This album has been a long time comin’ folks. One thing I accepted in recent years is that music isn’t something I chose. It chose me. Lookin back now, it’s been chasin me around since I can recall! Not sure why I’ve spent the last 18 years tryin to deny it. It certainly couldn’t have been more of a struggle than the one I’ve been on.
Grew up hearin the sounds of Hank Williams, Elvis and Rick Nelson comin outa the old cosole record player we had. When I was 13 my Cousin Terry Gilliam came to stay a few days, brought his guitar and started playin these old hillbilly songs that just blew me away. That was it. I bought a junk guitar from my brother for twenty bucks and the journey begins.
Had a coupla bands in high school, even had a 45rpm single released when I was 16 that was in rotation for a while on local country radio (witl). Contacted them about playing the new album, no response! Corporate Radio Sucks!!! After high school I spent 1 semester at Berklee College of Music where I learned you could earn your weekend party supplies just about anywhere in Boston with an open guitar case and a hand full of folk songs. My folks couldn’t keep up with the tuition as much as they would have liked, so it was time to regroup.
Spent the better part of the next year in Southern California. Played lead guitar in the Shadow Riders, a hillbilly band that played mostly at a place called Bronco Billy’s in Lakeside. I had to leave the club during beaks because I was under age. Did some solo gigs at any coffee shop I could get to let me in the door before coming to the realization that I was stuck in the birth of the California meth scene. Packed up what little I had and got the hell outa California before becoming one of the early statistics. Some of the folks I knew were not as blessed.
Worked around Michigan long enough to gather a few bucks and headed south for Nashville. Humbled by the caliber of talent, I spent the better part of the next year going out to clubs, watching and taking notes in the shadows. The anxiety I was suffering from the meth withdrawl would let me do nothing more.
I did get to meet my hero, Steve Earle! Met him my first day in town at Harlan Howards birthday bash and then sometime later spent an afternoon with him and the Dukes while they rehearsed for the Copperhead Road Tour. Oh believe me now, truth be known there’s probably not a day goes by in recent years that I don’t wish I’d have kept my foot through that door. Steve was in the hieght of his drug use and I was really struggling. Everything happens for a reason.
In February of 89 I lost my Dad, He was my best friend. I was nineteen, lost at the loss and started thinkin that maybe I needed to think of another career. Headed back north, bought a house and followed my dads path into the electrical field. I didn’t touch my guitar for a coupla years, startin messin with it a bit in the fall of 91 while I was laid off for a few months. During that time I began dating my wife of 15 years, Carrie. We were married in August of 92.
From 94 to 98 I owned and operated Cottage Productions, a recording studio I built in my pole barn. Though I did continue writing through this time and made a coupla trips to Nashville to play the Bluebird Café, I really was putting most of my energy into other regional acts I was recording at the time. The Dts’, The Dumpster Cowboys, The Deans, Dorothy, The Weepers, Pub Domain, 19 Wheels, Fat Amy and Zydacrunch were some of the bands I either did albums or projects for. As you can see, I’ve rubbed elbows with alot of amazing musicians in the Mid Michigan area. Many of them ended up playing on the tracks that came to be the “River of Life” album.
My oldest daughter Maggie joined the Downing clan in June of 97 and the pressures of raising a family weighed heavy. I spent the better part of the next 10 years climbin the electrical ladder, extremely focused on that career. During this time we had three more chlidren, Grace, Lily and Samuel. Right about the time Sam was born, I startin really questioning my priorities. The war was on. A war that has to do with nothing but power, money and greed and nobody will ever convince me of anything different. Capitolism in America has gotten way out of control! Now don’t get me wrong, I do realize that I’ve been, in my own life, contributing to the problem for quite sometime. The “River of Life” album is the beginning of my resolve. I will no longer put status and money before my family and my dreams, I simply refuse! “Mister jones can take his good life on a slow train, straight to hell!”
Well, the next year should definitely prove to be an interesting one! Hopefully we will choose a president this year that doesn’t believe killin folks is the answer. As for me, I’m out to teach my kids to live life to the fullest, like everyday just might be your last and I plan on teaching by example!
See Ya At The Show!