An Attitude of Gratitude

Hey folks!

I was in such a flurry to get the album done and get out of town on time, I haven’t had a minute to reflect on the process and give thanks where they are due. Scrambling out of the house, I took my ever-more beloved drive on highway 50 through NV and UT, jumping on I 70 in CO, and I finally had a chance to breathe. Now nestled in Rist Canyon, up the hill from Fort Collins, I’m watching the aspen leaves flutter in the cold morning breeze set against hills of pines and a moody sky. There are two kittens exploring my guitars by the wood burning stove, prayer flags happily hanging.

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I had some unexpected snafus come up at the most inconvenient time in the album-birthing process, and I am still fairly rattled. But – I got to see Mary Gauthier play last night at Avo’s in Fort Collins, and I’m starting to remember why I do this song thing in the first place. Making an album with all your guts spilled in it can feel like taking a picture of your butt and posting it on the internet.. and I’m used to there being two butts in the photo at least. It was a lot harder emotionally than I expected, all technical aspects aside.

Speaking of technical aspects – I want to give a HUGE thank you to Michael Connolly at Empty Sea Studios, who’s mind-boggling instrumentalist skills really brought out the character in the songs and made them come alive – not to mention the mixing and mastering, and doing it all remotely from Seattle. No big deal. Thank you Michael!

I’d also like to thank Ingrid Elizabeth, for showing me the ropes on this tour booking thing. I swear – if we hadn’t gone out in our RV and do what we did, I wouldn’t have known that this is even possible – (book a tour your damn self and then get in your unreliable vehicle and go do it.. are you crazy?!) I’m certainly not stellar at it, but it’s happening none the less. Thanks Ings 🙂

Coincidentally, the above two folks happen to be my Coyote Grace bandmates, and making an album without them was a strange experience. First off – there are so many damn decisions to make, artistic and otherwise, and it really lightens the load when you dont have to make all of them. Second, as I mentioned above, it’s nice to not be the only butt in the photo. And so many other lessons. Many people have asked about the status of Coyote Grace and whether or not we will be playing shows, and the short answer is – yes, Coyote Grace is alive and well, and no, we dont know when they will be back around. Joe is out and about with his solo project, Ingrid and Ty are gearing up for the Big Day, and Michael is busy recording everyone in Seattle. We will see what the future will bring. Or, from a great movie – “I dont know, it’s a mystery.” Here’s to the road, homies.

IMG_0777 editI also want to send my sincerest gratitude to all the music supporters out there, friends, family, and fans, all yall. Music is a reciprocal thing, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The songs dont really come alive and grow until they are shared. Keeping up in this industry, with all the new media outlets to be monitored, can obscure the true nature of the exchange that we do it all for, but not for long. Thank you everyone, for listening, supporting, and helping the songs grow wings and get on their way to do their work.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also thank Shaleece Haas, director of the documentary Real Boy that is beginning to make itself known to the world. While following me with a camera for over two years, we have become great friends, and her moral support has been invaluable. I tend not to reach out until it is an emergency, and then the poor person I reach out to has to deal with not just a stressed out friend, but an emergency. I’m working on it.. Thank you so much Shaleece. And of course, my parents, the musicians who cheer on their musical offspring with all the zeal they have. Thank you, thank you 🙂

And to the one who was always behind the scenes, with me through the whole damn thing, my sweet ladyfriend. I am no small handful, and this lady dealt with me with grace. Thanks, baby 🙂IMG_4676

I am looking forward to a week at the Rocky Mountain Song School to connect with a great community of music folks, and get caught up on some projects. The CDs arrive tomorrow……….!!! I wont believe it till I see them. The first leg of the tour has begun. Here goes nothing!

 

j

Last Man Standing hits the road!!

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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

 

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

Back in the Sac(ramento)

Back in the Central Valley after a beautiful springtime loop through the Northwest! Traveling can be so packed full of new experiences that two weeks feels like a month.. I am just coming back from the last week out in the far reaches of eastern Oregon, Idaho, and seriously isolated parts of Nevada. My favorite!

