Dec 10 '14 Birdman

Posted in: News

Last night I watched the movie Birdman and it left me feeling both inspired and a little embarrassed. Inspired, because of the performances and writing were nothing short of brilliant and that always makes me want to be creative; embarrassed, because the subject matter hit a little too close to home.

The concept of the ”tortured artist” is often romanticized, but from a safe distance. The sickness that animates those of us who choose to be vulnerable in front of discerning audiences (and the effect said sickness has on the people who depend on us in relationships) is often glossed over. Birdman does such an amazing job of showing the insecurity underneath the gloss of celebrity, and does so with sharp dark humor and insight.

“Sickness” might seem like an exaggerated term, but it’s the only thing that can describe the act of trying to find validation in a pleasure/reward system that’s as fickle as seeking public approval as you bare your soul in front of people. Really, that sounds like only something an insane person would partake in. Yet, despite the risk, slings and arrows, the reward (when all goes well) is a very drug-like high, and like a drug, the high doesn’t last long, causing you to need more and more stimulation as you become desensitized.  “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” one of my heroes once said to me about performing.

In Birdman, the characters put the high before tending to important relationships that are falling apart around them. I loved how the filmmakers did long continuous shots that were like a rollercoaster ride. Maybe it wasn’t intended this way, but I took it to be a stylistic choice that symbolized the flow of emotionality from the perspective of one who is always probing for validation in every interaction with people. Also, the whole bit where Ed Norton’s character suffers from ED unless he’s on stage acting is a hilarious illustration of this point. I think sometimes performers experience such exhilaration from being the intense focal point of a captive audience that it screws up their senses.

After watching this movie, I can’t help but question my motives in pursing a career as a performer/writer. I’ve been painfully aware for a while now that the drive that pushes me doesn’t come from an entirely healthy place. Heck, I even make fun of myself about it in some of my recent songs like “The Charlatan’s Last Stand,” a song where I to channel the indomitable maniac that still lives inside of me. It’s tongue-in-cheek, of course, because I’m fully conscious that it’s a reckless part of my being. Still, the high is lovely.

I have to say Birdman sobered me up a bit at a much needed moment. Things have been feeling really strange lately. And I’ve slipped into feeling really sorry for myself, not knowing at all which way I’m going to go to advance my career. It’s to the point where I feel a bit paralyzed and all I know to do is gig constantly which puts me in that cruel cycle of entirely depending on how a show went to validate my existence. Sick.

That hard part about all trying to find a balanced view of all this is that the pressure isn’t just internal. The sickness is also perpetuated from the outside because there’s a perception from people that where I’m at right now is not good enough. I hear all the time, “Why aren’t you famous? You need to go on one of those singing completion shows. Why don’t you believe in yourself?” In my head, I’m like, “Christ, don’t you think I’m trying?!” On top of that, I get this “tisk tisk” sort of vibe from close acquaintances that think I should just throw in the towel because I’m not some super star. It’s weird. Don’t get me wrong, I was set on world domination when I started this journey and still the goal is to get as close to being a career artist as possible. But shouldn’t they be happy for me that I’ve found a way to do something that is close to what I dream of doing and get to live comfortably? And what if one day I decide (or fate decides for me) that this is as far as I go? Should I feel ashamed after I’ve put in years of honest hard work? In a way, that’s the sentiment I get from people.

Anyway, the movie and the timing of things got my gears turning. The take-away, of course, is to focus on one’s real relationships instead of seeking love from the capricious mistress that is an audience (live or otherwise since social media is such a big part of the picture now). It seems appropriate then to end with lyrics from one of my favorite songs of mine that I of course wrote way out of my singing range because, being delusion like the main character in Birdman, I tend to imagine my ability is like that of a superhero’s.

I wrote the following song maybe two years ago when I started to really understand the aforementioned “sickness.” Ultimately, it’s about letting go of that lovelorn-like desperation.

I’ll get it on record one day even if it is too high to sing. I’ll find a way…… see?… indomitable.

Oh and go see this movie. It’s truly a work of art.

 

Why Don’t You Want Me At All?              by J. Adam Pitts

Verse 1

So many young have perished at your hand

For such a treasured treasure

Oh how the fools’ heads decorate your land

I should know better better

PreChorus1

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve given to you

My soul

Verse 2

For years I’ve watched you with such affection

I’ve suffered madly, badly

I’ve sinned and sought to be your reflection

You’ve wholly had me, sadly

PreChorus2

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve ceded to you

Control

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 2X

Verse 3

It’s very cruel how you discredit my creed

“Never say never”

And without pause like to always remind me

Nothing’s forever ever

PreChorus 3

I’ve bled out for you

Torn myself in two

I’ve taken for you

the fall

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 4X

Bridge

Here in your shadow

how can anything grow

always beneath your bright bloom?

Ooh, I want to be in the light with you

I want to share the warmth you do

I want to feel what it’s like to glow

But I guess I’ll never know

Pre Chorus 4

It’s all been in vain

What more can I say?

