I thought I’d write a bit about what I’m up to because I keep having people ask me what I’m up to and I can’t seem to answer. I just stand there and stare back. The nearly 2-year long election process and it’s unexpected aftermath have left me in a near constant state of disbelief. Stunned by the fact that we live in a country where basically half the people are more or less fine with a cartoonishly cruel and ignorant man-child like Donald Trump as president, I have had trouble seeing the point of making up new songs. Plenty of people are saying that art is more important now than ever. That is probably true. I find that I am slowly slowly getting some inspiration and drive back. Then back into the pit of existential despair for a day or two. I imagine you are probably in a similar deal. Pretty much everyone I know is. I have been writing stuff off and on since Funeral Bonsai Wedding was recorded in 2014 and I’ve accumulated a little stack of songs that I don’t hate. I have been trying to heed Stevie Wonder’s plea to fill the world with LOVE songs. Between songs at the 2015 ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ show, he said something like, “Songwriters, it’s up to you to fill the world with love songs. Not ‘gettin’ it on’ songs – there’s plenty of those – but love songs. Let’s fill the world with love songs.” I took it as a directive from a master teacher and some of the best things I’ve come up with lately are inspired by that statement. Above is a video of a performance of a new song called, “However Long It Takes,” that aims in that direction, from a show at FitzGerald’s a couple weeks ago, with Dolly Varden’s Mark Balletto and Diane Christiansen, Funeral Bonsai Wedding’s Jason Adasiewicz, and bassist John Abbey. So now it’s time to make the songs into records. Dolly Varden has had one all-day session at my studio, Kernel Sound Emporium. It went really well and we tracked 4 songs, 2 of which I think are keepers. We’ve played both at shows a couple times and I’m excited to share them eventually. We’re recording again at the end of May and we hope to track a few more. There’s still a lot of work to be done so I’m thinking that with tracking, mixing, mastering and what-not, we’re looking at an early 2018 release. Similarly, I’m aiming to make a second Funeral Bonsai Wedding later this year that will, hopefully, come out in 2018. So I’m working on growing that stack of songs and deciding which ones might work best in which context. Some might work in both settings…

Much of 2015 and 16 was spent writing, editing and finalizing the songwriting book I co-wrote with Mark Caro, “Take It To The Bridge: Unlocking the Great Songs Inside You.” Like you, I am wary of anyone who tells you they know how to do something as individual and subjective as songwriting. I really hope no one thinks that’s what this book is about!  I’m in no way an ‘expert’ on songwriting and I do not have any “answers”. But I do think about the creative process and songwriting a lot, I’ve spent over 30 years slogging away through the highs and lows of writing, and in the classes I teach at the Old Town School of Folk Music I do seem to be able to get people writing. The book is meant to be akin to “Writing Down The Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg: not a ‘how-to’ book, more of a ‘you already know how-to, so get out of your own way and get to work’ book. (I need to learn to take my own advice.) I have heard from quite a few people that the book has been inspiring, so in that respect, mission accomplished. Mark and I are hosting a 3 day songwriting workshop in Michigan this summer as an extension of the book and it’s nearly sold out. It should be really fun and inspiring. Maybe it would be just right for you…

So I’m looking forward to a productive spring and summer of writing and recording. Not a lot of shows outside of playing as a sideman for others, which is always fun. Upcoming show details below. I’ve booked a residency at the Hideout in September – a month of Mondays. You’ll be hearing a lot about that as details come in.

Shows and such
May 12: Boswell Books / Milwaukee
May 23: Dylan ’76 at SPACE
June 4: Birdee Num Num at Simons
(me, Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, Jim Barclay)
June 11: Printer’s Row Lit Fest 11am (Mark Caro & SD talk songwriting)
June 23: Rachel Drew and the Bitter Roots at the Hideout (SD on bass)
June 24: afternoon: Cally and The Snag in Roger’s Park (SD on guitar)
June 24: evening: Split Single at SPACE (SD on guitar)