This page will serve to host whatever musings I may have about the day, the week, etc. for anyone who cares to peek into the mind of a struggling, songwriting,singing, grandstanding confident, cowering,delusional,inspired & sometimes exhausted HUMAN. I will attempt to keep them short & predominantly lighthearted…but I promise nothing! Well, I suppose this is my first blog entry..the seal is broken…here we go!
The Glory & The Frustration 7/18/2014
It’s been a while since I wrote anything on this page…not exactly sure why that is, maybe I’ve just been lazy, there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of things to say; Or maybe it’s just the overwhelming assault from social media & other sites that make it feel as if you couldn’t possibly expect anyone to read yet another self absorbed rant about the ups & downs of your life as an aging songwriter! Either way, I was compelled to stop by today & exercise a few demons. We’ve been on a great run this year & I feel that the support both myself & the band have received has been unprecedented, yet it continues to frustrate & amaze me how difficult it has become to draw larger crowds & send a few people home w/ a CD or a shirt! The summer season is always the exception because of the festival circuit & the fantastic attitude of the folks who attend these big events, but the day to day grind of smaller gigs & regional travel seems to be getting more & more difficult to manipulate as the months roll on. I hear the same from the other artists in our circle of friends & wonder ceaselessly what the solution is…many have taken to giving music away, or eliminating it as a medium altogether, others have turned their sights on crowd funding campaigns which I, personally have always been slightly uncomfortable with, some have gone a bit underground & perform only a few times a year or stick strictly to private concerts…I suppose everyone has their own way of combatting the current trends, so you just keep your head down & move forward at your own pace! The love of music & performance has proven to be alive & well to me this summer in places all over the country. I’ve had the most amazing post set conversations w/ people…deep ones, that strengthen your resolve, @ festivals & shows recently & it boggles the mind how so many people out there couldn’t get by without the music they love & yet still…sales & performance fees are down across the breadth of the industry (for lack of a better term). I had a conversation a few years ago w/ former bandmate & current Vaudevileins frontman, Jeff Julian about what he predicted as a new, fascinating & terrifying state of affairs in the business of music…where access was unlimited, big companies were no longer needed, listeners would control how they digested art & artists & what they created would find themselves, at the same time, exalted for their wherewithal & devalued by a world of file sharing & immediate gratification…no need to go to a show…watch it online, no need to buy music…stream it for free. He saw it coming & while I understood, I believed at the time that people would still support what you were trying to do & would understand that without the value placed on it…it could potentially cease to exist. I know for certain that we will collectively figure it all out & that there are many people in the world who still see the value in the music that they love, maybe we’re all just praying for a backlash to the backlash…or perhaps musicians, writers, artists & the like who create for the love of creating will be the only ones left standing…working multiple day jobs & performing when they can…There’s always the barter system…I’ve certainly played shows before for a few beers & a good meal. In the end, it’s good to remember that the music, after all is what we set out to make, not the financial gain, & certainly not the social status that comes with that gain. Actually, if that’s the case…I guess we’ve already got it figured out & it’s perfectly glorious the way it is….& now, I’m off to find another day job…talk soon, be well & thanks for listening!