Love wasted in ways

Untold

Chorus

Why don’t you want me at all? 2X

Why don’t you want me? 3x

I’ve loved you

I’ve loved you

Outro

And so they say

All dreams must fade away

I’ll let you fade

away

 

Aug 21 '14 Big Shoes To Fill: An Ode To Michael Batts

Posted in: News

I’ll never forget the first day I jammed with Michael.

About two and a half years ago I was in the middle of auditioning drummers for the Pseudo Cowboys and was feeling really bummed about the prospects. Truth be told, I’ve been spoiled. I grew up playing in a band with an anomalously good drummer, Luc Valcourt, who even at the tender age of 15 (when we were just starting to play and I could only clunk around on a guitar) was playing Rush, Primus, and Tool tunes like a pro. Most likely to the dismay of any drummer I’ve played with since, the bar for drummers was set high for me. And thanks to my experiences writing around Luc’s ability, I think ‘percussion’ as much as I think  ‘lyrics and melody’.

Annoyingly, I tend to be as choosy as an upper-crust socialite who thinks very highly of herself when looking for the right drummer. All of the fellas trying out for the band at the time were fine individuals, fun, friendly, and eager to rock. Some were even great players, but there was a certain element missing from the chemistry that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was a ‘feel’ issue more than anything. There’s something indescribable about the way a player hits the drums which determines whether or not their style fits in with heavy guitars and bass. It’s as if each person has a unique voice that comes through when they play their instrument, and that voice has to simultaneously shine on it’s own while supporting the other instruments in the mix. It’s an odd balance.

Peering down critically upon the hopefuls, a camcorder videoed each drummer so that I could afterward compare each drummer side by side and see how they looked while playing with the band. As much as I hate assessing a musician on those grounds, it’s just awkward as hell to have one member of the group (or all of them for that matter) not look like they belong. It’s the too-often overlooked part of creating live visual chemistry. People listen with their eyes, musicians jokingly like to say.

And it was painfully obvious that the pieces weren’t fitting. Frustrated, I called a friend who has been well-connected in the Raleigh scene for years and asked if she knew of anyone who’d be a good fit. Without hesitation she said: “You want to call Michael Batts. He is a ROCK drummer, and he’s not playing with anyone at the moment.” Just by the way she said the word ‘rock’ made a smile grow on my face like when the Grinch who stole Christmas finally found he had a heart…my hair might have even curled up like his… or does it just do that naturally?

The following day or so I set aside a minute to call Michael and made sure I was in the right head space. I’ve always been nervous about being frank for the first time with musicians. I don’t do drugs or drink heavily and so I make it clear that when we’re working as a band (gigging, practicing, in the studio, etc.) we’re not going to be all messed up out of our heads. It sucks to kill a person’s enthusiasm with that caveat, but I don’t like to waste time. That’s a deal breaker for a lot of guys, unfortunately, but I like to go ahead and get that issue out in the open.

So I took a big breath and dialed his number. A very upbeat, very southern voice answered, and truly from that moment I really liked the guy. He was easy to chat with and had a kind warmth in the way he conversed. I gave him the run down on what I was looking for/expected, sent him some of my music to rehearse, and set up a practice date.

On the day of the audition, he showed up on time (a rarity among musicians) and started unpacking a green Premier drum kit that looked a lot like one Luc used to use. The familiarity felt promising. Having never seen what Michael looked like before I was struck by his handsomeness. He had this young Harrison Ford/young Cary Elwes thing going on that was hard not to appreciate. But what struck me even more was his playing. He came prepared. It was obvious that he’d thoroughly rehearsed the songs I sent – and believe me, I threw in some of the trickier ones at him just as a test. We set up, cranked up the amps, and from the down beat of first tune we played he owned it.

I was tickled. Suddenly, things were locking in and it all became easy, whereas jamming with other people felt like swimming through molasses. And he hit those drums hard! To see someone committing and delivering the songs with passion each time we ran through really resonated with me because that’s how I like to play. The feel was finally there.

Shaking hands after our practice, I waved goodbye, and when his car was finally out of site I looked at GQ (bass player at the time) and we both shared a satisfied expression of relief. While it was obvious enough already that this was my guy, the icing on the cake was when I got home and reviewed the footage from our practice. I noticed that when Michael hit the kick and snare it was so powerful that it was made the camera shake like Godzilla was stomping nearby. Put side by side with the previous auditions, it was clear his drumming was a force to be reckoned with.

We’ve had a good run together since that audition, played some great shows at the Pour House in Raleigh, Oak City 7, and even were a part of a Spinal Tap tribute band called Goes to 11 last year. Thanks to his patience and work ethic, I’ve improved dramatically as a musician (and probably as a person too) over the past two years. I’ve never been more impressed with someone as a human being. It takes a man of true character to work as hard as he does at his day job, have a family, and then still make time to play music. I can only imagine what it’s like after fulfilling all of his top priorities, showing up at the stuffy climate controlled storage unit I call a practice space and listening to me awkwardly try to be a band leader… although, it’s got to be a bit humorous an entertaining.. there’s a lot of hand gestures and frizzy mad scientist hair involved.

