We have another “Losering” excerpt, this one running in the very fine Nashville-based magazine American Songwriter. It’s in the November-December issue, the one with Mumford & Sons on the cover, and it’s a great-looking spread that includes some previously unpublished vintage Whiskeytown photos by photographer Daniel Coston (who also took the picture at the top of this blog). So please do check it out.
Even when turnout is small, it doesn’t matter if the joint isn’t crowded so long as the right people are in the house. That was definitely the case for the reading I did Monday evening at The Twig, a super-cool bookstore in the old Pearl Brewery not far from downtown San Antonio. I grew up in the Alamo City, so there were some relatives and old family friends in the house — plus my buddy Dean Dauphinais, also known as the best fan an author can have.
Dean is someone I’ve known for 15 years, going back to when I did some entries for the MusicHound record-guide series. He’s a huge Ryan fan, and we’ve often sent tracks and tidbits back and forth over the years. When I let him read a few in-progress chapters of “Losering,” he instantly got on-board as an early and enthusiastic supporter. He’s one of a handful of folks who were enormously helpful during the process (and he’s continued talking the book up now that it’s out, bless his heart). Dean lives in Detroit, but he just happened to be in Texas during my “book tour.” So he came to the Austin reading as well as the one in San Antonio, and he even brought along friends to both.
Now that is a friend and fan to cherish! Thanks, Dean.
So as long as I was here for the Texas Book Festival, I decided to pop on down to San Antonio to do a reading there, too. Which I’m hoping will be fun — I was born in San Antonio and spent my wonder years there, until moving to Denver during high school. I’ve not lived in the Alamo City since I was a teenager, but I still retain a fondness for Big Red and the San Antonio Spurs.
I must confess that I had some misgivings about how things would go for me at the Texas Book Festival. First, my presentation was at a bar — and based on past experience, book-type events in bars just don’t seem to go too well. Second, it was outdoors on the bar’s back patio on a chilly night when temperatures would dip into the 40s. And third, it wasn’t clear we’d actually be able to sell any books because there was no cash register set up at the start of the event. A TBF volunteer announced that someone had been sent to fetch one, but they were running late because…their car had struck a deer. Only in Texas.
Despite all that, it went great. I’m terrible at guessing crowd numbers, but there appeared to be about 75 people gathered at Shangri-La to hear Sylvie Simmons, Ken Caillat and me talk about our respective tomes. There was only 45 minutes for the three of us, so Sylvie had to leave her ukulele at home. But she promises to have it with her Tuesday when she’ll do a reading at Waterloo Records in Austin; and with Leonard Cohen himself scheduled to play in Austin on Wednesday, there might even be a celebrity appearance.
But back to Saturday, which was great fun. Book festivals are a very cool part of the book-publishing rodeo. You get to strut around wearing a badge, feeling as if you deserve to be there, which is an ego boost I’d recommend. Most of the TBF happens in and around the state capitol building, so I went to some other presentations during the afternoon — including a very moving one by my fellow University of Texas alumnus John Schwartz, about his family memoir “Oddly Normal.”
I also got a peek at the “Speaker’s Apartment” inside the capitol building, where the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives used to live. It’s a fairly palatial flat, and TBF had it set up as author check-in spot and hangout salon. Several of us were cooling our heels in the parlor Saturday afternoon when an older gentleman wearing a suit and Texas flag tie waltzed in and announced he’d lived there 40-some years before when he was speaker. He even had brochures about himself to pass out, and he asked if anyone wanted their pictures taken with him. It was sweet, but also a touch sad.
Out on the capitol grounds, I did some wandering about, taking the festival in and having the same experience I always do when I’m in Austin, which is kind of the world’s largest small town. And while it wasn’t surprising to bump into fellow festival author Joe Nick Patoski (there to plug his fine new book about the Dallas Cowboys), it was surprising to bump into Rush, who I’d not laid eyes on since we were in the same summer Spanish class at Austin Community College in 1983; and Laura, a pal who ran with the same show-going crowd I did back in mid-’80s Austin, and who I don’t think I’d seen in a decade. I did some networking around the festival, too, and I might have some news soon about future projects.
After a brief drop-in at the TBF cocktail party at the plush offices of Texas Monthly, it was on to dinner at El Azteca, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Austin. Had a nice crowd there, too, including Dean Dauphinais — a friend down visiting from Detroit, whose name you’ll find in the “acknowledgements” of “Losering.”
