This is going to change me forever. I feel like I am in the ocean waiting for a giant wave to crash over me. I see it coming, rushing towards me. I feel as though I am floating above my body watching as it all unfolds. I am caught up in the momentum and I am powerless to the force that is the growing spirit of this project. The energy of the people who are coming together is swelling and I know it will take me over. I am honored. I am blessed. I am scared. There is that same familiar condescending voice in my head, taunting me with my failures, telling me that it will happen again.
We wont, we have a responsibility to collect these stories and we are determined to. Someone has to, because these stories are too beautiful to ignore any longer. These are the days that our band name means the most to me, and that’s what we intend to do.
We crossed the bridge into Memphis at 2 am this morning, and it was beautiful. The rushing Mississippi pushed along gracefully underneath us. “Old Man River” was dressed to the nines in black and the reflection of the city was shining in his eyes. We discussed his power and his currents, how they had the ability to sweep you away at any moment and take you, whether you were ready for it or not. I couldn’t help but feel that I had been swept away yesterday too. I was unable to control my own emotions as I tried to explain some of the songs last night and it felt so damn good. Something real is happening, I’m letting the current take me.
I’m sitting in a kitchen in Indiana. Directly in front of me, on the refrigerator, displayed like a trophy, are a long series of connected black and white photos. These aren’t memories from the past, these are images from the present. They are the 4 dimensional ultrasound waves that have been captured of a brand new baby girl, a life waiting to happen. Yesterday, I talked with a man about the connection he and his grandfather had in their last moments together. I am overwhelmed once again by a new realization. For many of us, from the stir in the belly of our mother’s womb to the final conversation we share with our loved ones, music is there. Yes, it’s therapy. Yes, it’s community. Yes, it’s family, but it is also something so much more. It is cosmic and supernatural, a living spirit in us all. Every human alive is connected through it whether they know one another or not. I’m in awe. “Music is life” isn’t just a phrase printed across a tee you can pick up for 10 bucks on some shopping site. It’s fact, and it is being proven over and over again right in front of me.
I’m staring out the window of our rental truck as we drive through the farmlands in southern Indiana. We are discussing the incredible experience that was last night in Ft. Wayne, a city that holds so much history for us. I start to think about what it means when people ask me where I’m from. I start to realize that picking a place that represents where I grew up is getting harder and harder to define. Of course there is my youth in Chicago, or my career beginnings in Memphis, but at 36 it’s been a long time since either was my home. I grew up on the road, staring out windows just like the one I’m looking out now. I grew up in the cities where the community received me, like a new family member, married in by our unwavering love of music. A family bonded, not by blood, but by a common reaction to this journey called life and a need to have music throughout to make sense of it all. I have experienced so many of my successes and failures in this community. I have made so many mistakes and still, with open arms, the people have welcomed me home. I have been raised by this community with more grace and care and love than most actual biological families experience. So, it’s not really “where” I’m from, but “who”, and for that I am truly blessed.
We are 30 minutes outside of Crane, MIssouri. This is a small town just south of Springfield that is a clear representation of the American heartland. Miles and miles of green fields stretch out all around us, serenity in every direction. I try to get my heart to match what my eyes are seeing but I am unable to. Today we are meeting with a very special person who has been through so much more than most of us could even imagine and I’m so nervous. We haven’t met in person and it has been a plan in waiting for months now. We are so honored to have been invited to her home and she has invited us in with open arms. She is living proof that when you call out with a need, this community responds, and responds with a tenacity incomparable to anything else I’ve ever experienced. This is not a sad story, this is one of the strongest women I will ever meet, and I just want to be more like her.
