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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For the (Pete) Best? The Deep Cut, Part 2

(Editor's Note: And now, the dramatic conclusion of my interview with ex-Nocturnal Bryan Dondero. -DB)

SD: Not to dredge up and "he said, she said" stuff, but I am curious as to how it all went down.
BD: To be fair to Grace, what happened between us is a personal thing;. But I also felt a sense of holding her accountable. And that's where I've been struggling. Because someone says something, you don't necessarily have the right to go spreading it around and throwing mud and trying to get vengeful. And that's not my style.

The one thing that bothered me, and I still don't know that I completely understand it . . . and these are her words, and the ones I feel justified in holding her accountable for, is that she said something along the lines of, "Bryan, you have so much integrity. You are integrity personified . . . and that scares the shit out of me. Because I feel like I might have lost mine." Those are pretty much her words exactly. And I was like, "What? What the hell does that mean?"

But for what it's worth . . . whatever. That's for her to think about. I think I understand what in essence she meant by that. There's one way just to take it at surface level. But there's another way to take it as someone who has known me for five years to say something like that . . .

I don't know that  she completely understood why she said it and what she meant by that. And I don't know that I completely understand some of those things that she was saying. But that's for her to decide.

SD: Do you feel you were forced out?
BD: It felt a little forced. There was pressure. Not pressure to quit, pressure to make a choice. Pressure to say, "This thing that you stood for is no longer going to be that. And I'm forcing you to choose whether or not you're willing to accept what this is going to become."

And I didn't think that was fair. I still don't. It's like, why couldn't I have decided on my own terms? Why was I forced, especially now? It just doesn't make sense to me. Why would you force someone to make a choice now, being like, "Dan, you don't know where you're gonna be tomorrow. But you need to decide right now." How about I just go through it and then decide on my own terms if I'm comfortable with it? Which seems like a much fairer — more fair? — choice. And that's the one thing that really upset me. I felt pretty pissed that I wasn't allowed to decide for myself. Even though I was sort of deciding for myself. As I said in the letter, I'm not afraid to eat a peach. I'm gonna choose and I'm going to accept the consequences of that.

Do you know the whole Neil Young story with that? He was on tour with Stephen Stills. And I'm sure you know they hated each other, fought tooth and nail all the time. And I love Neil, he's one of my favorite artists. So, I guess after they got done playing a show, Neil's in his tour bus and Stills is in his, and they're driving. And all of a sudden Neil's like, "Take me home." And he tells his driver to turn around. (Laughing) That's awesome.

So he sent Stills a note, and all it said was, "Some things that start spontaneously, end spontaneously. Eat a peach. Neil."

And there's a Duane Allman line, right before he died, which The Allman Brothers' Eat a Peach album is named after. Right before he died he said, "There ain't no revolution. It's all just evolution. But every time I'm in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace." And then like a week later he died in a motorcycle accident. Shit like that appeals to some sort of weird clairvoyance that people have. I don't know.

Those two things come from that T.S. Elliott poem: "Do I dare, do I dare eat a peach? I grow old, I grow old. I shall wear my trousers rolled and walk along the beach." And I think both those guys were very well aware of that. That that's what that "eat a peach" thing comes from. This whole question of, "When am I gonna choose?" And you get so caught up in this web of your mind that you start becoming afraid to choose the most simple, mundane things. Like eating a bloody peach. But it takes balls to be like, "You know what? I'm gonna fucking do it." And that's how I felt. I'm like, "I don't care. I'm gonna eat this thing and we'll see what happens."

But that's . . . I felt like in the past few years I was caught in a lot of indecision. And it makes a lot more sense to boldly make the wrong choice than to not choose and have shit hit the fan and then be like, "Oh my God. What am I doing?" But we'll see, you know? Don't have much money to my name right now . . .! (Laughing)

SD: Yeah. You kinda picked a bad economy to quit your day job . . .
BD: (Laughing) My dad's like, "Well, stocks are doing really well, you idiot!"

