For those of you that know me personally, you know that I can't even go get the mail without coming back with a 10 minute story. The following posts are a collection of the crazy stuff that happens when I’m out in the world and out at shows; from the "I Always Have A Story" section of my monthly e-newsletters.

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I Always Have A Story

A Birthday Party… For An Airplane 

Over the past decade, I’ve played a really wide variety of shows and different venues. Private events are often the most fun and unique, and this past year was no different. I got hired to record a hilariously cheesy parody of YMCA for a large conference, I played a Halloween show at a prison, rocked the socks off of several corporate parties, etc. However the most unique private show of 2016 was a birthday party for a plane. You read that correctly. Katie Pribyl was celebrating her beloved Cessna 180 “Buck” on his special day. I set up my gear at the airport in front of Buck, and spent the evening entertaining Katie’s friends and family.
 
Though I had never met Katie prior to the party, she was incredibly nice to me and I enjoyed hearing her back story as a pilot and eventually working for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Shortly after the party, AOPA released this tear-jerker of a video profile showing Katie making her first landing on her family’s Montana ranch. HERE is the link if have 6 free minutes to watch.
 
I’m also available for golf club anniversaries, bah mitzvahs, stamp collecting gatherings and canine weddings.

My Diary As An 11 Year Old (Vol. 1) 

My mother recently ran across my old diary that I wrote when I was 11 years old. It was hilarious to read some of my old entries. I thought it would be fun to share a couple of them in the next few IAHAS posts. Enjoy!
If you can't read my 11 year old chicken scratch, it says: "Dear Diary, Today I won my chess game in the tournament and there is absolutely no homework. Me + greg are planning to write a note to shannon to see who she likes. It will be done on computer."

As soon as I saw this, I sent this photo to my old high school friend Shannon ("on computer"). I don't remember sending her the note back then, but I figured better late than never. She got a kick out of it, and hopefully her husband wasn't jealous of this computerized profession of love from an 11 year old. 

If you can't read my 11 year old chicken scratch, it says: "Dear Diary, Today mom and I bought everything needed to make a taco. But the proplem was the shells were really small! Mrs. Pirwits gave us home-work for the weekend."

What can I say? My love for tacos started at an early age. But damn those small shells! At least I didn't have any math homework. The size of my dinner and spelling seem to be the only "proplems" I had back then.
 
Do any of you have a diary from when you were little? If so, please share! 

The Adventures of Battery Man 

I’m a big fan of Ernie Halter. If you don’t know him, he is a wildly talented Nashville-based singer-songwriter that even had Justin Beiber cover one of his songs. He also happens to be a really nice guy. I had the pleasure of seeing Ernie play a show with Gabe Dixon recently in Virginia. Don’t even get me started on Gabe Dixon, who’s self titled album has been playing in my truck for 3 years non-stop. Needless to say, I had been looking forward to this show for several months. 
So Ernie starts his set, only to have the battery in his guitar die in the middle of what was only his second song of the evening. Like a true pro, he sets his guitar down, beat-boxed an even 8 count and picked up right where he left off sitting down at Gabe’s piano and played it like it was born for the ivories.  I was wildly impressed thinking to myself that most musicians (including me) would have panicked in that situation, let alone make it part of the song. After the song, he asked if anybody had a 9 volt. Not so oddly, nobody had a purse full of batteries in the front row. But I did! Well, not in my purse. But I did have some old batteries in my guitar bag outside in the back of my truck. I had no idea how old they were (since my guitar goes through about 1 battery every several years), but I was looking forward to being the hero of the show. I proudly set them on stage next to Ernie while he played his next song on piano. He then gave me a shout out, swapped out the battery and started playing his guitar to a loud applause. Hell yeah, that applause was for ME! And I didn’t even have to play a note! I was riding high for four and a half minutes, thinking to myself that I saved the night. 

Turns out my battery was piece of crap. It died the very next song. Disappointed, Ernie gave up on the guitar and killed it on piano the rest of the night. He is a PRO. And I can’t even be the Battery Superhero (Battery Man of course) that I so desperately wanted to be. Sorry Ernie. I’ll do better next time.
 

Thankful 

I have no doubt your Facebook wall and Twitter feed were cluttered this past week with "I'm thankful for____" posts. Thanksgiving will do that. For a while, I was a bit annoyed by the seemingly insincere blabbering of appreciation and humblebrags.  But eventually it made me think about my own life. My own problems. My own fears. And ultimately realizing that things aren’t so bad. In fact, I should be pretty damn thankful where my life stands right now.

