Thursday, April 7, 2011

See Key West Like a Local

Key West. Cayo Hueso, the Southernmost Point. Closer to Cuba than mainland Florida and Mecca for the Parrot Head nation. This little island is home to about 30,000 residents but hosts millions of visitors a year. If you haven't been, you need to add it to your bucket list. If you have, then chances are you already have your favorite places to go and things to do. Charter a fishing boat for some Yellowtail, then take your catch to the Half Shell Oyster Bar and let them cook it up for you. Turtle races at Turtle Kraal's. A tour of Hemingway's House to see the five toed cats. Strolling down Duval or quenching your thirst at one of the many famous (and infamous) watering holes and restaurants: Sloppy Joe's, Captain Tony's, Blue Heaven, The Bull, Hogs Breath, Margaritaville. And, of course, closing the day at Mallory Square, watching the Cat Man and the other performers as the sun sinks into the ocean.

My wife, Georgia, and I never get tired of visiting Key West - would probably live there if we could, and we have our own favorite spots, too (Like the Afterdeck at Louie's Backyard But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, whenever possible I want to offer an "insiders view" to the beaches and bars I cover. So, I asked a local where he goes.

Chris Rehm is a singer/songwriter who has lived in Key West for three years. His debut cd, "Shanghai'd & Marooned in Key West (Things Could Be Worse)", a collection of songs about life in and around the Conch Republic, is in final production and expected to be released just in time for the Key West Songwriters' Convention at the end of April. I called Chris one afternoon and asked him to give me the 411 on some of his favorite places to go on the island.!/ChrisRehm09.

"Lately, I've been spending alot of time on Stock Island, which is about five miles from Key West. That's where I've been working on my cd. There's a place right on the docks there called The Hogfish Bar and Grille. A little out of the way but worth the trip."

Another place I like, just a short drive from Key West, at Mile Marker 10, is Geiger Key. They have a small campground and marina with a tiki bar. Definitely 'old school Keys.'"

Back in Key West, I definitely have some favorite spots. If you're on Duvall, check out Bogart's. It's an Irish pub and alot of fun".

"The Porch, on the corner of Duval and Caroline Street - right across from the Bull - specializes in Craft Beers, which I love. It's an old house with, as the name implies, a huge porch that overlooks the street."

"The Green Parrot alot of people know about, but it's also one of my hang outs. It's a bar only. They have some great bartenders there - Beaver, Chicken, Ken, and Jeff. One of the reasons I like it is that's it's only four blocks from my house. An easy walk - or crawl - home!"

Schooner Wharf is another place that people who have visited Key West will know about, but it's always a great stop. Michael McCloud plays most days and they have some good Microbrews. If I'm there, I'll be sitting at the bar, talking to bartenders Vicky or Debbie."

"At the end of the night, you want to head to Finnegan's Wake on Grinnell Street. It's also an Irish pub, with a phenomenal selection of beers. But, the main reason people end up there is because they keep the latest kitchen hours in Key West - until 1am. That's where all the service industry people go when they get off work."'s-wake.html

"One suggestion I have if you've never been to Key West: Ditch your car. Plan to walk or grab a bike at any of the rental spots, like The Bike Shop on Truman, near White Street."

I also had a chance to speak to another Key West resident, Scott Kirby, recently (his interview was also posted this week) and he mentioned a couple of his favorite spots to
eat: "If I go out for lunch, I love the fish sandwich at Pepe's Cafe on Caroline Street."  "La Creperie is an authentic French Bistro, run by a couple of sisters".  "I don't go out much after gigs, but when I do it's usually to the Afterdeck at Louie's"....

That's it for this "insider's look" at Key West. Of course, as I said, anybody who has been has their own favorite spots - to eat, drink, or just sight see - on Cayo Hueso. Feel free to add yours as a comment. And, if you've never been to Key West, waddya waitin' for??!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Scott Kirby: From fishing for votes to gathering grapes.

