2016 was hard. I don’t need to review the list of disappointments, tragedies, and upheavals that have made this year feel unique - nor can I know the pains they have caused people in different circumstances than myself. But I can say that for me, this year has been a lot of change. Changing environments, changing expectations, a changing path forward. I’ve grown more mature, but as is perhaps inevitably the case, I’ve grown disheartened. The ground feels like it’s falling out, the world seems darker than it was, and from what I can tell, it’s not getting better anytime soon.
It is hard to look back at times like these. Equally, it is hard to look forward. Sometimes I think it’s futile to attempt either. Today, particularly, is a day to take pause and rest. To feel out a moment before deciding how to move forward (this is the premise of another project I’ve been working on this year with my friend Kirk Pearson, The Moments Collective, which will have it’s second release tomorrow!). To that end, I have a song to share.
It’s by Joanna Newsom and is called “On a Good Day.” It’s one of my favorites. I discovered it a couple of years ago driving from Washington, DC down to Richmond, VA, and fell in love with it instantly. Last spring, I went on tour with a number of friends of mine, and we covered it as the first song of our set every night. And a couple weeks after we finished tour, we reassembled the band, and recorded it in Fairchild Chapel. My friend (and The World All Around partner) Griffin Jennings engineered the session, and the rest of the ensemble was made up of Margaret McCarthy (vocals), Raffi Boden (Cello), Delaney Meyers (Violin), and Mobey Irizarry Lambright (Violin). That recording is now public, and can be found here:
A couple of notes on the song itself: like much of Joanna Newsom’s work, I find it endlessly applicable. That being said, it feels particularly resonant at this moment. It’s a song about heartbreak, about the world falling apart, and yet still choosing to walk forward within it all. The first stanza reads:
Hey hey hey,
The end is near,
On a good day you can see the end from here,
But I won’t turn back now, though the way is clear,
I will stay for the remainder.
That being said, there’s another element to the song. The last stanza:
So ‘cross the years,
And miles, and through,
On a good day you can feel my love for you...
There’s distance, and there’s fear, and there’s a dangerous path ahead. And yet within that all, there’s a hope that love, somehow, is felt - finds its breathing from one person to another. As musicians, I believe that is the work we commit ourselves to, the feeling and furthering of love. If anything, 2017 renews the need for that work. I’ll be taking it on, alongside a community of wonderful friends, musicians, artists, and activists, and I hope you’ll join us at shows, at protests, or by creating work yourself - it’s all important.
One other reminder. This year will be a doozy, but it’s one we share. Stay in touch, stay close, and spend time in rooms with one another. This internet has power, but there’s nothing like the feeling of being with people in rooms.
Wishing you love, compassion, and courage in the new year,