April 29th, 2015
There will never be enough words to explain the last month of my life. It has been inspiring, motivating, and life changing beyond anything that I've ever experienced.
I ended the month of March in Europe, playing my very first international show at a tiny town in England called Wendlebury. I completely adored the village and the people I met. It was a night that I'll always remember. I spent a few days enjoying the rain in London before heading off on an even bigger adventure in Southeast Asia.
I've traveled a lot in my life, and I thought I'd pushed myself outside of any comfort zone that ever existed, but this time it was different. This time I was alone and in a world I knew nothing about; even the language was beyond anything I had experienced.
Day 1: When I landed in Bangkok, Thailand I was entirely overwhelmed with the sites, smells, and sounds of a city I'd only ever seen pictures of. For the first time ever, I stayed in a hostel and I met some great people. They were all a little more experienced at Asian travel than I was and I was grateful that they took me under their wing for the two days I was in Bangkok. They introduced me to the late night market/party of Koh San Road the first night, and then we climbed our way to the top of an old abandoned skyscraper the next day. It was terrifying and exhilarating to get to the rooftop of the crumbling building filled with graffiti. When we finally scrambled our way to the very top, the view was beyond anything I'd every seen. You could see the entire city for miles and miles. I wanted to watch the sunset, but was already cutting it close on time, so I hastily said goodbye to my new traveling friends before jumping on an overnight train bound for the northern part of the country.
Day 3: The train rolled into Chiang Mai around 7:00am. I was starting to feel less terrified of what I was experiencing and a little more confident in my ability to handle things on my own. I made my way to the hostel and decided to explore the town a bit. I found some of the most breathtaking temples nearby and spent a lot of time photographing and writing around town before calling it an early night. The next morning I was up before the sun to head toward the Chiang Mai Elephant Nature Park, about an hour north of town. I spent the day walking with elephants, learning about the park, and witnessing these magnificent creatures in a natural environment. It was truly incredible to hear the stories behind the rescued animals and the history of the sanctuary. I was exhausted and sweaty, but so inspired when I left.
Day 5: I met up with Morgan, a friend from college who was also traveling through the area. She'd been out for about three months and it was amazing to hear her stories and learn the ins and outs of solo travel that she'd learned. We spent another two nights in Chiang Mai seeing muoy thai fights, lady boy cabarets, and mountain top temples before moving on toward Lao.
Day 8: We booked a slow boat to take us from Thailand to Lao, which took about two and a half days. We stopped in some small villages along the way, saw the most beautiful views from the river and met some really great people on the boat. We finally landed in Luang Prabang, Lao on the third evening, and started exploring. There was an amazing night market filled with scarves, paintings and other handmade artwork, and we spent a lot of time there haggling for the best prices. The next day we met up with some of the people from the boat to make a trip to Kuang Si waterfalls. It was one of the most magical days of my life. The waterfall itself was absolutely breathtaking and we hiked our way up to the very top, where there were no other tourists. We then made our way further into the woods on a 3km trek to find a cave. We made it to the cave but it was gated shut, and the terrifying bugs we kept seeing had us running the other direction pretty quickly. We scrambled back down the mountain and decided it was time to jump into the bright blue pools of water below the falls. The sun was just hitting the magic hour while we swam, and we all laughed about how unreal life felt. What an amazing moment to realize how beautiful the world is and how lucky we were to be experiencing it in this magical place.
Day 10: Morgan and I decided to cut our time in Luang Prabang short and head on to Vang Vieng, as we'd heard such good things about it. We were anything but disappointed with our decision when we arrived in the small town nestled beneath the most magnificent mountains I've ever seen. We skipped the typical hostel life and decided to stay on an organic farm a little ways out of town. It was quiet and peaceful and we were some of the only people there, so it was a nice change from the business of the other places. It also had one of the best views of the river and mountains. We did a lot of writing and wandering, and spent one day helping with farm chores; cleaning goat stables, feeding, and cutting grass the old fashioned way with a sithe. We also took a day with a guide into the mountains to do some rock climbing. It had been two years (the time I've been away from Montana) since I had climbed, and it felt so good to be back on the rocks, even if I was pretty rusty. We wore ourselves out quickly and headed back to the farm. We again found some friends from the boat and went into town for some drinks at a really neat bar along the river. As night fell, a storm came in, but we were happy to sit under the bungalow roof on the porch and watch the lightning show over the mountains. It was, again, one of the most surreal moments of my lifetime. The next day was the start of Songkran, or Lao New Year and it was one of the most entertaining holidays I've ever witnessed. Basically the entire country participates in a massive three-day-long water fight and we were ready to join in. The streets were filled with kids sporting water guns, buckets, and hoses, and they weren't holding anything back when they saw tourists walking around. We got drenched everywhere we went, but it was so hot that we welcomed the cool water and I even bought a water gun to fight back. We spent another couple of nights in Vang Vieng, celebrating the Lao New Year by floating the river, drinking beer with locals, visiting the Blue Lagoon and it's cave, and making new friends before we decided it was time to move on.
