Happy New Year, Y’all

2018!  Boy, what a year.  As the dude would say, “Strikes and gutters!”  While it had it’s share of ups and downs, the ups far outweighed the downs.  My band Collins Drive is playing and writing stronger and better than ever.  We have some amazing opportunities coming our way and I couldn’t be more happy.  New blood brings new energy, new passion, and well, new everything and honestly it was just the kick in the ass I needed.  I have been having an absolutely blast with Allison and Luis and I do not see this ending any time soon.

2018 also saw a pretty slow year for my blog, The Great Southern Brainfart.  Hitting strikes and gutters with mental health and just trying to deal with all of that made it hard but this year I feel so rejuvenated and more excited than ever about the blog.  Hell, it’s only the 7th of January and I’ve already managed to get into a battle with a fucking promoter for being, well, myself.  Pretty much par for the course for this rock blogger.  It was funny because again, much like having that kick in the ass musically and artistically, this really kicked my ass in gear and reminded me why I love being a music writer in the first place.  My buddy told me today, “You are a powerful mirror, and it’s enlightening to read about how these people feel about themselves.”  <mic drop>

My creative energy has been off the charts lately and I have really been almost overwhelmed with the amount of fragmented ideas for songs that have been coming to me.  Nothing complete.  Just fragments.  A verse here, a chorus there, a melody, a piece of music with absolutely no direction lyrically.   In some ways it’s frustrating but honestly, I fucking love it because I can feel the energy in me just waiting to come out so I know it’s there.  Also, with this new band lineup, I no longer feel restrained.  I feel as if the sky is the limit and that there are limitations as to what I can come up with.  That is a very empowering feeling to have as a songwriter.

2019 is gonna be one hell of a year for Collins Drive, for The Great Southern Brainfart, and for my own personal growth and development.  Let’s do this and welcome you all to follow me along for the ride!!!!

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Recharged, Energized, and Excited for the Future

Collins Drive – 2018

Things these days couldn’t be any better to be honest.  This was a pretty tumultuous years.  From dealing with my mental health to a bitter split with a band member, there were times I felt like I was at the bottom of the barrel but thanks to great friends, family, and supporters, I managed to feel like I came out on top; Charlie Brown actually kicked the football.  On the music front, Collins Drive is doing amazing!  Luis really was just what the doctor ordered.  Playing with him is fun and the personal chemistry between the three of us is beyond description.  Him and Allison have found this connection with each other and to see them playing off each other and having so much fun warms my heart and inspires me.  The creative excitement is there and his “have sticks will travel” attitude about playing has been a real kick in the ass for Collins Drive.  Feeling more like a rock band than ever before, we are starting to see all kinds of new doors opening for us and it feels really good.

All I have ever wanted was to be a part of a band, a unit, a working “machine” of sorts where we all worked towards achieving the same goals and even though it’s taken a while, it’s beginning to look like some of these goals are being close to being achieved.  I am so inspired and rejuvenated by this next chapter of Collins Drive that it has kick started my creative motor and I have been pumping out some songs of a more rock nature unlike I ever thought I would do.  This is definitely a good place to be artistically.

2019 I think is going to be an amazing year.  Hopefully my book will be edited and ready for shopping around, Collins Drive already has shows planned for next year which will take us to North Carolina, possibly Macon, and who knows where else.  My mental health is the best that it’s been in a long, long time and I have been writing so much (non-musical) that I’m already beginning work on book #2 as well as working on The Great Southern Brainfart blog.  I have a couple of contributing writers, two amazing photographers, and a dedicated reader base so I am really excited to see where 2019 will take me.

2019 is going to be an awesome year.  No looking back.  I am solely setting my sights on the now and beyond.  Whatever has happened has happened and it’s all just dust in the wind.  Here’s to a successful, fun, exciting, and positive New Year for us and for all of you!  Thank you so much for following my journey.  You all are a huge part of it and I couldn’t do it without the love and support that you all give me!

Unearthing Words From the Past

So my father in law recently gifted me with one of these new fangled tablet devices.  It’s a cool little piece of machinery so I thought I’d try it out as a teleprompter for lyrics.  Over the last 20 plus years, I have written so many songs that there are songs from my solo folk days that I haven’t played in well over 10 or even 15 years.  Luckily, I have kept nearly everything I have ever written since 1994.  Some of those songs never left notebooks but some of them did manage to get typed up and saved in a folder.

