Warmest Holiday Greetings all!
It’s been a great year. It was a blast getting to see you all out on the road while touring the Set Me Free record and the Facing The Music book. There were a lot of great chats that went along with some memorable concerts, so thank you all so much!
What stood out was how many of your drove some decent distances to see a show. This spring we’ll be working on coming to some closer cities as well as add in the ones where we know you’re already rocking out. So stay tuned!
This year, of course, Margaret Becker and I are camping out by the fireplace and doing our annual online Christmas concert. I’ve already whipped up the eggnog (spiked, of course!), baked our cookies and even I pulled out the ole trumpet. So make sure and join us for a great holiday evening!
The Hymns of Christmas record is available here. So make sure you get yours so you'll be ready to sing along! And, don't forget, we've got custom ornaments as well. They're perfect for stocking stuffers and trimming your rockin' tree!
Here’s wishing you all the most wonderful of Holidays. Merry Christmas, friends … and a very Happy New Year!
I’m about to hit the road for the last shows of 2015! I hope to see all you folks in the Southeast, New Orleans, and Texas this month. See the tour dates on the shows page here.
See you out there!
Now, for your viewing pleasure, may I announce the music video release of "Neosho."
As distant memories are prone to do, they can grow hazy, yet they can live on with an emotional potency that keeps them from fully fading. Occasionally, we may be blessed with glimpses that refresh them into clarity and allow them to remain with us a little longer than we imagined. Many thanks to photographer and director Fairlight Hubbard for such a gift as this. By far, this is one of the most touching visual realizations of a song I've ever had the privilege to collaborate on.
Vulnerable and reminiscent, now you know what I see in my head some days when I'm lost in a song…
I'm sure I'll be driving over a few rivers just like Neosho as I make my way through the Midwest. I do hope you will join me on the journey! Check the dates here. Meet me there so we can swap stories of the roads we've taken in our coming together.
As always, it’s your enduring enthusiasm that has kept me going all these years. So why not celebrate it from the beginning by performing the entire Kansas record? After so many requests, I’ve taken the plunge. So tomorrow, August 20, it’s on!
Many have you have been requesting these songs at recent concerts and I’ve shied away, simply because I didn’t have the confidence that I could even remember how to play them. Not surprising, considering I haven’t even hummed some of the songs in over 15 years!
And yes, it’s true, in order to practice I have had to Google some cheats on a few, but once I put my fingers to the frets, it all (ok, most of it) comes pouring back.
There have been a few surprises along the way as well. For example, I rarely performed “Visions” due to its length and timing challenges. While the I find myself critiquing my songwriting from 20 years ago, I find (much to my surprise) that the guitar work on this record is as easy as it’s ever been.
I’ve got a lot more to say about the experience, but I’ll save it for the concert. I’ll talk as much about the playing, the songwriting and the spirituality of the record as much as you egg me on. As usual, I’ll have a chat moderator, so make sure to chime in with those questions about the music you’ve been dying to ask all these years…
As an added bonus, Derek Webb is going to drop in and play a few of his own to get us all warmed up.
This is going to be so much fun!
PS… If you can, make sure and buy your tickets prior to the broadcast day. This insures that we know what our technical load is going to be and our host, ConcertWindow is prepared to offer the appropriate support. This means a better viewing experience for all!
Woohoo! I'm coming to California this weekend!
It's been a while, so I'm super stoked to be back!
And here's a little JK trivia for ya… LA's Hotel Cafe was the very first venue I played after my hiatus. My knees were shaking so bad, I swear I sounded like a bleating goat! I was so nervous. I was convinced I'd bomb. But as we know, everything turned out fabulous and now, I'm back to my old tricks. No nervous knees this time! It's going to be brilliant.
And let's not forget San Francisco either! Hotel Utah is a new venue for me, so I'm looking forward to making new friends. Let's show them how we roll… See you there!
In further news, I’m heading west to California, Texas, Washington and Oregon! There are limited seats in many of the venues, so make sure and grab tickets while you can.
Until then, here’s a live performance of “Neosho” for you to whet your whistle!
Tomorrow I’ll be doing something I honestly never imagined likely or
possible. I’ll be performing during CMA week here in Nashville alongside
some of the most talented and very “out” artists the South has ever seen at the Concert for Love and Acceptance.
Country music veteran Ty Herndon and GLAAD are hosting one of the
most visible shows of support for the LGBTQ community during one of the
most publicized weeks of the year here in The ‘Ville and it’s a big deal.
(And Crystal Gayle will be there, performing “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes
Blue.” What an all-around classic!)
On that note, I’d like to take a personal moment to express my gratitude
to you. Often times, we artists (and allies) are credited with “courage”
for risking to share our truth but the story is only half complete. For
every day that I get to do what I what I love and was born to do, it
happens because I have thousands behind me lifting me up. So, in
appreciation of National Pride Month, I’d like to personally thank you for
your support. Not only does it mean that I have a place to play, but it
paves the way for so many others to continue on their journey because they
can see the possibilities. Whether you have realized it or not, the fact
that you have stuck around for all these years, through my “thick and
thin,” is in part why at this week’s concert it is even possible for some
LGBTQ artists to fully chase their passion of music with their full
Deeply, thank you. You make me so very proud to know you.
15 years back, I was both freaked out and flattered, stepping out of my car onto the red carpet and into the press gauntlet for that year’s Grammys. As strange, wonderful and rare such experiences are for we “less grand” artists, it was a moment that crept into my confidence and left me saying: “Yes, I have and can accomplish great things.” From that moment on I would be forever tagged as “Grammy nominated” and that’s a pretty cool thing.
