Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Giving

So what's Christmas all about anyway? Gifts. Lot's of gifts. Oh really? Is it now... Just the other day, I had one of the most candid conversations with Megan I've ever had about Christmas: It's not about mass consumerism and giving people you love (or don't even know) a ton of gifts.

Christmas is about *one gift. *The gift. It is Jesus. Jesus is the beauty behind the holiday. God come to earth. God becomes man. Emmanuel: God with us. God demonstrates with acute clarity that he cares especially for people - for his people.

I guess it's really hard to explain this concept to just any passer-by...

The Christmas message doesn't just stop with the coming of Christ, though. The story is really just beginning... The gift is not just Jesus being *born. It's Jesus *dying. It's Jesus *coming alive again, conquering sin and death itself, that we might live forever by simply *believing* that what I have said is true.

Christmas is not about all this "stuff". It's about Jesus. That's it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Some of you know that I have a little problem called tendinitis. I've been told that I have both "golfer's elbow" and "tennis elbow", which is to say, the tendons on the top and bottom sides of my upper forearm are wacked. I've been given two solutions, by two different sports medicine people:

1) "Build fortresses on your arms." Meaning: lift weights and build strong shoulder muscles, because the rest of the arms depend on strong shoulders. The other problems will soon go away.

2) "You need to constantly massage your arms." Meaning: hire an Asian woman with some strong hands.

Well, I say all this to say that I probably shouldn't be typing any more today. My tendinitis is flaring up. I'll probably try and rub them out tonight, and probably pop some pills, too, to try and pull the swelling down. Toodles.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Challenge

I think we all have had someone whom we highly respect challenge us to do something. For me, I often come back to a single challenge that was made to me when I was a freshman in college. I was asked, "Are you a songwriter?" I answered, "Yes, of course." My professor replied, "Do you write every day?" I responded, "No." He looked at me funny, paused, and finally made a statement similar to this one:

"If you're a songwriter, you should be writing music every day - no exceptions. If you're a songwriter, making music would be as important to you as breath, as food, as life. You would *have* to do it, just like you *have* to breathe."

I thought about what he said for a minute, and I responded with less clarity than I now state:

"I *am* a songwriter, and I *should* write more than I do. It's difficult to write a song, and it's more difficult to write *every* day. And just because something is difficult for you to do doesn't mean that you're not meant to do it. In fact, I'd say that anybody who is any good at anything works hard to get that way."

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Rob Miller is Right

Good afternoon, my name is Jay Mathes. I'm an indie songwriter - singer/guitarist/pianist, to be a bit more specific. I've been writing music since I was 13 years old, playing music since I was 10, and listening to my mom play covers of Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, James Taylor, and John Denver on the guitar for as long as I can remember.

There are few things more exciting to me in the world than a great song. They are rare grains in a sea of musical chaff - a world where everyone has access to GarageBand and thinks he can be the next American Idol.

Rob Miller, of Bloodshot Records, recently wrote an article for (republished here: about what indie labels look for before signing a band. I couldn't be happier to hear from his own lips that it's really, really, really simple: 1) you have to be serious - career serious, and 2) you're music has to be great.

The label has to be able to stand behind your record 100%. They'll never fight for it like you will, but if they love it, they'll give it everything they can. Plus, if they weren't behind it 100%, they would not be living true to their own convictions - which is the only reason that indie music succeeds in the first place!

You DO NOT want a label that is not behind you every step of the way, so don't pursue a deal with a label that doesn't know where you stand or where you're coming from. Again, all of this is pretty much just regurgitating what Rob said, but he's right. Don't waste your time sending your music to labels that aren't a GREAT fit for you. Do your research.

Back to the first point, you need to honestly evaluate why you're pursuing music, a label deal, songwriting, etc. Is it about the chicks, the fame, the money, the booze? Is it a hobby? Is it something else? Are you willing to bleed for your music? For me, it's simple, and again on this point, I line up with Rob:

Who am I? I am a songwriter. What does that mean? It means that I can't help but write. I can't help but compose. I can't help but hum new melodies in the car or on the El. It's who I am. It's who I was born to be. It's what I'll do until the day that I die, and there's nothing anyone can do to change that.

I couldn't agree with all of Rob's remarks more, and I am anxious about the release of my new record, Glimmer. I'm putting more time, more sweat, more passion into this record than anything else I've done before in my life. And I expect it to pay off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Basic Human Struggle

I am learning more and more each day about a particular, and pervasive, universal, human experience: the struggle to do what is right - when it is situationally difficult or just "internally", emotionally, willfully difficult.

Sometimes we face external pressures to do the wrong thing. Most of the time, this is caused by our peers. Sometimes known consequences of doing what's right inhibit us from acting in accordance with our consciences. Though still not acceptable, actions contrary to what is "right" in these cases is atleast understandable. We can relate - or at least put ourselves in the others' shoes.

But other times, we face pressures from within: our wills are strong and, often, stubborn. We often do what's wrong just because the immediate result is a "good feeling". Lying to your parents is easier than telling the truth, in the short-term, because the consequences for what you did wrong are delayed. Fessing up means taking a hit right away - sometimes literally!

