Antsy McClain was recently featured as a TEDx guest speaker in Carson City and his talk has been publicized nationwide.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
Though known more as a humorist, songwriter and small town philosopher, as many of his fans know, Antsy McClain also has a parallel career as a painter and illustrator. When he shows up to speak at high school career days, he’s usually booked as “the creativity guy.” In this talk, he reflects on the pivotal age of “14” as a turning point in the lives of so many.
Antsy tells like he lives it: The good life. Antsy is generally free from an over-abundance of material things and appreciates time with family and friends.
In the mid-’90s, The Trailer Park Troubadours looked to be one of the next breakout bands to come out of Nashville. With momentum from a win on Charlie Daniels’ Talent Roundup and backing from Waylon’s drummer Richie Albright, the band had everything on their side except for a sound that couldn’t easily be put into a genre label. They were too comedic to be a country act, too serious to be a novelty act, and too earnest in their embrace of trailer park culture to be hipster ironic. For most bands, that would have been the end as they returned to their day jobs or labored around whatever small clubs they could squeak a living from. For the Trailer Park Troubadours, it became their thing.
Slowly the songs started to be a little bit less Dr. Demento and a little more reflective. Instead of songs about roadkill and croquet champions, their songs started to become proud statements about the benefits of not making it, about having time to spend with family, about being able to shop at Wal-Mart without being stopped by fans, about the everyday things that the rock stars they never became could never have had.
It hasn’t been an easy road the past two decades. The band has gone through more personnel changes than Guns & Roses, with vocalist and primary songwriter Antsy McClain being the only constant member, but the eternal optimism, the ability to take the smallest detail of everyday life and celebrate it as a blessing, and the keen observational lyrics have all remained. So it should come as no surprise that a period of major upheaval in McClain’s personal life led not to a bitter and spiteful album, but to a nuanced look at life, love, and loss.
“Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads” is credited to Antsy McClain and the Troubs, officially removing the Trailer Park that had long started to be phased out of their albums. McClain’s always been at his songwriting best when he put his pen to melancholy love songs and “Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads” has that in spades. Album standout “A Life Like Ours” almost reads like a modern day Troubs mission statement, with its refrain of “a rich man dreams of paradise and sees a life like ours.”
But that isn’t to say everything on “Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads” is all happiness. To have an album full of “A Life Like Ours” would feel forced and one of the most endearing things about McClain and The Troubs is you never get the sense that they’re forcing it. The blues-rocker “No Train” is as close to a bitter missive as you’ll likely get from a McClain song, but even this is delivered with a gentle poke at common sayings that it’s an easy pill to swallow. More in line with McClain’s style is the song that is sure to be the live favorite from the album, “Butt Dial Blues”, which sees a man receiving his long awaited return call from a would-be lover, only to discover that he’s been butt-dialed.
Another comic highlight is “Keanu Reeves, Kenny G, and Me.” Here McClain finds that all of his favorite movies and bands dredge up memories of a romance lost, leaving him stuck with nothing but Keanu Reeves films and Kenny G albums.
Album closer “Wheels in Motion” wraps the album up nicely, with a “circle of life” narrative about McClain’s memory of learning to ride a bike from his father, to teaching his own son to drive, to watching his grandchildren and looking forward to teaching them to ride their own bike someday. Here is the essence of McClain’s songwriting, sentimental without being sappy, gut wrenching without turning into a Celine Dion parody.
One thing that is different about this album is that The Troubs, for this album made up of McClain’s California-based live band, gets much more room to show off than on past works. From rocking blues guitars to classic country twang to a surprisingly successful folk-rock reimagining of “Crazy Train”, the instrumentals on this album are very much out front.
“Somewhere Past These Gravel Roads” isn’t going to make Antsy McClain the rock star that he probably dreamed of being back in 1995. But listening to the words that make up the album’s fourteen tracks, you get the sense that he wouldn’t have it any other way. What the album will do, though, is prove familiar enough to satisfy his small but passionate long term fanbase while providing a good jumping on point for newcomers who have heard him on KPIG or his recent PBS special.
After a fabulous five days in California hanging with my “family” at Woodflock, I had little time to rest. I was purt near worn ragged from all of the fun and events at this “Flamingohead Family Retreat” and truly wasn’t ready to book on out of that four day camping extravaganza and head across the US and on to England.
Thanks to all my Woodflockers for a GREAT weekend. Love and hugs to you all.
Delayed flights and post holiday travel can test the resolve of one who has promised to “Enjoy the Ride.” After a day of delays flying from California to New Jersey, I finally buckled in on my flight to Iceland, where I would change planes to London. I was finally able to relax!
When I finally got to Iceland….it was just a layover, but what I saw of the airport was very nice. At least I was able to land a t-shirt out of the visit!!
With legs stretched, it was back on the plane and on to London. I arrived tired and headed to the hotel.
