out.

Tomorrow is our last European show for the moment, playing an Aerodrome here in France, before we leave for the UK on Sunday.  Will have a show-day report soon...

Summer Tour Diary – July 17 - 19th (Day 27, 28 & 29): Manoir de Louis XXI  

After our show on Sunday with ZZ Top, and our “After Party Tour” after party at the hotel, Monday was the first of three days off!  So we gathered for breakfast around 10 am, as we were to check out to get to our next destination (more on that later). Peter and Steve were getting picked up at 11 to go to Enterprise, where we were getting our next vehicles for the remainder of the tour. 

If you’ve been reading this blog, then you know the problems we had with Enterprise in Paris at the start of the tour. Well, I guess the only good thing I can say about them is that they are consistent…that is, consistent in completely screwing up. Because just like last time, despite confirmations, calls and assurances, on the morning of the pickup they didn’t have EITHER of the vehicles we needed. Again. 

I’ll spare you the details, but we wound up sitting around the hotel lobby (we had to check out of our rooms) for FOUR HOURS while we waited for them to find appropriate cars (which they should have done before Steve and Peter got there). And the large passenger van had manual transmission…and no one in our entourage drives a stick. So, get this…the Enterprise rep was giving Steve manual driving lessons in the parking lot. I’m not kidding. It’s ridiculous…but I have to say that Steve rose to the occasion and is now doing a great job with his newly-learned skill. Thanks, Steve!

Once we finally got our gear and instruments loaded, we were on the way to a place that Jessica, Steve, Peter and Victoria have visited before on prior trips to the area…the Manoir de Louis XXI. They have raved about this place…its beauty, the setting, the wonderful owners Thierri and Patrice – so we couldn’t wait to see it. 

We arrived an hour later, and I have to say that their praise was not overstated. This place is simply incredible…almost magical. It’s exactly what you’d think a French Manor would look like, and the vibe here is just so tranquil. Jessica really wanted us to experience this place, and I can see why (thanks, Jess!). I could get used to a lifestyle like this. 

We settled in when we arrived and all hung out on the beautiful grounds. Later in the day we met our French friends Jean-Marc, Melina and Ben, Brandon (who made the trip with us from Valenciennes so we could all hang together a bit longer here), and Ed and Carol from NY, and all went to a huge group dinner that Jean-Marc incredibly wound up picking up. SO generous, and what a fun evening. 

When we got back to the Manor, Jessica cracked open a bottle of very special Armagnac (a bit like a cognac) that was presented to her, with her name on the label and wood box that enclosed it, at our show in Mirande. We had a few cigars too, courtesy of Ed…and it was quite a special moment, sitting there in the beauty of this place, sipping our drinks and having a smoke. 

Tuesday morning, we awoke to a legendary Manor breakfast that the guys who have stayed here before have told us about. At a gorgeous table setting (which changes daily), we were served fresh-squeezed fruit juices, bread and pastries picked up that morning from a local French bakery, jams made right here from fruit grown on the property, excellent coffee and more. It was absolutely heavenly. Did I mention I could get used to this lifestyle? 

And, Thierri and Patrice are incredible hosts. And, so much fun to hang around with! I feel like we’re spending a long weekend at a friend’s house. If you're ever in the north of France and want to have an unforgettable experience, I highly recommend looking into staying here.  I'd certainly come back (and I hope I get to do so).

But after breakfast - I had work to catch up on Tuesday, the girls went shopping in town, some of the guys went to see a tank that was unearthed here from a historic battle, and other just spent the day hanging around a relaxing. A few went out to dinner, and some of us (including me) stayed behind to simply have a quiet night 

On Wednesday, we had planned to go to Paris, but we hadn’t really looked into the logistics earlier. It turned out to be a longer trip than we thought, and with thunderstorms in the forecast for the day, it was decided to forgo the trip. I have to admit I was disappointed, as I’ve never spent any time in Paris…but I suppose this is a good reason that I’ll have to return and explore the town another time. 

