Eden’s Edge – Huntington Center – 10.04.12

Back in about 2007, when my son was in the Music Business program at Belmont University in Nashville, he met a trio of musicians that were relatively new to Music City and needed some demo recordings. He did a few sessions with them over a period of a couple years and shared some of those recordings with me at the time. I thought the singers/musicians were very talented and showed a great deal of promise with their songwriting.

Now, fast-forward to 2012…

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Little Big Town

Little Big Town – November 18, 2011 – Honeywell Center, Wabash, IN

As you probably know by now, my son works in the music business in Nashville. He has toured as sound engineer for several country music acts including Chris Cagle and Joe Nichols. Currently, he is approaching his one-year anniversary with Little Big Town, as their monitor engineer and production manager.

Last November, I was able to spend the afternoon and evening watching him do his thing at the last show of their tour in Wabash, Indiana. After meeting LBT members Karen Fairchild, Jimi Westbrook, Kimberly Schlapman and Phillip Sweet (as well as band members and remainder of the crew), I watched the soundcheck, took a group photo of everyone to commemorate the final show, and then got to watch and photograph the entire show. Here are a few of my images from that experience.


 (Jon Diener)


 (Jon Diener)     (Jon Diener)


 (Jon Diener)     (Jon Diener)


 (Jon Diener)


My son's view at each show.
























Strike and load-out.











Little Big Town members, band and crew.













Despite the nearly 7 hour round trip drive, I enjoyed every minute of my day with Chris and the LBT gang. Being treated like one of the family, I was extremely grateful for the southern hospitality extended to this middle-aged yankee.

Be sure to check out my complete portfolio of live music images here.

Thanks for visiting!



From the Vaults

OK, I know it’s been quite awhile since I posted here – about a month. My apologies to those yearning for regular content updates, but the truth is I haven’t much interesting stuff happening in my life lately. So rather than bore you with what I had for dinner, or what color socks I wore on any given day, I opted for just laying low and not cluttering up the internets with useless drivel. (If only others would abide by that rule. But I digress…  )

As you know, we are all products of our environments and our influences. Musically, I had a pretty broad range of inspiration to draw from, and I soaked it all up like a sponge.  As I began to write music at around age 9 or 10, I started to unknowingly incorporate various styles into my music. Many of these influences wouldn’t become obvious to me until much later.  (Perhaps the most impactful influence on my bass playing wouldn’t become apparent until almost 40 years after I was first exposed to his playing – Motown Funk Brother, James Jamerson. But that’s a whole blog post in itself.)  Reviewing this material dozens of years later, it is much easier for me to pick the specific licks, progressions, or styles that I was injecting into my work.  Maybe it was a certain guitar tone (from a Steely Dan song), or a production technique (like a slap-back echo, made popular in the late 70s and early 80s), or certain chord progression (from a 1979 Neil Larsen record called High Gear.)  I was browsing through some old recording I had made in my teens and early 20s, and I stumbled across a few things that caught my ear.

Neil Larsen - High Gear album cover

Neil Larsen "High Gear" album cover

When I was about 23, I was working at a small video & audio production facility in Toledo. We had started to do some industrial videos and were in search of some background music to use behind the voice-overs. My boss at the time, knowing of my musical background, suggested we rent some drum machines and keyboards and let me mess around for a week or so to see what I could come up with.  Well, I don’t know that I created anything really useful for that purpose, but I did compose a few little tunes that were kind of interesting.  Keep in mind this was about 1983 or 1984, and I was working by myself with a 16-track tape machine, a couple of keyboards that I barely knew how to operate, and of course, my über-lame keyboard skillz.

One of the pieces I came up with was a latin-jazz flavored, keyboard-centric tune I called “Latin Lovelies”. (I have no clue how I came up with that title.) Listening to it recently, it is blatantly obvious that it I was listening to a 1979 Neil Larsen album called “High Gear” around that time.  Both pieces are posted here for your listening (dis)pleasure – see if you notice any similarities.  Obviously, the playing skills are not one of those similarities.

