Birthday Reflections 2016

Hello world – I am 34 years old. Yesterday was my birthday. 34, I realize, is one of those years that I hadn’t really thought much about. I wondered what I would be doing at 30, or 35, but I didn’t think to picture what I might be doing at 34. As someone who is regularly plagued with anxiety, this is a welcomed thing. I had no preconceived notions to give myself a hard time about not living up to. I find myself in better shape than birthdays past, which is good enough for me. Feeling that way is strange in its ordinariness.

With each birthday that rolls around, I think surely – surely I wont still be drinking and smoking and leaving minor (and the occasional major) disasters in my wake; only to have yet another birthday roll around where I am still “working on” quitting. Which is depressing at best. On my 31st birthday I sat on my Sacramento porch in the blazing sun, drinking warm 40’s of Steele Reserve and chain smoking, wallowing in a pity party so ruckus the cops should have been called. Except it was only raging in my head. I called no one, I didn’t answer the phone. I drifted in and out of consciousness, attempting to blot out what felt like an intolerable reality. This year on my birthday, I was only 8 days from my last drink. This year at 34, I recognized that I have now been smoking tobacco for 20 years.. Which is coincidentally about as long as I have been playing guitar. This year, I sit with a calm acceptance of my experience as it is. My definition of a “disaster” has shifted, and in consequence my feelings about the disaster-maker have changed. I have done so much intense soul searching and reading about mental health and intersectionality that it doesn’t seem logical to dissolve into an agonizing pity party, only to emerge three weeks later, broke and unimaginably hungover.

I can attribute this shift to plain ol’ ordinary time passing and growing up, a strange insistent drive to understand and not give up, a loving and forgiving community as well as the interpersonal hard knocks, and – drum roll please – my psych meds. Yes, I give my money to Big Pharma the same way I give it to Big Tobacco, to Big Booze, to Big Oil by driving and paying my power bill, to Big Textile when accepting gifted clothes on Christmas. The list is endless. Some of my money has certainly ended up in those off-shore accounts that have just been revealed in the Panama Papers. We are all complicit. But I have come to a point where I recognize that I am of no use to anyone or anything if I cannot function, and I will try any tool available to get healthy and feel like myself. It is a strange thought that I should have to do something extra to feel like myself, something “unnatural”, but I have come to understand us humans as so hopelessly mismatched to our current environment evolutionarily, that we have no choice but to tinker with ourselves and our environment to survive. One might even classify that as evolution itself. Adaptation is nothing more than trial and error, at least I can credit myself for those two. I get an A for effort.

So at 34 I am still smoking, still sweating out the booze from 9 days ago, still wrestling with my seemingly pathological inability to write people back when it is actually important that I do. The more important the communication, the greater the block.. I don’t get it yet, but it is so uncomfortable I can’t do nothing about it. Aside from these things, at 34 I have apparently relocated to Atlanta, GA for the time being, to join up with Pretend Sweethearts. I have been looking for a new band that is down to work hard, play shows, travel and tour, and seek to answer the unanswerable questions, and I didn’t give up looking until I found it. I had no idea it would bring me to the Southeast, to an incredibly talented couple with two kids. The music is totally doing it for me, otherwise I certainly wouldn’t be here. Sometimes I get the urge to coyote off into the desert to “figure things out” first, but I recognize that impulse for what it is – fear, and a desire to escape the hard work of being in the now. That impulse also assumes that there is endless time to spend. Not so.

Now I will go pull up masses of overgrown ivy from my sweet neighbor’s yard so that she can finally after many years tinker in her garden again. Then I will gratefully eat good food that I spent my hard earned money on, and then push through the discomfort of answering some of those scarily important communications. I will contemplate my 20 years of smoking and continue to manifest letting go of such a big relationship in my life. I will be grateful for my measly 9 days free of booze. I will exercise my greatest gift by playing some music. I will accept the world as is, including myself as a thread in the grand tapestry. I can live with this.

Wishing everyone a happy springtime, personal illumination, and all the trappings of a joyful life.

j

TDoR 2015

TDoR 2015

On Trans Day of Remembrance this year of 2015, in the midst of picking up the pieces from yet another defeat in my struggle for sobriety (sanity, life itself), I am wondering how many folks who’s names will be read aloud tonight struggled with drugs and alcohol. I’m wondering how many trans/gender non-conforming folks lost their lives this year to an overdose, liver disease, car accidents, diseases transmitted through drug use, or took their own lives under the influence or with the compounding stress of being trans and suffering from addiction. I have had the honor to know a few of them, before they left us too soon.

