Thursday, October 28, 2010

cross-country mishaps, western tour, yellowstone and the grizzly bear

I write you this morning from Gold Bluffs Beach in Northern California..  I’m not quite sure what town we are actually in; I just know that we are about fifty miles north of Eureka, CA and that this location is stunningly beautiful and remote.  About a mile up the gravel road is Fern Canyon, the "crown jewel of Gold Bluffs Beach," where they filmed a great deal of “Jurassic Park.”  It’s so breathtaking here..  At the same time we are well aware that we are entrenched deep in the wilderness.  The Bear and Mountain Lion warnings that surround the area are a constant reminder that we are merely visitors here.  The wild animals own this land and could re-claim it at a moment’s notice.  So, our excitement is tempered by a natural amount of fear!

But really, isn’t an excess of fear the most damaging thing to a human being?  I believe it is.  I was pretty paralyzed by fear for a while..  It took my travels to pound the fear out of me.  And falling in love helped a lot..  just finally experiencing absolute trust.

Jess, Jackson and I left NYC in early September and made our first cross-country drive..  I wish I remembered more about that drive!  It definitely wasn’t my favorite part of the tour..  I grew up in the Northeast and was pretty stunned by the open spaces of the mid-west. 

I guess there is a small part of me that would like to live a completely simple life..  live in a farmhouse built in the 1800’s with my wife, kids and dogs.. 

Somewhere near Cameron, Missouri (in the middle of nowhere) we blew our second tire of the tour and I missed the first gig of my life..  Jess assured me that we weren’t supposed to be on that road any longer..  So we put a donut on the car and stayed in a terrible Econolodge!!

After much driving and tire-searching (apparently I’m one of the few poor souls left in Cameron without a pick-up truck!) we were back on the road.

We made it to Denver, CO on time to embark on a twelve day tour with my dear friend Megan Burtt..  Megan sounds to me like a mix of Bonnie Raitt, Grace Potter, Kathleen Edwards and Susan Tedeschi..  a great talent.

Megs and I played some great shows and covered some serious miles..  In those two weeks we performed in Colorado (Denver, Steamboat and Salida), Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana..  As an east coast boy I’m completely overwhelmed by the vastness of the west.. just unreal.

We performed at a beautiful log cabin (a house concert series..  my favorite kind of shows right now) way out in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana..  They had a massive wildfire out in this valley ten years ago and the trees are just starting to reappear on the landscape.

We trekked up to the top of Montana (north of Whitefish) to play at Stillwater Landing, a mythical stop for all kinds of musicians and songwriters.. 

It’s really more of a hippie commune than a traditional venue..  There are bunks, beds, cabins and lofts everywhere..  along with seaplanes and cayaks..  It’s a magical vibe there and probably the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my life.

This hippie “Laurel” in this picture performed Raiki on my pup Jackson after the show..  I don’t have a photograph of that moment but it was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Can’t wait to get back to Stillwater next year..

Megan had to run and do a benefit concert in Denver so Jess and I drove down to Yellowstone for the day..

We stayed in a cabin here and took off at 6 in the morning to explore.

If America has done anything right, it’s definitely the National Park system..  Yellowstone is so awesome, I almost considered going back to school to become a park ranger!  What a cool gig huh?  At least they can carry firearms to protect themselves from the Bears, Mountain Lions, Elk, Bobcats and Bison.  All we can do to protect ourselves from a Black Bear attack is to “stand your ground, make loud noises and wave your arms.”  The only thing we can do to protect ourselves in the case of a Grizzly attack is to PRAY!! 

Speaking of Grizzly Bears, we spotted this big boy taking a late afternoon stroll in Yellowstone!! 

This was maybe the most riveting moment of my life..  Jess, who is terrified of all Bears and aggressive wildlife streaked out of the car with her Canon like she was a photographer for freakin’ National Geographic!!  I guess when you see something that magnificent the adrenaline takes over.  She was shooting video of the bear as the park ranger was yelling, “STAY BACK!!..  we’ve had issues with THIS particular Bear.”

I’m just glad we lived to tell the tale:)

Immediately after we saw the Grizzly we ran into a Moose nonchalantly crossing the road..

And then a Bison came out of nowhere!

It was so much cooler than any zoo experience..  so much more exciting.  After all of this action I decided to let Jess drive while I caught some much needed shut-eye.  BAD IDEA JEANS!!  I woke up from a peaceful slumber to a huge bang..  Apparently Jess was on “Bear Watch” while driving the narrow roads of Yellowstone and “might have run off the edge a bit.”  Haha..  So there we were, in the heart of Grizzly country, staring at yet ANOTHER flat tire, this one the result of an unfortunate bent aluminum tire rim.  The scene was a bit intense at this point and I was not in the picture taking mood..  My father taught me how to play guitar, not how to change tires.  Luckily we were rescued by a kind passerby and were back on our trusted donut in no time.  We had to drive on that donut from Yellowstone to Butte, Montana.  Quite the drive..

