“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
I’ve been writing in my journal a lot lately, almost as if I’m writing a book for some reason. Some inner or unknown force is compelling me to write it all down. Everything. Everything as in everything I don’t say in interviews because I’m never asked. Or everything I don’t say in interviews because I don’t want to advocate that kind of behavior. I’m a popular re-run on Sesame Street and I’ve jammed with the Fresh Beat band after all, and I haven’t given up on Yo Gabba Gabba either, so it behooves me to keep it clean and wholesome in the spotlight.
But I digress. That’s not entirely why I’m writing a lot these days. I’m writing because it brings me back; snapping me out of downward spiraling spin outs of past failures; do-nothing daydreams and delusions of grandeur, instigated by months of interviews talking about myself which if not careful leads to megalomania and mental disorder; therefore, writing reminds me I’m not crazy and still full of ideas and savvy; full of grace and achievement.
Cursive calms the dialogue in one’s head, sentencing the voice to the page instead of asking each newborn phrase to take another lap, busying the mind and denying it its peace. Cursive is also the eloquent language and beautifully curled lips speaking on behalf of the subconscious. When writing, I live multiple lives; those of the past, those of a possible future, and all those happening now that I didn’t know were there until I literally let them go from my dominant hand.
I also write for knowing death I suppose. Knowing someday I’ll go; someday I’ll be forced leave this good life and all of its great pleasures behind. And should that happen suddenly, all the secrets I keep and situations I experience in my solitude will vanish with me, as well as all my bullshit or profound philosophies if I don’t write them down. In prose, poetry or song, I might just live a little longer. And then maybe the impact I have on the world will be just a wee bit stronger.
I started keeping a journal as a teenager for this very reason; death that is. I didn’t know if I’d live or die or run away or what – I was a teenager after all – and words sustained me. I’d write feverishly all the things I wanted to say to my parents but couldn’t; or I’d write to the assholes at school who’d call me a fag, push me into lockers or tail my car on my way home. I would imagine myself disappearing to another city, state or dimension, leaving behind my brave Jim Morrison inspired poetic rants as an F-you to all. That would show them! I thought. Yet I knew all talk and no action would be cowardly, like breaking up with someone over text rather than giving them the pleasure of calling you an asshole one more time to your face.
I was proud of the words I compiled back then, even though when I look back I read them as knock-off monologues from Pump Up the Volume. Regardless, the words gave me power and clarity to keep living. With ink, my secrets weren’t just in my head anymore, they were on the page – which meant at any point someone else could read them and challenge them into existence; it meant that at any point I could read them into existence, and quite possibly – make them mean something.
And with this understanding of thought to word – word to action – came the realization that I could manifest whatever life i wanted. So why hide? I wanted to wanna stick around to revel in the glory of my dreaming? Rather than running away or jumping off a cliff, I chose a higher path and became a public figure, drawing lots of attention, making lots of money, seeing the world, hanging out with artists and celebrities, dating beautiful women, and in plain site for all to see – purposefully forgetting the bully assholes who pushed me in that direction, for I knew my happiness would hurt those who wished me harm. It’s like looking your best when you run into an ex. You win.
And still, I didn’t start writing out of fear nor did I keep writing just to benefit the unspoken truths. I continued to write because everyday I’d make little discoveries about myself and/or my relationship to my environment, which is always changing. The older I got, the better life was getting and the better I was getting at life. And I didn’t want to forget where I came from or what I went through to get here. Better yet, I figured I’d want to re-live these high times when I’m 90 reading my notebooks to my grandchildren. Journals are time machines after all, if not fountains of youth, giving me hope – dissipating all fears of death, encouraging me to live it up now so at the very least I’ll have some interesting stories to share as a well-lived and perhaps pervy old man. And maybe, just maybe THIS is what compels me to draw a long paragraph. I’d never have come to it had I not used the pen to ask.
It’s said the giant oak compels the acorn to grow.
