In the mean time, check out a few of the projects I’ve worked on over the last year. All of these artists are going it indie these days. So make sure, if you like what you hear, to drop by their neighborhood and lend them your support.
We made it! Margaret and I have officially started The Hymns of Christmas Tour. So far we’ve stopped through Denver, Portland and Seattle and are now headed back east for a few days. You may have noticed in our schedule that we are playing at a variety of venues. We’ll find ourselves in clubs, theaters and churches so diverse that we are certain to be kept on our toes. So far I am lovin’ it!
The hard work of the past few months is finally paying off and we are starting to have some real fun! I gotta say, after a couple of years of playing solo, it’s a blast to get the “stage telepathy” going with Maggie B. There’s nothing like pouring it all into a song, looking up and sharing a knowing grin of joy. It’s a kind of joy that let’s you put your whole heart and guts into a song you’ve sung your whole life and still sing it like you just discovered it. Even better is looking up amazed at what’s going on and sharing that moment with the audience. I was beside myself last night – Maggie was floating some outrageous melody through the room and I locked eyes with a gal in the front row…We both just nodded and grinned with an unsaid “wow!”
I am already rueing the fact that we only have 11 more shows left. How can this be?! After we finished last night, I could have done it all again. This tour is one of the most unique and meaningful experiences I’ve had in a very, very long time. We’re making some serious music, pulling a few surprises, and making memories. Come join in the fun! See you there!
There’s nothing quite like invoking images of burning Yule logs and eggnog while melting in the Tennessee summer heat and swatting fat mosquitos. It’s was difficult to not feel a little silly while wearing shorts and a tank top, listening to Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas”. Couple that with the fact that Christmas music, as a general rule makes me think of muzak, which makes me think of shopping malls, which makes me think of crowds of shopping zombies, which reminds me “what am I gonna do for everyone’s presents this year?!,” which stresses me out, and then someone insists on offering me a free sample of a stale piece of fruitcake, I’m hungry, I eat the sliver, I get thirsty & need a coffee, “how ’bout gingerbread latte?” I walk into Starbucks and wait…more Christmas muzak!…Wait! How come they’re not playing me?!
I’ve always been a bit nervous about contributing to the pantheon of holiday music. Who wants to risk dethroning one of the Top 50 Worst Christmas records of all time? I mean – I love music. I love Christmas, but pitfall of Christmas music is that everybody knows the songs. As an artist, the immediate temptation is to do something so different and unique that you end up mutilating something that was simple and beautiful. Thanks to albums like “Yuletide Disco” & “Christmas with Kazoo” (as in, a whole record with kazoo as the primary instrument (of torture!)), I’ve been hesitant to be accused of making yet another clanger.
All that being said, it’s no wonder that it took a good friend and inspiring artist like Margaret Becker to entice me into some holiday cheer. Maybe it was the Pinot, but before I knew it, the simple exercise of two musicians sitting around and plunking out some old Christmas hymns turned into something really special. With teeny budget, a little gear, and a lot of moxie, our little adventure turned into an actual record!
Margaret and I have sought to love these old hymns as if we’d heard them for the first time. Applying strict guidelines of simplicity, we vowed to honor the original tunes yet not stifle our style. Somewhat ironic to our lives as solo artists, each of us found ourselves fighting to see who could be part of the landscape and not the focal point. But perhaps the most surprising to me, was a sense of wonder about the actual story of Christ’s birth. Crazy what all that singing of new life, joy and renewed hope can do for a soul.
I can be downright cynical when it comes to the commercial trappings of the holidays. Sometimes I fight so hard – judging the chintzy little snow globe before giving it a shake and imagining the world inside. I could have had yet another Christmas where I ran through the mall as fast as possible, crossing off items on a list in a materialistic grab for happiness and praise…but then this record happened and I remembered something I often act too cool to remember: Hope. The thrill of it helps this weary girl rejoice!
Merry Early Christmas!
Ok music lovers, art fans and all-around supporters of creativity, times are changing as I’m certain you’ve noticed. Thanks to the web, you can keep up with your favorite artists, their passions, their inspirations and projects as they happen. You can customize your information flow to the odd concert announcement or you can hang on every word…literally EVERY word!