We reunited with Megan and finished our tour..  We played a real gem of a venue in beautiful Salida, CO (Salida Café).. 

Great place run by some great people..  If you ever get to Salida, CO make sure to leave a day open to raft the rapids there..  world class.

Getting back to fear.. Jess, Jackson, my good friend Laura and I hiked up a nice mountain in Boulder, CO..  We felt a little queasy on the way up, probably due to the elevation and sleep deprivation, but it was such an accomplishment to be all the way on the top..  Just another goal on this tour/trip accomplished.  I'm so grateful for this adventure..

There is so much fear that can arise in our lives.  I’m making a conscious decision to not let it poison our lives and our dreams..  I have to always be aware of it.  I know if I let that fear in we wouldn’t have a chance.  I certainly wouldn’t have a chance as a singer/songwriter in today’s market.  I have to fight for it, like so many of my friends and peers.  It’s a worthwhile fight though.. Music heals.

We are just about to head back to the east coast..  We have a bunch of shows there before my Connecticut wedding in December!!  And then on Dec. 10th, after almost a year of non-stop performing, traveling and touring, I will again have a permanent address in Nashville, TN.  Pretty cool..  Jess and I are excited to pick out a coffee maker and build our own little paradise together.

We’ve been in Arizona and California for the last month and I will write all about that in my next blog.  Tomorrow we are waking up early and driving through Yosemite..  REALLY hoping to see a Black Bear..  Fingers crossed.

All good things,


Gold Bluffs Beach, California
October, 27th 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

the bluebird proposal, east coast tour, the bitter end and nyc

I’m way, way overdue for my second blog..  I’m writing tonight from the passenger seat of my Nissan Maxima..  My Kiwi fiancé Jess is becoming a great American driver and  I’m actually pretty relaxed now while she’s driving!!  I believe we are somewhere near Gallup, New Mexico on our way to Flagstaff, Arizona..  We’ve just finished a whirlwind tour of the west (Colorado, Wyoming and Montana) with the fantastic Megan Burtt (  I’ll talk about those adventures in the next blog:)

So, where did I leave off?  Okay, on July 18th Jess flew into Nashville International Airport..  

We said goodbye to each other in Sydney Harbor on June 23rd and the 3 and a half weeks of separation that followed felt like an eternity to us.  A month to the day after I said goodbye to Jess in Sydney, I played to a sold-out crowd in Nashville, TN at The Bluebird Café and proposed to her during the show.  It was the most magical night of my life.

Here is a video of her engagement song, “Over The Sun We’ll Fly” recorded that night in Nashville..  Continue to watch the video after the song endsJ

My old publisher/Nashville dad Mark Alan Springer closed out the round with one of my favorite songs of all time, “Two Sparrows in a Hurricane” and dedicated it to Jess and I.  I’ll never forget it.

What a great freakin’ way to start out our six month US tour!!  We definitely started on a high note.  Jess and I spent the next few days packing up my apartment and moving most of our worldly possessions into storage..  On July 30th we were packed up and ready to roll..  A few miles from my apartment in Bellevue we blew a tire (the first of many). 

July 30th was our first day of being truly address-less!  I have to say, it’s a liberating feeling..  sometimes a bit frightening but empowering nonetheless..  It’s so cool to have the option of going anywhere and doing anything on a moment’s notice.

The biggest negative about this lifestyle is certainly un-packing and re-packing the car..  Packing and un-packing got old REAL quick!  The car has to be packed just right to have any visibility out of the rear window..  I don’t have a clue on how Jess does it..  It’s like an intense game of Tetris.  Anyhow, she tells me where to put stuff and I listenJ  Hopefully a touring vehicle is in the cards for me within the next year.  Until then, the only place in the car for Jackson is on the passenger’s lap!!  Ha

We’ve gotten so used to it I think we really enjoy having Jax on our laps now..  He’s a great cuddler and the car would feel empty without him.. 

Our first stop on our travels was Melbourne, Arkansas.. 

I have some dear friends there and they let Jess and I stay in their beautiful (and remote) log cabin.  It was beautiful and right on a winding creek.  The cabin was literally twenty minutes down a dirt and gravel road..  maybe the most remote place I’ve ever been..  so cool.

Cabin life was certainly an adjustment for a city girl like Jess..  The first night we discovered the wonders of “dry flies”..   huge, bat-like creatures that make awful shrieking noises and love to sneak indoors and terrorize you.  Being the man of the cabin, I killed one of the evil banchees that first night and I remember the bug literally screaming..  like a blood-curdling horror movie scream..  I remember jumping out of my skin and screaming..  And then I know Jess started screaming after that.  At one point there were three distinct screams ringing out in unison..  the fly, Jess and I..  After that  night we settled in quite well and really loved the cabin.