Day 15: Morgan was headed to Vietnam, but my time was running out and I decided to go south toward Cambodia instead, so we parted ways in Vientiane and continued our solo journeys. I booked a bus to Siem Reap out of Lao, but wasn't prepared for what I was in for. I'd gotten one of the worst sunburns of my life while floating the river, and it stung like nothing else for the first few days. I spent the first night on a bus, but didn't get much sleep between the sunburn, bumpy road and constant honking. I was told that I would only switch busses once, but it turned out to be two busses and two small vans. I was already soaked from walking the streets of Vientiane on the last day of Songkran, but then my pack got placed below the AC under the bus and was completely filled with water after my second stop. I moved over to the van (which had no AC) and knew my pack would be smelling like death in no time with the 95 degree weather. It was a crammed ride to the border, where I got scammed again into paying too much for my Cambodian visa, and I was feeling as if my luck had suddenly run out. I tried to stay positive on the last van toward Siem Reap, so when it got a flat tire, I had to laugh or I knew I would cry. I finally made it to Siem Reap though, and found that another college friend, Leah, was in the same area.
Day 17: My bag was smelling horrid at the point that I finally made it to the hostel, but I was determined to make the most of my first night in Cambodia, and Leah was ready to show me around. It was the last night of Cambodian New Year, where they celebrate a little bit differently than Lao. Leah took me to the main street where I saw about 2,000 people sporting bottles of baby powder, covered head to toe in the stuff. We immediately were bombarded by locals with powder and well wishes for the new year. We drank and danced and threw powder and it made the entire 40 hour journey worth it, even if it did take two days to get the powder out of my hair and clothes. The next day I went on a solo adventure around town to see the famous ancient temples of Siem Reap, including Angkor Wat. The sites were unbelievable and I was left speechless while wandering through the ancient stones and passages. I was incredibly dehydrated and tired afterward, which made for another early evening, but the awe of the day lasted into the night. The next days I joined Leah and some new friends in an adventure to a waterfall outside of Siem Reap. The water was at the lowest point of the year, so the falls weren't quite as impressive as I'd hoped, but it was still beautiful, and we got to climb up behind the rocks which was amazing. We also got to see some of the ancient rock carvings in the river because the water was so low, and that was incredible to witness.
Day 20: The girls and I were all headed to Phnom Penh on the same day, and decided to continue traveling together through the town. I only spent one day there, but we visited the palace and the massive market, and spent half of the day at the killing fields, which was easily the most heartbreaking part of my trip. It was baffling to hear the stories of some of the 3 million people murdered in the genocide under Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and it was difficult to grasp the reality of what we were seeing as we wandered through the mass graves at Choeung Ek, still unearthing bones and teeth every day. It was an incredibly humbling experience that I know will stay with me.
Day 21: I grabbed an early bus the next morning from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville on the southern tip of Cambodia and waited a few hours for a ferry toward Koh Rong Island. I met a really sweet restaurant owner on the beach and we chatted about music a lot. I had some extra CDs with me from the show in England and happily gave him one, which he made me sign before immediately putting it on over the speakers. We chatted some more until it was time for my ferry, and then I set sail toward the island. It was wild to land at the dock and see no cars, no roads, no real busy life happening anywhere. It was definitely different from anything I'd seen so far on the trip, and I was completely okay with it. The white sand was hot under my bare feet, but I welcomed the change from concrete. I found a hostel and spent the first night drinking and meeting new people. The second day I booked a boat tour around the island and spent the entire afternoon snorkeling, deep sea fishing (which I randomly was a pro at), exploring other islands, and watching sunset from Long Beach on the other side of Koh Rong. Once the sun went down and the sea was pitch black, we all dove in to see the famous phosphorescent plankton we'd heard so much about. I definitely wasn't disappointed. The plankton light up when disturbed, so swimming around in the warm water meant being surrounded by thousands of tiny sparkling lights. Along with the waterfall in Lao, this tops the list of coolest swims I've every experienced. After the boat tour I was incredibly tired and made my way back to the hostel for bed. I woke up early the next morning and decided to explore the beach a bit. The water was choppy, so I skipped out on renting a paddle board and just relaxed in the sand and warm water. It was the first time in my travels that I really had no plans and it was a little strange to completely relax. The wifi rarely worked on the island, which meant I was even more disconnected from the real world than I had been all month, and it was strangely satisfying. I knew my trip was quickly coming to an end, so I tried to soak up as much as I could and enjoy the time I had left overseas. My last day on Koh Rong I rented a sea kayak and paddled my way over to the smallest island, where I was the only person wandering around. It was nice to be alone for a bit and to take in everything I'd seen and felt over the past month. I had started to get excited about being home, but as the time got nearer, I was sad to leave these places that had caused me to grow so much. I paddled back to the main island to spend the day with new friends and enjoy the last moments of relaxation before the long journey home. I spent the last night up on a stage for a little impromptu performance at the hostel/bar I was staying at. It was a lot of fun to play some music for the first time in weeks, and reminded me of why I longed for home. The next morning was bittersweet as I said goodbye to all the new friends and started making my way back to Phnom Penh.