I feel blessed to have had his friendship while we’ve both endured some challenging life-altering events in recent days. It’s amazing how much can change in such as short amount of time. Getting to know him and his lovely family has restored my faith in humanity a bit. Genuine people are hard to find and I’ve never met a more genuine group of folks.

And so it’s with a touch of sadness that I’m writing to announce Michael’s departure from the Pseudo Cowboys. Michael’s not only a great drummer, but also a talented songwriter and he has decided he wants to commit to finishing his solo work. I’m stoked to hear the final product and hopefully I can lend a hand if he needs me when he decides to play his material out. Stay tuned for that. He’s got great musical influences, many of which I’d never heard of until he introduced me to them.

Our last show scheduled show with Michael will be 9/6/14 during the Hopscotch day parties at London Bridge Pub (set time tba). Let’s make it a great send off and rock hard one more time with one of the best I’ve ever shared the stage with.

Now I’m really spoiled. Thanks, Michael. Whoever has to fill your shoes now has definitely got their work cut out for them.

Any drummers out there up for it? After all that bro-mancing I’m sure you’re just dying to jump in there after him. Email me at adam@adampittsmusic.com

 

Jul 01 '14 Feminist-Misogynist Me

Posted in: News

I feel really dumb for needing to comment on this subject, but I’m so frustrated with what I’m seeing today pertaining to the #AskThicke Twitter pile-on. Before I go on a messy rant I want to make clear that I’m not defending the Robin Thicke’s character, or the fact that his most popular song perpetuates bad ideas. (Should I put that last sentence in all caps for all of you opportunistic over-reactors?) I just think that the aim of your aggression is misaimed.

Believe me, I had to come to terms with the lyrical content of “Blurred Lines” when the song got so popular/infamous and people started begging me to play it at my solo shows. I’m always reluctant to learn something that’s wildly popular, so naturally, upon first listen I was rolling my eyes thinking, “Oh God, it’s more of that ‘I’m a Casanova with a sexual prowess you ain’t never seen before’ schtick you so often hear in mainstream music.” Yet, lame and douche-baggy as the mindset is, I get it. In a club setting (which is the setting for this song) men often over-inflate their sexual self-image because we mistakenly think that trumps all other indicators of attractiveness and will max out our desirability. We’re idiots. Forgive us.

Anyway, shortly after learning the jaunty tune I watched the tide start to turn on ”Blurred Lines” for allegedly promoting rape culture. Rampant trending of this topic created backlash that even having Pharrell in your hit song couldn’t stop. In a flash, Robin Thicke became the punch line of a joke, joining company with Vanilla Ice, except with a dose scorn that Vanilla dodged with his “feasible rhymes you can vision and feel.”

The problem I have with this selective moral outrage is that there is not a single lyric in the song that expresses forcing oneself on another person. Not one. Go and read the words. “I know you want it,” is not “You’re gonna take it.” And, yes, the song promotes objectification. And even worse, it is mainly about encouraging infidelity – which is my beef with it. But this onslaught turning Robin Thicke into the poster boy for a rapist mindset that’s supposedly indicative of how all males think in our society is misappropriated. If you’re truly on a crusade to eradicate rape culture in popular music, you better turn your attention to a whole lot more artists in the rap/hip-hop genres other than zeroing in on this one guy.

Is ”Blurred Lines” a scummy portrayal of a guy seducing a married woman in a club? Yep. And, true, the rap section (not performed by Robin Thicke, mind you) does make mention of rough sex, as if to say that the woman’s husband/partner doesn’t fulfill her kinkier side in the way that the narrator/rapper can. It’s asinine for sure. But T.I. then follows up that thought with ”So I just watch and wait for you to salute and choose this pimp..”, so it’s a bit qualified… just barely. He’s waiting on the sidelines fantasizing, not slipping drugs in her martini.

I get that people can interpret the lyrics as threatening, predatory, creepy, etc., but even still there’s no mention of doing someone against another person’s will. Sorry. You’re not going to find it.

At any rate, the larger point I’m wanting to make isn’t about the particulars of this stupid, but admittedly catchy song. It’s about the phenomenon of a concept taking off and being reinterpreted for everyone’s own purposes – the purpose of unloading on a supposed figurehead of a societal problem, even if that person’s not truly a prime example. They just become a scapegoat and the mob piles on. It’s frightening.

The behavior is midly akin to the mania that at one point in our history gave impetus to witch hunts. Or an even more familiar example would be in grade school when someone is suddenly declared unpopular, and it immediately became the thing of the day/week to pick on this person.  I’ve been there. All of the sudden, people start enjoying spewing venom at the supposed offender. And that’s when it becomes less about the original offense, and more about the criticizer feel like they just got a level up in their identity ranking. To hate on a celebrity gives the criticizer even more of a jolt because it’s like you’re dethroning a royal.

