Elvis Costello’s memoir: Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink

nicolette mallow

Autograph by Elvis Costello.

Elvis Costello was the featured guest for an interview with Evan Smith at Book People in Austin, Texas on October 20, 2015. Recently, Costello wrote a memoir titled Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. This exclusive interview was part of his book tour. Entering the room with a light-colored hat, dark suit and vest, black-framed glasses, one gold ring on each hand and slick, black leather shoes: Elvis Costello descended the stairwell from the third floor to discuss the book and his life lived in music thus far. The entire second floor of Book People was filled with attendees and so many people were present that quite a few were listening in the back without a view of Elvis Costello; only able to hear voices echoing over the microphones. Fortunately I was able to grab a front row seat and sit on the floor.

Music is clearly the anthem of his life and the focus of his career. He’s been part of the industry over 40 years. The book is a collection of memoirs entailing his entire life, with a emphasis on his career. During the interview Elvis Costello answered numerous questions and mentioned various musical stories regarding Paul McCartney, The Beatles, T Bone Burnett, Tony Byrne, Jimmie Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. Reluctantly, he even rehashed the old SNL incident back in December 1977 that got him banned from the show for nearly 12 years. Additionally, he spoke of his favorite gigs played in Austin and the time they performed at the Armadillo Festival in 1978.

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To much delight, Costello was also very open and willing to share the more personal stories of his past about family, his love and lust for women, or the curse of memory. Costello mentioned that memory, and the fear of losing memory, were two strong factors that compelled him to write the book. He discussed the long process of writing his autobiography and how the process was simplified with the patient support of his wife through her assistance to help organize old memories. Many of his relatives, he said, suffered dementia and Costello didn’t want any memories stolen away in the event that time or health altered his mind. Unafraid to go behind-the-scenes and express life offstage, it was interesting to listen to him speak about how he’s changed over several decades from when he began his musical career as a young man in his 20’s until now in his 60’s. I wanted my stories to be told by me, in accuracy. I didn’t want them retold in a way that didn’t hold true to my life,” he stated to Evan Smith.

In regards to Elvis Costello’s past, the topic of family and his memories of childhood were predominant, reoccurring themes throughout the interview. Many old photographs of times past were presented on a large screen, even a heartfelt video of his father performing live on television and dancing on stage whilst singing “If I Had A Hammer”. Elvis Costellospoke fondly about both his parents and there was great love and adoration in his voice when he shared old memories and his love for family. Nonetheless, there was a huge emphasis on his father, Ross McManus, a well-known musician and trumpet player. In fact, Costello made a point to inform the audience that October 20th, that very day, was indeed his father’s birthday. A particularly poignant memory of childhood included Costello telling the audience how he peeked around the back of the TV as a small boy to see if he might find his father behind the machine, only to realize that his dad was on stage in a studio. I found those sorts of memories to be the most endearing because only a child could think someone or something could transform into a miniature size and fit inside a TV. Costello’s honesty and his ability to tell old memories as if he were reliving it that very moment humanized his life story and made the interview all the more refreshing to hear.

Growing up in a house of music, all my life I’d heard the name ‘Elvis Costello’ and I knew he was a musician, singer-songwriter and record producer from England. I knew he’d been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I knew he’d been to Austin many times to perform. The city of Austin has always loved hosting Elvis Costello shows and over the past 20 years: I’d seen his name printed all over line-ups in the press. But to be quite frank, I really had no idea how in-depth his career was or how influential he was until this interview and until I began reading his memoir. Not only did I walk away that night learning and absorbing new insights about a famous musician born in Europe. That evening I became an Elvis Costello enthusiast. Just listening to the stories during the interview had me intrigued, eager to finish the rest of his book I’d only obtained one day prior to the event. However, the moment when he surprised us with live music and began to play “Everyday I Write the Book” and I heard those lyrics for the first time only a few feet away from Elvis Costello in the flesh and blood: I felt a strong connection to the music. I wanted to hear more. My heart was so deeply moved by the words in his lyrics that it almost made me want to cry, in a good way. Since then I’ve started to read many of his lyrics and it’s clear to me now why he’s become a global success for 40 years. Elvis Costello is an artist whom posses a distinct voice and an edge. An artist that followed his heart and writes from the heart. A one-of-a-kind artist with innate gifts of articulation, imagination and passion. Gifts that cannot be taught nor bought.

