Today I realized the people I've looked up to have been standing on the same sized stage. From so far away I assumed they were all giants. As I've edged closer through the masses I've realized the truth. The truth is they're right next to me, they were just ahead of me, and maybe someday they'll be right behind me. And in all of those places, we're all on the same plane, and I prefer to believe it's non-linear. Which means, I can reach out, and hold their hands, and raise my hands, and hold your hands, above me and below me and around me and throughout me. It means, inside of no time there is no time like the present. Presently, I'm looking at a mirror image and realizing, they've looked at me from so far away, just as some still do, and assumed I am, a giant. I am. A giant. And I'm standing on the same-sized stage. I'll meet you there.
It's work, man.
Mile marker 6:
Just got home from Atlanta, for two shows with the trio, which were double platinum.
Lulu the Giant now has 474 likes on Facebook, 112 followers on instagram, a couple thousand views on a youtube video, 2 GPB interviews, a GSUTUV interview and documentary coming out, 12 write-ups in the papers, one music festival down and one on the books, 5 golden shows, and recording dates blocked out for July.
Lulu the Giant was unveiled 2 months and 2 days ago.
If you need me, I'll be watering the magic beans.
Almost 300 people showed up to pack the house at Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Savannah, GA for the release of the debut album, Kingdoms Fall. As people continued to pour in well into the start of the show and they trickled up to the balcony we realized this was about to be special. So many people supported the release with not only showing up in support but also building bridges all over town to get people to come. Amy Condon of the Savannah Magazine, a fan since the beginning, began the press party with her shoutout in the Jan/Feb issue. Then came Do Savannah, Heather Henley and Joshua Peacock not only interviewed and printed but also went to bat on the local television stations at WSAV. They represented Savannah's arts community and the continue to nurture the local artists with their own art, editing writing and speaking on behalf of all of us. The Starlandia crew came made it interstellar with the live show being broadcast from their very own, grassroots space station. A stapled and advocate for the arts community Heather Macrae and Clinton Edminster work behind the scenes and in front of the camera in hopes to build and support our city's arts development. As the release date drew closer and closer, another female musician, Josephine Johnson continued the press march with Hissing Lawns to share a little of the inside story of my music and to encourage me with her presence to press on, that it would indeed be a success. Then, after just a few days of finding out that federal funding may indeed be cut from NPR which includes GPB, seeing the effect of that first hand, I was thankful to get an interview with Cindy J. Hall-Williams at GPB. Anna Chandler rounded out the paper trail with an article in the Connect Savannah. And finally Jon Waits, one of the men behind the curtain of the Thursday Night Opry Series, promoted and opened the doors for us to crash the place.
Then came the show.
Igor Fiskman on Pedal Steel, Anders Thomsen on six-string, Justin Smith on sound, Jeremy Prince on saxophone and then the power trio; Daniel Malone on drums and Alex Bazemore on lead guitar.
Savannah musicians came in full-force, and not just on stage. To look out and see them, the lights of the tourism industry, the artbeat of the Savannah community, my friends and colleagues who gave up their own gigs that night to come see me, listening and supporting, that's what Savannah's all about. A strong community that supports and shares the love of art in music, 'strings-attached', so long as you pour in, they'll pour in, knowing we're serving the greater good together.
So, a GIANT thank you, Savannah.
Catch y'all at Stopover. Stay tuned
Long road ahead. Album's on it's way, release show is on the books, three weeks and I may melt. It's been a journey to get this far. To play in the bars, to pay my dues, to use those dues to pay for the recording. To get the recording to pay for the merch. To get the merch to pay for more merch, To make fans, to tour, to pay for gas... too far. We're just at the merch. Picked these folks up along the way. Tons of rehearsing and decades of practice and we're not even close. But it's so, so worth it. Welcome to the dream y'all. We're stoked to play for you. Get your ears ready, your hearts open, and support live music.
"Kingdoms Fall Mr. Know it All.
Your tower like Babel will fall.
All your strivings come to dust,
stealing glory to feel the rush,
pride and wonder, curiosity.
Ain't no good residing in you,
diggin' tunnels with no way through,
laying' bodies against the rules,
tiein' nooses with laces from your shoes.
Leave your mark, just Don't Tread On Me.
Train whistle's blowin' close now,
covering your tracks can't keep me tied down.
I got free 'cause I cut down my flesh,
I'm the unknown travelin' in blue sky wilderness.
Life and death, ain't the boss of me."
