Netherfriends’ Shawn Rosenblatt stated last April that he would tour all 50 United States, writing a song inspired in each state. When I spoke with him in September 2010, he confided his biggest obstacle would be getting to Hawaii. Alaska, he noted, was easy in comparison to crossing the Pacific Ocean.
Rosenblatt has been performing in Hawaii since April 5, realizing his tour dreams, fittingly, in the 50th state. Below is the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article related to his Alaska tour.
FAIRBANKS — Last April, Shawn Rosenblatt made a bold proclamation to perform with his randomly formed band Netherfriends in all 50 states and write a song in each of those states. Six months later Rosenblatt finds himself in Alaska, state No. 29 on his tour.
Rosenblatt’s goal is big, his budget low, but he takes with him such a positive outlook that he’s confident he can pull off his venture. So far he’s endured all-night van rides and playing house parties. His blog states that “I plan on touring a ton and being broke forever” and goes on to ask for places to play and stay. He’ll even write the song at your house if he stays with you.
In Fairbanks he’s shacking up with members of Feeding Frenzy, a local band. His first night in town was a special one—the aurora was out in full.
“I was always really excited to see the northern lights if I ever got to Alaska but kind of forgot about it,” he said. “Then I looked up. It was pretty surprising.”
So will this inspire his song about Alaska?
“I’ve been thinking about it. … Maybe I can do it, I don’t know. There is really no thought process to the songs,” he said, adding that many of his songs come together in a matter of minutes.
If Rosenblatt does write his Alaska song while in Fairbanks (he is also performing in Anchorage), it’s less likely he’ll perform it live while here. So far, he’s done that only once, at a Reno, Nev., house party. Rosenblatt said he wrote the song before the gig and when pressured enough, relented and performed it.
“It was a bunch of kids and we went upstairs and I played it for them on acoustic guitar,” he said. “It met their expectations.”
Rosenblatt, 24, said the idea for the “50 States 50 Songs” tour came, ironically enough, as he was driving in his van, rapidly getting fed up with touring. He realized he’d been touring steadily while in college in Philadelphia, and was spending even more time on the road following graduation in 2009. But what he really wanted to do was write and record songs. Yet he needed an outlet for his songs as well. He realized that he could accomplish both with this project.
“When you’re just starting out, it’s all a gamble whether people are going to show up. You get so excited for a show and hope it’s going to be good and it ends up being terrible,” he said. “You get down on yourself and end up having to go through it all again. I ended up thinking, ‘What am I doing touring when I should be home recording a new album?’
“That’s the big struggle with musicians — finding a way to get out on the road and also have time to make new music,” he added. “(This project) is killing two birds with one stone basically. I’m doing both things at once. I wanted to do something creative that no one else is doing.”
But the tour hasn’t been without its challenges. Rosenblatt—besides having all-night drives—has worked with a variety of musicians depending on his geographic location. In Alaska, drummer Scott Westrick is at his side while Rosenblatt plays keyboards and acoustic guitar with loop pedals and uses a sampler that has “nothing rhythmic on it, so it’s just ambient, bassy kind of sounds.” He also sings with effects, which create the impression of multiple vocalists and harmonies.
“The recordings are definitely different than the live show, but I try to do as much as possible with the live show,” he said.
As for those 50 songs, which should benefit from larger arrangements, Rosenblatt said he plans to release them as regional groupings. First up in January is an EP (extended play) covering the mid-Atlantic states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. He might also include Washington, D.C.
“I know it’s not one of the 50 states, so it will be like a bonus track,” he said with a laugh.
Rosenblatt added that his show Saturday is also his birthday, but he doesn’t have anything special planned for the show.
“Apparently I wrote a birthday song when I was a freshman in college, but I can’t remember it for the life of me,” he said. “I used to play it for all my friends, but I can’t remember it. I wish I did. I could play it for myself.”—Glenn BurnSilver