But I think for most of us (especially me), we have an obstructed view of the *real* consequences of our behavior. Often times, the punishment for what we do isn't as immediate and visible as we're used to. Some wrongful actions won't reveal their consequences until years later. Other behavior, words or thoughts, deeds or deeds left undone, don't seem to have any apparent effects at all.

Here's something to chew on: nothing in life is free. I don't know if I've ever heard this life motto applied "backwards" to describe that every negative action has a negative consequence. You pay for your choices in life by accepting the repercussions they cause. I do some pretty stupid things sometimes, and I really do wonder if they'll ever catch up to me, or if I will continue to receive "grace upon grace".

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesdays, Fridays are for Recording

Well, last week, I sat down and figured out how much recording time I'm going to need to complete the new album, "Glimmer". I figured around 180 hours for 10 songs, which covers tracking, initial mixing, and working with mixing and mastering engineers. A daunting task, but certainly manageable.

In working towards my goal of release the album in the Spring, I have set aside two, full days each week to record. It was a necessary designation. This past Tuesday (yesterday) was my first, big recording day, and I couldn't be happier with the results! I tracked guitars and bass for my song "Wine and Rose", after Jameson Cunningham layed down drum tracks last month. The song is going to be raw, catchy, and full of energy. Still more guitars to track, though.

Also, there have been a few other major changes on the home front for me: I've asked a good friend of mine and fellow songwriter, Gary Stanton, to co-produce with me on Glimmer. He has great ears, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with him to analyze and tear apart every, single song.

And another big change: I'm still in process on this, but I've begun a search for a side-kick - someone who can help me with booking and promotion, and someone who is as passionate about my music as I am. After reaching out to a friend of mine who works for Warner Bros. Records in Chicago, I think I may have found my (wo-) man. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Greatest Guitarist of Our Generation

I just spent this past weekend listening to John Mayer's new, live album, "Where the Light is", and I am convinced that he is, and will be known as, the quintessential guitarist and songwriter of our age. His lyrics are well crafted and clever, his guitar versatility and command is unmatched, and his live performances demonstrate his increasing control over his voice and his mastery of melody.

When I watch Mayer play (I got the live DVD, too, for my birthday), I'm not inspired to just hone one aspect of my musical "game". I'm left in awe of the depth of his expression - lyrically, melodically, and altogether musically. I don't want to be John Mayer; but man this dude has some serious skills.

In the past six years, no single artist's music has pushed me as hard as John's has - to strive to write a better song than the last, to improve my live performances, and to capture the essence of a song on a great record.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Why I Love the Cubs

I've been a Cubs fan all my life. I've been a baseball fan all my life. Never any other sport, really, though there have been teams (in addition to the Cubs) that I've respected, admired, and cheered for. The White Sox, The LA Dodgers, and, more recently, the Red Sox have all been on my "cheer list". Of course, I have always loved the history of the Yankees... (I didn't want to say "Red Sox" and "Yankees" in the same sentence.)

Just as an additional caveat, over the last five or six years, I've started to pay more attention to college football and basketball. Both my brother and sister go/went to the University of Illinois in Champaign, which is probably a major part of the cause...

So why baseball, and why the Cubs?

I think it's pretty simple, don't you? My dad grew up on the North Side. Not figuratively, not almost Chicago, but actually within a mile of Wrigley Field. He grew up in the neighborhood, went to grade school, went to Amundsen High, and went to college at Loyola University.

I grew up playing baseball in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, and I remember the 1988 Dodgers. They and the Cubs were my two, favorite teams at the time. I can't even count the number of games I've gone to, including seeing every California team play at all but one of their stadiums on a trip to Cali, when I was young. The Cubs (and baseball) are a family tradition.

Every month or so we'd drive into the city to visit my grandma in the house where my dad grew up. I loved (and love) the skyline - especially the view driving southbound on the Kennedy.

When it came time for me to pick a college, I decided to stay local. In fact, after talking with my dad and my grandma, they thought it would work out all right for me to stay in one of Oma's four-flat apartments at 1619 W. Balmoral Ave. That started my sophomore year at Columbia College, after a year of pseudo-commuting and crashing in the basement of my grandma's place.

For three solid years, I passed by Wrigley Field two-times a day on the El, at the Addison stop. There were days (including the playoffs in 2003) where, on my way home, I'd hop off the train during games and just watch them from the El platform. You can't see much, but you can see the digital scoreboard on the left field upper deck, the pitcher, and home plate.

And so tonight begins the playoffs. Many people have been waiting a very long time for this. The Cubs have a very tough road ahead of them. They should be able to squeak by the Dodgers and the Phillies or Brewers, but look out for those Angel's, whose 100-win season gives them the best record in the league.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Always Recovering, Never Recovered

After a week on the road, and a week home, "recovering", (sorry for the delay in posts. I've been seriously crazy busy with working through details for an upcoming show and a trip to California - where I now am) I've discovered something:

The life of a touring songwriter is one of continuous recovery, yet without ever fully recovering. The word "recovery" brings with it this idea of "getting back to full strength" or even "settling in to regular, normal life again." Both of these ideas are two which can be creativity and motivation killers.

If you're comfortable (a state to which humans tend to gravitate towards), you're disinterested in change. If you're disinterested in change, you will never dream. And one can't pursue dreams that don't exist.