As I was going through the folder tonight for songs to add to my new little friend that I call Minder (reminder, get it?  i’m old and forget shit), I found these lyrics that I don’t think even ever had music put to it.  Reading them reminded me of exactly where I was when I wrote them and where I was at in my life.  We were in a camper van in a state park outside of Louisville (maybe Bowling Green?).  Dr. Lady L and I were on a road trip.  I had just graduated college with my associates and L was about to start at UNC Chapel Hill.  These lyrics are very transparent.  No deep story, no deep meaning but it’s a document of a person who was an adult that was still trying to figure out what all was out there for him.  He was still a dreamer with big dreams but was very much in the moment… something I can be reminded to do these days more often than none.

Kentucky Stars

The rolling scenes, of Bowling Green

They just seem to make me smile.

They say a man, from Kentucky, sure is lucky.

Pastures of plenty, rolling on for miles.

Kentucky skies, can turn a grown man…

Into a, dreaming boy.

Drove all day, now it’s time to rest my head,

Beneath this big, Kentucky sky.

Soon it will be nightfall, so it seems.

That’s when I’ll rest, and bring about my dreams…

Kentucky stars, can turn a grown man…

Into a little, dreaming boy

Just like pearls, sewn into, a black velvet blanket high.

To me it’s no wonder, why the Indians…

Put all their faith in the sky…

Kentucky stars, can turn a grown man…

Into a little, dreaming boy.

My dreams are as many, as the stars tonight.

Watched one fall and it took my breath away.

That night I’d forgotten all my worries.

And with that star I watched them fade away

Kentucky stars, can turn a grown man…

Into a little, dreaming boy.

Being In My Own Head

It’s funny how this blog has turned into a mix of music and mental health content.  Mental health seems to be a common thread that bonds us artistic types.  Most of my musician/artist/writer friends all have some form of mental health issues.  It used to be something that I thought I was on my own with but the moment I started being transparent about my own issues, the more others seemed to come forward to share their experiences with me.  There’s a comfort in not feeling alone and I don’t feel that way alone; I have also been told this by others.

Today was one of those days where I felt like I was literally living in my own head.  I felt as if I wasn’t even on this plane.  I felt as if I was in my own head today.  It wasn’t a super scary place or anything but it was weird.  It was grey and overcast.  I was alone and it was as if I was wading, up to my neck, in a swamp of my own thoughts.  I couldn’t really sort them out and I couldn’t really find any order to them but it was like and  Edward Gorey painting.  I felt like I was just a featureless figured wading in this swamp of letters and words.  I knew they all meant something and somehow maybe they will even find their way out and manifest into something.  Maybe a song?  A poem?  Hell, this blog post is a start.

This is one of the first times I have ever been able to vividly describe what being in this place visually looked and felt like without having a full on meltdown/panic attack.  I didn’t need to take a Xanax or anything.  I was just able to sit down for a second and I was totally able to focus and was able to completely see where I was at from the outside.  It was such a surreal experience.  I texted Bert about it and told him and we both kind of agreed what it’s like to feel the storm before the calm.  Wow, that sounds like a song title to be honest.  I was listening to my new Mother Love Bone box set and listening to some of Andrew Wood’s songs really gave me a glimpse inside his head and i started to realize that so many of us writers share these experiences.  I’m also learning to not fear these moments to to find a way to face them, acknowledge them, and try to just make them into something the best that I can.

 

Finding Inspiration and Validation.

This year has been a pretty amazing fucking year for me.  This year, within a week’s time Collins Drive opened for a jamband icon (Mike Glabicki of Rusted Root) and were hand picked by one of my biggest influences of all time (Kevn Kinney) to perform at one of his showcase shows called Kevn Kinney’s Rocket Shop.  For me, these two shows were absolutely huge for so many reasons.  Primarily, the Mike Glabicki show was huge because it was getting the chance to open for the singer of one of my favorite Jam Bands.  The Kevn Kinney show was really special because here was this hero of mine inviting my band to come be a part of of his show and then inviting us to sit in with him at the end of the night with  “Straight to Hell.”  That was an experience I’ll never forget.  It was amazing, it was loving, it was exciting and it was validating.