Certainly, social media has exacerbated our participation in these figurative public stonings. And, sadly, the ‘pile-on’ phenomenon is a well-accounted for behavior that has existed for all recorded history. So it seems it’s just a natural part of humans existing in a group. Except now that Twitter has become our digital stone-casting forum, one is safe and removed from actually threatening a real person. Hell, if people did it in Biblical times with an actual person standing there, it’s no wonder there’s no restraint when people click the tweet button. You don’t even have to warm up your throwing arm.

Talk about objectification. Absolutely laying into someone with disregard for their being is totally a form removing their human qualities for your own gain. It’s objectification without the sexual undertones, but the goal is still the same – you get gratification at the expense of the other person. I’m not saying Robin Thicke isn’t getting some kind of karmic recourse. There’s probably some reason this is all coming to him because where there’s smoke there’s usually fire. It’s just interesting to note the parallels between what the stone-casters are decrying and what the behavior they’re in turn displaying.

This is what worries me about where we’re heading as a culture and what social media has facilitated. I’d always read that ‘mob rule’ was the weakness of pure democracies, and now I’m starting to understand why. Shit can get out of hand really fast. An often times the snowball is rolling before people realize that what they’re railing against may not even be 100% true.

It’s particularly scary to see how social media has changed how people participate in politics. I see people commenting on politicians social media posts, saying incredible vile things – things far more vile than any of the lyrics in “Blurred Lines.” Have we really become this disconnected? Is it really okay to have zero consideration that you’re talking to another person through these mediums? Imagine if our political system were tied into Twitter, where we could vote on issues in real time. We’d go back to the days of beheadings for sure because of the aforementioned ‘pile-on’ effect.

 

Can we just slow down a bit people? You don’t have to jump on every band wagon and participate. It’s not an original thought, but can’t you see that the social mechanisms which were at play creating the high school pecking order have forever been extended into all public spheres thanks to social media? Ask yourself how being sorted-out in such a way made you feel then. And now ask your self if you want to contribute and perpetuate that stupid social framework on for the rest of our lives. You don’t need that self-righteous pat on the back you get after cutting someone else to shreds in 140 characters or less. Do something better with your time.

I probably should have instead of writing this.

R.I.P Robin Thicke’s career.. you were actually talented and not many knew it.

Jun 25 '13 What I Learned on 6/15/13

Posted in: News

Rock music is not dead. I know, I know. “…there’s nothing more pathetic than an aging hipster.” I could hear Dr. Evil’s famous words echo mockingly in my head as I wrote that first sentence. But, sincerely, this is not declaration about reviving the good ol’ days. Rather I want to express a revived sense of understanding I gained after my most recent show with Adam Pitts & the Pseudo Cowboys. I believe there’s still a place for the rock n roll sound in our modernized culture because it’s the spirit of rock that will always resonate with people. At least I believe that’s what I was witnessing on 6/15/13…

…or was it just because me, Michael and GQ are just so ridiculously good-looking on stage?… kidding.

Times certainly have changed. And consequently, music has had to change with them, simultaneously reflecting and shaping the zeitgeist of each era. In recent years it seems music has become increasingly mechanized-sounding, losing a lot of the human touch that I find distinguishes records by my favorite artists from days of yore. Is this because everyday human existence is becoming more and more technology-infused? Maybe the sounds that comprise the basic building blocks of rock music - drums, bass, and distorted guitars - aren’t as relatable to the day-to-day life of the modern person.

Rock n’ roll used to be this highly-stimulating, almost taboo outlet shared in our culture. But now there are so many options to entertain oneself that rock’s shock-value has been diluted. It doesn’t help either that rock so easily slips into a caricature of itself when done poorly. Heck, it got to the point in the past decade where you can almost smell the faux-rebellion.

But that’s not the genre’s fault. That’s just the course of things as they are chewed up and processed in consumer markets. Knock-offs of a decent original idea end up populating distribution channels until it grows out of control… like when you feed a Mogwai after midnight or spill water on it.

This oversaturation/imminent death cycle is exactly what we’ve seen happen to rock music, particularly in the past two decades. Eddie Vedder begets Scott Stapp; Scott Stapp begets Chad Kroger; Chad Kroger and Avril Lavigne beget some sort of demon seed I’m certain will be the antichrist.

At any rate, I don’t blame people for feeling burned out on the rock sound and image. But it might just be that the scorched earth left behind by the prior Nickleback/Canadian-rock invasion decade has supplied fertile ground from which new sprouts can grow.

With all this in mind, I was a little surprised by the reaction we got on June 15th. It felt like we were working with a blank slate that night – like the smoke has cleared and people were allowing the raw elements of the rock n roll sound affect them. There was no pretense or us trying to live up to a certain expected image of a rock band. We were just working with the basic colors of our palette and that was enough. People were dancing, clapping along, bobbing their heads to music they’ve never heard before. My music! I was pure.

