TS10

TS10: Wishful Thinking

Dammit. It’s mid-April in Wisconsin and we just spent all weekend inside because of the ongoing barrage of flakes in the air and on the ground. I miss spring…

So, in light of my longing for green, rain, and sunshine, and in solidarity with my fellow upper-Midwesterners, I offer the Wishful Thinking TS10, led off by a song called All the Snow Is Gone

-Ed

 

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TS10

TS10: Seeking Emotional Intelligence

Ahhhhh… so, this playlist is a little more balanced than what I want to share right now. Why, you may ask? Well, I’m angry at the moment. When I’m angry, it’s very difficult for me to be balanced in my approach to anything. I had a moment, a fleeting moment, in which I thought, “To hell with what I have planned! I’m gonna find some angry music for this week’s TS10. And then I remembered that I am an adult, not a child.

Children react impulsively when it comes to emotional stimuli. Part of our maturation process is learning to pause before reacting or responding, to let ourselves feel things without those feelings getting in the way of actual decision-making. I’ll readily admit, I am an amateur when it comes to such. I wish that wasn’t the case, but the truth is, every once in a while, I put on my “eight year old Ed” pants and react, when I should sit still.

For what it’s worth, I’ll take this instance with this week’s playlist as a little victory. While, in the heat of the moment I want to lash out in some way (even if it’s just in sharing ten angry songs), I’m glad the proverbial cooler head prevailed, because this playlist has some wonderful stuff in it.

No matter what you’re feeling at the moment, I invite you to engage with what’s here and let your emotions take you where you need to go.

-Ed

 

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TS10

TS10: Come As You Are

Photo from Nirvana’s Facebook Page

There’s lots here. As weird as this may sound, I hope there is something here that will mess with you deeply, in all the right ways. Feel and heal, friends.

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Broken Heart Needed

One of the beautiful aspects of creating art is the lasting impact a given piece of art can have, regardless of where the artist goes after that piece is created. Derek Webb is one of my favorite songwriters ever. His impact on me was built on honest lyrics, direct questions, and a penchant for being a necessary pain in the ass to the evangelical establishment here in the U.S. Those things were part and parcel of Webb’s vibe for much of his solo career.

Over the past few years, Mr. Webb has undergone something of a personal paradigm shift. I don’t understand the nuances of that shift. I don’t know the man personally. But, what seems to be clear, is that the faith that once was the foundation for so much of his honesty, questioning, and provocation has either dramatically changed or is simply gone. He seems like a different guy than the one who penned the songs on his first few albums. But, that doesn’t alter the truth of those early lyrics or the poignancy of his questions, his longing, his provocation.

The last song on this week’s TS10 is I Want a Broken Heart from his I See Things Upside Down album. No matter where Derek Webb is personally these days, the honest truth in this song stands.

I’ve got faith in the bank and money in my heart
I’ve got a calloused place where your ring used to be, my love

I’ve traded naked and unashamed
For a better place to hide
For a righteous mask, a suit of fig leaves and lies

I thought the cattle on a thousand hills
Was not enough to pay my bills
And I fell in love with those who proved me wrong
And now I want a broken heart

Now there’s a great pad lock
On the place where I was free
And I’m feeling bad from swallowing that key
Now I work real hard but I mostly call in sick
Of a broken back from the ground fighting back at me

I cannot look you in the eye
So I check the knots on my disguise
‘Cause I fell in love with fashion in the dark
And now I want a broken heart

I’ve got alibis for every crime
A substitute to do my time
‘Cause Your heart breaks enough on both our parts
So now I want a broken heart
Now I want a broken heart
Now I want a broken heart

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TS10

TS10: Finding “Fault” With Insecurity

Above image is a photo of Autumn Hefferan’s original painting, “Fault”

I almost did it. I almost decided not to add a certain track to this playlist because of how I thought it might be perceived by others. As I was sampling potentials for this week’s TS10, I came across Seal’s Prayer for the Dying. It’s a beautiful song from Seal’s 1994 self-titled album (as opposed to his 1991 also self-titled album).

I listened to Seal quite a bit back in the early to mid-90s. I actually picked that 1991 album up while on an internship in India in 1993. That was a particularly difficult season for me emotionally, and that album, which included the hit single Crazy, was constantly in my Walkman. It was a rotation of Arrested Development’s 3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days in the Life of…, Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story, and this record. I still vividly remember listening to the album in its entirety while on the flight home from India.