After a day or two Jess even became accustomed to the multitude of stuffed critters that filled the cabin..  Two bears, five deer, one bobcat and two fish to be precise..  I just asked Jess for a body count and she rattled those figures off to me like it was yesterday..

Our Arkansas friends gave us the most wonderful week..  My great buddy Blane took us on a fishing trip on the beautiful White River with Bill Terry (which coincidentally was my Grandpa’s name).

Jess caught six fish that day before I caught my first..  She really enjoyed that.

My friends in Arkansas also introduced us to their pet deer Sophie, a sweet little girl who truly believes she is just one of the dogs..  incredible

We weren’t ready to leave Arkansas after a week..  We got on the road  and played a couple shows in Kentucky and Illinois..  I had no idea but southern Illinois has a lovely wine trail..  We played an outdoor show at Rustle Hill Winery and had a blast..  Note Jackson enjoying the show as wellJ

From Rustle Hill we took off for four nights of camping in Asheville and Boone, North Carolina..  beautiful places..  I love the lifestyle in those places..  folks are all about outdoor sports, hiking up mountains, good music and good timesJ  Can’t wait to tour through Carolina again.

Jess pitched her first tent in Asheville, NC and we had an epic campfire..  Jackson was terrified of sleeping outside but slowly adjusted..  somewhat..  he’d still prefer sleeping on a fleece blanket on a nice sofa any day.

We took the Blue Ridge Parkway to Boone, NC, camped there for a couple of nights and then made our way to Charlotte where we had a few days of shows planned.

My good buddy Jonathan (and groomsman) lives in Charlotte and we had the best week there.  Can’t wait to be back.  He lives in a beautiful place and I know Jess and I were so happy to be living in luxury after four nights of sleeping under the stars!

I think Jackson inspired Jonathan because before the week was up we found an awesome little Beagle mutt on Craig’s List and picked him up!  That is one cute freakin’ pup..

We left Charlotte wishing we could stay longer..  but more shows and the northeast beckoned..

I was born and bred in CT, just outside of NYC, so this was a homecoming for me..  Most of my friends and family were around for our time in the northeast.. such a killer reunion..  We stayed with dear friends in Mamaroneck, NY for the majority of our three weeks in the area..  so grateful for true-blue friends..  Good to be home.

We spent a few days up at the Cape with some other great friends..  I’ve missed the Cape so much..  was wonderful to hike and cayak for a few days (and consume a ton of wine and cheese).  The Cape, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have always been my favorite places in New England.. 

I played some very memorable shows up north..  My mom has resurrected a community garden in my hometown (Chickahominy, my favorite part of Greenwich, CT) and I played an awesome concert there..  A Congressman came to check out the garden.. So proud of my mom and all of the gardeners and volunteers!  Was so proud to be a part of that..

I played an awesome house concert with Marjory Lee at Merry and Lloyd’s place..  Merry is an amazing cook and I LOVE playing  house concerts.. so cool. 

I met my new friends Hadar and Lois at this particular house concert..  both amazing people and music fanatics..  Hadar is an avid music fan and writes a widely read blog..  Luckily, he enjoyed the show and had this to say about it:

The highlight of the northeast tour was playing the legendary Bitter End in NYC!  What an awesome show..  The sound was so great I almost forgot that Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor have all graced that famous stage.. so cool..

Here are some of my favorite videos from that night at The Bitter End..

I’m so lucky to have Jess on the road with me..  All of these experiences would be so incredibly bland without her..  I think happiness has to be shared.

Seeing Jess experience Times Square for the first time was such a joy..  I love seeing her that happy and excited..  I think it’s her favorite place on earth..  or maybe a close second to New Zealand..

She has already helped my career so much..  taking beautiful photos and video for me..  handling the mailing list and meeting folks while I’m playing..  I’m so lucky.

We had a chance to visit the new Yankee’s stadium while we were in NY..  AMAZING..  I loved the old stadium but this one felt just as magical to me..  It feels like an older ballpark.

The east coast was awesome.. and life has been so killer.. not that we don’t face our hurdles..  we have huge immigration issues that we deal with on a daily basis..  and there is never enough time!!  Between traveling, performing, wedding planning and life we are always so busy..  I’m just so freakin’ happy to not have a boss!!  Being self employed can be a bit frightening but at least you are doing YOUR work..  suddenly working twelve hours in a day can feel joyful.

I’ll write soon about our cross-country trip and our tour out west with Megan Burtt..  Until then I hope to see you out on the road (or on facebook).



September 25th, 2010
Flagstaff, Arizona