Summer on the Flipside” 7/7/2013
Just finishing up a crazy month’s worth of performances & settling into my new position w/ The Flipside Works organization, I sat today & realized that an entire month of the summer has already closed it’s eyes for the year…I suppose it’s a nice thing to have time pass rapidly. I’ve always been told that this is a pretty good indication of being fulfilled w/ the tasks at hand & I’m certain that it means you’re not wasting too much time thinking about the things you could be doing, but still…I’d like to see the season slow it’s pace a bit. I feel that I’ve been looking forward to these months like a school boy waiting for the final bell, knowing w/ certainty that the adventures & mishaps of this annual respite will shape him like none before & leave an indelible mark on his soul for the rest of his days…yet here I am & June is gone! Maybe the “looking back” on summer is the actual tradition…I’m unsure now if I ever realized what was going on until the first signs of September began falling on Tacony & the “back to school” ads flooded every social media outlet of the day, like so many political “Calls to Arms” during an election year, but I’ve every memory of every attempt at glory from every summer I’ve seen, locked in place & easily retrievable, when they’re needed in defense from a dead & seemingly hopeless, Midwestern January! I sat outside w/ my son Liam today in the heat as he ran time & time again through the sprinkler, laughing & excited at the possibilities of the day…I think I’ll try to make sure that I watch him more closely when there’s nothing “big” happening…maybe some of his awareness will rub off, or maybe I’ll just be able to pack that laughter up & use it’s echo when the cold comes again & I catch my mind floating back to the school yard at St. Leo’s…enjoying all the details… & counting down the days.
“For the Gathering” 4/8/2013
I seem to find myself these days heading back to Ireland time & time again…a great problem to have in my opinion. Most recently to work in the studio w/ a number of amazing Irish artists including my friend Mickey Harte & the legendary Paul Brady. I was asked by a member of the Donegal council to write a brief back story to explain a bit how that came about & also to explain my connection to the people of Donegal in particular…I’m not sure if they’ve actually run it yet or not but I thought I’d share it here:
I grew up in the city of Philadelphia, & like most Irish Americans, Ireland was a place of wonder for me, full of music, family history & stories told with fondness & even reverence. When my cousin & I decided to cross the ocean for the first time on a pilgrimage of sorts I’m not sure that we realized we would be completing a circle that had remained open since our family first left so many years before & I know that I had no idea that our trip would change my life the way it has. That first experience was overwhelming & the people we met along the way have remained tattooed on my soul ever since. I absolutely felt that I had come “home”.
In the years since, I’ve had the opportunity to return many times & nowhere is that feeling of home more profound than in Donegal! The friends & “family” that I’ve been blessed enough to know in places like Kilcar, Lifford & Gweedore are some of the finest people anywhere in the world. When my wife & I decided to come to Ireland for our wedding in 2006 Donegal was the only option & Holy Cross in the town of Dunfanaghy would prove to be the perfect setting for us to be married. We spent the most amazing few days there with the good people at Arnold’s Hotel, we were welcomed by the local residents, shared stories & pints ‘til late in the evening & rode horses on the bed of Sheephaven Bay when the tide went out. Again, my love for the people of Donegal deepened.
I was introduced to singer/songwriter Mickey Harte a few years later through a mutual friend with Donegal ties, & when I was asked to produce his latest recording, I jumped at the chance! Over the years, Mickey & I have become dear friends & have toured in the States & in Ireland together. On one of these occasions we were able to sit down & collaborate a bit on the beginnings of a song about “The Gathering”. The notion of this sentiment really struck a chord with me & I felt very connected to the concept. I had no idea what would happen to that song or where it might possibly lead but, as has been the case so many times in my life, it led me straight back to Donegal! To have been involved in this process & to have been able to work with the likes of Paul Brady, Rory Gallagher, The Henry Girls & so many of Donegal’s finest on this project, has been a privilege & an honor to say the least. Donegal is “The Gathering” to me… Always welcoming, always open, always in the hearts & minds of anyone who’s ever had the pleasure to spend time in the company of its people. Please keep the fire on…I know I’ll see you all again very soon.