Day 26: I stayed the night in Phnom Penh and flew out the next afternoon to Singapore, where I spent the night in the airport, since my flight was early and I didn't want to spend any more money. I made it to Hong Kong, China in the morning and was starting to feel a little bit of a cold coming on, which I assumed was from exhaustion on top of all the new germs I'd introduced into my system over the weeks. The fifteen hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago proved to be more than my body could handle though and I spent half of the time throwing up and/or wishing I was dead. I was happy to be back in the states with clean water by the time I landed, but spending $11 on a sandwich made me already miss Asia and my $1 meals. By the time I landed in Nashville, I'd been traveling for about 40 hours and was a bit delirious, but so happy to see my roommates and my own bed.
Today I'm still trying to fully comprehend my emotions, but I'm so overwhelmed by everything I saw, heard, tasted, and experienced, that I think it will be years before I really understand just how this trip changed me. I do know that it changed me though. I know that my confidence in myself has grown beyond anything I ever imagined, I'm more comfortable with who I am and what I'm capable of than I've ever been. I've always been a little self conscious about my body and my looks, but that seems to have disappeared as I've come to appreciate and love my body's abilities and strengths. That alone is a massive change. My perspective on what's important has also shifted in a huge way. After the levels of poverty that I witnessed, it was a big realization of what is truly needed to be happy in this life. I understood a little bit more about who I would like to be, and who I would like to surround myself with. I let go of fears and inhibitions in the greatest way, and became stronger for it. I learned a great deal about love and respect from the cultures that I was introduced to and saw compassion in the smallest acts that I would have normally taken for granted.
I never could have imagined how life changing this journey would be, and I'm so grateful that I got to experience it. I can't wait to see what kind of songs come from it all. I hope to retain this level of self confidence, love, and gratitude and share it with everyone I come in contact with in the future. The world is a magical place filled with magical people and I'm lucky to have seen a little more of it.
February 26th, 2015
I know..it's been FAR too long since my last entry, but I've been so caught up in a whirlwind of events and travels that I haven't had time to breathe, let alone write anything down. To catch you up to speed, there are a few big things that have happened since the start of 2015. Firstly, I'm very proud and excited to announce that last month I signed on with my first ever talent booking agency here in Nashville! I'll be working with Elevated Talent Group who will set me up at colleges across the country in the coming months. I'm thrilled about this opportunity and so happy to be involved with such an amazing team of hardworking and creative people.
I've been traveling a lot already this year and just finished up my second 2015 tour, as well as my first ever Folk Alliance International Conference, which has been the highlight of my year thus far. I got to spend five days in Kansas City surrounded by some of the most phenomenal folk musicians in the world while attending and playing showcases, learning from industry professionals at panels, and making some incredible new friends. It was one of the most fun, exhausting, and motivational experiences of my career so far and I came away from it with so much more inspiration than I could have expected. This month I also was offered the highest paying gig of my career (not a second too soon), and it was such an incredible thing to know that people believe that much in my music. What an amazing and rewarding feeling. It was one of the first moments in a while where I felt I really could continue doing this for the rest of my life without starving to death, and I needed that. (Just kidding, Mom, I'm not actually starving..usually..)
Starting next week I have another short tour with a duo called Natural Forces, and then, SURPRISE!! I'M GOING TO EUROPE!!!!
That's right! I've been staying very hush-hush about it all, because I didn't want to jinx anything and have plans fall through at the last minute, but it looks like everything is actually happening as planned, so I'm thrilled to say that starting March 18th I'll be traveling through Italy, France, and the U.K. with Aaron Howard to play some shows. I am thrilled about this crazy opportunity and can't wait to meet new people and learn from some different cultures! It's been a lifelong dream of mine to tour in Europe and I am still having a hard time believing it's actually happening!
That all leads to my final bit of big news, which is that I'll be taking some time off after my European run in order to pursue one of my other passions; world travel. I've been touring non-stop since September and as much as I've loved every experience, I need some time to get back to the basics of who I am, why I do music, where I fit in this world, and where I want to see myself in the future. My writing has suffered immensely since being on the road performing so frequently, and I'm hoping to change that with a little musical hiatus and a break from tour life to explore some new places including Southeast Asia, Japan, South America, and hopefully a few other places. I am looking to gain some new perspective on life and a little inspiration from the people, places, and experiences. I hope to come home refreshed and full of new songs just in time to jump back on the road with My Politic for a northeastern tour in June. I'll try to continue posting updates through all the adventures and I'll be sharing lots of pictures to all my social media accounts along the way.
Last year was so amazing, but this year is already in the running for being the best yet. I'm wildly grateful for all the opportunities coming my way. The past few months have proven just how much a lot of hard work can pay off. I can't wait to see what the future holds for my music, my career, and myself. It's one wild ride, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
December 21st, 2014
I read an article today (http://thoughtcatalog.com/jamie-varon/2014/12/this-is-how-we-date-now/) and it really got me thinking about the way I interact offline and how I share my world on social media. It made me think about my level of commitment in relationships with other people and the future of romance in a world full of things like Tinder, but mostly it made me think about my 'online image' alongside so many others.
I am fortunate to say that I've been incredibly lucky in my life, and I really enjoy sharing my happiness with the world, (especially since I've been happier lately than I every imagined), but what the world doesn't see is the unlucky side of my world.
I post shiny, happy photos on Instagram of myself in front of the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge, and I tweet short, exciting blurbs about my travels. I share videos and links on Facebook to tell of my adventures and my triumphs, and once in a while I even find the perfect moment for a good selfie (#iwokeuplikethis). What's missing in all of these posts is the reality of a life that is far from perfect, (spoiler alert; NOBODY has a perfect life).
