Ep. 2.4: Marley & Ruthie Toots (ft. Chris Barron) 

Mary Phillips-Sandy  I love that you brought a guitar to this. 

Chris Barron  I bring a guitar everywhere. 

Mary  Really? 

Chris  God forbid I should have like five minutes idle where, like, I can't play guitar. 

Mary  Do you ever go, like, in the subway and put your hat out? 

Chris  I do play on the subway, but I'm actually riding the subway and if there's any room for me to play guitar, I'll just play guitar. But I don't put a hat out. I play outside all the time. I play- like in front of my building, I bring a stool out. In the last couple years since I've just been sitting in front of the building playing, now I'm the guitar guy. And everybody- you know what I mean? Everybody on the block just like smiles and waves and stuff like that. It's really funny.

Mary  That is awesome. Well, so, I guess that's a tip. If you want a free concert, just hang out on the New York City subway.

Chris  Yeah, just go by Chris's house.

Mary  You are an illustrious musician. But we're actually not here to talk about your music career. We're here to talk about something else that you are known for. Chris Barron, do you know what we're here to talk about?

Chris  We are here to talk about the most important thing in the world. 

Mary  Which is? 

Chris  Cats.

Mary  Let's talk about cats.

Mary  So of course this is another episode of Let's Talk About Cats. I'm noted cat lady Mary Phillips-Sandy. My cat is Grendel. And my guest today- your music has been in my ears since a very awkward time in my life, let's just put it that way. Of course this is Chris Barron from the Spin Doctors, and of course he has a great solo record out that came out last year: Angels and One-Armed Jugglers. And it's a really interesting, weird, and I mean that in a good way album. But more importantly you have two cats and their names are Marley and Ruthie Toots. 

Chris  Yes.

Mary  And we're going to talk a lot more about them and your relationship with them. But for now, how we start the show is a five word memoir.

Chris  It's okay that I wrote this ahead of time, right?

Mary  Many people do, yeah.

Chris  Marley, our eldest, is: Stray scaredy cat. Safe. Sweet. Buddy.

Mary  Beautiful.

Chris  And Ruthie Toots, hers is: Gus died. Enter Ruthie Toots.

Mary  Dramatic. Dramatic. Okay, so that's a cliffhanger. Right now it is time for a segment that we call the Cat Quiz. Now the Cat Quiz involves five questions that I'm going to ask you. There is no time limit, but we do expect you to answer quickly. I don't know is never an acceptable answer. It's okay to not know, but you can't say I don't know.

Chris  So I can prognosticate or just, like, make something up?

Mary  Absolutely. We encourage that. And there is a prize at stake. 

Chris  Okay, cool. 

Mary  This may be news to some of your fans. But before you became a musician, you studied ceramics at Bennington College. 

Chris  That is correct.

Mary  And I've seen that you have occasionally tweeted about vahhses. Or vases. So Chris Barron, how much do you know about cats and ceramics? You ready? 

Chris  Yeah! 

Mary  Let's do it. Question number one. One of the most iconic pottery moments in pop culture is that scene in Ghost, you know the one. Which star of the movie Ghost once made headlines by bringing a stray kitten to an Art Basel dinner in Miami?

Chris  Ummm, Demi Moore.

Mary  You are correct. Question number two. The world's oldest form of glazed ceramics is Egyptian faience. In addition to making ceramics, of course, the Egyptians were famously into cats. Which Egyptian goddess was depicted as a cat?

Chris  Ah, Myrna Loy.

Mary  So close. The answer is Bastet. I see the resemblance, though. 

Chris  That was my second guess.

Mary  We'll give you half a point. Okay, question number three. Japan's maneki-neko, or lucky cat, is a popular ceramic figurine of a cat with one paw raised facing outwards. In the west it is also called a waving cat. But this is a misnomer, because the maneki-neko is actually doing what?

Chris  Signaling the class revolution.

Mary  You know what, we'll give you half a point for that too. It's actually beckoning or welcoming good luck in, because this gesture in Japan means come in.

Chris  Now that you say that... there's so much pressure. 

Mary  And it's only getting more heated, because we're up to question number four. Clay! It's not just for pottery, it's also for cat poop. In what year was clay kitty litter invented? 

Chris  1492.

Mary  I can't give it to you. The answer is 1947. 