“Latin Lovelies” – ©Jon Diener

Excerpt from “High Gear” – Neil Larsen

Here’s another piece I found that was written and recorded around the same year.  This one was put together in my makeshift home studio on a 4-track Tascam PortaStudio, which used standard cassette tapes as the recording media.  I remember the seed for this song was a drum machine pattern I stumbled upon, which reminded me of Pat Benetar’s “Love is a Battlefield”, which was popular around that time.  I started adding guitar parts and experimenting with progressions until I came up with what you hear below.  I think some of the guitar lines are reminiscent of Jeff Beck’s style, which was a big influence on me since the mid 70s.  Let me be clear that I am in no way comparing my playing to Jeff Beck – I just remember trying to emulate his stylings when recording this.  See if you can pick out these influences in the tune I called, appropriately enough, “Beck’s Battlefield.”

“Beck’s Battlefield” – ©Jon Diener

If I run across any more examples of my musical influences manifesting themselves in my music, I’ll be sure to post them here.

$120 Coincidence? You Decide.

No riveting stories this week about brushes with greatness, or anything photographically related. Instead, a simple, short anecdote about how music saves the day.

So last night, after a stressful week worrying about finances, I went out to cut my grass in hopes of relieving some stress. Once finished, I came back inside, showered, made some dinner, and settled in for the night with some comfy clothes and my laptop. I was feeling particularly lousy – emotionally, physically, and spiritually spent. So the relaxing evening at home seemed to fit the bill.

Just as I had mentally subscribed to an evening of nothing, my phone rang. The ID on my iPhone said “Dave Stella”, my guitar playing friend, and fellow member of one of my bands, The Grape Smugglers. I figured he was calling about scheduling the next rehearsal for the band. Instead, he told me that the regular bass player for his other band, Dry Bones Revival, had a family emergency and would not be able to make that night’s gig at The Village Idiot in Maumee. He asked if I was available to fill in with them that night, as they had run out of other options. To be honest, my initial feeling was to say, “Sorry, no. I’m really not feeling well.”  But within a millisecond, my brain flip-flopped and said yes. I figured that a night of playing music might take my mind off of my worries, and the money wouldn’t hurt, either.  Now keep in mind, this is 9pm when I’m getting the call, and the gig started in about 45 minutes at a venue 25 minutes away.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

A large mounted print of the iconic Jim Marshall photo of Johnny Cash leaned up against the wall next to me at the gig. It seemed to reflect my mood from earlier that evening.

Luckily, I had already showered and eaten by then, and most of my gear was already loaded into the car. So I threw on some jeans and a decent shirt and headed off to Maumee. After a quick stop at my office to pick up my basses, I made my way through the fading daylight. I arrived at “The Idiot”, unloaded my gear, and got myself ready to play. Fortunately, some of the other band members were still finishing setting up their gear, so I took a couple deep breaths to try to relax.

Fortunately, the gig went pretty smoothly, and the crowd was awesome. Soon, I was immersing myself in the music and starting to forget about my troubles. Afterwards, we packed up our gear, and waited to get paid. When band leader Bobby May passed out the pay for the night, I was thinking I might get $60 or $70 bucks for the night. To my surprise, Bobby handed me $120 for my share – apparently, the bar’s cover charge added up nicely, thanks to all folks who came out to hear us.

This morning, I reviewed our limited bank balances, and determined that I would put the previous night’s pay to good use by doing some Krogering. The refrigerator had been looking pretty bare lately. So as I made my way through the store shelves, I kept an approximate running total in my head, trying not to exceed my available funds.  As the checkout clerk  totaled up my haul, I held my breath. And the final tally for the groceries?

Exactly $120.00.  I was stunned by the fact that about twelve hours earlier, I was stressing about how I would be able to cover all the current bills and still put food on the table. Then out of nowhere, I landed a gig that paid exactly what I would need to get over another financial hurdle.  So, depending on your belief system, this was either a freaky coincidence, or something much bigger. My money is on the latter, as this is not the first time I have been shown a path through the financial minefield, at the last possible moment.

Why I Removed Photos of Value From Facebook

As an emerging photographer, I thought posting many of my better images on Facebook would be a great way to market my skills and improve SEO.  While that may be true, there is a dirty little ‘secret’ hidden in Facebook’s Terms of Service (ToS) that can exploit not only professionals, but anyone uploading intellectual property content to Mr. Zuckerberg’s juggernaut.

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On the Road: Addendum

OK, I know that in the last post, I said that was the end of the story. And quite honestly, I thought it was.