When I first heard Seal’s Kiss From a Rose, from his 1994 release, I fell in love with it. Soon afterward, I grabbed the album and listened to it non-stop. I thought the record was beautiful and, even though I would not have recognized it as such at the time, intensely emotive. Prayer for the Dying was one of the singles released from that album and is also one of my favorite Seal songs.

However, when presented with the possibility of including it on this week’s TS10, it wasn’t an immediate slam dunk choice. Why? It wasn’t because the song isn’t worthy. It wasn’t because it no longer connects with me emotionally. It was simply because my insecurity told me the cool kids would make fun of me for including a Seal song. In fact, the original iteration for this playlist didn’t include the song. But, as I considered it more, I decided not to let the cool kids tell me what to do.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, sometimes I just like to spill the beans because I know I’m not the only one dealing issues like this. We all have our insecurities. Many of us get concerned about the bullying voices of the cool kids. Screw those voices.  Let’s not let our insecurities direct our decision-making. Let’s just be who we are. For real. The truth is, the cool kids are insecure too, which is why they try to make us feel bad for being who we are.

Somehow, I hope this rambling and, more importantly, this incredible music will lead us all to deeper freedom to be who we were created to be.

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Changing Times

No, I’m, not talking about “springing ahead.” I’m talking about the change which seems to be in the air these days. It’s good. It feels, little by little, as though many of us are coming to our senses about a number of things. Reminds me that love always defeats hate in the long run, as if life is designed that way.

This playlist runs the gamut of emotional stimuli. While it’s not all about these changes, it can still be about change. Maybe something needs to shift in your soul right now. I know I could use some soul-shifting. So, let’s listen and engage and see about that change.

-Ed

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TS10

TS10: Straight Cash, Homie

So… I don’t know why there are several songs on this week’s TS10 that have something to do with money. Could be something subconscious happening there. Regardless, it would appear there is, at least, a mini-theme at work here. Money can be a pretty provocative subject, so that’s good, right. Emotional provocation is what this is all about!

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Artist Focus

Finding Balance with Alright Alright

Over the last few years, it’s been my privilege to build relationships with a variety of talented musicians. These personal connections have afforded me the opportunity to see how passionate these folks are about their art. They have given me a glimpse of the struggle so many of them face as they share their creations, sometimes in a dingy bar full of drunk “listeners.” I’ve felt the tension, to a very small extent, that they feel when it comes to figuring out how to pursue this passion, this dream, while making ends meet and managing their personal realities and relationships.

A short while ago, I stumbled upon the music of a duo called “Alright Alright” when I downloaded some of their music from Noisetrade. The Denver based band consists of husband and wife, Seth and China Kent. I reached out to them asking if they’d be interested in an interview, not really aware of much of their story. During our email interactions, China mentioned that Seth was just turning 40 years old. And when I started hearing more of their story, I gained a new appreciation for how complex and difficult it can be for musicians attempting to make a living, manage their household, raise kids, make their music, and still love each other at the end of the day. The Kents generously shared about their lives and their art, and through the process, also gained an admirer. Below is our conversation…

 

TS: How long have you been married? How many kids (ages)?

AA: We’ve been married 13 years and have two kids, Fender and Harper, 10 and 8, respectively.

 

TS: When did Alright Alright become a thing?

CHINA: We started playing together before we were married, and that was in 2004, but we didn’t actually start our band together until after we had our son, Fender, in 2006. Our first show was April 12, 2007. However, we are on what we call “Alright Alright 3.0” because we have started and quit a few times along the way. This version of the band started after the Spring of 2013, when I (endured) a few serious health issue. There is nothing like having a cancer scare to make you get serious about fulfilling your life goals… I realized that making and playing music was truly my calling, my vocation, and my passion. I’ll let Seth tell about how he got involved again, at my bequest…

SETH: Picking up where China left off there. I had worked for a few years as a tech/studio guy in music but had had a rough go of it and in the spring of 2010 (if I recall) lost my job suddenly. I was burnt out and bitter and after a family road trip I decided to just get a job and work and not think about music much. I (After a few years), I was looking for another direction professionally and my job (contract work) was coming to an end. China was about to go on a trip and right before she left she basically said, “I am going to do music. I know we have tried this before and I know you got hurt by the music industry, but I want to do it with you. So, think about it.” I thought about it and when she got back after a couple weeks I said, “Yeah, let’s do this.”

 

TS: Could you talk about the dynamics of being parents and being a band? How do you find balance?

