Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pheaturing RJ Chesney

Hi there, kids, welcome to the 404st entry of the Phile. 404... that's computer speak for when something is wrong, am I right? Well, it’s the third week of the Wall Street protests and they’ve closed down an entire Manhattan street. And then, the cops asked Michael Moore to move. Happy late anniversary to President Obama and the first lady. They had a nice private dinner to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the last time someone said “yes” to an Obama proposal. Let's talk about the Supreme Court... I don’t know much about it. If it’s anything like the Supreme Taco, it’s like a regular court, but with extra sour cream. There are nine Supreme Court members and nine people on a baseball team. Coincidence? Yes. This is sad, kids. Leonard Nimoy has announced that he will no longer attend "Star Trek" conventions. He's going to pursue his lifelong goal of being in anything other than "Star Trek." He told his fans to live long and prosper and pleased stop wasting your lives on a TV show that hasn't been on in 45 years. Chris Christie announced that he will not run for president. I don't think you have to announce that, I think you just don't run. Not only did Christie say he's not going to run, he's also not going to jog or walk anymore. Sarah Palin will also not run for president, which is good news for Palin-haters, but bad news for the moose population. Are you telling me that driving around the country in a bus with a giant picture of her face next to the Constitution was just a giant publicity stunt? I find that hard to believe. There’s a bill in Florida, America's Wang as I like to call it, to repeal the state ban on dwarf tossing. Is this what Republicans mean when they say they want smaller government? Oh, this just in... I was wrong about 404 being a computer problem. Take a look.

Okay, who has seen the Star Wars movies on Blu-ray? I haven't yet, and won' until Christmas, but I have an exclusive screen shot of a changed scene from the end of Return of the Jedi. Take a look. 

With the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple has released an inspirational poster. 

Hmmmm. It has nothing about his death. Speaking of inspirational posters, ESPN and Disney just pulled this one.

Faaaaaaaaabulous no more. 

Okay, now for some sad news.

Roger Williams
October 1, 1924 - October 8, 2011
He played piano for 9 Presidents. He's playing for 8 of them right now.
Al Davis
July 4, 1929 - October 8, 2011
He just died, baby.
Steve Jobs
February 24, 1955 - October 5, 2011
Pancreatic cancer. There's no app for that. 
Makes me wonder the fate of iPads, iPhones, iTunes, and most importantly, iCarly. 
Now the whole world is Jobless. If only the doctor's could have right clicked. 
So much for an apple a day keeping the doctor away.

You know, that was very insensitive of me to have so many jokes about about Steve Jobs, but I don't know what to say, so I thought I would invite a friend and Apple employee to the Phile to say what I wish I can. So, here's a my friend Jazzy in a new pheature called...

Me: Jazzy, welcome to the Phile. So, what can you say about Steve Jobs and Apple?

Jazzy: I would say that this is a is sad moment but all we can do is just remember the best times and do what we need to do. And that is to make the best experiences for Apples customers.

Me: Yeah, yeah, but what can you say about Steve Jobs?

Jazzy: He is a great leader for being the most personal person in the world. He has
changed the way people think about what people can do with their lives. He brought the best people into the world and kept who they were and brought out their strengths and improve their skills. He is the type where if he trains someone and the other person turns out better then him in an area, that is the biggest compliment. He will be missed.

Me: That's good, Jazzy. And what about the iPhone 5? Is that still coming out?

Jazzy: Right now we know about iPhone 4S.

Me: iPhone 4S? How is that different then the iPhone 4?

Jazzy: Just go to The video tells you everything. 

Me: Thanks, Jazzy. Well, it's Sunday, so it's time for... 

Me: Hey there, Jeff. Welcome back. So, I can't believe we are into week 5. We've been doing this over a month. Are you surprised how time is flying?

Jeff: No, it doesn't feel like we are entering our fifth week of it. Time flies. What are we going to do after Football season ends? We can talk about basketball... oh wait, no... they are still locked out.