Furthermore, Costello read a few chapters from his newly released memoir, Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. Ending the evening on a high note, that’s when he played a bit of live music for the audience. We even got a little history lesson about his guitar in-between songs. A short video of his performance that I recorded from my seat can be found here on YouTube: Elvis Costello playing music at Book People.

Elvis Costello’s memoir was released in October 2015. The nearly 700 page story hasn’t been on the bookshelves that long but it’s already receiving quite a bit of positive feedback and attention from the media. Posted verbatim on his official website, “Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis Costello was raised in London and Liverpool, grandson of a trumpet player on the White Star Line and son of a jazz musician who became a successful radio dance-band vocalist. Costello went into the family business and before he was twenty-four took the popular music world by storm. Costello continues to add to one of the most intriguing and extensive songbooks of our day. His performances have taken him from strumming a cardboard guitar in his parents’ front room to fronting a rock and roll band on our television screens and performing in the world’s greatest concert halls in a wild variety of company. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink describes how Costello’s career has endured for almost four decades through a combination of dumb luck and animal cunning, even managing the occasional absurd episode of pop stardom. This memoir, written entirely by Costello, offers his unique view of his unlikely and sometimes comical rise to international success, with diversions through the previously undocumented emotional foundations of some of his best-known songs and the hits of tomorrow. It features many stories and observations about his renowned cowriters and co-conspirators, though Costello also pauses along the way for considerations of the less appealing side of fame.”

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink can be purchased online or at your local bookstore. For more information regarding Elvis Costello, his book tour, list of albums or other miscellany: please visit the website at www.elviscostello.com.

“Don’t tell me you don’t know what love is. When you’re old enough to know better. When you find strange hands in your sweater. When your dreamboat turns out to be a footnote. I’m a man with a mission in two or three editions. And I’m giving you a longing look. Everyday, everyday, everyday I write the book. Chapter One we didn’t really get along. Chapter Two I think I fell in love with you. You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three. But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four, Five and Six. The way you walk. The way you talk, and try to kiss me, and laugh. In four or five paragraphs. All your compliments and your cutting remarks. Are captured here in my quotation marks. Don’t tell me you don’t know the difference. Between a lover and a fighter. With my pen and my electric typewriter. Even in a perfect world where everyone was equal. I’d still own the film rights and be working on the sequel… Everyday I write the book.” – Elvis Costello

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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Tears of Diamonds & A Heart of Silver: The Legendary Bill Carter and The Blame

nicolette mallow

Bill Carter. Photography by Pat Kondelis.

Walking into The High Road to see Bill Carter play music, I knew I would recognize him on stage but I was ambivalent whether or not he would recognize me in return. For six years at a distance, periodically on Wednesday nights I’ve seen and heard Bill Carter perform with other artists in the annex at Z Tejas on West 6th street in Austin, Texas. Everyone always loves the nights they perform at the Z, even the staff. Sometimes you cannot even get a seat because it’s so full. From a distance I noticed Mr. Carter always wore glasses, a hat of some sort, and I detected that he possessed a lot of tattoos on his hands and forearms with heavy-looking, silver and metallic jewelry adorning his wrists, fingers and neck. He looked like a rock star, and I always thought he must’ve been a cool cat to talk to. Come to think on it, I never actually had a direct conversation with Mr. Carter, or the band, even if polite hellos and friendly smiles were exchanged. Until today.

Stepping back in time a moment, there was one particular night at the Z when I was sitting at the edge of the bar, people watching. Musicians were on stage, silently setting up shop with their guitars, amps and other miscellany. Pretending to listen to my headphones and iPod so no one would bother me, when in actuality no music was playing at all. I heard a group of older men complimenting the musicians. Pointing out who Bill Carter was amongst the group, I also heard the men say that Johnny Depp once joined Carter on stage to play music at The Continental Club, which I found most interesting and exciting.