So too did a young success in his 30’s compel a teen to play guitar and make this so.
And now there’s an old man somewhere compelling me to live it up and write it down.
I look forward to thanking him in person when I get there.
I may as well start here.
From New York to Hong Kong, Richmond to Singapore, Memphis to Montreal, St Louis to San Diego, I’ve see many of the world’s most beautiful city skylines, and one thing that always amazes me about cities at night are how many lights are left on. Sometimes entire buildings are illuminated, as I’m sure elevators and escalators are still humming, though idle. I’m sure microwaves and televisions are on stand-by, sucking up more electricity and dollars from the companies who operate out of these buildings.
My hotel is often right up in there, snug between the monolithic banks and business centers, climate controlled, well lit and welcoming. But I don’t complain about my accommodations. Ever. I’ve slept on the couches. I’ve lived in my car. I toured in a van when all of us shared a room. And as competitive as this business is, I’m delighted I’m being given an opportunity to share my experiences, my truth, my failures, my feelings, and my dreams, publically, through the medium of song, blog, or as much as I loathe them, interviews. I’m grateful inspiration still reaches me. And I am grateful for the humility the path of this career teaches me.
In February of this year I had the pleasure of traveling to Antarctica with Al Gore and Friends to learn about the stark realities of climate change and how humans play a huge role in the ever transforming health of our planet, for the good and the bad. Fortunately in recent years, our awareness, including my own, has expanded to embrace new green technologies that help our beautiful cities and countries flourish rather than suffocate.
At the moment I’m traveling through southeast Asia during a time when the Indonesian island of Sumatra is clearing land with fire, causing a haze over many surrounding countries, including Singapore, where I’ll play in a few short hours. For whatever reason the land needs clearing, it’s a people problem and likely an economic necessity. And it’s usually the things we really need that do us the most harm. Just look at the oil business in the gulf and the cancer cases that parallel the alley of oil and gas refineries in Louisiana as an example. The only reason oil spills and refineries continue to operate is because we all still need lots of it!
I learned a few years ago that I could travel with my own water bottle and greatly reduce my use of plastic. This also cuts down on the need to ship water across the world greatly reducing the amount energy I need to survive. Add this to the discovery of solar power, bio-fuel, local/organic food supply, and suddenly the home and heart is operating more efficiently. However, it isn’t always easy, especially flying from city to brightly lit city. Granted, most residents of major cities use public transportation and have a much smaller carbon footprint than I do, and many cities are getting on board with new technology to better serve their cities and guests. Tree planting is a good one, and one that I’ve recently become involved with. For it is trees that sequester and offset carbon while also providing wind breaks for desert areas which help soils, or provide shade for extremely paved areas that intensify the suns heat making a city feel hotter.
I bring this up today not to preach, but to applaud the hotel where I currently reside in Singapore, The Marina Bay Sands, for their extraordinary efforts in greening their business and beautiful sovereign state.
At 55 floors up my view over Singapore’s Gardens By The Bay is a hazy one, but it was refreshing to know that the elevator ride wasn’t in vain since the elevator’s motion also serves to generate energy for the hotel. Trust me. They’ve thought of everything here.
Upon entering my room I discover that nothing is plugged in, which is a totally different experience from the start. Usually when I walk into a room, every light is on, including the TV. But here at the Sands, they know they are saving energy AND money by not leaving everything on.
In fact it’s their standard operating procedure to only plug something in if the guest plans to use it.
- no paper check-in or check out.
- composting bowls to separate the organic waste from the rubbish.
- recycle bins.
- And even a carbon footprint report to let you know your score as a guest based on how much water, air and electricity you used during your stay.
- AND the hotel will organize the planting of a tree and/or water lilies for you to offset your carbon!
Amazing. Thank you Marina Bay Sands.
I hope these practices become a new standard for all businesses, especially those places where we live, work and play. Our hotels, our offices, and our homes.
