It's been a while since my last post, I know. At the time of writing this post I've been at home in Nashville for a whole week. A whole week! Amazing. At this point, I think I've done enough sitting around and decompressing that maybe I'm getting back to real life now. The last several months have been busy on the road, attending holiday functions, more road, and some studio work in between.
I'm having a great time out there. The shows have been better than ever and the production work I'm doing in the studio is inspiring me to move even more in that direction. On tour, the Grace Potter band is hitting on all cylinders. Musically it's been tighter than ever, and we're reaching for new things every night. Grace is one of those dream bosses that lets us all have our own musical voice within the show. And each of my band mates brings such unique colors to the table. Lately there are lots of times in the show where we get to take the music way out, lose time completely, play free, and vibe with each other and the audience. Most of the time this happens upon request from Grace. We have mic's on stage where we can talk to each other, and she'll chime in and get us to go into space with the music. Then when the time is perfectly right, she'll reel us in with a vocal or body cue and we'll slam the audience right back into the song. It's always fun to see the reactions. On our most recent tour through the USA we had some of the most insane audiences I've ever played in front of. On the slim chance that any of you are reading this, GOOD JOB. Y'all gave us one of the most fun tours we've had yet.
In other news, for about a year I'd been toying around with learning my mom's old 35mm camera. I finally decided it was time to do it and got her to dig the camera out, it still worked perfectly. It's a 1979 Nikon EM 35mm film camera. We put a new battery in it for the light meter and my mom and my uncle Richard (who's beautiful photos you can see in my Red Rocks post) gave me a crash course on using the camera. Then I was off to a session at Dockside Studios with my pals Justin Tocket and Monica Aben. Just for a little added pressure my mom said to me "Don't go losing or breaking that camera, every single baby photo of you and your brother was taken on that thing." Whew! When I had the film developed I was so antsy to see what I got. I didn't know whether or not I had failed terribly or succeeded by actually getting shots that were at least properly exposed and in focus. The first roll turned out to be pretty ok! My photographer friends, which funny enough I have lots of talented successful pro-photographer friends, might look at my photos and think "Ben should probably stick to playing music." Which is true. I am sticking to playing music - I'm not trying to be a pro here. I just think it's in my blood from my family of wonderful photographers (my mom and uncle) and I wanted to try it out for myself.
Most importantly, this little 35mm camera has been a great form of artistic expression for me. And even more so, a massive tool for my patience and self-trust. I enjoy the process of having limited amounts of film, limited amounts of light, trusting your eye, and having to get everything right before pressing the shutter button. Then after all that I wait weeks or months until I get off tour to have the film developed and see what I got. It's taught me a lot already and I've been applying these aspects to music on stage and in the studio. Since learning how to shoot film, lots of things run through my head while making music. Things like: "Don't force it, wait for the right moment, the conditions aren't right for what I'm going for so try something a little unorthodox, let the song come to you, let the idea come to you, don't play until you hear what you need to do." It's been a great learning experience for me. I enjoy the imperfections like light leaks, grain, low light, dust on the sensor, soft focus, etc. These are definitely marks of my inexperience, but I enjoy the human connection of it all. Analog man, wow. Those of you reading this who grew up before the digitization of nearly EVERYTHING, be glad you did - you had some cool stuff to mess around with. Anyway, here are some of my photos from the last several months of touring and studio-ing.
On a day off in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, our tour manager Billy Reed rented an SUV and a few of us drove out to see the Grand Tetons. When we got to Jenny Lake a family of 3 had beat us there, carved a path through 3-4 feet of snow out to the middle of the completely frozen lake to ice fish. On this trip we also saw buffaloes, and a red fox.
A day off in Seaside, Florida, our guitarist Benny Yurco walks around the empty beach town with his coffee cup. Some of that Florida sun leaked it's way onto the film in this one.
Over the 2015 holidays the Spillway in Norco, Louisiana was opened for the 11th time in history. This guy thought it was a good idea to go fishing, he was probably right.
Joe Stark, a dear friend and one of my favorite guitar players, sits on the front porch of Dockside Studios strumming that guitar before we got started on our session that day.
Jory Lee Cordy, amazing photographer and bassist, chilling at the Tackle Box studio in Houma, Louisiana. This was one of my favorite sessions I've ever done.
My little brother, looking dapper as always, joined Andi and I at Juan's Flying Burrito in Nola for a michelada. The golden hour sun was hitting just right on his face. If you've never had a michelada before, do it.
A day off at Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, a sight to see for sure.
The Palo Duro Canyon in Amarillo, Texas is the spirit land of the Comanche Native American Indians. It's a beautiful place, but it has a dark history of violence in a battle that took place in 1874 between the Cavalry of Gen. MacKenzie and the Comanches. Pressured from the powerful railroad business, white settlers, politicians, bankers, etc, MacKenzie's men in an effort to eradicate the Natives, sought out and attacked the Natives who were already taking refuge in the canyon. After the battle, MacKenzie and his men rounded up over 1,000 of the Comanche's horses and slaughtered them all. Within 5 years of this battle most Native American tribes had surrendered and were forced to leave their land and move into reservations where their lives would sadly never be the same to this day.
A tug boat on the Mississippi River chugging along. It was a gloomy day but we still decided to go hang out at The Fly.
A day off at the NASA Johnson Space Center. The amazing folks at NASA -for some reason- thought it would be a good idea to give a bunch of space-crazed Rock n' Rollers a private tour of the Johnson Space Center. We got to see some amazing stuff: the original Apollo mission control room, International Space Station training facilities, Mars robotics development, and a live mission control room while they were conducting an experiment on the ISS. Pictured is the Boeing 747 that was built to transport the Space Shuttle to and fro. Amazing stuff. Even though we had to be told to lower our voices several times, we behaved just well enough for them to let us see some extra stuff that not many other people get to see. As an aviation buff it was a day I'll never forget. Walking around NASA and talking to some of the most brilliant people in the world really makes you feel that anything is possible. Thank you NASA for being such an amazing light in our world's community.
That's all for now folks! Hope you enjoyed the photos, more to come as I will soon be traveling to tour around Australia with Ms. Grace Potter in March. Thanks a bunch for checking out my blog, if you'd like to see more of the day-to-day happenings in the musical world of T'Ben, follow me on my Instagram: