Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Missoulian Article Following American Road Trip Tour

Here's the Missoulian article that followed the American Road Trip tour. Thanks, Cory Walsh, for the interview:

Chris Sand likes to think of his new album, "American Road Trip," as a mix tape that covers his career to this point. Over the course of 20 years, he's released 13 albums and seven tapes that merged plain-spoken cowboy music with early 1980s hip-hop, criss-crossing the country as a troubadour.
"It's not only about the American experience, it's also meant to be something that you put it in your CD player and you drive somewhere," he said.
There are light-hearted rap songs ("Down at Habashi"), serious folk songs ("Farmor (Father's Mother,)" about his grandmother), outlaw country ("Bull") and recitations of cowboy poetry over hip-hop beats.
The musical detours take place over a day-like time-line. Each song is accompanied by a line of text. ("4 a.m. A curious dream in a cabin on Killdeer Mountain," "Noon. Lunch in Glendive? ... Nope," "11 p.m. Pining in Deer Lodge.")
Sand recently completed a 30-show, 45-day solo tour that found him going from Leadville, Colorado, down to Missouri and through Nashville, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Texas and California and more.
He worked as a truck driver on and off for five and a half years, and isn't a stranger to long hauls. His tune "Trucker Song" is one of the many that draws on those experiences.
He likes to spend January and February on the road, where he can escape Missoula's dreary weather, visit old friends and make frequent stops at hot springs, preferably the free ones that require a hike in.
The travel, though, is a way of feeling like a citizen of the country as a whole.
"I feel like the country keeps getting more and more separated, so it's a political act for me to travel and be reminded that we're not all the same, yet we are fellow citizens. It's easy to get stuck in your own little pocket and forget about the rest of the country," he said.
Sand grew up in Ronan and graduated high school there in 1989.
"My dad's from North Dakota. I feel like a dual citizen because I went to first and second grade there, and I spent all my summers there riding horses on my grandparents' ranch," he said, out at Killdeer Mountain in the western half of the state.
His dad worked as a carpenter and his mom as a counselor at Salish Kootenai College. He liked outlaw country and she liked Cat Stevens; Sand also heard folk-related artists like Rob Quist and Greg Brown who'd play in the area.
He first began listening to hip-hop via break-dancing compilations, which included early tracks in the genre like Nucleus' "Jam On It."
"All that stuff really saturated me and helped me feel like there's more to life than Reba McEntire and Alabama," he said. That meant new names like Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J joined the older guard of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, plus politically minded folk artists Woody Guthrie and Utah Phillips.
He remembers writing a book of poetry when he was 14, one that included both poems and raps.
"My grandpa's brother was a cowboy poet, so I grew up on cowboy poetry," he said. (That relative was also named Chris Sand.)

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"I've always thought that cowboy poetry and rap have a lot in common, with the rhyming couplets and use of colloquialism, brag talk, oftentimes working class or poor. They're both folk musics in my mind," he said.
"American Road Trip" includes two performances of cowboy poems, one each from Bruce Kiskaddon ("A Cowboy's Prayer") and Badger Clark, the first poet laureate of South Dakota. ("When They've Finished Shipping Cattle in the Fall.")
Both are recited over relaxed hip-hop beats, and not an attempt to translate them into the cadences of rap.
"It felt appropriate to pay tribute to these old ramblers who influenced me," he said.
Sand began performing at age 20. Some other ideas bled in when he transferred to Evergreen State College in Olympia, where he lived for 11 years. The city had an unusually high ratio of do-it-yourself rock and punk, with celebrated labels like K Records and Kill Rock Stars. Sand at one point played a few gigs with Calvin Johnson, the K Records founder and frontman for Beat Happening.
His career caught some attention from media outlets around the country with "Roll Out, Cowboy," a 2010 documentary portrait directed by Elizabeth Lawrence.
She saw him at a gig in Chicago and reached out to him after she'd finished film school and moved to New York. Her film collected some awards on the festival circuit, while Sand continued driving trucks.
He said he wasn't able to capitalize on the buzz it generated. It created a segue, though, after he got it screened the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. When the festival's former director, Mike Steinberg, launched the Roxy Theater as an art-house community cinema, he brought Sand on board, where he's stayed through a series of different gigs.
"American Road Trip" is the first in a series of three albums.
"The reason it feels like a triptych to me is that 'American Road Trip' is the past. It tidily wraps up my career as a troubadour," he said.
It's the first album he's released since moving back to Missoula just before the birth of his daughter. Stevie, now just over 4 years old, marked a change in his lifestyle and songwriting.
After she was born, he began writing songs about her. Those and some previously unrecorded tunes from his back catalog with a "child-like quality" will make up the children's album, he said.
The other entry, "Hard Lessons," is more serious.
"'Hard Lessons' is also about the future, about how we are going to survive as a nation, given all the differences we seem to have," he said.
The first one, marks a sort of an ending and a new beginning.
"It feels like a coming-home record, in a way," he said.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