Validation is a big thing for all of us.  We all love to hear that we are doing something good.  These two shows and the reactions from both the artists and the audiences completely had me validated.  The feeling of being accepted as an equal to these guy and having them both tell me just how much they love my material is something that you just can’t put a price on.  I feel as if I’ve made it… WE’VE made it.

Finding My Way Towards the Left Hand Path

My mother was an ex-nun and my father had left the seminary where he was hoping to be a Catholic monk.  To make a long story short, both of them had found themselves disheartened by changes made and enforced by the Vatican II council.  While they departed from their respective orders, they still maintained strong ties to their Catholic beliefs.  They met, dated, married, and had yours truly.  I was raised Catholic like 98.7% of the New Orleans population.  I went to Catholic school, I participated in all of the bizarre ritualistic sacraments such as Baptism (we’ll go into that one in a second), the Holy Eucharist (First Communion), Penance (Confession), and finally, Confirmation (becoming an adult in the Catholic church).   Of all of these sacraments, Baptism is the one that pisses me off the most.  Why?  I always thought that baptizing a baby was a really fucked up thing.  Basically, you are denying a human being the right to choose his/her own faith and you are choosing that human’s spiritual path.

As a kid, as miserable as I was in my personal life (bullied and picked on for years), I was a pretty happy Catholic.  I went to church every Sunday, I knew the mass dialog by heart and sang along with every song as I would with any Iron Maiden, KISS, or Twisted Sister song.  I didn’t mind all of these things and as far as I knew, this was just shit that everyone did and it was just part of life.  Like any young person from any kind of religious faith, I began to have my doubts about not just Catholicism but religion and belief in “God” in general.  This all started when I was in 8th grade.  I was in my Religion class and somehow the discussion of sins came up and that homosexuality was a sin punishable by God.  “For man to lay down with another man is a sin” I remember the nun telling the class.  It was at this time that it was disclosed to me that my Uncle (my mother’s brother) was gay.  I raised my hand I said, “Sister.  My uncle is gay and he is one of the best people I know.  He goes to church every Sunday.  Does this mean he’s going to hell?”  Without missing a beat, the penguin says, “Donald, God makes exceptions.”  God makes exceptions?  This was enough to lead into a doubting of the realness of this all.  How can this “book” that you hold to be the word of God say one thing but you, a mouthpiece of the Lord so to speak, have the right to assume that God makes exceptions?  Did he/she tell you this on a conference call?  Did you have coffee with him/her?

Image result for anton lavey quotes

The instance that truly solidified my questioning of it all was later that same year.  Me and this dude were hanging out behind the church (after school hours) smoking cigarettes.  We were busted by one of the penguins and she scolded us verbally.  She shook her long, skinny finger at us and told us that we were to attend confession the next morning before school.  I asked her why we needed to confess anything and she said, “Mr. de Leaumont.  Don’t you question what I say” and I said, “I just want to know what I’m confessing.  What did I do wrong?”  She tells me, “You were smoking and smoking is defying your body which is the Lord’s temple.”  This just all seemed weird but hey, who was I to argue?  Anyways, I went to confession the next morning and the priest entered the room and immediately a pack of Winstons fell out of his shirt pocket.  He asked me why I was there and I said, “Because Sr. Nan said that smoking is a sin.”  He just looked at me blankly and said, “You better get to class.”   This proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

That day is a day I still remember like it was yesterday.  I felt like a door in my mind was opened up and all of the sudden I was seeing things in a whole new light.  My faith, my beliefs, my God, everything was in question.  From then on, I went from being the happy Catholic that went along with it all to becoming a young man that longed to pay mind to what was going on behind the curtain.  I had questions, I wanted answers, and I needed proof so I went to my father with these questions.

My dad and I didn’t have much of a relationship at all but one of the things that I always loved and respected about my dad was his honesty and his outspokenness.  If you’ve ever read my blog you’re pretty much reading my dad.  Anyway, I remember talking to him about my questioning about God.  My dad didn’t beat around the bush or try to condemn me for being a doubting Thomas.  He asked me, “Why did you stop believing in Santa Clause?”  I said, “Because I learned that it was you and mom.”  He said, “You had proof.  Do you feel like you need physical proof to believe in God?”  I told him, “I think so because I feel like God is pretty much like Santa Clause so unless someone can show me pictures and prove that there is a God, I don’t know that I can believe it.”  My dad smiled and said, “I think you answered your questions, Donald.  It’s your choice and you have to follow whatever path makes you happy and what makes you feel fulfilled.”