Me: Before we get into business, I might be wrong about Cam Newton. He's doing good, his team is good. I thought he would be benched by week nine, but I don't think he will be. What's your take?

Jeff: Cam Newton is definitely playing better then most people (with the exceptions of the Panthers) expected him to play. The problem is he doesn't have any weapons to really depend on so most of it, he has to do on his own. He will be a quality player and the more good people he has around him he will be a much better player.

Me: Okay, Jeff, what's the big news this week?

Jeff: The biggest news is Peyton Manning expecting to play at some point for the hapless Colts this season. So we will see how much of an impact he makes, though the later and later in the season the least likely he will to make a difference. Another big story is ESPN has dropped Hank Williams Jr as the theme song for Monday Night Football "Are you ready for some football?" after Williams made comments comparing President Barrack Obama to Hitler. I don't know how I feel about it, because I am pretty sure there is something in a historical document called... what was it? Oh yea, free speech.

Me: The asshole can't count, either. "Obama and Biden are the THREE Stooges!"?  am always annoyed by people that gain a platform via one medium, such as cinema or music, and then use that platform to push their political views on others as though somehow they are relevant. And I hold this position regardless of what their views are. Everyone has political opinions - don't abuse your platform in an attempt to further your own. That's what douche bags do. That boy ain't worth a squirt of his daddy's piss. Okay, I am done. How did our two favorite teams do? Your Steelers my Giants? And what our our standings, how are we doing?

Jeff: Currently you are winning by two points, thanks to a Giants win and a Steelers lose. It's a tough call because you have more losses then I do, because I have a tie. So I think a tie should be worth a point? How does that sound?

Me: A tie worth a point? Hmmmmmmm. Okay. Good idea. I'll go with it.

Jeff: These are the standings so far with the tie. So 1 point for a tie. 1 point for either a Steeler or Giant win and 2 points for a win: Jeff (3-4-1) 9 points, Jason (3-5) 10 points.

Me: Wo-hoo, I am winning. Okay, this week I say  Green Bay minus 6 and the Bengals plus 2. What are your picks?

Jeff: I will take the Saints over Cam Newton's Panthers by a touchdown and the Texans over the Raiders by one. See you next week, Phile! 

Me: Thanks, Jeff. Good job as always.

Today's guest is a singer whose debut album “Prayers Of A Wayward Son” is available on iTunes and Amazon. Please welcome to the Phile... RJ Chesney.

Me: Hello, RJ, welcome to the Phile. So, how are you?

RJ: I am great... it's Sunday morning, I have my cup of coffee here, I am listening to Emmylou
Harris' new album "Hard Bargain" and being interviewed by you about my debut album "Prayers Of A Wayward Son", so this day is starting out fantastic. By the way Emmylou Harris
is my favorite singer of all time in case you were wondering.

Me: I have to ask you a stupid question first, before we get to the more sensible questions. Do I ask sensible questions here? Anyway, are you anyway related to Kenny Chesney?

RJ: I have never met Kenny and to my knowledge we are not related. Although, my grandfather did have 15 brothers and sisters... so, Kenny, if you are reading this, if you are of
Polish Heritage and your family orginally settled in Nanticoke Pennsylvania, you might just be lucky enough to be my cousin... My final answer is... I don't know... probably not.

Me: Am I the only one to ever asked you that question?

RJ: NO... I get it all the time. Including a concert promoter who contacted me and ask if my brother "Kenny" and I would come do a show at a festival in Tennessee. I wrote the guy back and explained that Kenny Chesney was not my brother. For a moment I thought about asking my bass player to change his name to Kenny, so we could play the gig. "Hey Mr. Promoter, this is my brother Kenny Chesney"

Me: Okay, now we got that out of the way, RJ, where are you from originally?
RJ: I was born in Macon, Georgia and I lived there until I was 9 years old , then my family moved to Biloxi, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast, about 90 miles east of New Orleans.

Me: You live in California now, right?

