Goodbye, 2016

As we close the books on 2016 I thought I’d reflect a bit. For me, creatively, it was a year of collaborations and long-term projects finally getting finished and released:
The Thread
A the long-distance songwriting collaboration with Baltimore singer / songwriter ellen cherry. Our EP, “The Thread,” was released mid-way through the year and I am very pleased with the results. It was a true collaboration in that we both gave it our best over many years of hard work – some of it face to face and some of it via the internets. Thanks, ellen cherry!
The Book
Another big project that was finally released this year is the book on songwriting and the creative process co-written with Mark Caro, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You.” We’ve been working on it for years – passing emails and calls back and forth – and it feels good to have it out and available through GIA publishing, who have been really wonderful through the whole process. We had two big events that were both very celebratory and affirming and the book is being well-received. It is available on Amazon.com and direct from the publisher, GIA.
The Opera
The third big collaboration was with my wife, Diane Christiansen, and her collaborator Jeanne Dunning, doing the music for their incredible “inflatable opera” at the Elmhurst Art Museum, “Birth Death Breath.” I co-wrote, recorded and mixed all the music (except for the ‘Camo Duck’ song, which was written and sung by Robbie Fulks). Here is the finale song on Soundcloud.
I also was busy in the Kernel Sound Emporium finishing the tracking and mixing of a bunch of cool new albums by Kathy Greenholdt, Melanie Budd, and Chrissy Johnson. Here’s a big playlist of some of the many highlights from Kernel over the last 8 years or so..

Of course the backdrop to all this activity was the horror-show of the US election, the continuing murders of unarmed black men by police, the untimely deaths of so many of our treasured music icons, continuing mass murders with assault weapons and the now normalized tacit responses that do nothing to address the problem, the ongoing bloodbath, and the unfathomable refugee crisis, in Syria (and Yemen), the rise of nationalistic / fascist leaders all over the world using xenophobic and racist views to build coalitions of hate. And then the topper, in November, when slightly more than half of the sliver of the USA who bothered to vote in a few key swing states elected a hateful, ignorant con-man with a debilitating narcissistic personality disorder to be the most powerful single human in the history of the planet.  The Democrats botched the whole thing by forcing through a deeply flawed candidate who was widely despised and closely associated with the very policies that have run the middle class into the ground. So here we are. This will not end well. Anyone with a moral code and compassion must choose to take a stand against the hatred and cruelty that will surely be coming our way very soon.

Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You

book-release-dec-4-draft-5I am very excited to announce the release of “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking The Great Songs Inside You.” I’ve been working on it with Mark Caro for many years as an extension of my songwriting classes at The Old Town School of Folk Music. The book aims to encourage and inspire anyone who’s ever thought about writing a song through practical, approachable assignments that explore all elements of songwriting: form, lyrics, chords, melody and rhythm. The exercises were culled from 10 years of weekly assignments. Mark and I chose the ones that have had the best results over the years and seem to help people open up and write to their best potential. The book can be ordered direct from GIA, the publisher, now at this link.

Here it is on Amazon.com. If you wanna really support this project, please consider writing a review on Amazon.com.

The book has a website that we hope will become a meeting place and community for songwriters. Please have a look and sign up for our mailing list, too.

BOOK RELEASE CONCERT SPECTACULAR!!!
Sun Dec 4 at The Old Town School of Folk Music’s Szold Hall
Book Release Spectacular with Dolly Varden and a cavalcade of stars singing songs based on the assignments in the book:
Rachel Drew, Chris Corsale, Ross Freedman, Mark Caro, John Kuczaj, Kevin Davey, Melanie Budd, Alton Smith

book-cover-final

Dolly Varden at Square Roots and the return of the Jesus Christ Trio!

Dolly Varden will play our first show of 2016 at the Square Roots festival in Lincoln Square Friday, July 8th, at 9pm, headlining the south stage at Montrose and Lincoln.

AND I’ll join Robbie Fulks and Diane Christiansen at a benefit concert for the Chicago Shambhala Meditation Center on Friday, July 29. We’ll sing songs from the Jesus Christ Trio songbook – it’s true, we said it would never happen again, but, well… it is – Robbie’s songs, my songs, Diane’s songs and choice covers we all like. Advance tickets highly recommended

FUNDRAISER