One evening I was scrolling through the depths of YouTube when I came across a video of Malala Yousafzai. She was being interviewed shortly after accepting her Noble Peace Prize and the reporter asked, “If you saw them again, what would you say to the two members of the Taliban who tried to kill you?”
She paused and thought for a moment before her reply. “I would thank them, because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I certainly wouldn’t have the platform I do now to talk about female education and youth empowerment.” I thought this was such an exquisite example of blaming responsibly. Every act has a relational impact on one’s self, and if we are to blame someone for something terrible, we must also give them credit for the awkward and beautiful flowers that grow from that garden. I wanted to write a song that was a letter directly to one’s perpetrator but could also be scanned down as a love song — as they all are.
Early on in the music production with Ryan Hommel (Amos Lee, Heather Maloney), I kept seeing a Roller Derby team skating around in my head. It was an emotional anchor to keep the track fun and playful but also violent and physical, elements that all felt true to Malala’s transformation of trauma to gratitude. I’m so happy to say that no one is skating around in my head anymore. In fact, the fine members of the Albany All-Stars Roller Derby team generously skated on camera for us and we made a dope-ass music video!
Grief, love, transformation, obsession, creation. These are not fixed places I pass through. They are as temporary & cyclical as the seasons. Time in these stages is not something counted as it is guided. Like the burnt ember of maple leaves falling to the pavement each year. I too let myself go in pieces.
I wrote “Stages” shortly after getting married. Perhaps it was the power of ritual or the power of our community, but we felt lifted up to a new place after the ceremony. For weeks after I had a difficult time relating to anyone other than my wife. Everything had changed. I remember standing in the grocery store buying milk and suddenly what was once a chore had the nobility of companionship attached to it. A year and a half in, I’m not always floating high in the clouds of the dairy section, but I know how to get there and having been there before, I know it’s a real place. A stage of love that is limitless and without ego or circumstance. Getting there is now a daily practice of trying to give myself away first.
I wrote this song to remind myself that no matter the country, the climate, the terrain or incline, perhaps the best medicine for your heart is a long journey.
Spring is finally here! A wonderful reminder that we are seeds in the ground reaching towards the sun. This past year has been filled with many new adaptations, learning, and growth. Some days I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for being able to travel & make music (while having others appreciate it) and other days I’m overwhelmed by this music industry and my place in it. One thing I know for certain is that sharing my art with you makes me feel useful and I want to do more of that.
This leads me to the introduction of a new format I’m very excited about and hoping you’ll join me.
Patreon is a model similar to your local CSA. Just like farmer, artists need ongoing, reliable support “akin to a salary” to “make it” in the real world. Since the beginning of time, artists have always needed to have patrons to support their work. The internet and micropayments are making the future of sustainable art possible.
By becoming my patron, you become a part of my ongoing artistic process. There are many things I make that don’t get released commercially and many ideas that either get left on the cutting room floor or evolve into bolder and braver songs. I want to hear what you think of new ideas as they happen. I want to create a sustainable community with you where we listen, feel, laugh, and evolve together. I value my $1 patrons just as much as my $150 patrons. Every dollar goes back into creating & putting out the best work I can and every damn dollar counts. I look forward to you joining me here & communicating with you more frequently & intimately.
Last weekend, I was driving through the white mountains of New Hampshire when the falling flurries began to turn into a blizzard. My knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as I realized I needed to stop for gas. I refilled at the top of the mountain and noticed how the sideways light made the snow look like stars. Continuing, it felt like I was driving the Millennium Falcon, but at 10 MPH. The snow swooshing over my car’s airstream. Even in pockets of whiteout, I could feel my wheels lock into the pattern of someone else’s path along the road like a trail of ghosts guiding me to the valley. It was a blissful hour of very slow driving. I hope you are finding a bit of winter’s magic & of course taking care of yourself.
I am currently prairie bound. Back out on the road today and en route to Tulsa, Oklahoma to kick off this tour at the Woody Guthrie Center on Friday. We’ve got a show in Norman, Oklahoma (just outside of OKC) this Sunday, two shows in Kansas and then a week of dates throughout Colorado (Fort Collins, Denver, Colorado Springs, & Pueblo). I can’t wait to see you there!
Thanks to The Independent Music Awards for three more awards for Birds! Best singer-songwriter album, best song (“Like I Do”), and best production (Seth Glier & Steve Lunt). Congrats to all the nominees.
I’ve returned home safe and sound from a very long but extremely fulfilling tour. Thanks to all the venues, sound men & women, folks who hung up flyers, and the fabulous audience members who supported us the whole way through. It felt so good to finally take these songs from Birds out on the road. You are the best for being there!
Along the tour we had several live performance tapings and I’m happy to say they are both out this week. First is our performance on Mountain Stage via NPR Music. We also passed through Ann Arbor to chat with Rob Reinhart and play a few tunes for his Acoustic Cafe show. Both are syndicated and you can catch them on your hometown station or check them out online.
I’ll be sticking around home for the holidays and to get myself in the spirit I’ve teamed up with Concert Window for a special “Home for the Holidays” concert next Wednesday at 9PM EST. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Concert Window, it’s a site that allows you to watch a performance in the comfort of your living room. Thanks Internet! Tickets are pay what you can. There might even be a few surprise guests and songs.
When people ask me what I do for a living, the best way I know how to answer them is by explaining to them why I do it.
I’m a songwriter and I believe that the way in which we tell a story ultimately has the power to change the story. I think that when someone lets a song into their heart it becomes a spirit. To me, songs are mediators between the spiritual and sensual world and I think that this world is in desperate need of them.
Today I’m very excited to release what I’ve been calling Birds into the world. It’s a collection of 11 songs that I’ve written and recorded by myself in my apartment over the past year. Some songs are about the death of my brother while others are about the life I see all around me since he passed. Some are about the birds I’ve become friends with in Massachusetts and many are my best attempt to say something useful about the time we live in.
So now the time has come where I am asking you to listen and if one of these songs magically finds its way inside of you please take care of that spirit, because it’s a part of me too.
“If you walk across my camera I will flash the world your story.” ― Woody Guthrie
Each summer I’m fortunate enough to spend a weekend in Okema, Oklahoma, the birthplace of Woody Guthrie. It’s a simple town with tremendous people. The faint smell of strawberry malted milkshakes from Sooner’s Drug Store is always in the air. There is something about being in Woody’s birthplace that feels like visiting a chiropractor: as a songwriter, I go to get my spine realigned.
It was here, three years ago, where I first overheard a family talk about “getting 2-3 earthquakes a day” as if it was commonplace. I inquired for more information and they explained to me how fracking had been the only revenue source for many families in the area and how they were beginning to see the negative effects of that. I found myself getting angry as they told me stories about cows dying in the field, water being contaminated, and of course putting their house back together after an earthquake. However, I was confused that this family didn’t seem as angry as I was. Then I heard the grandfather say, “No one should be allowed to buy the earth.” I began to understand that the pain of being voiceless and complicit at the same time overwhelms any other emotion.
This song “Water On Fire” started in that moment. My heart is grateful to finally put it out in the world today with Elmore Magazine.
I’m very excited to release today a performance video of my rendition of “For What It’s Worth.” I first performed this classic one year ago in Oklahoma, and given our current political climate, the words seem to ring truer than ever before. Check it out premiering on The Boot here and please share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.