Though I don’t talk about it publicly (until right now), I went through a divorce a couple years ago. I’m still trying to navigate my way through the single life, my musical life, my work life, and whatever else the cosmos throws at me. I don’t have any family within a 350 mile radius, and spending Thanksgiving down here in VA was a bit rough this year. Needless to say, I found myself having a bit of a pity party. 


After I ran out of whine, I thought about what’s really important in life. Millions of people around the world are sick… Don’t have loved ones... Don’t love themselves... Don’t have the means to get by, let alone take a vacation once in a while.  And I’m NOT one of those people. I have friends and family that I love, with a life full of music and a great big world yet to explore. I’ll refrain from tossing out some humblebrags, but my life is pretty damn good. But if you’re like me, sometimes you need to remind yourself of that. Even if it takes some cheesy Facebook posts and a holiday to remind you.  

Video Mistakes, Behind The Scenes and Playing Cupid 

I love websites (like THIS one) that list mistakes in movies. Trying to catch little things in film that you aren’t supposed to notice. And since I released a new music video this month, I thought I would save you the time and just point out a couple mistakes just for the fun of it. I’m not upset about any of them since they aren’t serious, and they make for a good story. Feel free to watch the full video HERE and see the mistakes yourself!

Number 1: Heather’s hair! 
Since we filmed the video at many locations over several months, some things just change that are out of our control. Like how Heather Mae’s hair is long in the final scene of the video, yet cut short when she first appears at 1:16. Clearly we filmed the last scene first! Heather sang on several songs on my new album and I was glad to have her appear in the video - short OR long hair!

Number 2: What season is it?
Most clearly noticed back to back around 3:29 – 3:30, some scenes were shot in late winter, while others shot in the spring. Sometimes trees have leaves, sometimes they don’t!

Number 3: Lip syncing is hard!
Just ask Ashlee Simpson, who had the worst lip sync job ever on Saturday Night Live. Unlike on a “live” TV show, you are actually supposed to lip sync in music videos. Heather and I were pretty good for the most part, but if you look close enough you can notice a few spots where we weren’t perfect. The most glaring “oops” was at the end of the video during the bar scene. There was a LOT going on that night to be distracted by. At around 3:45, I pull away from the microphone, but clearly I am still singing. Then at 3:56, Heather is supposed to be doing some “oohs” when she is just smiling in the video. This is my favorite mistake because if you watch her, you can see her remember as she jumps back to the mic to sing!

Other Interesting Facts:
-    The male and female actors in the video (Marina Ybarra & Joshua Schulze) had never met before they were hired to be in my video. On screen, Josh ends up proposing on stage. After we finished filming, Marina and Josh started dating! Such a good looking couple. If they ever get married, they better invite me to the wedding so I can play the song that brought them together.

-    I have blue eyes, and they are pretty sensitive to light. So although I may look angry while I stroll through the vineyard singing (0:37), I’m actually looking directly into the sun and trying my best to not go blind. 

-    For much of the video (starting at 1:33) I am sitting on a very, very old and creaky bench. There is a drop off of about 10 feet behind that bench that is all rocks. When we first arrived at the bench, I put my feet on the bench and went to sit on the back (with my guitar around my neck). The bench tipped back and I was heading over the cliff. There is a 100% chance I would have broken bones and a broken guitar if I were to tip over. Fortunately for me, Heather reacted with cat-like reflexes and grabbed me. My heart was POUNDING. Crisis avoided.

I should make a pop-up video version of this song with these stories. I miss that show!

The Ice Bucket Challenge 

If you haven’t heard about it, the Ice Bucket Challenge has taken the world by storm! The challenge, which demands either a bucket of ice water over the head or a $100 donation to the ALS Association, has raised over 4 million dollars so far! Once you do it, you can nominate a few other people to take the challenge. 

Everybody seems to be getting in on the fun, including a ton of celebrities (HERE is a good compilation of celebrity videos. Bill Gates is my favorite!). But as with anything that gets really popular really fast, there has been a bit of backlash of criticism. Some think that it’s just a gimmick and a cheap substitute for real involvement in a charity. Well tell that to the ALS Association, who can use this 4 million dollars helping affected families and continue their research in hope of a cure. Forbes magazine did a great rebuttal to squelch the naysayers. 