“Resolutions & Such” 1/7/2013
So begins a new year my friends & with it the task of looking back & then ahead…resolutions have never really been my thing, I suppose the idea of being chained to an improvement process has always felt a bit like surrender…an admittance of failure in a way…ridiculous really. This past year, like every one before it, was full of good & bad…success & frustration. Many of the goals or projects that were set in motion early on came to fruition over the past twelve months & as usual sit juxtaposed with those that fell short of the mark for one reason or another…most likely because I lacked resolve concerning these matters…imagine that! This is a wonderful time of year to focus & regroup, so this is what I will do. I will resolve to be better in general as a father, husband,son, brother, friend & human. I resolve to study the art of time management for the first time in my life & to apply it effectively to all aspects of what I do. I will make it a mission of sorts to follow through on great ideas & to admit that not all ideas are great…mostly I resolve to be more present; In the moments & lives of those I spend time with; In my music; In my perspective. I wish the absolute best for all of you & I hope this year brings us closer together & finds us more frequently in each other’s company. Be well, -JC
“Life…so far” 12/28/2012
Well, it really has been a fairly incredible year. The past twelve months have seen a number of performances on the east coast, a few amazing festival appearances, the recording & release of a new record, the finding of a new musical home on the Flipside Works label, a tour of Ireland, the formation of a new live band in the The Old Gang Orchestra, & countless hours spent meeting & planning the next steps for 2013! I just felt the need to thank everyone for all the support & belief that I’ve been shown & wanted to wish all of you an amazing & music filled holiday season! I was playing with my son Liam in the snow this morning & was blown away by his ability to be completely alive in the moment. I hope to be able to look at the coming year with as much enthusiasm & abandon as he does every day of his young life! Ahhh, the magic of being truly “present” in a thing…we all start out that way I think. Here’s to getting back to the child in all of us & to seeing the beauty in the things that we overlook every day! I hope that our new chapters are filled with as much love & adventure as our back pages & I look forward to sharing some amazing moments with all of you in the coming year!
“Back to School” 12/7/2012
Last night I was privileged to speak & perform for students @ Purdue University-Calumet as part of their Music & Rhetoric class. An interesting night to say the least! The students were engaging & welcoming & prior to my spiel they all read papers tying in contemporary songs to the fundamentals of Rhetoric…needless to say I was impressed. I have to say that when first asked to do this, I was reluctant…most of my treks into the world of academia have not ended well, but I figured I’d give it a shot since I was only being asked to do what I normally do anyway…talk about songs & then play them; albeit in strange surroundings. This group of students quickly had me inspired & wanting to give a little extra when my turn at the head of the class arrived. We spoke about the process, about the meaning & about some really specific details that I’ve never been asked before…it was wonderful. I finished with a great hope in the ability of people to stretch their minds & listen; to find personal meaning in music & to seek out new sounds…I left feeling as if I’d just been on the other end of a fantastic lecture! Thank you to all those who still listen & who still need songs in their lives!
“Town Of Mirrors” 11/29/2012
-This year has passed at an unusually rapid pace for me. I find myself today thinking back on the events of the last nine months or so with a sort of “out of body” view of it all; there have been tours & recordings, re-connections & new avenues…pretty much everything I could have asked for to lay the groundwork for the next phase of my “career”, but still, like so many others I find the struggle to maintain a presence in the creative community a difficult one. We play parts in our lives & others’ that don’t always fit perfectly side by side. While at rehearsal the other night I found myself struck & sobered by a few lines from the song “Town of Mirrors” as if I’d not heard them before…strange when that happens; Perhaps it’s just that the particular lyric seems to curl so tightly up to what I’m feeling these last few weeks that I find it hard to believe it wasn’t written specifically to clear this latest hurdle…or have I simply not progressed at all since it was written, choosing instead to repeat the same behavior & suffer the same consequences year in & year out, delusional, arrogant madness. “…Steady yourself & settle down, you see the grass at the fence is dead on both sides now; dreaming the role of a great man, but the investment insures there is no back up plan…” . Either way, I found it an uneasy therapy to sing those lines & have teetered back & forth as to which “dead grass” I’d end up falling in…until a friend reminded me today that there’s no need to fall…falling is a helpless act…falling is accidental & therefore a non-decision; an affront to the glorious attempt & the noble failure…a nothingness. One must jump, right or wrong, where one wants to land with faith & conviction…or at least delusional, arrogant madness…See you on the ground-JC