I can’t say for sure, but I think there may still be a window for me to slip through with kind of the music that I like create and perform. Why? Because no matter how advanced our existence becomes, there’s always going to be a part of people that rock music uniquely allows to be expressed. I believe it’s the physicality of the sound which speaks to the component of our being that pushes us to thrive, to command our time and space, to copulate, etc. Let’s just call it the will. Rock n roll and the will are inseparable. It’s that Elvis Presley snarl. It’s Jimi Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire. It’s the attitude that causes us to guffaw when we see it because it stirs the fight inside us all.

I’m not saying our performance was like Queen at Wembley Stadium or something transcendent like that. I’m just saying it was thrilling to see what I’ve been trying to communicate all this time finally connecting with people. Moving people. Maybe it’s the timing of things. While I don’t think rock n roll will ever drive our culture again, I believe it’s not entirely irrelevant in the modern landscape.

In a way, I’m kind of glad it’s no longer a part of the mainland. Now it’s more like an island for you and I exclusively to go and play on.

See you there on the next holiday.

 

May 01 '13 Lovely Trainwreck – Song Explanation

Posted in: News

Which is more responsible for determining a person’s feeling of attraction toward another: nature or nurture?

I often ponder this question, gazing out into crowds of sexy singles mingling in the bar rooms I play. As with all things pertaining to the nature vs. nurture debate, the cause of attraction is undoubtedly a blend of both influences. But I believe at times what we desire can be more the result of our marketing-oriented culture’s influence (nurture), rather than of that which we instinctively know will complete our souls (nature).

I’m not pretending to be an expert on the matter, I only know this to be true purely from personal experience. Looking back on the misadventures of my early to mid-twenties (we’ll call them ’relationships’ for the purposes of this writing), I can see that a lot of the difficulties I experienced were due to conditioned thinking; that what motivated some of my pursuits came not from within, but from without.

It’s frightening to admit how much we’re groomed as consumers from the moment we first become aware. Having been imbued by a lifetime of marketing calls-to-action designed to play on our innate fears, sexual triggers, and the need to feel belongingness, my foray into the adult dating world was much akin to a lab animal repeatedly heading for the feeder bar. It was only natural (pun intended) that I was drawn to the familiar jolts of stimulation I’d been exposed to in movies, television and advertising.

And so, like many a young man with testosterone surging in his veins, I entered the bar scene with my sights set on superficial qualities in women.  Combine nature’s rocket fuel with the aforementioned dose of bad programming and you’ve got a fellow with his wires crossed.

As a result there was a certain variety of female that would (to use a relevant term) call me to action. My feeling of attraction toward these types of young women was as much fascination as it was fear. But the pull was beyond my control.

You know the kind - she’s basically unavoidable in social situations because she steals the attention of the room. She comes off hypersexual, injecting suggestive behavior at every opportunity. Dresses provocatively. She laughs the loudest in a crowded room with her mouth noticeably agape. She’s calculating, working every moment to her advantage. A beautiful disaster, a catalyst for drama, creation and destruction surround her… I could be ridiculous and go on and on, but you get the point.

Why are these qualities worthy of our attention at all? We see this type of behavior in all mediums of entertainment. Apparently, it stokes a fire within us and we have to watch, just like when we pass an accident on the interstate. But is this kind person really deserving of our time and adulation? Or, is the reflex-like response we experience trying to tell us something else, and we’re just confused on how to interpret what it is we’re seeing?

In reality, red flags should go up upon seeing such a desperate need for constant affirmation. Yet many young fools are drawn like a moth to a flame. It takes getting burned at time or twelve before coming to understand there’s little depth to this personality type; just an insatiable need to fill her emptiness with the pleasure she experiences swaying people with her sexuality.

Finally, to my song..

Lovely Trainwreck is written from the perspective of a man who has grown beyond being attracted to the character described above. I wanted the song’s verses to resemble those hard rock songs from the 2006-2010 era which depicted women as being most praiseworthy when they were a “Crazy Bitch,” or looked so much cuter with “something in [their] mouth.” Some of these songs were bad-assed as far as the musical composition is concern, but their messages were horrible. And young dudes, myself included, thought, “That’s the kind of experience I gotta get!” So the idea was to invoke this sound to poke fun at the style and set it up to make a point with the chorus.

The chorus enters with: “Please. Save the pageantry, just save your breath…”. It’s is a rejection of misguided and programmed ideas. It’s an explosion into a clearing, representing the singer’s evolved perspective. Musically, I switched to a classic pop/rock tonic to submediant descending run to signify the shift in the lyrical landscape. I chose the term “lovely trainwreck” because, while the singer has attained an enlightened view, her character type is still fascinating to observe.