Chris  Oh, it's the same numbers, just in a different order.

Mary  Well, before that people just let their cats poop on sand, which seems like it would track throughout the house. So, very glad that that was invented. Alright, final question. You're doing great. People in Yunnan province, China have a unique tradition of placing ceramic cats where to guard their homes from evil spirits?

Chris  By the door. By the fireplace?

Mary  On a technicality I'll give it to you, because the answer is on the roof. It is a dying art in southwest China. So- 

Chris  Really? 

Mary  Yeah, I really really want to somehow go to Yunnan province and get myself one.

Chris  Oh man. Well, if I'm over there, I'll pick one up. I'm sort of surprised that there aren't cat freaks everywhere with cats on their roof. 

Mary  Well, can I tell you something, you win the Cat Quiz! 

Chris  I win?! 

Mary  For the listening audience, can you tell people what I'm handing you? Under the bubble wrap? 

Chris  Oh my goodness. This is really beautiful. It's handmade. 1991.

Mary  1991, a year that might have some significance for you, I thought.

Chris  That's, um, the year that- I was on the road all year that year.

Mary  Pocket Full of Kryptonite came out that year.

Chris  Oh! Pocket Full of Kryptonite! Yeah, we made Pocket Full of Kryptonite.

Mary  Remember that? 

Chris  Yeah! Yeah, I do remember. I was pretty high back then. But I remember making our first record, that much I remember.

Mary  So now you have your very own ceramic cat. 

Chris  This is beautiful. My wife's gonna love this, actually.

Mary  I'm so glad.

Chris  And she's going to love that I won it.

Mary  Better than any award you could possibly get, right.

Chris  This is the best award I've ever won. I don't win a lot of awards.

Mary  Well, you did today, at the Let's Talk About Cats Cat Quiz.

Chris  I'm feeling really good about this.

Mary  Fantastic!

Mary  This is a segment that we call the Hot Topic debate, where my guest and I resolve a divisive feline issue once and for all. Whatever we decide stands forever. 

Chris  Mm, good. 

Mary  Today's question is: What is the best song ever written about a cat? And I want to caveat that by saying we are not counting the theme song to this show, by my friend Poingly. It's an incredible song about cats. And of course, you also wrote the great song Cleopatra's Cat. As soon as I thought of this question, I thought of my answer, and I'd like to share it with you.

Chris  Okay, yeah. 

Mary  And this again, kind of goes back to my childhood. Black Cat by Janet Jackson. From the Rhythm Nation album. It was the first song that she wrote completely by herself, and co-produced. She was sort of in this pop machine, and she comes out with this hard rock song. And if you've seen the music video, her face kind of morphs into this roaring black panther. There's an actual snarling effect. A lot of music videos that were on MTV and whatever it was 1990, did not make you feel great about yourself as a young girl. Seeing Janet Jackson owning that stage, fearless, ferocious, having a great time- and she had this great quote about that song. She told Jet magazine, "I've always felt some kind of connection between myself and a panther. They're not afraid of anything. They're willing to take on anything. And that's the way I feel about my work." Not only is it an incredibly catchy rockin song, I just remember sitting on my parents' living room floor on the shag carpet being like, "fuck, she's cool." You know? 

Chris  Yeah. 

Mary  And it was sort of a way for her to take control in a world that wanted to take it away from her, decide who she was going to be and what it was going to look like. I don't know, to me, that song comes out really cool no matter how you look at it.

Chris  That song didn't even occur to me, and you make a very, very strong case. I'm actually sort of embarrassed by the salacious and trite nature of my choices. Like I knew this was going to be a discussion. So I have two songs.

Mary  Yeah, let's hear it.

Chris  First one is a bit more obscure. It's from Muddy Waters' album that he made with Johnny Winter in the early '70s. It's called Crosseyed Cat. 

Mary  Okay. 

Chris  It's about a guy who's sort of emasculated by his girlfriend's cat. You know, the cat is like, totally dominating the household and biting him and  it ends up with the cat in the corner licking his balls. He's basically like, I'm in love with this woman, but I gotta- I gotta leave her alone. Because the cat, is like, taking over the house, you know?

Mary  Yeah. I mean, yeah, that sounds that sounds like a thing that maybe happened to Muddy Waters! It sounds very personal.