"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."- James 1:9-12
"Hot breath dripping down my neck but I can't seem to sweat,
not even a little bit.
Worry's not my kind of stress,
just need to find a little piece of mind.
Pull me close,
I can't say that I minded.
Rainbow colors of black and white.
I'm in the ring shadow-boxing light.
Baby you fight, I'll fly.
Pull me close,
I can't say that I minded.
Pull me down but baby please don't let me drown.
Deep love puddled up in shallow lust.
No luck, no luxury.
Pull me close,
I can't say that I minded.
Pull me down but baby please don't let me drown.
Pull me close, I can't say that I minded.
Pull me down but baby please don't let me..."
I couldn't see a soul as I peered through the bristling light, down, into what I assumed was a crowd. The deep timbre of the shredded and mended wood I bent in my hands rang purely through the bodies below. The resonation evidently had taken the voices that were so boisterous the week before, and stilled them. I was sitting in one of those seats, just 8 days ago, listening close to the vibrato and the arco and the clever lyrics ascending high into well executed harmonies. 8 days later and I was standing above that seat peering out. I've played solo countless hours in front of thousands of people and yet I'd never felt as raw as I did last night. The only thing backing me was a thick black velvet curtain. It started slow, this vulnerable state of perfect alone. I was alone. My voice dripped over the suspended notes in the room. It seemed like my breath was heavier than the late summer humidity and I could feel it wet inside my chest as I let it break, unrestrained. What I understood afterwards was a stillness, a state of waiting but not anticipation. It was a total willingness for the audience to be kept inside of each moment and not unwilling to be taken to the next. I could hear them exhale, at the end of the songs, just before the applause. I took my cues from them and let lessons from my childhood, from heartbreak, and from growing into my own settle over their ears. It's funny when you take a 6-string, and dwindle it to 4, how much it expands. Last night, I'd taken my living room, where my bass and I have spent hundreds of hours, and I laid it out on stage in front of total strangers. They took their shoes off and stayed awhile. They were welcomed, they were home, and so was I.
You know how it goes when you're sweeping the dirt and it kicks up in your face and it gets in your lungs and you cough and look down at the spot where you spit and get a little ticked but realize you had to make a mark, a little space to say "this is where it's about to go down" and you start. You look around and take what you can and place a pile of kindle and twigs together and hope for a little smoke and pour out your breath like a whisper at first and then a steady wind and then powerful gusts as the smoke builds up and hope, in a moment, there will be a flicker into a flame and then maybe as it grows you'll have a steady fire. Alright, you're with me. Everyone is hoping for this flame but kicking up the dirt first isn't easy. Searching for the sticks to stick and the flicker to flame and what seems to be a waste of breath passing through a pile of twigs doesn't make a way. It just doesn't. Well here I am. I've been sweeping dirt and I'm singing and playing and there's a stirring of a flame and I am slowly seeing the smoke and come September I'll be searching for the flame, that moment that it breaks. And then there will be heat but here's where my plans change. Then I want a pot and I want some dirty gold and I'll put it in the pot and sustain the flame and over time and thousands of days I'm hoping for this refinement. Not of my music but of myself, my soul. I'm thankful for this process because I'm hoping for pure gold. It's only just now heatin' up.