Here's a brief review of the 30 shows from my 2016 winter/spring American Road Trip tour:

2/12 - Leadville, CO: The Hen House! Thank you, Anna Rebellino and gang! This was a great kickoff show, except a hound dog howled off and on during my set and throughout the night. I read Walt Whitman until 6am. Who needs sleep at the beginning of a tour!?

New CD!
2/13 - Albuquerque, NM: Mark Baker & Nancy Dowd somehow ALWAYS deliver (5 for 5). Because a water pipe burst and destroyed their kitchen that morning, they moved the show to Mark's architecture office, where they seemingly effortlessly packed it with good vibes, great people, and a vintage flashing neon "SEXY" sign. Attitude is everything, no doubt. There is magic along Route 66, and it followed me east . . .

In Albuquerque I picked up copies of my long-awaited, hot-off-the-press new CD: AMERICAN ROAD TRIP! Thanks to Bess Bird for the artwork and Allison V. Smith for the photos!

2/14 - Oklahoma City, OK: Valentine's Day at Terri Sadler's for a second year in a row--a tradition begins! Terri knows how to make a ramblin' man feel valued. She showered me with gifts and food and encouraged guests to drop $20 bills into the hat. I'm in love.

On my way to Missouri I made a pilgrimage to museums honoring two heroes, Woody Guthrie and Will Rogers (in Claremore and Tulsa, OK, respectively). Earlier I had stopped at the Roger Miller Museum in Erick, OK, but sadly it was closed.

2/16 - Columbia, MO:  A last-minute party at Cafe Berlin! Thank you Eli, Bill & Jill McKelvey, and Kelly Betz for arranging, hosting, performing, and/or boarding!

Back in the bathtub . . .
2/17 - Pesotum, IL: The Route 45 Bar is famous for its pig testicle fry, and I accidentally called this charming farming town "Pescrotum" from the stage. Big thanks to Ralph Roether, who set up the show, designed killer flyers, and drummed on several songs, and to Jamie for the adventures!

2/19 - Indianapolis, IN: Rhonda Baughman's birthday show was high on quality, low on quantity. Only two people showed up who weren't her housemates or boyfriend. Still I cleared $350 and had a blast!  Thanks, Rhonda, for your amazing generosity!  And thanks, Liz Janes & Michael Kaufmann, for the luxurious crash pad afterwards.

Rappin' w/ Camo in Nashville.
2/20 - Nashville, TN: Derek Greene & Megan Lightell must have the cutest half-acre farmstead in Nashville. Megan's band opened the show, I followed, and Jonny Fritz wrapped it up. Camo Davi joined me for several songs, a flashback to the '90s when we were #1 on the KAOS charts. I loved this show for many reasons--wish I could've stayed another month. I camped that night at Mary Arwen's house of crystals & reptiles.

2/21 - Florence, AL: Alabama is basically the holy grail for me when it comes to music states.  That's how much Hank Williams means to this fellow skinny driftin' songwriter. And Florence is directly across the Tennessee River from the venerable FAME studios of Muscle Shoals, AL! Much respect to Josh & Melissa Driskell and Rivertown Coffee Company for the love and charity.

2/22 - Little Rock, AR: House concert at the Watson's. Amy & Eric epitomize southern hospitality--they even slept on couches to give me the privacy of their bedroom! Amy cooked up a feast, made an intricate papercut cowboy-with-boombox show flyer, and gave two of her valuable handmade dolls to send to Stevie. Eric drove me around the city and educated me on various Arkansas/Southern facts.