Chris  And it's a pithy and like, vivid, and real description of like, of like- of a cat. Like, he's not just making up some cutesy thing. It's like, you know that actually happened to him. This is a man who has observed a real cat and is putting that into song. The other song I was going to mention, there's a bit of a parallel between your experience and my experience. Being a kid in the 80s, and there was a lot of cheesy pop going on, not that I had anything against that. But along came the Stray Cats. And they had like, Stray Cat Strut.

Mary  Yes, yeah. 

Chris  And it was all part of this rockabilly revival. And I'd been taking guitar lessons since I was a kid and stuff like that. But all of sudden, like, this guy John Popper, world famous virtuoso harmonica player, singer of Blues Traveler, was- I went to high school with him. And I was like, John! You play the blues, right? I was like, 14, 13 or 14. He's like, yeah. I'm like, so that's where rock and roll comes from? And he's like, yeah! And so he kind of got me started, getting into the blues. So when, when the Stray Cats came around, you know, I could hear that the scales and the song forms were based on these blues forms that I was really interested in. And it was this modern take on this '50s conception of cool. Like jeans with a cuff and a bandanna in your back pocket. And, I don't know, it was a light in the darkness of cool. But I think a lot more people got a lot more out of your song.

Mary  I think- you know what, though? No, I think what has happened is that we have identified the three best songs ever written about cats, aside from the one you wrote and the one that my friend Poingly wrote for this show. So that's five of the best songs ever written about cats. 

Chris  It's an embarrassment of riches!

Mary  So much. And you know what, we will put a playlist together and we'll do it on the website so that people can listen. Because they need to experience what we have experienced. 

Chris  Yeah, they do.

Mary  It is now time for the real reason we are here. Let's talk about your cats. How did you meet Marley and Ruthie Toots?

Chris  When we got together Lindsay had this cat Gus. My wife, Lindsay Nicole Chambers. And he was about a year and a half old. And she got him because she was in the Broadway musical Legally Blonde. And they would all go to this one deli that was out on the corner. There were these kittens, like deli kittens. And they kept being like, What happened to the other kitten? And they'd be like, oh, he's around here somewhere. And then, one of the castmates went out and Gus, the latest deli kitten, was out on Broadway, like, underneath a car. And it's like, oh, they're all getting hit by cars, you know? 

Mary  Oh my god. 

Chris  So she just took Gus, who didn't have a name at that time, and brought him back to the theater and was like, anybody want a cat? And Lindsay, my wife, was like, yeah, I'll have a cat. And somebody was like, you might want to get another cat to keep him company. Enter Marley. And Marley had been found in an abandoned building up in the Bronx. So he had been like eating garbage and stuff like that. And so the two of them became like pretty good buddies, like not, they're not like the kind of cats that are all over each other all the time, but they were usually within a few feet of each other. And Gus died a year ago on September 19, on Talk Like a Pirate Day. So that day is never going to quite be as fun for me, ever. 

Mary  Tinged with sadness. I'm so sorry. 

Chris  Yeah. He died really suddenly, I came home and he was obviously in tremendous distress. And the veterinarian was like, we gotta put him to sleep. So I went from having a cat to like, just holding my deceased cat in my arms like 45 minutes later. And then I just kind of was just numb. And I walked out on the street, and I got onto Ninth Avenue and I just started bawling. Like, just ugly crying, snot tears crying, walking up Ninth. I couldn't bear to go into the subway or get a cab. I didn't know what to do. So I just walked 50 blocks up Ninth Avenue, crying the whole way. And your listeners can probably imagine, New York City is kind of a great place to do that because, like, nobody cares. I could hear people's conversations, like not changing. Standing a light next to people just crying like, ahh ahh ahhh, and nobody's saying anything to me. And I get home and Marley was really out of his mind. Because when I got home and Gus was on the floor in the bathroom, you know, not doing well, Marley was just like, looking up at me meowing. Like, "Take him! Fix him! Help him!" And I got home and he was like, "Where is he?" You know? And I was like, he's gone, buddy. And the next day he was just- every time he saw me, he's like, "Where's Gus?!" Meowing like, "Is Gus okay? Where is he? I don't understand!" I was like, dude, he's gone. So I talked to my wife, who was finishing up a show out of town. I was like, we got to get another cat. Like, now. Marley is just so distressed. And it's, I can't watch it. It's horrible. And she was like, Honey, relax. Cause I'm the more impulsive of the two of us. She got home some days later and was like, Oh my god, I'm sorry. I'm never going to doubt you again. He is so messed up. And within like two days, we found Ruth. So my wife was thinking, Marley, and then Toots and the Maytals. And I was like, Ruth. And we're like, hmmm. And then one of us was like, Ruthie Toots.