The second verse returns to the knuckle-dragging rock sound, but this time around the listener is in on the joke as well. The singer and the listener are now together observing common vignettes from the life of this girl. The tone becomes a touch more cynical. We get the impression that everything in her life is chaos. And we see another young romantic about to be ensnared as we an imagine the singer once was.

Continuing on, the song reaches a break-down stating an obvious message: “I want the girl that loves with all her soul / not some child that bats her eyes at you only when she wants control.” But there’s a subtle variation to the last chorus with “Hey, yeah, yeah NOT a Lovely Trainwreck,” to further punctuate the singer’s resolve and his evolution past his old self.

If you haven’t listened to the song already, you can click the play button on the player posted at the top of this blog. Maybe what I’ve written here will enhance your listening experience. Maybe not. There’s a lot more I could discuss on the topic, but I’m not going to keep you reading forever. Ask me about it in person sometime, though. I’ll be glad to share more thoughts.

Beware of those lovely trainwrecks out there.

Jan 30 '13 Ignorance Was Bliss

Posted in: News

When I was a kid my Dad got me the coolest toy. It was a Fisher-Price video camera that recorded in black and white on regular cassette tapes. This toy opened up a whole new dimension in staging and filming epic battles between my Ghostbusters action figures, and the hard rubber, carcinogenic-smelling Godzilla whose head popped off given the right amount of force. (That’s how he always died in the last scene of my homemade movies).

There were so many new creative things to consider: the camera angles, the dialogue, how to hold the camera while simultaneously moving the figures around, etc. I remember rewinding the tape countless times to get a take where the movements were absolutely right. Hours would just float by as I was blissfully unaware of everything going on around me. There was no higher aim, no need to prepare my work for others to see - just the pure enjoyment of creating and playing.

Fast-forward to the present. I’m standing in the arts and crafts store a couple of days ago, and I’m feelling anxious about what I’m about to buy. I look down at my hands reluctantly clutching a pack of googly eyes, some red face paint crayons, and some fake hair extensions. The thought crosses my mind to put the stuff back and leave. I’m conflicted, feeling embarrassed for diametrically opposed reasons. My adult self is telling me that I’m going to make a fool of myself. My free thinking self is asking, “When did I become such a chicken? There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have balked at this at all.”

The free thinker in me argued more passionately (as he typically does), so I paid for my random assortment of items and headed home. Afterall, I had a promotional video to make for an important show coming up and I didn’t have any better ideas.

At home I had to act fast. My girlfriend was about to leave work, and I was afraid she’d walk in on me in our kitchen, puppeteering my lip-sticked creation I’d decided to call Handgelina Jolie. At this point in our relationship she’s come to expect some pretty strange things, but catching me in the middle of this act might have raised some concerns.

Determined to see it through, I proceeded, laughing hysterically at myself in between takes at the ridiculousness of it all. The end result is the video above, but I gained something of much more value by forcing myself to go through this process. I reconnected with the same freedom I felt as a kid making those videos with my Fisher-Price camera.

It’s a shame that adulthood tries to whittle away at what was once such a natural behavior in all of us. I hate that. I hate having to size up every action I take as to whether it’s of value or not - particularly, of monetary value. What an oppressive burden to lug around all the time!

Sometimes we’ve just got to lose ourselves in mindless creative fun. It’s certainly liberating, but I think it’s healthy as well. I felt like a million bucks afterward. It was nice to let go of my adult frame of reference and do whatever floated into my head for a while. This year I’m going to try and enjoy that feeling more.

More weird videos to come… among other things.

Jan 08 '13 Resolutions

Posted in: News

#1 – Play at least one show a month with my band.

#2 – Video the performances and populate YouTube with great clips of us doing our thang.

#3 – Reach 2000 ‘likes’ on my Adam Pitts facebook page (find that here), 500 ‘likes’ on the Adam Pitts & the Pseudo Cowboys page (see that here).

#4 – Finish “Rehearsals with the Pseudo Cowboys 2″, and the singles for “Lovely Trainwreck”, “People of the Lie”, and “Diane Daily.”

#5 – Get a song placed in film or TV (in progress).

#6 – Worry less.

Now how the heck do I actually do #6?

I guess we all shoot for the stars when we make New Year’s resolutions. Still, I’ve got to reach for it at least. There’s lots to do in 2013, but I’m excited to say that much of the above is already underway. Well, sans the worrying part.

Maybe you can help. Hugs and high fives go a long way. Tips certainly do the trick. But I’m curious if any of you want to get involved in a more personal way … hold on, that could unintentionally open some doors since lately some of my fan interactions have been too risque to describe here … what I mean is, if you would like to help video my band’s shows, or have any ideas you’d like to share in getting the word out for us, then please email me at adam@adampittmusic.com. Obviously, it’s impossible to tackle everything on my own (took me almost a decade to realize that), and I’d love your input.

Cheers! to what I believe is going to be an exciting new year! See you at the shows.