I don't generally talk about the painful chiropractor visits after being crammed in a waaaay overstuffed car for two months, or the unsanitary hotels I've slept in (or the tents, or floors, or cars I've slept in for that matter..) I don't tweet about the nights I've skipped meals because I couldn't afford dinner, and that selfie that you're seeing was probably taken only because I chose to do my hair and put on makeup for the first time in a month (and maybe the lighting was really nice too). I won't usually tell you that my anxiety levels have hit an entirely new high and my sleeping habit has hit a massive low as I've taken on projects and challenges that are far beyond my level of expertise, and although I'm the happiest I've ever been, I'm also THEE most stressed.
I tell you all of this now not in hopes of gaining your sympathy, but rather to reiterate; what you see online isn't always the whole truth. Photos can be edited, stories can be exaggerated, and most of your friends (or celebrities you follow) aren't going to post about their lowest points, they will share the best moments of their life and pretend it's just a typical Tuesday in Paradise. THIS IS NOT REAL. Because of that, I hope no one ever compares their life to someone else's online persona. I hope people realize that they only get to see a short glimpse of someone's world, and it's a glimpse that's full of emojis and perfectly placed photo filters.
I feel like we so often forget that fact and wind up comparing ourselves to others in a way that we may never match. I know I'm probably as guilty as anyone else, but lately I'm trying to focus on being grounded in the real world.
I'm insanely grateful for my life, and I have been wildly fortunate to do what I do, but it's not perfect, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
December 3rd, 2014
WHOA! I can't believe an entire month has gone by since I've written, especially with all that's been happening. Life hasn't slowed down any in the last few weeks, that's for sure.
After a few days of catching up on sleep when I got back from the fall tour, I quickly got back on the road with a new group of fellas; My Politic. We traveled through Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina for a week of shows and it was a blast. We met some great people along the way and played for some really fantastic audiences. By the end of the week I wasn't ready for it to be over. We drove through the night after our last show so that I could be on an early morning flight out of Nashville on my way back to Montana where I was lucky to arrive just in time to catch the tail end of a very dear friend's wedding. From there my exhausted body and immune system gave out on me and I came down with what I was sure was Ebola or the plague. Luckily I had planned to rest and relax at home with my parents until Thanksgiving so I had my dear mother by my side to assure me I wasn't actually dying and to feed me soup, tea, and 'hippie' herbs until I was back on my feet. I got to enjoy a great Thanksgiving with so many friends and family members before quickly flying back to Nashville. I had decided fairly suddenly I would be relocating homes and had a very short time frame to do so. I chose to move a little farther away from downtown and into a place that was a lot more affordable, and I had one day to pack my entire room and move out of one place and into another. Now I'm sitting in my new bedroom (which is actually just an attic in some friends' home) and enjoying a slightly slower paced week. The attic is a little cold, and I'm fairly certain it's more than a little haunted, but it's also hidden behind a secret bookshelf door in the house, so obviously I love it. I think it will make a good story someday too.
I'm beyond excited for Christmas and my time off this month before all the craziness of the new year starts. There are so many big things in the works for 2015 already and I can't wait to share some of them as everything becomes a little more put together.
OH! And I almost forgot, today was the BEST. I woke up to a text from a friend telling me he'd heard Fickle Heart on the radio the night before and I could hardly contain my excitement. Although I've still never heard myself on the radio, I was thrilled that my own songs were actually being played on the air! Almost immediately afterward, I received the sweetest review of the entire album from a blogger, as well as a very generous email from a fan in France, and my first paycheck from iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon! It was a great way to get me motivated for the day and to reassure me that things are going to work out. This year has been such a roller coaster and I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I am beyond blessed in a thousand ways I never imagined and couldn't be more grateful for days like today, and years like this year.
October 29th, 2014
I apologize for disappearing from writing for so long. The past few weeks have been beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I'm exhausted to a point I didn't know was possible, and I've fallen in love with places I didn't know existed. It's incredible how eclectic the landscapes are in just one country, or even just one state. In the past few days I've seen everything from beaches to dense forests, deserts to giant cities, canyons to mountains, and everything in between. Driving along the west coast was filled with some of the most breathtaking sites I've ever seen. We wound through deep, tall forests of redwoods, which immediately gave way to rocky cliffs, and ocean views. San Francisco was especially beautiful and I felt like I could stay there forever. I could stay a lot of places forever..Coeur d'Alene, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, the list goes on and on. We reached the Grand Canyon right at sunset on Monday and I thought I might sit on that ledge for the rest of my life, watching the colors of the canyon change. My heart will always pull for Montana though. That's one thing that has been solidified in my thoughts on this road trip. I will always go to Montana. I'm ready to get back to Nashville for now though. I'm most excited to sleep in my own bed, and go for a run, and cook a meal that is more than granola bars or easy mac. It will be a short stay in Tennessee though. I hit the road again after only about a week off. This time I'll be touring with a group called My Politic. They're a fantastically talented crew and I can't wait to start a new adventure with them. We'll be staying a little closer to home this round (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina), and it will just be a week long, but then I'll be headed back to the mountains again for some real rest and family time over Thanksgiving dinner. I'll have lots of stories to share at the table this year, that's for sure.