2/23 - Amy also helped set up a second Little Rock show at Adrian Bozeman's Dogtown Sound. Adrian is a cool-as-hell dude who uses his store to support local musicians. I needed a mic stand, so he gifted me a brand new one, plus a few packs of guitar strings and picks.  
Gothic shower contraption at Buckstaff.

After the show, Jessi Perren lent me the keys to her dilapidated house, a former brothel in Hot Springs, AR (an hour west of Little Rock). She told me to drop the keys through the mail slot after exiting the next morning. In my groggy stupor, I foolishly locked my MacBook inside her house. Rather than breaking down a door or window, I drove into town and paid $30 for a relaxing spa treatment at the historic Buckstaff BathhouseRemarkably, midway through my soak, someone recognized me from the movie Roll Out, Cowboy, which had played at the 2010 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. He alerted the rest of the staff and I ended up signing several awkward autographs in the nude. I had to leave my computer behind to get to the next gig. Five days later Jessi hand-delivered it to me in Austin.Thanks again, Jessi!

2/24 - Shreveport, LA: Leadbelly's hometown! This was the first of five co-bills with my friend and hero Bill Daniel--filmmaker, photographer, author, mechanic, punk. We set up shop at David Nelson's beautifully rustic Mini-Cine venue. Dave Ortego and Dacoda Montana were part of this show, which hit all the right notes. Mr. Nelson was a fantastic host. I want to return to Shreveport soon.

Bill Daniel's Milkcrate Microcinema!
Here's how Bill Daniel described his Milkcrate Microcinema offering: "Kooked-out western soundies from the 1930s-50s. Soundies were a precursor to music videos--3-minute music performances on 16mm reels that were played and viewed on a vending console like a juke box, but instead of playing records they projected the films on a built-in screen. Goofy, racy, black and white film!"

2/26 - Huntsville, TX: Bill and I brought our multi-media chatauqua to Jennie & Tamara's vibrant Eclectic Coffee House. Much gratitude to "Lucy Harper" for wranglin' the show, and to Michael Henderson for housing us. Huntsville is an unexpectedly groovy underworld.

2/27 - Dallas, TX: Sweet Sarah Jane & Paul Semrad are angels who've hosted multiple Sandman happenings. Because they have close, trusting relationships with so many people in their Oak Cliff community, when they send out party invites, people show up. Guess who reaps the rewards? I do! Thanks, guys!

2/28 - Austin, TX: Bill Daniel's birthday party! Bill, his glorious Milkcrate MicroCinema, and I continued to wend our way through the heart of Texas. And Austin's Carousel Lounge is one wild venue. Local luminaries Ralph E. White and John Wesley Coleman III shared the bill, many revelers attended, solid gold. Thanks, Ian Tennant, for the room!

At the Carousel in Austin.
(Bryan Parker photo)
2/29 - San Antonio, TX: Who knew San Antonio was so awesome on a danged Monday?!! Gracias to marble tycoon Justin Parr, who runs Flight Gallery. He not only curated a powerful evening of art and music, he put Bill and me up in the mystic ruins of an burnt-out 19th-century hot springs resort.

3/1 - Lubbock, TX: Andy Hedges, cowboy songster & one of America's best young folk singers, hooked me up with a gig at La Diosa. This was the only show of my life where I said something so surreal that I momentarily lost consciousness. What I said was, "I'm NOT gonna say that Donald Trump isn't a great man." And then my brain short-circuited and my legs buckled. I stumbled across the stage to catch myself on the piano. Disoriented and embarassed, I somehow got myself back to the mic. I said the same thing again, and this time I completely dissociated. I came to just before my face hit the floor. I picked myself up and launched into the song I had been trying to introduce, a new one called "Bad Signs." 

All I can say is, you try saying that without falling down! Anyway, I love Lubbock. Thanks, Andy & Alissa Hedges! Thanks, Andy Wilkinson and family!
Roy Orbison Museum in Wink, TX.