While in London, I watched my first episode of Nashville – HA! It’s big in England. And I found out it’s just ‘The Young and The Restless’ with guitars. After a night of off-and-on sleep trying to acclimate myself to life on another continent, I can attest that British television is every bit as bad as anything we have going on in the U.S. HA! However, there’s a show over here called ‘Gogglebox‘ where cameras are set up in living rooms to catch the reactions of viewers as they watch various Reality TV shows, and it’s actually pretty hilarious. This will be the next phase of television: We watch others watching TV. The phase after that: We watch people watching people watching TV, and on it goes. Anyway…I needed to then head outside to soak up the sunshine and some of the beautiful old scenes of jolly old England, like the old church in Wokingham.
My good friend Pauly Zarb, who arranged the street concert in Wokingham for the second straight year (very much like the street concerts he arranged in Bardstown, Kentucky with his brother Matt for a number of years), pulled together an amazing group of musicians to play with the band. My Nashville drummer, Chris “Spoonz” Long, flew out a few days earlier and did some gigs with Pauly.
After I had rested up we got together with these fine musicians…Stuart Long on guitar, Rob Reeve assisting on percussion, amazing saxophonist Erly Thornton, Spoonz on drums and Paolo Minervini on bass…we got together and rehearsed.
These guys were hot. Following is a video by guitarist Stuart Long of a piece of our rehearsal. Taken from a GoPro attached to his guitar, it is a great view of our rockin’ rehearsal/show at Jagz Jazz Club. Thanks to Stuart for this video.
The day for the Wokingham show was finally arrived. The stage was getting set up and equipment was brought in.
An event like this takes a ton of planning, coordination and logistics. Words alone cannot express the happy, peaceful place was in. I can only say “thank you” Pauly, for making this possible, and inviting me across the pond to be part of your party.’ It’s a way cool world.
By evening we were ready to put on a show. After Hussy Hicks and Jimmi Nolan did their parts to open, we were primed and ready to kick into high gear and give the crowd a fun time.
By evening time the crowd was ready. The band was tight and we had a fabulous time.
There were hundreds of people lining the street in Wokingham, many of them dancing to the tunes. I must admit that it was easily one of the top five shows I’ve ever been involved in. This band — O. M. G.!!
Following are a couple of quick video clips from the show and a couple of photos.
Friends, if this ain’t the Big Time, What Is?
As with all things…this good…no, this GREAT thing had to come to an end.
It was a wild and fun night…lots of sweat from dancing on the stage with some wonderful musicians…all of whom I felt honored and grateful to share the stage with.
Leaving was bittersweet, but I can now look forward to the next trip to hang with these great folks.
“For years, I didn’t want anyone to know that I’m a functioning disaster, which was always painfully obvious at our live shows.” – Tommy Womack Antsy McClain presents another demo of a brand new song: “That’s What I Do,” and covers some personal ground, giving insight into how he is wired, and examines why we do the things we do.
Also in this podcast, Antsy talks with singer/songwriter Tommy Womack, whose new album, “There I Said It,” is a wonderful collection of introspective songs that track Tommy’s path into an unknown future – a concept we can all embrace with familiarity. Many of Tommy’s songs are featured in this podcast. They are are honest and forthright; funny and thought-provoking. Despite being born the same year, and almost living in a paralell universe (Tommy’s a Kentucky boy first turned on to music by bands like KISS as a kid), Antsy only recently discovered Womack’s music. “It’s been a big part of my summer listening,” Antsy says, “And I wanted to share it with my friends.” So Antsy got in touch with Tommy, who agreed to an interview. They talked in the living room of Womack’s Nashville home. Tommy talks about songwriting, depression, and what he’s learned from his years traveling with a rock and roll band. His answers might surprise you. He also reads from his popular book “Cheese Chronicles – The true story of a rock and roll band you’ve never heard of” which outlines the ups and downs of a 7-year long adventure with the rock band Government Cheese in the 80’s and 90’s. To learn more about Tommy Womack, visit his website at: www.tommywomack.com.
An interview with world-class, award-winning guitarist Pete Huttlinger
Antsy talks with his friend Pete Huttlinger about music, digging ditches, and how to pull yourself out of a funk. Pete’s new album at the time was titled Things Are Looking Up. Pete was one of our featured artists on our next Polyesterfest Cruise in February, 2008.
An interview with Laura Hopper of KPIG radio, posted May 29, 2007
Our friend Laura Ellen Hopper of KPIG Radio, died Monday, May 28th, 2007, after a short fight with cancer. We are forever indebted to her and the KPIG family, and we will miss her more than we can say. In this special podcast, we present Antsy’s casual interview with Laura unedited and uncut, from the Polyesterfest Cruise 2007. No music. No website plugs. Just Laura, as we remember her: candid and honest.