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 Finally, after six years of watching from the crowd, I set forth to interview Mr. Carter, and he was kind enough to oblige after the show at The High Road on March 14, 2015. Walking into the room for an early daytime show, behind the stage were giant glass windows that opened up to a swimming pool and a lovely view of downtown Austin. The sky was so blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. Palm trees blowing in the wind. I was sitting and listening to Bill Carter’s first song – “Richest Man” – which almost made me cry, in a good way, and I had to fight the urge to show intense emotions of sadness and bittersweet nostalgia at the table before it’s even dusk. Something about the lyrics and the mood of this track reminded me of my favorite song by Bob Dylan titled “Boots of Spanish Leather”.

“If teardrops were diamonds from the African mines. If heartaches were silver.

My whole life would shine. And I’d be the richest man.

I’d be the richest man. In the world.” – Bill Carter

Right at that moment, I looked up the lyrics of Bill Carter’s song. I was reading the words as he was singing them at The High Road, something I had never done before at the Z. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had yet to do my research on his background – or even read his website – which I had intended to do later on in the day. Regardless, as I was reading his website off my iPhone and other various articles about him on the web while he music echoed in my heart and ears. Suddenly I realized just how gifted and innovative Bill Carter is within the world of songwriting and music. Suddenly I felt stupid for never having personally introduced myself to him before to show respect, artist to artist. Until then, I was unaware that I was in the presence of a legend, a keystone to the songwriting and music industry the past few decades. Even if I had known I was in the present of a talented musician.

According to his website, Bill Carter and The Blame has been a pillar of the Austin music scene for nearly three decades, helping shape the city’s rich musical history along with songwriting partner Ruth Ellsworth. Over 200 artists have found gold in the songwriting genius of this Texas Troubadour, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robert Palmer,The Counting Crows, Storyville, Omar and The Howlers, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Ruth Brown, John Anderson, and Waylon Jennings. Bill Carter and The Blame’s evolving lineup has hosted some of the world’s greatest musicians, including guitarists Charlie Sexton and Denny Freeman (Bob Dylan Band), Chris Layton (SRV Double Trouble), Dony Wynn (Robert Palmer), Mike Thompson (The Eagles), Johnny Depp, Billy Gibbons, Brian Setzer and many others. Carter is also a founding member of the famed Hollywood band “P” with Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, and Sal Jenco. They released the eponymous album ‘P’ in 1995 on Capitol Records, featuring Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Flea, and Ruth Ellsworth.”

bill-late

Bill Carter and Johnny Depp on The Late Show with David Letterman.

As the show at The High Road came to an end, I was almost too timid to walk up to the stage to introduce myself and kindly ask for an interview once he broke down his equipment on stage. Though I am glad I mustered up the courage to make a proper introduction and ultimately write a story about this great artist. Secretly I was also relieved that he recognized me from Z Tejas, which made the introduction less intimidating.

Nicolette Mallow: From the perspective of a songwriter and musician performing in the official SXSW showcase, do you enjoy the festival and how have you seen it change over time?

Bill Carter: Yes. I think it’s great and I think it’s come full circle from how it all began. SXSW has evolved so much over the years. I’ve been in Austin since 1976 and when the first festival took place in 1987: it was predominantly local musicians and it was very small in comparison to what it’s become today, a million times bigger than the start. As time went by, more and more big names came into town, which was nice because it built the festival into something much more powerful. As time went by, however, it seemed to become more about mainstreams artists and less about the local music scene. Now it seems to be an infusion of both, and I am certainly happy to see more local artists performing this year. My wife (and songwriting partner, Ruth Ellsworth) and I first got involved with SXSW through our mutual love for songwriting. She and I have written hundreds of songs together. Honestly I identify most with being a songwriter and I prefer to be recognized as a songwriter more so than I like to be described as a musician or performer.

