It’s been a while, and only because it has been such a long while, it’s a little hard to know how and where to begin this correspondence.
What’s new with you? It seems a lot’s happened since Bower’s “Hope, Alaska” came out…A lot that hangs heavy in the air in recent months, for sure, but that I doubt I would skillfully know how to address or discuss here of all places.
I will share that of the books I’ve read so far this year, even as recently as last night, and of the songs and albums I’ve listened to over the last few days, I’ve also returned with some frequency to these lines from the poet, Robert Wrigley:
“Hope is a thing with sleek skin. A trout…There is no future and it’s coming.”
I can’t remember why a friend shared that with me a few years ago, but it still sticks. And since this correspondence is going to be too long anyway, I won’t go on and on about what those lines mean to me here and why it seems to make all the sense in the world to me in a time that not much going on in the world makes any sense to me at all.
Wrigley’s words worked one over on me a few years ago, too, and enough so – in just such a way – that I threw those lines into the “Hope, Alaska” liner notes as a kind of footnote or “P.P.S.” at the last minute – like, right before we sent the album art off to the printers. I can remember pulling a quote about Phillip Seymour Hoffman at the eleventh hour and asking Bradley to make this last edit and worrying that – after everything I’d already put him through – he would reach through my computer screen and lift me off the ground by my throat like Darth Vader.
And in recent days – and in these strange times we find ourselves in – I feel like I’ve come a kind-of full circle. The songs on “Hope” were in part meant to push and pull on that buggering term and here I find myself in 2017 pushing and pulling and wondering about it more than ever.
Meanwhile, there’s this other thing going on, too. There’s new music. And some of you know about this already.
Three years since the last Kickstarter, I must admit that I’m still surprised I survived the crowdsourcing effort. I’m not saying I’m surprised we met our fundraising goal – though the moment we did that had its own shock and disbelief built into it, too.
But I’m more shocked I survived all the “shameless self-promotion” and the “buy my stuff” and “here’s my Bower face again” thing that Kickstarter’s all about. If there were any reason I’d ever pine for major label support today, it’d only be because someone not me would be paid to handle the promotion side of this machine so that I could just be my “INFJ”-self (see Meyers-Briggs) and mind my beeswax and write and record and play songs and that’s it.
So why I’d leap into the fray all over again is – on one hand – beyond me.
However, in other ways, it’s also a no-brainer, too. I met some incredible people through that crowdsourcing stint, then played in some remarkable locations, and – because the Kickstarter campaign brought the album to life – I have watched the “Hope, Alaska” album and merchandise travel to locations around the world that I haven’t. And that strikes me as pretty amazing. And – depending on the day – it can prove a little annoying, too. “Hope, Alaska” has been to Ireland and Paris and I haven’t yet. I’m jealous of my own CD. How is that even possible?
I also believe these new songs are right and good enough to warrant getting out of my own self-conscious way again and giving Kickstarter another whirl. So, we’re going to do that: We launch next Tuesday, April 25. If you liked the “Hope, Alaska” album enough to think it could be worth investing in the next record, then mark your calendars – or enter it in your phone or iCal or whatever we all do to remember stuff now.
Last summer, I spent a lot of the season house sitting and during this period, without any intention of doing so, I found myself flush in a songwriting period for the first time in a couple years.
One night, after being at it and in the songs for a lot of the day, I went out and wandered around town for fresh air and to maybe feel human around other humans for a few minutes, and at some point in the evening landed in a bar and ran into a couple people I knew. A few of us were shooting the bull for a couple minutes when one of these guys asked me, “Hey, what ever happened to your music thing anyway? Why aren’t you writing songs anymore?”
I can’t remember how or if I even responded to him; maybe I fainted on the spot, or turned and ran away like Forrest Gump, or maybe I leapt on him like a jungle cat – but whatever I did I woke up in my friend’s house the next day – so at least I made it back in one piece and continued working on the songs.
And in the months since that time, we found there are enough songs to warrant a new album. It’s untitled, but the working title, for now at least, is “Brave.” (We’ll share the story of that song/title soon enough, via other means.)
The only way I’ll know how to swear by and represent these songs to you and anyone else, however, is to share them with people, but – like the last record – the only way I’ll be able to do that is to leap into the void and engage in another crowdsourcing effort.
So, again, next Tuesday, April 25th, the new Kickstarter for this record will launch and go live. Forecasting recording production, post-production, and replication costs, it looks like I’ll be working to raise close to twice what I raised for the “Hope, Alaska” Kickstarter. (The “Hope” Kickstarter covered replication and some minor post-production costs.)
The album will feature Evan Phillips at the production helm again, as well as a couple returning musicians and a batch of new ones, too. Evan and I started pre-production tasks for the album in the new year, and even in their currently rough, skeletal form, we’ve become pretty excited about where this project will go once it’s underway. I’m entirely comfortable sharing that these feel like some of the “best” (most gratifying?) songs I’ve written since returning to songwriting in 2012.
Perhaps more than requesting that those of you who backed my last project get behind this one, I would doubly appreciate if you would consider sharing word of this project with anyone you think might enjoy the kind of sounds, themes, and songs we put together for “Hope, Alaska.” While this record won’t sound exactly like “Hope” it will certainly bear some clear similarities and hardly prove a stylistic departure a la…well, like recent Bon Iver, for example.
Since I am needing to raise a bit more than I did in the last campaign, I’m going to have to reach a little further out than I did with the last one, and it’d mean the world if you knew anyone with whom you could share this project or introduce to the music.
We have some great incentives and “backer rewards” this time around, and we’ll feature weekly updates, including backer-only video performances and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the project in progress. Backers will also get an early look at Brian Adams’s remarkable album art for this project, an early-bird glimpse of the track listing and more, and a digital copy of the record ahead of the release date.
Thanks for reading all this if you made it this far. Oh, and if you want the absolute first, earliest early-bird glimpse of the record, then read the P.S. below my sign-off. In the meantime, I’ll probably shoot another message Tuesday, when the Kickstarter goes live. And that message will be crazy short (I PROMISE) in part because this one is so crazy long. And once the campaign goes live I’ll be like a man with his hair on fire for 30 days straight anyway and probably only speak/write in monosyllables or emojis.
Ok. Be well and take good care,
P.S. For about five minutes late last year, I thought that I’d title the new record “Tribute” and I toyed with this track listing of alternate titles. With the exception of “John Prine” (& never minding tracks 3 & 9, written before last summer) none of these are the actual titles of the songs on the new record, but were – at one time or another – working (alternate) titles, or seeds, that helped me stay a course while writing them:
1. Song for Leonard Cohen
2. Song for Matt/Bill Cunningham
4. Song for Trace
5. Song for Cameron
6. Song for Sam
7. John Prine
8. After Harvey James
10. Song for ?