My dad told me once that the reason why he maintained his faith and belief in God was because it was all he ever knew and that it got him through the days.  He and my mother both found solace in the thought that some great, powerful deity looked over them, tried them, gifted them, and promised them some kind of grand afterlife hangsuite in the sky.  They didn’t need proof and they didn’t have any questions about it.  It was their choice to believe and thankfully I had two parents (mom was less than enthused although) who respected my decision to question religion and to call to the stand all the beliefs that had been instilled in me since birth.  I even went as far as to meet with a priest once to try and see what he could do to convince me that there was indeed a God, an almighty “father” in the sky.  When I addressed my issues with religion and faith in general, he very honestly said to me, “I cannot make you believe in something that you are already set on not believing in.  Maybe someday in your journey and your search you will find something that will rekindle your faith but that is for you and only you to decide.”  I was very thankful for that conversation as he was a really guy.  He didn’t tell me I was going to hell.  He didn’t tell me I was going to live a life of torment.  He merely stated the obvious.

It was also the “tall tales” and stories fed to me as a young man growing up Catholic that I found hard to even remotely believe in.  Tales of a man living in the belly of a whale, tales of a man who lead his people through the desert (of which there is no archaeological proof) and parting the Red Sea, a man who built a huge fucking boat and collected two of every fucking animal on the planet and survived a huge flood, a man who walked on water, and a man who was crucified and then rose from the dead.  This is just the tip of the iceberg here and honestly, these stories alone are the kind of things that could get you locked away in a penitentiary.  The only proof of any of this is a collection writings of people passed down from generation to generation in many different languages.  Because it is documented in text I’m supposed to believe that this shit really happened?  Ok, then.  So I guess that means that Hobbits are real, right?  I mean, it’s written in a book.  The older I got, the more ridiculous it got and the harder it got to accept these things as truth.

Over the years I would come in contact with many people of many different spiritual walks of life.  I would come to know Christians, Buddhists, Satanists, Pagans, Baptists, etc.  Everyone that I talked to had firm roots to their faith and their beliefs which I always admired.  I admired them mainly because they had something that they could hold on to; something that gave them some glimmer of promise and some ounce of hope or even salvation from the world.  I found myself (and still do to this day) to identify more as a seeker than anything else.  A friend told me once that the world is made of three types: Finders, Seekers, and those that are content and happy just being.  Being born with and extremely curious mind is what made me feel more in line with the seekers.  You may at this point be asking, “What are you seeking?”  Honestly, I’m not seeking salvation or solace.  I’m not looking to be saved or taken in by any denomination.  I am seeking knowledge and understanding about why people believe in the things they do.

I have had many interesting conversations with people of all different faiths but every now and then I hear something that just absolutely blows me out of the water.  I recently heard someone of a strong Christian faith talking about why they believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  This person went on to say that they believed in this because there were over 500 eyewitnesses to his resurrection.  She actually knows of this because of some writing by a guy named Josh McDowell.    It wasn’t so much that this person believed as much as it was that the pompousness of saying something to the form of, “There is proof that Jesus rose from the dead therefore you have no choice other than to believe.”  To me, that’s no different than saying, “I know 20 people who saw Jerry Garcia’s face in a rainbow at a Phil Lesh & Friends show back in 2007.  You must believe that Jerry Garcia was in that rainbow.”  Sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it?  How could any educated person believe these things?  I guess the answer to that is, faith. Fine.  You have your faith but don’t be so arrogant as to try and convince me that there is solid, undeniable “proof” and that this is why I should believe.

Over the years, I have read many books to try and quench my thirst for spiritual knowledge.  Books such as Many Lives Many Masters, books on Paganism and Witchcraft all educated me and gave me knowledge about things I never had before.  Of all of the books I read though, it was Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible that I felt more connected to than anything.  Reading more like a book of self help and self empowerment, how could I not relate to a book that in so many words tells the reader to live life to the fullest, to love your self more than anything, and to think for yourself without any repercussions.  The only thing that turned me off was the inclusion of the Satanic  sermons and incantations.  That in general just felt a bit too religious to me and a bit on the corny side.  That being said, I did love the fact that there was a difference between LaVeyan Satanism and Theistic Satanism.  LaVey Satanists believe Satan is an archetype of purely psychological significance.  Theistic Satanists believe that Satan is a real Spiritual entity existent outside of oneself.

