Over a massive, majestic mug of Pilsner Urquell, the NYC-native-turned-Nashville-resident shares his favorite places for beers, ear breaks and breaking (back) into the music scene
One Stop Beer Shop
There’s a lot of history here. It used to be my local. I lived for two years across the highway, across Meeker.
My roommate and I would just come here on weeknights, and we got to know the bartenders and whatnot. It’s just one of those bars where you could show up and actually talk to people, meet people, talk to the bartenders. I feel like everybody wants that bar in their life—not like Cheers, but a social place to go alone and spend some time.
So I’d come here and I was working on this Beer Society thing they have—you know, I never finished—and I guess I was showing up enough that eventually they asked me to work here. So I started bartending here and did for about a year.
[So getting paid to be here, instead of the opposite?]
All the money I spent on beer, I just started taking back. All the guys I used to be on the other side of the bar from became even closer friends and colleagues. For a long time, it was where I spent a lot of my time—both socially, working… this was just sort of the hub for me for awhile.
I’ve been out here when it’s nice and you sit outside. I’ve been here in the pit of winter and, you know, you’re drinking eggnog shots and playing Christmas carols… I’ve just had a lot of fun times here, a lot of late nights on both sides of the bar, in a lot of different capacities. This bar is a fun place.
134 Kingsland Ave, (718) 599-0128
Vamos Al Tequila
That is more directly related to working in music. That is where we almost always get lunch when we’re in the studio. I record at Transmitter Park Studio on Greenpoint Ave. My producer lives like a block from there, and so we spend a lot of time in that zone. Within that slice of Greenpoint, there are a lot of things, but a lot of those things are expensive or bougie and Vamos is kind of the total opposite of that—a kinda corny Mexican cantina. It’s got the fake kind-of tile roof inside. It’s pink and purple and they have margaritas. It’s just very no-frills. And it was the place where we’d always get lunch.
My producer Abe and I would always get the same thing. It was the lunch special, and it was the chicken quesadilla and a soft drink for like $10 or something.
[No margaritas in the middle of the day?]
Sometimes. Depending on how the session was going. That was always a place where we’d hang out.
I love being in the studio, so I have very good associations with being in that neighborhood and having lunch… taking a break from something you love, knowing you’re going to go back.
162 Franklin St, (718) 383-0808
That’s the different side of the same coin. Our routine would be we’d often eat lunch at Vamos or in that neighborhood, and Transmitter Park is also just down the way the other direction. It’s a little triangular zone—well, I call it the Abe Zone. And we always joke about the fact it’s always incredible to see him outside of that four-block radius. We go to a show in Bed-Stuy, and he’ll be there, and you’ll be like, whoah, dude! But it’s a great zone, and one of the nice things is the park.
It’s not like an amazing lush park… the grass is usually kind of like dry and fucked up. But it is right on the water. You can actually smell… well, not the ocean, right? The East River… which is sometimes good and sometimes bad.
They have this pier that extends out pretty far, and there are a couple benches on the end of it. So you walk out a decent amount in the river, and you’re just standing there, and it’s like all of Manhattan is right there. That’s what we would do. We’d always have our lunch break—you gotta eat. But when we need to take an ear break…
When you’re getting too deep into it or caught up in something, or you’re just not hearing things. You spend a lot of time listening to the same thing over and over again, and you lose track of the way you want it to be. So when we needed that kind of break, the unspoken routine was to go down Greenpoint Ave., walk to the end of the pier, take a couple minutes, walk back. And then usually by the time we got back, we’d be refreshed. That pier, for me, I associate with finding the right headspace to do what I’m doing.
It’s also just beautiful. It’s a very romantic location. When people ask me where they should go, if they’re a tourist, I say they should go there, because the view is so beautiful of the city. Usually I don’t care about that stuff, but I think that’s the one spot [where] I’ve allowed myself to continuously be a tourist.
West St between Kent St and Greenpoint Ave, nycgovparks.org/parks/transmitter-park
It’s a small Brazilian restaurant. It’s a little bougie, a little expensive. I mean, all the food tastes really good. It’s not the kind of place I think I’d often eat, but I have a positive association with that place.
A good childhood friend of mine spent some time living in Brazil. He was sent there to work, and I went down to visit him there and—because I don’t have like a real job—spent two and a half weeks down there… and it was just really great. He was always at work, and I was kinda doing my own thing in São Paulo. I didn’t really speak Portuguese but had a little book and spent a few weeks before I left learning some of the language. And I just got there and it was just a pretty incredible two weeks. And during that time, I feel like I just, I don’t know… had a lot of fun in both the dignified cultural sense and the shitty got-drunk sense. Just spent a lot of time on my own somewhere totally new and kinda did really well at it.
[Beco] is somewhere I’ll go with this particular person and we’ll share that meal because it reminds us of the time we spent [in Brazil[ together. It’s also nearby the apartment I used to live in. It’s just wrapped up in several positive associations. I associate it with doing well in other places… having a positive experience outside of your comfort zone.
45 Richardson St, becobar.com
Pete’s Candy Store
I’ve been playing music and releasing music and performing since I was like 13. I always considered myself a musician and always thought of that being my primary goal in life, but for a while I just really didn’t act like that at all. I got a full-time job as a copywriter and would occasionally write and keep music in the back of my mind but maybe not proactively pursue it. Then, once I started to lean into it a bit more and really wanted to play again, the first place I did play was Pete’s, and Pete’s would continuously book me.
I think a really important part of any music scene is getting a foot through the door, and whenever I try to book shows in different towns or cities, I always look for a place like that, where [they] have a lot of different artists every night and it’s a small room… giving people the opportunity to just play. Because it doesn’t really exist everywhere. I think in terms of getting back on my feet and playing again, having a place that would always be like, “Yeah, you can play…” — and has played a similar role for a lot of musicians I know…
I’ve been playing for a really long time, but I think if I can divide things up into phases, starting to play Pete’s again was the beginning of the current phase I’m in, and that’s been the most serious and probably fulfilling one. And playing those shows and getting back into that lifestyle was also probably the catalyst for me eventually quitting my full-time job.
709 Lorimer St, (718) 302-3770, petescandystore.com/menu/
That’s just really good pizza! There’s always a debate on these things, and I really love all pizza, you know. I really do. I’m really openminded in that. I’ll eat, like, Domino’s, whatever. But I think as far as the Brooklyn, or Williamsburg, pizza landscape goes, that is one of my favorite spots.
I also used to live for a year—one very precious year—around the corner. So it would become very much a part of my routine. I was working pretty late nights here [at One Stop], and I’d wake up around lunchtime, feeling like shit, so would go there, and they would take care of me pretty well. So when people come and visit or ask me, is it between Paulie Gee’s, and then there’s Vinnie’s and there’s Joe’s and there’s all these establishments, I always point people to Williamsburg.
265 Union Ave, (718) 855-8729, williamsburgpizza.com
[This interview has been edited and condensed.]