Today I am a strange spiral, sitting in a Phoenix hotel lobby sipping strong coffee and staring off into space. With my Silver Lake square on Sunset suddenly stripped of all the trappings of home and my brown baby grand, keeper of so many secrets and stirrer of so many spirits, on its way to its next adventure, I find myself spinning, gathering speed, ready to slingshot into a future beyond speculation. Segovia starts in the same key in my headphones as the Jose Gonzalez record on the hotel speakers, and the universe reminds me again to breathe deep and let it all unfold.
After last year’s Andrew McMahon summer tour with OAR and Allen Stone (all of whom have amazing new music on the way), I felt drawn to the fall in the northeast and wound my way back into the changing of the leaves, the year’s songs rattling in my bones. Meanwhile Jer Coons was tearing up the floors in his Park Hill Studio back home, and upon my return we, along with our co-producer and engineer Eric Maier and our spirit guide/construction expert Nelson Lime, set about kicking down walls and installing windows, moving pianos, painting, drinking all night, stumbling the streets and ultimately emerging with a record once the trees had all been worn bare to welcome winter. It’s called “I Am a Guest” and seems to sum it all up, for now. More news to come soon on that front.
As 2014 beckoned so did the warmth of the west, and I wandered back to my small bootleg studio to again share my wall with the dancers and to set up shop for some recording and rehearsing. I woke up the morning of my return and cut off all my hair to put an end to an era and felt the year truly begin, albeit a few days later than the calendar would insist.
I’ve been grateful to barely notice or quantify the passing of time, the palm trees swaying fast and the billboards a blur as though seen through the window of a speeding train. So many opportunities to play, write and record with some of my favorite singers and songwriters have kept me a willing passenger on a wild ride.
I just finished tracking keys for the upcoming LP from the Damnwells - some of the most simultaneously beautiful and badass songs I’ve had the pleasure of playing on. Do yourself a favor pre-order a copy here.
I’m also excited for everyone to hear the upcoming White Sea record I played a small part in last year while between McMahon tours- the wonderful Morgan Kibby of M83 has created a massive landscape of dreamy arena-sized synth-rock with this batch of songs, and the single and its glorious accompanying video should give you a taste of what’s to come.
Beyond that I’ve also been playing some music with my friends Genevieve and Chris of Company of Thieves for Genevieve’s new solo project. Keep an eye on her website for more info- the new songs are huge and this girl is such an inspiration as a writer, a performer and a spirit.
Some more new music is in the works with Andrew and our bandmates for some more exciting projects, but for now I’m on the road with my old pal and frequent collaborator Erin “Syd” Sidney playing with ARIA award winning Australian songbird/shredmaster Mia Dyson on a string of southwest dates that will ultimately lead us to the horrifyingly amazing circus that is SXSW. One of the best singers and guitarists I’ve ever heard, and she’s got a new full-length on the way that sounds like Bonnie Raitt snuck in and cut a record with the Heartbreakers during the sessions for Damn the Torpedoes. The new single is up exclusively on Billboard this week and the record is blazing its way through a crowd funding campaign with my good buddies over at PledgeMusic.
Now it’s on to Tucson - check Mia’s tour dates and come check out a show if we’re going to be in your neck of the woods.
Chief, the spirits have got me-
Friday morning, fifteen miles from where I sat at Joe’s bar, picking out bits and pieces of Andrew’s records at the piano, the unfathomable unfolded.
A text from Tiffany told me to turn on the news and I expected amusement, forgetting mass media’s other stock in trade, tragedy.
I stopped my studies.
I stood and stared.
From Cavell I’ve learned the most extraordinary to be the ordinary, and from him I’ve heard the name for the sound I always sought- the hum of the world. In people and the beauty we are capable of creating, I find it every day.
Friday, I felt that hum, the center, the core of what it means and what it’s worth and what responsibility it entails to be alive on earth, compromised. Static for a second, sickness since. There is a town full of people who will feel this forever, but it hurts just to be human at a time like this.
Now I sit across from my grandfather and he asks me, “Why?” and I can’t think a thing but to say that we’re all too intent on watching and being watched. I close my eyes and I feel each part of my body simply as one tiny piece of one tiny piece and I know that the only thing that keeps the whole thing together is that each part is as important as the next. The whole is greater, more miraculous, more extraordinary, because the parts are each fulfilled by how ordinary and integral they are. There is no desire to be more, to be seen in hopes that celebrity will cease the search for a solution.
So today I resolve not to seek.
Today I will sing songs that sound to me like the best way I could describe the sun breaking through the clouds for just a second. Today I will be thinking about twenty-seven former futures. I have no interest in investigating- there is no information that will answer the question that’s on so many minds.
“The first thing you do is you gasp for breath,” my grandfather says as I listen as best as I can to two dialogues, his and my own running internal commentary. “You wake up and find out what’s happening.” He’s talking about when you feel as though something’s not right inside your body, but he could just as well be talking about birth, and he could be talking about death. In the end he’s just talking about being aware of being alive- inhaling deeply and knowing that as long as we are open and mindful, it will be alright, no matter what, because we all just happen to be here.
I’ve got a new batch of songs that didn’t seem to fully fall together until I stared at them this weekend, but as I squint and try the only thing that I usually find helps me understand what’s happening, I realize they’re all really about how short this experience is, and how simple. Made, spent. Semi-permanent. Between your beginning and your end, instead of thinking of how best to be seen in the midst of all of this sadness, there is solace in sitting back, calmly, and simply seeing that there is no beginning or end. Calm and quiet as I accept how Dan described it, “Joy at the start, fear in the journey, joy in the coming home.”
But then Caroline’s new record’s in the back of my mind, creeping through my headphones singin, “Take what all you want from me, I will not be afraid,” and I think of how much help we all need, some far more than others, just to remember every day that it’s not so bad. I think of a society that says to sit still, shut up and do as your told and wait for an explosion before even starting any type of conversation, and I think of the hum. I think, “so long as I got that spirit in me I will not be afraid.”
My heart is with everyone today and I hope that we can finally talk about what’s really at hand here. For now I will do all I know how to do- think of the soul and the spirit of this whole strange experiment inside this little angel that really did sit there on the dashboard of the van that summer, captured by Jeff Fry’s camera, and sing.
Tickets are here for the Mercury Lounge show tonight - I’ll be on at 6:30 sharp and would love to sing with you.