Instead, after another exquisite breakfast, we took a journey to Lille, a nice town about an hour from here. We had a group lunch outdoors in an old section of town, and then split up (girls went clothes shopping, guys visited a few guitar shops). We then left for a barbeque being hosted by Stephanie and Greg at their home, who are involved with some of the shows we’re doing here, and who we met at the ZZ Top show the other night. 

Others from the events were there too – Jean-Marc (who made a great salad!), Lise and Didier, our NY friends Ed and Carole, and about 20 people all together. We just hung out in their large backyard, played some games, drank wine and beer, and ate a feast (and I mean a FEAST) prepared by everyone. Stephanie is an incredible cook and hostess, and her mother made some delicious desserts. 

The time flew quickly – we were there from 8 pm until 1 am! – but we finally said our “goodnights” and returned to the manor to get some sleep. And well need it after running around all day, with a show tomorrow…with details to follow.

Summer Tour Diary – July 16th (Day 26): Opening for ZZ Top! 

After last night’s show at the Mirande Country Festival, 5:15 am came way too quickly. But that was when the alarm went off on my iPhone, signaling the start of a very long, but quite exciting day. We gathered in the parking lot of our hotel at 5:45 am to load all of our luggage and instruments (which is a considerable amount for 9 people on the road for nearly 2 months), and made the 45-minute drive to Toulouse Airport in France. 

Once we got there, we returned our rented vehicles, and then checked in to our flight to Paris. Unlike the horrible experiences we had with prior flights on this tour (because of the misery inflicted upon us by Alitalia), we were pleasantly surprised that our new airline, Air France, rewarded us with a hassle-free and terrific experience. In contrast to Alitalia, who I never care to fly again, Air France was truly a pleasure. 

We arrived in Paris on time, and after a little difficulty finding the drivers who were dispatched to bring us to our hotel (Charles de Gaulle airport is a huge place, and it wasn’t easy to connect), we were on the road for a nearly 2 hour drive to get to our hotel near where were playing tonight with ZZ Top. 

And about our new hotel…I had mentioned that a recent hotel was one of the smallest I had ever seen. Well, this one brought “small” to a new level of absurdity. I’m rather surprised at what’s considered to be acceptable accommodations in some places here, but it really wasn’t a big deal because we were only here for one night. 

We had around 2 hours to shower and get ourselves together for the show, and then were picked up around 5:30 and driven to the festival site, which was very different than what we first expected. 

When we first learned that we were going to play the “Arena de Hainaut” with ZZ Top, we assumed it was in an arena like Madison Square Garden. But when taking a look at the venue online, I discovered that the “arena” is actually a large exhibition center, like the Javits Center in NYC. So, I thought we’d be playing indoors in an airplane hanger-styled environment. 

But as we were communicating with the production team a couple of days prior to the event, we learned that this was actually another outdoor music festival, taking place in the venue’s parking lot. So when we arrived, we saw the huge stage they erected, and the mobs of people who had been there all day to see 6 other bands that had played throughout the day. 

We were driven around to the back of the building, and brought indoors to the makeshift dressing rooms constructed from tents, and were reunited with some friends we’ve made at other events here in France. We hung around a bit, and got ourselves ready to do our set as the last band to play before ZZ Top. 

At 7, we were able to quickly have our gear set up on stage. Fortunately, every promoter on this tour is providing us with backline (which means that the larger items we can’t take on planes – drums, amps, keyboards – are rented for us in each place), so we just had to get our guitars and pedal boards out, test it all out, get a quick monitor sound check…and by 7:30 we were ready to go. 

Although we had been scheduled to play a 40-minute set, everything had been running a bit early here (almost unheard of at a festival), so the organizers told us we could play a bit longer if wanted. Um…YES, of course we would! So we had a quick conversation about what 2 songs to add, and after a brief introduction by the festival’s emcee, we were off to the races. 