I had a great run of shows with Drew de Man, bringing his lap steel stylings to my tunes, joined by Brianna Blackbird in Portland and Seattle, the other half of their duo Pretend Sweethearts. I got to squeeze many friends from Eugene to Seattle, dropping in on the Camp Ten Trees annual auction, which is truly an event that can make a trans man cry. And that ain’t easy! I spent Easter with some great friends eating great food, then waddled over to Empty Sea Studios for the final show with Michael Connolly and the Sweethearts. The show will be ready any day now on The Roots Channel to watch on demand, for those of you who missed it. I’ll keep you posted.

Then, my lady friend and I took off for the Great Basin, and this happened:

 

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Yes, that is a bathtub in the northern region of Washoe County, rigged up with a pipe flowing from an incredibly hot spring. Sarah and I found it following vague directions with flashlights after sunset, and saw a sea of stars like only Nevada can reveal. Here was another awesome one:

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This one was outside the ghost town of Unionville, east of Lovelock. I swear, I could wander around Nevada for a year. One day I just may.

So as of now, I am trying to re-acclimate to the urban environment I live in, and am busy as ever writing songs and working on my solo album set for release in August, and setting up the tours for the late summer and fall. Songs of the People is trucking along, I’ll be putting up videos of some of them soon, stay tuned!

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

TDoR and Evolution

I’m sitting at an outside table at a corner coffee shop in Tucson with Bennett and his dog Honey. We passed Trans Day of Remembrance driving Hwy 62, 72, 10, 86, 8, and 10 again from the Mojave to the Sonoran desert. We got the van stuck in a sandy wash, and on our third attempt to dig it out with a plate and a frying pan, two guys in a minivan stopped to help pull us out with a rope. Honey thought it was the funnest game there ever was.

We talked about our journeys through transition. We talked about our experiences in the context of trans* experience through history. We talked about how, even in the light of our relative privilege, we still feel like we barely made it through the fire. Both of us could have easily made it onto that long list of names that were read and acknowledged by communities all around the world. I thought about my pen pals from Iran and Venezuela who persevere in environments totally unimaginable to me. I think about my new friend who courageously steps out of her home each day, finally as herself. When the list of names is read and I can count the names of male-identified folks on one hand, my bravery seems to pale in comparison.

Gender is something so fundamental to human culture and biology. As our environmental pressures change and our survival tactics must adapt, we find that oftentimes culture lags behind. At least it feels that way to those of us who bear witness to such unnecessary violence and loss. The faster our environment changes, the faster we must change, and the more friction there is at the edges. The history of physical and social sex transition is a good example of the quickening nature of change, and the greater whole of us’s struggle to keep up. But it happens, glacially as it may seem. When I read articles about gay men fleeing from Syria to Lebanon and the torture and extortion they experience; workers paid pennies a day to make western clothes dying in crumbling buildings, and there’s no clear consensus on whether buying the clothes does more harm than not buying them; my beloved western spaces fracked beyond repair in my life time, because lighting faucet water on fire still isn’t proof enough that it’s dangerous; hundreds of thousands of people killed in a war while the governments of the world stand by and weigh their financial interests; poor countries taking the brunt of climate change caused by the excesses of wealthy countries – I am overwhelmed at the enormity of suffering that exists on this planet. Hope seems elusive when lost in that emotional storm. What tethers me pack to the hopeful present is just the plain impersonal nature of impermanence. Change. Evolution. It happens in its time, its force a confluence of so many energies so complex, all I can do is accept it and trust its nature. And do what I can to add my breath to the great wind of growth, awareness, and love.

My heros this time around are Ben and Rachael Hudson of the Gender Heath Center. Together, with very little means, they set out and created the services they wanted to see provided in the world, and now serve and inspire a community that stretches over all social lines. They provide services for youth that they did not have access to. They provide services to families that their families did not have access to. Services that my family and my young self did not have access to in the same town we lived in. Seeing that change has been more rewarding than I could have imagined. From all of us who’s lives you have changed, many thanks.

Tucson is mellow and overcast, many friends I knew here have moved on, and I am such a different person than I have been at many times through this town. The trains still holler through the city, and it is still one of the loveliest places to be in the winter. Bennett and I will play for Transgender Week of Awareness here and do our part, I get to play with my super homie Courtney Robbins a few times, and take another long beautiful drive through the desert with my buddy. All the names on the list stay with me, as well as those who remain unknown. Also, all people who lose their lives due to our inability to evolve fast enough. They are all ours.

Love,

j