But there’s another shift in interaction that has become invaluable and that’s the transition from “fan” to “supporter” of the arts. While it’s no secret that physical sales for musicians have dramatically decreased and digital theft has been crippling, the up side is that we’ve started to realize that it is difficult to stop human expression and a bit easier to kill commerce. The reality is that if we want to remain inspired by creative expression, then we must find a way to directly financially support our creators. One of the ways this is happening right now is through organizations like Kickstarter.
The concept is simple enough. You pay for your record before it is made, thereby ensuring that the artist will be able to complete the project. I could bore you to tears on how helpful this is when having to manage your craft as a business, but I won’t unless you beg. What I’m guessing you want is more music, more passion, more links to art that inspire your soul.
I’ve been so inspired by watching others create, that I’m starting to get a little itchy. Who knows, maybe I’ll start “kicking it” soon?
Here are a couple of projects I’ve not only donated my time to, but I’ll also be chipping in a few bucks for the finished work:
MERCYLAND: Hymns for the Rest of Us
Produced by Phil Madeira
Featuring: Emmylou Harris, The Civil Wars, Buddy Miller, Matt Kearney and more..
All I can say is if you haven’t met Phil yet, you should and his writing on this project is a great place to start. I don’t know what more I can say except letting the title speak for itself.
Let Your Light Shine
Produced by Hancock Productions
Wheaton College alumni Markie Hancock and Stephen Henderson have joined forces to tell the story of what life is like for LGBT students as they funnel through evangelical colleges like their alma mater. For many, the strain of silence was broken when those who braved to stand and tell their story became the voice of OneWheaton.
Far away from the public eye, I long contemplated the importance or significance of this fact being available for public knowledge. People accused, asked, wondered and hoped for a long time whether or not I would ever answer the question: Are you gay?
I seriously considered the idea that it really isn’t anyone’s business. I am who I am. I love who I love. What difference does it make whether or not people know? My partner, friends and family, and my faith have been the backbone to affirming in me a sense of pride, responsibility and compassion that I have always sought to reflect. Still, I can say it’s very strange to consider whether or not to issue a press release regarding my sexual orientation. So the pressing question was: What difference does it make?
For me, the difference maker was one of personal integrity. I am gay and that is the truth. I wanted to honor not only myself, but those who know me best. By believing in my own journey enough to claim it, I found that who I am is not written by the pen of others, but how I personally take responsibility for my life. By speaking aloud that I am gay, I soon began to realize the impact of that truth was not only personal, it has been powerful for others as well.
It is always a test of courage and self-worth to share yourself with another person. Perhaps that is why one of the greatest offenses to the human spirit is silencing the voice of another. Today, you may discover a friend, your child, a fellow church member or co-worker identifies as LGBT. Today, you may be asked to “out” yourself when you reveal how you feel about them. What difference does it make to you?
A cheeky video blog where I drop in on Liberty University
My answer usually sounds something like this: Do music: Listen. Create. Play. Share it now, worry about selling it later. (Seems like a better answer than: uh, I dunno?)
If I had never fallen in love with ‘doing’ music even when no one was listening, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be playing today.
At the risk of sounding trite, I think, so often, we put our fullest dreams in the cart and put it straight in front of the horse. My take has always been that music is a gift. In and of itself music can and should be enjoyed simply for the sake of it regardless of the employment possibilities. Thousands upon thousands of musicians are out there plugging away regardless of hope for income, and purely for the sheer joy of what playing/performing does for the human spirit.
Honor the music, honor your creative spirit, honor the listener…Listen. Create. Play.
Nowadays, you need go no further than your own computer to record your songs, your local coffee house to play them, or a click of the mouse to listen to others. If the only measure of success that we attach to music is one of popular recognition and marketability, then I suspect that we’ll miss the full purpose of joy and deep meaning that drew us in to listen and sing in the first place.
We have to water our creativity to make it grow. To inspire as well as be inspired.
I can truly say, it is has been an honor to be a small part of that process. I pay homage to the artists that have moved me to create. I am humbled when I am marked as one who has inspired others. Honestly, I don’t know how I got here, I’m just glad to be here. I get to meet some of the most fantastic people and incredible musicians.
