So, yet another year is coming to a close. They say that time moves faster as you get older and boy, as I made it into my mid 40’s and now into my early 50’s I can attest that it sure does seem that way. In the proverbial wink of an eye, weeks turn into months and as another summer draws to an end it seems like the patio furniture that we just put out is once again being prepped for winter storage. It is a difficult task to attempt encapsulating the events and passage of 365 days in the space of a few paragraphs, but here it goes.....
This rapid passage of time, at least in my case, could result from the fact that I am so consummately active in music, both in the retail aspect of my daytime employment and in the world of my career as a recording/touring folksinger. In relation to my artistic career, I have never played more dates than I have in this year of 2014. 121 dates spread far and wide, connecting the dots between listening rooms, house concerts, bars, restaurants and brew pubs, farmers markets and radio broadcasts, at conferences and festivals. From the northeast to the midwest, along the eastern seaboard down to the Atlantic states. Feature slots, opening act slots, co-bills, multiple bills, multiple shows in one day – I thought I had touched all the bases until I was booked to end this year by entertaining some folks at a nursing home on New Year’s Eve; something I have never done before. In all the dates I have performed, I have become keenly aware that the payment for services is only “icing on the cake” as they say. To serve one’s audience, to interact with them, to immerse oneself as a performer into whatever it is your playing, and make an emotional investment, regardless of the venue – that is where the real reward of doing this comes from. In performing so many times this year, I have learned from all of the experiences and performance situations I have been in. I have become a better performer, a better storyteller, the show has “tightened up” as they say, and in looking back, I was not ready for the opportunities that I thought I was ready for a couple of years ago and should have received.
While I watched my 2010 Subaru Forester hit the 100K mile mark this year, I couldn’t help but think of how this incredibly fast paced life I live has led me to meet some of the most wonderful and interesting people I have ever encountered. Not only other artists that I am honored to perform with, but the countless volunteers who work at some of the best listening room coffeehouses in the country, the people who tend the bar at the wonderful brewpubs, the vendors at the farmers markets and most importantly, the fans of the music. I have made many friends and acquaintances over the years in this journey, and I have discovered that these interactions are a remarkably enriching part of the human experience. Conversations that reveal our differences in lifestyle, belief, geography, and sometimes ideology that are joined by the common thread of music. The fact that we can set those differences aside for a few hours to be joined together by music is a testament to its incredible power.
I can honestly look back on this year with its lone low point, the loss of my dearest friend and musical partner Jeffrey Mikulski, with an incredible amount of fondness for the memories we made, and all I learned from him while we worked together and his belief in me as a songwriter. It's those lessons that I carry with me every day. That isn't to say that there is no sadness - there is not a day that goes by that I don't think about Jeff, or wonder what he would do in a certain situation, laugh over an old memory or times when I tear up in thinking about him. Because of the ten year age gap between my own brother and myself, Jeff was the middle brother I never had, and we bonded like brothers because of our closer age difference. He is and always will be sorely missed.
All told, I am a successful artist, and much of it has come from recognizing where I needed to improve, by opening up to trying things I have never done before (like volunteering to work at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and taking performance workshops at NERFA), and by embracing and letting myself be embraced by my community in Folk music. I had to learn to shed negativity and encourage positive thinking in all aspects of my life. “Attitude is everything” has become a personal motto for me. It’s not always perfect, but neither am I and it is much better to go through life taking accountability for your choices and realizing that the decisions one makes are the source of the results you see. Learn to be grateful, say"I love you", learn to apologize and most importantly, learn to forgive. And it’s important to take a lesson away from all of the experiences, both good and bad. These revelations have come slowly and over the course of several years, but believe me, changing your body language and your attitude really does change the way you approach your daily life.
As I conclude this writing, “No Passengers”, released in September, has spent almost two months on the Roots Music Reports Contemporary Folk Album Charts, debuting at #3, falling off for a week, but making a strong push to get back to #8. It has received wonderful reviews around the world and currently has been selected at a “Best of 2014” CD by both Joltin’ Joe Pszonek of WMSC in Montclair, NJ and by Wanda Fischer of WAMC in Albany, NY. Quite an honor for a 7 song EP that was recorded in a day and a half and only intended to fill the gap between full length releases. I am honored, humbled, and blessed to have a life in music, the love of an incredible woman, and the friends I have come to know along the way. So, I THANK YOU for a wonderful 2014 – it really has been a year like no other. As I look forward to 2015 with great hope and with great anticipation, I want to wish YOU all of the best in the coming year!!!