10/02/20

Practicing Sincerity,

I asked my students yesterday, “What is the thing you love the most about yourself?”

We often get caught in the loop of deprecation and doubt. Sometimes we need to take a good look at ourselves to find the positive.

I told them the thing I love the most is that I now find joy in exploring my weaknesses.

To find joy in being bad at something is a superpower.

10/01/20

Coming back to center.

I’m focusing on rebuilding old habits. The key to success in these endeavors is consistency, no matter how big or small.

If I can write even a little bit everyday, that is a success.

The weather is changing. Times are interesting for sure. But it’s never too late to start something new.

The Long Road Home: Releasing New Music With My Brother As “The Wolf River Gospel”

I was thirteen years old when I got my first drumset. If there was ever a moment that dreams actually did come true, it was then. All my life I’d wanted very little else than to make music, and it was in that place and time that I had found home, who I was, my identity.

It was that singular moment that drew me to High School Band, to College, and inevitably to sitting in my office right now preparing for year seven as a music educator. Kids need to find home, their identity. And in a world that changes so rapidly, it is incredibly hard to find for young people. To help these kids to be able to say “I am a musician” is something that can carry them far beyond the four walls of the classroom.

But that is only part of the story. The rest of the journey is about two brothers who, against all odds and over a decade, came to make something that encapsulated years of hard work.

So back to my thirteenth birthday. I was not the only one who started their musical journey that day. My brother had also set in motion a trajectory that would lead him far beyond any of our imagination. As I was making racket, and trying to figure out the basics of navigating the drumset. My brother took my father’s old acoustic guitar out of the closet, dusted it off, and started navigating it as well. Before we knew what a band even was, we had started one.

This lead to a myriad of what we would call “bands” over the next few years. We, along with a smattering of other friends who were novice at their instruments, would get together to play what we knew, and spend the rest of the time dreaming as big as possible.

My sophomore year of high school we’d form a metal band with a few of our friends and play the high school talent show. It was, without doubt, the largest crowd we had ever played in front of at this point, and probably the highlight of that year. It was this point that my brother would transition to singing, which would forever shape the rest of our lives.

After that performance, the band inevitably crumbled due to us taking ourselves way too seriously. I will never forget the invaluable lesson of not putting the cart before the horse. We were so concerned with “making it big” that we started blaming each other instead of focusing on bettering ourselves along side one another.

The next few years were when I could say I really learned how to make music.

My brother was blossoming into a fantastic vocalist. He’d moved away from “metal” (thank God) and was playing acoustic guitar and singing.

I had dedicated myself quite extensively to drumline at this point, and a few of my friends and I had formed another band.

If the previous band put the cart before the horse, this one was the polar opposite. The sole purpose of this endeavor was to make music. We’d meet at each other’s houses and play for hours. Taking one song or chord progression and exploring how many different possibilities there were. We’d change tempo, style, dynamics. If we messed up we’d try again. I can honestly say that this creative safe spaced shaped not only me as a musician, but my philosophy of music education.

After a little while on our own, my brother came to join us. We’d stay up nights jamming in the living room. A friend of ours who was learning how to engineer would record us. It was all for the sake of making ourselves better. These were the golden years, and the relationships and music that was made are still one of my most treasured memories.

After high school, my brother and I were fortunate enough to go to the same university. I studied music and he studied biology. We ended up being roommates which was fantastic because it taught us how to write songs together in a way that we still use today. But this was also when things got difficult. Both of us found ourselves being pulled in so many directions. Him with his studies in biology, me with my various other musical shenanigans as well as a budding music education career. It became more and more difficult to see a future together in music. At the end of college we had essentially parted ways musically.

The next few years were fairly silent as far as our joint ventures. My brother became a park ranger and moved to the middle of the state, I moved back to our hometown and took a job as a choir director. Little did I know that these things were the catalyst for what was about to unfold.

I began cutting my teeth on various musical instruments, experimenting with audio engineering, as well as fronting my own band. Before long I had become a multi instrumentalist with a fair amount of music production skills.

My brother was having adventures as a park ranger. But music always hung in the back of his mind, like an itch that needed to be scratched. It was this need that had him picking up his guitar, and recording music once again.

Who would have thought that urge just to be creative would lead to national television, to a new job, and to here. But it did. From those videos lead to my brother being on The Voice, singing for Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and to so many more amazing things.

The whirlwind of the next few years taught me so many valuable and difficult lessons, but they were necessary to stand on the cusp of releasing art that I am so grateful for.

First it taught me that art should be self fulfilling first. If we’re not making art we enjoy, then it is pointless.

It taught me that how you see yourself is important, and that it is also something we can change.

All of this leads me to here, to releasing music that my brother and I had written from our various experiences together and apart. Releasing music that required the skills that we acquired throughout our entire lives.

The Wolf River Gospel isn’t just a rock and roll record. It’s a celebration of two brothers coming home to the same art, to the same town, to make something worthwhile.

 

 

Oakwalker Has Me Longing for Autumn With Their Fantastic Debut Single “Hour by Day”

I’m in the woods. A fog rolls over as I pull my hood up and press a warm cup of campfire-brewed coffee to my lips. The chill of fall brings peace to my soul. Except one thing, none of this is true. In truth I was just listening to the debut single “Hour by Day” by Oakwalker.

The tune starts simple. Bright, strummed acoustic guitar with a bit of room, followed by strings panned right and egg shaker that leads into the first verse.

The lead vocalist, Victoria Dowdy, has a voice that is…haunting. It calls upon all of the classic Americana vocalists while remaining in itself, truly unique. I met Dowdy at a tribute to The Band last November, and since then I’ve been anxiously waiting to hear her voice in a fully fleshed out project. Now I’ve finally gotten my wish.

The tune speaks of how complicated things like relationships can be, and how quickly things move in life and love. The music is a stunning and accurate portrayal of this idea.

The string work and vocals are both truly amazing. If there’s one thing I’d love to hear more of, it would be each of them getting a little more individual space from phrase to phrase.

While this is their debut single, I am an instant fan and expect a fantastic trajectory from this group.

“Hour by Day” by Oakwalker is available on all streaming platforms on Monday, August 10th.

You can find them on all platforms @oakwalkermusic

Also at oakwalker.bandcamp.com

Artillery Kids feat.Austyn Michael: One In The Same

Artillery Kids feat.Austyn Michael: One In The Same
This song was written a while back and got shelved because I wasn’t sure when and how I wanted to release it. But I feel now is as important a time as ever. Being a middle class white person from the suburbs, I never realized that I did have hard time seeing things from other points of view. That was until I started working at Bethel Grove. The three years that I spent teaching and working with young people in a black community in the city was probably the most eye opening and valuable thing I’ve ever done in my life. It taught me that, above all else, sometimes it is impossible to see things from another’s perspective so it’s best to sit back and listen to what they have to say. That there are real problems that need concrete solutions. That yes, Black Lives Matter.
Thanks so much to my dear friend and one of my favorite rappers, Austyn Michael for lending his lyrical genius on one of the coolest collaborations I’ve ever gotten to do.