Before I started my own ill-fated rock and roll podcast in 2009, I made an effort to find existing podcasts to check out. It took me about 30 seconds to stumble onto the Rock and Roll Geek Show, which I still listen to. Host, Michael Butler has turned me onto a ton of great music that I otherwise would have missed: new and old. I think it’s fair to say that the show changed my life and helped me find my musical identity, which was a big milestone for me.
The band I loved had broken up. All three fellow members had skipped town within a two year period, and it left me completely lost, without my closest friends, and without a band. I would have stayed in that band forever. Writing, recording, evolving, and performing everywhere and anywhere we could. (We sometimes even booked two shows in a single day.) But they obviously had other priorities in life.
One of the artists that I learned about was a UK singer/guitarist/songwriter named Ginger Wildheart, who most Americans who don’t listen to Michael’s podcast probably wouldn’t ever stumble upon. It’s too bad because for those who think rock and roll is dead are missing out. Michael would talk about Ginger’s songwriting genius so often, and with so much passion and sincerity, I was intimidated before I ever even heard a song.
Then a dream came true for Butler, he got a call from Ginger that he was going to do a show at the Viper Room, and would Michael be his bass player?
I didn’t want to miss the experience, because it was a pretty rare one. I don’t know the last time Ginger played in L.A. before that gig, but I don’t think he’s been here since. I got a ticket right away, went to the show, and wasn’t all that impressed.
It was kind of a relief, Ginger wasn’t all that. Yet the fanaticism of the fans that were there was intriguing. It felt like a mini Springsteen gig. They were singing along, high-fiving each other when their favorite songs were played. I still felt like I was missing something. So when a second show was announced, I emailed Michael and asked if he would send me the setlist, so I could familiarize myself with the songs.
He was kind enough to not only send me the setlist, but he emailed me songs that I couldn’t find online. I made a playlist for my iPod corresponding with the setlist, and listened to it for two weeks, and then went to the second show.
What followed was a huge lesson for me in why people so often don’t care about new original bands in clubs. No matter how good someone’s music is, you won’t necessarily know it until you digest it before going to see the band live. How many times has a band you’ve seen in concert played a new song from a yet-to-be-released album, and you were let down, wishing they’d instead played another song you already knew you loved?
The same songs I had not been that impressed with a couple weeks before were now spectacular. The melodies and hooks were more infectious than anything I’d ever heard. I had tears streaming down my face at the sheer genius of this guy. It was a completely different experience after having become familiar with the songs. I was so depressed, I knew I could never, ever, come close to writing a song half as good as these songs. And I’m usually pretty confident with myself as a songwriter.
I didn’t feel comfortable sharing this before, because it feels like cheating to record something so good that I didn’t write… but I wanted to get closer to what Ginger was doing so I recorded a cover of my favorite song of his at the time called “When She Comes.” I kept it to myself mostly, but yesterday I was going through old hard drives looking for some songs and photos for an upcoming re-release I’m planning, and found this. It sounded better than I’d remembered. So I thought, fuck it, I’ll post it.
It’s been nine years since discovering Ginger’s music, and I listen to something almost every day of his. I would like to think it made my songwriting stronger, but even if it hasn’t, it sure has made me happier. Be sure to check out more than just this. He has amazing solo music, and you can’t go wrong with any of the Wildhearts albums.