Traveling Alone, Pt. 2

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.
Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery at Audiotree
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.”

photo by Lauren Douglas

photo by Lauren Douglas

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.
Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery, camping style
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.
Matt Gallegos of Tandem Video Design
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.

Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery at Virginia Avenue Folk Fest
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.

Photo by Marissa Haskins

Photo by Marissa Haskins

Your friend,


On Midwestern Forays with the New Boys

First, meet the cast:
Adam Shuntich—the longest standing member. The ex-Kiss tribute band playin’, Ohio-bred country boy who somehow got mixed up in this psych-folk business. He’s been duo-touring with me since July and now he’s running his stuff in stereo.
Ryan Corlew—our only locally grown Indiana soul, Ryan joined us a few weeks ago on the tubs. He’s the soft-spoken one of the bunch, but he beats the crap out of the drums. Sensitively. And he has a handsome mystique about him.
Cody Ray—we always call him by his full name. He’s the Lafayette commuter from Tennessee, self-described “cat daddy,” and bassmaster. He’s also running some keys for us like a multitasking champion.
Joshua—you know me.
Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery at New Vintage i
The preface:
Adam and I did a fast-paced jaunt through the Southeast. Saw our blood in Charleston, connected with old friends in Charlotte, made a whole slew of new ones in Virginia, and pulled an all-nighter from WV back home to go to bed at 7am in order to be adequately rested up for the next night at home at the Hi-Fi with Beyond Normal Sea and our good buddies in Saint Aubin. That show was off the dang chain.

The narrative:
I always forget how much it sucks to load the van for tour in the winter. We were all shivering while playing Tetris with our gear, but we packed more into our grey whale than she’s ever taken. Our first stop was south in Louisville where we hit the New Vintage for the first time with new pals Joann & the Dakota and The Bottom Sop, two sweetly powerful female-fronted bands, respectively in a 90’s hued roots rocks and classic harmonized country outfits. Our buddy Jonathan hooked us up with a crash pad, some classic Pabst time, and all-around good fellowship.
Then we headed up to Champaign-Urbana, that glorious foothold of emo, and we played at Emily’s (of the band Tara Terra) house with Rebecca Rego (Anais Mitchell, meet Laura Marling), and Eric Stanley of Euriah for a beautifully attentive living room crowd. We played with no PA, so the boys were gracefully muted in their dynamics so as not to overshadow my best attempt at projecting through my stupid head cold haze. After the show we all went down to Cowboy Monkey and Adam and I wearily played a few songs at a raucous open mic and hung with our buddy Darwin, the King of Urbana. At least we call him that.

Winter in Bloomington
From there, it was on to Bloomington for a double-header. We met up with our buddies Alex & the XO’s and hit a super punk house show where we were hands down the outliers. I haven’t seen so many black-clad youths since my days in the SoFlo hXc scene, but, true to the ethos of punk, everyone was very accepting and supportive, and we had a blast watching all the heavier bands. Then we headed over to The Bistro to play our longer set. It wasn’t a packed house, but I had the realization, nay the remembrance, in the first song, that I actually just love playing music, so we enjoyed playing for our own sake and for that of those one or two dozen folks who stayed up past bedtime on a school night. And as far as hospitality goes, no one takes better care of us than Alex and Trenton. We always have a blast discussing various tour stops and methods and petting their weirdly endearing, deformed little cat. Our first night there, Ryan asked me, “Are people on the road just always this cool? Like I can’t believe how hospitable everyone is.” I had to pretty much just say yes. There’s nothing like touring to reassure you of the general decency of humanity—there’s love everywhere, man.
I’m typing this on the van ride to Newport, KY, where we’re getting down with a bangin’ Cincinnati bill (My Brother’s Keeper, Brittany Gillstrap, and Lamps & Voids). It’s impossible to have a bad show with a lineup like that as far as I know. Youngstown is next, and Dayton’s WinterFolk festival is after that.
The performance review:
I adore these guys. Adam is a trusty road dog who never minds the long drives or the $3 Taco Bell budget. Ryan stays with the click like an old pro and has brought a really cool, definitive percussive element to the ensemble. He’s also just a good hang though, and the importance of that can never be understated. Cody is killing it, too. He multitasks better than I ever could, and he’s socially skilled like few musicians are. I especially dig the fact that he never shirks from engaging our hosts. It’s tough when you get back to folks’ house sometimes and you just want to veg out, but conversation is a part of the exchange, and he lends a lot of value to these interactions, being a well-versed and versatile guy.
We’re all really excited to bring this new show to all of your cities and as always, we sincerely appreciated your continued support. If you check our tour dates and think, “Oh, I have some friends in Columbus!” Let those people know. We’ve been grassroots since day one, and it’s that kind of word of mouth that helps us fill these little clubs.

See you cats out there. Keep in touch.
Ryan Corlew of the Great Train Robbery