I recognize that, except for a few variables in my life, I could very well be a part of that statistic. I have been to rehab three times. I have had access to counseling and psychiatric medication, on which I heavily rely. I have a supportive family that has never given up on me. I was introduced to 12 step early on and have always felt safe there. I was able to transition at 22. I am white. I am seen in the world as a relatively normative male. I can hardly wrap my head around what my life would have been like if any of these variables were different. It’s hard to say if I would be alive today. In these troubled times in my life, I am often amazed that I am still alive, good variables and all.

So this year, my heart and my thoughts go out to all the trans/etc folks who have lost the battle with addiction and mental health. My heart and thoughts go out to those who are alive and still struggling, to those who are still alive but feel hopeless, and to all those who love them. May all the good vibes sent out today give us all the strength and courage to get through one more day.

j

Last Man Standing hits the road!!

LMS Cover

 

Hello Friends!!

I am packing the van as we type, getting ready to roll out to CO tomorrow evening. The new albums will meet me there, just in time for the first show! Which is, if you’re wondering:

Jensen Guitars
350 Main St
Longmont CO

@7pm with Jill B!

I have booked a long string of shows to Boston and back, check out the shows tab to find a show near you. This process has been quite a roller coaster ride and I have hung on for dear life. If you would like to be a part of the tour in one way or another, here are a few things you can do (in rainbow fabulousness).

*Spread the Word! Share announcements, tweet, blow up your mailing list, or otherwise flood the web-verse with info, calling all song folks to the fold. Bring your friends, bring your enemies, all are welcome! Wanna help me sell merch? Let me know!

*Keep Joe Sober! Do you have a favorite meeting, friends of Bill? I would love to join you. Send me an email with your town and meeting info, I would love to connect.

*Feed a Feral Folk Musician! I am thoroughly exhausted after the birthing of this album – take me to dinner, take me to lunch, I would love the good company as well as the calories! Calories for the van are welcome as well, the old Greenroom is valiantly passing 230,000 miles and can get hangry.. Laundry, showers, and trail mix are always welcome as well 🙂

*Get the Album Online! They will be available via CDBaby, iTunes, and all the usual sources starting very soon, I’ll keep you posted.

*Host a Songwriting or Guitar/Voice Workshop, a Song Circle, or an In-Person Private Guitar/Voice/Banjo/Songwriting Lesson! I have some free days on the way from here to there, and I would love to connect and make some music with yall, send me an email if you’re interested!

*Book Me! I would be honored to play at your birthday, speak at your school, sing at your cafe, chat on your radio station. If you see a hole in my schedule and would like me to swing by, let me know!

The thank you albums will be sent out some time this month (I will have to send them home to be re-sent to you). If you donated to my computer fund and haven’t sent me your address, please do so here. There were about 60 donators, and I only have around 25 addresses. I have put many a mile on this amazing machine since, and this tour/album wouldn’t be possible without it. I am grateful for you!

Here’s a list of some of the awesome folks I will be sharing shows with:

Jill Brzezicki
River Glen
V and the Dirty Pretty
Humble Tripe
Bethel Steele
Wormz and the Decomposers
Mandy Watts
Amber Darland
Misner and Smith

See you down the road!
Coyote Joe

 

Queer Camp Reflections

This weekend I went to Queer Camp. I was so in the groove of spending all damn day on the computer, an endless stream of booking emails coming and going, flicking back and forth between map and calendar, Facebook and email, Songs of the People and album material… And then along comes Queer Camp, a 3.5 day camping trip in Castro Valley with no phones or computers, to build community and share art and social justice work with queers I may or may not know in a beautiful temperate place. I have to say, it’s not the easiest thing for me to mentally switch gears, especially when I am super nervous about something (like, say, booking a giant US tour and putting out my first solo project), so as fun as it sounded, I wasn’t entirely up for it. But I was teaching a songwriting workshop, so I had to go.

My first evening I had what I can only describe as work/internet withdrawal. My mind was elsewhere and I really wanted to be with it, and instead I was awkwardly meeting new people and swatting mosquitoes. But I figured, since I’ve got my recording schedule all blocked out and I start June 2nd, I should use this time to break out of my compulsive social media checking and energy intensive but only partially productive computer absorption. It turned out to be a good call.

I am always surprised, even though I shouldn’t be by now, at just how small a queer world it is. No one is too many degrees of separation a part, even when folks meet in entirely different ends of the country for seemingly unrelated reasons. Yet, here you are again, you know so-and-so, they know so-and-so who knows so-and-so, oh we met way back in random place with so-and-so. No way! Even so, there can be folks that you may share an entire circle of friends with, been at the same events, but have strangely never met. I was able to connect and reconnect with so many lovely, interesting, and inspiring people, and I fell in love with my community all over again.