Many of you know that I'm a dreamer. But I can tell you that my dreams have never felt as alive as they have these past two weeks. It's a feeling I never again want to lose, and I hope it sets the trajectory for my life for many years to come. I never want to be comfortable. I never want to settle. I never want to recover.

Let me strive. Let me press on. Let me be thankful for being given these opportunities - experiences and successes I don't deserve. Let me be alive. Let me try and fail, and try again. Let me continue to learn how to love. Let me long for better days, but let me enjoy these moments today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yes, It's 2:30 AM

Yes, it's 2:30 AM. And yes, I will be up for atleast another half hour. And yes, I will be in a car by 7 AM to drive to New Have, CT, where I have to be by tomorrow (today), early evening. Right now, I'm at my Aunt Simona's house, in Cleveland Heights, OH. I had a great time tonight, hanging out with her and her husband, David, along with a bunch of their friends. We watched an okay new episode of SNL and played Taboo.

Thanks to everyone who bought merch at my Borders show! You all made my night! You rock!

Time to shower. Then bed. Tomorrow, expect lots of coffee.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New Tour Vlog and Pics Up! Day 2

Here are a couple links. Watch it on YT or FB:

I also uploaded new tour pics to Flickr:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Many of you know that tomorrow I embark on my first-ever tour. It's not long - only seven performances in six days, including travel. But it's still really exciting. I get to start it all off by playing at one of my favorite places on earth: The University of Illinois, Champaign, IL. Tonight I told my parents, who are this day celebrating their 31st anniversary, that "it took me ten years [to go on the road], but I'm finally doing it." Thank you. Everyone.

Well, it's back to wrapping things up. And packing. Yeah. Lot's still to do. And I'm way behind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

I Am Not Bitter, Am I?

I'm Not Bitter, am I?

I posed a question to a friend of mine the other day: how do I come across to you, emotionally speaking? The response: well, honestly, a little bitter. Wow. His answer just hit me like a pillow case filled with sand to the face. I was floored. I couldn't believe it. But then I thought about it; and I realized, it was the truth.

For one reason or another, I guess I have been bitter lately - or, some would say, for a long time. And though close friends have said it in the past, I never really believed it. A while back, one friend went so far as to say that he thought I would have more friends if I wasn't so depressingly negative about everything.

So the question becomes "why?" And after thinking about this issue for a few days, I may have the answer: I think I deserve more than I've been given. I think I'm entitled to greater musical success, greater wealth, greater joy, greater whatever than everyone else.

I think one remedy to this problem of pride is simply reminding myself of who I actually am: a flawed creature, who sometimes (even often) wants to do good but either doesn't or doesn't know how to. Willful omissions leave rights undone.

And so I will do well to remember who I am, what I have been forgiven, and how I have been blessed by the things that I *do* have, knowing that I have been given all that I need.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rainy Day in Chicago

I rode my bike to work today. It was raining. It's 10 PM right now, and I'm home. Thanks, mom, for picking me up, so I didn't have to ride home in the rain, too! Actually, I'll tell you something: I'll take riding in the rain over riding in the cold (or snow) any day! But, today did remind me of how great the weather has been this summer. I don't think I have ridden in the rain in over a month - maybe two.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and making final preparations this week for my tour. And I'm even still hoping to line up a few more shows! Maybe I'll play in Cleveland and New Haven...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What a Back Ache...

So, honestly, I have never, ever before in my life had a back ache. Today, I type in pain. It's not horrible, but it's bad. What's it from? you ask. Well, just over a week ago, I switched to new, hybrid tires on my mountain bike. The sleeker tires are faster, thinner, and take a higher PSI, but I *think* it's taking a toll on my body - my back being the first, visible effect of the new tires.

Why do I care, and why should you? Well, from September 11th through the 15th, I have shows every night, and I would sure like to hope that I'll be healthy for those - able to jump around, have some fun on stage, etc.

But I don't know the plans for my life - the specifics, that is. I know all of the "plans to prosper you...", " meant it for good", "all things work together for the good..." lines. But I'm talking about the *hows*. And here's what I've concluded at the end of this night:

However I think it's going to happen is not how it will.

I've heard it said that God's ways are "counter-intuitive", and I believe that. I never would have thought that I could schedule three shows of a mini-tour less than two weeks before I hit the road, but I'm confident that it is the least likely way for it to happen, which *should* mean, actually, that it's the most likely.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Labor Day is NOT a Win for Organized Labor

Have you recently asked yourself how much average Joe American works in a given week? What about you? My guess is that you're pretty average, too. And that means you're being overworked. Maybe you actually like the challenge of work, maybe you like your job more than your family, maybe you need the money, or maybe you just want the money. But the answer is still the same - for right intentions or wrong - you work too much.

And so do I.

It's only 10:20 PM, but to me it feels like it's midnight. Today, I road my bike to work, put in five hours, road home, immediately turned on my computer and started doing some graphic design stuff that I wanted finish today (and didn't), then I went to Office Max, to have transparencies printed for screen printing, and now back at home, I'm writing to all of you.

Two more comments (okay, three):

1. Yes, I did eat dinner, so I had to break there. I also cooked part of dinner tonight. I also watched part of the Cubs game. Ramirez hit a grand slam in the seventh to take the lead against the Phillies - 6 to 4! (Again, this wasn't work.)

