I tasted glory in January. Things with the band have been going swimmingly. Our new cast is highly functional and the chemistry is on a scientific level. I love working with Adam, Ryan, and Cody. They’re great players and better friends. We spent three weeks hitting the Midwest and have felt extraordinarily loved. We got to perform at the WinterFolk festival in Dayton, play two really sweet shows in our beloved hometown, record a session at Audiotree, and have our music played in Starbucks stores across the country, thanks to our wonderful, talented licensing agent.
That being said, February looks quite different. Adam has one semester of school left, so he can’t up and leave with me for three weeks during classes. Since this is my main gig these days, I knew I needed to keep playing out, so I booked 15 or so shows across the Southeast to hit solo. Last year, I’d gotten into the grind of traveling alone. I went out opening for friends’ bands and stayed close to home. Now, coming down off the joy of being back in the full band, I didn’t expect the culture shock of being back in relatively unfamiliar territory with no one in the shotgun seat. In the words of my man Jason Isbell, “I’ve grown tired of traveling alone.”
I started in Nashville. We got on a Palaver Records showcase and I convinced the boys to drive down for a one-off since I figured the chance for building equity would be high. I didn’t expect our 45-minute set to be adjust to a 30ish minute one due to changeover. That translated to them driving about 11 hours to play six songs, which was a bit of a punch in the fiscal gut. But it was a great night. From there, I went south on my own to hit Asheville for the first time. French Broad Brewery presented me with a very kind room full of attentive listeners and delicious IPAs. A friend of a friend even treated me to an awesome dinner at a local Southern cooking spot.
It got a little rougher from there. Atlanta on a weekend night yielded the first Saturday show I’ve ever played for literally zero dollars. Not so much as a CD sold in Decatur. This was offset by my friends Andy and Caitlin showing me that Atlanta is NOT the desolate urban wasteland I always expected it to be from the bypass. We went to record stores, parks, taverns, and the coolest Thai restaurant I’ve ever seen. Oh, and I got hooked on Twin Peaks. I’m an idiot when it comes to sports (your assumptions were safe), and I booked a show on Super Bowl Sunday, but it turned out much better than I’d hoped, and I got to hook back up with my friends from The Howling Tongues. Refreshing that some other folks don’t care about sports!
It was a long and lonely drive to Tampa, where I was featured on an open mic, and I got to hug my old buddy Sal from Vero Beach—turns out he’s grown in to a capable and talented singer-songwriter since I left the South. I remember him as about a 5 year old at the private school we attended in ol’ Vero, but he looks way cooler than me these days, and we’ll all buy his record when he gets around to putting one out, mark my word.
That’s also about the time things got dicey too though. A housing situation fell through (and I was prepared for this having brought my tent,) but on the way down to Cape Coral, I got pulled over for a light out and got antsy about the vigilance of the local police. Wasn’t keen to spend money for a place to pitch my tent, so I found a copse of trees along the causeway and slung my hammock low to the ground. It was nice to sleep to the sound to the waves, but I woke up with a crick in my neck. A passing couple of dog walkers asked if I had slept there, and I admitted I had.
“You’re brave,” the old man said.
“No sir,” I countered. “Just poor.”
I felt bad afterward because I should have qualified that by saying “poor and happy,” or “relatively poor but always provided for,” and it left me with something to chew on all day. That is, until I miscalculated a turn, skimmed a section of berm, and blew out a tired in Fort Myers. Any fiscal progress I made went right out the van window. But I’m perpetually thankful that the resources do exist for me to get these things fixed and keeping trucking, er, vanning. After all, the van is this band’s biggest business asset, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that she’ll always require maintenance.
Tonight, I’m writing from a smokey billiards hall with a punk sort of vibe where I’ll play for what I expect to be a largely inattentive audience, but I look forward to the future: visiting the old hometown, hitting a slew of shows in Orlando alongside my best buddy Michael (Teleios), seeing friends in Orlando (The Young Step), and taking a br00tal drive from Jax to Indy to play Chilly Water Brewing Co. weekend after next. From then on, it’s back to full-band season, and I’m excited for what the spring will yield as our snowy landscape remembers what’s alive underneath it. I continue to fall more in love with Indiana and its people and I miss it dearly, even in February.
Some quick news points: we entered the Tiny Desk Contest over at NPR Music. That video can be seen here. Thanks to Matt Gallegos at Tandem Video Design for coming in clutch. He’s a talented and kind dude. You should have seen me wading across the White River in my boxer shorts carrying a desk. Or maybe I’m glad you didn’t now that I think of it.
We just shot an official music video for “Cave of Clouds” with my good friend Matt Panfill. Turns out this man totally deserves his prolific reputation. He’s made awesome videos for a ton of Indy artists, including our good friends in Cyrus Youngman & the Kingfishers and Gypsy Moonshine, and we’re stoked to have our little spot on on his resume now too. That video will be released in March, so keep a sharp eye.
Our Audiotree session will come out on February 16th. That’s been a highlight of our band’s career for sure. We have another television placement coming up soon that I can’t announce yet, but I certainly will soon. We also procured a sweet spot on the lineup for the Virginia Avenue Folk Fest in May alongside such acts as Joe Pug and Kopecky. I’m geeked about that. And of course, we have about 67,000 shows coming up this year, so look on our website or on the Bandsintown app as I keep updating those with show dates. We’re hitting the Midwest relentlessly, the East Coast in March, and pretty much the whole daggum country this summer, so I look forward to hugging our friends and fans in all those different states. Thanks, as always, for blowing our minds always. We don’t deserve you.