Back in the day I burned '40 oz. to Freedom' from our dial-up desktop , stashed it in the latest and greatest walkman and cruised around on my skateboard like it was 1992. The walkman would skip every time I'd propel myself forward, barefoot on the concrete, so I'd try and time my ground contact with the musical interludes. Some of the best days of my childhood were spent sitting in the park spitting sunflower seeds into the grass, listening to 'House of Holies' on our state-of-the-art boombox with my three older sisters and twin brother, sprawled out on a big blanket, soaking in a little sun and a lot of tomorrow's past. Thinking back on those times I revel in the days before streaming, to be a musician then, the excitement of getting 'discovered' and the idea of finally 'making it' still a possibility, fame and fandom from a labor of love instead of a love of money, sitting within reach of 'almost famous' but the pay-off of glory and greatness forever sitting on the horizon at the end of a hard day's work rather than the amount of subscribers on Youtube or followers on social media networks. Today, it's pre-fabricated overnight viral produced sound made solely for consuming instead of for comforting, for inspiring, for crying, for a moment of suspension between heaven and earth where the world sits still for you to just soak it in. Don't get me wrong, all of the music isn't like that today, so many artists are creating heart-pumping work that deserves attention and accolades. Unfortunately t's mostly drowned in the shallows, for lack of million dollar budgets to pay for large productions and self-promotion. I hear the masses from the pre-internet generation asking where the 'real music' is and I'd have to say the answer is back in the garages, in the living rooms and 200 sq.ft spaces at grandmas house, making real music, for the sake of music. The 15 second IG cover of the latest song isn't where the weight lies. It's still in bed, from playing nightly gigs until 3am and loading out, getting paid pennies on the dollar just because you're in love, not with the lights or the stage or the crowd, those are all good, but with the sound, the feeling, the emotionally charged movement created when instead of figuring out the perfect camera angle for your next youtube cover, you're covered in sweat with calloused hands trying to perfect the riff that is sitting at the edge of your fingertips. The 'real music' is inside of the real musicians, who are just playing catch up trying to get discovered, too tired to post an update because they woke up late from pouring it all out, and drinking it all in again, the night before. Those are the people that I'm on stage with, that I'm applauding, that I'm privileged to know and be known by, in this little riverside city known as Savannah. If I make a moment to write a blog, or post a video, y'all, it's a small miracle. I get asked so often at my nightly gigs "Why don't you have anything on Youtube?" and I reply with a smile "because if I were busy making videos for youtube, I wouldn't get the chance to play for you fine folks tonight, but please feel free to share whatever you'd like and maybe I'll find myself up there someday. Then I'll know I really made it." And we all have a good laugh at the irony. The fact is, I'm making a living playing music and I have been for awhile now. I am blessed beyond reason and grateful for every opportunity, even when that opportunity includes playing 'sweet home alabama' one too many times per request of 'that guy' at the bar.
I digress, I'm amazed at the ability of the music market now. I'm amazed that I can find any resource I may need to become a better musician online. I'm amazed that I can in some respect, make myself 'internet famous'. It's brilliant, but I'm taking a different road. Here's how and a little of why:
I'll be releasing a few songs at a time. You won't find them on the larger streaming platforms for immediately. As silly as that seems for an "up and coming artist" it makes sense for me, as an artist and a musician who has spent countless hours creating my work of art at my own expense with all of my heart. I don't want to build a viral fanbase. I want longterm fans. I want people in whom I have invested to take the time to invest in me, out of want rather than advertisement. I want to step out of the viral mindset and step into the "Is this worth it? Does it have value? Is it quality? Does it move me?" I've spent years on these songs. I've played on a good number of albums for comrades and peers in this game of musical chairs. Who gets a seat and who doesn't isn't what I want to play. I want to set up a table for anyone who wants to come dine and I want them to be fed and I want them to be well and I want to know, that at the end of the day, I've done my best and I have given it my all. I don't want fans to support me out of guilt but out of pleasure. Multiple times in my music career I've been approached with opportunities that had the potential to take me down golden roads, that I wouldn't own. I've turned them down out of an internal knowing that if I give up some of my rights as an artist now, I may have no rights as a human being later. I would have run the risk of losing my soul. I would rather own one-hundred percent of something than zero percent of everything. When I look back now, I'm thankful I've stuck by this. Especially now that I am beginning to see that beyond the stage lights there are people, like me, wanting something real. I've done my best to keep my music as honest and forthright as I can. It's come from a place of trials and love and joy and grief and everything in between. Now, after working extremely hard as a musician, I have been able to self-fund my album. It's been a slow barefoot to concrete process and sometimes the walkman would skip, but to be able to release the songs at the rate I would like to and how I would like to, to hear people's reactions individually, to grow a fan base organically, and to be able to provide them with something to hold onto, I wouldn't have done it any differently. I don't owe anyone, every spare moment I've had and every spare tip I've made by playing music has gone into my music, a labor of love. Because of this, because I haven't had a manager or a record label or financial help in this process, because I've eaten cans of black beans and said "it's worth it", I don't think it makes sense to then give iTunes, Spotify, or any other platform that isn't first and foremost there to serve the artist, the right to distribute my music until it makes sense not just practically but economically. I'll be using other platforms, like live shows and lesser known online platforms (this website, bandcamp etc.) to provide my music to the broader audience. It's still downloadable and works exactly the same way as iTunes, it's just there to serve the artist rather than 'the man' so the artist keeps more of the money you spend on their music. So, my friends, come to my shows. Come see me play live, come enjoy the vibes and see the fruit. This has been amazing and will continue to be if you'll continue to support me and enjoy the harvest. I'll update as I can and who knows, maybe you'll find me on Youtube someday ;)
It was a rainy day on River Street in Savannah. I had lugged my upright bass down the stone stairs of death over the cobblestones and found myself under the pavilion facing the Trade Center. Yesterday I was 14, a freshman at Savannah Arts Academy, sorting through sheet music to play ‘Moon River’ for our first fan, an older gentleman from across the pond. I’d been reading music since before I could spell 3 syllable words so we figured; it can’t be as difficult as Tchaikovsky. We strung through it and he was well pleased and carried on after dropping in a tip. We hadn’t practiced this ‘set list’ we just grabbed some copies from a piano book and played R &B and old classics to our hearts content. We made about $75 that day which was huge for a couple of freshman in High school for about an hours worth of work. “This is what I want to do for a living.”
