3 years ago I was riding on the wheels and heels of We Sing We Dance We Steal Things, touring the world at the height I’m Yours’ success when I made a stop in Vancouver, meeting some extraordinary individuals who make up one extraordinary team: Free The Children. This team of young people inspire millions of youth across North America to think and act as global citizens and have been doing so since they were 12; fighting against child labor, providing schools and supplies, offering funding, friendship and drinking water to youth less fortunate all over the world. Free The Children is the world’s largest organization of kids helping kids – and they get things done.
It was working alongside Free The Children and being introduced to their grace that I realized I too could think and act in ways to help others on a much larger scale. I knew music already provided a sense of relatedness, comfort and relief, and is a powerful fundraising tool, but I was also garnering resources and making connections all over the world that enabled me to help in ways I hadn’t before. Thus, my own foundation was born thanks to the inspiring introduction to Free The Children and their co-founders Craig & Marc Kielburger.
This week, FTC launched #RedefinePossible, a campaign centered around Spencer West, one of the organizations most inspiring teachers, who will be climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in effort to raise $750,000 for drought relief programs in East Africa. While that climb is by itself incredible, what’s even more incredible is that Spencer has no legs. What!?
Spencer and I had a chance to rap a few times backstage in Toronto and Vancouver and he’s as inspiring offstage as he is on, where he travels the globe as a motivational speaker, reminding everyone that we can redefine our own potential, no matter what challenges we face. Often times, the only thing stopping us, is us.
Thank you Spencer. You have my support.
You too can support Spencer’s climb here. Or follow along. Help raise him to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro and help him raise the water levels for those who need it most. He’ll be posting vids and updating us throughout his journey to the top.
As a music maker I always imagine my songs serving a greater purpose. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing music at weddings, anniversaries, hospitals, hospice care and funerals. I’ve always believed music plays a huge role in the healing process. I personally have been affected by music’s transformative power on numerous occasions, and the video below is just another reminder of why it’s important to keep listening and/or sharing your favorite music with those you love.
As glamorous as being on tour seems, it is also about accepting a certain life of solitude. Most of the people I know who commit to a life of travel find this aspect to be the most satisfying and romantic. What other job pays you to sit and reflect on your life from cafes and picturesque street corners all over the world? Distance creates yearning, which is never a bad thing, and the differences in language only bring peace and music to mind when parked in a crowded plaza. I am grateful for my life and all of life, for what I see and what I don’t see, but I have a dog-eared passport to remind me I’ve seen a lot.
Tonight I am grateful for those I currently travel with as much as for those I once traveled with who made it possible for me to be where I am. I was introduced to my manager Bill along with friends Jerry and Justin 13 years ago today. I couldn’t have told you how my life would turn out back then, but I trusted in their warm and inviting friendship and I could see how much potential they saw in me. I knew it wise to stick close to them for they saw my own greatness before I.
A few years later in the coffee shop era, I met a bass player at an open mic, Ian Sheridan. He was playing bass while a DJ spun breaks and beats. I sensed he could use a band and I needed a bass player. I told him I had a stack of songs and a record deal to sway his interest rather quickly. We hit if off and toured together for years; starting in his truck before we could afford to invest in a touring van.
I have seldom taken the time to acknowledge band members outside of a general onstage introduction and I am sorry I have let that slide for so many years. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with many many MANY talented musicians. Dozens in fact, if you include all the different studio session players and touring artists I’ve mixed and mingled with over the past decade. Ian was a soft spoken player who always showed up with a smile, a great attitude, and a willingness to teach whichever new players came to the table who had to learn the catalog fast. He wasn’t much for onstage banter but I occasionally got him to agree with me or laugh at my jokes, calling him “The Lover of the Low End” for hundreds of shows in hundreds of cities. Offstage he had plenty to say and his stories are still cherished by those of us who traveled far and wide with him. His is a style uniquely his own.
That said, Ian recently released a new album with his satirical pseudo-slut-band Richie Aldente; whose name in Italian means “firm, but not hard” is the fitting nomenclature for this all too sexy, but non-threatening act. I had these guys play at a house party a few years ago and they blew everyone away. Since then I’ve seen them many times and it’s always a heart warming good time in the audience. If you like dancing, you’re gonna like this band. If you like making love, you’re gonna love it.