SETH: The two are not mutually exclusive, but neither one simplifies the other at all. Our kids are good with people and are super flexible. They also generally love road trips. If this were not the case I know the past few years would have looked different. I think for us the hardest part is how to know when to do the “normal family” thing and when not to. I had to take our son out of baseball one year because we were going to go on tour and I knew it would overlap with the season. We have to think about school if we have tours during the school year. There are a lot of additional moving parts that would be vastly simplified if we just did our thing. But I also think we would not be nearly as happy doing this if the kids were not a part of it. They bring a lot of joy as well as gut checks to the process. They will ask us about lyrics, critique our performance and tell us if they think parts of our show lose people’s interest. All of this to say, the finding of balance is a constant adjustment, we don’t just relax into feeling like we have it covered.

CHINA:  Incorporating our kids into everything we do has been easy on some level, because we are a very close-knit family.  Two years ago, we put the whole experiment to the test and went on a three-week house show tour. At the end of the three weeks, Harper, our daughter (then 6) turned to me and said, “Mama, thank you for going on tour.” I felt like I had won the lottery. It was magical. However, this past summer was more difficult.  Kids have different needs as they grow, and the social need has begun to show itself. Fender was not keen on being on the road this past summer, and that was hard for all of us.  As a mom, you want your kids to be happy, and you want the best for them, and yet as an artist, I want this fledgling career to start to fly. It is a hard tension to carry. About a week into the tour, both kids began loving the things we were doing, and we successfully “flipped” them using several incentives (they get paid every time they help set up or tear down, and we try to see and do as many fun tourist activities as possible).

I will say that having children has had the opposite effect on me than most other musician parents that I know. Most people had a career before kids and the kids have inserted themselves into something that already existed. I was a collaborator and co-creator in several other artists’ projects before I had children, but I lacked the self-confidence and grit to take on and hold my own music career. Somehow in the birthing and raising of my children, I got to an internal place of quiet confidence and intuitive determination that has allowed me to take up and carry this music career in a way I never could before children. They have formed me and I do not resent them one bit for the added challenge of managing the family and music pieces of our lives, but am continually grateful for them and their influence on me and my music.

TS: What is your dream for Alright Alright?

CHINA:  I think my overarching dream for Alright Alright is to share love and goodness through our story set to music. We write a lot about ourselves, though at the time we’re writing we often do not realize it. I also have a dream to build a sort of community and a sense of belonging that is related to our music and our shows. I have a vision for an emotional atmosphere, a kind of unburdening and a sigh of relief for our listeners. I am also eager to collaborate in an inter-disciplinary way.  I would simply love to write for a dance company or the theater.  I love to experiment with new ways of performing and new ways of collaborating.

SETH: When I am really honest, I think I want to be known as a decent song writer. I am very proud of what we have been able to do with the band so far from a quality standpoint and want to push that further. We made some conscious decisions to release things we could feel proud of and that would sound to other people like we cared. That is often harder than people may think. It takes a level of humility too, to admit that we can’t always make something what it needs to be on our own. But I think I want our material to be known as something of quality with a story worth hearing.


As I have considered the Kents’ responses to my questions, I have found a deep resonance with them. After all, I’m a 46-year-old amateur writer with stories to tell. I think my stories are worth hearing as well and am continually trying to grow in the quality of my writing. All the while, I have my lovely wife at home with me, a beautiful 8-year-old pain in the rear kid, and a full-time job. No, I don’t aspire to make a career out of my blog, but there’s something about Alright Alright’s path that hits home for me. Trying to create something honest and meaningful while wrestling through the rigors of family life… And yet, they seem to do it with grace and humility, leaning into the tensions rather than letting those tensions rip them apart.

While I enjoy the music I’ve heard from China and Seth, I find that I’ve enjoyed hearing about their journey just as much. Real people with real world issues trying to influence that real world with their art. It’s beautiful, really.

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TS10

TS10: Back on Track

My Friends,

It has been painful not being able to share music with you here the last few weeks. Sometimes, the old technology just doesn’t seem to work with us the way we want. Thankfully, things seem to be back on track now. So, take a listen and engage!

-Ed

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Uncategorized

Don’t Can’t Won’t

You don’t know me.

You just don’t.

You think you do.

You’re wrong.

 

You have me figured out.

You’re sure about your theories.

You think you know me.

You don’t.

 

It would be shocking if you did.

It might take you aback.

It may spark questions.

It would. It might. It may.

 

If you were open…

If you could see outside your bubble…

If you would take that risk…

If… but you’re not, you can’t, you won’t.

 

 

ELH

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