I once heard a comedian say, Silent Letters Are DumB’. Putting extra inflection on the B sound at the end of the word. I chuckled.
I like silent letters personally. I think they’re clever but must be a nightmare for people new to the English language. Then again, I’m new to every other language on earth, and some of the combinations of letters, or worse, strokes, as is in Chinese, just don’t add up. For instance the word for love in Chinese is “I.” It sounds just like “I” at least. As in “I” am. But it takes 13 strokes of the pen to spell it/say it. How awesome is that!
In the word Lucky, do think it’s the C or the K that is silent? I’ve always assumed they just go together, but I’d say the K is doing all the heavy lifting.
Last night I got to sing Lucky in Chinese (Mandarin) with GEM, a rad young artist from Hong Kong.
I’ve performed that song many many times and in a couple different languages now; Español and Japanese to name a few, and each time I get to get to say thank you to music itself for connecting me to these beautiful words, sounds, shapes and lovely spirits with whom I sing.
Some of you may remember Alysse Fischer from the 2009 Gratitude Café Tour. She was not only a star crew member but she would get all fancy just in time to take the stage each night for a beautiful rendition of Lucky. These days you can hear Alysse’s original music on Itunes or bandcamp. Check out her beautiful song, “Safe in My Arms.” http://alyssefischer.bandcamp.com/track/safe-in-my-arms
Her music, while beautiful and profound, often goes unnoticed or unheard, which is unfortunate. Acts like Alysse Fischer, Gregory Page, Carlos Olmeda, Dawn Mitschele, Parker Ainsworth, Tristan Prettyman, Matt and Avasa Love, Bushwalla, The Makepeace Brothers, Ryan Dilmore, and Luc & The Lovingtons are at times like the silent letters of the ever expanding music world. You don’t hear them, YET. But they’re there and they’re as important and brilliant as all the rest. In fact, it is from this community of musicians and songwriters that I find my strength and inspiration and if you’re ever curious to know who my greatest influences are, check out any and all of the acts mentioned above. Hear their songs; their letters to you, and help them break their silence.
Meanwhile, I’ll be practicing mnemonics attempting to improve my knowledge, building a solemn column, rhyming a lot, untying knots, and trying not to bomb yet, wondering where the O in the word people went.
For the past 3 years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in American’s most important music festival, Farm Aid; the annual concert to benefit America’s struggling family farmers. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of buying local/organic food and supporting your local farmer’s market. Organic is the highest choice for your family’s health, the health of your environment, AND the health of your local economy as buying locally helps the farmer get the fairest and most accurate price for his labor. Believe it or not, our current food system, which is centrally managed by major factory farms, doesn’t act holistically. Meaning, human health, soil health, and economic health for the whole isn’t equally considered.
Farm Aid is an enriching and educational experience and I always return home with invaluable tips and resources to improve the quality of life in my own backyard.
This year I will not be attending Farm Aid unfortunately, but do plan to be there in spirit, keeping an ear on the progress, seeing that the 30 year old concert flourishes.
However, it gives me great pleasure to announce I WILL be playing a similar concert in Japan; the AP Bank Festival. AP Bank (which stands for Artist’s Power/Alternative Power) is not an actual Bank, but a fund created by Music Producer Takeshi Kobayashi and Sakurai Kazutoshi , a singer from the band “Mr Children”. For the past 8 years, AP Bank Fes has generated millions of dollars for farmers, food futures, and green technologies. This year, the festival is taking things a step further and creating 3 festival sites in effort to help the people in the disaster area by raising money and attention, with awards given especially to farmers, for the healthy food that will heal and sustain us.
I’ve been told I will be the first western artist to play this festival in its 8 years running, and what intrigues me almost as much as sharing music is what I’m sure to learn. At the AP Bank Fes, there is zero waste. ZERO waste! ZERO WASTE among 100,000 attendees!?