I do lots of interviews. And one interview I did yesterday has really got me thinking. Like most interviews, they open you up and invite you to share in the moment. For me, each moment is new, and whatever I’ve recently learned or awakened to will likely influence my answer anew. Some interviewers are drudgingly reading a fact sheet hoping I’ll expand upon it. Others want to know WHY I did something, which for me is always the most challenging question. It’s also common for one conversation to transform my opinion on a subject altogether giving me new insights. It is in part thanks to interviews that I journey inward to see how I really feel about an issue as certain questions generate answers I didn’t know were inside of me. In all conversations we get to speak and hear our own thoughts manifest as word, building our world around us through language, adapting and evolving literally as we speak, and seeing what it is we’re currently made of.
In yesterday’s interview with a gay magazine, I was asked my opinion on whether or not label’s are important. Labels as in lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, etc… I don’t think labels are important I said. And I believe they aren’t. Yet, the magazine I was speaking to uses the very same labels in question to draw attention to LGBT issues and culture, creating an invitation for people with those interests to visit and read; which in that case, the label is very helpful.
So what is it about labels that are in question? I had more time to think about it after I hung up the phone.
I reverted back to high school; the battlefield in word warfare, where I heard all kinds of nastiness about all kinds of people. You brush it off if you can because name-calling is commonplace; but you pray you never end up alone with any of the name callers, as I did in 12th grade, the year I finally got my ass kicked after 4 years of shit stained anticipation.
In those suspenseful years I heard racism, sexism, species-ism, slander, insults, and all kinds accusations against every kind of person in school regardless of brains or ability. These awful things were said by kids and adults alike and they aren’t exclusive to where I grew up. I’ve lived many places since then, and I heard bigoted labels dropped everywhere.
I realize now it isn’t so much the derogatory name itself that does the harm, but the isolation and separateness that one experiences in being classified as less than. The words “go away” can be just as painful as “you’re a fag” depending on the meaning we attach to it.
In our short lives, we strive to find meaning here, and we long to be loved and accepted while we’re at it. Therefore, anyone calling us anything other than brother, bro, friend or amigo, is literally cutting us down, sending us to a place of fear, sorrow, and displacement where some might feel they even need to fight back.
It is because of separateness that I think labels should only be used for food and health products and/or recording artists.
I can understand having a label that describes your job, or your practices, or even your astrological sign, but anything related to your natural-born divine Self – such as age, race, gender, sexual preference, lefty or righty, etc – should be excluded and considered irrelevant.
Remember those signs “you must be at least this tall to ride?” Imagine living a life where those signs were on everything. Men only. Whites only. Christians only. Muslims only. Marriage is Man & Woman only.
Yuck. All those signs once existed. And some still do.
You get the picture.
Labels separate us; and in that they keep us in fear – afraid that someday we could be called a name too, or disliked, or not accepted, and/or treated unfairly.
In some countries, having a certain label attached to you can get you killed.
Labels are a part of the force that is of human’s great waste of energy program. Rather than bravely letting go, accepting all as it is, and falling into love on the path of least resistance, our labels are a weird effort to try and control the planet and classify things again and again… Is this black or is this white? It’s neither. It’s moot. We’re all equal parts of that One massive cosmic organism to begin (and end) with.
Where do I begin and end? To be or not to be. That is the question.
I do lots of interviews, and I’m starting to wonder if I might someday explain myself away in all this talk rather than simply be. I show up and do the interviews because I’m invited and because I said I would! I enjoy being with people and I especially enjoy singing my songs and sharing my hobbies and general interests and so on. It’s that simple. And I can see that might show up to some as just a rolling ticker tape of opinions, loose talk, broken promises, or even idiocracy; especially when one changes one’s opinion or posture. People don’t like my hair. Some people don’t like my choices or my actions or my attitudes. Some people don’t agree with my philosophies or my mannerisms. And that’s fine. I know I’m not final. My opinion is a fluctuating sum of thoughts floating somewhere in the lower third of 7 billion. And that’s just the humans.
I heard an interesting thought today that suggested every organism thinks it’s human. Implying everything is having its own experience as if It is the center of the universe. and in essence, each IS the very center.