It has happened to all of us. You're listening to the radio and suddenly a song comes on you've never heard before that stops you dead in your tracks. Something about it - the lyrics, the music, the singer's style - hits you like a brick. Such was the case several years ago, one afternoon listening to Radio Margaritaville (then internet-only, now on Sirius/XM). I had it on in the background and heard, in the middle of a set of familiar Buffett tunes, a vaguely irish sea chanty. Lilting, melancholy - sparsely produced, mostly acoustic guitar with some background vocals and a short electric guitar solo. The tune was immediately catchy, but it was what the singer was saying that made me turn the speakers up. The verses were colorful, and the chorus "If you're living to love by the ocean, and loving to live by the sea...and lucky enough to live on blue're lucky enough by me" made me want to get in my car and drive to the beach right then and there. But, it was eighteen defiant words in the final verse - 3 minutes and 20 seconds into the song - that really got me: "I'll raise my glass, you can kiss my old ass, I'll die with my feet in the sand."

The song, as many Parrot Heads and Radio Margaritaville fans will recognize, was "Lucky Enough" by Scott Kirby (, one of ten tracks off his 2003 cd, "4 Good Dogs". I was an immediate fan. All three of his cds (with 2007's live "A Night On The Beach" and 2009's "Row Me Home") now spend alot of time being played around my house and "Lucky Enough" remains one of my favorite Trop Rock tracks of all time. I had a chance to catch up with Scott at his home in the Old Towne section of Key West to talk about that song, as well as how he got to where he is today, what's ahead and more....

You're a busy man, thanks for taking the time to talk...

"No problem. I was actually just out walking my dog"

One of the "4 Good Dogs"?

"Well, I did write that song after walking one of my dogs here in Key West"

We'll talk more about some of your songs later. Let's start with "Scott Kirby: The Early Years".

"I started playing drums, actually, when I was about ten, got my first guitar at twelve. I taught myself to play listening to Beatles and James Taylor records."

You were actually very involved in politics at one time, weren't you?

"I was! I grew up around politics in New Hampshire. My mother and grandmother were very involved. Around 1980, I was selling real estate at the time, and a guy named Howard Baker was running for President. I started working on his campaign in the local office. He didn't win, obviously, but it was a new experience, and there were alot of fun, interesting people. I went from there to working for some other state campaigns - the State Legislature, Governor, a Congressman. Then I got into media consulting - writing and producing tv and radio spots for political races. I did that for about eight years."

How did that experience help you down the road?

"Funny you should ask that. I was just thinking about that this morning. When you write scripts for tv or radio, you have only a certain amount of time to get your message across - you have to tell your story with a minimum of words. I guess I wound up using that experience when I started writing songs. Also, as an independent artist, you have to do alot of your own marketing and promotion. So, that experience came in handy, too."

Not to mention that both careers - music and politics - require a pretty thick skin.

"That's true."

From Politics in New Hampshire to playing guitar in Key West seems like a world apart.

"It was the late 80's, and I was going through a challenging time. Working for mostly Democrats during the Reagan years had been frustrating. I was single and the long, cold New England winters were really starting to wear on me. I had put my guitar away the whole time I was working in politics, had gotten so busy I didn't really have time for it. But, then I found myself starting to play again, had gotten a few gigs at some local ski areas. I decided it was time to make a life style change. I got a legal pad and wrote down how much I would need to make to survive. I was working for the Democratic Leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and went in and gave her my notice, told her I wanted to play music for a living. She was a musician herself, so she understood and gave me her blessing. A short time later, I was at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. I had my car packed and just kept going, all the way to Key West."

Why Key West?

I had visited Key West before, had a couple contacts - including a bartender at the Pier House Chart Room. I auditioned for the Food & Beverage Manager and next thing I knew, I was playing seven nights a week there, making more money than I ever had in politics! I've been here ever since." 

