ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (with Free Music to Boot)

I have joined the ever-increasing ranks of those who have done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I do know some who have been directly affected by this disease, and have heard from them what the money and awareness being raised by this seemingly silly act has meant to them and the ALS community. If you can afford to donate, absolutely do so: http://www.alsa.org/donate/

But even if you can’t, spreading awareness counts and I encourage you to do that as well. It might not be much, but if you leave your email address and video link on the comment thread (or private message my Facebook page), I will send you free downloads of both of my most-recent records (Lesser Tragedies; Pioneering).

And lastly, enjoy my video:

So, You Might Have Been Wondering Where I’ve Been


Write-a-bookOdds are that you probably haven’t been wondering, but for a blog that was legitimately active for months, my two-month hiatus probably bears at least a little bit of explaining.

In short, I wrote a book! And despite my adoration for the written word, my mental capacities insured that I had exactly zero things left to say outside of the extensive work done on the book. The good news is that it’s finished. The bad news is that I’m still prowling for publishers, so even if I go the self-publish route, it will still be a bit. But if you can wait two months between blog posts without unfollowing me, then I’m sure you’ll be fine — this is the point a bunch of you only now remember you were following this musical, fiction-writing loser and click “unfollow” right about…now. 

Without droning on too long, I’ll tell you the book is called A Link to the Past: Stories of Growing Up Gamer, and it tracks my journey through the world of gaming, and growing up during the age when video games went from being childhood-teenage fodder to becoming a fully legitimate form of media on par with movies, books, and music. And then I interspersed that with a bunch of tangential life stories that attempt to illustrate that importance. Pretty different from the fiction you’re used to here at the site. It was a blast to write and I hope it is a blast to read. I’ll keep any parties interested with details as they come together. Anyway, I’ll actually be writing on here again now that the writing (and bulk of editing) is complete; I can go back to spreading myself too thin in any number of side projects. And the next music album is slowly coming along as well, but that’s for another day.

Cheers, comrades.

Wrigley Field 2014: Round 2 — I Met Pat Hughes!

10402919_925848521952_5442482432112371348_n

Living just under three hours from Chicago insures that I make semi-regular trips to the Windy City. Often those trips have contained visits to Wrigley Field. I already wrote a lengthy post back in April about what the experience of the Friendly Confines is like, so I’m not going to rehash all of that here just because I went again. What I am going to do is tell you a few reasons why this most-recent trip to Wrigley was, by far, the best trip to date.

For starters, the Cubs actually won. This was the first game I have been to that saw the Northsiders reign supreme. How they won made it even better. We were fortunate enough to see a little bit of everything — Travis Wood homering, the Cubs scoring some runs, the Mets coming back, Anthony Rizzo hitting a clutch home run in the 7th inning, some insurance from Junior Lake in the 8th inning, and, naturally, the Cubs eventually winning in the 9th. This game was fun, exciting, and was shared with 28,000 other people –the most energetic crowd I’ve been a part of on the North side. Plainly put, it was perfect.

Then this happened:

1003078_925890592642_3064318398483970903_n

For those of you unfamiliar with the specifics of Chicago Cubs baseball, that is Pat Hughes –the long-time radio announcer for the Cubs. I understand that to many people, this probably isn’t that big of a deal. For myself, it’s a huge deal. As an impressionable ten-year old in the summer of 1998, I started following the Cubs for the first time. I had little clue about the game of baseball beyond the basics, but had been a Cubs fan by default growing up. 1998 was the first time they had been good in my lifetime –I didn’t have much interest in 1989 at the age of 2. Technically speaking, I was, initially, a bandwagoner. However, being ten years old, and being 100% unfamiliar with that term or what it meant, I attempt to dodge that accusation. Since baseball wasn’t big in our house –Michael Jordan’s Bulls and NBA basketball reigned– 1998 was the first time Cubs baseball had come to me, as opposed to me  having to seek it out. At ten, you don’t “seek out” a lot of your interests, they usually fall in your lap and you take them or leave them. I took baseball.

