There's a long stretch of US Route 90 where it's always 7 PM.
The sun is always about twenty minutes from kissing the horizon.
The shadows are long, the traffic is light, and the views are incomparable.
I don't know if time exists out there. I mean, I'm mostly sure, but it seems like I'm always traversing that same 50 mile stretch of highway between Sanderson and Marathon in Texas during the part of the day that is often referred to as "The Golden Hour" by those who capture the world on film.
What I do know is no matter how fast I drive I can never quite catch up with that sunset to squeeze a few more minutes of poetic magic out of the atmosphere. That stretch of highway feels like it's my own personal gateway to one of the most beautiful places on earth.
It's known by a few different names-- Far West Texas, the Trans-Pecos, Big Bend Country-- but I've come to call it something else in my mind. It's a name I read in a masterfully written article about the passing of a beloved figure from that part of the world. I'm not sure if the author was using the term to describe the place, or if she was perhaps describing the feeling that defined the woman she was writing about. There are more possibilities, too. I've thought about it for hours upon hours, and I can't decide which one it is.
"Her home was the big lonesome. Alone with her burro, she roamed the bar ditches from Terlingua to Marfa and from Marathon to Sierra Blanca." -- Sterry Butcher, "The Mystery Everyone Loved", The Texas Observer (3/23/07)
The Big Lonesome.
I met Dave Brainard through my manager, Scott Gunter. They've been friends for a long time, and around a year and a half ago Scott started repeating himself:
"I mean, if we could get Dave to produce a record on you? I'm telling you it would be perfect. Perfect."
"Can we?" I'd ask.
"I don't know," he'd say, "he's not one of those guys that just wants to do something because it might be cool-- he wants to do something because he absolutely has to do it-- because he loves it that much."
So a few months later Scott set up a lunch, and Dave and I talked about music and songs and the road and work ethic and the weather and studios and highways and Nebraska over a couple of sandwiches. I already knew about his resume-- a GRAMMY nod for producing Brandy Clark's phenomenal 12 Stories album, a record that shot through the music community like a sonic and lyrical lightning bolt, among the other amazing records he's produced (for Jamey Johnson and Jerrad Niemann to name a few)-- so this wasn't really a "what have you been up to?" kind of meeting. It was an "ok, who are you as a guy?" kind of meeting. Turns out, even if he didn't make incredible records for incredible artists, I'd still want to hang out and talk philosophy and highways and music with the guy every chance I could.
I was in.
The next time I sat down with him we were in his studio, with one mic in front of me and one in front of my guitar.
"Well, alright, play me what's on your mind."
So I did.
The Sound Emporium is one of the most famous studios in the world. I mean, look! Cowboy Jack Clement started the dang thing. George Jones recorded there. Willie and Waylon recorded there. Don Williams. Eric Clapton. Al Green. Keith Whitley. REM recorded Document there. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss recorded Raising Sand there. Nearly all of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack was recorded there. Kenny Rogers, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, John Denver, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves... Even the soundtrack for All The Pretty Horses was recorded there-- my wife Holly and I went to see that movie on our first date!
I hope to add my name to that list in May.
A lot of you have heard a few of these new songs at shows, since I'm always trying them out when I'm playing live. If you're one of the people that came up to me after the show to ask what CD the one song you loved was on, and if I said "the next one," well, you kind of have an idea as to what we're looking at here.
I found a collaborator in Dave Brainard who has a resume that speaks for itself, but a heart and mind that needs no such piece of paper to validate it.
I'm reading the history of a place called the Sound Emporium knowing that with a little help from my fiends, I can add my name to the list of fantastic artists who have recorded fantastic works of art there, and I'm thinking to myself, "if you knew that this was what you'd be looking at down the road all because you got that first $300 Yamaha guitar in college you would absolutely not believe it. No way."
And I'm typing a million words out about it to all of you. This goes against what you're supposed to do, of course. Short and sweet! Succinct! Come up with a catchy way to sell your project to the people who might support you!
But you've all been with me for a long time, and you know I've never been one to do what everyone else does.
I have a job that I love because of people like you. I have a path in front of me that I can follow that will continue to build this career that we've all been working on together for the better part of 12 years because of people like you. I have so much to be thankful for because of people like you.
And even though I'd still write songs if I were the only person left on earth, I honestly think I'd be doing it with the idea that sooner or later I'd come across somebody else. In my imagination they'd say "YOU'RE KIDDING! You're the only other guy left?? Small world! Ah, no pun intended there... Anyway I backed your last record on Kickstarter! Hey, you got anything new?"
And you'd better believe I'd have something new.
Lets make a new record together.
At Home In The Big Lonesome, coming soon-- because of people like you.
p.s.- Have any questions? Concerns? Good jokes you'd like to share? shoot me an email- firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
The challenges I face, and the expenses that I must meet:
Write the songs (check)
Record those songs (____)
Mix those songs (____)
Master those songs (____)
Compile the album (____)
Print the album (____)
Promote the album (____)
Distribute the album (____)
Release the album (____)
With your help, these things can all become realties. I love these songs, and I believe that you will, too. I feel such a connection to those of you who buy my records and come to my shows, and it's my sincere hope that you knew that before your eyes even passed over these words.
Thank you for being being a crucial part of this process, and thank you for being a part of what I've chosen to do with my life on a daily basis.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)