So here is the video of me doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. I told my friend Dave to dump the bucket of ice water on my head – however he seemed to enjoy slowly torturing me (FOR 13 SECONDS!) by pouring it ever-so-slowly. I could literally feel every muscle in my body tighten up! 

Click on the screen shot below to watch the video!
DONATE to ALS today! Learn more about the terrible disease at www.alsa.org

Accidentally Sending NSFW Emails To Your Co-workers 

Since I have a bunch of new shirts to sell, I asked some co-workers at my day-job to model them so I could have some photos for my online store. I sent out a group email to 2 volunteer female models, 1 male model, as well as the female photographer to find a date and time that we could all get together for the photoshoot. The photographer emailed us back asking me what I had in mind for location and shoot style.

I was imagining the models standing in front of a standard white background, so I used The Google Machine to pull up some images so I could send her a link. I very quickly copied the link for the first Google Image thumbnail image I saw that matched what I wanted. I sent the entire group the link and let them know that this was the type of shot I wanted. 

A couple minutes later, one of the females on the group email walked up to my desk and asked if I meant to send that link out. Confused, I asked if the link didn’t work. She promptly told me to double check the link I sent. Turns out it was a bit more vulgar than I intended. In my haste, I didn’t look closely at the graphic on the t-shirt. Click on the thumbnail below to see the shirt photo that I sent out! Other than my face being bright red with embarrassment, I actually thought it was hilarious. 

Lesson learned – double check emails before you send NSFW pics around the office!

Amazing Mice 

Some of you may not know that my Bachelor’s degree in college was in Wildlife Management. So I have a profound respect for all things Mother Nature. I’m in constant awe of her ability to create, destroy, amaze, and astonish us with her beauty. But it wasn't until my sophomore year in college when I was taught an interesting lesson about the power of mice. 


I was living in a small house on a mountain top a few miles from campus. My roommate Alex had some ongoing feud with a guy that lived down the hill. I seem to recall them playing a few pranks on each other throughout the semester. One Sunday evening we returned from a weekend long trip (we often left town for the weekend to go to my roommate’s family’s house an hour away to hunt, play basketball and/or party). Alex had noticed some dog food around his hiking boots in the mud room. Upon further inspection, he realized that his boots were filled to the brim with dog food. We naturally blamed the neighbor. The next weekend came and went, and sure enough, every shoe available was filled with dog food when we returned. Looking back, I wonder why he didn’t stop leaving large bags of dog food available for the prankster to utilize. The neighbor wouldn’t fess up to it, and was actually quite offended that we accused him of going inside our house every weekend to screw with us. 

This pattern continued off and on throughout the semester, until finally it was time to move out. In the midst of packing and cleaning up the house, I tried to move my bed to the other side of my bedroom. I quickly realized it was MUCH heavier than I remembered. Being the wimp I am, I decided to remove the mattress first, then the box spring, then the frame. The moment I lifted up the mattress, I noticed a huge hole in the top of the box spring.  Peering inside the hole didn’t just reveal a few springs and dust bunnies. It was nearly filled with dog food! MICE! God damn mice have been stealing and stashing dog food all year long, one stupid kibble at a time. A solid two-thirds of the space inside the box spring was literally dog food! I couldn’t even lift it! I showed Alex, who had to apologize to the neighbor after we laughed our ass off.  

I also cleaned out the top shelf of my closet (at least 7 foot high) which had several old towels that I hadn't touched since the day I moved in. Stashed behind the towels were another 5 pounds of dog food. How the hell did they do that? How many nights was I sound asleep when mice were stashing food like chipmunks 10 inches below my body? How many trips UP THE WALL did it take per mouse to deliver the goods to the top shelf of my closet? 

Mice. Are. Amazing. 

Here are some mice fun facts for your intellectual enjoyment:
  • Mice are intelligent creatures with complex levels of communication, which is both vocal, often beyond the auditory range of humans, and odorous.
  • Mice have facial expressions which communicate their mood to others.
  • Mice are incredibly clean, tidy and organized. Within their intricate underground homes they have specific areas for storing food, going to the toilet, and for shelter.
  • Mice like to stay close to their home and usually only venture up to 3-8m away from their nest in search of food. They like to eat 15 to 20 times per day.
  • Whiskers help mice to sense smooth and rough edges, temperature change and breezes.
  • Mice have great balance and can walk along very thin pieces of rope or wire. They can even scale rough vertical surfaces.
  • Mice can jump down 3-4m without injuring themselves.