This is made possible by employing and empowering people to wash and reuse their plates and cups, to bring their own wares and act responsibly; conscious of the festival environment, which is everyone’s home for the long weekend. This I HAVE to see!
Additionally, All PET (plastic) bottles are compressed on site and prior to being recycled, are displayed as giant clear plastic cubes for all to see just how much is consumed in 3 short days. The efforts Takeshi Kobayashi and his team take are what is needed by ALL concert promoters and festival goers alike. They leave the festival sight without a trace and take accountability for everything that comes and goes from the festival grounds. Even trucks that carry-in deliveries are required to haul away recyclables so not even the petrol is misused. All merchandise is pre-organic, meaning the cotton comes from villages supported to keep pesticides out of their communities entirely. And within the festival are workshops on how to live sustainably, how to grow food, and make efficient products and crafts; ways to stay involved in the cultural revolution that I believe is now happening all over the planet.
Ironically, Japan has considered restoring their nuclear reactors soon to help combat the summer heat. The concert, powered by wind turbines, solar panels, and bio-fuel generators, hopes to raise awareness about – and stress the importance of – clean green renewable energy which is now available to all if we want it.
Could you imagine? ENERGY INDEPENDENCE! No nukes. No mountaintop removal nor burning of coal. No more oil spills. NO MORE UTILITY BILLS!
Sadly one of the driving forces opposing green tech are oil, gas, and electric utilities, which is a huge source of income for a nation. As long as people are tied into a grid, money is sure to be circulated, therefore Energy Independence looks scary to some. But imagine paying zero for electricity as myself and many people who own solar systems do. It allows me save and put my money elsewhere.
*This is something to think about for upcoming the US election. Keep in mind President OBAMA has applied more money to green technology than any other president in history. And for this he gets my vote for a second term! (See that your local Congressman and Senator are supporters of green initiatives as well, for if the majority of the Senate were eco-minded, we’d be halfway to utopia already.) With Energy Independence, we could spend less money on oil, gas and electric (fighting less wars and building less nuclear products) and put more money into healthy food futures or the ARTS!
Japanese audiences have been supportive of my music for 10 years strong and I am especially honored to be considered a friend in this revolutionary time of need.
Learn more about AP Bank Fes and its initiatives.
And if in the US, check out Farm Aid and see what’s growing on right in your backyard!
I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my life. Such as slicing my finger on a tube of toothpaste. I tore my leg open on a mattress once, requiring 7 nasty staples to seal me up. And I even broke my leg on an exercise bike, putting me in a thigh high cast for an entire summer. Perhaps these minor/major incidents lend themselves to my being vulnerable in song; having experienced just how fragile our little lives are.
The first night I arrived in Korea I plugged my beard trimmer into the wrong wall socket and blew the thing up in my hands near missing an electric shock. It’s a good thing I wasn’t shaving my area. I took surviving the incident as a sign I’m supposed to have a thick beard this month. In all areas.
On the outdoor stage at Nami Island, just outside of Seoul, Korea, we headlined the Rainbow Festival and were the delight of 10,000 harmonizing fans. All was merry on the island established about 50 years ago with great intent, i.e. enormous trees lining the paths and roads with shade and beauty which in turn attracts abundant wildlife. All of the buildings and structures on the island were made of reclaimed and recycled material, which is also a nice earthy touch. Plus, you don’t see very many cars on the island due to the only way onto the island being boat or zip-line, which is rad in and of itself. Being in this eco-minded and altogether new world, I saw birds I’d only previously seen in cartoons and about a thousand different species of insect. However, the trouble with being in a spotlight on a tiny island is you become the brightest in the bunch, therefore the delight of 10,000 winged or multi-legged creepy-crawlies. Never mind being vegan when you’re the flame to every moth. You’re eating insect whether you like it or not.
Maybe bug guts between the gums is to blame for my language mix up. In each country I do my best to say a few simple phrases in the native language and in Korea instead of saying “You’re Great!” to an audience with beautiful voices, I kept saying “Good Bye.” They must’ve been super confused by my saying this again and again though never actually leaving the stage. “Good Bye!”
