“Behind My Music” An inside look at what motivates my writing. “Indian Drummer”
Many artists suffer a great deal before and sometimes after they become famous. Love struck Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear for example. William Ledbetter, AKA Lead Belly, went to prison. Comedian Richard Prior had enormous obstacles before and after fame. This autobiographical note covers some of the tragedies I have suffered and survived. My mother tried to commit suicide several times. My dad was committed to an insane asylum for threatening to kill my brother and me, and my mom. My brother developed MPD and schizophrenia. Somehow, maybe by god, good friends, or love, I survived.
My father was a traveling salesman and so-called minister of Christ who preached at tent revivals and little churches in small towns throughout the Midwest. I lived a turbulent life of nomadic travel until age ten. I feel this instability made me fearful and jumpy and wanting and longing for things I can count on. It affects my perception of who people are and their motivations. I express this through my music, and try to include imagery that might help the listener “see” my feelings in their minds-eye. Rhythmically, there’s a sense of choppiness to a lot of my songs. Melodically I strive for a feeling of fluidity, a sense of travel.
My dad abandoned our family the year I turned ten. We were destitute with only $20.00 and an overdue rent bill. At Christmas that year I received a plastic toy boat that had a 10¢ price sticker on the bottom. My brother got a new football. At ten, that was the worst kind of hurt--very few friends, no dad, and no Santa. My dad never returned, never wrote letters or called, and never paid a dime of child support. I wrote a song about that called "Indian Drummer" it's posted on this page.
My mom had a heart attack four years after dad left, probably from working too hard. Shortly thereafter my brother became psychotic and diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. That was the year I turned fifteen. He made many attempts to smother me in my sleep. His mental disorder took several years to be diagnosed while manifesting itself in attacks against me and my mom, heavy-duty anti-social behavior, and outbursts in public places. During these years a family down the street named Smith had enough love for one more kid in spite of already having six of their own. They became my second family and I took refuge with them. Sadly many of them suffered from alcoholism, heroin addiction, and drug overdoses. Drugs killed most of them years before their time. The pain of losing a second family is indescribable.
I guess you get tough or die. I’ve managed to find some happiness in life. I played music for relief and pleasure for almost twenty years. Then one day at the guitar store a bluegrass musician invited me to play with his band at open stage on Saturdays. I am grateful for the encouragement of Poplar Grove Jam Band. In 2006 I began writing songs. In 2009 I played briefly with a band called Echo Park. I played my first guitar song on my mother’s knee at seven years old, bought my first guitar at thirteen, wrote my first song in 2006, played my first show in 2009, and since then have played out several times a month. I have written over 350 songs and continue to write when the muse calls, or pain motivates.
I’m an indie music junkie and love musicians like Elliot Smith, John Darnielle, Conor Oberst, Jim James, DCFC, Nick Drake, Andrew Bird, Spoon, Manchester Orchestra, and Fleet Foxes to name a few. My own music ranges from intensely personal songs to fun songs that border on parody, and some songs that I feel qualify as Americana. I’ve been compared to Neil Young, but also Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver.
Sometime in 2014 I hope to launch a Kickstarter project. Money raised will help fund a coffeehouse tour. I don’t like bar scenes, but am okay to perform at small pubs and wine bars. Coffee houses are the best, but these types of bookings cannot possibly fund a tour, thus I need Kickstarter and a few angels in arts councils etc. Please support this endeavor wherever you find my music available for purchase. My self-titled documentary “Original Mechanical Mouse” will appear on my YouTube channel when it is finished.