3/5 - Marfa, TX: The doors of Marfa swung wide and blessed me with a vision of West Texas regality. My good friends Buck Johnston and Camp Bosworth hired me to play an art show opening in their WRONG STORE gallery. Friends Lorna Leedy & Peter Maggio put me up in their classy airbnb for two nights for free. Virginia Lebermann & Rocky Barnett & Lorna treated me to the most opulent, theatrical, and drunken dining experience of my life at The Capri. It was the only time I drank on this tour. Marfa!

3/6 - Bisbee, AZ: When it comes to small vibrant southwestern US art towns, Bisbee is the yin to Marfa's yang. This time I was ushered in by Gretchen Baer & Shawnee Hicks to do a show for Gretchen's birthday party. I had the honor of joining rock prophet Melissa Reaves on stage to inaugurate Shawnee's new studio/theater. Gretchen, FYI, has been making waves for years with her colorful paintings and art cars, many of which celebrate Hillary Clinton.

3/7 - Tucson, AZ: Mike Dixon does it all. Besides running a rad record label, PIAPTK (I'm one of his lucky featured artists), he's a master vinyl record lathe cutter. On top of that, he arranged a cool show at The Flycatcher and housed me in his daughter's inflatable bouncy house. Jasper Ludwig & Brian Haskins treated me to a fine breakfast at their thriving new 5 Points Market & Restaurant.

3/8 - San Diego, CA: I performed an open-air show at The Sleep Bedder Art Collective, a venue like no other. Owned by Sonia Weksler & Steve Bennett, it's a mattress store / art gallery / yoga studio / camp kitchen. Sonia writes this about the kitchen: "All are welcome here where we serve complimentary organic delicacies and host monthly wellness workshops focusing on how to make bone broth, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other good for the gut staples." They fed my soul, as did Alan & Maria Conrad. Yay, San Diego!

3/10 - Long Beach, CA: I was reunited with two longtime friends, Sas Liska & Johanna Moynahan. Sas set up a rousing affair for us both at The Prospector, and Johanna & Danny put me up for the night. Sas is a true blue rocker and art car freak. Johanna runs a Long Beach vintage clothing store called Far Outfit.  

Old pic on a new flyer.
3/11 - Los Angeles, CA: Kay & Willie Wisely hosted me in their historic Laurel Canyon palace. I heard that James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt played house concerts there, and that Rickie Lee Jones might've lived there for a stint. Great show! Thanks, guys!

3/12 - 3/18: A much-needed spring break. I flew back to Missoula to hang with Stevie for a few days, then visited my good friend Nina Berenfeld in Hollywood en route to LA to get my car.

3/19 - San Francisco, CA: Longtime pal Nana Dawson-Andoh invited me to perform for her housewarming party. Nana has helped me in many different towns during my 20-year touring career. This was her first on the West Coast.

3/19 - Sacramento, CA: I rolled a couple hours northeast to Cali's capital city to play my second party of the day. Reva Wittenberg & Matthew Grayum hosted in their balmy, lemon-scented backyard. A highlight was Reva's opening set. Reva and I collaborated often in the 90s, but have played together only a few times since. Another highlight was when world-famous Nigerian percussionist Sunny Eselekhomhen joined me on hand drum for a few songs. The next day Reva, Matt, and their two daughters took me on a tour of Sactown's farmers markets and rose gardens.

The venue in Black Butte, CA.
3/20 - Black Butte, CA: This one was a troubadour's dream. I played in a boxcar filled with hobos and drifters, young and old. The Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture is a utilitarian marvel and, as far as I can tell, Bruce Shoe and his dog Maxx have a heckuva a lot to do with it. I slept like a child in a 1942 Santa Fe caboose.

3/21 - Ashland, OR: I played a show at Amber Tidwell's farmhouse. Lots of friendly and fun-loving  locals showed up to get down. The next morning I soaked at Jackson Wellsprings.

3/22 - Corvallis, OR: I returned to the Interzone after a five-year absence. Alex Foss and Justin Groft helped set this one up. Before the show Alex treated me to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, Nearly Normals. Caitlin Garets & Justin opened the hootenanny with a set of folk-punk classics. Cousins Kirby & Megan put me up for a great night's sleep. 

