I don’t know if this track is going to make it on a record or not.
I wrote “Gallows” in my friend Anna’s living room up in Olympia, Washington last summer. I was having a really rough time with some strained relationships in the band that were totally my fault, and I was more than flirting with some self-loathing. This song came out of that time, and it’s honestly a huge bummer to play. It’s especially hard because it’s the most honest song I’ve ever written. Kind of like going to confession.
That said, every time I play it, someone seems to connect to it. I’ve had a lot of folks ask if it’s going to be recorded, and a big part of me is really hesitant because I feel it would cheat the weight of the songs in some ways. But friend-of-the-band Jonny Ginese offered to shoot this take-away show and I figure that this way, anyone who wanted to get a hold of this track can at least hear it this way.
Don’t hold it against me.
Kurtis, an old friend of mine rents a flat on the outskirts of Nashville and he always has a couch for me here. He has a button-down shirt job with a booking agency so he’s at work days, leaving me to ramble around his apartment complex, alternate reading and watching The Newsroom, and let the crushing summer heat melt me down. The AC is out but the internet is fast.
I’m out of the woods now. I spent thirty days of isolation up in a cabin in North Carolina; had a little cabin on the side of a mountain with a gash of a creek running alongside my place. I slung my hammock in the hemlocks and had a campfire most days that started at noon and burned out at midnight. It was productive and restorative. I did a lot of studying, praying, practicing disciplines. I wrote a handful of new songs and about 115 pages of a book—probably a third of the way through that endeavor. And I read twenty books—novels, theology, letters, poetry. Hiked a mountain and some waterfalls and floated down a river. Exchanged letters with friends.
The last two cabin days were like Christmas Eve when you’re six years old. I had my bags packed and sitting by the door and paced around unable to focus on anything. You can start to go crazy living in constant company in a van for ten months, but you can do the same alone in the woods. A person needs both.
From there I visited my family for a week in south Florida where I grew up. I dove into the shallow end of the ocean and shredded my face up real neatly. Hiked some old trails and saw gopher tortoises in the full thrust of mating season. Sat around with my family and our friends the Walkers, sharing homemade pizzas, NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, home-grown mangos, and blues riffs. My best friend got married in Orlando. My brother and I played a show in our folks’ new hometown of Panama City, then cooked enchiladas with way too many chipotle peppers and went kayaking on the bayou. And from there I’ve been on the road again, running solo through the South and the Midwest, and I’ll be on this grind for the rest of the summer until the move back to Indiana in August.
In Charleston, I slummed it in a beach house on Folly’s island, trading stories and politics and other ideas with my friends Ben and Lydia, walking miles down the beach watching heat lightning. In Chattanooga, my friends in a band called Bad Scout organized a gigantic show that more or less took care of my month’s bills. We ran around the city and traded recommendations on folk bands and cooked buffalo cauliflower. And then I drove here to Nashville just because it’s a wonderful city.
I’d love to see any of you on the road here in the next few months – I’ll be debuting some new material. Look to the right of this post to see the dates that are booked. The goal is to release a new EP in September—it’s being recorded intermittently as of now. Mostly just wanted to let you know that the time away was excellent (thanks Bailey family), and that the Great Train Robbery is back in full swing. And thank you, as ever, for making this possible for my friends and me.