I am always astounded by the kindness of people I meet along these journeys. Whether it be someone I've never seen, someone I haven't talked to in years, or someone I know well, people continue to amaze me with their graciousness. So many new and old friends have taken us in, fed us, come to support us at our shows, promoted us, given us gifts, advice, and well wishes beyond what I could ever dream of. Watching the way people open their hearts to others because of music is an incredible experience to witness and I'm so grateful that I get to see it and be part of it every day. This tour has tested my faith in myself and my future in more ways than I can count, but every step of the way I've found another person waiting to lend a hand and encourage me to take another step forward. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life, and it's because of the people who make it possible. Tomorrow is the last show on this leg of the road, and as ready as I am for my own bed, it's a little bittersweet. I'm sad this round is over, but I'll remember these moments for the rest of my life, and I can't wait to start making more memories in each coming adventure.
October 8th, 2014
We're more than halfway through tour and I can't believe it's coming to an end so quickly. We've been spending the last few days in some of my absolute favorite places in the world; Missoula, MT and Glacier National Park. It's always breathtaking in the park, and this time of year was no letdown. The colors are just starting to change, and the peaks of the mountains are topped off with snow already. We drove up Going to the Sun Road to Logan's Pass, where it was closed, but the view was incredible. Afterward we hiked up to Avalanche Lake, another one of my favorite sites in the world.
Missoula has been as great as ever too. Our show was a blast and it's been nice to catch up with so many people while showing the guys around my college stomping grounds.
We're headed for Coeur d'Alene tomorrow, Spokane on Friday, Seattle on Saturday, and Portland on Sunday, playing shows in each city. I wish we had a little more time to explore the areas, because I love the pacific northwest, but I'm hoping we'll get to catch at least a few cool sites while we're driving around and performing this weekend.
I'm excited to meet a few more people on the rest of the trip, and thrilled to announce that I'll be hitting the road almost immediately again after I get back to Nashville. I've been working hard on another small southern tour in November with a fantastic group called My Politic. We'll be touring for a week around Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee. It's another experience that I just can't wait to get started on.
Until then, I'll keep you posted on the rest of this western adventure!
September 26th, 2014
I'm finally back in Montana, my absolute favorite place in the world. Today marks three weeks that we've been on the road, and what a wild ride it has been. My computer crashed while I was in Utah, so I haven't had the chance to write since then, but now that it's back up and running, I'll catch you up.
In the last few weeks we've played more than 13 shows in 8 different states, visited 4 national parks, driven thousands of miles, and met about a million new people. It's mind blowing how incredible this country is, there are so many things to see, and folks to meet! Some of my favorite things so far have been:
Manitou Springs and Estes Park Colorado
The hot springs in Steamboat, Colorado
Moab and Arches National Park in Utah
The Tetons and Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park
The Beartooth Highway
and Montana (of course)
Every single city we've stopped in so far has been filled with exciting and friendly people who have taken incredibly good care of us. We've had so many people give us a place to sleep, a meal, a few drinks, gas money, or just advice, and I am continually amazed by the hospitality and kindness.
I'm playing a show in my hometown tomorrow and can't wait to see all the old familiar faces. It's been so fun being home for a few days. I got to show Zack and Chris where I grew up, we went fishing, shot some guns, took the horses for a ride, and played a small show in Billings to a very gracious crowd. We've also been able to finally catch up on some sleep, run errands, and actually relax for a bit, which has been much needed.
There are about five weeks left on the road, and tons of places left to visit. I'm sure it will be just as exciting as the first few weeks have been, and can't wait to see what else we find!
September 10th, 2014
I apologize for the gap of silence, it's been a wildly busy few weeks. We've been on the road nearly a week already on tour and it's been incredible so far. The album was released last Thursday and I was so excited to finally get it out to people. I've gotten so many incredible reviews from people since dropping it, it was an amazing feeling. I released a video for the title track (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXRb7u1AziU) and was overwhelmed by the response. I couldn't believe how many folks shared, commented, and liked the video. I have incredible people on my side, and they remind me so often of how lucky I am.
I made it back down south just in time for the show in Nashville to kick off tour and celebrate the album release last Thursday. The next day, we got on the road. We played St. Louis on Friday, Columbia on Saturday, and Wichita on Sunday. I loved every single show. People have been nothing but welcoming and so so kind with their words. I'm thrilled that people are liking the new music.
After our shows over the weekend, we continued on to Colorado, where we camped for a couple of nights and drove towards Denver. We'll be playing shows tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday again around the area (Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver) before doing some more camping in the mountains. It's been really fun showing Zack and Chris (my bass player) this side of the country. Neither of them has been this far west before, and it's hilarious to see their reactions to the different climate and landscape. Yesterday we found a sunflower field, and I even got a little giddy. I CANNOT wait to get into the real mountains and show them where I grew up.
We were hit by a drunk driver on Saturday after our gig in Wichita, but luckily all of us were fine, and although it was dented pretty well, the car still drives. We are headed to a mechanic today though to make sure nothing serious happened. Hopefully that was our one and only bout of bad luck for the trip and it's out of the way early.