As for the book event, it wasn’t the usual reading. The three of us sat with moderator Raoul Hernandez and took his questions, plus a few from the audience. As usual, Sylvie was the big draw (she does have a New York Times best-seller, after all), but there was plenty of interest and attention for all three of us. And by the time we were done, the cash register was in the house and hooked up.
It’s all good.
So as I’ve mentioned the last few days, this weekend is the big Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas (a.k.a., the South By Southwest of the book world), which I am very honored to be a part of. My bit happens at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at a joint in East Austin called Shangri-La, as part of the festival’s “Lit Crawl.” Sylvie Simmons (author of that fabulous Leonard Cohen bio that’s all the rage this fall), Ken Caillat (author of a scintillating Fleetwood Mac tell-all) and yours truly will discuss our respective books — and whatever else moderator Raoul Hernandez brings up. Y’all come.
Except for a few essays I’ve contributed here and there, “Losering” is my first book in 12 years, since I put out a novel called “Off The Record” myself way back in the fall of 2000. Some things are different this time, and it’s certainly preferable to have a publisher involved with a book if you can swing it. But there are still a lot of similarities between DIY publishing and working with a small press, especially when it comes to scaring up publicity.
The Austin Post online paper was kind enough to have me write an essay about that, in advance of this weekend’s Texas Book Festival. If you’re in the Central Texas vicinity, come on out. My part in that happens at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at Shangri-La in Austin.
When alternative-country was hitting its mid-’90s stride, two of its leading lights were the Old 97s and Whiskeytown. And for a time, the bands were on very friendly terms.
“Ryan was such a sweet kid at first,” 97s frontman Rhett Miller said when I interviewed him for “Losering” last year. “I met him when he opened for the Old 97s with the Freight Whalers, and he might have been 18. We could tell he had something special. So we became friends, and they were getting signed at the same time. He’d call up and ask what I thought about different deals and offers. It was very friendly. But then we did that No Depression tour, and I think the fact that they had to play before us every night really got under his skin.”
That was the beginning of the for-the-papers “feud” between Whiskeytown and the Old 97s, which you’ll find more about in chapter seven of the book. A decade and a half later, Miller seemed to find the whole thing mystifying and amusing in equal parts.
“I’ve got no hard feelings and he’s obviously very talented,” Miller said of Ryan. “I heard a song of his on the radio, from one of those Cardinals albums, and it was so beautiful. Yeah, he’s got a lot of talent. I hope he figures out how to use it.”
Like I’ve said before, a fun part of the publishing process is people sending you pictures of your book in far-off places. Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., say, a continent away from Ryan’s old Raleigh stomping grounds, where “Losering” is sharing shelf space in the vicinity of AC/DC, Bryan Adams and Adele. And when these pictures turn up in Facebook, people often have very amusing things to say about them. Like my buddy Eddie Huffman’s response:
David, is there any risk of your book storming off the shelf in anger over its proximity to the Bryan Adams book?
Another “Losering” review is out today and it’s from a publication I’m very happy to turn up in, the Austin Chronicle weekly. I used to write for the Chronicle a bit in the mid-1980s, while I was a graduate student at the University of Texas, although I did a lot more writing back then for the Daily Texan. But the Chronicle is the one I still keep up with afar (although mostly in the spring, around South By Southwest).
Anyway, have a look. The review is part of the Chronicle’s advance coverage of this weekend’s Texas Book Festival shindig, which I’m tickled pink to be in. So if you’re going to be in the Central Texas vicinity, come on out to Shangri-La in Austin at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.
So I got an email yesterday from a “Losering” reader named Kyle Foushee, who provided a nice little puzzle piece from Ryan’s recent history. Chapter 17 of the book recounts a 2007 show at Red Rocks, in which Ryan went out of his way to avoid interacting with his former bandmate Phil Wandscher (who was opening the show with Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter). But, as documented in several photos, that didn’t stop Ryan from intently watching Wandscher’s performance from the wings. Phil had sent those pictures my way last year; and it turns out that Kyle was the photographer.
“I took them with a simple point-click camera, so the quality isn’t great,” Kyle says now. “But they are clear enough. I actually flew from Charlotte to Denver for the show. I met a friend there, who had befriended Phil while living in Seattle. We naively thought we would be backstage and possibly get to meet Ryan and the Cardinals, Lucinda, Old 97s. Obviously, turns out that did not happen, ha. It was indeed an odd show.”
For those of you reading at home, this falls on pages 186-187.