There was a period of time in my study of the mandolin, when I devoured music written by Bach. I was renting a 5×15 storage space in the basement of an old Heintzman piano factory, playing Bach solo violin partitas on the mandolin for roughly three hours a day. Because the mandolin shares the 5ths tuning with the bowed instrument family, the music is relatively easy to adapt. While I could never hope to absorb the magnitude of genius that is Bach, I hear the echos of his music, or at least his influence on me in this piece.
Introducing SongLab – a space to listen to my musical works in progress, song snippets, soundscapes, and recorded musical experiments. SongLab is my “anything goes” music blog.
SongLab is not intended to highlight highly polished finished products (see discography for that), but as a direct and speedy creative link from me to you. I hope you enjoy listening.
My pal Jessica Mitchell asked me to show her how laundry machines work. Turns out you don’t have to use quarters, if you play them a Christmas song.
Here are some upcoming summer shows with Birds of Chicago!
July 1 to 3 – Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Canso, Nova Scotia
July 8 – Celebrate Brooklyn, New York, NY
July 9 – The Colonial Theatre – Bethelhem, NH
July 10 – Green River Music Festival – Greenfield, Massachusetts
July 15 to 17 – Vancouver Folk Festival, Vancouver, BC
August 13 to 15 – Bear Creek Folk Festival, Grand Prairie AB
August 26 to 28 – Fayetteville Roots Festival, Fayetteville, Arizona
There are moments when pursuing a life as an artist can feel selfish. Spending hours alone working on the craft, and spending weeks and months away from home. If time is currency, then the budget is far from balanced. Families and loved ones feel the brunt, and their patience is stretched. In moments of darkness and doubt, the question ‘is this worth it?’ lingers like a stubborn fog.
But then this yearning, deep as a fault line pushes us on to express, to toil away, to search ever harder, and to perform. Ever so often, if we’re lucky enough, we feel like we are doing some good in the world; spreading some joy and light. It’s hard to avoid cliches in this kind of expression, but the feeling of goodness is real and palpable. Recently at Mass Mocha the Birds of Chicago hit on a vein of joy that lead right to the hearts of the audience and was reflected back to us. It’s funny because I remember thinking I didn’t play at my very best, but it wasn’t about me; it was about all of us there that night. A collective experience of feeling understood, maybe a little less lonely in our deepest thoughts and fears, and of course, celebration and joy.
The Birds of Chicago are gaining some attention these days. Last I heard, the album Real Midnight is coming in at #20 on the Americana charts in the USA, and #1 in Europe. There’s a full slate of shows coming up: Great American Music Hall in SF, Largo in LA, opening up a show in Grass Valley California for Robert Cray, plus a European tour and a pile of summer festivals on the horizon.
These opportunities are fulfilling in very real ways, but that feeling is tinged with sadness. Where joy and melancholy meet, there is compassion and humility, and I hope all of this, as authentically as possible, is reflected back.