I've heard your music described as "Beach Folk"

"That came from a music critic in Pennsylvania about 10 or 15 years ago. I can't remember if he was reviewing a cd or a show, but I thought it was pretty accurate. I think Trop Rock is a good descriptive term, but I'm not really 'rock'. I've always been more of an acoustic player, don't have steel drums on my records".

I told you earlier how I, like many people, first heard you on Radio Margaritaville. "Lucky Enough" was one of the few "non-Buffett" tunes they played. How did that come about?

"I had submitted some songs to Radio Margaritaville - back before Sirius/XM, they were more open to accepting and playing music from independent artists. At the same time, Sirius had a show - I think it was called 'Vacation Station' - and they were also playing a couple of my songs. Because I already had a relationship, I was fortunate enough that my songs made the transition when Sirius took over RM. Radio Margaritaville continues to be great to me. Without them and the airplay, I would not be able to tour some of the places I do."

Let's talk about your most recent cd, "Row Me Home". You have some pretty impressive people on it; Russ Kunkel has played with EVERYBODY; Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, Bob Dylan, James Taylor and, of course, he's done several albums with Jimmy Buffett. Dean Parks has played guitar with some of the biggest names in the business - Steely Dan, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Billy Joel... and Leland Sklar is one of the top bass playing sidemen of all time. Some pretty heavy names. How did you hook up with them?

"That's all thanks to (Coral Reefer) Peter Mayer. I've known Peter for over 20 years. One day he called to let me know he was on the way down to Key West to work on some songs with Russ and wanted to introduce me. I knew who Russ was, of course, he had played on some of my favorite records, but I had never met him. We had dinner at Blue Heaven and hit it off. We found we had alot of things in common, including politics. Over the two months they were here recording, Russ and I spent many late nights at Louie's Backyard planning ways to fix the world's problems.."

Some "Grand Bar Schemes?"

"Exactly. I don't think we ever actually fixed any of them, but we did come up with a few songs. "Bank Of Bad Habits", which Russ wrote and Jimmy recorded, came from one of those conversations - I got credited for 'inspiration'. Russ and I kept in touch over the years, and one day he told me 'When you do another cd, come out to LA. I'd like to produce it!'

How did Lee Sklar and Dean Parks end up on it?

"Russ knows all those guys, has played with them. He's very organized - had everything all planned out before I ever got there. Some of the background singers had been in rehearsal for the Michael Jackson tour - the last one, when he died. They would rehearse with Michael, then come over to our studio. I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with all of them".

What is your songwriting process?

"I keep a journal with phrases and pieces of things. When it comes time to write, I have to set aside time to do it, somewhere very quiet. I'll pull the journal out and turn them into songs. I consider myself a storyteller. It's a form of self expression for me. If you're a Nashville songwriter, trying to write commercial hits, the process may be a little different."

In "4 Good Dogs" you say you're a pessimist. But, alot of your songs are about moving on -looking forward, not back.

"That's an interesting observation. I've never looked at it like that. I guess that's my dark sense of humor from being part Irish. Bad things happen all the time but you get past it. One thing that shaped my life alot happened when I was about 15. I lost an uncle. He was a great guy, only in his 40's. One day, he went to the hospital for some minor thing, caught an infection and died. I realized how short your time is, that you have to live it. One day you're playing golf, the next you're dead. That has affected the way I've lived my life since. Recently, I told my grandmother that story, that it had a big influence on me. She said, 'I was afraid that it had!'"

Do you spend alot of time on the road?

"Last year we put over 30,000 miles on our van. And that doesn't count, trains, planes and other automobiles! I still play at the Pier House and Margaritaville in Key West, but the rest of the time I'm on the road. In a perfect world, all I would do is tour eight months a year, then take the Winter off. But, I have to play every month to keep my hands limber. There's a certain rhythm to the road, if a tour is set up properly. James Taylor talked about it. Travel time, the hotel, dinner, the gig. It keeps other distractions aside. And we're lucky enough to have a fan base that comes to see us. Plus, we get to play some great venues - like Ram's Head in Annapolis, Md. I love places like that, small venues with great sound."