Despite the very quick set up and sound check, I thought the onstage mix sounded great (which always helps with our performance), and there’s really nothing like have a huge stage to play and run around on. Looking out at the crowd, I could see that many were getting into the show right from the start, and there were also some familiar faces in the crowd…including our friends Ed and Carol who flew in from NY to be here with us for a few days; our new friend Brandon who we met backstage at the Nurburgring show in Germany; and Didier and his daughter Lise (who was celebrating her 16th birthday today). 

But I could also see that others were watching intently, but still deciding whether they liked us or not. And let’s face it…don’t we all do that at concerts? When we see a new band that we haven’t heard before, there’s always some time spent soaking it all in before we form an opinion. 

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long before we won everyone over, if I must say so myself. The crowd was responding enthusiastically to everything Jessica was doing – clapping along at the intro of songs, dancing, singing along, raising their fists and waving their arms back and forth in the air. Here's a shot of the crowd from the front side of the stage during our set...

Looking out at the big crowd doing all of this, I actually said to myself…”appreciate this, Steven.” After all, it’s not every day you get to open for a band like ZZ Top, and a get a reaction from an audience like this. 

The set went off without a hitch, and by the time we were finished with our last song and left the stage, the crowd was chanting for more. The emcee came out to edge them on, and we returned to do an encore cover of Elvis Presley’s “That All Right, Mama,” which was a fun, upbeat way to end the show.  Here's Jessica with the crowd just before our encore...

Especially after only around 3 hours of sleep the night before, and also tired from flying to Paris that morning, we were pretty exhausted and soaked in sweat from the show…but we were all on such an adrenaline high. After our gear was quickly packed up, we went back to the dressing room area to have a quick dinner. 

I think many people assume that when bands play together, everyone is hanging out together backstage and having a big party. But in reality, that rarely happens. And in ZZ Top’s case, they deliberately kept themselves (and even their crew) isolated from everyone else involved with this show. We’ve played with other big artists before, like Keith Urban, who keep themselves hidden on their tour buses right until show time, so this kind of behavior is not completely unusual….although I have to admit it was a bit disappointing. I’ve always been a fan and it would have been cool to chat a bit. 

But when the guys finally emerged from their dressing rooms, they hit the stage with “Got Me Under Pressure” and proceeded to rock the place for an hour-and-a-half, running through all of their hits. Steve and I watched a tune from the side of the stage, and then all of us caught some more of the show from the “pit” up front.  Was rather cool to be onstage (sort of) with ZZ Top...

I thought the guys sounded awesome (Billy's still an incredible guitarist), and the audience loved the show. When their set was done and the crowd was starting to file out, many noticed that Jessica was in their midst, and she got mobbed pretty quickly with requests for photos and autographs. Security instantly saw what was going on and rushed in to keep things in order, and it was great to see that kind of fan reaction. So many people told us how much they liked our show…it was a very cool moment. 

After hanging backstage a little longer and saying our goodbyes, we were taken back to our hotel, where we kept the after party on our “After Party Tour” going in the lobby with some friends until 2 am. I honestly don’t how we lasted that long on so little sleep, but I think we were all still high from the show we just did with a legendary band in front of thousands of people. Not a bad way to spend the day. 

And after this, there are three days off in the French countryside, which we’re leaving for in the morning. And after this hectic, but rewarding, weekend…I’m ready for a little down time before our next shows starting on Thursday. 

Next stop – Masnieres, France!

Summer Tour Diary – July 15th (Day 25): Church Country  

It was a show day on Saturday, as we're playing the Mirande Country Festival. And we were pretty excited to do it too, since Jessica was on the cover of two local newspapers, we had just received the news about our Top 10 entry in the radio download charts, and besides that, we hadn't done a show in a few days.  But since the show site is not too far from our hotel, we didn’t have to leave too early to get there. And since we’re right outside of the beautiful town of Auch in France, some of us decided to take a little sightseeing trip in the morning. 