Today, I’m 25, it’s been about a decade since that day. I’m setting up in the corner of a bar who’s distinct aroma is that of deep fried alcoholism, soaked in addiction and finished with a double shot of sin and shame, Jack and Jim, spilling over on the stumbling stone surface. It’s raining again and I look out from under the faded blue awning to see where it started. Where I was, where I am, and if I could have known what it meant to “play music for a living”. No dream is alike, and they don’t always look quite like what we imagine. Today, this is what it looks like and tomorrow hasn’t come yet but I’m hopeful for then, and thankful for now.
“You’re so ‘lucky’ you get to do this as your job.” I’ve worked a dozen and half day jobs this past decade, two and three jobs at a time, all the while maintaining a passion and crafting my technique to get better and better. There were months, years even where I barely got around to the fundamentals of music, playing scales, learning new songs, taking care to maintain growth. There were years where music came second and third and twelfth to everything else. It wasn’t luck that shined upon me to bring me where I’m at today. It was a lot of late nights, sacrifice, calloused fingers and weary doubting that lead me to need this dream. It was necessity, not luck, that drove me to it.
I didn’t pick up the bass or guitar one day and say “hey this totally comes naturally to me I can figure this out in no time.” If you think that in a few years, you will all of a sudden be great at your dream, it won’t happen. It doesn’t work like that for the ninety-nine percent of us who are not prodigies. If you have goals that you want to reach, take small steps towards them. You are running a marathon. This is not a sprint or a “giant leap of faith” story. I did not cover my eyes, jump, and say “God will provide”. Not saying He couldn’t, I’m saying practice wisdom. Here’s what that looked like for me. I worked my day job and played music at night. At one point, I had a day job, I’d then go to a gig, and then I had an overnight job that I worked as well. That was totally unsustainable but at the time, financially, that’s what had to happen. Anyway, I started budgeting very carefully and after working extremely hard for those years, and taking into account what I could and couldn’t do and afford, I realized I could in fact pay my bills just by playing music. So guess what, I quit my day job. I’m not going to lie, that was scary. The comfort and security that comes from working for someone was almost worth staying. The risk that comes from working for yourself, relying on no one else, and no one else to blame for your failure, will drive you to some pretty scary, and pretty amazing realizations about yourself. One of those being, you are way stronger than you think you are.
Oh guess what. I ate black beans and rice A LOT, but I didn’t have a boss to answer to. I couldn’t afford my own tiny apartment so I sucked it up and got roommates, but I got to make my own schedule. I had to play some Tom Petty songs every once in awhile but I got to take vacations when I wanted and I could go see my family more often. I had to start playing more solo shows because not everyone needs a bassist on a Monday night, but I was still playing music for a living. Sometimes it rained and I was scheduled for an outdoor gig so my show got canceled, but in those times, God provided and there happened to be a random show I was able to pick up most of the time.
There have been some pretty close calls, but overall I’ve been able to solely make my living playing music, working for myself, and actually enjoying it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very hard. When that drunk guy runs into your microphone, when someone tells you “Don’t quit your day job" but you already have, when you play three gigs in one day and you’re exhausted, or when you play your heart out and nobody hears you. There are downsides to the dream, but it’s still a dream and I’m still living it.
This wasn’t meant to be a “Follow you dreams” post but that’s what it turned into. It’s not too late to chase them. I see y’all out there. I see you chasing it, working hard, doing your best. I see the struggle and the sighs and I feel you. Keep going. As best you can, follow your dreams. They’re all different. My dream looks like playing music in the corner of a smoky downtown bar, making people laugh, hoping that they’ll sing along, and being thankful for every moment, even the ones that don’t feel so great. It means now, I’m fully alive, and living my little dream.