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John Doe

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JD’s notes on KEEPER

why are we so tired
we must’ve slept too long
how could we know how sick we were
when we were both too sick to talk

silence makes the heart grow colder
though we knew it didn’t matter
how hard we tried to make it better

scars are only wounds
that have lost their sense of humor

excerpt from a poem, the first thing by JD 2007
Dark & sad are typical places for most people to start writing songs. It’s a location that the last four JD records came from. Writing songs to exercise turmoil can become second nature and that well is deep. So what happens when most everything you’ve written has come from that darker place and you finally find some happiness & satisfaction? You really don’t care about writing songs at all, why should you when things are finally good.
This is the dilemma I found myself in a year after releasing A Year in the Wilderness (2007). How do you write love songs in which the ending isn’t a sad one? Two years went by & I didn’t really care to write since things were good & rolling along. We made Country Club w/ the Sadies & eventually I figured out how to write a love song where the people actually get loved. It became easier to write about more than the lovelorn songs that made up most of those previous records. Being consumed by heartache had become tiresome & no one wants to be thought of as a “sad sack”.
As Dave Way (mixer/producer extraordinaire) & I began recording we knew it had to be a record featuring a band. We agreed that one of our favorite eras in music was ’69-’71, just as hippie music had turned more aggressive & the flower was beginning to die. The songs for Keeper were written w/ that kind of confidence, conflict & flow. At a certain point you can use all you influences rather than drawing a line between what’s considered cool & what’s not and what people expect of you. Our record has The Band, Let It Bleed & Blue to thank w/out trying to sound like any of them.
The tracking band; Smokey Hormel, gtr (Johnny Cash, Tom Waits), Don Was, bass (Was Not Was & prod: Rolling Stones), Ryan Feves, bass (Eleni Mandell), Jamie Muhoberac, keyboards (studio ace & Was Not Was), Stuart Johnson, drums (Matthew Sweet, Love Jones) and Victor Bisetti, congas (Los Lobos) were ferocious and listened as hard as they played. Basic tracks were recorded at New Monkey, Elliott Smith’s old studio, in five days before Christmas 2010. We could only hope that Patty Griffin would sing on a couple of songs & she did in NYC while touring w/ Band of Joy. Cindy Wasserman (Dead Rock West) has been a collaborator & friend for years & we finally got her to sing w/ us. Jill Sobule & I released a live record, A Day at the Pass, earlier this year & she had been singing Never Enough w/ me since it was written.
It’s difficult to say that you’ve succeeded w/out sounding like yr bragging but I believe that on this record the edge is not lost. And as you grow up you realize that a certain amount of satisfaction and happiness is a very good thing. Pieces of sadness exist in everything but it doesn’t have to be the only thing. I hope that you enjoy this record half as much as we did making it.
--John Doe Fairfax, CA May 2011

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