“The Cold Hard Facts of Mike” was my redemption song, and it came about very unexpectedly. After a couple of very dark years of personal turmoil I had found myself suddenly with a clear head and a new lease on life. Suddenly songs were coming to me in whole cloth out of the blue. I had no way to document the tunes but, the way I remember it, I was speaking on the phone to my dear old friend Maurice Tani and he offered to record demos of a couple of the new tunes on his home recording machine.
Long story short, I quickly made my way to his house, grabbed his acoustic guitar, and sang the song “I’ll Be Back” into his microphone. That was that. A couple of days later, Maurice called me to say, half apologetically, that he had “added some stuff” to the recording and he “hoped I didn’t mind.” What he sent over to me is basically the track thatÂ is now on the record. Needless to say, I not only did not mind, but instead I was completely blown away.
My immediate reaction was to call Maurice back and ask if he might mind recording another song the same way. Maurice jokes that I was writing songs on the BART on the way to his house, and that isn’t too far from the truth. Like I said, the songs were coming very quickly, as they seem to do.
What is amazing is that my contribution, besides the composition, was very little. Much of the record was basically simply a basic vocal and acoustic guitar. If I got through a take without a mistake, then we moved on. The rest was either Maurice playing the bass, piano, mandolin, etc, or one of his talented friends overdubbing the parts. Most of it was a surprise to me. At least that is how I remember it.
Anyway, we finished the record, I grabbed the title as a parody or homage to Porter Wagoner’s “Cold Hard Facts of Life,” made up some self effacing liner notes and put it out into the world. I was proud of the record, though I have never enjoyed my vocals. I never would have guessed the way that other people would enjoy the songs or that it would become a mini industry for me. Not only have I traveled the world singing these songs, but by some miracle the songs were discovered by Hollywood. The songs have been in countless television shows and movies — “True Blood,” “Justified,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Heartland,” “The Man in The High Castle” — honestly a few more that I can’t think of right now. They continue to pop up on television to this day.Â Owing much to the encouragement of some very good friends, this record was a foundation for me to build a career on as a songwriter. In short, and with no exaggeration, this album was a miracle in my life.
To think that it all was just a way to get a demo recorded of one song, or that it was partly just an excuse to hang out with an old friend at his house….well, it really has been quite a strange trip.
So we are going to perform it live this Sunday. I actually would like to do the same thing next month, because sadly many of the key characters who helped make this all possible can’t be there this Sunday. But I don’t think that should be a problem. We can have two parties instead of just one.
Hear the album at this link, and then come down to the shop Sunday night to catch Mike’s redemption live in theÂ company of some of San Francisco’sÂ very finest country & western musicians, and calendar the last Sunday in April for a reprise with a few characters who can’t make it this month!
Our events are put on under the umbrella of the nonprofit Bird & Beckett Cultural Legacy Project (the "BBCLP"). That's how we fund our ambitious schedule of 300 or so concerts and literary events every year.
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Gigging musicians! You have nothing to lose but your lack of a collective voice to achieve fair wages for your work!
The IMA can be a conduit for you, if you join in to make it work.
Read more here - Andy Gilbert's Feb 25 article about the IMA from KQED's site