2. Yes, I love sharing life with you, so this isn't completely work either. There is some self-satisfaction in it. But shouldn't some of our work be fun, too?

3. Okay, so this might not describe your life. But dang, this is really hard for me. This music thing is hard work! I wish I could just sit on the couch, or at the theater, or at the beach (no beaches in Chicago, really), but I can't.

So this Labor Day, I'll be doing what I always seem to be doing: working on my music. Monday is screen printing day. Wish me luck! It's my first soiree with "ink pulling"...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I Love Rock Climbing

Staring at a picture of the Cuernos Del Paine, in Chile, I asked myself a seemingly insignificant question: "Why do I love rock climbing?" The answer, as you will see, is slightly more complicated than the six words that comprise the inquisition.

1. I love climbing because I love the outdoors. I love the outdoors because: a) it's beautiful and captivating to look at, b) it gives me a "smallness of self" perspective, and c) it reminds me that the world was not created by chance.

2. I love climbing because it is physically challenging. Tough routes are tough on your body. Training - whether in the gym or on other climbs - is absolutely essential. Nobody I know on-sights 5.11b, let alone 5.15a, and everyone I know works for 5.11.

3. I love climbing because it is mentally challenging. Climbing requires attention to the smallest of details in body movement. Body movement is one of the most basic functions of human existence, yet we rarely think about it. In climbing, these movements require a climber's fullest attention; and by thinking about them, he is, in a sense, doing what is most natural to the human existence.

4. I love climbing because I get to spend time with friends. As Christopher McCandless once said, "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED".

5. I love climbing because I love playing with cool toys. You have to admit, there are few sports out there that offer the enthusiast as great an opportunity to tinker with devices with alien names like "ATC", "Cordelette", "tricam", "hexcentric", and "quickdraw".

That about sums things up. Please let me know if I have forgotten anything.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

You Always Want What You Can Not Have

I woke up this morning, wanting more sleep. I couldn't have it. I rode my bike to my part-time job, wanting a car. I couldn't have it. I want a million dollars, and... (well, most people have to work for that.)

Here's what this all comes down to: humans are wired with a craving. It's not so much a craving for *things*, but for *satisfaction*. As I am sitting here, teasing this out, I have time and time again observed people trying to satisfy with material possessions what some people call the "God-shaped vacuum" inside of each one of us.

Right now, I feel like I'm in a really, really dangerous place in life. Let me explain: I love music. I am so passionate about writing and performing - and listening to others play. I am single-mindedly pursuing to achieve notoriety with my music and to play for a living to hundreds of fans all across the world. And I am misguided if I think that these things will satisfy my deepest longings and desires.

This is the danger: to pursue with deepest passion those things which are of lesser importance. There is no such thing as "rock 'n' roll immortality." Every image fades. Even with better technology, what we capture on HD today will only be a small essence of the true rockstar in fifty years.

So this is an admonition and a call to action: a life of value is spent pursuing valuable things - not fleeting things. "The grass withers and the flower fades..."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Behold! The Bicycle.

Most of you probably don't know this, and I want you to know it. About a month ago, I wrote a post about how making a career in music is difficult to do. Yeah, I meant it.

The biggest difficulty has always been in the tense balance between doing what you love and making enough money to live on. "Money: it's just green paper," a good friend of mine often says. And, for me, needing that green paper has led me to get a part-time job at a computer company in Naperville, IL. It's a great job - honestly - with a great staff and boss. It's just not music, though.

Okay. Enough about that. You all just needed a little background before I went off on the real point of this post:

As many days as I work in Naperville are (almost) as many days that I ride my bicycle. Yes, to and from work, 12 miles, round trip, on the road (half of my route doesn't have sidewalks, and the half that does is completely unsafe to use - due to traffic patterns, layout of the sidewalk, other pedestrians, etc.).

You should also know that Megan works in the exact opposite direction of where I work, and she works twenty minutes away from our apartment (30 from where I work), so she takes the car. By me riding, we save around $200 in gas - every month.

So. I just wanted to say that I'm getting sick of riding my bike to work. But I'm not sick enough to waste $200 a month in gas. Plus, it's healthier for me and the environment.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Screen Printing is the Future

Just this afternoon, I finished reading a book that I bought last week on Screen Printing. Basically, I've decided to start screen printing my own T-shirts and, maybe, a few other things, if I can manage it. It's an investment of a couple hundred dollars, but after I print two different T-shirts using my supplies, it would have cost the same amount (or more) to buy the shirts from another company. Plus, I hear it's really fun to do.

So anyway, the book I bought was written by some folks over at Print Liberation. They sound like some really cool people, and they wrote a great book. Oh, by the way, it's called "Print Liberation: The Screen Printing Primer". So, not that I need to diversify any more or anything, but I've decided that having this sort of "equipment" might be beneficial in the future anyhow: I can print shirts or other paper art for fun, and maybe even help out friends by printing stuff for them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Vlog Post: Recording Journal

Free Sox Tix: Cha-ching

Okay. So anyone who knows me knows that I love the Cubs. And Wrigley Field. But nobody is going to question rooting for the home team - whoever they may be.

A guy I know sent out this huge email, saying that he had free White Sox tickets to give away - to the game *that* night (which was yesterday). I just happened to be at my computer, online, when the new message popped up. I immediately responded, "I'll take them". Score.

