After many miles traveled and hours spent looking out the window listening to NPR, we are now officially heading west on interstate 70 as we round up the last few days of our big road trip; it’s been a wonderful few weeks and since I have a bit of time on my hands (currently sitting passenger while we make our way from Illinois to Colorado) I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect on the trip and write about some of the highlights…
I left California on the night of September 14th with my beloved, one Tim Slinker who receives the award for best driver/talented photographer/most patient and helpful/merch-seller and front-of-house sound-over-seer extraordinaire. Our drive out to the Midwest went a little something like this: a beautiful nighttime drive to Tahoe, CA where we slept for a few hours….woke up, got coffee, drove for 12+ hours through a lot of places that looked the same spying lots of roadkill along the way, slept in Rock Springs, WY, woke up, got bad coffee, drove for 16+ hours through more flatlands and saw even more roadkill, arrived in Cedar Falls, IA around 2am on September 17th. There we got to sleep in and enjoy a day without driving in Tim’s hometown; this time we woke up and had GOOD coffee, and even found a little health food store where I rejoiced in delicious fruits and vegetables for the first time in what felt like a lot longer then it actually was.
The next day we were off again, heading east to Evanston, IL for my first show of the tour. The venue was called S.P.A.C.E. (Society for the Preservation of Arts & Culture in Evanston) and I have to say, it set the bar real high for the rest of the tour. This place was so beautiful, so unique, with a staff that went above and beyond to make us feel at home and a restaurant that fed us some of the most delicious food I’ve EVER tasted. I was on a bill that night opening for a great husband-and-wife duo called Ellery, as well as fellow Californian, Brendan James. I had the good fortune of playing to a crowd that was as friendly and welcoming as I could ever ask for; it was a great way to start the tour and I walked away feeling so excited. That night we stayed with my aunt and uncle in Chicago and got to spend the next morning hanging out with my adorable little cousins, and getting some fresh air on a beautiful fall day in the city.
On the 19th I was lucky enough to return to S.P.A.C.E. to see Michelle Shocked perform, who is an old family friend and inspiration to me on the highest level. I have wonderful memories of one evening when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, when Michelle came to a party at my family’s home and jammed with the musicians there, playing songs like “Anchorage” which went on to become one of my very favorite songs. Michelle was passing through Evanston on her own tour, during which she devotes a segment to something she calls “American Idle”, where she has a local person talk about homelessness and times of economic crisis, and also invites a songwriter to share a song on the subject. I had the privilege of singing my song “Storyteller” that night and again at Michelle’s show in Iowa City on 9/22 at the beautiful Englert Theater.
The next few shows took us to the 1st Avenue Club in Minneapolis and Schuba’s in Chicago where I opened for a talented young gent named Matt Hires. We were sad we didn’t get more time to explore Minneapolis since we had to leave right after the show to start the long drive to Chicago. That night we almost got stranded in the Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin, where every hotel we tried at 1am was full. Finally after another hour of driving and searching, we found a vacancy at the kind of motel where you keep your shoes on until you reach the bed, but before you get in the bed you have to check the mattress for bugs….. I’ll just say that we didn’t find any creepy crawlies that night, but after a few hours of nightmares about them I woke up at 8am ready to get out of there.
After the Chicago gig we had a nice couple of days off, visiting some more of my family in Joliet, IL where my Grandmother stuffed us with her incredible cooking and we caught up on some much-needed use of a laundry machine.
On the 28th I played a show with 2 dear friends that were teachers of mine back in 2008 when I spent several months studying at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. Maura Lally and Peggy Browning were amongst my favorite teachers there and together with Lou Mitchell have a great little group called the Pickin’ Bubs. It was such a treat to catch up with these old friends and even get to play a set of music together; I sat in on some of their original songs as well as a beautiful old song they taught me when I was a student called “Red Rocking Chair” which I still love to play. They also accompanied me on one of my older songs, “Hands of A Pirate”, which I thought they might have to re-teach me how to play! It wound up coming back to me though, and I really enjoyed myself that night.
The next 2 shows were in Bloomington, IN at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater which was a beautiful historic building that had once been a cinema and was refurbished and transformed into a beautiful Performing Arts Center, and in St. Louis, MO at the Sheldon Concert Hall which was another incredible building with tons of history as an Ethical Society that hosted speakers such as Albert Einstein. At these shows I was playing as support for Shawn Colvin, who I had the honor of doing a show with back in July in Boulder, CO, and I was so thrilled to get to share a stage with her again. She is truly a wonderful act to see live, performing solo acoustic and playing her well-known songs as well as some favorite covers of mine by Paul Simon, Tom Waits, and the Talking Heads. She certainly has a wealth of material and is another great inspiration to me.
The staff at both of these venues was genuinely kind and helpful, and I was humbled by the audiences that were amongst the most attentive and receptive I’ve ever played to. A big hearty “Thank You” to all who took the time to chat with me after the shows, and supported the starving artist cause by taking home copies of my new record. It was two magical nights that I won’t be forgetting any time soon!
After one more show last night in Urbana, Illinois at the Canopy Club with Wye Oak, we are now officially homeward bound and making our way towards Boulder, CO to close the tour with a final show on 10/5 at the Fox Theatre where I’ll be opening for Tyler James and Griffin House. I can’t wait to return to Boulder which has become one of my favorite places and therefore a perfect place to end this fantastic trip. Once we get home I’ll be jumping back into the mix with another solo show in Santa Cruz
, CA on 10/9, followed by a full month of shows with my band honeymoon
whose debut EP comes out October 19th. It’s been a great summer despite having flown by in what feels like a second, and I’m grateful to have gotten the chance to end it with an adventure such as this. I send love and gratitude to the new friends I’ve made along the way- musicians, audiences, sound engineers, baristas- and hope to see you all again very soon!
Love and Appreciation,
P.S. Check back soon for an update with tour photos!