In Tim Motz’s Hamptons, aliens fly in and buy up all the beer. Women order their lovers through the mail, waiting for them to arrive in big crates. Guys get dumped for Jesus. Women threaten to talk God’s ear off once they reach the pearly gates. If you hate your boss, you can sail into the sun on a green balloon. And love is margarine, spread all around.
If you’ve spent enough time on the South Fork, you’ve probably met Tim Motz. A former reporter turned speechwriter, political candidate and government spokesman, he’s been there at every turn of some major issues facing the East End.
But what you probably didn’t know about Tim Motz was that he’s been writing some great songs for about seven years now, ever since his 38th birthday.
On that fateful birthday, he stopped into a bar in Westhampton Beach on his way home from work to meet some friends for happy hour. He grimaced while they belted out “Happy Birthday.” Then he went on to Southampton to meet his family for another happy hour, where everyone barreled through another rendition of “Happy Birthday.” That really bummed him out, because he just hates the sound of “Happy Birthday.”
“It’s tuneless and people hate singing it,” said Mr. Motz this week. “I said, ‘I’m going to go home and write a better birthday song.'”
He went home and began fiddling around with words and “for whatever reason, the floodgates opened. I had 13 songs in the first 10 days,” he said.
But there was one problem. Mr. Motz swears he can’t sing, though he won’t belt out any lyrics to prove it. He can play a few scales on the piano, but that’s about it. After he had those 13 songs in his pocket, he went down to Hampton Music & Arts in Hampton Bays and bought a $99 guitar, taught himself a few chords, then began filling out the melodies of his songs. He now has four or five albums of material.
This week, he’s launching the first full album of these songs, “Welcome to the Hamptons,” performed by some of the best rock and roll musicians on the South Fork as part of a band with a currently-shifting lineup that Mr. Motz is calling “Sideshow Rodeo.”
“Welcome to the Hamptons,” in this instance, would hardly endear Mr. Motz to any Chamber of Commerce. It’s a hard-driving country rock album, filled with songs that could keep an entire pub singing along for hours, dotted with some tangled ballads and beautiful gospel tracks.
Mr. Motz says his favorite description from people who’ve heard the album is that it sounds like what would happen “if Tom Waits, John Prine and Johnny Cash went on a bender and wrote an album from under a table of a roadside bar at 2 a.m.”
“I don’t like it when people think of the Hamptons and they think of finger sandwiches at The Meadow Club or the Kardashians,” he said. “There are a lot of salt-of-the-earth people here. I’d like to reclaim the Hamptons for normal people.”
The album was recorded at singer-songwriter Inda Eaton’s home studio.
“I’ve known Tim for years in the community,” said Ms. Eaton this week. “He came to songwriting pretty recently, in the past five to seven years. He writes songs all the time. I think he has a notebook and once he’s done writing one, he just goes on to another one.”
Ms. Eaton met singer Andrew Cooper, whose raw, Tom Waits-inspired vocals set the barroom tone of the album, at a music event.
“I knew he would be a great fit for Tim’s work,” she said. “I’m not usually a matchmaker, but the two of them hit it off like long-lost brothers.”
The musicians who contributed to the album read like a who’s who of great East End players.
Mike Mazzaraco worked with Ms. Eaton to engineer the project and played lead guitar throughout the album. Dawnette Darden, Lee Lawler and Klyph Black lent their vocal skills. Jim Lawler played drums on much of the record, while James Benard played on one track.
Trombonist Bob Hovey and keyboard player Joe Delia each popped in for a track.
Mr. Motz’s brother, Ted Motz, played bass throughout the album.
“All these people in the music community each came in, and these great artists were able to listen to what Tim wrote and make it their own,” said Ms. Eaton. “I think they did a great job of interpreting Tim’s overall vibe.”
“I think there’s an element of humor to Tim’s songs,” she added. “He floats in and out of some serious themes, but “I Lost My Girl to Jesus” says it all, with great wit to it. It was a joy to work with.”
Take, for example, these lines:
“I know there’s some men who would take solace/to lose their girl to a man who fed the poor/but to me the only miracle about it/is that I didn’t beat this guy with a 2X4.”
Mr. Motz listened to a lot of new wave and classic rock growing up, filling his ears with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Bob Dylan and Big Country. He didn’t really listen to any country music other than Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
Then he heard John Prine for the first time and he was blown away.
“His music was a revelation to me,” he said. “I couldn’t believe he was allowed to write those things about those topics.”
This album owes a lot to Mr. Motz’s adoption of John Prine’s wit.
From the opening track about a “Hot Bartender, (Hot bartender you know you bring me nuts/Hot bartender I wish I had the guts) to a woman’s ode to her “Mail Order Man” (The girls all think I met him on a blind date/they think that he had swept me off my feet/they don’t know he showed up in a big crate/with plenty of air and just enough to eat), to a sarcastic take on getting high in “Green Balloons,” every song packs a verbal punch.
Mr. Motz was musing one day about the kind of yearning love songs that women get away with singing, and wondering what he could write about to make it ok for a man to sing such a song.
Finally, he found a topic that would break mens’ hearts, and it’s called “When the Aliens Came and Bought Up All the Beer.”
“Tom Waits is one of my personal favorites,” said Mr. Motz. “I don’t hear his influence in my songs, but other people do. When I get stuck on someone, I try to write like them. Sometimes when I’m listening to Leonard Cohen, my songs will start sounding like Leonard Cohen.”
While Mr. Motz has become an adequate guitarist since he began writing songs, he knows he doesn’t have the chops to play lead. And he still insists that he doesn’t plan to sing. But he wants to keep releasing more of his material, and he wants to play it live around here.
He got hung up for a while on Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup,” and realized that there is still work for great songwriters in Nashville.
“I’d have no problem having the pros do my songs,” he said. “You’ll never run out of fun bar songs.”
Ms. Eaton agreed that there’s still a market for songwriters.
“Performance of one’s own original material has its own set of challenges,” she said. “A lot of his songs are sellable, but the songwriter side of things, I don’t think anybody’s cracked the code on that.”
“What’s interesting to me about this project is the power of creativity,” she added. “It doesn’t matter where we are in our lives, we have the power to express ourselves. That’s intoxicating.”
“I’m looking for people that want a brotherhood that’s serious, where we’re all united and look out for each other,” he said.