But we didn’t have cable. The Cubs were routinely on WGN and out of my reach. This led me to begin listening to the games on the radio. This meant spending almost every summer afternoon with Pat Hughes and Ron Santo. Hughes’ quality as a broadcaster has been widely recognized, so I let you look up those specifics, but aside from that quality, he, being a former umpire, has a deep love of all of the intricacies of the game –intricacies that he routinely passes on to his listeners. Starting at ten years old, I can tell you that I have learned almost everything I know about baseball from Pat Hughes –and, among others things, developed my lifelong obsession with famous sports radio/TV calls. Though I am probably one of the few people who would rather meet the radio broadcaster than anyone else in the Cubs’ organization, this was legitimately one of those few scenarios of life of getting to meet a personal hero. It was a brief meeting, but one that was no less gracious –it was after the game and I’m sure the man wanted to go home. He still took the time to turn around when I (non-threateningly) called his name, to hear my gushing piece about his impact on my life, to thank me for that gushing piece, to take a picture, and was even kind enough to introduce me to his new partner, former Cub, Ron Coomer –who was equally gracious. We thought about waiting for Len Kasper, too, but didn’t want to overstay our welcome by loitering around the emptying upper deck.

You don’t get many chances to meet those people that have had such a profound impact on your life. It wasn’t that it was overly difficult to meet Pat Hughes specifically, but you rarely get an opportunity to share what those people have meant to your life with those people, themselves. It was a special moment and a special privilege to have the opportunity I was given with Pat Hughes last night. The fact that it happened at Wrigley Field after a Cubs win with three of my closest friends makes it euphoric.

 

Setlist: May 31, 2014; East Peoria, IL

Mud Puddle Pizza

Row, Little Lady
Tipping Hats
Lullaby #12
The Lion’s Den
Pioneering
Streets of Paris
Music on the Fly (Kevin Davis)
Call the Rain Down
Ships & Stones
The Daredevil Christopher Wright (The Daredevil Christopher Wright)
You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away (The Beatles)
Brave
Orphans
Boots of Spanish Leather (Bob Dylan)
The Balloonist
The Gardener (The Tallest Man on Earth)
A Little Profit
Little Plane
All the Way (Eddie Vedder)
The Parting Glass (traditional)

bodybg

Chicago –The Elbo Room Tonight! (5/6/14)

If you’re into the whole support local music thing, or into the whole drink-late-on-a-Tuesday thing, or have a creepy fondness for Midwestern folk singers, or just live in Chicago, stop into the Elbo Room tonight (5/6/14). I’ll be commandeering the lounge stage with friend and fellow songwriter, Dyanne Harvey (her music here).  Show starts at 9. Ends at 11. We’ll each present to you approximately 45 minutes of our respective brand of songwriter glory. I can’t speak to Ms. Harvey’s plans, but I plan on singing about romantically-frustrated hot-air balloonists, money-altered street musicians, misguided fame, a folk rocky rain dance, attempted cultural takeovers, and a song that mentions wizards and unicorns in the same line. And then probably four or five more.

Come on out and say hi, support independent musicians, drink on a Tuesday, and bask in two songwriters who dream of turning a small profit at an out of town show.

WHO: A Metropolitan Guide + Dyanne Harvery
WHERE: The Elbo Room; Chicago, IL
WHEN: Tuesday, May 6th; 9-11pm
HOW MUCH: $5.00

And just as your preview, here’s the song about romantically-frustrated hot-air balloonists

Reflections on the Night Before My Last Day of College

The journey through academia is a long road for anyone who drudges through it. And while my tender age of 27 probably still keeps me on the younger side of college graduates, my journey through hasn’t been the most direct path up the mountain. In fact, I went up, down, left, right, backwards, and forwards. I took almost every route other than the most direct one. And now, finally, as I type this entry, I am sitting on the eve of my last final of my last class of college.