Section 509, Row 11, Seats 10 and 11.

No, they're not the greatest seats in the park, but the view was much better there than in the terrace reserved section of Wrigley - where my brother and I stood from a few weeks ago. My hunch is that, overall, the view of the field is better at U.S. Cellular. But, there's no surpassing the history, look, and feel of good ole Wrigley. Though originally named Weegham Park (1914-1920), then Cubs Park (1920-1926), the name has remained the same since the 1927 season.

The game was great. Megan really likes the Sox (she's from a Sox family), so I was happy to take her. Plus, I had not been to Sox Park since it was "New Comiskey, Rev. 1". Sox 3, Royals 0.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Memphis BBQ

If you've ever been to Memphis, you've probably had dry rub barbeque. But if you haven't, you don't know what you're missing! Hanging out in Memphis this past month, I am convinced that I ate the best BBQ ribs I have ever had. The restaurant? Central BBQ. This stuff is just fall-off-the-bone juicy on the inside, but the outside is dry, rubbed with a secret combination of spices. It beats me how they do it, but the combination of dry and juicy is unreal. Here's a picture of what I got: the "slab for two".

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Recording Day

Jameson Cunningham came over today, and we recorded drums for almost 13 hours straight for my new EP, "Glimmer". He's an awesome, local drummer, and I'm really happy to be able to team up with him on this stuff. I'm totally exhausted, though! I'm hitting the sack as soon as I post this.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Just recently, I took inventory of all of the music business "stuff" that I do on my own - stuff that isn't always music, but is essential to making a career by it. Over the last three years, I've learned quite a bit about graphic design, web design, PR, advertising, product development, product pricing, radio promotion, computer hardware, concert booking, internet radio, digital and physical music distribution, merchandising, engineering, producing, and a ton of other things. And now, I've decided to start screen printing my own T-shirts and other merch - I think.

Beginning a new "area of study" always reignites this looming question that I always have: is learning "this" (whatever it may be: web design, radio promotion, etc.) going to be worth my time and effort? Because every minute I spend working on this new "thing" is one more minute that I'm not spending directly on my music - I'm not on a stage; I'm not creating a new song; and I'm not making a new record.

I think it's a good practice to sit down every once in a while to figure out if the things that you're doing are bringing you closer to, or distracting you from, your goals. And that's where I'm at today. Will learning how to screen print help me to earn a living performing, recording, and writing music? Maybe. With all of this "stuff", the answer to the question, really, is simply "I just don't know if this is going to be worth my time and effort."

And guess what? I think that's okay. I've learned to trust in something bigger than myself - that if something is meant to be, it's going to happen. And, most likely, it will happen by means completely contrary to how I would have thought they should happen - just to demonstrate to me that I was never the one in control of my future anyhow. And the result will be good. Every time.

And so I press on, trusting that my God-given desires and abilities, coupled with opportunity, and approval from wise friends, will lead me down the right road. Happy screening!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Don't Be So Nosey

So this week, I discovered that if something on my head hurts or doesn't feel right, I get cranky. Oh yeah: and I hate health insurance companies. So in addition to my whole "nose fiasco" this week, Megan had her wisdom teeth pulled on Tuesday. Between the two of us, we were quite a pair! (Obviously, all of this junk was the cause of my lapse in weekly posts.)

And about that cranky part: it's totally understandable that people are more prone to fits of rage while their heads are in a mess. Understandable. But still not acceptable. We (and by "we" I mean "I") have to remember that whatever I'm dealing with - however bad - I'm always doing better than I deserve, and it's always better than it could be.

So with this new nose issue I'm dealing with, there's a possibility that my recordings are going to get pushed back a little. The new EP may not be ready for my out of town shows in September. But we'll see. I'm working hard to stay on schedule, and within the next two weeks, I'll really know where we stand.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Busted Nose Means...

A busted nose, apparently, means that it's time to buy new studio monitors. I was playing basketball during lunch, with a few guys I work with, and not five minutes in to the game, I got popped in the nose. Crunch. "Are you okay?!?" Blood.

Well that makes it sound a lot worse than it was. As it turns out, I didn't break it. But this was my first bloody nose ever, so it was quite an experience for me. I went inside, grabbed some paper towels and ice, and sat in a dark room for about a half hour. A day later, nothing is swollen, but my nose is a little sore, and tender to the touch.

Upon arriving home, I was faced with a decision - though unrelated to my early nose incident. I received an email from a friend of mine, who has graciously allowed me to borrow his JBL Control 1 monitors for the last six months.

Unfortunately, he needed them back about a week ago, and I found myself in a desperate situation: trying to finish up a new EP by mid-September without any speakers! So in a passionate moment of determination, carefully seasoned by a pinch of sense and reason, I went to Guitar Center, where my friends Brian, Melissa, and Karl hooked me up.

So what did I get!?!?! The speakers that I have longed for since first introduced on the market: JBL LSR 4328's. Mmmmmmmm....... Yeah....... I'll let you know what I think of them, once I've had a few days to play around with them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Looking Forward to the Weekend

Vacation was great. But I knew I was going to be busy when I got home... Recording, writing, rehearsing, booking, working. I'm back in the full swing of it all. And thus the thought that has occupied me for the last few days:

There's nothing inherently wrong with looking forward to a* weekend. But I will argue that there is* something wrong with looking forward to the* (as in "every") weekend - maybe not because something is wrong with the person who thinks it, but because something is wrong with "the system" the person lives in.