Naw, my dad's been super supportive. My whole family. A lot of people. It's like, when shit like this goes down you see who your friends are. People rise to the surface. And people I didn't even expect to. And you know, I've made some friends along the way, so I feel taken care of.

Peggy [Potter, Grace's mother] brought this horoscope from the day that I quit. Friday the 13th, go figure. And it basically says, "You're all right. You're formulating right now and putting the pieces together. But you're going to do something cool with it." And that's kinda how I feel right now. I'm putting some pieces together.

And I feel like I'm happy to be home, working with band like Farm. And Aya [Inoue, girlfriend] has a new CD coming out with The Leaves. And I feel like there's a lot of great music around here that I'm excited to help out some of my friends that are doing cool things in the local music scene. There could be some cool things that come out of it.

SD: So what was the choice? Grace Potter and the Nocturnals becoming more of a commercial entity, or . . .
BD: I don't know. I don't think I have an answer for that. I think she's struggling with that right now. I think that's why she was confronting me. It's almost as if she was confronting herself. Do I dare eat a peach? And she didn't know.

It's weird, because in some ways she bashes [the band's commercial side]. And she knows how I feel about it. You know, the "One Tree Hill" thing and all that. And I've grown up through all this. I look at it and I'm like, "If you're happy doing it, go for it." The people who matter to me, know me. And they are not  going to judge me because my band has this ridiculous video advertising soap operas for "One Tree Hill." Whatever I don't care. Because I'm happy getting on stage and playing music for people, living the rock and roll lifestyle. It's great. Who wouldn't want to do that? Not a bad day job.

But I think in some ways she was confronting herself. I don't know why I got singled out in all of this. it's kind of weird. But I was struggling with it at the same time too. It forced me to make a decision.

I'm still in very much of a piecing together mode right now. But I'm excited to have some down time. I mean, I don't even want to call it down time. I feel like I'm gonna have to work my ass off this summer. But excitedly so. I'm excited to get down and dirty and start digging a garden, you know?



PS: psyched Bryan is working with Farm. Excellent dudes, excellent band.


Brian is a great guy and an excellent bassist. The Nocturnals have taken a hit losing him. Glad to hear he'll be working with another excellent band though.


so funny - I have been reading Shakey (Neil Young's Biography) lately and had just told a friend the eat a peach story a couple days ago - weird how things that are on your mind suddenly crop up more often...


Man, Gardens aren't rock n' roll!!! GARDENS AREN'T ROCK AND ROLL!


Farmer Dondero - wear gloves, we... you need your hands


This is the link for the clip from One Tree Hill that featured Grace. I couldn't stop laughing when I saw this... lost my faith in that gal as soon as I saw she was going "Hollywood," literally. Good job Bryan! Way to stay true to your roots and not sell out and be someone you ain't.


SARA, you are indeed correct in saying that the "One Tree Hill" cameo/song was far off her past track record that gained the approval of credible folks ranging from David Fricke to Jeff Tweedy (he covered/teased some of Grace Potter's songs last night during "Heavy Metal Drummer") In spite of her uncharacteristic showing on One Tree Hill, I think it's natural that she'd experiment with something different because that's what artists do in order to keep evolving and discovering what works and what doesn't. Go through a list of all the legends (i.e. Dylan, Neil, Petty, Ramones, Byrne, Clash, Zappa) and you'll realize that many of them at one point did something their core audience seriously disapproved of. My theory is that unless you die young or retire early, you're almost never going to avoid trying something that your fans will not relate to. However, I think true fans will always remain faithful to the material they love unless something deeply personal happens between the artist and the fan. So here's my question for you: would you ever give Grace Potter another chance if she created something that reminded you of what you once loved her for? Based on your post, it seems you once enjoyed her music, but lost complete trust after you felt she went "Hollywood." Or is there a way for her to be "Hollywood," but still gain your respect via a return to the sound you once respected? Can going "Hollywood" ever be a positive thing? And to make it clear, I respect everyones opinion on this board and enter with nothing but the desire to be a part of the unique topics.

s methinks

The "One Tree Hill" appearance composes, what? 1/100 of 1% of the total recorded and live output of Grace Potter yet you would dismiss her as "going hollywood" based on that. I'd say that your stance says a little bit more about you than it does about Grace at this point.

