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That Old House Was Haunted

“Have you seen anything?” asked my landlord, Debra. Our house had already been robbed, and the 100 year old plaster ceiling had caved in on my bedroom from a leaky radiator in the upstairs bathroom. I had no idea what else she expected, and said so.

“I used to live in your bedroom, and I once saw an old man in brown suit walk past the door, into the kitchen and disappear. The lady across the road said, 'Ah, that was Mr. Wyatt. He always wore that brown suit on Sundays.'”

That’s the room where I finished writing, “Who Stole The Light?” the first song on ‘Blame The Miles Between.’ I had just left college and moved my stuff in before Christmas. For two weeks I lived alone in the house with nothing but the sound of the radiator and my acoustic guitar. It was a lonely time. Six months later, the band I had been in all through college imploded. When the other three members moved to Pennsylvania, I decided it was time to follow through on what I had wanted since I was 18. In August of 2011, with no connections and no friends in town, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee where I rented a room on the north side of town, next to a cemetery.

I played writers rounds at Bluebird, Douglas Corner, Loft Hotel, became a regular at an odd 24 hour joint called Cafe CoCo, and tried handing off my four song record I made just before coming to anyone who would listen. Incredibly, Nashville’s independent radio station, Lightning 100, picked up the first song and put me on as the featured artist of the week that first November. I was picked up for a tour in Texas and co-wrote songs with a band that would go on to be released on Island records.

There was one afternoon when they had me over to the band house on Archer Street. Everyone gathered into the front room and the three band members took the couch. I took a wooden chair from the kitchen and pulled it into the room, square with the couch.

“What would you think of joining the band?”

We played well together, and we wrote well together. I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. There was clearly a chemistry. It only took me seconds to realize what was at stake, and I made my decision quickly. I came to Nashville to make it with my own music and my own songs.

My little record was acoustic, top to bottom. I played all the instruments from banjo to upright bass, mandolin and acoustic guitar. Down in Nashville, all the friends I made were drummers and electric bassists, keyboardists and electric guitar players. So, I went electric. Like Bob Dylan said in ‘Dont Look Back’ when an English fan asked why he went electric, "I have to give some work to my friends. You don't mind that, right?" We played some great shows and had some nice write-ups on local music blogs. The future was bright.

Time passed. I got hired to play bass on a good paying tour, with hotel rooms every night. I met a girl and fell in love. I had a day job making websites. We bought a house. The weeks went by quietly. In the winter months Nashville gets dark by about 4:30. It makes it pretty easy to stay home most nights when the wind blows cold, and it’s pitch black outside before you make it through your own front door. You say to yourself that you could see what’s happening at the club down the street, or you could get spend the night on the couch with Netflix and a bag of potato chips. You could book some shows, or you could check Facebook again.

Next thing I knew it was my birthday, and I started thinking about my age. I started thinking about when I moved to Nashville, and why I was out here so far from my home, my family, and all that’s familiar. Where the housing market has gone through the roof, and it’s hard to make close friends because all your friends are either on the road, or have already moved to the next fashionable city. Where you step out of your front door in the summer and wade through the bottom of the hot tub that is the humidity of the Cumberland basin where Nashville lies.  

You’re either building your own dream, or you’re working to build someone else’s dream, right? So, I gave up the tour. I gave up the day job. I gave up the quiet nights at home. I just can’t give up chasing the dream. I wish I were farther along in making it a reality, but there are things I had to learn and things I had to leave along the way. There was a confidence I lacked that I had to find. My wife, Mallory, is the best encouragement I’ve ever had. When I talk about the struggle to make it, and the internal conflict I have in believing that it’s worthwhile, she’s moved to tears. She knows me more intimately than my parents or my sister, and she’s not afraid to tell me when I’m not good at something. She’s not afraid to tell me a song I wrote is boring, or that it’s just bad. Somehow this level of intimacy and honesty is what has given me the confidence I need to overcome the biggest obstacle I face. Me, of course.