NM: Regarding the upcoming SXSW show at The Continental Club, which other musicians will be performing with you?

BC: Accompanying me that night will include artists like Will Sexton, Dony Wynn and Charlie Sexton.

NM: Is the Continental Club your favorite venue in Austin to perform at?

BC: (He smiles.) Yes. It is my favorite venue. Many of the venues I grew to love are now long gone. The original Antone’s on West 5th was another place I loved to play music but then it was relocated and it wasn’t the same. They are going to reopen a new Antone’s downtown and I am anxious to see what it is like and if it will have the same vibes as the original location.

My next question was more a question of curiosity. Even though I worried it might seem counterproductive to ask Carter about another artist in the few minutes I had to interview him. I couldn’t help but wonder about the Johnny Depp rumor. I formed a silly, girlish crush on Johnny Depp decades ago after the film “Cry Baby” came out in the 90’s when I was a kid and was saddened when suddenly every girl in the world had a crush on him, too.

NM: I remember hearing at Z Tejas that Johnny Depp once accompanied you on stage at The Continental Club for a musical performance. Is this true?

BC: Yes. I’ve been playing music with Johnny for decades. I’m the godfather of his children and he’s a great friend of mine. We once formed a band in the spur of the moment in the 1990’s called “P”. We were the headlining band for the Austin Music Awards for SXSW. Johnny was in Texas, nearby Austin, filming “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and he came into town for the gig. The band included Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers, Johnny Depp, Sal Jenco and I.

NM: You’ve won many awards and have obtained many prestigious recognitions, your career is remarkably full. I’m very impressed by all I’ve read and heard. Therefore I am curious, what aspect of your artistry and your career are the most rewarding and fulfilling?

There was a brief pause before he answered.

BC: Well, my wife and I have written so many songs together. Many of those songs we wrote have later on been covered by artists I respect and admire. Stevie Ray Vaughan covered our song “Crossfire” and Robert Palmer covered “Why Get Up”. To be acknowledged, appreciated and respected by great artists like these whom I esteem, value and respect has been the most rewarding and fulfilling aspect of my career. There was also one night on David Letterman I particularly enjoyed. Johnny Depp and I played “Anything Made Of Paper” together, which is a song my wife and I wrote. It’s about the West Memphis Three case. A case that involved three teenage boys who were accused of murder and placed in jail for life before they even hit adulthood. It’s a powerful story, check it out.

NM: Austin has changed so much in the 20 years I’ve lived here, off and on. Since you’ve been here so much longer than I, and have seen a lot more growth. Do you think you and your wife will stay in Austin with all the vast changes in the city?

BC: That’s a good question. The growth in Austin has been difficult for me over the decades. The venues changed. The music scene changed. The people changed. It used to be a funky, intermingled town that was quiet and serene with a booming music scene. It was cheap and easy to get around. It was so beautiful then. Around the late 80’s, maybe 1988 or 1989, that city died out and something else began to evolve. I’m sure you’ve seen the changes since the 1990’s. Even people who’ve only been here five years can see changes. Now there are 30 story buildings and it’s crowded, expensive and it’s just not the city that I came to know decades ago. I don’t know…I only come in town for shows. I am from Seattle and sometimes I think I would like to keep a place here, and have one there. But I really don’t know.

NM: My last question is a bit random, but is there a reason you’re only wearing two rings on the same fingers of each hand?

BC: (He laughed) Only because I didn’t feel like wearing the others. I own a lot of rings, cuffs and metalwork that I like to wear. It depends on the day or the mood I am in what I will wear. But there is one ring that I almost always wear, aside from my wedding ring. (He says as he extends his right hand). Johnny Depp gave me this ring when the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” was being filmed. It was the first ring made for the movie, and he told me that he wanted a new one made for him with a gold bandana and a pair of eyes made of rubies. So I got this one and I wear it everyday.