BTW, I would like to clear something up about my friend, the talented Ms Tristan Prettyman, with whom I stood beside in protest against the inequality of Proposition 8. She is still very much a stand for equality even though our engagement (and protest) was called off. That wasn’t made clear in a recent article published in Instinct Magazine. I have since apologized to her for how my words landed in that interview. And I apologize to you too in case you were misled or disrespected by any of my comments. My decision to leave that partnership was personal to me, and I never should have connected our break-up to the frustration we experienced in the protest. TP continues to inspire me to look deeply at my life in effort to improve it and enjoy it. I love and respect her dearly and am truly grateful for her unconditional love and forgiveness. Thank you friend. And thank YOU friend.
I’ve revealed as many mistakes as I have victories, spending much of the last 10 years sharing lyrics, blogs, and my answers to the ordinary questions in life. And it isn’t easy being judged, labeled, criticized, or even applauded at times, because life moves so fast. An awkward moment is over before you can fix it, just as a grand moment is over before you can retire in it.
This life, this infinite moment, this WTF and holy shit is a series of beautiful accidents, far out explosions and small victories that led us to this divine expression of what we call whatever we call this. and who knows where we’re going, or how many of us will be hurt or die along the way.
Oh wait, all of us will get hurt and all of us will die. Never mind.
Therefore, let’s take down the signs and let everyone enjoy the ride.
The few weeks leading up to an album release is a restless one. Not because I’m excited for it to finally come out, which I am, but because the constant flux between time zones messes with my molecules. My usual sleep routine is about 12 hours every other night, and about 3 hours in between. I sleep fine on airplanes but doing so gives me energy once I’m on the ground which isn’t always convenient. Last night I fell asleep soundly at a decent hour thanks to a delicious cocktail of Shantaram and a warm bath. But still I leapt awake at 330 in a panic that I’d overslept my 530 alarm which was set for an appearance on morning TV, SAT1 Fruehstuecks Fernsehen, here in Germany. I celebrated in the dark with a fist pump when I discovered it was only 330 and in that half awake state I made a conscious effort to fall back to sleep into a sex dream which unfortunately didn’t happen. Those last two hours of sleep went by in a blip. Not even a flying dream or a chance to breathe underwater, which is my most preferred recurring dream theme.
I arrived in Berlin yesterday via Cancun, where we touched down for less than 24 hours to play a sandy set on the radio there. After a long nap, some exercise and an interview I had 3 hours left over for “spring break” which is all one really needs. Anything after those 3 hours is a just a repeat performance of the first 3 hours. Prior to that sunny stint I’d been rehearsing with the new band for a few days in Los Angeles in preparation for the summer’s exciting new tour. And just before that I did some press in New York, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles again, London and Dubai. Then in the coming days I’ll get to rediscover Zurich, Paris, more London, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, topping off my trip an educational vacational on an organic farm in Tuscany. (thank yougamachan for the inspiration.) The climate there is similar to that on my own farm, therefore my goal is to pick up some ideas about food variety and growing methods for year round harvests! but I wouldn’t be surprised if I just sleep under a tree the whole time I’m there.
Today’s jet lag brought with it a tickle I couldn’t shake during a second sunrise performance of I Won’t Give Up, which is not a song that allows much room for laughter. But I couldn’t help it. And I tried to stop myself as we were on Live television after all. Pull it together man! one voice in my head told the other. But it was too late. A series of triggers led to what felt like a perfect storm for giggles.
1. Lotte, the show’s co-host, a snuggly bulldog with a serious under-bite barks at the top of the 1st chorus and startles me. 2. I ditch my guitar pick as I do before going into the bridge, and it bounces off Mona’s symbol with a comical ping. 3. I catch Adam, my guitar tech chuckle at the miraculous plectrum ricochet. 4. I start laughing. 5. I see Mona’s face in the monitor, which is running on a delay so it looks as though her mouth is not in sync with the song. I laugh some more. 6. I realize I’m laughing and that in itself becomes funny to me. 7. I remember I’m on a Live German television show at dawn. This too is funny for some reason. 8. Mona starts laughing. 9. My voice cracks and we laugh some more. 10. My career is over.