RJ: Yes, I live in Hollywood, right off of Sunset Blvd. The apartment building I live in looks like it belongs in Europe somewhere, it is a very charming older building with lots of character.

Me: What made you decide to move out there? You starting acting, right?

RJ: After graduating from high school in Bilox, I moved back to Georgia and worked at Sears for a year to save money to move to New York City and attend acting school. I have an extensive background in theater and I also got day player and bit parts on several Soap Opera's which paid some of my bills, but never enough to quit my waiter job . It was in New York that I fell in love with Country/Folk/Americana music and then 8 years ago, I decided to quit acting and move to Los Angeles and pursue a "Life in music".

Me: I have to tell you I purchased your CD "Prayers of A Wayward Son" off iTunes and really liked it. Very laid back, and spiritual. You have a very good band playing on it, and someone with a Beatles connection, right? Tell the readers who played on the album?

RJ: I am still pinching myself to see if it is all real. I absolutely adore every musician on my album and to have such a strong band backing me up not only on the album, but, also on stage is beyond my wildest dreams. Jason Hiller is the connection to the Beatles or actually a "son of
a Beatles" connection. Jason was in a band called TheNewno2 with George Harrison's son Dhani Harrison. They still work together from time to time, including recently they appeared on the Conan O'Brien show with Tom Morello and Ben Harper. Jason is a bass player and has
worked with a who's who of rock-n-rollers. Jason also produced my record. We recorded at his studio in Beverly Hills. We recorded the album "live" on analog tape (I love the warmth of
analog sound) . The core band (Lead Vocals, Guitars, Drums and Bass) were all recorded live. I am proud to say that we did very little overdubbing or comping. My vocals are all pretty much one whole take. We did have to punch a couple of lines in on a couple songs. But for the most part we went with an organic sound, my voice breaks here and there and one could even say I go off pitch from time to time. I think that is the beauty of singing, I didn't want this perfect over produced sound. I am a country/folk singer, I like imperfect voices and sounds. The drummer on my album is Chris Cano. Chris is one of my VERY favorite drummers in the world. He was in a very successful band in England called Orson, he also toured with Ozomatli and is currently working with Ruby Stewart (daughter of Rod Stewart). My Piano player is Chris Joyner and he has played with many people including Ricky Lee Jones, Ray La Montagne, Amos Lee, Citizen Cope and Sheryl Crow, to name just a few. Chis Joyner is also a very talented singer-songwriter, check out his debut CD "Loved". John O'kennedy is the lead musician on my album and also on stage. John is so talented and brings so many unique sounds to my work. I am a basic rhythmn guitar player, John does all of the fancy work. He is very passionate about
music and he brings that passion to my work. I love the diverse backgrounds of my players, they have helped me shape a unique sound. I don't know exactly where my music "fits"... but does music really need to "fit" into neat little categories? I think not.

Me: I am glad you didn't do the Kansas song "Carry On Wayward Son", RJ. You did cover some amazing songs though. How did you go about and choose what songs you wanted to record?

RJ: Ha, I don't have the vocal abilities to sing "Carry On wayward Son", but I like that song. Jason Hiller and I were recording a straight forward "Singer-Songwriter" album of my own songs. We recorded 4 tracks and they were sounding fantastic. I am self owned and operated (thank goodness!) and I got a loan to finish the album June 16th, 2009 . THAT night I was at the gym and from somewhere came this thought: "I should make a Gospel Album". I called Jason that night and I thought he would call me crazy, but he loved the idea. We put my other album on hold and started looking for material to cover, with NO intention of putting any of my own songs on the album. I consider myself a country/folk singer. I am not interested in telling people what to "believe", what drew me to each song was their "humanity". Each cover song on this album spoke to my heart and soul. This album is not so much a "Gospel" album as it is a story about the "Human Condition" and what it takes to set your spirit free. I am this guy who was raised in the south, went to New York and became an upper westside Liberal. I was interested in seeing if I could make a record that paid homage to my roots and yet did not compromise my own beliefs. Our country is so devided right now. The right and the left... in between is our common ground. I was interested in finding that common ground. I think Johnny Cash was one of the unique artists that was able to stand up for what he believed in and yet not isolate his audience. He could hang with the Left, the Right and the in between. My Mama and my Aunt Sheila and I share a love for old spirituals so they were my #1 influences on choosing material for this record. I also consulted other family members. There were a couple suggestions that did not make it on the album, because utimately I had to love the song enough to sing it. We also abandoned three tracks because I felt that my versions were not original enough. If you are going to do songs like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", you better find something unique to bring to it. I also took a song called "The Old Rugged Cross" and wrote my own lyrics to it. My version is called "My Grandfather's Cross". It is about the cross my grandfather wore while serving in WW II. I loved the melody to the "Old Rugged Cross" but I didn't care for the lyric, so since it is a public domain song, I re-wrote it.

