Day 88: Interstate Tour 2018
Well, I'm just floored; knocked out. What an amazing tour this has been.
That said, I am absolutely over-the-moon with my wife, Jae, who has been an incredible partner for 16 years, encourages and supports my far-reaching musical exploits, even when they take me to remote places for long periods of time, and it's always wonderful to come home to her. Once our furry crew had delivered an excitable welcome home (and such a welcome - they were skirmishing to take turns), we headed out and had some fun on the town. I missed the hell out of her. So nice to be back.
We had just gotten Roscoe before I left, so there was some concern that he'd be all like "who the stranger?", but after a quick sniff-down, he picked up where we left off; his gratitude and enthusiasm said it all. My buddy, O'Malley, could barely maintain a minute or two of casual disregard, a cat's default setting, before he placed himself front and center to be picked up and held, his body sinking into my shoulder, paws clasped across my back, alternately making biscuits. Scrappy, Simba and Stache' all eventually made their appearances as well - and we didn't lose any fish in the pond this year. And the herb garden is rocking with the tomatoes and Cuban Oregano - the chi is strong here.
I'm grateful, as an artist, on so many levels. Grateful for the ability to create art, thankful for the opportunities I've been given to perform and teach music and blessedly joyous in this life that I get to live. It's been a long journey from 1984 to the present, as a performer, trodding the path and encountering amazing adventures along the way, but also as a producer, having these moments to conceive and create using music and video. This is a life that I used to dream about - so, I'm way stoked about it. But it's so much larger than having the chance to perform - it's mainly about teaching others and enabling them to free themselves through music. It's also about the constant discovery and illumination that comes with the territory. Add to that the enormous wealth of good that comes from being on the road and I still have to pinch myself every day. I am so happy - and largely because many of you out there feel happy about what I do.
It's a beautiful cycle of giving and receiving that, when it really gets spinning, embraces us all and places us on the same level across the board. We're all capable of anything that we can dream. I enjoy knowing that, feeling that and also recognizing it in others who are discovering the same thing. And music is such a perfect connecting thread because, seriously, who doesn't like music of some kind? We're all bound together by the nature of being human, but we're also more powerfully connected through music.
This summer has once again made that abundantly clear. We all groove to rhythms and wear the melodies and chords like raiments of melodious strands that bind about us like colorful sarapes. Our western alphabet contains 26 letters while our chromatic musical scale is comprised of 12 notes. Individual letters that can be stacked, unlike our spoken/written language, to create incredible depths of emotion, experience and ever-lovin' amaze-balls. I still believe that we could all bond together closer if we all focused on, and spoke, the language of music. So many of us already do - now if we could just get the rest of the world into this non-exclusive club, we'd be alright. Music is God's gift to everyone, no matter who your God is. How can something so perfectly, theoretically and emotionally sound NOT be a central plum line for us when it's a part of just about every culture that exists on this planet?
Music does, could and WILL save us, eventually. And I struggled for years to reach a point where I could focus my attention on that thing. The thing that could seriously unite us all. Where are my Big Picture People at?
As I drove from Columbus, Georgia to home, the entire spectrum of this spring and summer's touring experience unfurled in my head and it kinda blew me away. On a teaching level, I witnessed so much growth from continuing students and sparks of understanding from new ones. There was a hunger to improve and a voracious intent to studies across all of the folks I met this year, which was really super-impressive, encouraging and, yep, a little freeing.
When people ask for something, you can then deliver. There was a time in this dulcimer community that some of the concepts of music theory weren't courted, considered or included in the day to day pursuits of the instrument and its ilk.
Now, I sense some kind of urgency and awareness in people who have taken up the instrument. They don't just want to play the thing, they want to sing the thing through their fingers. They want to excel at it, challenge themselves and then use what they've learned to share it all, whether on stage or in front of a class. Now, if you want to talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy, then the ambassadors of the mountain dulcimer are a prime example of putting your money where your mouth is.