And lastly, Sungha Jung is Korean! He’s the kid I’ve mentioned in a few interviews to be my zen master of guitar. I thought he was Japanese by mistake. I would’ve seen this if I’d visited his official website and seen how it’s entirely in Korean and English. Instead I’d been focused on his YouTube arrangements and misplaced his heritage altogether. If you haven’t yet checked him out, visit SunghaJung.com to hear the gorgeous guitar arrangements of some of your favorite songs.
And a special thanks to all our Korean fans for helping us kick off the tour. Thanks for the lights, love and paper airplanes. “Good Bye!”
A tough and rugged, well-worn hard-shell Samsonite is my primary suitcase. It isn’t very big. In fact, the pride I have about its size wouldn’t fit inside it if it was tangible. I love that its compact and can support me for months on the road, keeping shoes, books, and all around general tour stuff that one acquires, separate from my dirty laundry while at the same time keeping my hats protected. Mary Poppin’s purse ain’t got nothing on my bruised and battered overnight bag. But the case itself, with the stories it could tell, doesn’t deserve all the credit. It’s a thing of beauty yes, but like a guitar, the art lie in how you use it.
Traveling through Japan years ago I learned to use a luggage strap to ensure my bag remained closed en route. In the old days it was not uncommon to find one’s bag on the carousel spewing laundry or missing a few items. One time my case didn’t EVER arrive on the carousel and it was 14 months before we found it. 14 months!! Fortunately I’d just done laundry before it went missing. AND my roommate had gifted me a satchel of lavender to keep things fresh inside. When I opened the lost arc-ish time capsule of a case, all my items were there, pressed, clean and folded, and smelling oh so flowery.
This is tour in a nutshell. Or hardshell rather. Playing music often gets the glory, but tour is really about moving people and all of their stuff. Lots of stuff.
The word TOUR is best defined as a voyage. And when I hear the word voyage I can’t help but associate it with magic, or some kind of heroic or brave adventure; navigating high seas, dodging monsters, castle anthrax, etc. But for us the musicians, we have it easy. We have our suitcases and our backpacks, our books and our breakfast buffets. We’re on deck smiling, waving and playing shuffleboard while THE CREW is below deck keeping the engine running. People stop me daily and say, you must be tired, or they ask me, how do you do it? The real question is How do THEY do it?
When our crew arrived in Korea a few days ago, they hit the ground running. First they connect with the shipping container that brought our gear over from the US. Then they get it unloaded into the venues, assembling everything; stage, lights, PA, instruments, all of it – by mid day, just in time for some well oiled musicians to leisurely stroll in and tinker with it. Then they work the show, making sure all the lights, sound and equipment operates properly, in alignment with the musicians desires and the crowd reactions. THEN, they tear it all down, pack it all up and drive it to the next gig, with a SMILE.
How do they do it? How do they work 10 times as many hours as the band and get such little credit? It must be the coffee. Last night I bashed my guitar tech in the face during a blackout between songs. I didn’t see he was standing as close to me as he was and when I took my guitar off, the headstock went right into his headstock. If it were me, I would’ve needed a time out after that. But to him it’s just another battle scar; just another badge of honor.
So how do they do it? The smile might be the giveaway. After all the sleep deprivation, the packing – unpacking – and repacking of trucks, the wiring and rewiring of electricity and sound, and not to mention the musician requests to change the whole set up – how do they keep smiling though it all, day in and day out? Easy. They’re bat shit crazy.
The answer is in their love of putting on a show. The way a director sits behind the camera, so too do the crew hang tight in the wings bringing the shows to the masses. You don’t see Steven Spielberg acting in his own films, but for those two and half hours, he’s been right behind you.
I am grateful for my hardworking crew and all the blood, sweat and beers they sacrifice for us.
See them in action, the real men in black, this summer in a city near you.