As most of you know, it’s been another year of big life changes. The sudden and unexpected loss of another family member, my precious mother, followed months later by the birth of my son Aidan, also unexpected. The wheel of life most certainly has its way of balancing things out.
It seems every album I’ve made has been dedicated to a dearly departed member of my immediate family. And while this next one will again include the dedication for a third sibling and both parents, all within the past 2 years, it will also be a dedication to new life. Of course, that inspiration comes from the little fire of life I was recently blessed with, but also from the pact I’ve made with all of you since I began this journey and began saying at every show, ‘we are in this boat called life together, and we have to celebrate this life right now, with each other in this moment.’ That remains my ongoing inspiration. People will come and go in our lives but when we are in a moment together, that is living life in the here and now. Something you have all done with me every step of the way. My gratitude can’t possibly be fully conveyed by typed words on a page.
Now, I’m taking on an entirely new and scary challenge. Something I’ve never done on such a big level. (My friends and family can attest). I’m asking you guys to help me keep our Church of Love and Life going in a way that I can sustain. No, I’m not asking for handouts. That’s never been my style! I’ve always been more comfortable being the giver in any relationship. Not a boastful statement, but in all honestly, I think I preferred the control of that dynamic over the intimacy that comes with receiving…the fear that comes with testing my own self worth. So, I speak not with any noble morality when I say that I prefer to give rather than receive, remaining safely distant from the intimacy of asking for help, always believing I had to do it all on my own. You guys have shown me in so many ways that this is not at all the case. Evidenced by the first card for the loss of my oldest brother 5 years ago, signed by loving, caring people whom I didn’t even know. You made my mother weep with that one. The pilgrimages you made to shows to support me after each family loss along with all of your thoughtful cards and letters. Right down to the baby clothes I still marvel at from this past year! I have often sat and just wondered to myself, “wow, do I really mean that much to these people? Am I giving enough to deserve this?” It’s a constant and humbling thought I have.
Now, as a touring and performing artist, I have to finally accept that I can’t get by at all without a little help from my friends! I can’t sustain the costs of touring for extended periods of time, doing show after show to keep my musicians gainfully employed, keeping us all healthy by getting us at least a decent bed to sleep in while traveling extensively, often on little or no sleep. By decent, I mean a 2 star hotel, just a bed and shower, preferably with no vermin. :-) I’ve upped the show by adding keyboards because you asked! I’ve upped the show by having my own sound tech because as Warren Haynes once said to me, “A sound man can make or break your career.” Here’s an example, one time I did a show in Europe where I was in the best voice I’d been in a while. Fully rested and my pipes were raring to go! I was new at the whole touring game and while I had to struggle to hear myself on stage, through what I later learned were just cheap insufficient monitors, fortunately I had all the energy and power to push through with a full clear voice. However, after the show I did the usual meet and greet and everyone asked if I had a cold and why they couldn’t hear me? I was told that some people were so frustrated they walked out. Aha! Warren was right! I used the house sound guy, whom I’d never met. He later confessed he had no idea what he was doing but talked the club into hiring him because he was a fan. I laughed and hugged him and bought him a beer, but from then on I’ve been determined to bring my own sound tech, which means another flight, another hotel, another person to pay.
Now, here comes the catch 22.
I need you. No, it’s not that I just need bodies to show up so my ego doesn’t tank, so venues will bring me back, and so I can cover my operating costs. Of course, that’s all certainly part of it, but it’s more than that and something I think we all feel, I need to believe what I’m doing actually matters…at least to someone. Then, hell yes I’ll stomp sweat and spit every night sick or not, or even at the usual risk of getting sick! And we will continue to celebrate life and our human connection to one another with a violent passionate fervor! Here’s why and where I need your help.
On a small label, which is where I’ve been for the last few years, it’s virtually impossible to reach all of you. Like Steve and Lisa in Phoenix, AZ who have both been (politely and patiently) begging me to come play that awesome city! Like so many of you who write all the time asking why I don’t play more (or at all!) in your city, etc. It PAINS me to get these notes because there isn’t a city, state or country I wouldn't LOVE to play. Here’s a peak behind the curtain offered without bitterness, only as truth to power.
A small record label (if you’re lucky) gives you barely enough to make the record. In my case, I incurred the cost to make the record out of my own pocket and then sold it to the label, often getting less than half of what it actually cost me to make it. But it was important to me to do it right. I can’t and won’t give you guys any half measures. I can’t deliver if I don’t feel connected. Ok, so then the label says they’ll promote you, and again if you’re lucky, they’ll mail out a bunch of copies of the albums randomly (and often far too late for any real press or promo to be done) and call it a day because they have a bunch of other bands that they’re doing the same thing for and they are usually a small operation. Then once the CD’s are mailed, they’re done with you. But you’re not done with them because they now own your songs and that album for life. When I sell that album from the stage, I first must buy it from the label at a premium and I get a fraction of a penny for every download. Before you know it, they’ve made a tidy living on you but you are struggling to even get to the next show!
