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Everything changes according to Mark McGowan


As I was driving down to the cities the other day, I happened to catch a program on MPR discussing five things you wish you had known when you started your career. This particular segment featured five journalists and as I listened to their stories, I couldn't help but wonder the same thing? What do I wish I had known when we started Tonic Sol-fa? I thought about a bit, and, of course, there is a long list of things I wish I had known twenty years ago. For instance, I wish I had realized that aluminum trailers don't rust, weigh less and cost about the same as steel trailers or that putting your professional audio gear in carry-on cases when flying saves time and money, not to mention that it eliminates the fear of lost or damaged gear. There are hundreds of little things like that we learned along the way, but the one big thing I wish had known is that "everything changes always". There are no sacred cows or set formulas for success, what used to work six months ago or even last week, may not be a viable solution anymore. Technology changes, people change, laws change, taxes change, music styles change, clothing styles change, economies change, communication methods change, the only thing that is really consistent is change. It is a natural, inevitable and positive thing, but I didn't always see it that way or remain nimble enough to stay ahead of (or in step with) the curve. I hope that I have learned this lesson and will be better prepared to evolve with the ever-present changes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.






Tonic Sol-fa

A TSF look-ahead from behind or vice versa


Christmas was a blur.  The first week of January was a blur (shout out to the 1/3 of our population who's also suffering from this - expletive deleted - cold/flu).  As TSF looks forward to our first regular shows in 2014, I am reminded of memories...Faces of people who were our biggest fans for a day and faces of those who've been with us nearly this entire journey...All good memories....Thoughts of nearly blowing up the B&B in Pennsylvania, of the lightning storms in Nebraska, of the jet down to Nashville and almost losing Mark in Vegas.  I think if we wrote a memoir, not one person would believe what was written...high highs and the inevitable lows as well.  But all memories...from a career...and that's why I follow this passion.... To make Tuesdays in June memorable.  Of course, As Ted said to Barney (How I Met Your Mother reference), "If every day was legendary, none would be legendary," and so there are many days that pass into a long forgotten collective conscious, but I'm shooting for 93% anyway.  NY here we come...cheers to the memorable!




Tonic Sol-fa

Greg talks about himself in 3rd person (TSF)

Guess what everybody - it's 2014!!!!  What what?  Aw, yeah.  Time to get your 2014 on.  For Reals.  Yeah.

You know what I like about this year?  Lots of things.  Lots.  Can't even tell you.  That's how much.  For one thing, it's TSF's 20th Anniversary.  Yup, we might even have cake.  Not sure yet.  I like marble.  20 years?  Really?  That's like almost as long as Jared's latest probation, Mark's most recent sweater purchase, and Shaun and Greg's songwriting partnership.  How many of you can say you've had relationships that long?  I can tell you one thing, it's been fun - big time.  And the stories I could tell.  Oh boy.  Oh, ho, ho boy.  Oh, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, boy. get the picture.

Know what else is cool?  Pretty sure we'll have a few more stories made in the years to come.  Starting with NYC and St. Louis in January, to who knows where throughout the rest of the year (seriously, I haven't looked at the calendar after that), and not to mention the numerous projects we have on the burners for the whole stinkin' year.
Lots of projects.  Lots.  Can't even tell you.  That's how many.

Also, I sure do hope all of you were able to make it to one of our holiday shows - they were a hoot!  Plastic Santa made a few appearances, as did the tights, and we even sang a song or two.  They were great.  Really.  I liked them all.  Again, hope you saw them.  If not, too bad.  So sad.

Alright, gotta go now - got some party planning to do - marble cake here I come.


A holiday tour summary by Mark

Wow, this Christmas tour has flown by! The shows have been a blast, the Tonic "Selfies" are steadily improving and the audiences are awesome. My hat is off to one of the nominees for this year's MVP, Dane Johnson, our audio/video technician, stage manager, truck driver, etc. Dane does it all so we can arrive for sound check, perform, hang out with the audience after the show and then head off to the hotel without worrying about the load-in/load-out, technical issues, etc. It is pure luxury and when the tour is over and Dane has gone home, we will be sad, very sad and very cold as we load and unload the trailer for the remaining winter months. For now, I can hardly believe that we are about to embark on the final leg of the tour before Christmas. This will take us to the Hoyt Sherman Place Theater in Des Moines, Iowa where our "Greatest Time of Year" PBS special was filmed and then off to Sioux City, Iowa (my home town!) to the perform in the beautiful Orpheum Theater. There is nothing like a trip to the promised land to make season bright and say hello to all those wonderful people in the great state of Iowa. We are looking forward to seeing everyone in Des Moines and Sioux City, thank you all for supporting us through the years!


Greg's favorite carols

What are some of my all time favorite Christmas songs, you ask?  Oh, you didn't ask?  Well I'm gonna tell you anyway.

I've always been a sucker for a good version of "What Child is This" and "Lo, How a Rose e'r Blooming", and who can deny the sweet, lovely simplicity of "Still, Still, Still"?  Not this guy.

However, as every year passes, and TSF continues to search for and/or write the next Yuletide favorite, I like to hearken back to my childhood, and relive the days of hearing (and perhaps I've shared this with you before) my all time favorite Christmas album - Kenny Rogers' Christmas.