3/23 - Portland, OR: After two months of not being able to line out a Portland showcase of any kind, Amanda Stark Shur invited me--a week before the show--to play at The Old Church Concert Hall. Click on that link and you'll see why The Old Church is one of the most coveted venues in the northwest, and why I hit the jackpot! I'm more than lucky to be friends with Amanda, who is the Executive Director of Program Development there. I ended my second set with eerie, spontaneously (de)composed pipe organ music. Great reconnecting with Miranda Rinks, Doug Henderson, & so many other old friends.

The old man wants to go home.
3/25 - Olympia, WA: In the guise of a birthday party for herself, darling Rebeca Jane Potasnik threw a bash for Olympia at the Abigail Stuart House and invited me to be the headliner. What a party it was--amazing food, dynamic opening acts, community spirit & revelry, and a cause! The cause was clemency for Leonard Peltier, who's been in prison for 40 years. Rebeca helped 39 people write letters to President Obama, encouraging him to set Mr. Peltier free. 

The opening act at this show, which performed under the umbrella name of "The Pink Tree Cabaret," deserves special mention. Kendl Winter & Joe Capoccia sang magic love songs on banjo & guitar. Samantha Chandler read classical poetry. Sky Cosby and gang juggled. Katie Rains led the crowd in song. Nina Berenfeld MC'd playfully.

A First People's "Welcome Song" by Gary Wessels-Galbreath hit me like lightning and moved me to tears. It somehow answered the question underlying the American Road Trip tour: How can I reconnect with my beloved, polarized, troubled country? Every stop along the way had given me hope, but something came together for me in Gary's song--the earth beneath Indiana, the Oklahoma sky, the trees of Colorado, the Tennessee flowers, the mountains of Oregon, the Alabama rivers, the snakes and birds of Arkansas and Texas. The beauty of the people I met in each town. I realized once again that I go on tour to find this reconnection, and I never know when or how or if it will happen. 

So thank you, Gary, and thanks to everyone who was part of my 2016 American Road Trip. I simply couldn't have done it without your love, enthusiasm, and help.  

3/26 - After breakfast with Rebeca & Nina, I drove home to Missoula. The next day was Easter. Stevie and I painted eggs, enjoyed a great Easter meal with my parents and Herak relatives, and joined in the family Easter egg hunt. It was good to be home.

4/1 - I played my 30th and final show of the tour at The Roxy in Missoula on April Fool's Day. Thanks to Mike Steinberg for that, and thanks to The Missoulian for a good article. (Don't be confused by the misleading headline. I'm not bidding farewell to musician life at all. I'm planning the next chapter, which I hope will result in two new albums within the next year and take me to Europe and beyond.)

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Until next time,


Saturday, April 09, 2016

Facts & Figures from Winter/Spring 2016 American Road Trip Tour

Yowza! I just drove 8,500 miles through 21 states in 40 days.

Here are some notes from the road for anyone interested in the nuts & bolts of touring on a shoestring budget:

My car averaged almost 30 miles per gallon. Thus, total expenditure on gas and two oil changes was kept to about $600. I averaged $1.92/gallon; received one $75 parking ticket in Hollywood; spent $350 on rear air-shocks in Urbana, IL; doled out $190 total for hotel rooms; and dropped $500 for food.

Over the course of 30 shows I earned about $6200, which equals $207 per show. Minus expenses, that's about $140 in my pocket per show, of which $75 came from merchandise sales.

The five biggest miracles of this tour:
Prepping for a Shreveport, LA, show.

1. These shows were organized with an average turnaround of 17 days from when I first contacted the house or venue to when I arrived. (Most bands try to give themselves at least a two-month head start.) This, of course, is a testament to the folks who welcomed me so openheartedly.

2. There were a LOT of colds and other illnesses going around, but I stayed healthy for the duration, in spite of relative lack of sleep.

3. My $1,000 Buick, "E-4," didn't break down. By tour's end the brake pads were gone, but they lasted until I was safely home.

4.  I made enough money to cover tour costs and pay down some CD production expenses. Factors that helped: a) low fuel prices, b) generous friends, c) a shiny new CD to peddle, d) and touring solo.

5. Last, but certainly not least, my parents took my shift of caring for Stevie while I was gone. What a relief and privilege to have strong familial support. I'm very grateful to them for this!