In the end, it was Mills who wore me down, not Digger.
On Monday at nine in the morning the phone rang in my room. I had the handset of the cordless next to my bed like I’d been expecting it. Normally I’d have put a pillow over my head and ignored it, but something about the 9:01 flashing on my clock radio made me sit up. Someone was calling me as a priority. If it was a telemarketer, they were going to be sorry.
It wasn’t a telemarketer, and I was sorry. It was Mills calling to tear me a new asshole–gently, of course, but firmly. “Daron, hey, did I wake you?”
“No,” I lied, “I’ve been up all night working on a song. What can I do for you, Mills?”
“Listen, I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat at the Jingle Bell show. Great show, by the way! Love that slide guitar thing. And I like the tape, too. Are you going to stick with the slide thing?”
He sounded anxious about it so I responded with, “Maybe.”
“Just don’t go too heavy, though, you know, don’t want people thinking you’re like supposed to be shelved with Bonnie Raitt now or anything.”
I answered with “Don’t worry, it’s just a phase I’m going through,” which was my attempt at a joke.
“So anyway, a couple of things. First, and I may as well get this off my chest right away. I heard some disturbing rumors while I was in your neck of the woods.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, all innocence, my heart pounding.
“Well, yeah. Word on the street is that you’re preparing to do a nationwide tour in February or March. I thought you’d agreed to wait.” His voice took on a mild tone of warning that was almost guidance counselor-ish.
I was too relieved from the realization that it wasn’t the rumors I’d feared he’d ask about that I fluffed my reply: “Nothing definite yet.”
This was the wrong answer for a couple of reasons: one, because it admitted that I was trying to plan things behind his back, two, because it was wishy washy and put me in a position of weakness. When was I going to learn? I stammered on. “I mean, that’s still what I’d like to do. And without any assurances from BNC…”
“You mean, if we get you under contract for the new album, you’ll hold off like I want?”
“Uh, well, that’s something we should discuss,” I said to stall, as if we weren’t discussing it right now.
“I’d like to book you some studio time here in New York for February. I got a hot shit producer lined up to work with you.” He seemed to forget he’d already dangled Jordan Travers in front of me once before. When I didn’t say anything to that he hit the tour question again. “I really think its a bad idea for you to hit the road prematurely.”
I wasn’t a diplomat when I said “What, afraid we’ll blow our wad?”
“Well, yes, in a manner of speaking.”
“Mills, look. I’ve got booking requests coming in…”
“Don’t let it go to your head, kid. I mean, maybe if you had a good manager or agent setting things up, that’d be different, something we could use. We could work with that.”
“We’ve got someone,” I lied again.
I was silent a moment.
“Who? Is it Frontier? Did Copeland get you, too?”
“Look, I’m not trying to work against you, here, Mills. Really, I’m not.” I was in a panic suddenly, wondering how bad the Orpheum show had really looked to him and if he was just looking for an excuse to cut us loose, or drop us from his priority list. “I’m trying to … to weigh the advice of a lot of different people right now.”
His voice had a menacing growl to it. “If you want to support the current album, we should be making a video and releasing another single. That’s the only cost-effective method I’ll endorse. I want you in the studio next month, too. There’s just no time for a tour right now, Daron.” I was struck suddenly by how similar his reasoning sounded to things my mother would say when refusing something to me or my sisters. “And I want to get something on paper before January 1st.”
I dug in my heels. “What about after that?”
Mills sighed in exasperation. “Let me talk it over with your agent. If he’s any good, he’ll see things my way.” I could clearly hear the subtext in Mills’ statement: this is why I hate working with artists directly. Then, his voice low, he suddenly said, “It’s WTA, isn’t it?” Mills perked up suddenly, inexplicably. “That guy I met at the show, that’s him isn’t it?” It was like I’d just been pulling his leg all this time and finally revealed the punchline that made it all okay. Mills’ voice was all smiles.
“I’ll have him call you,” I said.
“Great. Okay, then.” Like magic, I was off the hook. “You sly dog, you should have just said something! If I’d known, I could have just brought some paperwork for him to look over then. The tape’s great. I’m ready to make an offer.”
“I’ll have him call you,” I repeated, as if to reassure myself that this was the wisest course of action.
Ten minutes later, I was on the phone to Digger. I asked him straight out: do you think you can strong arm Mills into letting us get on the road by April? Do you think you can negotiate a contract for the album by next week that gives us the concessions I want? And do you think you can pull some strings to get the ball rolling for Carynne?
He said yes, yes, and yes. I said if he could do all that by next week, I’d hire him.
Much to my amazement, he did them all. By January 5th we were drinking scotch in the Park Plaza together, and we’d be on the road by spring. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This reduced my personal to do list to four items:
-learn to drive
-get better road cases
And I know what you’re thinking. “Work shit out with Ziggy” is supposed to be on that list, too. Hell, he and I had practically made a frikkin’ appointment to talk. But did we?
No fucking way.
(Thanks everyone who contributed posts, tweets, and recommendations [as well as dollars!] to this months “earn bonus posts” campaign! You did it! Bonus posting will begin next week after a liner note on Saturday.)