"Surely you can't be serious," you might say.  To which I would say "I  am serious, and don't call me Shirley." (Thank you Leslie Nielsen)...I'm here to tell you folks, there is something about that album that kicks my holiday spirit into overdrive every time I hear it!  From his effortless versions of "White Christmas", "O Holy Night", "Carol of the Bells", his originals "Christmas Everyday", "When a Child is Born", and, as only Kenny could pull off, "Another Homemade Christmas in Kentucky" - they don't call him the gambler for nothing - heck, he even used "My Favorite Things" as a track - is there anything the man can't do!? Besides find a good plastic surgeon, that is?  (Ha! Just kidding big guy!)

Anyway, how's about you come to one of our holiday shows, and tell us your favorite carol - who knows, maybe it will end up in the show next year!  In the meantime, feel free to kick back and relax to
the soothing sounds of any one of our holiday recordings, and remember Plastic Santa is watching, always watching...


Greg summarizes the holiday tour

Hey!  Hey You!  Guess what month it is?  GUESS WHAT MONTH IT IS!!!  It's November - woot woot!  Know what that means?  I do!  It means our holiday tour is about to begin!  And I mean soon!  Too soon, you ask?  I think not.  Why do I think not?  Because you can never get into the holiday mood too early.  Or can you?  Know what I'm talking about Target?  I kid.  Or do I?

I guess what I'm trying to say is,  I'm excited to get started on the 2013 tour - man is it gonna be great!  We've got some new songs, old favorites -  I get to take my tights and Plastic Santa out of mothballs (don't ask me why I keep Plastic Santa in mothballs, but apparently he likes it in there) - oh man, I'm getting jolly just thinking about it!

You know what?  I think you should join us for a show or two this year.  I mean, what do you have to lose?  Even if you don't like certain things about it (the tights, a song that doesn't tickle your fancy, Jared), it's still more fun to get out and about instead of another night in front of the t.v. - unless you're Jared and you bring a t.v. into the dressing room - can't miss Cake Boss.

So, in summation, come out and see us, we can chat, have a few laughs, and maybe shed a tear or two (ok, that only happened once, and that was because Mark didn't get what he wanted from his secret Santa - he's better now)...Happy Holidays!


TSF Holiday Show

This year's show will truly be different.  We've been taking voice lessons all year...stepping up our game...trying to push...for those who finally decide to see us and for those who make our show a tradition.  As we prepare for another tour, my mind flashes to past years.  And I remember all the kids who've shown up in tights (sorry parents), snow in auditoriums that seemed to dump disproportionately on Mark's head, icy figure eights on frozen interstates, cigar shoppes and independent coffee houses, firing confetti at a flying Santa, rappelling in Christmas shorts from the ceiling of the opera house, standing on empty stages with chairs soon to be filled, lights and haze, neon gloves (sorry Jared), thousands of hand shakes and hugs, and I think, "We were built for this."  


Upcoming TSF Tour

Soon, we will be heading back to the fabled Ohio Pork Festival in Eaton!  Add in Nashville, West Virginia and other points Eastern, and we now send out a call to those who've been waiting for us to leave the Midwest to road trip!  We can hang at the Pancake Pantry, visit the underground bunker in Sulphur Springs or, more likely, share a ton of new music and old stories of Tough Mudder.  We miss you.  You know who you are.  Come see us.


TSF and the Summertime blues

You know how sometimes it feels like summer just goes flying by and before you know it, school buses are back on the road, the leaves are falling, and Mark gets his annual "fall haircut"?

Well this year, it appears summer has decided it was going to start (and apparently end) late. Have you noticed?  I have.  Know why?  Because it seems that ever since the Minnesota State Fair - which was the end of August mind you - almost every show we've done (either indoor or out) has been ludicrously warm.  No, not warm, let's say balmy.  Like the Everglades on the 4th of July.  Minus the gators.  However, throw in as many flies as there were at one particular show, and I dare say I may rather choose gators to contend with.  At least Jared could take care of them, what with his extensive gator wrestling background and, Mark's fly wrestling background didn't come in handy at all that night...:(

Anywho, I like summer as much as the next guy, but sometimes it's nice to "spread the wealth" as they say - not complaining, just saying.

In conclusion, I think we all learned a valuable lesson which apparently starts with me not complaining about not having much heat/sun back in June (see my June blog entry "summertime blues"), and also that in certain cities, flies seemingly live indoors.  And Mark's wrestling skills need some brushing up.

Whatever the case, be sure to catch us this fall or on the 2013 Holiday Tour, and ask to see Jared's alligator skin boots, and for Mark to demonstrate the world's tiniest full nelson.  It's remarkable.

Bannwarth out

We need your TSF philanthropic suggestions

We need ideas for what we will do next to raise money for worthy organizations and what we might do to challenge ourselves as Tonic Sol-fa.  We've helped build houses, jumped out of planes and as many of you know, ran Tough Mudder twice (or crawled/walked/panted as it were).  Thoughts?  Nick, our intern, suggested we ride Ragbrai... an annual bike ride across Iowa... and do a concert each night!  I think we should now do the Spartan Death Race!  Takers anyone?  Hello?  Or perhaps something in lawn chairs with a shuffleboard court and tall glass of sparkling lemonade spiked tea?  Hmmmm.  Send us your thoughts.  Instagram your diagrams.  Text your videos.  I look forward to the challenge.  

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