Yesterday changed my life. We drove deep into the country of Missouri, far from the fingerprints of modern technology and the routine of franchise coffee shops and clearance sales. I have begun to realize how far the connection of music can truly travel. A spirit itself, moving constantly, inhaled and released by us all. There is something more though, something that connects us in this specific community, the rock community in 2018, deeper than just music in general. We are the broken, we are the afflicted, we are the misunderstood and judged. We are the outsiders and we choose it, even more, we celebrate it. In 2018, you choose to be a part of this community and to go against what is popular or even successful on the grand scale. That is the true spirit of rock and roll and I’m breathing in as much as I can get.
Last night, as the sun went down, I stood with my best friend overlooking Wilson Lake in Sylvan Grove, Kansas. We were playing our guitars, singing and laughing, staring out over one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever been blessed to see. The sky looked like marshmallow fluff colliding with cotton candy and the steel blue of the water was still and perfect. “There is a difference between sympathy and empathy”, Blake says, “empathy is when you really take the time to feel what the other person is feeling, not just recognizing that they are in pain. You are actually trying to see life from their perspective. I think empathy is like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.” His words really resonate with me. It’s hard to come to terms with the reason my heart and head are so tired is because my empathy muscle is weak and young. I’m drawing strength from the stories we are collecting, but in a whole new way.
We just left Kayla Riley’s home in Denver, CO. She is one of the most recognizable voices for the community in rock music for Sirius satellite radio’s channel “Octane”. Kayla has been a dear friend for years but we have always met within the constructs of our working relationship, so this has been a new experience for both her and the band. We are surrounded by her beautiful family and we are welcomed with kindness and genuine interest in the project. After standing, laughing and talking in the living room we begin her interview about how music has changed her life. Over the next hour and a half I learn more about my friend than in the last five plus years of knowing her and I am floored. “How did I not know that?”, keeps rattling around in my head. I am amazed by the amount of connection we have missed with her, but I am so excited it won’t be like that anymore. The conversation we have started about music has quickly and obviously become so much more. Changing the focus and being motivated to shine the light in on the community has changed the way I relate to the professionals in our field, not just now, but forever. This is changing every part of me, not just my appreciation for music.
Yesterday, we spent the majority of the day driving west across Colorado on our way to Salt Lake City, Utah. Hundreds of miles of outstretched beauty. Giant skies meeting deep cut stone textures at the horizon. We stopped and climbed a ridge that stood tall and sharp against the sunset. A cloud, that almost looked illustrated, began to cover the sun. In that moment, I realized I had never quite understood the cliche phrase about every dark cloud having a sliver lining. It’s not just about finding the positive in a bad situation, it’s about keeping your head forward and headed towards a brighter future.
I woke up today, swinging in a hammock between two trees. I was burrito wrapped in a mummy style sleeping bag, ten feet from a firepit and a cliff overlooking Fehr Lake in Utah. It was just before 6 am and the sun was beginning it’s new revolution out from behind the mountains that stretched all the way across my view. The reflection of the trees looked like teeth in the lake below and a fog danced across the surface, like smoke as it slowly escapes the lips. It was magnificent. I just hung there, swinging gently. It was so quiet. I am filled with gratitude and I laugh. I must look like a giant new born bearded baby with only my face staring out from this sleeping bag.
We drove through Las Vegas today on our way to Ventura, California for our fifth and final #soundtracktoyourstory meet-up. The last night of the most incredible artistic experience of my life and one of the most important trips for us as human beings we will ever take. We talked about being part of something that we knew we could be proud of, a just and noble victory. We talked about true freedom to create when you stop taking ownership for your artwork. We talked about death, and the anger, confusion and fear it brings along with it. We talked about acceptance and the need every person feels for it. Tomorrow is the last night of this journey and I am starting to really be able to process what the last 2 weeks have been. We are surrounded by a beautiful community and we can’t wait to show the world.
Tonight is the last meet up and I am probably about as nervous as I’ve ever been. Did we do a good job? Did we represent our community well? These thoughts churn in my head and my belly. It’s bittersweet but I know this won’t be the end of this. In fact, it’s the opposite because it is in me now. This awareness is in me. I am out of The Matrix and it feels so good.