Essays

Driving Down Thirty 

Part 1

I t’s been nearly a year since the record came out. Making a record is like giving birth—it takes nine months, costs a fortune, and you miss it once it’s over. At the time, it couldn’t have been over quick enough. This record, as all projects of expression and exploration are, was birthed by my life reflections of “youth and young manhood,”, but Thirty East wasn’t content on coming into this world without a set of birthing pangs. Some things in life just bitch and scream the entire way through.

Lost the job. Lost the girl. Made the record. That’s the short ‘n sweet. Thirty East, long and bitter she was during the chew.

It was Halloween when things came to a head. At the time, I was starting a doomed relationship. As I would come to learn over a circle around the sun, you can’t love someone who can’t love themselves. We’ll all learn it.

I’ve never typed so fast before. The swiftness was uncanny, unrepresentative of my shaky, clammy hands and fingertips. The adrenaline near maddening, my mouth filled with cigarette smoke, my car wreaking of emotion and confusion.

“I just wanted you to get help. I just wanted you to love yourself. Why can’t you be honest with me?”

Blah, blah-fucking-blah. I’d slap the shit out of myself if I could. (More on that in a moment.)

How do you go from that moment—standing in your girlfriend’s parents’ lawn begging her to explain whats going on—to having Warren Hood (a bit of a local legend in Austin behind those four strings) play on five of your songs? Five.

Five songs that I wrote in my apartment with my dog asleep on the couch.
Five songs that came from a place only I could write them.
Five songs that no one can take away from me.
Five songs that are about to get a lot better.
Five songs that weren’t about her.

It was Halloween, and I felt all dressed up.

Wrap up the texts, son. Get out the car. Get ready to write a check. That record of yours is being made. The record you’ve always wanted to make. The one your family put their hard earned dollar into. The one you had to make, instead of joining your generation’s write of passage in Europe or a big ol’ spring wedding. God damn East Texas never really leaves you. Not in moments of anger, spirit, or frustration. It never really leaves you.

I hadn’t named the record yet, but it seems silly now. “Never Known How to Leave” was a serious contender, for anyone wondering. Seemed to fit. It’s good to take a line from a song that isn’t a title. Feels like an inside joke, a secret handshake, or a light lovers touch that bonds two together.

“Warren Hood plays on my record tonight. Warren Hood plays on my songs.”

 Making a record is like giving birth—it takes nine months, costs a fortune, and you miss it once it’s over. (Click to Tweet)

Lee Jaster
warren-hood-lee-jaster-jumping-dog-studio

Warren Hood (right) at Jumping Dog Studio

warren-hood-jumping-dog-studio

Warren Hood at Jumping Dog Studio

Warren Hood plays on my record tonight. Warren Hood plays on my songs.

 

The mantra was familiar, as just weeks earlier one of the happiest moments of my life occured when a close friend joined me in the studio to watch Rich Brotherton play mandolin and lap steel on Thirty East. He brought pizza, he got to see someone he admires professionally, and personally, work in his comfort zone. He didn’t get a set list and pick, he got to see Rich Brotherton work and create.

So did I.

To have a musician that I was only introduced to through my best friend (Robert Earl Keen) and this same friend’s love of Rich Brotherton (and James McMurtry — but that’s another story), felt like a closing of a circle. It felt right.

It didn’t hurt when Rich says, “Good song. (Playing on Roses)”

Yea, that’s a dream come true. There’s nothing like working with the pros — the real pros.

Let’s go back further, outside of the two of the highest, lowest, and highest moments of my life. Let’s go back to July.

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