Mary  It's a great name. I want to talk about something that happened to you in 2016. Which was your second bout of vocal cord paralysis. And that had happened to you once previously, in 1999, when I assume you did not have any cats. But going through it a second time, which, I I looked this up, I guess it's not supposed to happen more than once to people. 

Chris  It's very, very rare. 

Mary  So you had really, really, really bad luck. How did your cats help you get through what must have been an incredibly frustrating, disorienting time?

Chris  I'm really glad you asked that question, because I hadn't really thought of this. But what happened was I had a paralyzed vocal cord, you know, my right vocal cord. The first time this happened to me, like around the turn of the century, they hadn't perfected this technique, an injection of saline solution into the paralyzed vocal cord that moves it over, so that the vocal cords can can have contact, and that's how you create the sound. So I went within 48 hours of losing my voice, I had done this injection, I came home and I was really groggy. It was that moment where the emergency's over and you're like, now I have a 50-50 chance of getting my voice back. It could take as long as a year. So it's like, no work for a year, no income for a year. And I laid on the couch. And I was just beaten. You know what I mean? For a moment, I was like, I'm down. That's it, I'm down, eight count. And I'm on the couch for like three minutes. Marley comes and he lays down on my throat on the right side, the side that's paralyzed. And he just starts purring. And I- I was like, there's other shit in the world besides singing. I hope I get to sing again, cause it's really important to me. But I got a cat who loves me. I got a wife who loves me, I got kid who loves me, I got place to live, and I'll figure it out. It won't be the end of the world.

Mary  And then you got your voice back.

Chris  I did. But the funny thing is that my vocal cord never fully recovered. You know, my speaking voice came back. I did a solo gig, I did a Spin Doctors gig. My doctor was like, your vocal cord is still largely immobile. And I was like, well, then how am I doing this? And he's like, it appears that you have learned how to brace the musculature around the vocal cord so that the other vocal cord can come over and meet it. So I'm basically singing with one vocal cord. Angels and One-Armed Jugglers is actually like- that's the title of my new solo record. It's a song I wrote before this ever happened to me, because I just thought the idea of a one-armed juggler was a cool image.

Mary  But now that's you!

Chris  I'm sitting in the studio, yeah, we're like months into the project. And I'm like Angels and One-Armed Jugglers, oh my god, I'm the one-armed juggler. 

Mary  Yeah, you are! Do you feel a responsibility as an artist and as a cat dad? And are they the same or different?

Chris  I mean, in a word, yes. Like the reason I'm on your show, probably, is that one Saturday, several years ago, I had this great picture of my cat Gus. And I was like, I need a hashtag for this. So you know, you look you just do like "cat-a" and it suggests- you know, "cat-b." And I got all the way down to "cat-u." That's how obsessive I am. I get all the way down to u, nd it's #caturday. And it happened to be a Saturday. And I was like, Oh my god, this is meant to be! So I just post this picture of Gus with the hashtag caturday. And like 70 or 100 people replied with pictures of their cats, which I promptly retweeted. So now every Saturday, it's kind of like my job. Like all day I'm just retweeting I retweet like, probably a couple hundred pictures of cats. All day. 

Mary  Yeah, your cat social skills are just- on point.

Chris  Well, it's fun! And in the meantime, there was a musical artist who suffered a brain injury, and she was talking on NPR about this whole regime that she had to get better. And one of the things that her neurologist recommended was looking at pictures of cute animals, because it actually releases endorphins in your brain. It's like stimulating in this very healthy way. So you're talking about the responsibility that you feel as an artist. And I can't remember the philosopher that said this, but there's like a, you know, 18th century philosopher, who said that, and I'm paraphrasing, but a philosophy that doesn't offer consolation is not really worth very much. So, you know, we came up in this time where our music was contrasted a lot with with grunge music. And, you know, I grew up in a- in like, a nightmare of a household and, and like, you know, I had a stepmom who, like- murder was on the table and getting thrown at the house and being homeless was on the table. My brother kept a machete under his bed. You know, she kicked my door down at four o'clock in the morning and like screamed at me until I thought a vein was going to pop in her eye. And, you know, I don't think I had it any better than like, you know, a lot of these grunge guys did growing up. And if you listen to Pocket Full of Kryptonite, the whole record, you got Little Miss Can't Be Wrong and Two Princes. Which are songs with kind of sad lyrics, with happy music. 

