Thursday, March 31, 2011
I wish I had taken some better video... these were all done with my little pocket Canon Powershot and I didn't really know how to edit or clean up video at that point, either.
In case anyone doubts the interest in Anna. This is from the restaurant, as described in this excerpt:
Next two are Miao folk dancers from one of the villages we visited:
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I really feel that most of this is pretty simple common sense thought., but I'm happy to stir this particular pot and keep the conversation moving.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
I'm excited about this one.
Friday, March 25, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
There is a lot I could say but I am still a bit dazed and head-spinny so I should probably proceed cautiously, rather than with my usual let-it-all-out-on-the-blog fervor. It has obviously been an exciting and somewhat dizzying time.
I went to LA just a week after the book's March 1 release and met with my agents UTA and then with three producers. Everyone was
And since its release yesterday, the story is popping up all over the place, like here and here...
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
|Photo by George Lange|
Today, Saturday, 10-12 PCT Saturday: West Coast Live.
Mrs. Dalloways, Berkeley 4 pm.
Party at Hi Dive at 7 pm.
Sunday: Booksmith on Haight, SF 6 pm.
Come on down.
is aired in the San Francisco Bay Area on KALW, 91.7 FM. www.WCL.org for live stream or list of stations that air it nationwide.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
I am off to be interviewed by Bob Edwards, which is exciting. I only wish Red Barber could join us on air.
My first big interview for the book was last Thursday on Wisconsin Public Radio for an hour-long live radio program; I was the only guest and the hour actually flew by for me. The first half was almost exclusively focused on the band. I was sitting in NPR New York's studio, staring at the npr logo - npr, which has been a huge part of my life as long as I remember. I'm sitting in there alone, with a mic and these great studio headphones on and they start blasting "Beijing Blues" and I got all misted up.
Hearing Beijing Blues blasting through npr was just unreal. If you had asked me any time in the last 20 years if I would have said that I could write a good book given the right subject and the right opportunity, I would have said, “Of course.” So doing so is incredibly exciting and gratifying – but it’s not surprising and certainly not shocking. I never would have said the same thing about writing and recording a blues song that can sound just fine blasting through npr, and that’s what made it so remarkable for me.
I was emotional because this crazy dream we all had together of making music together that the world would some day embrace was sort of coming true. And emotional because I was so sad that my three Chinese bandmates couldn’t share the joy= with me, having been turned down for visas by the US State Department.
It was in many ways my Chinese partner Woodie Wu’s dream of doing this that fueled my dream. I only dared to be that ambitious because of him. Luckily they went to the news after the interview and I had 4 minutes to comport myself and pull it together. And it went really well. I am being very self critical with myself as I try to master the interviewee process, and I did hear flaws, but it went very well.
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
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.
Monday, March 07, 2011
Friday, March 04, 2011
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Book launch reading/signing and party went really well. Thank you to everyone who came and everyone who sent me their best wishes. I felt supported by a big community and emboldened to try to knock it out of the park. Your support is very much appreciated.
I had a great turnout from such a wide cross section of my life.
Pittsburgh/Allderdice...Guitar World...Slam - with a huge turnout...Beijing....Maplewood...WSJ...
A whole photo album is posted on the Facebook fan page.
Let's keep the momentum going. Lots more cool stuff to come.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
From Chapter 19
My day-to-day existence was being transformed, with the band moving from a fun little side project into a far more central place in my life. This all felt normal in Beijing, where growth and change were the only constants and anything felt possible.
I had even taken up hockey, despite not having skated in 20 years. A dozen of us who had never held a stick before took up the sport after Canadian friends turned a nearby tennis court into a mini ice rink. We improved rapidly and soon actually considered ourselves hockey players, resenting our group’s official name: “Monday Night Learn to Skate.” None of this reinvention felt disorienting. Not in Beijing, where the whole landscape was being transformed. I would have had to spin a cocoon and emerge as a butterfly to match my surroundings’ pace of change. In this atmosphere, sitting still or staying the same would have been the strangest, most radical move of all. In that environment, remaking yourself—just hitting the reset button and starting over—seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It was happening all around me: there was the journalist running restaurants and bars; the doctor with a thriving export business; the teacher designing T shirts; the Italian musician selling antique furniture; the Boston bakery owner hanging his shingle as a sports marketer; and the British banker directing an art museum. Anything felt possible and the only crime was setting your sights too low.
The whole sprawling metro area often felt like a giant construction site, literally evolving in front of our eyes, making life in our rust belt hometowns seem positively glacial. Even in New York, projects like the World Trade Center site could take years to get off the ground. When we arrived in Beijing two years earlier, our compound sat on the edge of urban sprawl, with the countryside lapping up against the walls. Now, many humble local businesses had been replaced by higher-end establishments; fields had become shops, compounds and highways; and the formerly dusty, dingy Jing Shun Road was lined with trees, bushes and flowers after a beautification spurred by the Olympics, which were now less than a year away. I saw sections of the road transformed from morning to evening.
When a friend mentioned that a major construction project had begun on a quiet country road lined with fields and man-made fishing holes, I jumped on my bike and pedaled over. The field was filled with earthmovers, cranes, huge drilling apparatus and dozens of workers. The farmers who usually dried their corn there in the fall were nowhere to be seen. Pylons were rising for a new elevated highway that would transform the area, with flyways and a massive concrete structure cutting through what was now a village, many small businesses, light industry and farmland. Dust already covered everything and blocks of nearby small businesses, homes and factories had been reduced to piles of bricks, which were being carted away by mule-drawn carriages.
Though I wondered about the displaced people and mourned the loss of the country feeling—I liked the feeling of living on the frontier—I refused to talk about how things used to be; I’d only been there two years myself. Everyone’s view of “normal” starts the moment they arrive and the one thing that wasn’t going to change in Beijing was the constant change.
Wanting to document all of this in a column I spent a day driving around with a translator, asking people what they thought about the new highway. Inside the Kite Market, some vendors said the highway would bring more customers but most insisted that it wouldn’t affect them—though the construction was literally casting a shadow on them. They all spoke with an odd mix of fatalism and optimism I couldn’t relate to. They believed that they couldn’t do much about whatever was happening and it would probably be for the best anyhow.
I returned with Hou Ayi to buy produce and was rocked by how things had changed in the week since I visited to record the rapid pace of change. Half of the parking lots and all the vendors who had worked in them were gone. I looked at the paving bricks being carted away on mule carts and wondered what had happened to the vendors I was so used to seeing.'
Where was the lady who sold me the little turtle for Anna? The butcher selling pig’s hearts? The peasant fruit vendors who had asked how much of a fine I had to pay for having three kids in America and couldn’t understand why I didn’t have at least five if the government didn’t stop me? None of them were anywhere to be seen and the remaining vendors claimed to have no idea where they had gone.
Excerpted from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China (Harper Collins). Available now in all formats. Copyright 2011 by Alan Paul. For more information, please visit www.alanpaul.net.