Why do people look forward to the weekend? Because they are unhappy at work. Why are people unhappy at work? Because the industrial revolution has brought about company processes which do not require significant, challenging contributions the the company's success, in mid- and low-level positions. (Or if the positions do, those who hold them don't know or sense it.) So let's face it: most of us are just grunts doing the work of a few wealthy, grand planners at the top of our economic food chain.

And so we come to me. I have to ask myself "Am I unhappy?" Answer: no. But then I ask "Am I happy?" Well, now, that's a tricky one. Because there has always seemed to be this balance between thanksgiving and contentment, on the one hand, and a healthy longing and striving for better. Although I want people to think of me as a happy person, I think this has been, and continues to be, a real struggle for me. And I'm hoping that in these coming months, I get a real attitude adjustment.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Swimming Against the Current

Have you ever wondered why life always feels like you're swimming against the current? Even more mysterious is the fact that this is a universal, life experience. At some point or another, we have all felt this way. But the big question is "why?" Beats me. I don't have all the answers, but I hope I can share a little bit of my own experience to shed some light on the subject:

Every weekday, around noon, I always hit a wall. In the morning, I'm full of energy, working hard - making phone calls to venues, researching new places to play, staying in touch with friends. But at noon, something changes: I begin to feel the weight of the day, and the uphill battle to stay productive begins. For me, it would be easy to say that the lack of energy is simply related to my physical condition: lack of sleep and the "food coma" syndrome are common for me. But can I say that it's all physical?

I think there really is a sort of emotional, spiritual "weight" to living. Life itself is not easy - no matter who you are or what your circumstances. And anyone who thinks otherwise is either on drugs or delusional. I find myself often singing a line from a work by the great poet by the name of John Mayer: "Gravity // wants to bring me down." This is true.

Overcoming the weight. If you don't like your job, quit. But not just because I say to. A great hero of mine once said, "Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing." --Theodore Roosevelt, Labor Day Address, 1903. Read the whole thing HERE. Every job can have meaning, but sometimes you have to uncover layers of bull to get to it.

And yes, I do think that the number one cause of this weightiness is the "9-to-5-er". Why do we endure such suffering as corporate puppets? Because we're slaves to the almighty dollar. Another good way to overcome the weight is to kill your debt. Pay it off. Do whatever it takes. Except for my student loans, I don't owe anybody anything.

Finally, go to church. Look for deeper meaning in life. Church seems to be a good place to start.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Failure Notice

So, just a few days ago, I sent out another email update to my list. Basically, it said stuff about the website, RESPROJ, The City, and my tour to the East Coast this September. Inevitably, whenever I send out an update, I will always receive bounce-back messages from email hosts like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Google, and from addresses with ".edu" at the end of them. The subject line reads:

Failure Notice

And for the first time ever, this time, I paused after reading the line. Two, simple words. Were they written to me, or were they written about the email addresses? Is this some sort of divine communication - God telling me "Your music is a failure. Stop wasting your time."?

Well, at the end of the day, reason will have her way. And she awakens my mind to understand that this is only a message referencing a bad email address. Though I have failed in many other ways (and continue to do so), I am not failing with my music. Why? Because I know that I am following, to the best of my ability, what I believe to be my life purpose. Yeah, it may sound hokey, but it's the most honest way to say it. And it's what I believe, so who can argue with that?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Smacked into Humility

Every once in a while, in life, I feel like I get metaphorically smacked up-side the head by the Almighty. If I have bad motivations, if I'm not focused on the essentials in life, or, in the most recent experience, I'm taking too much pride in myself and my own abilities.

After a nearly flawless performance yesterday morning for Bryan Middle School, in Elmhurst, IL, I botched the same set that evening, in the concert for the students' parents. And what was the one song that gave me trouble? you might ask. It was a choral-guitar arrangement of the song "Blackbird," by the Beatles.

I was feeling pretty good about myself after the morning's concert, but a recreation of the morning's perfection was never meant to be. I am confident that the evening's troubles have ultimately been for my good, to help me humbly reflect on the giver of my talents and abilities (I don't think they arose from within my own realized self, etc.), and to rely on the one who has graciously granted me the joy and privilege of performing music for a living.

I would like to thank Jessica for the opportunity to perform with her students and for her school, Shaun (for his mad "low-guitar" skillz), and Bob Rummage on drums. BTW, Bob is probably currently one of Chicago's best jazz drummers! Read a little about him here: .

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Go Cubs!

So for those of you who don't know, I'm a Cubs fan. I wish the Sox all the best, but let's face it: they're just not the Cubs. And here's something else: Sox fans are fair-weather fans. A Cubs fan is always a Cubs fan.

I grew up with baseball. I grew up playing it and going to Cubs games. Of course, it helps when your dad is a true-blue North-sider. (He grew up in Andersonville and went to Amundson High.) Some of my best memories growing up happened around baseball. Especially vivid are the string of games I went to with my dad in California. We saw all five California baseball teams play in one week, going to games at four of the five Cali ballparks: the Dodgers, Padres, Angels, Giants, and A's.

