North America is many different places. Of course, there are different states and different provinces, but that's not really where the big differences happen. The really fundamental distinctions happen between the different regions. One great thing about my job is I get to travel. I travel, mostly on the highways, and frequently from one end of the country to the other. Some of the most interesting travel is when I get to see how the different regions fit together, as they unroll from end to end.
One great thing about my job is I get to travel. I travel, mostly on the highways, and frequently from one end of the country to the other. Some of the most interesting travel is when I get to see how the different regions fit together, as they unroll from end to end. Occasionally, if the booking agent is sadistic enough, I get to see three or four different regions in three or four days.
I've been traveling, playing gigs, and making records for twelve years. I got started playing music in Austin, playing at a dark wooden barroom downtown called O Henry's Back Forty (now the site of the downtown Hilton). I've worked different jobs, lived in Houston, Dallas, New York, and Madison, Wisconsin, and made good friends in all those places.
I read a book last year, The Nine Nations of North America, that was recommended to me by a fellow traveler and songwriter, Brian Rung. The author, Joel Garreau, argues that state borders are basically irrelevant and artificial and that North American society can be better understood grouped into nine larger regions. Nine regions that have distinct economic and cultural features.
He breaks it down and labels the regions: New England, The Foundry, Dixie, The Breadbasket, The Islands, Mexamerica, Ecotopia, The Empty Quarter, and Quebec. He says that the regions are basically defined by the jobs that people have (or don't have) and the work that people do in those regions. Whether you're sold on the details of this idea or not, I thought it was an interesting idea.
I decided to write an album with songs set in the different regions, exploring characters trying to make their way and make a living in their respective places. Dollars and Dimes, my fifth record, is the result. I wrote the songs myself and with my songwriter friends, Adam Carroll, Gordy Quist, and Scott Nolan.
We recorded the songs in July 2008 and January 2009. Gabe Rhodes produced the project and played guitar, piano, and anything else with strings on it. Will Sexton played bass, sang backup vocals, and played some guitar, and Hunt Sales played drums.
So we're releasing the record this summer, driving and playing shows all over these ?regions?, seeing if there's anything to this idea. Trying to find some good coffee on the way.
Owen Temple (waiting for sound check, Houston, Texas, April 2009)