When I was about 22 or so, I made a pact with myself (that I broke shortly after). It was at a time when life at a community college wasn’t “doing it” for me, and I had little-to-no interest in completing my degree at a proper four-year institution. This decision was coupled with the desire to work, to hold a steady job, and to proudly champion my own independence. And for two years, I did exactly that. Those two years were spent stocking and maintaining the 100-plus ATMs for CEFCU here in central Illinois. Though it may sound random (it kind of was given my worthlessness at machine maintenance), it was a good job, and one that I (mostly) enjoyed up until the day I left. It was during my time there that my interest in music began sprouting. I had started writing songs and playing shows regularly across the second half of my time there. It was then that I made a pact that I was going to pursue music full blast and if I hadn’t “made it” (whatever that meant) by the age of 27, I would then return to school and still make it out with a bachelor’s degree before the age of 30. To me, this felt like the perfect middle ground of wanting to be a self-supported musician giving his all to his craft, and showing I had some degree of sense by keeping friends and family from thinking I had totally lost my mind.

It took me about a year to realize that the job I had servicing ATMs not only made it impossible to return to school (different schedules weekly, nights and weekends occasionally), but it made it impossible to put any kind of real effort into “being a musician.” Never mind that I was writing generally forgettable songs and had garnered little attention from, well, anyone. It didn’t take long to recognize what benefits returning to college might have. I have never cared or aspired to climb the corporate ladder, and soon realized that I was fast becoming stuck in that exact environment, unable to do the things I really wanted to do. At that point, the choice to return to college and abandon my financial stability felt like an easy one. Now three years having blazed by, I’m less than twelve hours away from being done with the college work I wasn’t sure I’d ever finish to begin with.

So, here I sit, at age 27. Though my “pact” with myself has long dissolved, parts of it remain in spirit, and it feels strangely significant that the last lingering echo of academia fades just after that 27th birthday –the birthday that now celebrates an accomplishment, as opposed to an approaching dream-squashing deadline. In a way, though, it’s done both. I’ve slowly accepted the reality that my music will probably not lead me to fame and fortune. I’ve even reached the point when I’m not even 100% sure I’d want it to. That might just be a consolation prize attitude from someone realizing that where they fall in the pecking order of talent/drive/luck just isn’t that close to the top, but it’s also semi-liberating, regardless. And when you’re fast-approaching the end of college, “liberating” is a verb you’re willing to entertain often.

Since those months and years at CEFCU, I’ve written 56 songs (and parts of about 30 others that died along the way) and have played shows in 33 different cities across 8 states. And while frustration and disappointment have ruled every bit as often as excitement (if not more), it’s impossible to say that my experience with music hasn’t been a successful one. Perhaps not the fame and fortune every musician seems to dream of, but a success all its own. I’m confident I will continue to enjoy the glimpses of success music has already afforded me, even if it’s never on a large scale. As I move beyond college, I’m ready for that to be good enough.

Music became something for me around the time I left CEFCU (March 2010) –my first EP came out just three months later. It became something significant around the time I started at Eureka College the following year. So when I reminiscence about the bulk of my, relatively young, musical life, most all of it overlaps with my time at Eureka. Perhaps, then, you can forgive my reflective state of mind this evening.

I’m not going to write pages and pages about all of the life-affirming memories I made at Eureka because, honestly, I didn’t make that many. I was a non-traditional transfer student who commuted from 25 minutes away every day. This insured that my time on campus was spent primarily in class, and sometimes doing homework. The friends I made were mostly based within my major (since we all had the same classes –Eureka is an extremely small school), and by my second semester, everyone who lived on-campus knew each other more than I ever could only showing up for classes. After all, they were living with each other. I was just a familiar face on the outskirts.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t love my time there. This is where I learned how to write well (whether or not I do, I’ll leave that up to you),where I learned to love and value good writing,  and where I developed my love of doing it. It’s where many of my creative impulses and interests began intersecting and crafting the guy you see today. So, three years and $36,000 of debt later, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. Feel free to ask me that again when I’m struggling to pay my loan payments every month.

It’s not always a smooth transition while my music finds its place in my life, but I have little doubt that I’ll be happier for it once that transition is complete. As my post-college life prepares to begin with no record deal in sight, 27 has ended up being the transitional year I ultimately planned it would be five years ago. Except now I have the college degree at 27 instead of starting it at 27. So despite taking one hell of a roundabout way of getting here, I’ve still managed to save myself three whole years. That, dear friends, is better than anything a record deal could possibly offer.