Over the last year, I’ve accumulated quite the stack of music from indie artists/bands, local acts, at-home musicians, vagabonds and fans. You’re out there ‘doing it’ and I’m loving it! It’s inspiring to be reminded that music is just simply a wonderful thing to be able to do.
So in honor of all these amazing folks, I thought I’d share some of what’s going on outside of the mainstream far from the maddening hordes.
Thanks for sharing your recordings with me. I’ve enjoyed listening…
MEET THE INDIES
Jacob Jeffries Band took the opening spot for one of my Florida gigs last year. Professional caliber musicians by any measure, Jacob and his crew are excellent performers. Jacob is a crafty song writer with hooks that last for days. I walked away with a copy of Wonderful . My only complaint is that my recording is a CD and not vinyl. Seriously, this is a classic sounding record I would describe as Billy Joel meets Ben Folds. But make no mistake, Jacob is his own man. Watch out for tunes like “Mr. Weatherbee Freeman” and “Flashlight “. Both are super catchy with romping choruses and a vintage flair that never gets old.
Lorna Bracewell I don’t remember how her record Flowers on the Chains got into my hands (sorry if we actually met Lorna…) but I’m digging it. It’s SO super hard to be an original guitar-weilding, ass- kicking chick songwriter come rocker, but Lorna makes her way without any need to apologize. Begrudgingly, I’ll mention Melissa Etheridge, Joan Jett and Ani DeFranco just so you’ll click through and listen…but then, as fast as you can, never mention their names again…and just say “Lorna!” If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get a chance to see her live sometime when I’m in Florida.
Trees Leave unites Wyatt Espalin and Cobi Ferguson. Their indie recording The Gospel of Hurt is an honest fusion of the past and the present. Part country, bluegrass, folk and rock…I love this record! This is a work of art, modern southern men with all their joys and sorrows inexorably tied to the past. Wyatt & Cobi seem held by the haunting chains of mandolin strings, cursed by the devil in the electric guitar and released by God in the bowing of the violin…What’s better, is that these guys are local to Nashville…which means I get to see them live!
Share some of your favorite indies in the comments section. (click on the blog heading)
For my nearly twenty years in being in and around conversations of faith, I can tell you first hand, that it is easy to assume that Christianity is an exercise of separation rather than one of integration and expansion. There are points along the continuum of faith practice that incorporate these qualities at some point, to helpful purpose as well as devastating exclusion. There are times when separating ourselves out from the whole is valuable and life-giving, but also a time when we must return. It is the strangest irony that separation can create heartache one time and yet be the greatest release into freedom and self-identity the next. …But eventually, we will seek return to community. In our return, this same irony seems to hold true. Sometimes we return to great rejoicing and community wholeness, the next we are the very fly in the ointment that seems to prove the need for distance.
Perhaps it is the artist in me that is familiar in watching these roles play out. The predictability of our human ways, acted out, for better and for worse, give insight to the beautiful narrative of our existence. More so, I am ceaselessly inspired when in our troubles and short-comings, we refuse to live shamefully, but rather with hope and courage. When, in our victories, we live humbly and charitably, sharing our bounty with others.
For all these reasons, I found it an honor to be asked to write the forward for RAW: A Poetic Journey. This inaugural offering from NuWine Press, in many ways, mirrors the conversations I have every single day out on the road. Ordinary people living out extraordinary lives. From resting in moments of silence and darkness to exploding to the surface with full strength and joy.
It’s a little book, an easy read, but trust me, there’s a lifetime in it. You can cruise through it if you want, but if you care to take the time, it will be by your side for a good, long while. Believe me, when I say, there are few books like this. No one here is trying to sell you anything, or trying to create some story to please others. These writings are ‘raw’ indeed. Unshielded, vulnerable, celebratory and often harrowing…it’s what we all think when we doubt, when we don’t believe, when we don’t care, when we care so deeply that we think we might split in two. More than that, these are vignettes of those willing to be put back together.
Whilst sitting lakeside, sunning myself on some larger rocks, I discovered I was not the only one enjoying the weather.