Mary  Yeah. Very catchy.

Chris  But I always felt that it doesn't take very much acuity to be able to look at the world and see that it's patently unfair, and that it's cruel, and that terrible things are going on all the time. It's a pretty facile observation that the world is fucked, you know. The question is, why should we continue to maintain our standards as good people, as kind people, when other people are so unkind? That's a really big question. So- when I met Keith Richards and Mick Jagger and Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones, they were so cool to me. And it made me feel like a million bucks. So if some, like, young person is like, has got a question for me or something like that, I like to give 'em some time. And I like to do what- I'm not saying I'm Keith Richards or I am on a level with those guys-

Mary  Well, Keith Richards is also not you, so-

Chris  And he's not me! Who knows if he even has a cat? I don't know! Do you know? 

Mary  He probably doesn't! Screw you, Keith Richards.

Chris   He probably doesn't have a cat! The hell with Keith Richards!

Mary   I actually want to ask you about a quote that you gave in 2016 about art and music. And it really resonated with me. You said, "If something is really dark, it should offer some sort of emotional or philosophical consolation. Music should show that life is worth living." 

Chris  Yes.

Mary  That last sentence, again, as someone who had an angst-ridden teenhood, right- music was the thing that kept me going a lot of days. You know, I had my discman, and I had my headphones, and I had my CDs. And I feel that's something so many people can relate to. But then for you, as someone who is the person who makes the music people can turn to when their life doesn't feel worth living- are cats a thing that do that for you?

Chris  Yes, undoubtedly. Yeah. Gus was my first cat, right. And he's huge, like, he could stand on his hind legs and put his gigantic paws easily up on the kitchen counter. And wasn't a particularly friendly cat, you know, he was a lout. And he loved me. You know what I mean? And if I laid down on the couch, or on the bed, he would come and like, what my wife and I call the nook. He liked the same side, he liked my right side, he would just crawl into my nook. And his body was so big. And- there's a lot of kinds of love in this world. You know? There's this big, like, zoo of love. And cats really are their own in their own kind of category. They love you, or they don't love you, you know, they very much stick to their own terms. I mean, last night, I was out seeing my friend Blake Morgan play. And, you know, we said goodnight, and I was downtown. I don't get to be downtown that often. And I was just looking at some other bars, you know, maybe have like a nightcap by myself, you know, just be like the solo guy drinkin' a beer someplace, you know, and I have my guitar. And maybe I'll just sit somewhere and play or something, and all of a sudden, I was like, The cats! Oh my god! They're gonna be wondering where I am! And I hurried onto the train, like, ahh! And I just went home, straight home, and I fed them, and was like, Hi guys! You guys okay? They make you a better person.

Mary  Yeah! They do. You're a very prolific writer. I've read that you keep notebooks. You're one of those people who does the pages every morning, which is-

Chris  I gotta say, to be fully honest, I don't always do that.

Mary  But I think it's safe to say you're a prolific writer. 

Chris  Yeah. 

Mary  How do you ignore your inner critic and just let yourself write, and do your cats help you with that process?

Chris  My cats are a pain in the ass when I'm trying to write. Like, they'll step on the notebook. You know, they don't help at all. But  they do help in that if I'm totally dry, I'll just describe what they're doing.

Mary  Really? 

Chris  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mary  So if you're blocked, you can just describe the cat.

Chris  Yeah, you know, you just got to keep your hand moving. Like, I make a living writing. And 99% of what I write is absolute schlock. It's like, I hate myself, I suck. Why am I doing this? You have to keep your hand moving. Just write like a certain amount of pages. The morning pages thing is three pages, I find that to be a great increment. Sometimes I cheat and I just use a smaller notebook.

Mary  I love that, that's great.

Chris  You know what I mean? If that's what you need to do, then that's what you need to do. Look, one of the things life has taught me is to trust your process, you know. Writing Two Princes screwed me up for a long time. 

