I’ve had trouble sleeping the last couple of nights. It’s nothing new - I’ve had issues with insomnia my whole life - but I do think it’s good to reexamine causes from time to time. The end of a year seems a good time to do so.
The things that have been giving me trouble fall into two camps. On one hand, I think about my future, and the future of my work. And on the other, I think of the future of the world, and my fears surrounding it. On the first one:
My life has consisted, primarily, of walking into darkness with the faith that I was moving somewhere important. The importance seemed to find voice in music, and I’ve treated that, and my instincts towards it, as a map through almost everything. This changed recently. I have, more or less, outlined the next year of my life and my work, for the first time seeing more than a couple of inches in front of myself. This keeps me up at night, because as I look into 2016, I am overwhelmed with excitement.
This coming year I'll be releasing an EP called For Gabriel that I've been working on for over a year and a half (I haven’t figured out how to talk about it yet, but it feels important). In the spring I’ll be going on a week-long tour with a number of friends, focusing specifically on trying to make the concerts feel like communion, in the best sense of the word. By the end of the summer I’ll have finished a full-length LP with my dear friend Griffin Jennings. And in the fall, Griffin and I will be taking the semester off from school to tour the US.
And I think it'll happen, too. This past year has both expanded and brought into greater clarity all of the supports that surround this work I’m doing. The generosity of fellow musicians in lending advice, especially the blessed Lucy Dacus and Punch Brothers, has made me feel more knowledgeable and cared for than ever before. Not to mention the broad network of friends, family, and other musicians that continues to astound me. Whatever's happened in the last year, I've somehow come out of it feeling extremely well situated to the work I'm taking on in the coming year.
Yet even as I've arrived at a place of optimism as regards my own path forward, I've grown increasingly worried, particularly in the last two months or so, about the path forward for the world. The tragedies we've seen this year have been shocking, but what worries me more has to do with the discussions I’ve witnessed surrounding them - I see difference, which is fine, but I see distance as well. I see public denouncements. I see the rhetoric of “othering.” I see space being consciously sought out between people and the ideas or persons they view as opposing their own. And I see this all exacerbated by a history of separation, on economic, social, and racial grounds (especially in the US).
I want the opposite. I want to be close. I want empathy, on a radical scale. And my heart beats heavy when I try to think where such closeness exists in the world, and how I can help bring it about.
Personally, I think it can start in performance space. We, as performing artists, should not measure our success by how loud an audience applauds, nor by how attentively they listen, but by the nature of their interaction. If we can change the way two people listen to one another, such that they interact with more compassion, more vulnerability, and greater human connection, we've succeeded in our work.
That's the goal for 2016. Looking forward to sharing it with you all.