Nov 24 '12 Refraction

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I used to draw these flip books in grade school when I was supposed to be paying attention. They mostly consisted of stick men doing 720° spinning hook kicks, fighting with swords and doing somersaults. If you’ve read my other blog posts, I bet you could’ve guessed that.

Then I got glasses in the 5th grade and was able to see the world around me well enough to actually participate in it. Immediately, I started doing better in school. But while my new-found studiousness gave my identity a self-efficacy boost, people started treating me differently because of my nerd specs. Same kid… just now with some metal frames housing Coke bottle-thick lenses on his face…hmm.

It’s weird how something so insignificant can change the way people perceive you. At this moment I realized that sometimes you just have to go your own way, whether your friends or peers like it or not. I felt proud of my scholastic achievements. But for some reason it was at the expense of the identity I had up until that point.

It’s a poor metaphor, but doing original shows with my band is akin to me defiantly wearing my glasses so that I could excel in school. Some people would rather I not play my own songs at all. They’d rather me continue to play silly rap songs, being vulgar in the corner of sports bars, diminished in a sea of flat screen TVs. They’d rather that I not stretch my potential, fighting through the awkward phase that is me getting my real career off the ground.

Too bad. I’m going to do it anyway. I know better. Experience has told me so.

Adam Pitts and the Pseudo Cowboys. November 30th @ Deep South the Bar – Raleigh, NC 9pm. $5 cover. 21 and up.

Be there if you know who I really am.

Oct 24 '12 Trends and Wardrobe

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The story behind this photo is one for another time. But, if you can stop giggling for a minute, I want to throw in my two cents about the brevity of trends.

There was a point in history when the look pictured here was entirely relevant in rock music. It was, dare I say, normal. Normal! Let that sink in for a minute. Spandex and hair-sprayed hairdos reigned as king until that fateful moment we all know as the “Alternative Revolution.”

As grunge/alternative music became mainstream, flannel shirts and baggy jeans soon slouched irreverently off of an angst-ridden youth. I remember feeling the pressure to ask my Mom to buy me something flannel-looking before school was back in so I could look cool. ‘The Bugle Boy t-shirts will do no longer, Mom. Get me some flannel!’ But before long, alternative music and its accompanying dress code suffered the same fate as it’s glam rock predecessor.

Since then, you and I have seen the tides of time bring the following into fore: skinny jeans, vests, slice-y emo hair cuts, Affliction/bedazzled graphic t-shirts, mustaches, beards, horn-rimmed glasses, and then somehow flannel has made a triumphant (but unassuming ’cause hey, it’s flannel) return. I’m betting zebra-print spandex is not too far around the corner again… bring it, I’m ready.

Anyway, doing my bar room entertainer gig over the years has offered me a unique perspective on culture. For about a decade now, I’ve watched trends wash ashore and then be suddenly swept back into obscurity while I’ve clung to Journey’s advice to “Don’t Stop Believin.” If I were to mark time by the number of performances I’ve done of the song ”Piano Man,” it would look something like:

“Piano Man” performance #723 – I open my eyes and scan the room, seeing dudes in Affliction t-shirts hunting down chicks

“Piano Man” performance #801 – Looking up, I’m struck when I find the same dudes mentioned before now wearing flannel t-shirts hunting down chicks

“Piano Man” performance #830 - Hey, why are there so many people wearing glasses with no lenses in them?

And as I’ve continued to pursue a music career (being a man in his early 30′s whose values have changed according to his age), the whole picture and the importance people place on adhering to these waxing and waning trends has started to look a bit silly. It’s like we’re all playing dress up but often forget that it started out as a joke.

I suppose this blog is really a response to those über-trendy folks who, apparently to their dismay, unwittingly find themselves at one of my shows. Judging from their expressions, you’d think that I was doing something revolting on stage. It’s classic contempt – arms folded, stance planted, head kicked back, cynical grin. I can tell that my worth is being assessed, not by the quality of my performance, but by whether or not I’m acting in accordance with the identity they’ve presently chosen. While enjoying the high of reducing my essence into a graspable set of negative definitions, they’re oblivious to the fact that I’ve seen the very same character recast in my life over and over again… just in a different trendy outfit each time the character reappears.

I understand wanting to appear fashionable. We all must roll with the times. What I don’t get is feeling a sense of superiority because of an identity you’ve purchased. This type of person believes that their own taste is so much more profound than that of the common person. It kills me because this feeling of eminence comes not from anything they’ve earned or achieved, but from an assemblage of consumer choices they made in order to fit in with a certain crowd. Remind me..who’s the shallow one now?

So, to the self-righteous hipster sneering at the guy playing cover songs in a bar to pay his rent, you really should reconsider the whole elitist asshole attitude. From my perspective, the only thing that will endure in the end is the content of your character, not the items you’ve adorned yourself with. Don’t leave behind empty shells of hoodies and horn-rimmed glasses as the sole representation of how you made your mark on this earth. In five years time the veneer you currently don and feel so empowered by will look as silly as the spandex get-up I’m sporting in the picture above. Take it from me, your friendly neighborhood musician who’s seen a lot in a relatively short amount of time, it’s all transient unless your do something meaningful with what little time you have. Be kind.

