Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017

Where 2017 began and ended with me is beyond my comprehension. It’s proof that one reality cannot recognize another until they are in the same mind. This year began with me exploring a new batch of songs written from being steeped in 80’s and 90’s rock, mostly what I had grown up on, and trying to reconcile the change in process with what I had been writing, recording, and performing for the last nine years of my career.

One thing I did know was this was the time to start a band. Not just an singular accompaniment on a show here or there, but a full fledged unit of creativity. I knew I would be writing the songs and leading it, but these new songs needed some backup. I met my drummer Jarrod through some musical friends who had worked on Wilderness Hymnal in 2015, and upon grabbing coffee and teaching him “Tell Me I’m Alright” and “Man’s Greatest Spaceflight,” I knew he was perfect for what I was aiming for. My first bass player, Jackson was with me until October, when his ambitions to focus on being a chef were becoming more of a full time gig. The three of us had our first show as a full band a town over, where we played songs like “Force of Nature” and “Altar Ego” for the first time at a place called Alley's Alehouse. At the beginning of the year I had just signed to a small local label.



In April, Jackson and I drove up to Wisconsin for a couple shows near Lake Winnebago with my friend Jared (not Jarrod), who plays drums but is chiefly the best electric guitar player I’ve ever known. The shows were sparsely populated, but we had a great time. Katie and then I went on a four day tour through Ohio and Kentucky in May.

Throughout the summer, I was parsing down which songs would go on the yet to be named record, all while Katie and I moved into a house we began renting from her parents, we got our doge Rosie, she began grad school to become a nurse practitioner, and I was finishing up my final season of being a barista in town. Jarrod, Jackson, and I played the Indianapolis Music and Arts Festival and the following week played at the Basement in Nashville, TN for new faces night. We played last, so everyone had left and it was extremely loud, but I was told it was a legendary venue and it was a lot of fun. That weekend we had Jarrod’s friend Caleb play bass and he learned everything quickly and did really well. He soon became a butcher, but saved his butchering until after the show, thankfully.


In late July the album was ready to be recorded and it came down to six really good songs out of the thirty or so I had worked on over the last year and a half. I had Jarrod on drums, one of my best friends Phil on hand percussion (see “Force of Nature”), and Jared (the awesome guitar player) led producing electric guitar sounds with myself and one of my best friends Chris Hickman engineering. The album took a total of four solid days to record and is something I am so very pleased with. We were surprised throughout the entire process about the way it was turning out- like it was shocking and euphoric, even as I listen to it now. I seriously think part of it was luck, but there was so much heart that went into it that I don’t think luck really mattered. My friend Grant went with us to document the entire process, which I am still working on editing into a bite-sized, cholesterol-free documentary, hopefully to be released in early 2018.

Immediately after recording, I quit my barista job, began freelancing, tuning pianos, and looking for work. I also ended my contract with the label I had joined earlier in the year.


I spent the time before release working incessantly to prepare for the release show: reaching out to local radio stations, publications, licensing agents, and booking a tour following the release, designing and mailing posters, scheduling band practices, teaching the songs to those playing at the release show, working on video material, all while continuing to try and make ends meet financially at home.


The release show was a dream. (see video below) I had never felt so much energy in a room with music I had written. 100+ people showed up to a hallway sized vinyl store on the edge of downtown. The songs had become everything I could have ever hoped they would be. I was surrounded by some of the best musicians and friends I had ever had. My parents even surprised me by driving up for the weekend. It was incredible.




After the show came a slump. Some expectations and many endeavors I had worked on for months sequentially fell through. I spent the rest of November looking for work like a depressed madman, taking care of our puppy, cleaning the house, having a string of mediocre job interviews, and waiting.


Tour got pushed back to mid-December. The first show in NC was cancelled due to a winter storm, but we somehow found a coffee shop to play at in KY, so we just spent the weekend there. The storm came the next evening, but we managed to get to Saturday’s venue anyway after some deliberation. The show was cathartic. And loud. I knocked a beer off a speaker in the final jump. The next weekend we had a different drummer and shared a minivan with the band we played the weekend before, and we made our way down to TN. This weekend involved more driving, bigger crowds, a mid song tube amp malfunction, tuning issues, forgotten lyrics, the flu, and straight up and down exhaustion filled in every space. We met so many people, I was affirmed in ways I still cannot process, and we made all lost funds back the first night. We also got to open for a beautiful Appalachian band Mipso, who turned out to be incredible people and musicians I am honored to have shared the stage with.




Now that I’m home and there are no more shows for a few weeks, I’m spent. I learned that leading a band on the road with self booked shows is so damn hard, but very good. Most things in my life right now are slow and heavy. There’s not a lot of free happiness within my reach most of the time. During this intertestamental period of my music, life, career, etc., I am forced to look at a few things. My faith has taken a slow, heavy step toward truth. Two years ago I wasn’t sure God was good. I’m still wrestling with that. I just have a few things I am sure of: God is good because I am alive at all; because he is good, he has led me here and I can trust that; God has surrounded me with exactly what I need: my life, my weaknesses, my joy, and my life posture is a process that ebbs and flows; and my music is something that affects people in ways I will never know, even when it feels utterly pointless.


I fall into the mindset often that if progress isn't evident on a daily basis, then it is lost. I think I'm finding that not only is that not true at all, but life can't be looked at like that. Progress isn't measured in days, months, years, seasons, but maybe in lifetimes. 

I’m taking about month off from music to rest, read Fahrenheit 451, refocus, drink coffee, not drive, learn my lyrics, clean, feel, be with my family, fix my amp, finish assembling a guitar, continue looking for work, and try not to fall apart when it hasn’t come together yet.



I think I’ve been struggling my whole life with determining if all the hard work, miles logged, ideas discarded, facebook invites, posters mailed, voice cracks, sleepless nights, stress, meetings coordinated, job searching, conversations had, CDs sold, plans that have fallen through, plans that don’t go according to plan, plans that never leave the page, and days walking blindly into the future are worth their trouble.

I think it is.

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