Last Thursday evening, I received an email from someone asking if they could use one of my Joe Nichols photos for a magazine. They had received a link to a small online image gallery from Joe’s publicist, who had gotten it from Joe’s day-to-day manager, who had asked me to post any images I had of Joe with fans during a performance. He was looking for something to blow up and hang on the walls of their management office. I was flattered and thought that would be cool. But back to the email.

My image published in the People Country Special

As I skimmed over the short request, I landed on the person’s email ‘signature’ at the bottom, where my eyes immediately stopped on the words “People Magazine”. Wait, what? (I think I might have even made the Scooby-Doo sound of surprise.) I re-read the last couple of lines and confirmed that the woman did, in fact, work for People Magazine. Needless to say, I replied promptly to find out more information.

To make a long story short, I ended up licensing one of my images (right) to People, to be used in an upcoming issue. I don’t have many more specifics right now, but when I find out which issue will contain my photo, I’ll let you know.

Ironically, this image is from September, 2008, and not a product of my recent road trip with Joe and company. This is not one of my best shots by any measure, but apparently, it is what their photo editor was looking for.

More news as it develops…

On the Road: Part 7

So, before we continue with the final installment of the series, let’s go back to the beginning for a second. At the end of Part 1, I outlined the all the “baby steps” I had worked out to get me from home to Fremont, Fremont to Nashville, Nashville to Minnesota, and Minnesota to Detroit. But the missing link in my master plan had not been locked down – getting home from Detroit. I had talked to a friend (and fellow musician) about coming to the show and giving me a ride home afterward. But by the time I had embarked on the first legs of the trip, I hadn’t gotten confirmation that he could make it. My back up plan was to have the tour bus drop me at a truck stop near Toledo on the way back to Nashville, and have my brother pick me up there. But seeing as how it would be roughly 1am by the time we would get to the truck stop, and my brother had to work in the morning, I wanted to spare him that misery. So I kept my fingers crossed that my Plan A would come together. And sure enough, somewhere along the line, I received a call from my guitar playing pal, Dan Searles, saying that he would definitely be able to come to the Detroit show and give me a ride home. Whew.

Fast-forward back to the evening of September 2 at the Michigan State Fair. The sound check was done, we had visited the Motown Museum, dinner was consumed, and the band was prepping for the show. Opening act, Chuck Wicks, was taking the stage and beginning his set. The sun was setting on another beautiful, late summer day. Dan called to say that he had arrived at the fair, and we began the process of figuring out exactly where he was and how he would make his way to the stage area. This proved to be a little tougher than it sounds, since every visual landmark he referenced was meaningless to me. I had only entered the fair through the “back way” and remained mostly in the backstage area, so I was completely unfamiliar with the rest of the fairgrounds. But after about 20 minutes or so, Dan had parked and found his way to the entrance of the music venue, where I was waiting with his backstage pass.  We chatted for a minute or two, then headed toward the bus area for a “nickel tour” of the backstage area. While we waited for Joe’s part of the show to begin, we hung out near the bus, where Chris and the rest of the band and crew came and went, as they prepared for the show. I was going to give Dan a quick inside view of the bus, but I thought it would be best to wait until later, as it was somewhat hectic at the time. The last thing I wanted to do was bother any of the tour personnel. They had all been so accommodating to me throughout my brief stay with them, and I respected that.

Finally, Chuck’s set was done, and Joe’s crew (Josh, Taylor, and Chris headed for the stage to help with the setup changeover. I gathered my photo gear, threw on a dark-colored jacket (to be less of distraction as I wandered along the front of the stage), and escorted Dan out to front of the stage. I had apologized to him up front, telling him I would be shooting the show from the pit and that I couldn’t really ‘hang’ with him during the show. He was fine with that, and just thrilled to be there, getting access to all the areas of the venue. For free.  During the show, he moved back and forth from the edge of the stage near me, to the front of house position near Chris, to a spot in the audience near the entrance.

This show for me was going to be bittersweet. I was looking forward to shooting the third show in 5 days, because I was now quite familiar with the set and the movement of the players. But I was melancholic, because I knew my show biz road show fantasy tour was about to be over. But as the show started and I began shooting, I became totally immersed in the moment, and any negative thoughts soon vanished. The interesting thing about this show, was that the band members were so conscious of me shooting them, that they actually started to “mug” a bit for my camera – making more direct eye contact, getting a little more theatrical with their movements or antics. It made for some great shots, too.

Thanks for following along with my ramblings. This experience was one I will always remember and cherish.


(Link to Addendum below)