Aug 09 '12 Running with my Head Down

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Picture a lush green field, freshly mown and speckled with little kids playing baseball. The sun is kissing skin the way it did in your childhood, not the oppressive way it beats down nowadays. And, imagine a slightly chubby 9yr old named Adam Pitts learning to play the game for the 1st time. He’s probably not playing his position well since he’s more interested in finding four leaf clovers in the outfield.

Yeah, that’s me to the left there.

I kinda sucked at sports. I would excel in one aspect of the game (that was batting in baseball), but I’d stink on ice when it came to all other areas, (especially the fundamentals). Really, I think the problem was my penchant all things cinematic. I’d often construe even the most mundane moments of the game into something more grandiose. As it turns out a wild imagination is basically useless in game-time scenarios.

My hero around this period of my life was Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was always a question of “What would Van Damme Do?”… WWVDD.. wait,  that could be an acronym for a pro-abstinence campaign .. anyway… I pictured myself as Jean-Claude, executing unnecessarily acrobatic maneuvers when catching a fly ball, or sliding in to home in a flying side kick position. Naturally, all of this took place in my mind in cinematic slow-motion, framed up perfectly for anamorphic widescreen.

Now before the silliness I’m about to share ensues, I should first help you visualize the layout of the field at Hickory Foundation Center circa 1990. Instead of hosting games on individually fenced-off baseball fields, the Foundation Center held mulitple games simultaneously on one giant field. This put several baseball diamonds not only adjacent to one another, but also across from one another. (See diagram below – notice there are no lines connecting the bases).

In this story I managed to utilize 3 fields at once:

Bases were loaded. It was the bottom of the last inning. My team was down by three. My turn to bat.

Bare in mind that every ‘at bat’ for me was already as intense as the last scene in the movie “Bloodsport” where Van Damme’s character fights Chong Li for the Kumite title. With the stakes as high as they were on this particular day, my adrenaline surged like the veins in Van Damme’s biceps.

I step up to the plate. A synthesizer-laden 80′s action movie score is pounding inside my head. First pitch… a swing and a miss. Second pitch… ‘nother swing ‘n’ a miss. Third pitch… BOOM! The ball rockets of my bat so hard it flies past our outfield and into the infield of the game going on across the way. Letting out a Van Damme-esque kiai, I take off towards 1st base.

Head down. Eyes focused on my furiously pumping legs. No idea where I’m going. Yep, that’s my running style. It doesn’t help that the over-sized helmet I’m wearing is wobbling like a plate spinning on a stick. However, I briskly make it to 1st thanks to the base coach screaming at me.

Rounding 1st, I glance over my right shoulder and see kids in the other field scrambling for the ball in a confusing mishmash of jerseys. Haha! YES! This could be my first home run EVER! 2nd base, here I come!

The dash to 2nd goes by in a flash. With even more determination I refocus on pumping my legs. This is it! This is really it! Home run, baby! On to 3rd!

My panting breaths reverberate inside my helmet. It sounds like Darth Vader having an asthma attack. I run, and I run, and I run… and then realize…wait, where the heck am I? Looking up, I see that the player on the base I’m approaching has the wrong uniform on. Why’s his back turned towards me? Oh my God, I’ve run to 1st base on the next field over!! Well, I better touch the base anyway in case it counts extra. Back to the real 3rd!

I truck it back to the appropriate field, touch 3rd, and then rush for home plate. Coaches and spectators are in hysterics. I can barely understand what anyone is telling me to do because of this stupid helmet, but I happen to hear that they’re telling me to go back to 3rd after I’ve already made it home. I run back, touch 3rd, and attempt to run home again. A time out is called, but I run back to home anyway. Damn it, this is my 1st home run, people! Don’t mess it up!

Can you believe that they actually sent me back 3rd after all that!?! There may as well have been tubas tooting in the background throughout this whole ordeal. The scene was utter slapstick chaos.

Does this story relate to anything? Other than wanting to make you giggle, I thought I’d share this since it relates back to my first blog here on this site. You may remember that I had an epiphany. I’ve discovered that with everything I’ve been passionate about, I first pursue it with this running-with-my-head-down approach. In pursuing a music career, however, I think I’ve ducked my head down the most. At this point, I’ve run so many extra bases that the silly ragtime music accompanying the Adam Pitts bloopers reel has now soured into a sort of out-of-tune dirge. No worries, though. That’s how you learn in life, right?

So, for those of you who are in the bleachers rooting for me, I want you to know that my head is up now. My legs are pumping and good things are in sight. Who knows.. maybe I’ll actually get my home run someday. For now, at least I can see where I’m going. Get ready for some really exciting things to come. Stay tuned.

Thanks for being a fan.