Peter, Victoria, Bob, Wilma and I (I always seem to be either the 3rd, or 5th, wheel) piled into our Citroen and drove to town. We parked right by a canal, and walked to the famous Auch Cathedral (also known as the Cathedral of Saint-Marie), built in the 1500’s. 

Since D’Artagnan was born 30 km from here, there’s a statue of him as you climb the large, majestic stairway to the church. Here's our own Three Musketeers...

As you make your way up, there are impressive views of the town below. And perched high upon the hill is the cathedral itself.  I could go on and on about how beautiful it was – the stained glass, the ornate wood carvings, the paintings, the structure of the building itself and its rich history…but this tour diary ain’t a history lesson! If you’re interested, check out the link above…but suffice to say, we spent an hour inside and were mesmerized. Very glad we made this trip. 

But then it was back to the hotel to get ready for the show, which we did, and got to the show site around 4 pm. As often happens, production was running late, so we had about an hour to kill, which we spent visiting vendors at the festival. 

When it was time for sound check, we did encounter a few issues, including a loud, rapid clicking sound that was coming from my amp, from Bob’s amp, and even Jessica’s wireless vocal mic. The sound crew was trying to isolate the problem, and eventually got it under control…but this extended our sound check into a nearly two-hour affair. 

We had dinner outside in the hospitality tent, and although everyone was so kind and gracious, I have to be honest…the food was pretty inedible. The information we advance to the shows lets them know that two people in our entourage are vegetarians (Jessica and Victoria), and all they had that they could eat were hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and French fries. For the rest of us, we had steak which was so tough it was impossible to chew, and was first served almost completely raw (we had to send it back, but it was pointless). 

See? As I’ve said before, it’s not all glamour and spotlights out here on the road! 

But none of that really mattered, because we were there to play, and just a little after our 9 pm show time, the MC came out and introduced us as “Jessica LINE.” That was good for a laugh. But once we started playing…we discovered that this was probably the best crowd we played for so far on this tour. Clapping along with the start of every song, big reactions, dancing, and a very loud chant for an encore when our set was over. The sound and lights were also among the best we had so far.  Here's a snapshot of Jessica and I taken from backstage during the show...

After the set, Jessica met a bunch of new fans at the merch table, but although we usually like to hang out with the producers and other bands after our shows, we had to get out of there as quickly as possible. It was already after midnight, and we were scheduled to meet at 5:30 in the morning to catch a flight to Paris, for our show opening for ZZ Top on Sunday night. 

I’ll file my next report from there…

Summer Tour Diary – July 12th - 14th (Days 22, 23 & 24): Great news from the South of France  

I’m once again putting a few days in a single diary entry, and which is a mix of the mundane, with an unexpected and exciting twist at the end. But to begin, as you've probably noticed if you've been reading my posts, much of touring is time spent simply traveling, which is nothing more than long hours sitting in a vehicle. And that’s how we spent the last couple of days here in France. 

We left Evian-les-Bains on Wednesday morning, and began the long drive to the south of France. The drive itself was quite beautiful and constantly changing. As we left Evian, we had spectacular lake and mountain views that looked distinctly European. As we got a little farther south, we were surprised that it looked almost exactly like the southwest of the United States…large, rocky formations on the mountains…even with an old castle perched on top every now and then… 

And as we got even further south, it started looking like desert territory - could have been Arizona -  which was something I did not at all expect in France. It took us around 6 hours to reach our destination, just outside of Montpellier. Our hotel was probably the strangest yet – and the smallest yet. We could barely fit our large suitcases and guitars in our rooms and still have room to walk around the beds (Brian smartly started walking on and over the bed to get around).  At one point we had 6 people in one room and it looked like that famous scene from a Marx Brothers movie. But, we were only staying for one night, so we made the best of it. 