Mary  How come? 

Chris  Because every time I sat down to write, I was like, in my head, I had the president of my record company, and all kinds of influences in my head talking, being like, okay, Is this the next Two Princes? You can't write that way. When you sit down to write, you have to give yourself permission to write the worst piece of shit anybody ever wrote, ever. And like, I think I've written some stuff that's really, really beautiful. But I never try to do that. What I try to do is just- I wanna write viscerally. And I want to say things in a way that I would say them, and in a way that, like, people might think I'm crazy, but that's courageous. A lot of times I start out like, I suck. This is dumb, why am I doing this? I hate myself. And then I get into the, like, "the sunflowers of never are drowning in my yesterday." And then I kind of start cooking somewhere in the third page, and I write a decent- like the last paragraph, or the second-to-last paragraph is pretty cool. And then I'm like, Oh, I'm running out of space. I'm running out of space, I better wrap this up. What happens is- you go through my notebooks from from Pocket Full of Kryptonite, there's a lot of pocket stuff. 

Mary  You were just thinking about pockets? 

Chris  I was thinking about pockets. And it was like, I used to be like, Oh, I'm so limited. Like, the only metaphor I can come up with is a pocket metaphor. I was in Amsterdam at the Vincent van Gogh Museum. A noted cat guy. 

Mary  Yes, indeed. 

Chris  And so I'm on this one floor. And there's, you know, this ochre and green painting in that typical strong brushstroke. I'm like, what's that? And I look, the little plaque says it's called Undergrowth. And then I look at the next one, which is a similar panting, and it says Undergrowth. And I turn, and in this one room, there's 18 paintings called Undergrowth. And I was like- that motherfucker! Obviously spent some time being obsessed with undergrowth! I'm sure they would be very expensive, because Vincent van Gogh, but nobody's like, Ugh, his undergrowth period, you know? So that to me was like, oh, man, you know, sometimes I'll go through my notebooks. And rather than be like, "All I could think about was pockets, all I could write about was pockets, or all I could write about was the sky," now I'm like, I trust that. I know that it's going somewhere. Turns out in the Pocket Full of Kryptonite era, you know, a pocket thing was a very successful thing.

Mary  Before we conclude, I want to share a story with you that I think you might know, but if you don't know, you’ll appreciate it. While I was researching today's Cat Quiz- I knew nothing about ceramics until like a week ago. Nothing, nothing about this. I didn't know the difference between- I thought ceramics and pottery were the same. But pottery is just clay, it turns out, so I've learned a lot. And I thank you for that.

Chris  Anytime.

Mary  But I found out that Picasso taught himself how to make ceramics in the last two decades of his life. He was just like, he went to France and he saw people making ceramics and was like, that looks cool! I want to do it. But Picasso sucked at ceramics for a very long time. He just kept making them. And I was looking at this website that had a bunch of pictures, I burst out laughing because some of them looked like, honestly, my four year old might have made them. 

Chris  Yeah, yeah. 

Mary  And it's, you know, you talked about how Two Princes kind of fucked you up. I mean, imagine being Picasso. At the end of, you know, the last two decades of your life. You've made such incredible paintings, but you're like, you know what, I think I'm gonna suck at ceramics for a while. And he did it for two decades! And as he progressed, I mean, again, I spent a lot of time looking through these pictures, just delighted with sort of the evolution and the creativity, and he started giving them as gifts to people. And there was something really cool and inspiring about that, to me that reminded me of you, and of what-

Chris  Wow, thank you-

Mary  I mean, truly, because- because it's easy to quit. It's easy to stop. 

Chris  Yeah.

Mary  And we have this idea that creativity is a line, and you get your start and you keep going, and hopefully you get a peak. And if you're lucky, you get a second, but your best days are always either behind you or ahead of you. And I don't know. I love that Picasso didn't look at it that way. He just wanted to make ceramics.

Chris  No, that's the wrong way to look at. 

Mary  It's the wrong way to look at it, but it's such an easy trap to fall into.

Chris  It is a very easy trap to fall into. And I have wallowed in that trap at times in my life. And that story, it gets me in so many different ways. Every 10 years, I completely revamp my guitar playing. In my 30s, I was like, I'm tired of all these, like, root position chords that I know. And I learned this whole new, like jazz chords. And a few years ago, I was like, I'm gonna learn to finger pick. And you know, I had to sit there, I have to wait till my wife's not in the house. Because I'm, like, "ponnnggg."

