These are a few of my Sketchbooks at the moment. I have more stashed down in my office, on my nightstand, in my hibernating car in Texas.
My songs all start life on paper. So do most of my daily to-do lists and my album art and poster designs. There’s something reliable about paper, even though it’s so fragile. Yes, it’s easy to lose or get wet or burn — yet I still find I reach for it along with my laptop most every time I sit down to work. And hey, it’s not like my laptop has never let me down and lost my input. They’re just different technologies. And when I want to make art, I start with my sketchbooks.
There are pages that I rip out and show to people, sometimes I even sell them.
There are pages nobody will ever see — in fact I may burn them someday.
Today, I have made messy photocopies of some of my favorite pages. Songs. They’re new songs, new little raw songs, and I decided to share them with you. Here:
The album I’m releasing today is very much a scrawled checklist of what’s been on my mind: time, birds, lightning, hope. Each song is very self-contained and focused and deep like diving. Dig in; they’re very very dark, resigned even, yet very very hopeful.
The audio quality is not great; I recorded a lot of it on the road, with no budget and no time to stop and fundraise to make a budget. But I love the performances — I frakking love the performances. I’m tired, I’m sometimes sick, I’m hurried, I’m all in. The vocals are exactly the kind of raw I’ve always been trying for. So I decided that even though it’s rough and raw, a little fuzzy around the edges, I would release these little songs as an album: Sketchbook.
I’ll be working toward another big studio album soon, but that might be two years out. I couldn’t wait another day to share these new songs. They deserve to be heard.
We’ll probably release a CD with these songs in the spring — if you would like a physical copy, never fear, it’ll be coming soon and it won’t cost much. In fact if you have purchased the album on Bandcamp AND if you are on my mailing list, then you will be able to purchase the CD nearly at cost, since you’ve already paid for the songs once.
This year has been surprising. I didn’t get ahead of it, it sort of happened to me, and I felt like I was playing catch-up to my own life from day one. I think I feared I wouldn’t produce anything useful. But I plugged along, writing, traveling, working, recording when I could, making songs for commissions or for reference. Nothing much to fundraise for, no project to galvanize the troops, no reason to write press releases, and just no time for anything, it seemed. But the art has kept happening. I’ve been filling pages and writing dozens of new songs, frequently on airplanes between the gate and 10,000 feet.
And I decided to share some of that quiet background work with you. It feels small compared to what I’ve done the last couple years, but I expect that if you know me already, you will understand. I won’t be promoting this record much. It’s for you who have already been here awhile.
This morning I woke up and suddenly remembered that I have released two albums this year, and I have a collection of cover songs in the hopper, close to finished. So maybe all that wandering and scrambling hasn’t been so unproductive after all.
Now I’m home in Juneau, wrapped in a blanket, sitting at my desk, looking at the snow. I’m about to brew another cup of tea and continue to type nearly all day. There’s so much to catch up on. In 2014 I need to stay home. That’s the honest truth.
I have big new projects to write — BIG. Expect activity over at the Donors’ Circle. I have a lot of promises to keep and loose ends to tie up, including a promise to myself to get some rest after my 50 States Tour in 2010 (I never properly did). So I’m gonna get a little quieter for awhile and focus. I have to make more of the art that keeps me an artist. And to do that effectively I have to stop traveling 7-9 months per year.
I’ll still be touring a bit, but I’m aiming for less than 100 days next year. Maybe even less than 80. That’s financially risky. So I hope you’ll stick with me — don’t forget me as I retreat into the forge for awhile. I’ll be back. And, thanks to social media, I’ll be here. Art takes time and I’m ready to take some time.
Love to all! Happy album day! Happy December!
P.P.S. Some of you have asked already about helping to support me through the next year of not-touring — the best way to do that is pick up an album or two for the holidays for friends! They’re great gifts! Or just visit the tip jar. Or send a virtual hug. I will surely return it.