We left around noon on Thursday, and had intended to take a little side trip to the Mediterranean Sea, which we discovered was only about a 20 minute drive. It was quite hot, so we thought it would be a perfect place to spend an hour and grab lunch. However, we had some major issues with the GPS in both vehicles right near our hotel location. Something was jamming the signal, and we could not find our way (GPS had no idea where we were).  We quickly discovered we were not heading to the beach, and instead, were heading to our next destination, so we just continued the trip, and unfortunately, never made it to the beach. But the drive was also incredibly scenic, with more castles and old churches on our route, along with the most beautiful large fields of sunflowers… 

We spent almost 4 hours making the trip, and finally arrived in Auch, France, where we’re spending 3 nights. After we checked in to our hotel, we wanted to get something to eat (we were starving and had only had breakfast, since we didn’t make it to lunch on the Mediterranean). So we drove into town, which is another pretty little French village. We found a brasserie with an outdoor area that looked nice, so we sat down, ordered some drinks, and then asked for the menu. 

But...we were told that they weren’t serving food that day! It seems businesses are run very differently here, and couldn’t imagine that a restaurant would not serve food on certain days. But our waiter was a nice guy, and through broken English, broken French, and the help of Google Translate (which has become indispensible on the trip), he suggested a place that had authentic regional cuisine in a beautiful outdoor setting, about 10 minutes away. He called and made a reservation for us. 

We piled back in the car, and had the hardest time finding this place (again, our GPS had us at the destination in the wrong location). But we finally found it, and at 6 pm, after not eating all day, we walked into this very unique spot. It looked like the backyard at a chateau, with a swimming pool, different seating areas, and a very cool vibe. We sat at our table, and the waiter asked us what we wanted to drink. Yes, we wanted to order drinks, but we were starving and asked for the menu. Guess what? He told us that they don’t serve dinner until 8 pm. Two hours away. Soooo…once again, we got up and decided to just head back to our hotel, where the restaurant opened at 7 pm. 

We made a brief stop at the grocery store on the way back, and I should mention just how inexpensive everything is here. I bought some snacks (nuts, chips, fruit), a six-pack of bottled water, and two bottles of French wine, for a total of $15. That’s less than a single bottle of that wine would have cost in the U.S. But after all this struggle simply to get a meal, we were finally dining outdoors on a nice patio at the hotel, eating freshly grilled steaks, fish, salads, veggies…all fresh and delicious. After a couple of hours, we all retired to our rooms, finally satisfied. 

On Friday, we had a good fresh breakfast at the hotel, and all did our own stuff again – working, guitar maintenance, etc. It was a pretty quiet day until I received an email from GrassRoots Promotions, the radio promo organization that’s helping us get Jessica’s new single, “Crazy Idea,” played on country stations in the US. 

I opened the email, and there was the “Play MPE” chart, which lists the most downloaded and streamed singles for the week…and “Crazy Idea” entered the download chart at #9!  We’re up there with names like Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, Chris Stapleton, and Dierks Bentley, and ABOVE others like Dan & Shay, Kenny Chesney, Gretchen Wilson and Kelsea Ballerini (can't see those names because they're below the Top 10 in the screen grab of the chart). Check it out!...

AND, we hit #7 on the streaming charts...

I went around knocking on everyone’s doors, and we were all outside our rooms in happy disbelief. Even cooler, Jessica is the only artist in the Top 10 on that list who is not on a major label…the only indie artist. Needless to stay, we’re pretty damn stoked and excited for what may lie ahead. 

(BTW – I’ve been keeping my blog relatively “commercial free” – but if you haven’t done so yet, please check the single out and download it on iTunes, play it on Spotify, and also, if you’d be so kind, please call your local country radio station to request it!). 

So after this great news, we gathered for a bit of a celebratory dinner, and after a walk into the countryside afterwards, went back to our rooms to get some sleep.  Because staring tomorrow, we have a big weekend of shows ahead, playing the Mirande Country Festival on Saturday, and then opening for ZZ Top at the Arena du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France.

Reports to come soon…