While writing the songs on this record, I found myself thinking an awful lot about my father and how he encouraged me to do everything I could to pursue a creative life. He rode a Harley Davidson chopper, sang along to Jerry Lee Lewis records and took absolutely no shit from anyone. The only job he ever enjoyed was driving a tow truck, but he couldn’t support the family on just 85 cents an hour. He was convinced he’d finally hit the jackpot when he got a job throwing 100 pound bags of starch into boxcars for $1.85 an hour. 30 years later he retired with a worn out back, a bad shoulder and a cheap certificate in a cardboard frame. He once told me they were his, “Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth.”
One thing I inherited from my father was his low tolerance for bullshit and let’s face it, the arts world is full of it. With that in mind, one morning I scribbled a thought onto the cover of my notebook that served as a reminder while working on these songs. “There are only two people in art who matter. There’s the creative individual and the person experiencing it, everything else is an artificial filter.” If I have one core artistic belief, that would probably be it. That principle and a whole lot of scratching, clawing and sacrifice has earned me a loyal cult following throughout Europe and in parts of the USA, but don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of me. I like to joke around the house that I’ve done everything I can to remain obscure without realizing it.
While my parents worked during the day, it fell upon some strange individuals to babysit me. One of these people was my uncle. He wasn’t the best choice to babysit a 4 year old because he’d just got out of prison. He wasn’t even really my uncle, he and my aunt were just shacking up. Living in sin. Renting with the option to buy. He got bored watching me so he took me to a neighborhood bar that had an upright piano in the corner. He’d sit me on top of that piano and I’d sing Hank Williams and Jimmy Rodgers songs while he accompanied me. The drunks thought I was a cute kid, so they gave me tip money and I’d sing their requests. My uncle would then take that money and get drunk on it. That’s when I first learned how the music industry actually works.
One of the benefits of being a touring musician is I often find myself dropped into unexpected situations. These moments sometimes make their way into my songwriting. Experiences like crossing the Carpathian Mountains in Romania in a snowstorm and picking up a nine year old hitchhiker named “Cozmina.” She told me her family’s tragic story as I gave her a ride over the top of the mountain.
I recently visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. There’s a saying that every American knows someone whose name is on that wall, but as I stood there, I couldn’t think of anyone. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. As a kid in Wanamaker, Indiana, we had an aging boxer living in the house next door who had just lost his son in Vietnam. My Father did everything he could to be supportive, so we stopped by every day to visit. At the time, I was just a kid and didn’t understand any of it. After finding my neighbor’s son’s name on the wall, I found myself standing there silently grieving beside strangers and remembering his Father (and mine). These newfound memories of my father and our pugilist friend stuck with me and eventually lead to “Ghosts Of Our Fathers.”
I’ve planted 7,176 trees in my lifetime. These were all large trees and were planted without the benefit of heavy machinery. Just shovels, spades and strong backs. It was my day job for about ten years and I loved it, but my body started to break down towards the end. Luckily, I started touring more in the UK and Europe which allowed me to play music full time. I quit that job about 8 years ago and haven’t had a day job since. “No Rust On My Spade” is a song that looks back to those days when I prided myself in being a Nurseryman.
“It Was A Train” and “The Darker Side Of Me” are loosely based on stories told to me by hobo friends around Midwestern campfires.
My father was a hunter. At a very young age I followed him into the forests of Indiana in search of deer, rabbit and squirrel. I struggled for years to find a way to tell him that I loved being alone in the woods with him more than anything, but the idea of killing animals for “sport” repulsed me. “With A Gun In My Hand” tells the story that I was unable to tell as a kid. I’m happy to report that as he aged he lost all interest in hunting. This made him love the outdoors even more.
I host a show called Thanks For Giving A Damn. It features your favorite musicians telling road stories, tall tales and vague recollections. There’s no music, just talk. It’s available as a podcast and there’s a new episode posted to iTunes every Wednesday. I love hearing road stories, so I started the show as a way to share these stories directly with the people who enjoy my work. I had modest expectations at first, but was pleasantly surprised when the audience grew much quicker than I ever could have hoped.
I’m happily living in East Nashville with my partner, Amy Lashley and a few too many rescued pets (Let me know if you need a cat). Amy and I have been together for over 15 years, but I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. We’re just hanging out.
I’m a hell of a lot more like my old man than I’d care to admit. Like him, I work for a living. My job is to make people feel something and that’s what I’ve tried to do with “Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth.” It’s a record that I’m proud of and I believe it’s my finest work to date. Thank you kindly for taking the time to experience it and I hope we might one day meet in person.
Stream the new album below :