Tour is only just getting started, we have about 7 more weeks to go, but I am having the time of my life on this new adventure so far and can't wait to see what else this trip has in store for us!
August 23rd, 2014
I've been cooped up inside all day since my video shoot was, (once again), canceled due to rain. I found my way to Bozeman on Thursday to start shooting, but we've been rained out every day so far. Tomorrow morning we're up at the crack of dawn to shoot, whatever the weather is, and hopefully we'll get some great work in. I'm tired to sitting around in the drizzle. It hasn't been a completely dull stop here in Bozeman, though. Last night I spontaneously ended up on top of a mountain with some of my best friends and went skinny-dipping for the first time. It was hilarious and freezing cold, and we had a blast. I think I laughed the whole way back to town, (between the teeth chattering..)
It's been strange not working on the album anymore. I've been dedicating so much time to it the past few months, I feel a little lost now that it's out of my hands. I am DYING to see/hear the final product when I get back to Nashville. It'll be a crazy couple of weeks between now and then. I'm headed back to my hometown next week to spend a little time with my parents, my horses, and my thoughts, then I'll be back off to Nashville with only a few days to spare before the album release and tour kickoff. I can't believe it's already so close to tour! It's going to be wild spending two full months on the road, and I can't wait for the adventure to begin. We'll be playing so many shows and seeing so many new places along the way. It's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for sure.
It's been a great break here in Montana, but I'm ready to get back to work soon. I'm not very good at relaxing, and I'm getting a little anxious for all the craziness the fall will bring. I'm mostly caught up on sleep (and my sanity) and I'm ready for the exhaustion/excitement of tour and the album release to begin on September 4th!
August 13th, 2014
Sorry for disappearing off the grid for so long. I needed to get away from the world for a minute and remember where I came from, so I've been hiding out in the mountains of my homeland the past couple of weeks. It's been so refreshing to be home. Sometimes I get caught up in the craziness of life and forget just how magical Montana is, and how lucky I am to be from such a place. I spent the first few days with family on the lake, then made my way to Missoula to work on videos, booking, finalizing the album and a little bit of playing around in the hills. I got to join in on a 15 mile hike on Sunday to summit Lolo Peak at 9,600 feet. I haven't hiked like that in over a year and although it nearly killed me, it was one of the best days spent with people I love, seeing some of the most beautiful views. I touched snow in the middle of summer, swam in a glacial lake, climbed rocks, and crawled my way to the top of a mountain where I drank champagne with the best people. It was the best day.
The album is very nearly coming to a close. By Friday we will have all of the master mixes finished and then it'll be out of our hands and off to the printers. I'm beyond ecstatic for the release coming up September 4th and have so many butterflies already. I can't wait to share this piece of myself with everyone and get back on the road for tour in less than a month.
Alongside the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of beloved actor, Robin Williams on Monday. My emotions actually caught me off guard, as I wept for a man I didn't actually know. Some of you know that suicide is an issue very dear to my heart and something I have even struggled personally with. From the time I was about 12, I dealt with severe depression and anxiety, and for many years, didn't believe I would make it to 20 years old. Then when I was 19 I lost my cousin to suicide while she was staying with my family. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life thus far and I am incredibly lucky and grateful that in that time I was pushed to find the help I needed. I am now happier and healthier than I ever imagined was possible, and I ache for those who haven't found that yet. When I heard the news of Robin Williams, I hurt for him and his family. It's hard to believe that a man who made so many smile, could be hurting so deeply inside. Never in my life have I felt so much loss over a person I never had the chance to meet, but I legitimately mourned this man who impacted my childhood without knowing it. What an incredible person to have so much influence that the world would feel sincere loss. I just pray for anyone else who feels the way he must have. From my own experience, I wish I could tell every single individual fighting their own fight that it DOES get better, there is always an alternative, and suicide is never a solution. There is so much joy to be found in this life and I hope all of you know you are loved and needed. I hope you never give up. I hope Robin Williams is at peace, and I hope his family will feel the warmth of the world's giant group hug happening right now.
My very first tattoo was of a small semicolon on my left wrist and symbolizes a meaning that I hold very dear. I hope it will have some meaning to you: "A semicolon is used in a place where the author could have ended the sentence, but chose not to."
July 14th, 2014
I don't know if anything I've ever done has made me feel so many emotions at one time. I've never been as excited, stressed, exhausted, confident, nervous, overwhelmed, proud, or anxious as I have been while spending these past two weeks in the studio. I never could have imagined the work that would go into a studio record, and it's been such a wild ride trying to keep up with it all.
This week we've been working on vocals and it's been very up and down for me. These songs are so personal and important to who I am as a person as well as an artist, and it's a very emotional experience to get in the booth and sing each line. I feel like I've poured my heart and my soul into each lyric and each melody. At times it's been the most frustrating feeling, when something doesn't come out just right, or when I struggle with a line, but other times it's been incredibly rewarding and overwhelming to hear something that's only been in my mind come out perfectly in a song. We only have two more days of vocals and one day to finish any overdubs before we're completely done recording. It's amazing how quickly the whole process has flown by. I feel like just yesterday we started with pre-production and suddenly we're on the last few days of tracking. There's still loads more work to do though once we step out of the studio, and I'll be keeping busy with all the editing for the next few weeks.