And what brings back these memories? Well, last week, Megan and I scored free tickets to a game against the Padres. Two, great friends of ours had extra tix, so the four of us went together. The Cubs clobbered the struggling Padres. Even though it was freezing that night, there's just something about being at Wrigley, watching your home team play under the lights. It's magical.

Here's to America's favorite past-time...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yelling at B.J. Novak

This past weekend, I was down at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, hanging out with my brother Mike. Friday night, B.J. Novak was doing a stand-up show, and we tried to go. But alas, student activities decided to move the event indoors because of the rain. We showed up a wee bit too late and couldn't get in.

We searched for another way in. We snuck, we explored, we developed the "where does that door go" complex, opening every door we saw. Finally, we tried the outside of the building and discovered that the balcony stairs lead us to the outside of the room where B.J. would be performing. Two others discovered the spot before us, and we joined them.

The show was supposed to start at 7:30 PM. It was now the bottom of the 6th inning for the Cubs. No, seriously. I didn't know what time it was, but I knew the Cubs were in the 6th - I got a text message. Passing the time, Mike and I had a short discussion about the durability of Nalgene bottles; at which point, I proceeded to toss mine over the side of the three-story balcony. My brother's jaw dropped. The bottle survived, bouncing a good five feet in the air after impact.

Retrieving the water bottle from where it landed, in the shipping dock of the Illini Union, my brother yelled out to me. "Hey, there's a giant block of ice down there!" It was the remains of an ice sculpture for some event earlier in the day. And then the idea: let's drop it from the balcony. My brother got a grip on the giant ice block and carried it up.

Moments later, a delivery truck backed into the dock. Our experiment would have to wait. When the truck left, B.J. was still not there. We were beginning to think that either 1) he wasn't going to show up or 2) he was really trying to milk the crowd by making them sit through three episodes of The Office before he began his routine. We waited for the warehouse employees to bring the shipment inside.

And then B.J. arrived in his silver, 2008 Infiniti G35 sedan. He pulled right up to the shipping dock, parked his car, and got out. The two guys we were with excitedly greeted B.J. from the railing, one floor above the dock. B.J. said nothing. With a baseball cap pull down, far over his eyes, he didn't even acknowledge our presence. I couldn't believe it.

Hoping, at the least, to salvage one, small ounce of satisfaction from meeting/seeing/hearing B.J., in disgust I addressed him myself: "Hey, can you atleast move your car!?!?! We were going to drop a giant ice block from the balcony on to the concrete, exactly where you parked!" Again, no acknowledgement.

A discussion ensued: B.J. probably had no intentions of moving his car, so our chances of dropping the ice block were lost. Now what do we do with it? I suggested we put it in front of, or next to, his car, so that B.J. can see that we were serious, and that he was being a jerk by simply not acknowledging us. But, I do understand he was pretty stressed already, and he was late for his show, etc.

In preparation for putting the ice block somewhere near his car, but in no way damaging it, I brought it down to the first floor, just above the shipping dock, where the four of us had been strategizing. A woman from building management soon poked her head out the door. "Hey, B.J. Novak just told me that there were a few hoodlums outside who said they were going to drop a giant ice block on his car. Was that you?"

Moments later, another shipping truck arrived, honking his horn in anger, at B.J. Novak for parking his car in the dock. The shipping employees came out again. "Hey, is your friend going to come back and move his car?" he said. I responded. "Actually, I don't think so. I think it would be best for you to have it towed. In fact, if you give me the phone number, I'll call for you!"

The shipping employees questioning, the truck driver honking, the ice block ten feet away from us, B.J.'s car in the shipping dock, the campus police show up. Obviously, B.J. simply misunderstood what we said, and he subsequently had the police called on us. Basically, they just carded us and told us to "Get the hell out of here." And so we did. This sounds like a pretty good Seinfeld episode, right?

After all of the commotion, Mike and I went over to Legends to watch the remainder of the Cubs game. Tied. Bottom of the 9th. (The game is away.) Home run. Cubs lose.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Point of Being Sick

I've been sick since Monday morning. It's Wednesday. Needless to say, I've had some time to think about being sick: why do we get sick? is there a purpose in sickness? what's the best way to get better? I'm not so sure that I've made any break-through discoveries on this subject, but what I can say is this:

Being sick has reminded me that one day, all sickness and disease will be wiped away, destroyed, and conquered, and we'll never have to deal with it again. In these moments, I find myself longing for that perfect day when all things will be made right. And yes, I do believe that day approaches.

For me, music captures so much of this longing. Right now, I find myself pining for that perfected reality, where tears of pain shall no longer be shed. If you're looking for a few songs to hit you this way, check out these two songs by SLEEPING AT LAST: "Careful Hands" and "Needle & Thread". Oh yeah, and by now I know you all know that I was uber-blessed to be able to open for Sleeping At Last this past Saturday night, at a show at COLLEGE CHURCH, with some friends of mine, RESTORATION PROJECT.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Results w/ Less Work

So I still can't figure this one out. Over the last three months, I've spent very little time working on the "business side" of music, and most of my time on the "creative side". The results? Not a lack of them, I'll tell you that much.

