Big in China is a week old.
I am writing this on a plane to LA, embarking on the West Coast leg of the Big in China tour. Almost a week after the book’s release, I finally have a moment to breathe. The experience has been profoundly moving, tremendously exciting, fraught with nerve-racking moments and thoroughly exhausting.
I am an expert at keeping 12 balls in the air at once, but this has stretched me. It is hard not be frantic and frenzied but I am doing my best to enjoy it, well aware that this is a grand and special time in my life.
As I said in this article, no matter what happens with the book from here, I will always have March 4 in Maplewood. Words was overpacked and turning people away, and they sold out of books. I propped them up from my own supply, which will be replenished when they get their next shipment in. I was down there in the basement looking out over a sea of faces I know from so many walks of life, going all the way back to Jacob’s day as an infant and toddler at the South Mountain YMCA. Now he was sitting to my side with a gaggle of his young teen friends, all of them listening along. My parents were right in front of me, along with my brother and sister, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews… I felt as if I were floating on a sea of support.
I felt so relaxed and happy that I just let go and I think I did a pretty great job if I don’t say so myself. If I can reach the same level of confidence, presentation and insight on my own, I am going to be just fine.
And the night was just starting, as we moved around the corner, with Andy Aledort and the Groove Kings again providing the entertainment, as they did Tuesday at the Tribece Book launch, and me again joining them for extended jams. Night two was much better than night one, as I knew it would be. I was more relaxed, we had had already done it once, and we just hit the ground running.
I have some video of the night that I am looking forward to loading up and watching. I heard sounds coming out of my own body that I couldn’t fathom; where did that voice come from? How can I sing like that? I really don’t totally understand it, but I am going with it.
Andy has been a friend for 20 years or close to it. I have said many times before that he is one of my very favorite guitarists and I really mean it. From my perspective, there is almost nothing he can’t do on the instrument, but he does it all with tone, taste and groove. And we share the same perspective on what constitutes great music and a great sound; we are in sync.
On top of everything else, the music of the Allman Brothers has been very central to my life and to my musical conceptions. You probably know that. Andy has spent the last seven years playing with Dickey Betts, one of my very favorite guitarists. He has the Allmans sound down perfectly. He played some slide licks behind me that just took my breath away and made me laugh. They were just so pitch perfect in every way.
I wish everyone could have the experience of doing something like this. Playing music that you love, with this great band backing you and pushing you on and the fact that the guitar player not only sounded perfect but was my good friend… well, what more could I ask for? We closed the night with two impromptu Allmans Jams – “Statesboro Blues” and “Blue Sky”. Unfortunately, these flew off into the ether.. no videoing… but they were magical. Again, to play and sing “Statesboro” with Andy nailing those slide licks is something I will never forget.
And in San Fran next Saturday I have recruited Mark Karan, who played with the Dead and toured with Bob Weir for a decade, to play with me. So I am enjoying the whole thing and having fun with it amidst the roar and the neurotic fear that after all this it will slip away and be gone in a week. I don’t really worry about that but it is had not to have some anxiety along those lines.
One of the ways I am blessed is having some great photographers in my life – and several showed up the other night. Thank you to George lange, Kathryn Huang and Tore Claesson for the great interviews.