We've lost many of our mountain dulcimer family over the years and it's alarming because, you know, we're not a huge fan-base. It's an obscure instrument, very young in the grand scheme of things, and it's niche beyond belief. Many of our musical pioneers, like Jean Ritchie, I.D. Stamper, Richard Fariña, David Schnaufer and others are all gone, along with countless others who never became famous names, but nonetheless helped in collecting tunes, building instruments and otherwise getting the word out about this funny little instrument from those Appalachian mountains. I'm tickled that I stumbled across the thing in 1986, man, 'cause it's totally changed my life for the better.
This has seriously been the best tour ever. From May 31st to August 26th, here are some fun numbers:
Total Miles: 8,692 - that's roughly one and a half round trips from coast to coast in the United States. Imua performed PERFECTLY. No blown tires, no engine failures, no mechanical drama. That's pretty freakin' stellar, right there. Her coach has got some small issues - plenty of time this fall to begin work on that.
States visited: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. That's 17 states! And I ate more than my fair share of regional food from each of them, god almighty!
Gas Expense: $3,946.51 - that's actually not terrible for a V-10 engine hauling close to 14,000 pounds!
Restaurant Expense: $681.85 - I really cut it back this year and prepared my own meals most of the time.
Camping Fees: $593.99 - This was for state parks and campgrounds; otherwise, I had a free place to camp via a tour stop or stayed at the Walmart Resort, the latter actually comprised about 80% of my lodging.
Groceries: $1,834.78 - Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, supplies and schtuff.
That's just a few of the numbers, to give you an idea of how life on the road rolls, at least at this level. To my brothers and sisters in music who are out doing this thing, it's all worth it if you follow your heart and love the journey. But, get an RV - ditch that hotel room and fast food routine for a lifestyle that will benefit your health and save you money. Plus, you've got a bathroom right there. We all know how important this is.
Over the past 88 days, so much has happened on so many different levels and, if you're a constant reader of this blog, even before this tour, then you know that I don't really get into politics, religion or sports. Not gonna start now. But I'll say that driving through America will give you a far better idea of what's going on than watching the news media's take on America. Go to the places, talk to the people, eat the food, live like a local, and you'll get a much more grounded view of what's actually going on in the cities and towns of our nation. I've been so very fortunate to see so much of the United States, especially the smaller towns and boroughs where life is way different than the cities. I'm kind of a freak dude - and to walk around in these places and meet the nicest, kindest, most down to earth people, it's just proof-positive that there's far more dolphins out there than there are sharks.
Along with the joy in discovery of people and places and the music that ties us all together, I also succeeded in an ambitious personal growth series of goals that included health, productivity and creativity. From taking the time out to go on mountain bike rides to keeping production schedules pumping and creating new works, it had begun to feel like I'd set too high a bar at the start of tour. I slammed myself, hardcore, but for the first time in 10 years, I'm not coming off of tour exhausted. Instead, I'm energized, psyched and prepping for an exciting recording season in the fall.
Through all of this, my patrons on Patreon have been my number one focus, because keeping them happy means creating new things that they'll enjoy, and that has been the secret of my prolific output. Their support allows me to concentrate on creating new works, for entertainment, for education and for exercise (dude, what is up with all the alliteration?) Every day is an opportunity and a delight, I've got nothing to bitch about.
The 2018 Interstate Tour has been a profoundly life-changing experience, for me and, I'm getting this from folks, for others as well. More than anything, I'd like to thank YOU for taking the time to read this series of posts for the past 88 days. I've never done anything like it before and it was a lot of work, but it was also very rewarding, it was a good writing workout, and you can definitely tell if I was really into it or just trying to get something posted, but only a small part of the fun came from writing any of it. It was largely fun because of your feedback both online and in-person, which also had an impact on how I presented each entry - so it was a collaborative effort between us all.
Will I do it again? Probably fucking not, but we'll see - never say never, amirite? ADHD brethren and sistren, ya feel me on this? Setting schedules is good but crazy.
Thanks again for taking the trip with me. We go back now to our regularly non-scheduled programming. I am so blessed. Much love to you all!