Just a quick Hobo Travelogue this month, and it's coming to you from the Vancouver airport, while Bram and I wait to get on a plane to Melbourne. Google tells me it's 34C there right now, but we're not gonna complain about the heat, 'cause nobody back on this side wants to hear it. We'll be landing Monday morning, meeting up with our Aussie bandmates Liz Frencham and Esther Henderson for a jam that afternoon, and by fortuitous happenstance, having dinner in Brunswick with fellow Canadian songsmith Corin Raymond that night.
Our big mission's making a new album, but first we'll be tuning up the band with a run of sweet shows through familiar pastures:
Wed Feb 27 • Benalla, VIC • North East Artisans
Thu Feb 28 • Canberra, ACT • Smith's Alternative
Fri-Sun Mar 1-3 • Cobargo, NSW • Cobargo Folk Festival
Tue Mar 5 • Wingham, NSW • house concert
Thu Mar 7 • Bellingen, NSW • 5 Church Street
Fri Mar 8 • Kempsey, NSW • Hot Club at the Oddfellows Hall
Sat Mar 9 • Newcastle, NSW • house concert
Sun Mar 10 • Sydney, NSW • Southern Sydney Folk Club
Mon Mar 11 • Mia Mia, VIC • Burke and Wills Folk Festival
Tue Mar 12 • Ringwood, VIC • Victorian Folk Music Club
Wed Mar 13 • Melbourne, VIC • Lomond Acoustica (just me and Bram on this one, with Mandy Connell and Dana Sipos)
Fri-Sun Mar 15-17 • Warburton, VIC • The River Folk Festival
Thu Mar 21 • Apollo Bay, VIC • house concert
Fri Mar 22 • Ballarat, VIC • The Main Bar
Sat Mar 23 • Bendigo, VIC • The Old Church on the Hill
Sun Mar 24 • Echuca, VIC • afternoon backyard concert
Fri Mar 29 • Healesville, VIC • Healesville House Concert
Sat Mar 30 • Melbourne, VIC • hall show with Men In Suits
Sun Mar 31 • Melbourne, VIC • finale at The Spotted Mallard, 4-7pm
On our return in April we've got trio shows in Calgary and High River and a trio tour out to BC, then I'll be touring solo around Washington and Oregon in May. As always, the details for all these dates can be found on my news page.
Last weekend I was in Montreal for the Folk Alliance International conference, and wow, what a crazy collision of creative souls that was! It's gotten dramatically bigger over the last few years, so much so that it's actually pushing the limits of a community gathering. There were so many people I love there with whom I didn't get to exchange more than a few words over the five days. But still, it was great to see old pals, to be introduced to some new artists, and to hear stars like Hawksley Workman, Lynn Miles, and Rising Appalachia playing in hotel rooms like the rest of us. I had a great scratch band, consisting of Mike Kerr on guitar, Curtis Glas on upright bass, and my buddy Jose Mejia on dobro, and we knocked out a couple unamplified 25-minute sets for capacity hotel-room crowds of ten or twenty people in the wee hours. Oh, and Birds of Chicago made me cry, Anna Tivel boggled my mind, and somewhat typically, the best jam I heard was by the service elevators. It's difficult to explain the bizarre world of the conferences to anyone who hasn't been, but I can at least report that folk music's in good hands.
Since I last wrote you from Guatemala, I've been pretty overwhelmed with all the work I'd hoped to get done before heading to Australia. I really have made progress on all that, but I've also became aware that I could very easily spend all my time on it and still not get caught up, while never putting any time into the important work of writing songs for the upcoming album. There's always more admin that I could (and often feel like I should) be doing. And while it's what keeps this whole show running, it's not the work I feel like I was born to do, the work I can best serve the world with.
In The War of Art (a novella-length pep-talk for creative types), Steven Pressfield talks about the myriad ways procrastination can stand in the way of our creative calling. It's always easier to do the things we know how to do, than the thing we don't know how to do. I've written songs before, so I guess I know something about how that work goes. But every new song is a new creation, with its own new set of rules. A new song is something I don't know how to do. And while I approach the whole process in a more workmanlike way than some folks might imagine, I still always wonder where in the heck they come from, and whether I've got any good ones left in me.
My friend Lisi had offered the use of her cabin on Lac St. Anne, so I decided to take the opportunity to get away for five days. The polar vortex was careening around our part of the world that week, and it was crazy cold out, the kind of cold I remember from growing up in Saskatchewan: that crisp kind of cold where the snow squeaks, the wind burns, the moon wears an ice-crystal halo, and sound carries forever at night. Pamela came out the first night, but then left me with only the woodstove for company. It was amazing how much emotion came bubbling through me in that silence. All kinds of fears––that I wouldn't turn out anything of value, that I wasn't ready to make a record, that I was past my prime, that civilization itself was running out of time, that the whole system and the life I've built atop it was due to come crashing down any minute––and that less specific but bigger fear that we call anxiety. I felt so scared and sad and lonely that first night that I didn't know what to do with myself. But I sat with it. And then the songs started coming, bit by bit. I didn't know if they were any good, but I sang them to keep myself company. I had three on the go at the same time. Whenever one would start moving a bit, it felt like a rush of wind into my sails. I made myself laugh with the twists and turns they took. And eventually I thought I might have something worth showing somebody else.
On the second-to-last day I found myself gripped by an almost irresistible restlessness, with thoughts of all the admin work that I should really be getting back to; with questions of whether any of this was worth anything, and whether I shouldn't just stop fooling myself and go back to work. I was reminded of what I've heard from friends who've gone through vipassana (ten-day silent meditation) programs, of how hard they had to fight (or succumbed to) the urge to flee. I resolved to stick it out for two more nights, and managed to pull another song out of the stay, which made four in total. All of them drew on earlier ideas, none of them was quite finished, and I'm still not even sure all of them will make it onto the album. But four songs is about my usual yearly output, and it sure was good to feel like the moorings had torn loose, like the heavy boulders were rolling around again. The moment of creativity, when you're holding something that you think might grow into something, but you still don't know what it is, before objectivity and judgement have come to pick it over, when––as I once heard Dar Williams put it––the window is open, that's a precious and holy moment, and it's one worth making time for.
I'm gonna leave it there, friends, but thanks for reading, and I sure do hope to see you if and when we find ourselves in the same corner of this big world.
Keep the window open,