The weekend brought us all together, the programming got us all out of our comfort zones and interacting with everyone, and we all became very close. It’s strange to remember first looking around the circle at the semi-unfamiliar faces, and at the end, looking around at the same faces that were now familiar, that showed their depth and insight, and to feel real love between us. When the queer community is so often found in the bars, it was a wonderful thing (especially for this sober guy) to be in a beautiful place out doors, away from the party atmosphere to commune with my fellows.

The songwriting workshop was awesome. Each one is different and they really keep me on my toes, and I hadn’t done one in a while. We got some really interesting pieces out of this one! Someone gave me one of the best and most unique complements I have ever received – they said that I was the song mid-wife! Amazing, and truly an honor. The magic for me is finding that little nugget of concentrated truth, a shining piece of golden art in the ore of words someone just mined, pulling it out and setting it into a form, and building a structure around it. And thus – a song. The magic is also when someone sees their own words, their own story and experience, come alive is a piece of music. It is really, indescribably cool.

So now I am back at the computer, attempting to switch gears yet again back into work mode. The weekend gave me some time to ground out, and settle into my intention for this project. Yes, I am trying to make a living. I can’t do anything if I don’t make a living. But most importantly, I am trying to offer something useful to the world – doing the thing that somehow I seem built for and called to do, and trusting that it is not only an important contribution, but the best one that I can personally make. That’s a pretty tall order, and it reaches beyond this one album – it really is the way I want to live my life. I feel like a toddler in this sober life of mine, my functions barely back on line, the world seeming to be this wide, overwhelming place that I am bumbling through. If I stay the course, I may find myself able to handle far more than I can now, and that would truly be somethin’ else.

So here I go, this coming Monday.. I am locking myself in my studio and I’m not coming out (except to play church gigs, a wedding, and mow lawns) until it’s done. And it must all be ready for submission by July 11th. No big deal.

Wish me luck! Better yet – how bout some patience and perseverance 🙂

j

 

 

Donkey Lessons

The Central Valley is creeping into the triple digits and California is starting to burn down, just like we thought. I am sweating it out in my second story bedroom/studio, with no natural light and no air flow, laying down tunes. It should be called Funky Hot Box Studios. Sweaty Man Cave Studios. Enticing, no? Come on over for a sauna sesh.

I just sent out the first batch of Songs of the People, what a process it has turned out to be! I vastly underestimated the amount of time it takes to produce a decent song. It’s definitely not like my young days when I might sneeze out a song at any moment.. my standards are higher for one, craft is something I didn’t know much about back then, and the sneezers are like shooting stars – they do happen once in a while, but don’t count on it to happen on demand. I have already learned so much about my process: songs can go through many forms before snuggling in to the one that suits them best; there are an infinity of options at any point in the song (no pressure); they can also be very donkey-like, in that no amount of tugging will coax them from where they want to be. I also found that when it came time to hand them over to their patrons, I had a severe hide-under-the-covers avoidance response.. I clicked “send” feeling like I had pushed the “self-destruct” button on my life boat. I did not expect to feel so vulnerable. People were then waiting for their songs without any updates from me, which made it worse. Normally I would have gotten drunk for a week or two. Well, more likely I would have just blabbered on about the project from my bar stool and never actually started it. I’m so grateful for this project, thank you to everyone for bearing with me, and sharing your beautiful and unique stories. I have four more on the stove, and four interviews to schedule. Shoot me an email if you’d like to jump in line! I promise I will schedule them reasonably this time, and keep people in the loop.

You may have noticed, but I spruced up my website in the last week; gone are the dark brooding, hard to read pages. I also finally started a Facebook Fan Page, which will help me get the word out about the many goings-on in my music world. Like it if you like, annoyingly the numbers do actually mean something in the music business world.

Other news is that I am booking for my Big Damn CD Release Tour in Aug/Sept! I’ll be on the road for a solid two months, if not longer, throwing my new CD at everyone I see, so look out. Starting in Sacto, I’ll head east to CO for a show with Jill B, then split some shows with Iowa boy River Glen, up to MN to play with V and the Dirty Pretty. Then I’ll head down to the Southeast to do a leg with Humble Tripe, then it’s up to the Northeast to do some shows with Bethel Steele. From there I’ll start heading west, I’ll do some shows with Ohio’s wonderful Wormz and the Decomposers. From there we’ll see what comes together. Shows are listed on the website, stay tuned and they will keep rolling in. If you have a suggestion for your area, want to bring me to your college, or any other helpful hints, let me know! If you can’t wait that long, want to hear some new stuff before I get to town, or want to check out two of the Songs of the People, you can watch the Empty Sea show on demand, at The Roots Channel, for only 5 bucks! What a steal.

