I'm writing you from Fulong, a fishing village on the northeast coast on Taiwan, a place my heart sails to sometimes when I sleep. I've been holed up here for a week and a half, writing the book to go with the new album, and god, is it ever good to be back on the island. I spent a month in this little town back in 2012, when I took a break from the sauce and the stage to stay put for a change. I answered all my unread email and wrote three songs that month, including one called "Pass It Along" that seems like it'll outlive me.
It's been another fruitful stay so far. The book's already passed the 30,000-word mark, and I'm digging deeper than I've ever dared, both politically and personally. There's a through line for me here.
My old pal Crees picked me up from the airport in the early morning last Tuesday, and my spirit soared to see the mountains in the hazy distance. I missed this island so much. The smells here––the ocean, the bamboo groves, the temple, the market, even the motorbike mechanic's shop––give me such a swell of feeling that it's hard to know what to do with it. The first day I rode a pedal-bike around and thrilled at the sight of everything. Thankfully, it's been raining a lot of the time I've been here, so I've actually gotten some writing done. But I did take a couple epic bike rides on the sunny days, and when Pamela arrives on Tuesday I'll surely be showing her around some.
I played Tiger Mountain Ramble last weekend in Taipei, and it was so sweet, if a little overwhelming, to reconnect with some old pals. I've got four more shows left while I'm here, starting tomorrow:
Sat Dec 14 • Hualien, TW • house concert w/ Peace Dave and Matt Van Stone opening
Fri Dec 20 • Taipei, TW • Bobwundaye! with David Chen and Conor Prunty
Sat Dec 21 • Taichung, TW • Lei Gallery afternoon house concert
Sun Dec 22 • Xinpu, TW • The Farm w/ Mike Mudd, Megan Ridley, and Soul Flies
After that, Pamela and I will be flying to New Zealand for the first time, to spend five weeks traveling that gorgeous country. If you've got friends there, PLEASE, send 'em my way!
Mon-Fri Dec 30-Jan 3 • North Taieri, NZ • Whare Flat Folk Festival
Sat Jan 4 • Oamaru, NZ • Grainstore Gallery
Sun Jan 5 • Wanaka, NZ • Bar Number 8
Wed Jan 8 • Hokitika, NZ • Old Lodge Theatre
Thu Jan 9 • Barrytown, NZ • The Barrytown Hall
Fri Jan 10 • Nelson, NZ • The Boathouse
Sun Jan 12 • Onekaka, NZ • The Mussel Inn
Wed Jan 15 • Wellington, NZ • The Third Eye
Thu Jan 16 • Palmerston North, NZ • Globe Theatre
Fri Jan 17 • New Plymouth, NZ • TSB Festival of Lights
Sat Jan 18 • Carterton, NZ • house concert
Wed Jan 22 • Hastings, NZ • The Common Room w/ Danny Priestley
Thu Jan 23 • Hamilton, NZ • Nivara Lounge w/ The Bollands
Fri-Mon Jan 24-27 • Auckland, NZ • Auckland Folk Festival
I'll be taking most of February off in Edmonton, but at the end of the month I'll be hitting the road again, to release the new album around the States. Dates, as they're added, are on my news page. If there's anywhere else you'd like me to play (even if it's your living room!), please drop me a line and hopefully we can make it happen!
Before I sign off and get back to the writing, I just want to say another huge thanks to all the kind folks who took care of us in Australia. It was such a good visit, and such a joy to reconnect with friends there. We felt especially grateful to be invited to so many festivals, and we dug them all. Special shoutouts from the last month to By The Banks Music Festival (a perfect one-day thing in Albury put on by my favourite Australian band, the Northern Folk) and Healesville MUSIC Festival, an impeccably-organized beauty of a fest just outside Melbourne that WAY more people should know about.
The biggest heart-full of all for me, though, was Majors Creek Festival, in the Southern Tablelands near Bungendore. The lineup was killer, the stages were close enough together and scheduled so that you could catch a bit of everything, and our poop got composted with sawdust rather than carted away in a chemical soup. They made time in the schedule for This Way North to host their Sass the Patriarchy panel, and I reckon they had about as many women as men on the festival lineup. They had a big circus tent in the middle for the kids. They gave us half-hour changeovers on the stages! Dancing to a salsa band on Saturday night with some rowdy local bros, and even talking sobriety with one, I was reminded of what folk festivals are FOR––bringing the world to some little town, spreading the gospel of music and fun and tolerance and looking after each other, opening minds in a way that speeches just can't. And on the Sunday, hanging and dancing with the locals on the lawn of the little gold-rush era pub, lapping up the evening light with my eyes, and then walking back up the hill under the big Southern sky for one of my last sleeps in Skippy, I had all the feels.
Skip overheated on the way out of there but we managed to find a shop where they fixed the problem in an hour, and a lady I recognized from the festival sneakily bought our lunch. My friend Bronwyn offered up her house again, and me and Bram stayed there off and on for a couple weeks, and got to play a show in her living room toward the end of it all. Our friends Peter and Jane hosted us for a show in the 90-seat theatre they built specifically for their house concerts (I kid you not), and again provided us the biggest payday of the trip. A bunch of people came back to see us at multiple stops along the way, and about 200 of them pre-ordered the new album, trusting me with their money in exchange for writing their name and address on an envelope. You people are so kind. I won't be back for a while, but it's not for lack of love. Thank you.
Oh, and Skippy! My friend Tom from Wingham, NSW flew into Melbourne around the time I flew out, got the key off the driver's side tire, and adventured all the way back home. I heard today that Skip just had a successful mission ferrying rabble-rousers to a climate action. So life goes on. I'll miss Skippy, and I'll miss you good people. Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Love from the South China Sea-shore,