Thoughts on “Keep It Right Here”

Posted by jeffdaniels on November 30, 2010
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The beauty of the Internet – and its curse – is that anyone can do anything. I’m not sure what’s happening to the Music Business and have no clue what the Movie Business thinks it’s doing, though my guess is it probably has something to do with every film and television show having fifteen producers. But I digress.

As a big fan of clarity, I like to let things stand on their own. The nakedness that goes with this is what it is, take it or leave it. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been drawn to the acoustic guitar. On KEEP IT RIGHT HERE, my fifth CD due out in December (, I’d like to think I’ve turned a musical corner. In the past, I’ve tended to record myself live. Solo. In front of a living, breathing audience. All the blame, all the glory. Partly to prove I could play without a band ready to save me at a moment’s notice, but also to use all I’ve learned as an actor to help feed the performance. Give ’em all you got and step on the gas.

Then in August of ‘10, I went on tour with Brad Phillips.

Brad is a wonderful mandolin and fiddle player out of Saline, Michigan. Known throughout the state wherever acoustic players play, we jumped in the RV and embarked on a two week “truck stop, Walmart sleeping, Denny’s eating” tour through Michigan, Indiana, on down to Nashville and Memphis. We even shot a documentary of that epic journey (check out The Official Jeff Daniels Channel) chronicling our musical trek. Playing those gigs, the songs tightened up. We played off each other like a friendly tennis match. Coming off the road, we went right into my son Ben’s Home Recording Studio ( and put down the songs while they were still fresh.

We sent the tracks up to Boomadeeboom Records at Harvest Creative Services in Lansing, MI. Steve Curran put Lansing’s Dominic John Davis and his Upright Bass on them. Back out on the road, I was somewhere between Fargo and Duluth when I heard what we had. I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, I all but pulled the bus over and skidded to a stop so I could send Steve three more demos: IT’S NOT THAT SHE DON’T LOVE ME, TWO FINGER RAG, and WHAT WOULD JESUS DO – all songs I was playing solo every night. He shot them to Brad and Dom. When I got back to Michigan, Dom and I went into Harvest and with Mark Miller manning the board, we laid ’em down. Off I went to Alaska for three more gigs (see GIGGIN’ THROUGH THE FALL OF 2010). Two days later, Brad came into Harvest and laid down his mandolin tracks. Joshua Davis of the great acoustic band Steppin’ In It added some fine banjo on WHAT WOULD JESUS DO and with Amanda Merte’s background vocals on THE MICHIGAN IN ME, we were there.

Over the years, I’ve worked very hard on my music. Coming from the world of Actors Who Suddenly Sing, I wanted to earn the right to be thought of as a musician. So, quietly, for decades, I took it seriously. I’ve sat with Stefan Grossman (one of the great acoustic players and teachers) as well as worked my way through a mountain of his Instructinoal DVDs ( I’ve learned at the feet of Keb Mo (a true blues artist). I’ve gone to school on songwriters like Cheryl Wheeler, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie, Steve Goodman, Christine Lavin, Todd Snider, Kelly Joe Phelps, Catfish Keith, and anybody who ever played the blues down in the Delta in the ‘20s. It’s been a wonderful, frightening, challenging, and now, with this CD, rewarding journey.

Every writer is writing his or her way towards that thing inside them that only the laborious, demanding, grueling creative process can bring. Playwrights, Novelists, Poets, Songwriters; we’re all chasing the same thing. When we find it, it all but crystalizes. So simple. So clear. As if it were right there all along, just waiting to be discovered.

That’s how it felt when I heard KEEP IT RIGHT HERE. Enjoy.

Lansing, MI.

November 30, 2010


  • Anne-Marie Armstrong said on Dec 10, 2010 8:03 pm

    Blogging is great for the soul.

  • Iris Blue said on Dec 23, 2010 4:23 pm

    Sweet, sweet album, Jeff. A little different sound – bluegrass-it’s a nice addition to the repertoire. And Brad Phillips is one tasty mandolin player! On “The Michigan in Me” he sounds like a celeste or a harp and when Amanda comes in it sounds like I’m being sung to by a choir of angels. I cannot do anything else but sit down and listen to this song when I play it….it totally unglues me. (That’s a good thing.) And I think “Two Finger Rag” should be nominated in the Grammy category for “Best Use of Idiomatic English Language for Songwriting Purposes”. Every former English teacher of yours must be beaming these days. The melody hook that’s stuck in my head is the “bye, bye, bye” from “Race Ya to the Horizon”. Anyway, I’ve had hours of enjoyment already, with many more to come. Keep up the splendid work!

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