‘Blame The Miles Between’ is where I yell in the mirror at myself. “Stop wasting time! Stop wishing things were different. Stop imagining the life you want, and go make it! Get over yourself!” Sometimes that yelling sounds like lush 3 part harmony and fingerpicked guitar. Later it might sound like explosive drums and dueling guitar solos soaring over a blues-soaked landscape of haunting keyboards and crunchy guitars. I just love the sound of American roots music, and if you do, too, I think you’ll like it. I think you’ll like where I’ll take you. And, if you see me out on the road, know that I’m working up a good answer to the question, “Have you seen anything?”

 

 

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How It All Began: Wax Museum Day 1996

"Aren't you gonna play a song?" I was 8 years old and standing in the middle of a third grade classroom, dressed in white with my dad's guitar slung around my neck and no idea how to play it. That year I had become obsessed with the entry for Rock and Roll in the encyclopedia program on our family computer. There were a few 20 second song samples and I made lists to figure out in what order I liked to hear them best. There were songs from Soundgarden and David Bowie, Elvis Costello and Little Richard. But my favorite, and the reason I was standing in that classroom with a fake mustache cut in two and pasted to my cheeks was Elvis Presley. I knew no greater feeling and no more transcendent freedom than when I heard the magic in the opening bars of 'Heartbreak Hotel’. So, when we had a wax museum day at school where any kid who wanted to could dress up as their hero, I knew exactly who I wanted to be. 

More than 20 years, many bands, and a lot of songs later I’m still chasing that magic feeling. If I had any idea of the name the little girl who asked me if I could play a song, I’d send her one of my records or my latest single, “You’re The One.” Somewhere along the way, the joy and magic of rock and roll was replaced with machismo and melancholy. I love a sad song as much as the next guy, and music is a great way to vent, but there’s a much wider range of feeling available if we only felt free to express it. After the release of my 2016 record 'Blame the Miles Between’, and its story of overcoming rejection and the risks of idealism, I needed a change of pace. I wanted to push past the confines of folk rock and explore the whole spectrum of American music. “You’re The One” captures the sense of freedom and release on that first warm spring day when you roll the windows down, put your hand out, and let it ride the wind. A day when you feel you’re one step closer to becoming exactly who you want to be. 

You're The One comes out Friday 3/29. Click here to add on Spotify.

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Is it too late to change the story?

At the beginning of this year I read a blog post by Seth Godin that has stuck with me ever since. In it, he writes, “The truth though, is that doing what you've been doing is going to get you what you've been getting.” His advice is that if you don’t like what you’re getting, change the story. So, over the last year I started a podcast, wrote over 100 blog posts, and in October I left my job as a web developer. For the seven years I have lived in Nashville, I’ve split time between making music and making websites. For the first time, I’m giving music my full focus. I’ve never been good at planning ahead, but I’m trying to change the story. I have a full calendar mapped out for 2019, and the good news is I have a lot of new music to share with you. I’m also going to be writing to you more often, andI’d love to hear from you.

Next month, on December 7 I’m releasing a music video for “Cut and File” from my album Blame The Miles Between. It’s not a coincidence that this song is about changing the story I tell myself about myself–
 
“I spent a while trying to cut and file myself into something you’d wanna see
...but I got wise to all the lies that always made me feel so incomplete.” 

This is the first “official” music video we’ve done and I’m so excited to share it with you. 

Pre-save the song on Spotify.

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I'm giving away Jason Isbell tickets

What would make me do such a thing? Is it because this guy recently learned that Isbell is a liberal?

Hilarious. But not at all. I just love the guy. And I'm guessing that either you will love him, too, or you already do. So, I want you to have a chance to seem him at his nearly sold out residency at the freakin' RYMAN this October. If you don't know, The Ryman is a cherished Nashville venue and one of the best places to experience live music. Especially the balcony. 

I have two balcony tickets to the concert on Saturday, Oct. 27. I want you to win them. All you have to do is fill out this form.

 

Enter Giveaway

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