The Little Big Moments 

Life is full of little big moments. Those times you least expect something fantastic to be right there in front of you. They are merely a grain of sand within the beach of life, but are boulders within our memories. Sometimes you see them coming, sometimes you don’t even know they happen until the moment has passed. Not too long ago I had one of those moments. It lasted an entire night, and I won’t soon forget how special it was.



I found myself in the very small town of Staunton, Virginia on a lazy Tuesday night with my friend Jody. We were staying at Jody’s parents beautiful farmhouse just outside of town. His dad, knowing I was a music fan, told me about a magical place called “Marino’s Lunch”. It’s a hole in the wall general store/bar/diner that pretty much only sells cash only Natty Light and PBR cans and has about 2 bottles of ketchup in stock. But every Tuesday evening for the past 40 years, this empty 2 room Mom ‘n Pop shop turns into a bluegrass jam. Everybody comes… and I mean EVERYBODY. I found myself standing on a bench in the back of the tiny back room. Shoulder to shoulder, standing room only. There were 10 year old girls playing guitar, 80 year old men playing banjo, construction workers watching harmonica players, guitarists, washboards, stand up bass, mandolins, lap steel and every other acoustic instrument you could think of. It really was magical. This little town comes together to sing along to bluegrass classics and local band favorites. They all know each other. They all add to the jam, whether it be singing along, nodding their head, or just getting a cold beer for the dude stuck in the corner with a banjo who has no hope of making his way to the bar (and by “bar” I mean "10 foot long front counter").

I felt like I was in a movie, where every member of a small town came together with no other purpose than to be with each other and forget about life for a few hours. Like the last scene in It’s A Wonderful Life when the whole town comes to support George Bailey. Kinda… 

I find it tough to describe the feeling that reverberated through every string and every soul that night. But it was certainly special. HERE is a youtube video that somebody shot at one of the jam sessions to give you an idea of what it's like. And HERE is a fantastic article (starts on page 9) from Blue Ridge Magazine about Marino's Jam. If you are ever within driving range of Staunton (pronounced "STAN-ton"… seriously, they will shoot you if say it wrong), you should really stop by Marino’s Lunch. It will be the biggest little moment of your day.

How A 10 Year Old Almost Bought A $300,000 Tractor 

Mistakes happen. And the best ones are when they make for good stories years later. This is one of those stories, and the time is now.

My father’s side of the family owns a large farm in Upstate NY. As a kid, I used to help them do volunteer work for the Junius Volunteer Fire Department; things like chicken BBQs, selling hot dogs at the county fair, etc. For a few years, the Fire Dept. had a booth selling burgers and hot dogs at Empire Farm Days – a HUGE 3 day annual event in my hometown that has equipment exhibitors, panel discussions, and reps from every manufacturer you could think of even remotely associated with farming. But they also have free giveaways and games for adults and kids alike. One such game was “guess the number of corn kernels”. Every time I walked by that booth, I would write down a number on a piece of paper and drop it in the box. I probably did it 40 times over the course of three days. One month later I received a check in the mail for $500 dollars with a letter that basically said “Congratulations you guessed the closest! However you were only supposed to guess once and we noticed you had multiple entries. We didn’t post this rule at the booth, but employees in the area were telling people that this was the rule. If you are a moral person, you will not cash the enclosed check.” Call me a bad person then, because I cashed it.
Anyway, another game that I thought was fun was a “Guess the cost of a new John Deere Combine”. I thought it would be pretty awesome to win a new combine for the family farm. I would be a hero! Every time I walked by the John Deere booth, I wrote down a price and drop it in the box with my contact info. I was only about 10 years old, so I really had no idea that new combines cost HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars. A new one today costs nearly a half million dollars. But I was smart enough to know it costs a lot, so I wasn’t shy with adding zeros. 


About a month after Farm Days ended, my father received a phone call from the local John Deere dealer. Since I wasn’t there, my dad spoke on my behalf. The dealer excitedly told him that we are the new owners of a John Deere Combine. Confused, my father asked how this is possible. The dealer explained that I had the highest bid at the silent auction. SILENT AUCTION?!? Damn, I thought I was just guessing the cost like I was on The Price Is Right! I didn’t know I was bidding to BUY it! It took a LOT of talking from my Dad to convince the guy that a 10 year old kid bid on this thing, and surely they can’t expect us to buy it. The dealer wasn’t happy at all, but we eventually got out of it. 

So I didn’t end up with a combine that year, but I did unintentionally cheat my way to $500. I’ll chalk that up as a win.