Mary  You don't want to her to hear it.

Chris  "Ponnngg. Ding! Gahhh." And I'm playing the same six notes over and over again. Like that slow, slowing things down until you can pick it up and play it fast. But it takes a lot of patience. It takes a lot of just embracing the work, you know. There's chatter. Your ego, your mind will try to- like the cat, you know, the cat of your mind will crawl across the notebook of your heart. And you'll be like, Damn, this cat is in my way. But, you know, my teacher Woody talks about the chatter. So the chatter is like a cigarette craving, you know what I mean? If you can get through that- they say a craving lasts three minutes, so if you can get past that three minutes. So chatter lasts about eight minutes. And it's like, you're playing this thing, it's super slow. It's not music. You have to remember, some of the stuff that you're doing isn't going to be art. It's the art of the art, right? The art to the art, you know. Practicing can be really boring. And your head will be like, I should have been doing this 10 years ago. I totally suck. You know, would Yngwie Malmsteen have to do this? Would all these other people I admire- they probably never had to do this. And if you just keep going, all of a sudden that goes away. 

Mary  That's beautiful.

Chris  Can I just say one more thing about the ceramics?

Mary  Oh, please do, please do.

Chris  Doing ceramics really helped me out with writing. Because when I went to Bennington, and I was studying ceramics there, it was, like, we were just grinding stuff out. And you were learning new things, so you sucked at it. So a lot of stuff, you were making it and while it was still wet, you're just throwing it back into the clay thing. You weren't even firing it. But then you'd make stuff and there'd be a bubble in it and it would blow up. Or somebody else would not wedge their clay enough, and their thing would blow up and blow your thing up.

Mary  Like actual explosions?

Chris  Explosions, yeah, yeah, in the kiln. So it was like all about bulk. Don't be attached. Just throw a pot. Oh, that fell apart? Take it off. Throw that in the wet clay. Throw it again. And it was like- that really helped me to think about writing. And just being like, write it, throw it away. Write it, forget it, write it, write it. Write write write write write. And just don't be precious about it. And then when you write something good, you know it's good because you get an electric feeling in your toes. You know what I mean? The hair stands up on your on your arm. 

Mary  So I think the lesson that we've learned, honestly, you gotta you've gotta set aside the cat that's trying to crawl on the notebook of your of your heart and just get the work done. And then when you're done, go back to the cat. And pat it.

Chris  Go back to the cat, yeah.

Mary  It'll still be there. What would you like to say to Marley and Ruthie Toots who are listening at home?

Chris  Be good cats. Get along, don't fight, and I'll be home soon.

Mary  That's wonderful. 

Chris  And I love you.

Mary  It is now time for our shoutout, and our shoutout today goes to Bella in Florida. She's a four year old orange female tabby, which I'm told is rare. Most orange tabbies are male. Bella was diagnosed unfortunately with stage four kidney failure earlier this year. And her person wrote in to say that she's helped her through tremendous hardships and has this message for Bella. Bella, I love you. Thank you. I wish more than anything that you could live forever. You can have as many treats and as much shoulder time as you want until you cross the Rainbow Bridge. So thank you for sharing Bella's story. 

Chris  Aw, Bella.

Mary  We are sending a lot of love to Bella and to Bella's person in Florida. I hope you can feel that coming from our microphones right now. So Chris, if people would like to keep up with you on the internet, get the latest- when this airs, this will be shortly before you embark on some live tour dates on the West coast. If people want to get all that information where can they go to find it?

Chris  I am @thechrisbarron on Twitter and I'm @thechrisbarron_ on Instagram because somebody- 

Mary  Somebody got it?

Chris  They threw me off the internet a couple of days, stole my handle. So yeah, I'm @ the Chris Barron on on all the social media.

Mary  And we are @ltacpod on all the social platforms. Thank you all so much for listening. I am Mary, my cat is Grendel. Our producer is the alterna-rock anthem Lizzie Jacobs. Our theme song is by Poingly with additional music by the English Muffins, and our show logo was created by Julia Emiliani. That's all for now, and I'll talk to you next time... about cats.