Obviously, I've had my hands in a lot of things, as of late, and the ball is finally rolling on Restoration Project; but honestly, two weeks ago really marks the end of a period where I haven't been putting in the time to book gigs, do promo, etc. I've been primarily focused on the creative end of my profession.

This Saturday, I'll be performing the biggest concert of my career so far. And the gig just landed in my lap. It just happened to come from a guy I know - at church! I'll be performing with Restoration Project, opening for Sleeping At Last.

But that's not all. A few friends of mine in ResProj have accomplished what I have never been able to on the Wheaton College radio station: WETN, 88.1 FM: yesterday morning Paige Winfield had an interview promoing the album, on the "Joy in the Morning" program. Just amazing. And this coming week, I expect the album to be in rotation on the station. Again, unattainable for me, personally - even with my new recordings from Nashville.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ahab and the Boy: What Drives Us Mad?

Over the last few weeks, I've had the chance to read. Alot. I finished Moby Dick (though I started this a while ago) and I read The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I loved both books. Obviously, Moby Dick is epic. But both books really push the reader to answer the questions: "Is there any good in humanity?" and "Are we in control of our own destinies?"

Honestly, I don't think the answers are so simple. Certainly, people demonstrate small amounts of goodness at some point, but the question then becomes: what is the origin of that goodness? Is it generated from within us, or is it placed upon us somehow? McCarthy's book is a battle for survival - a journey where the only thing left to do is keep moving.

The road itself is, in the book, a metaphor for all of life: we don't know how things will turn out, but we have no choice but to continue on. McCarthy's book ends with a resounding "yes" to the question "Is there good in humanity?". But I tend to disagree with where that goodness seems to be generated from. McCarthy would most likely say that the goodness is self-generated and that all humans are inherently good. I think that this goodness is given to us.

I highly recommend both books, but I would suggest skipping some of the Melville's writing on Cetology. Though it adds a miniscule amount of depth to Melville's main character, it does not really add to the plot or overall effectiveness of the book. (Don't tell him I said that!)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Back to the Basics: Booking 101

If there's something I've had a lot of time to think about over the last six months, it's how I was going to approach booking for this coming season. As you know, I've been up to my eyeballs in work for Restoration Project, and it's been a struggle to balance booking with recording, promoting, producing, writing, living, etc. BTW, the album drops next week. You should buy a copy.

But seriously, this week marks another hard push for me with booking shows all over the country - for friends and family and fans. Here are a few things I have been reminded of, as I've made calls, sent emails, and in other ways tried to get shows:

1. I love the music I write. If I didn't, I wouldn't have the motivation to call people I don't know and ask them to consider me to play for their schools, venues, coffeehouses, churches, etc.

2. There are a lot of people in the world who suck. And they're going to screw you. The only question is: "How am I going to react when it happens?" I've decided that I am only responsible for, and can only control, my own actions. I have to do what's right: forget about it and move on. And I have to believe that in the end people will get what they deserve: "Not well done, wicked and slothful servant..."

3. Finally, I believe that a lot of people can relate to my music. They hang on to the words; they are looking for some resolution to some of life's most mysterious questions. I can be passionate about booking concerts because I think I touch on some of these things. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I do think great live music can *change* people - how they look at the world, what they think about when they wake up in the morning.

I'm *really* looking forward to playing some awesome college shows this year, meeting new people, and following the passions set in my heart. I can't wait to serve you (and you're just like me!) and share my life and music. Because, as you know, I am a songwriter. I was *made* to write. And if I didn't, I would probably cease to exist.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pay Without Work: The Status Quo Reality

Here's something I've been thinking alot about lately:

Americans are lazy. Yeah, I said it. Every single one of us. Well, let's take a minute to define what I'm talking about here. I guess I'm really defining "lazy" as: living unproductively and trying to do just enough to get what we want - but not any more.

I've discovered that there's a crisis in the American workforce today. People are apathetic with the companies they work for, they don't "believe" in what the company does, their bosses (typically) suck, and they are satisfied with a performance level that meets the status quo.

The question is: "Why?"

I think it comes down to a few things:

1. Companies are big. Even companies in America classified as a "small business" can be quite large in personnel. When you don't feel connected to the "top dog", you don't get a full sense of the vision he has for the whole company.

2. We are all working for the almighty dollar. Most of us live paycheck to paycheck. And if we don't, we're living to save money so we can spend it on something we want later. I guess there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but the problem comes in when we equate "getting what we save for" with "true happiness". It ain't gonna happen, and we'll always be disappointed.

3. We lack purpose in life. Obviously, living for the "buck" doesn't "produce" like we seem to expect. We also know that people disappoint and let us down. Joy is fleeting for many people.
Concluding thoughts.

A song I heard once goes: "There is joy but it can only be hung from HIS hand." I think there is lasting joy in life... somewhere... There has to be. We wouldn't have minds like we do if there wasn't - able to comprehend abstract concepts and contemplate death and soul and spirit. *That* would be meaningless. I hope that this sort of lasting joy can one day fully influence my attitude as I work part-time jobs to pay bills and continue to follow my passions and dreams in music.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Quote to Live By

Something I've been thinking about a lot lately. It's a quote that I memorized while I was in high school. Though I don't subscribe to his overall philosophy, I do think Henry David Thoreau says some pretty cool stuff:

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

Let this soak in. I'm still following these words, and I'm not there yet.