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  • Take Me Drunk
  • I-55
  • Birthday Suit
  • The Beginning Of Things
  • I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
  • Cut Your Groove
  • Old Time’s Sake
  • Only Way To Fly
  • Lawn Chair Don’t Care
  • Call You Up
  • Southern By The Grace Of God
  • Please People Please
  • Pants

Beginning Of Things - Behind The Songs

  • Take Me Drunk

    I wrote this song with Ryan Tyndell and Steve Bogard in Destin, Florida. Same trip on which Ryan and Brent Cobb and I wrote Only Way To Fly. Ryan came up with the crazy guitar licks, and we were off to the races writing the lyric with a little real life inspiration/inebriation.

    At Southern Ground, I fell in love with this vintage Gibson 335 of Zac Brown's. I recorded Take Me Drunk on this guitar, with banjo picks on my fingers. My live performance with the band is what you hear on record. The "tuning up" at the start of the song was meant to make it feel like we were actually playing the song on a bar stage.

    Ok, last story… When you hear "Klub Klondike Lounge" in the second verse, you should know that's a real place. And if you're ever near Lake Shasta in northern California, go see my buddy Leon Womack, proprietor of the Klondike. He'll set you up with some tasty ribs, karaoke, and a dangerous substance called "klondike koolaid."

  • I-55

    This is my best friend, Eric Masse. I've known Masse since our Berklee days. We've been recording music together ever since. Eric also happened to marry a Mississippi girl, and you wouldn't know it but you can hear Eric's voice at the end of I-55. That's him singing the "wooo" at the very end of the song. He heard an idea for a vocal melody and put a scratch vocal down for me to use as a reference. I thought the song sounded just fine with him singing, so we kept the scratch. You'll also hear Eric in the next song, Take Me Drunk. Just listen for the drunken-sounding "hey" and "gimmie that."

    The story behind this song is that Frank told me people oughta know where I'm from when they hear Beginning Of Things. I thought he meant it literally, so I wrote I-55 about my hometown, Grenada, Mississippi. Turns out, Frank meant the musical geography of BB King, Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, and other legends who have emerged from my homeland. I think we accomplished both objectives with "I 55," and I'm proud of this song and proud of where I was raised.

  • Birthday Suit

    My buddy Luke Dick is a friend, collaborator, neighbor, and doggy dad to Freddie Mercury (brother to my pup, Peggy Sue). Long before I began recording Beginning Of Things, Luke sent me a song he'd written for his punk rock band, Republican Hair. He shared the song cause he knew I'd get a laugh out of hearing it. What he didn't expect was for me to want to include it on my record.

    One of our nights in the studio happened to be Luke's wedding anniversary. He and his wife were out celebrating and stopped by. This silly picture is the result.

  • The Beginning Of Things

    Meet Arthur and Frank. Two incredible champions of music who have encouraged me and challenged me like no other. Arthur (known on album liner notes as Arturo Buenahora, Jr.) has been my publisher ever since I began my solo career. He was there at the very beginning - literally at the first solo show I ever played in Nashville. And Frank was a big influence on my music long before we'd ever met. Beginning Of Things was a chance for Arthur and Frank to work together in a way they hadn't before.

    So many wonderful beginnings happened in the process of making this record. This was my first opportunity to record songs I didn't write. I had the chance to play piano on the title track, significant because piano was my first instrument. When I hear "The Beginning of Things," it takes me all the way back to kindergarten days and afternoon lessons with Miss Cindy Dugan. 

  • I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere

    We took the words of I Ain't Goin' Nowhere to heart. When the weekend arrived, Rebecca, the in-studio chef, left us to fend for ourselves. We hadn't left the studio in 4 days, and we weren't planning on leaving for another 2 days. And nothing makes a Saturday afternoon like Mas Tacos. 

    I Ain't Goin' Nowhere is also the first song we tracked. The reason the intro is so long is because I realized as it was happening just how much fun the week ahead would be. I mean, the caliber of musicianship was off the charts. I kept waiting to sing to hear what everyone would play next, what layer would be added to the arrangement. Just before my vocal begins, you can hear Matt play a drum fill that pretty much says "dude, it's time for you to sing and this is getting ridiculous." I sang that first take grinning ear to ear.

  • Cut Your Groove

    This is a photo of two of my favorite people, Oscar Charles & Ryan Tyndell. They came by the studio for a visit one night, and I think I took this picture, but I can't be sure... Anyway, Ryan and I have written together for forever, but Oscar and I only started writing songs in the last couple years. Cut Your Groove was our first collaboration.