Bryan made a choice for Bryan, good for him, best wishes. But to dismiss Grace based on your link above is short-sighted don't you think?


METHINKS - you are right, the OTH appearance is just minimal compared to the rest of the stuff, and SATCHMO, I agree, every person is going to learn through trial and error through their career, whatever that career may be. However, if you have followed this band through the years, you can see (literally) a change in the band that basically makes me think that Grace has decided to put more effort and energy in her looks, her "red carpet" appeal, and sexuality than in her music. Their old songs felt true, resonated deeply, and I think that is what attracted so many people to her. I've watched the evolution from that and it makes me sad. You go to a show now, and you might expect some cool new songs that touch you deeply or hit you "just right," but more than likely you're going to see a girl humping her Flying-V guitar and a bunch of men oogling over her sexual performance, not necessarily her musical talent - which she has a lot of!! Its just sad to me because I had high hopes for Grace - hoped maybe she would follow the path of other greats such as Emmylou Harris or Gillian Welch or something... but I predict a Hollywood "starlet" on Vermont's hands very soon... nothing wrong with the red carpet hollywood thing per say, just think she could be capable of being so much more than that. I think Bryan was just the tip of the iceberg... I would be surprised if this girl hangs on to the rest of the band much longer... it makes sense from a money point of view that she will drop them and go solo - just sad as a fan who fell in love with her for her SOUL!!


Going solo is a huge gamble; the "jam" scene is more sustainable. If Grace ditched the boys for a plastic-glamour-Clive Davis-style makeover, her longevity as an artist would be in serious question, particularly given the state of the mainstream music industry.

I don't know her or the dynamics of the situation, but as an outside observer, going prefab slutpop does not seem to be the most prudent choice.

Of course, it's important to remember that before she cast herself as a rustic bluez-mama, Grace was a fairly conventional (and dare I say cheesy) pop singer. Not that the bluez-mama thing isn't conventional, but it is a common cultural placeholder for "authenticity."

In that light, whatever direction she takes is consistent. Like many driven singers, she wants to be a star, and will probably find the most direct path to that outcome. Particularly if she's already had her fun playing "band."

I just think that there's a better chance at a long-term career if she honors the relationship
with the jam (and adult contemporary rock) fans who rightly or wrongly percieve Dondero-era Nocturnals as "authentic."

Sigh. I don't even know why I put the energy into this. It's really none of my concern. I like Farm, and I like the few posts I've read by Bryan, and Grace's guitarist has done a couple of decent solos when I've caught them live, and the drummer has always been really nice (if extraordinarily limited as a player). Grace, well. . . I dunno. She's a strong vocalist, I suppose. But is that really so rare?


and in five, ten years? oh wait a mintue,, time presently is momentary -just tweet me on that. oh, sorry, tooo quick. it is now past. The sexuality of Emmylou, joni, carly, mick, tom friggin petty, meatloaf, oh go on and on... is not that she (emmylou)is sixty or something. Beautiful, yes, but the music that lasts, returns, resounds like echo from a stone wall of integrity - your own self...your choice.


As a great man named Danzig once sang in a little band called the Misfits: "Ooh baby, when you cry / Yoir face is momentary / You hide your looks behind these scars / In hybrid moments / Give me a moment."


SARA, thanks so much for your thoughts in response to my post. And same goes for everyone else, especially the epic lyric lifted from Danzig's deep well of rock n' roll articulation. I was ready to script something, but where do you go from the last post via CASEY?! Perhaps a Michael McDonald moment?

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