I hope this finds everyone well. I have to say, none of this would be happening if I wasn’t sober. Gotta give thanks where thanks are due. It has been a weird two plus years since the beginning of Coyote Grace’s hiatus, this isn’t where I thought things would be at this point, but I’m not complaining. The lessons reveal themselves. They can be very donkey-like themselves. Best to just be a vessel and let them evolve.

j

Birthday Boy!

So now I am 32. I feel completely different! Just kidding:) I do feel a little different though. 31 is not like 21, that’s for sure. 32 at least feels a little more solidly in the 30s. And I have finally broken the pattern of hazy birthdays drifting aimlessly by, half baked ideas forming momentarily and then fading back into the ether from whence they came, few real signposts to mark the passage of time. I said I’d be damned if I let another birthday go by drunk and alone, throwing a pity party so rowdy it should have been broken up by the cops. I’ve said a lot of things, but at this I have been successful. As for next year – one birthday at a time.

I found my old camera yesterday and looked through it. Road trip after road trip, punctuated by solo drinking/smoking sessions, apparently in an effort to keep myself company. The longer I’m sober, the more I get a sense of how long I wasn’t, and how valuable that time was. Everything I was seeking is right here, in the moment. All potential energy exists in the moment, and that potential is directly related to the machine’s capacity for creative action. I wasn’t capable of much in my ever-present stupor. I may not feel amazing all the time, but I am capable of much more than just lighting another cigarette. I feel, again, like I have woken up from a dream, except this time I am 32. I’ ok with that. I cant think of any good reason not to be.

I’m looking forward to heading up to the Northwest this coming week, playing out some of these new tunes I have here will feel good, and it’ll be great to be back on the trail. My US trip in Aug/Sept is also very exciting!!! I used to traverse the country a few times a year – something about crossing the landscape of my homeland is very awesome to me, even if at the end of the summer with all its humidity and bugs and sunburns.. Songs of the People is also rocking my world, such amazing stories! I definitely took on a huge batch to start out, and I’m going to need to put in some hours to get caught up. Although I can hardly classify this as work! I’m a lucky fella, getting to do this.

This year (like every year) I have many plans. Although this year, I have a far better shot at making some of them happen.

Thank you everyone for all the birthday love! It means a lot 🙂

j

 

Smiling Springtime

The sun is bright and clear in between rainstorms in Sacramento, Clouds are billowing by way up high, and everything is bright green, green, green. Soon it will be summer and all will be brown and dry, so I am enjoying this lovely temperate weather while it is here. There is a cat sprawled out across my desk in the sun by the window, and one lounging in the open banjo case. I have been clacking away all day at the computer, planning tours and corresponding with many folks. I am excited to get up and get to work each morning. That is something I have wished for for many months, but it has remained out of reach. Suddenly, it is here.

I love my therapist. I love my sponsor. I love these lazy varmints that roam the house. I love the springtime, and I love to write songs. This Songs of the People project was a total wild card, but I am so happy with it. The songs are a real honor to write, and it really is a breath of fresh air to write about someone else. Self absorption is a horrible swamp of quicksand that shrinks your world till it hurts like tiny shoes, and never resolves in an endless funnel of insanity… yuck. I prefer cats by the window and songs for others.

I’m working on some crazy long tours for this year! (nothing gets me going like long drives:) I will be heading up the 5 in two weeks here, a well-trod route that never gets boring. Well, not often, anyway. Then in August, I will take my yearly pilgrimage to Song School and the Rocky Mountain Folks Fest. I’ll split some shows with Iowa boy River Glen, the hit up the Storyhill Festival in MN. Then since I’m already out there, how bout a show in Chicago. Then hey – might as well go down to the Southeast and play some shows with my buddies from Humble Tripe, and visit my baby bro in North Carolina. I’ll be looking to do some shows on the eastern seaboard, I’ll keep you posted! Then I get to ramble my happy ass back to Cali, possibly through the Southwest. In October I will make another run up to the Northwest with my new album, returning the favor and bringing Humble Tripe to the west.

I’m so excited to get back on the road. It has been a strange two years; one that, now looking back, was absolutely essential to my development as a musician and a human being. Not exactly what I planned, but it usually works out better that way. As long as one takes reality into account.

Happy springtime!

j