I am writing this on a flight right now, heading home from a two week trip to India. The plane is a symphony of babies crying, people coughing, a Vietnamese mother of two throwing up in the next row (we talked before the flight) and the woman in the seat next to me applying incredibly toxic smelling nail polish. It is a perfect stew for sleeplessness and hence, the best time to write a newsletter.
Although the trip was not music related, whatever part of me that is earnestly artistic was definitely stirred. I walked through beautiful temples, bustling cities, white sand beaches, even the slums of Mumbai. There is such a dignity to the Indian people, steeped in tradition, religion and family, that even amongst intense poverty (the likes of which our country is mostly unaware), it prevails. My mind was blown by the chaos of the streets, the connectivity of the people, the cows freely roaming the roads like they owned them—the wild monkey pickpocketing my brother-in-law's can of Deep-Woods Off (and then biting through the aluminum like it was corn on the cob and eventually spraying it's own face).
It was nice to be away from the American news cycle for a couple of weeks, and to see the world through other's eyes. I would only allow myself to turn on my phone late at night, to run through social media for a couple of minutes. I was surprised to see that a post I had written about gun control was still rippling two weeks after I had written it.
As an aside, I try my best to stay away from politics in my work, not for business reasons, but rather for just recognizing my role in life: I play pretty or funny songs to make as many people as I can feel better. I also get disappointed sometimes when I discover someone I admire has different political beliefs than I do…even though I pride myself on objectivity.
That being said, this last mass shooting in Florida really upset me and my emotions bubbled over so I stepped on the only broken soap box I know. I don't regret it, and am fully aware that I may lose some folks…and I don't mind that. Usually, the people who get angry at me are really into guns, to the point that I think they're missing my larger points, and probably don't connect with me on a soulful level anyway.
I have no love of guns but was born into a country where the streets are flooded with them and we're drowning in the bloody aftermath far too often. I don't like being around guns. They make me queasy. Of course, if there was a bad guy with a gun about to shoot in my direction, I would really like there to be a good guy with a gun, or heck, even a slingshot, a field hockey stick, a light saber—any other weapon that would have a fighting chance. In fact, what I'd really like is a super hero to show up, someone who could just whisk me away to safety and cover my eyes from the carnage. I'll bet a lot of the Parkland high school kids wished that, as opposed to seeing their best friend's torsos torn apart.
But really, I wish it wasn't so easy for a bad guy to get a gun in the first place, especially weapons firing multiple rounds per minute. I often wonder how we can ensure someone is a "good guy"? Will we ever be able to read someone's mind and “screenshot" their intentions? I've seen good guys unravel. Life can beat the good guy right out of them.
I resent what I know of the NRA for one main reason: they care more about gun owner’s rights than the rights of the victims of gun violence. Their answer is always more guns. Arm the teachers, arm the preachers, arm the nightclub DJ's, arm the McDonalds manager, arm the movie theater concession stand operators (all of whom have been subjected to mass shootings). With so many guns, at what point have we stopped being a civilized society? Don't policemen get shot at regularly? And they have guns strapped to their hip, ready to be the hero at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, sometimes a moment is a moment too late.
The NRA's lack of empathy is as great as the power they wield over feckless politicians, which funnels down to our society as a whole. The majority of Americans want changes to the gun laws that were drafted when the horse was the exclusive mode of transportation.
Guns will no longer protect us against a tyrannical government. A zombie apocalypse or an angry bear? Maybe. Nuclear weapons? I'm betting the government wins that battle 100% of the time. Checks and balances protect us from our government. Involvement protects us from our government. That is the true brilliance of our founding fathers. I have yet to hear one good argument as to why an aimless teenager should be able to buy an assault weapon with the same level of difficulty it takes to buy a video game. There are so many beautiful young lives being taken for no reason, and what is most upsetting to me is that nothing is being done about it. Vote the supplicants out.
With no apparent segue, I should also say that the new Push Stars record is in the final stages of completion. Dan and I flew to Los Angeles last month to join Ryan and Greg Collins (who also produced and mixed our “Paint The Town” record) to finish the mixing in person. We had initially tried to do it all long distance, but we quickly realized that we function best as an old school band, in the same room together, pounding coffee and exchanging ideas in the moment. The music is stylistically unlike anything we've/I've ever done. It has Memphis all over it. We are kind of proud of it, and more than a little excited to have you hear it. Now onto artwork, credits and whatever business plan we're capable of coming up with.
Very soon, I will be doing a couple of weeks on the road with my old friend Martin Sexton. Before either of us ever toured, we would sit together on Martin's back porch in Boston with a handful of other songwriters and play new ideas for one another. We'd give each other feedback (mostly positive) and share connections as to which local Irish pub was booking original acoustic music that week. It was like a songwriters support group. I realized recently that all the artists who used to show up (who weren't national acts at the time) are national acts now. Martin's good karma and a great performer who has always encouraged me and my writing.
After that run, I will embark on my own headlining tour, where I've come up with new jokes that may or may not be funny (as usual), new stories and I’ll play a couple of the new tunes from the Push Stars’ record too.
Hope you pull up.
With much love,