For a moment in time, I got to be in, around and have my name in the mix of some the most widely recognizable names in the history of music. That year, U2 delivered “Beautiful Day”, Eminem & Elton John shared the stage together and Madonna schooled us all about what it means to be a modern day pop star. It was overwhelming to witness, to be able to pretend I was a peer in some weird way, but I couldn’t help but recognize that I was obviously NOT whatever they were.
Nominated, as I was, for a Christian record, my portion of the ceremonies were off camera, during the light of day, and celebrated with much less enthusiasm than that of the televised broadcast. There are the much less sexy categories like Christian contemporary, spoken word and jazz that are recognized before the real party begins. After getting all gussied up, walking the red carpet, then sitting in the rafters of the Staples Center both fearing and praying of what might happen if my name was called I experienced a bit of a let down coming to understanding my place in the world. Compared to all that I saw around me, I was simple, far from grand, and was left feeling decidedly NOT special. Even if I had picked up a golden gramophone, I still think I would have been just as humbled.
While I was sitting in one of the most expensive dresses I had ever worn and starting to wonder why I bothered…B.B. King’s name was called (pre-telecast) to receive one of the 15 Grammys he would amass over the course of his storied career. One could argue that it would have been acceptable for an old man to send someone in his stead, but he came, sat through all the drooling madness of aspirational stardom and accepted his distinction. His seats were better than mine, but still he had a long way to walk up to the stage and give his speech. Here was a man, who none could debate, was and forever will be among the historical figures of modern American music and yet, there was little more than the momentary applause and another a small statue. There was little grandeur, just a token of appreciation, leaving me to wonder if he spent any time grumbling about having to brave the circus event or if he held any enthusiasm for gaining the recognition yet again.
He’d done this more times than any Madonna or Eminem will most likely ever do. I thought, in comparing his achievements to those in the coming broadcast, if any of those artists even held a candle to this man in terms of talent, or whatever measure of judgment I could think up. To my reckoning, it was B.B. King who deserved the prime time lights and celebration. Yet, he was there, in the pre-broadcast, stuck with the likes of aspiring artists and hundreds of also-rans like myself who wrestled with conflicting feelings of admiration and disappointment. Despite any indignity or slight I might have imagined he could have rightly experienced, he seemed secure in his own skin. He accepted his award with dignity and honor, behaving very much as the man one hopes he would be–soulful, humble and the embodiment of an extraordinary artist who has revealed life through music.
He accepted his award with a quiet pride Kanye West could hardly dream of. He was applauded and deeply appreciated by all, but his reception would be nothing like the coming spectacle. He was unhurried, humble and yet grateful. His speech, though unremarkable in terms of being quotable, gave me a glimpse into a talented man who was more servant than an entrepreneur. His presence and his contributions, though world-changing, are astonishing not merely because of his talent, but because of the humility and earnestness at which he embraced the journey he was called to. For whatever achievements he might be credited, his life seemed to be the act of living the experience rather than accomplishing some sort of musical world domination.
Throughout all of my Grammy experience, I was left feeling shaken. If the award couldn’t be the measure of talent or if recognition isn’t the mark of success, what then was I after? What was the point of my playing, creating or any career ambition knowing that even B.B. King, in all his greatness, is still just a man, who, at best, on occasion was thanked for his work?
I find myself, many years later, reminded, thanks to B.B., that it’s not the awards that I should aspire to, but rather prepare myself for a life of gratitude. The pursuit of any of our callings and the willingness to share our unique gifts with the world will never be fully satisfied by a trophy or a spotlight, but, perhaps upon occasion make for legendary moments all the same. If we are ever lucky enough to find our passions and be safely surrendered to them, may we all be so blessed by recognizing what a gift it is to know that we have received it. What B.B. taught me is that it is not so much talent that lifts us up, but rather it is the story of our “inner man” and character that ultimately defines us.
Thank you B.B. It’s not a Grammy, but sincerely, thank you for showing up that weird day and encouraging me from so far away. Thank you for having lived an example of what I hope at the end of my days will be: having pursued my own calling with abandon, honor and excellence.
R.I.P. Mr. King
Whew! Back home catching my breath from a fun and hectic April. It was loads of fun catching up with everyone at some of my favorite haunts. We played to a lot of packed rooms and had some really great sing-a-long moments to boot! The biggest surprise was selling out our stop in Easton, MD at The Avalon Theatre. The listening room there was fabulous and so were the folks who filled it. Thanks everyone for coming out!
While I’m always looking to make it to a city near you, make sure and check out my online concerts! It’s a great way to catch up, hear some stories and even host an at home listening party if you’re up for it! It’s a fun way to interact, both we me and with other JK fans. The next Concert Window show will be May 14th at 9pm EDT. I’ll be playing the entire Set Me Free album and chatting about how the background behind the songs right from my own living room. Should be a great casual night!
To tide you over until then, here’s a live video of the title track with a full band at my album release show in Nashville.
I’m actually toying with the idea of doing another online concert just for Kansas. It will take some serious practice, as I haven’t played many of the songs in over a decade. If you’re keen, make sure and stop by the Facebook page and let me know if that’s of any interest to you. If you’ve been to a live show recently, you’d know that it takes me some urging to break out the oldies — so urge away!
Until I see ya, yours,
To perk up your ears, check out the live video of my performance of “What Might Have Been” with special guest Robby Hecht. The footage is from our release party at 3rd & Lindsley in Nashville. Good times!