Me: Not only is there a Beatles connection on the album, there's also a Peverett Phile connection, which is even cooler... or maybe not. Two of the people who are on the album have been on the Phile. Carrie Wade and Maureen Davis. How long have you known those women?

RJ: Carrie Wade was my very FIRST duet partner. We met 3 years ago at Kulaks Woodshed in North Hollywood. Along with being a great singer, Carrie is a very talented songwriter. Maureen Davis and I also met at Kulaks Woodshed 3 years ago. I was singing a song of mine called "Angels Falling From the Sky" (not on my debut album, but will be on the next one). Maureen came backstage and said she loved my voice and song and would love to sing with me sometime. A year later I called her and invited her to sing on my album. Started on May 1st, 2011 you could hear my version of "In The Garden" featuring backing vocals by Maureen on Lufthansa airlines "Country, Folk, Americana" in flight radio stations for the entire months of May and June. Maureen has been very generous in getting my music heard by people in the industry. Maureen is a very talented singer songwriter and a joy to work with. I must also mention my two other female duet partners from my album. About 4 years ago I was on Myspace listening to music and I stumbled upon Michael-Ann's page, I remember being blown away by her voice. I left a comment on her page and that was that. Two years later it turns out Michael-Ann was recording at Jason Hillers' studio, so I went to one of her shows introduced myself and we have been singing together every since. Michael-Ann and I always say we are music soul mates. I call Michael-Ann, my "Sally Rose" (after a character from an Emmylou Harris song)! The other female voice on my album is Anahita. The first time I heard Ani's voice I fell instantly in love. Her voice has an "otherwordly, haunting" sound. It goes deep into my soul and gives me chills. Jason Hiller also produced Anahita's debut CD "When We Were" and it is great. ALL of the singers on my album were chosen because I felt they were the best of the best. I loved working with all of them.

Me: Okay, let's talk about some of the songs. You did my favorite "religious" song, "Amazing Grace". I love your version. I want that song played at my funeral, but a really good version, and yours is really good. You also did my wife's favorite religious song "Will The Circle be Unbroken". Are there any songs you didn't do but wish you did, or will do on future albums?

RJ: I always joke that my album should be called "Funeral Songs For all Occassions". Death is the one thing we all will experience. Taxes can be evaded, but death cannot. So I write and sing about death a lot. Jason Hiller and I want to eventually release the album on vinyl, but it is almost 70 minutes long and it won't fit on one album, so we have plans to record 4 more songs and release a double LP. Not sure when we will do that. One of the songs that did not make it on the album was "Tramp on the street", I love that song and my mama kept singing it to me on the phone when I was making this album. For some reason my version just didn't do the song justice. I am hoping to record it again for the expanded double album.

