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What John McCauley Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Brian Lima; Illustration:Joe McKendry

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and electric toothbrush. We asked John McCauley, whose band Deer Tick released its newest studio album, Emotional Contracts, last week, about his favorite pencils for songwriting, the do-everything oil he stole from his wife, and nine gallons’ worth of a hangover remedy.

I just follow the directions on the bottle. It says, “Use every day, all over.” I put it on my face a lot. I use it as a shave oil, sometimes as aftershave. In the winter, it’s great. I have really hairy arms and legs, and my clothes stick, like from static electricity. And that oil makes me smell good and gets rid of some of the static.

My wife, Vanessa Carlton, ordered it. This was a few years ago, and I kind of took over the bottle because she stopped using it, then I started buying my own. She comments on how great the skin on my face looks, so she’s seeing a difference. I really just love the way it smells more than anything else about it. You’re getting a little lavender and geranium and sage and palo santo in it. It smells like being outside.

I wanted to go back to straight-razor shaving because with all the disposable stuff, there’s so much plastic junk that goes along with it, and I don’t think those products last as long as they’re purported to, you know? With this, I can get a straight-razor-quality shave without having to travel with a straight razor and a strop and all that stuff. It’s really easy to use; the learning curve was pretty slight. Anybody who wants to switch to shaving with a razor like that, though, I would recommend adding a little aloe-vera gel to your aftershave routine until your skin gets used to it. It’s as good as going to the barbershop if you do it right.

[Editor’s Note: Gillette no longer makes the exact model of double-edge safety razor that John owns and uses. It has been replaced by this King C. Gillette safety razor, which offers the same close shave with a different handle.]

I love Gatorade, but I’ve already expressed my disinterest in creating unnecessary amounts of plastic junk. So I got into the powder, which is great because I don’t have to make it as sweet as normal Gatorade. I can get even more mileage out of it. I’m known to enjoy a drink or two. So what can I say? It’s a great hangover remedy. I’ve got at least nine gallons’ worth of it sitting in a tub above the fridge. It’s nice to have on hand because sometimes you wake up with the hammer in your head and the last thing you want to do is leave the house and go buy a Gatorade. Nice to have a little powdered Gatorade on hand at all times. I have put some in baggies for travel. It’s never been mistaken for drugs or anything.

I love this bottle. I have it in all the sizes it comes in. It’s minimal plastic, and it works as advertised. My drinks stay cold in there for hours and hours and hours. Super-easy to wash, either by hand or throw it in the dishwasher. The lids are interchangeable with all the bottles. I just find them to be very convenient, and they’re just my favorite water bottle that I’ve tried. I switched over to a YETI as my daily water bottle probably about two years ago when my old Aladdin bottle that I had for ten years broke. I think I have four or five sizes and then I have the koozies they make for cans. We have the wine-tumbler thing, we’ve got all kinds of YETI stuff in the house. I’m drinking my iced coffee out of a YETI glass right now.

These are the best pencils. That’s what it says on the box, too. I like when simple things are done extremely well. You can buy a whole box for not that much money, so you can lose a few of them; if a couple of them break, it’s not a big deal. I actually like to snap them in half and sharpen all the ends. Half a pencil and a small spiral notepad and just keep it in my pocket. The way I write songs, I don’t really sit down and write a whole song. It comes in small pieces, so if I have a quick idea that I want to jot down, I think that’s much quicker than unlocking my phone and finding my Notes app. It’s got to be a Ticonderoga. It just feels right in my hand.

Classic. A lot of other companies claim they make superior products when it comes to capo-ing your instrument. But I don’t see what all the fuss is about. The Kyser capo works well, and it’s cheap and reliable. I’ve lost them, but I’ve never broken one, and I really can’t say the same about some capos that cost four times as much.


These are technically in-ear monitors, which is just a fancy way of saying earbuds. You have to go to the audiologist and get a mold of your ear so they fit them to you. I started using them just onstage because I was kind of blowing up my hearing and wasn’t able to hear what key the songs were in. So I can have an overall much lower volume going into my ear and have a really clean mix where I can hear everything I need to.

They also double as regular headphones. They have a Bluetooth attachment you can use with them. I think one of the best ways for people to just leave you alone on an airplane is to have some really great-looking headphones on. So if you don’t want to be bothered, you can just put in your Ultimate Ears. It just looks like, All right, don’t talk to that guy. It might be ill advised, only because you could lose them or they could break. But over the years, I’ve got a little collection of backup pairs.

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What John McCauley Can’t Live Without