Even this just felt a bit double standard to me.  Is Satan real?  Is Satan an “archetype of purely psychological significance”?  Regardless, it was the over all philosophy of Satanism that I felt connected to.  Overall, the Satanic philosophy felt more inclusive, less judgemental, and over all more believable that that of Christianity.  This philosophy, also referred to as The Left Hand Path, was something that I wanted to know more about.  One day I had a reached out to and had a great conversation with Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan of Venom, Inc.  He and I had a lengthy discussion about this and that was when I learned a lot more about what the Left Hand Path was all about.

Image result for left hand path

The above quote about following the Left Hand Path just seemed to make so much sense to me.  This philosophy spoke to me and I felt connected to it.  Just reading it out loud makes so much sense to me.  In my past, as a Catholic Christian, I felt that everything I did was being scrutinized by the eyes of this great God in the sky.  I also felt shame in pleasure.  Why was it a “sin” in the eyes of God to masturbate?  Why was it a “sin” in the eyes of God to enjoy sex with a consenting partner?  Why was it a sin for someone to be homosexual or bi-sexual when this is something that is something that is “you”, not a decision you made?  The day that I officially denounced Christianity was in 1991 and from that moment on I felt free.  I felt free to live my life as I choose without the fear of being judged.  I felt free to explore sexuality without the fear of sin and I felt free to just live.  If anything, I feel that that day was the day that I was truly born and since then I have been happy and content.  I feel no void, I feel no suffering, and I feel no remorse.  I continue to be the best person I can be and I do so not because of faith and/or fear of God but because of humanity.  Being a good person isn’t religious; it’s humane.

So does this mean that I am a Satanist?  I’m still not sure of that one as I am still acquiring knowledge and doing my research.  What I can tell you is that I am not a Christian.  I do not believe in the fairy tales and tall stories recorded in a book that has been translated oh so loosely for thousands of years.  What I do believe is that the philosophy of the Left Hand Path is one of the first things to connect with me in a long, long time of seeking.  “I follow the Left Hand Path.  Self value before self sacrifice.  Guidance above worship.  Inspiration.  Enlightenment.  Empowerment.  Eccentric, Trantric, Orphic, & Cosmic.  Unconventional & unapologetic.”  Just typing that alone gave me a sense of pride and just reaffirms that I am indeed getting closer to finding what it is that I am looking for.

 

“Rehearsing is Just a Big Word for Bonding.”

“Rehearsing is just a big word for bonding.” I wish I could remember where I saw that quote. It obviously meant a lot to me because I wrote it down. I wish I could give credit where credit is due but I will just say that this is not my quote. When I saw this quote, it totally made me smile because I totally knew exactly what this was all about. There was a time in my life where sometimes rehearsing with a band could be painful. Sometimes there were even moments where I would find an excuse to cancel rehearsal. Why would someone do that? It’s probably the same reason that relationships fall apart or why friendships fall apart. That magic, that spark is either no longer there or maybe it just wasn’t there at all.

Rehearsing with Allison and Mike (aka: Collins Drive) is always a bonding experience. I feel that with every rehearsal we get tighter, closer, and more in touch with each other not just artistically but personally as well. I remember the first time we all got together and as corny as it sounds, I knew that these were the ones. Every day that I spend with this band I learn more about myself as a writer, as a singer, as guitarist, as a performer, and as a person in general. This band brings the best out of each other. We are each others biggest fan and we are each others biggest cheerleader. When we are in that rehearsal room together, it is pure magic. All the bullshit, all the hassle of the world gets left behind and the minute that door closes, our world revolves around one thing: the song.

Rehearsing with this band is everything to me. Sometimes, when they don’t know it, I find myself just looking at them and smiling. I see Allison lost in the groove and playing those lyrical bass lines while Mike plays with his eyes closed, completely immersed in the song, lipping the words as I sing. When I see them like this, it makes me smile and it makes me feel connected. It makes me feel bonded to them in a way that you can’t just bond with other people. It’s truly magical and it’s something that I hope never goes away.