Me: You also did a Hank Williams song, right? What do you think of Hank Williams III and Hank Jr.? Hank3 turned down being on the Phile because I had the nerve to want to ask ask about Kid Rock. Can you believe that?
RJ: I did two Hank Williams Sr. songs on my album ("I Saw The Light" and "Picture From Life's Otherside"). Hank Sr. was a FANTASTIC writer and a huge influence on my own music. Hank III is very talented, I have never seen him live, but I have some of his albums and like his work very much. I am also a Hank Jr. fan, the night before the last presidential election I did a cover of "a Country Boy Can Survive" at Kulaks and dedicated it to President Obama. Since Hank Jr was a John McCain/ Sarah Palin supporter I don't think he would like that too much, but, hopefully he has a sense of humor. I may not agree with Hank Jr's politics, but he has written some mighty fine songs. We can disagree on politics and still dig the music. Once again I am not interested in telling people what to believe or who to vote for. Live and let live. Funny thing is one of the songs I do NOT like is the duet Hank Jr. and Kid Rock did together, I think it was called "Please don't say the F Word". But I like some of Kid Rocks songs, especially the duet he did with Sheryl Crow, "Picture".

Me: You also recorded a few of your own songs, RJ, like you said. Do you like songwriting? Is it easy to come up with songs for you?

RJ: When I first began making music I considered myself a songwriter who sings. When I started singing my songs in public a few years back I was shocked at the reception I got from
the audience. I was surprised that they not only liked my songs, but they liked my singing. I have been lucky enough to never have played to an empty house. I don't perform as often as I would like because I don't want to wear my fans out. I am building a following with each performance. I am very calculated in when I do a show and what venues I play. I try to keep them wanting more, so far it is working and word of mouth is spreading. Songwriting is how I survive this crazy world we live in. I am not a prolific writer, I write strictly when the muse holds my pen tight and tells me to write. I have enough material for my next record already, but I have a feeling that the title song for the next record has yet to be written. When it does come forward then I will know it is time to record the next album.

Me: Who wrote the title track? Is that one of your songs?

RJ: Yes, "Prayers Of A Wayward Son" is one of my songs. That song is very popular and has won me fans all over the world. The way it came to me is crazy. The night before we started recording this album, I was rehearsing one of my songs called "At The Great Divide" and all of the sudden this song just jumped out of me and onto my guitar strings and onto my notebook.
Writing "Prayers Of A Wayward Son" gave the entire album an anchor, I can't imagine the album without that song and I can't imagine my career without that song.

Me: You have been described as a cross between Willie Nelson, John Prine and Kermit. Who came up with that description? I sound like Kermit. Thank God I don't sing.
RJ: When we were making the album Jason Hiller would mimic my singing and say I sound like Kermit. People are always comparing my voice to Willie Nelson and John Prine. I don't know if I sound like either one of them, but it is an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as those men. So when I have to give a description of my own voice, I always say "Willie Nelson, John Prine and KERMIT THE FROG!!!!"

Me: RJ, thanks so much for being on the Phile, sir. Are you working on a new album yet you emntioned? Any idea what songs you'll be doing on that? 

RJ: This album has been selling pretty steady, so we have been holding off on recording the second record to give this one time to keep finding its audience. I think the time is coming REAL soon. I am going on a road trip from Georgia to Louisiana and I plan on doing a bit
more writing. I have a feeling the title song for the next album will come about on the trip. I got a feeling... a real good feeling.

Me: Thanks again, sir. Go ahead and mention your website and anything else you wanna. Please come back to the Phile again, and I hope this was fun.

RJ: Thank You! I had a blast. My CD is available directly through me on my website at It is also available as a download on iTunes.  I am also on Amazon, CDbaby, Napster, Emusic and most other online stores, just look for "Prayers of a Wayword Son" by RJ Chesney. Also if anyone wants to join my mailing list please send you email address at Thanks so much for having me on the Phile. Peace to all.

Whew! I am exhausted. LOL. That about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to Jazzy, Jeff Trelewicz who has a great blog of his own at And oc course thanks to RJ for a fantastic interview and to you, of course, the phaithful reader. The Phile will be back tomorrow with Daniel Perzan from the band YAWN. Then next Sunday it's jazz saxophonist Rich Halley. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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