Be sure to catch Bill Carter at his upcoming SXSW performance at The Continental Club on South Congress from 11:00 PM to 11:40 PM on March 21, 2015. The official SXSW artist statement for Bill Carter entails the following: Legendary songwriter and Austin Music Hall of Fame inductee Bill Carter has been a pillar of the Austin music community for over three decades. His songs have been covered by over 200 artists from Waylon Jennings to Robert Palmer. Winner of an Austin Music Award for “Best Song of the Decade” and BMI’s Million-airs Award for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s only #1 hit “Crossfire” Carter and his world class band, The Blame, serve up a wicked stew of slyly crafted Americana. Look for a new album slated for release in 2015.”

For more information regarding Bill Carter, future shows and bookings – please visit his website at www.billcarterandtheblame.com.

Note: This story is originally published on Rank & Revue in July 2015.

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Art by Eya: Dreamscape artist and local Texan beautifies the city of Austin

Nicolette Mallow

“Tiger Lady” by Eya Floyd.

Born and raised in Austin, TexasEya Claire Floyd is an artist and local Texan whose work is found at many local artisans fairs and retail boutiques around town. Creating whimsical,  introspective and playful pieces that illuminate the room with their vibrant colors. There is something magical about Eya’s work, too. Intertwining nature, animals and people in a mystical way that could only happen in our dreamssuch as a bird with a woman’s head or a fierce tiger with giant wings like an Egyptian deity it seems as if her characters are shape shifting at times. Transforming into creatures that appear in fantasies or myths and not reality. Many of the characters within Floyd’s art pieces also seem to be floating in time and space – adding to the allure of the dreamscape theme.

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Floyd’s ability to integrate a plethora of fanciful creatures, nature and scenery into her pieces is endless, just like her imagination. Would you like dinosaurs digging in the sand? She’s got it. A monkey riding the back of a dragon? She’s got that, too. Or maybe you need a bird girl carrying a red heart in her claws. There is something for everybody’s taste.

The paintings and illustrations she designs are so beautifully simplistic and yet so intricately detailed – it leaves the eyes with an equal sense of peace and excitement. Another positive trait about her art is that it’s beloved by audiences of all ages: children and adults. A lot of her artwork is reminiscent of childhood with its light-hearted spirit, and yet other pieces are adult-oriented. The universal aesthetics withn her work evokes endearing emotions of love, humor and happiness whilst admiring Eya’s artwork.

Nicolette Mallow: Can you tell me a bit about your involvement with the Austin art scene and the local community?

Eya Floyd: My first exhibition as an adult was in the 1990’s and since then I have been creating and showcasing my art, mostly paintings. I find painting to be the most challenging and I think that’s why I like it so much. But I also like to create ceramic sculptures. Regardless, last year I assisted the group SprATX in an outdoor mural at the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. The mural was then featured in a full-spread on the inside, back cover of a book, “Hope Outdoor Gallery: Lost and Found Volume I”. Recently I also became involved with Little Artist Big Artist and that has been very rewarding to me, too.

NM: Your booth displays at art fairs always showcase a ton of items to purchase far beyond paintings. What are your best-selling pieces?

EF: Yes, in addition to a mass amounts of prints and paintings in various sizes that I do sell. A lot of my art I’ve turned into various forms of merchandise: pendants for necklaces, coin purses, bags, matchboxes, magnets, postcards and temporary tattoos. My best sellers are certainly my necklaces, the temporary tattoos and the miniature prints that I’ve framed. People love miniature art.

NM: You are well known and appreciated by the locals for participating in so many artisan fairs and art shows around town. Will you be partaking in any upcoming art-related events?

EF: Yes. On August 8, 2015 I will be at the Austin Flea, hosted by The Highball adjacent to Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. And on August 16th, next month I will have a booth set-up at East Side Pop Up, a traveling art showcase that primarily supports local artists in Austin.

For more information regarding Eya Floyd’s artwork, please refer to EyaClaire on Etsy or Art by Eya on Facebook. Floyd’s artwork can be also found in various shops in Austin, Texas such as A-Town on Burnet Road, or Prima Dora on South Congress. SprATX Street Art Collective also carries her art in their east side gallery.

Note: This article was originally published on Examiner.com in July 2015.