    I had been using "groove" as a one-word jumping off point for my morning pages. Somehow, I accidentally came up with some useful bits of lyric, which I brought to Oscar. Oscar's home at the time was this half-studio, half-house full of dirty dishes, roommates, and loads of music gear. It reminded me of my first house in Nashville. Between the lyric, the nostalgia, and Oscar's musical wizardry, we found ourselves an ode to the journey of life - grittier parts included.

    We wrote two complete verses and a chorus, but a few months later I found myself messing with "Cut Your Groove" on a balcony in Key West, trying to figure out what was missing. That's where I got the bridge. Oddly enough, it was on a balcony at that same Key West hotel where Ryan and I wrote Mississippi In July.

  • Old Time’s Sake

    One of the best things about recording at Southern Ground is the amazing collection of vintage guitars on hand, most of which are from Zac Brown's personal collection. I fell in love with this old Slothead Martin D-18. At least that's what model I think it was. Anyway, the guitar sounded so good I had to get a Polaroid picture of it. It's the one I played on Old Time's Sake. The song was particularly challenging to record, because I had to sing and play most of it by myself with no click to guide me until the band makes an entrance 95 seconds into the arrangement. Afterward, I went back and played along with the original pass without singing to keep my vocal from bleeding into the guitar microphone. This is also the song I'm most proud of as a songwriter. I got the idea for "Old Time's Sake" from a line of dialogue in the TV show Mad Men. Hats off to Brent Cobb and Jeremy Spillman for writing it with me. 

  • Only Way To Fly

    This is Luke. Luke is a beast. He's the one playing the fuzz guitars and omnichords and synths and keyboards on everything from Call You Up to Birthday Suit. Luke really shows off on Only Way To Fly. He's playing piano, electric guitar, keyboards, and lap steel on it. Plus Luke literally flew out of town one of the days to play a Guster gig then flew back early the next morning to make it to the studio in time for the first downbeat. A great hang, a great musician, and a true coffee and taco aficionado.

  • Lawn Chair Don’t Care

    You can barely make out the metal folding chair underneath all those instruments, guitar pedals, and microphones. That's where I sat for the tracking sessions for Beginning Of Things. Not quite a lawn chair, but I dang sure didn't have a care in the world while making all that fun music. And I can't write about Lawn Chair Don't Care without thanking United Airlines. I used frequent flyer points to purchase a Melodica that I played on this one. In the "sad king" verse, you can also hear me picking the best "Uncle" Josh Graves style dobro I could muster. 

  • Call You Up

    Here you can see Matt Chamberlain's hands using jeweler's screwdrivers as drumsticks. He's tapping out a rhythm on an assortment of nuts & bolts, loose change, and banjo picks. We had just recorded Call You Up and were listening to the playback when I thought of a Kanye West song called Heard 'Em Say, which features a really cool percussion part that I love. I asked Matt if I could play him the Kanye track to see if he could recreate the part. After listening for a few seconds, Matt got this surprised look on his face and said, "Man, that's me!" Turns out, he'd played percussion on the Kanye record. We got the sound we were hoping for. 

  • Southern By The Grace Of God

    This is Lex Price in the large isolation booth with his tenor guitar. To capture Southern By The Grace Of God, Lex, Luke Reynolds, and I sat in a circle around a couple microphones and layered our acoustics live while Matt Chamberlain played that monster groove on drums in the main room. Later, Luke and I went back over the take with electric guitars while Lex added bass. You can also hear Luke shine on bouzouki in the right speaker on the title track, The Beginning of Things. He's a pretty versatile musician! 

  • Please People Please

    Here I am in the control room with my Martin M-36, equipped with 2 sets of pickups. The LR Baggs Anthem comes in handy in every live music situation imaginable. But the cheap, lo-fi George L sound hole pickup works great through an amplifier. So for Please People Please, I plugged this acoustic into my amps with some distortion added to get the sound you hear on the record. We kept the live take, solo and all.

  • Pants

    As you can see, I did in fact put on my pants to make this record. I also put on a pound or two, drinking beer and enjoying all the wonderful food Rebecca Wood cooked up for us while we camped out at Southern Ground for 6 days. Nothing beats making music you love with people you love, and Pants felt like the perfect way to kick off Beginning Of Things. Who doesn't love a 14-second-long Jeff Hyde masterpiece about a morning routine gone wrong?

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