The fall tour has really started falling into place and I'm thrilled to get back on the road in September. It's going to be an even crazier journey than the first and I have no idea what to expect this time around, but I know it will be a wild adventure nonetheless.
I was so excited when I finally received my t-shirts and stickers this week (irawolf.bandcamp.com/merch) and was blown away by how many people started snagging them so quickly. I thought I would have loads to sell on tour, but as fast as they're going online, I might just run out before we get on the road. I'm incredibly grateful though, heaven knows my wallet is too.
I started getting really stressed again about money last week. I haven't had an actual income since quitting my jobs before tour in April, and we had to add an extra studio day, bringing the price of the album even farther over budget than it already was. Two months without a job and my entire savings in one project has put my bank account in a very unsettling position. I've literally put all I have on the line for this record and tour, and although it's all been a huge risk up to this point, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'm on the right path and that everything will work out the way it's supposed to. I've always been a strong believer that things happen the way they're meant to. I'm also beyond blessed to have the fans, friends, and family supporting me the way that they do, and I try to never take that for granted. I have some really great people on my side, so no matter what happens, I know I'll never really be without.
July 3rd, 2014
After four days, 48 hours, and about a million different takes, I've finished my very first studio session experience at 1092 Studios! It's been so surreal to work in such an amazing place and I'm beyond grateful for the opportunity. It's still hard to believe that it's actually happening sometimes.
The Recording People (Becky and Sean) are working as hard as ever and have been putting in so many extra hours to get everything put together and sounding great. We've also been so lucky to have some of Nashville's most talented musicians on each session. Everyone has brought so much to the record and it's starting to sound exactly as I always imagined it. The hardest part now is being patient. I'm just too excited to hear the final product!
I will say that it hasn't been the easiest week of my life. It's definitely been a lot more work than I ever could have guessed, and at times it's been almost more tiring or frustrating than I thought I could take, but the highs far outweigh the lows. The blisters on my fingers are so worth those few perfect guitar takes, and the longest days of running on only a few hours of sleep are some of the days that I'll remember for the rest of my life.
I've been so consumed by studio life this week that I almost forgot about all the other exciting things coming in the near future. I finally have some official 'Ira Wolf' t-shirts on their way to my door next week, along with a big stack of wolf stickers, and I can't wait to see how they all turned out. Zack and I have also started to fill out quite a few dates for the fall tour and I'm getting really excited to get back on the road and start meeting people out west! Everything is happening so fast, but I love every bit of it.
It's crazy to think that exactly one year and one week ago today I landed in Nashville literally by the flip of coin. I didn't know a single soul, I had no job, no home, and no idea what I was doing here, but I've always believed that the biggest risks lead to the greatest reward. I can't believe how much hard work it's taken to get to the point I'm at this week, but it feels better than anything in the world. Everything is really starting to fall into place and I once again feel as if I'm doing exactly what I should be doing. Surreal as it may be, I am actually living out everything I always dreamed of, and THAT is one hell of a feeling.
June 23rd, 2014
This record is happening so fast and I'm only getting more and more excited for it as we dig deeper into ideas and instrumentation.
We've been working hard on all the pre-production this week and auditioning different musicians to find the perfect fit for the studio. I'm so thrilled with the players we've found, they all are bringing such a cool vibe and sound to the project in their own unique way. We'll be in the studio in less than a week and I'm dying to hear what all the songs will sound like once everything starts coming together. I'm still recovering from all the travel and lack of sleep over the past couple months, but I think I'm starting to get used to the fact that my lifestyle no longer allows much rest time. It's fun to be so busy, and I'm loving all the excitement as the album gets closer and closer to it's final product. Can't wait to share it with the world!
June 11th, 2014
I’m sitting on another airplane right now typing this. It
seems that airplanes have become a common writing place for me these days,
which is nice. I love being in flight and watching the clouds, the towns, and
especially the mountains when they come into view. This week I’m headed back to
Montana to sing the national anthem at Nitro National Pro Hill Climbs. It’s
been a tradition since I was a kid and even being in
Nashville, I couldn’t miss it this year. I’m excited to be back in my hometown,
it will be a much needed few days of relaxing and reflecting on all the big
changes going on in my life.
As soon as I landed back in Nashville from Fargo last week
we went to work on the album. We’ve been doing arrangements and
instrumentation, recording demos and perfecting lyrics, and cutting down the
song choices to the select few that will end up on the record. It’s been
exhausting, but so exciting. I can’t believe how hard my producers, Becky and
Sean work. They’ve put in over eight hours a day with me and then they go home
and work continuously on the demos and arrangements. I feel pretty lucky to
have them on my side. I’ve been putting in quite a few extra hours as well with
booking and planning the next tour along with practicing and gearing up for
recording day. It’s all happening so fast that I’m having trouble keeping up,
but I know it will all be worth the hard work this fall.
I’ll be back in Nashville next week to start auditioning and
rehearsing with potential musicians for the studio sessions and then it’s just
a matter of a few weeks until we’re recording. I’m going to try and soak up as
much mountain air and quiet, (and sleep) as I can this week while still getting
a little rowdy at hill climbs, and then head home ready to take on this next
few months of craziness. I can’t wait!
