The Staying or the Leaving Cup?

I watched this music lesson by Chilly Gonzales on composition for beginners on QRadio a few years ago. Among other wonderful little flashes of insight, the simple idea really struck me of pedaling on a note or one chord, then jotting down whatever melody comes to you that wheels its way around the note being played. That's what got the ball rolling on this song "Leaving Cup". Thanks Chilly, you crazy bastard. 

This was one, lyrically, that took me quite a while to finally get down. I remember singing the very beginnings of it to my friends Anthony and Erin during a recording session in Atlanta during the summer of 2014. The mystery of the line about "her" changing forms and flitting around the room kept pulling me back to the half-written song until it was finished. Of course, this wasn't the first time I played with the concept of shape shifting (here's one example and here's another), but it did reveal to me in the second half of the song what all those shape shifting songs had always been about for me. I read a book called On Truth: the Tyranny of Illusion. It was life changing. I played with a lot of the themes from there in the second half of the song. I strongly recommend the book which you can download for free. 

When I moved to Marquette, Michigan, I started this band with a couple of guys I met during the first few months I lived here. We played, wrote, and learned a bunch of songs together. "Leaving Cup" was one of the first songs I wanted us to arrange all together as a band. We ended up going out into the woods for a whole weekend and recording a bunch of demos, drinking a bunch of beers, playing Frisbee, taking saunas, cooking food, and hiking around a bit. It was a great experience. I wanted to use those live recordings up at camp as the framework for the album we were going to record in a big way later on, but some of the songs turned out so well, that I'm releasing them now. This is one of them. I think this song in particular really showed a lot of the strengths we had as a band in terms of arranging, being locked in together, the writing, and just the general feel and sound as a group. We had a really cool thing going on. Here's a little video our friend Josh put together from that weekend that I'm sort of fond of. You can hear "Leaving Cup" playing during part of it. 

Finally, the fact that my old friends Steffen Yazvac and Matt Whatley came onto this project to mix and master this song is a great joy for me. We all used to live in the same town. I've done many projects with both of them, but this is the first time we've done something all together and it feels so good. I find that as I get older, the most fruitful working relationships are ones which I've had for years that have had time to deepen and mature. 

Love you all. 

-John

A Little Bit About "Lower Tiers"

"I first played this song for an audience in Milwaukee at an art gallery. I had to rent a car (my old one had just finally died), take some time off work, and drive up to Wisconsin in a blizzard. The roads were really bad, but I made it finally and it ended up being  a great experience. Not like Lakewood."

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In the Studio Again

Here we are again. In the studio, working out some tracks on the remote banks of the Yellow Dog River way up north. Peter Gummerson of Rivulare is at the wheel this time and I'm in the passenger seat with a map, yelling out directions. Dennis "Bud" Clowers brings his depth, fluidity, and bag of tricks. Harold South really gets into the cracks like molten gold and hardens into the bedrock of these songs. We're going to be churning out a bunch of singles in the coming months and I hope you'll keep coming back to hear what we've got. 

Today (Jan. 11) is the Anniversary of the Recording of Living Is Trying

Four years ago today we recorded what became the essential framework of what is now the album Living Is Trying. Here's a little behind-the-scenes of that day. Maybe you remember some of these photos from my social media, or maybe you're seeing all of these for the first time. 
One thing that struck me that I hadn't remembered is how many different guitars I used to track the various songs. There was that Old Kraftstman, which is the first picture here ("Madison"), my Martin (a lot of the others), Steffen's acoustic guitar, which I think was a Johnson ("Strong Words"), some classical guitar that was lying around (the second guitar on "Left Arm"), and my old Sigma ("On Wings"). 

Enjoy.

-John

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Demo Recording and Bro Bonding Weekend

This is a little tardy, but a recent weekend trip was put together to do some live tracking of our band and the songs I've written that we've arranged together. Here's some material compiled from that weekend at the Letts family deer camp with John Davey & the Ancient Urge. 

 

 

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 Dinner

Dinner

 Dogtown  

Dogtown  

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 Blue board

Blue board

 Bonfire

Bonfire

 Morning Mugs on top of the world. 

Morning Mugs on top of the world. 

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 Up at The Top of the World

Up at The Top of the World

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 Sauna

Sauna

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Wayside Fest 2016

My band and I had a great time at Wayside Fest up in Atlantic Mine, Michigan this past weekend. the weather was delicious and despite some technical delays, we had a real blast playing our set to a small but enthusiastic audience. It felt the most like a rock n roll band in comparison to all our shows yet. Furthermore, the Aurora Borealis lit up the sky in an untamed display later in the evening. I couldn't capture it on my phone, but I'll remember it forever. We're lucky to be alive. 

 

 Ancient Urge

Ancient Urge

 Sycamore Smith

Sycamore Smith

 Secret Grief  

Secret Grief  

 Yours Truly

Yours Truly

 Jonny Negaunee

Jonny Negaunee

 Raymond

Raymond

Mark Felix Came to Town

My old friend Mark Felix, who I grew up with, recently moved to Michigan. He works for a newspaper in Flint and was able to get some time off, so he drove to the Upper Peninsula and we've been catching up and hanging out for a couple days. Big love, great hang.

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 Sugarloaf Mountain

Sugarloaf Mountain

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 Me swimming in my backyard. (📸: Mark Felix)

Me swimming in my backyard. (📸: Mark Felix)

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