And here’s what it takes to get to the next show…
The budgeting starts with flights for the 5 band members and sound tech, then ground transportation and modest accommodations for all. Next, is salary for us all (we don’t just get our clothes from “thrift shops” because they’re cool hahaha). Add in per diem and meals for band and crew. Ok I’ll leave the math to you as I think you get the general idea. It costs thousands of dollars to do a show and most clubs only cover a fraction of that cost. Therefore, we rely on CD sales and the big festivals to cover expenses for doing a club or theater show near you. If you stick with it long enough, by believing in yourself and your fans, then you go from losing money the first couple of years, to breaking even the next few, and then to finally begin seeing small profit. I remember my days of paying to play. That’s the biz and that’s why you need either a big label (which really do not sign many non pop artists) OR you need real fans. What’s a real fan? Someone who buys tickets to your shows and buys your music and spreads the word. Lucky for me, I’ve got people like you. If you’re reading this, then you have been that kind of fan. I actually prefer to say, “friend.” You have been this kind of friend to me, my band and in turn, to my music. You have made me feel that what I’m doing matters.
Now, I’m hoping to do it better! I’m hoping to get to more cities and meet those of you face to face who only know me through YouTube! I’m hoping to keep coming back to those of you who’ve been with me all along and rocking your asses off. I want to come to you and play just for you. In order to do this, I need to make my next album of music so we have new stories to share, and I need to get my band on the necessary planes, trains and automobiles to get to that stage!
Ok, so here’s my “ask”…
I’ve decided I “ain’t to proud to beg, sweet darlin’ please don’t leave me no no no!” (just kidding.) I’m not asking for a handout I’m simply asking for the same deal I’ve always asked for as I hit the stage, I’ll give you all my heart and soul, just give me some of yours back.
That said, I’ve decided to take the leap and do a PledgeMusic Campaign. Something I could never imagine doing a few years ago. Well, you know the old adage, ‘never say never.’ But it no longer makes sense to keep hitting the same brick walls. To be hidden in the shadows because we can’t afford to get out there to more and more people. Because we don’t have the money to hire a publicist to make more people aware of the shows we do. To keep offending so many of you who think I just choose to NOT play your hometown or state! So, I decided to do what many respectable contemporary artists whom I look up to are doing. In this day and age, we are so lucky that we don’t have to wait for the man in the suit to validate our worth and decide whether or not our music gets heard. If you want me and I am willing to fight to get to you, then it’s entirely in OUR control. And this is where it gets fun…
Like I said, no “hand outs” involved here, unless you insist. ;-) Rather, I want to do a creative and fun exchange with you that will help me give you all I’ve got to offer in exchange for you helping me fund the next album, promotion and tour! I don’t expect any charity here y’all so I’ve come up with some wacky and never before offered ideas, such as…
Hosting you at a dinner party and hootenanny (look that word up!) in my Harlem crib. Coming to your living room to play for you and your friends. Giving you a tour of my fave spots in NYC. Having you join us in the studio while we make the album and have some drinks and food with us. Hanging with the band for some fun after parties at certain shows and festivals. I will be offering up some personal and one-of-a-kind items from my journey in music, theater and movies. There will be a very special one of a kind show and there will be a lot more to offer at PledgeMusic with more to be added along the way, too! The goal is for us to be having fun every step of the way in this process together. I’ll even write a song for you or someone you love for the next album, if you’re the first to grab that limited time option. These are just a few fun ideas my team and I have put together so dive in at Pledge Music and see for yourself!
All that aside, please know that I know I already get so much from you. I even get my song inspirations from you. Like when you tell me your stories after shows or write to me. Like when I’m working out a new tune and I’m actually imagining performing it for you and telling you my story at the next show. That’s my songwriting inspiration. In fact, it’s because of all of you that for this new album, I’ve finally been able to write a song about my father and his complex tortured soul. I’ve written a song about giving birth to my son after so much loss, (including the loss of previous pregnancies that had me devastated) and a song about what it was like to finally be able to give my mother a grandchild only to lose her before he could arrive. I think about how I need to express these stories and in my mind I see your faces in the audience ready to share them with me and it makes the lyrics just flow out. YOU guys are my truest inspiration. But, I digress…
Now back to the hard part. If none of the things I have to offer in my PledgeMusic Campaign speak to you, but you do want to at least have my new album, then all you have to do is simply pre-order it! That alone will cover a portion of the cost of making the record. The rest we’ll figure out later once it’s done.
Ok there, I’ve done it! Ouch! This wasn’t easy for me to write. But I will tell you now that as I wrote the part above about my songwriting inspiration being from you guys, it truly brought me to tears. Tears of gratitude and deep reflection on these past few years with all of you and our lives so intertwined.
Much Love and may this Holiday Season be one of Peace, Love and Joy for All of You.
We have so much to be thankful for.
I’ll close by saying thank you for selling out my first postpartum show this Friday at the Rubin Museum. I’ll be debuting a few of the new tunes, mentioned above and one that we just finished yesterday entitled “Orphan.” Having this precious baby that needs so much love and care has been a stark reminder of so many children all over the world whose parents are ripped away from them, especially in these sad, violent times of war.
So, please send your prayers of love to all the “orphans” out there both young and old and let’s keep fighting against a divided world and continue to RISE UP against hatred, discrimination, greed and violence.
I’m READY TO RISE y’all…on every level. Are you with me?
Love, Love, Love and Then Some,