June 3rd, 2014
I'M MAKING AN ALBUM!
The Kickstarter project was beyond successful, thanks to some really wonderful people, and I start recording in just a few weeks! Today I met with my producers to begin working on pre-production (arrangement, instrumentation, lyrics, etc.) and I'm only getting more and more excited about the project coming together.
Tour flew by way faster than I could have ever imagined. It all seems like a bit of a blur now that it's done. I think by the end of the month I was already exhausted, then I added a last minute trip to Fargo, ND to perform at a high school graduation party for a very sweet family. It was such fun weekend, but between two all-nighters in a matter of four days and all the travel, by the time I landed back in Nashville, all I wanted to do was sleep for a month. I won't get much of a chance to rest up though with all the album work and tour booking I have left to do this week.
Zack and I are performing our first Nashville show since tour tonight. It will be nice to see some familiar faces and wind down the performing work for a bit. I'll have tomorrow off because I'll be at the hospital most of the day. It's nothing major, but my vocal chords have been under a lot of stress due to my ever worsening acid reflux, so the doctors will be putting me under anesthesia and using a camera to look into my stomach. It sounds pretty gross to me, but I'm really hoping they can finally find a cause and a cure for the issue. I'm actually looking forward to the excuse to sleep most of the day. Then Thursday it's straight back to work with the producers. We are checking out studios and deciding which we'd like to use, and continuing with pre-production.
Life doesn't seem to be slowing down at all, but I'm having the most fun trying to keep up. I wouldn't change a minute of this crazy ride for anything.
May 24th, 2014
Today I landed back in Nashville after 22 days on the road. I can't believe how fast the past few weeks flew by, it's all a big blur of music and travel and new people and some of the greatest memories I think I'll ever make. I'm feeling so overwhelmingly blessed that I've had the kind of opportunities that I have had this month and I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I feel like I'm right where I need to be and doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, as if every mistake or wrong turn has led me straight to this point in my life. I've never been so excited for the future or more sure about myself as an artist. This tour proved to me that my music can connect with people on such an incredible level and I feel honored to share that kind of a connection with someone I've only just met. It's truly been inspirational beyond belief.
I ended my 365 photo project today and it's almost hard to believe I've been away from Missoula for a year already. So much has changed and happened and it feels like I only started this big journey yesterday. I guess time really does fly when you're doing what you love.
We have a few days off here in Nashville before a couple more gigs in Knoxville and Atlanta to close out the tour, but there's no time to rest. There's still so much work to do for the next tour and I have meetings this week to start figuring out logistics of the album so we can start working on it next week, plus the Kickstarter project is in it's final week ( http://kck.st/1f6Ay6z ), so I have a ton of work to do still. Everything is happening so fast that I'm having somewhat of a hard time keeping up, but I'm loving every minute of it. Even at my lowest when a show doesn't go as I hoped, or when I'm completely exhausted from late nights and long drives, I remember that I really, truly am doing what I always wanted to do. That is an amazing thing and I am eternally grateful to anyone who has made it possible. Life really is beautiful.
May 17th, 2014
We are already two weeks into our eastern tour and having so much fun. We've had quite a few stops along the way and just landed in upstate New York last night. It's a lot colder now that we're up north, but it's so fun to be in the cities. We played three nights in NYC and then in Boston, and I loved seeing so many familiar faces from Berklee. We are staying with Zack's parents for a few days now while we play lots of shows in Fredonia, Lewiston, and Buffalo, and then we will have a day off to sleep. I think both of us are exhausted, but it's all been so worth it. I love meeting all the new people and seeing so many new places. It's truly been an amazing experience so far and I still can't believe I'm actually living out my dream. People have been immensely supportive too. I am halfway through my Kickstarter project ( http://kck.st/1f6Ay6z ) and have raised $2,513 with two weeks left to hit $5,000. It will be so awesome to get into the studio when we get back to Nashville and start working on the fall tour.
I've been getting some great feedback from people about the new material at each show which makes me really excited for the new album. There are just too many good things happening and I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've been given. We are headed to a rehearsal for our gig tonight in Zack's hometown of Lewiston, so I'm off, but I'll write again before we finish our trip.
May 8th, 2014
I'm officially on my very first tour! It's been six days since we left Nashville, and so far it's been nothing short of an amazing experience. We played our first show in Savannah, GA to an incredibly fun and wild crowd who partied with us until the wee hours of morning, and it was so worth the exhaustion we felt the next day. We've made stops in Hilton Head, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach and are playing in Richmond, VA tonight and I have loved meeting all the new people and sharing my music. Between gigs at night, I've spent a lot of time on the beach, and life feels a bit like a dream at the moment; it's hard to believe all of this is real.
I launched a Kickstarter campaign about two weeks ago to gain support for my new album and the next tour out west ( http://kck.st/1f6Ay6z ) and I'm am blown away by the level of support it's already received. The goal is $5,000 and has to be reached by May 31st or I don't get any of it. It's almost reached $2,000 already which is astounding. I can't wait to get the new album recorded and be able to tour west in September.
I'm learning a lot about tour life, music, and myself, yet again with this new adventure and am so excited about the future I can hardly contain it.
It's about time to jump up on stage here in Richmond, but I'll keep writing as the road continues!