You've played shows with Jimmy Buffett and Carol King. Any body else you'd like to play with?

"I love playing with Peter Mayer. He's amazing. Not just a great player, but a great person. And, I figure, I just finished making a cd with Russ Kunkel, Lee and Dan. Where do I go from there?!"

Let's talk about some of your songs...
Spoiler Alert! Those of you who hope to see Scott at a House Concert this year and want to wait to hear his stories there, you may want to skip this part of the interview.

4 Good Dogs
"I was in a rut about 8-9 years ago, in a cynical mood, had a case of island fever. I was out walking my dog, it was a beautiful day in Key West. I remember thinking 'If all you have is a few good dogs in your life, things aren't so bad'."

Lucky Enough
"I've spent my whole life near the water. It can be expensive to live, even to vacation, near the water. But, if you love the ocean, you have it in your heart. John Kennedy talked about it. So, this song is about that -  that interesting relationship we have with the ocean and how lucky you are if you have the chance to live on or around the water".

Heart Of A Beach Town
"I went back up to New Hampshire around 2002 to do some work in the Secretary of State's office. I was staying on the water in North Hampton. Now, Key West is a great place, but it's small and can get crazy - always something going on, people coming to visit. There isn't alot of solace, time for self-reflection there. I loved that quiet of a New Hampshire winter on the water and wrote that song."

Walking On Thin Ice
"I had a good friend, Marty, who was going through a rough time, a divorce. One night he said 'What the hell, if you're gonna walk on thin ice, you might as well dance'. I had never heard that! I asked him if he had come up with it and he told me he read it on the wall at the Green Parrot (bar in Key West)."

Blow Me Down To Cayo Hueso
"My grandfather came from Ireland and moved to the coast of Newfoundland, to a little fishing village called Blow Me Down. I finally got a chance to visit there about 7-8 years ago and started thinking about my voyage, from my family's beginnings in the town of Blow Me Down all the way to my current home in Cayo Hueso (Key West). I love lyrics that have double meanings."

Women and Grapes
"Russ and I were having dinner at a Tai Restaurant in Los Angeles. We were talking about the fact that we weren't hunters. If we had to rely on our hunting skills to eat, we'd starve. We'd be gatherers instead. And I said, yeah, I'd gather women and grapes!"

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band - Welcome to Fin Land Tour 2011

4/16        Tampa, Florida            1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre

4/19        Raleigh, NC                Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion

4/21        Charlotte, NC             Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

4/23        West Palm Beach, FL     Cruzan Amphitheatre

4/30        Kansas City, MO           Sprint Center

5/3          St. Louis, MO             Verizon Wireless Amphitheater

5/5          Houston, TX               Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

5/7         New Orleans, LA          New Orleans Jazz Festival

5/21       Frisco, TX                   Pizza Hut Park

5/24       Atlanta, GA                 Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood

5/26       Virginia Beach, VA        Farm Bureau Live

5/28      Nashville, TN                Bridgestone Arena

6/18     Mansfield, MA               Comcast Center

6/21      Burgettstown, PA          First Niagara Pavilion

6/23      Camden, NJ                 Susquehanna Bank Center

6/25      East Troy, WI                Alpine Valley Music Theatre

7/16      Toronto, On, Canada       Molson Canadian Amphitheatre

7/19      Cuyahoga Falls, OH         Blossom Music Center

7/21       Clarkston, MI                DTE Energy Music Theatre -

7/23       Bridgeview, IL               Toyota Park

8/19      Wantagh, NY                 Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

8/23     Cincinnati, OH                Riverbend Music Center

8/27      Bristow, VA                   Jiffy Lube Live

9/26       Paris, France                Olympia Hall

For more info - including ticket on sale dates: