Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #3

We're having fun on the "Merlefest on the Road" tour. Everyone is honored to represent the festival and, by extension, the legacy of Doc and Merle Watson.


When the tour started, Chloe in Locust Honey was sick. The next day their bass player John was sick too. Johnny and I avoided the green room all together. It was hard to make friends.


John played bass with two acts a night anyway. He made our set a hundred percent better. A lady said to me after the show, "I'm a nurse and your bass player does not look good." Meredith from Locust Honey somehow managed to avoid the plague.


Last night, Mark Bumgarner and I started a new song in the green room. Chloe and Meredith joined us on stage to sing backup complete with Motown choreography.


We made friends. We have four more shows and they're getting better.


***Merlefest on the Road***



Isis Music Hall

Asheville NC



Down Home

Johnson City TN



Van Dyke Performance Space

Greensboro NC




Durham NC




The week after, we're going out to Minnesota and Iowa with Charlie Muench of the Stray Birds on bass. Johnny Hermanson of Storyhill will join us in Minneapolis for a powerful double bill.



The Aster

Minneapolis, MN

with Johnny Hermanson


The Jackson Center for the Arts

Jackson, MN


BARC Auditorium

Windom, MN


Byron's Bar

Pomeroy, IA


And then later this month a very special show with the McTell Brothers and two-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year Mark Schatz. The Tin Pan has good food, great sound, and a drink named after one of our songs.


The Tin Pan

Richmond, VA






I come every morning when it is still dark to talk to God. I kneel and I listen.


It is like I have come to bed with my clothes on.


It is like I have a hammer with which knit a sweater.


I have forgotten some part of the order.


I look up and God flashes by like a face from the window of a train. I shout I love you and God waves.




The offficial Monday Report instagram photo is what happens when Johnny Waken met wildlife biologist and singer/songwriter Jay Clark in Knoxville TN. This is how we get a head in show business. 


Your fan,  





Word from the Byrd: Monday Report #2

The Hope Star


I packed the car at 3:30am on Wednesday morning. Kissed my wife and son in their beds. Picked up Johnny at home. Georgia Brown barking her head off at the living room window.


Johnny was sick. Somehow we got all our gear and a hand truck in a Chevy Impala. The hand truck would prove essential. I'll get to that.


Four hours later, we got morning coffee in Black Mountain. Then we drove. We got lunch in Nashville and drove. We got ice cream with an old friend in St. Louis, went for dinner, and then drove.


At 10pm we arrived at the Sheraton in Kansas City. Room on the fortieth floor. Car in the parking deck. First win for the hand truck.


We were in town for Folk Alliance International, an annual meeting of most of the people I've ever fallen in love with. I heard there were three thousand DJs, festival managers, venue bookers, managers, agents, producers, and musicians.


What makes the Folk Alliance different from the music business?  The artists aren't the only ones in it for love. Most folk DJs are volunteers, as are many of the festival presenters and house concert hosts. There's not a lot of money in folk music- surprise. Maybe you've heard the fable of the boss taking eleven of the dozen cookies on the lunchroom table and then saying to the two employees, "Keep an eye on him. He'll take your cookie." Folkies get together and bake more cookies. 


My brain is the consistency of burnt toast right now. We've been running through hallways with gear, taking business cards, hugging strangers, getting our minds blown with talent, and staying up into the wee hours for five days. I feel like that guy in The Martian at the end of the movie. Take me home. But we're not going home. We're going to Nashville. I'll get to that.


Our bellhop's name was Domenico. "I'm a singer too. Country and patriotic songs." He had an elusive accent. He was very interested in our careers. I handed him a bill for his service. "You can hear me on YouTube. I wrote a song for the Kansas City Royals the year they won the World Series. It's called Time to Win It All!" You better believe I looked that up. I'll get to that.


I did about twenty minutes of yoga. All truck stops should rip out the television in the lounge and put a basket full of yoga mats by the door. Print the mats with kitschy ballcap sayings like "my wife left with my dog and I miss him." Rebel flag yoga blankets made in Mexico. Keep it real.


Johnny stayed in the room and slept off his bug. He's never been to a Folk Alliance conference. I'd made too many friends to go to bed. I showered and walked out to the elevator. I looked out from the fortieth floor over the lights of Kansas City washing out on the distant horizon into a dark and rolling prairie. The twelve story Western Auto building below us. The light blue light of the swimming pool. The Gun Show billboard.


The conference was actually happening across the street in the Westin Hotel. There is a walking bridge called The Link from the mezzanine of the Sheraton over to the Westin. It was about a half mile walk for us every time we went over to the Westin, and every time we went back to our room.


Floors 5, 6, and 7 were reserved for music. Every afternoon and evening until the wee hours, people played music in hotel rooms. Some hosts rented chairs and hid beds behind the curtains. Some just left the beds to use as lounges for listeners. Some had PA systems. Posters for artists lined the walls, hung with blue painter's tape. People hung up fairy lights and put out bowls of candy. Pots of coffee. Buckets of beer. The Wisconsin Room had free cheese.


I walked across The Link and took the elevator to the fifth floor. We had arrived too late to pick up our conference badges and I was stopped immediately by security. Folk security, as you can imagine, is pretty tight. They found me a temporary wristband and gave me a hug.


I walked all the way through the fifth floor hugging anyone I knew. I walked the stairs to the sixth floor and did the same. Then the seventh floor. Then my heart was ready to go to bed. I walked The Link back home for the night. 


Thursday morning, Johnny and I went to registration and got our official Folk Alliance International badges and totebags, each of which included a pocket copy of the US Constitution. I spent the day introducing Johnny to all my friends and people I'd worked with for years. Our good friend Andrew Pressman came from Austin, Texas and made our conference extra special by playing bass with us all week.


Late Thursday night we played barely four songs in a stuffy hotel room for eight people. Friday night we played a special Official Showcase in a large, sleek dining room on the 20th floor overlooking Kansas City. We followed Tift Merritt and had to carry our gear through hundreds of people to get to the stage, which was sponsored by Merlefest and Yep Roc. Steve Johnson, who books Merlefest- the largest Americana festival in the world- carried my amp and introduced us. See above re: Folk Alliance vs. rest of the music business. Saturday and Saturday night, we played the little hotel room again, but this time you couldn't get in the door. 


Getting off the elevator to go to bed each night, I looked out that fortieth floor window as if the lights of Kansas City were a galaxy. More and more I got the feeling we were on some kind of opposite to the Death Star. We were on the Hope Star, hurtling through the heartland of space on a mission to destroy cynicism with song.


I'll tell you the best part of our experience after these tour dates. Tonight we're in Nashville- let's just call it Day 6 of Folk Alliance- with Jon Byrd and Wild Ponies. Then a great house concert in Knoxville to get us home. 


FEB 20 - The Family Wash - Nashville TN


Feb 21 - The Betsy House - Rockford TN - email for details and RSVP


***Merlefest on the Road tour, sponsored by Window World. We'll be joined by Locust Honey String Band and Mark Bumgarner.*** 


The Floyd Country Store
Floyd, VA

Gaston County Museum of Art & History
Dallas, NC

Yadkin Arts Council and Cultural Center
Yadkinville, NC


Hendershot's Coffee
Athens, GA


Isis Music Hall
Asheville, NC


The Down Home
Johnson City, TN


Van Dyke Performance Space
Greensboro, NC


Durham, NC


There has been a lot of publicity around this tour. Please buy your tickets in advance wherever possible.


Now: the best part of Folk Alliance every night was putting our gear away and walking the half mile back to wander the music floors. The Oklahoma Room became our go-to. They are a family. They listen to each other. They promote each other. They play in each other's bands.


John Fullbright is one of the Oklahoma standouts. I told him we were coming to Tulsa in May and he opened his house to us. I hear him every chance I get. Check out "When You're Here."


Lauren Barth and Jesse Aycock sing together like Oklahoma went to California and came back. Graham and Emmylou. Gillian and Dave. They start singing and I can't hear the words for how beautiful their voices are. Here they are in a hotel room breaking your heart. "First and Last."


We did get out of the Oklahoma Room and wander the halls to great success. Tony Furtado is a master picker and a master songwriter. We played a show with him in Athens Georgia last year and he gave me his latest record The Bell. It is one of my favorite records I got last year. I have to steal it back out of my wife's car constantly. Watching him live is the thing though. Master craftsman. Boilermaker. He cruised Folk Alliance with an instrument on his back and two more in his hands. Check out Broken Bell on the cello-banjo. 


I've known Joe Newberry since the nineties when I was sitting in Old-Time picking circles around Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Joe takes clawhammer banjo to a high art and sings like a country gentleman. Lately he's teamed up with April Verch, which is bold. April is a tornado with tap shoes and a fiddle. Joe is one of a few pickers who could stand beside her and own his little piece of the stage. Watch this all the way to the end and tell me how many brains she has. 


We met Beppe Gambetta in an elevator. He was wearing Italian handmade red leather sneakers. We chatted and parted ways. I said "Johnny, you have to see that guy play." You do too. Fandango per la Bionda 


One of the biggest surprises for me was Bill and the Belles from Johnson City. Three-part harmony on a radio show in 1930. A party band for Jay Gatsby. They have many secret weapons, one of which is Kris's right hand on the guitar. "Work Don't Bother Me


In 2007, I was a judge for the New Folk Competition at the Kerrville Folk Festival. There was this sixteen-year-old kid who sang an ode to the demoted planet called "Poor Poor Pluto" and a second song called "Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner." Everybody was wondering How does this kid even know who Porter Wagoner was? He had to fly home and go to school, and then fly back for the winners' concert. Anthony da Costa has come a long way in a short time. I don't know  what to call his music now. He's one of the more fascinating guitarists I know. He plays side for Jimmy Lafave. Aoife O'Donovan. Sarah Jarosz. Here he is singing his own "Feet on the Dashboard


And last but not least, our bellhop Domenico Nguyen. I honestly enjoyed this video as much as anything I saw this week.  Here's "Time to Win it All," written for the Kansas City Royals the year they won the World Series. With fans like Domenico it's easy to see why they won. Talk about destroying cynicism with song!


If you really enjoyed that, you should check out the "Worlds of Fun theme song


Thanks for reading. Check out our official instagram Monday Report photo. The music spilled out into the lobby, the elevators, and even The Link. That's me in The Link at 3am listening to my friend Matt Stone as he lays down the beautiful truth.


Your fan,






A poem for Valentines Day. Love is crazy. 




When I first saw her

It was as if I had never seen the moon

so bright the night was day

I worshipped her

I charted her phases 

we made children in the night


But something happened

She lost her light

She became half as bright

And half again

Until I could not see her

Even in broad daylight


I looked around at all I had to offer her

And this is the shame of all men

I said isn't this good enough

Shine for me

You should shine for me


She began to shine again

I felt so powerful

I could control her

It was a simple matter of my gravity

But this shining was different

More beautiful than before

Until I was terrified she would leave me


She danced and the ground shook

She cried and bloomed oceans at her feet

She laughed and birds flew out of her mouth

Forests rose from the dust and even Death

That old nighthawk

Could not mock her


It was then I realized my mistake

She was not the moon

I was the moon

She was the Earth



Word from The Byrd: Monday Report #1

My weekend starts on Monday. I'm starting a regular blog called Word From the Byrd: Monday Report. The blog will be published on my website, link-shared on facebook and twitter, and it will be accompanied by the Official Monday Report Photo on instagram @jonathanbyrd. Maybe I wrote a song. Maybe I heard a great song. Maybe I found the greatest ice cream in the world in Columbus, Ohio. (I did. Read on.) Either way, I always feel grateful after a week of meeting and singing for you amazing generous people. I hope you'll accept in return my gift of a poet's field report. 

This week we had three shows with bass player, singer, and songwriter Charlie Muench from The Stray Birds. Charlie is six foot six and sings like an angel. His birthday was Friday! We have a fun picture over on my instagram account of Charlie in bed in the morning with a cupcake. 

Johnny and I drove to Pittsburgh on Thursday through the East River Mountain Tunnel, one of only two tunnels in the US to link two states. This time we entered the tunnel from green Virginia and reappeared in snowy West Virginia. I've experienced this weather phenomenon around East River Mountain three times. 

We picked Charlie up at the Pittsburgh airport and drove down to the South Side. The snow was blowing sideways. We ate taco at Doce Taqueria and watched it snow. 

By showtime there were fifteen people in the club. They sang along. They laughed. None of the left early and half of them joined us back at Doce for tacos after the show. We made $50 at the door, which means after travel and tacos we spent a few hundred dollars to rehearse. This is show business and we love it. 

The Purple Fiddle is a funky homemade café in Thomas, West Virginia. My friend Trevor Reichmann was in town and I talked him into playing a song during the break. Check out Dollar Store Bible on YouTube. The video looks like it's going to be terrible for about twenty seconds. Then this strange beautiful song makes the video irrelevant. 

Trevor lives out in the Big Bend area of West Texas. His beautiful earth-built dome was featured on HGTV's Mighty Tiny Houses. You can stay in it, too. Check it out on airbnb

Saturday we got up and out early because I wanted ice cream. Not just any ice cream. Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. If you haven't heard of Jeni's and you like ice cream, I'm sorry. I'm sorry because you're going to try Jeni's and then all other ice cream will leave you unsatisfied forever more. It's still worth it. Born in Columbus, there are now scoop shops in Cleveland, Nashville, Chicago, Atlanta, Charleston, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. You can order online as well. 

We arrived in Columbus at 3pm and went to Jeni's twice. I highly recommend the wildberry lavender and a new flavor, juniper lemon curd. I took two friends to Jeni's once on the way to Chicago. As we walked down the street eating it, one said "You said this was the best ice cream in the world and I was prepared to be disappointed. But I think you're right. This really is the best ice cream in the world." 

Ben Bedford opened the show for us in Columbus. Ben is a songwriter's songwriter. Check out this gorgeous rendition of the The Pilot and the Flying Machine

By the time we drove home on Sunday, it was 80 degrees. About thirty minutes from home on a four lane highway, I accidentally cut someone off. She rode by me with her middle finger out the window. I smiled and waved. Her children looked up at me from the backseat, and then they all laughed and gave me the finger too. I smiled and waved at them. Later, I passed them again and I could hear the children say with glee, "There he goes again!" 

It's so good to be home. I picked Rowan up early from school and we went out to pick up a load of firewood from my mother's house. They had cut down an old white oak that had begun to rot. I could see two tall young hickories behind the stump that were pretty happy for their chance in the sun. They'll be beautiful someday. 

This week, we're headed to Kansas City for the International Folk Alliance conference. The theme this year is "FORBIDDEN FOLK, Celebrating Activism in Art: An exploration of the role of music in social, political, labor and environmental movements." It's a pretty good year for that. 

On the way home, we're playing a couple of shows in Tennessee:

FEB 20 - The Family Wash - Nashville TN - with our friends The Wild Ponies

Feb 21 - The Betsy House - Rockford TN - email for details and RSVP

Then we'll start this very promising tour with Mark Bumgarner and the Locust Honey String Band, sponsored by Merlefest, in fact called the "Merlefest on the Road" tour

The Floyd Country Store
Floyd, VA

Gaston County Museum of Art & History
Dallas, NC

Yadkin Arts Council and Cultural Center
Yadkinville, NC

Hendershot's Coffee
Athens, GA

Isis Music Hall
Asheville, NC

The Down Home
Johnson City, TN

Van Dyke Performance Space
Greensboro, NC

Durham, NC

There will be a lot of publicity around this tour. Please buy your tickets in advance wherever possible.

I'll end this with a poem. I've been cowriting with God lately. Here's our latest:


I said to God, Are you real?

God said, Does it matter whether I am real? 

I said, Well I don't want to feel like a fool. 

God said, Do you know the story of the fox and the sour grapes?

I said, Of course.

God said, Does it matter whether the grapes are real?


Thanks for reading. See you next Monday. Your fan, 



To listen and download music anytime, check out my bandcamp page: iTunes, Pandora, and other are great but there are things on bandcamp that aren't anywhere else. And you can download full-quality WAVs and even FLAC files. 

There are videos and lessons on my youtube page:



Soft Tissues

I heard they found the tail of a dinosaur

preserved in amber for ninety-nine million years,

sold as jewelry in a market in Myanmar.


Mosques were occupied by soldiers,

used as sites for rape or burned down.

Children were slaughtered with knives.


There were feathers like the chest feathers of a robin,

chestnut brown above and paler white beneath,

signaling from the Cretaceous like a frightened doe.


Sanctions have eased. The economy is developing well.

The country is rich in jade and gems, oil, and natural gas.

It is the largest producer of methamphetamine in the world.


The skin and muscle were reduced to a thin film of carbon

like a pencil mark on a climate map curving upward.

Time is not kind to the soft tissues.


Drift down the Irrawaddy River in an old river steamer.

Enjoy the beach on the Bay of Bengal.

It's the dawn of a more democratic era.


We can see just how degraded the material is.

There is no way to bring it back to life.

A fossil is just an impurity to a jeweler.


Christians and Muslims cannot join the Army.

That privilege is reserved for Buddhists.

It is remarkable how things change over time.



Feliz Ano Novo

Happy New Year. Some of you are pregnant, though you may not know it yet. Some of you are hungover- I will type very quietly.

I don’t drink but I do have fun. My friends and I did a lot of research last night. For example, we discovered that everything sounds fantastic when you say it in Portuguese. Also: even a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free cake is awesome at 4am.

There are very few things I am certain about. I envy those rare people who seem to be born knowing who they are and what they want out of life. When an option comes along, they don’t have to weigh it. They’re not even reading this.

Certainty comes in flavors. Inner certainty is an attractive quality that draws us like gravity to those who have it. Outer certainty is a gassy planet that orbits around in a desolate vacuum. For instance, pick an evangelist. Any evangelist. Don’t tell me which one it is. Okay. I’ve got it. It’s all of them. I know. Amazing, right?

Somewhere in between “this religion works for me” and “you have to do this or I’ll kill all of you” there’s a chance to admit we don’t know. Or, as a friend’s rabbi once put it, “You have such good questions. Why trade them for answers?”

I’m beginning to think the universe doesn’t have any secrets. God goes on blabbing for eternity about how it works and we’re like LALALALALAAA I CAN’T HEAR YOU. We’re stuck in this weird, very short transition where we feel separate from everything else. Before we were born, everything we are made of was eternal and harmonious. When we die, it all goes back to eternal harmony. For this tiny blip of time in between, we run around with our hair on fire and fight or find a way to work with all the other panicked beings in the same predicament.

And we love it! Our primary goal in life is to bring other beings onto this crazy ride. Then we lie to them. We say things like, “Anybody can be the presiden-“ Okay, maybe that one is true. But we totally make stuff up! Let’s see- virgins having babies, people coming back from the dead, humans coming from another planet- you name it. It seems to be a lot harder for us to talk about reality.

Reality is a two-bedroom farmhouse in North Dakota. You gotta make your own fun. Maybe that’s why we make up all these stories. I’m not certain. They do seem to get us through to the non-fiction parts of the holy word.

“For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” -Jesus

“What we think, we become.” -Buddha

“The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” -Muhammad

“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” -Zappa

Only nothing is not nothing. Or, as Willie Nelson said, “Still is still moving to me.” My job is to observe very small, quiet, queer things, take copious notes, edit the notes down to a digestible essay, and report back to you. That’s one thing I’m certain of.

Also, the Portuguese thing. You gotta try it. Let’s just do one. Okay how about “crackers are nice.” Now put that into google translate and hit the audio. Whew. Is it getting hot in here?

Have a great year. If you don’t like your reality, make something up. It’s worked for eons. Good luck with the baby.

Seu fã,




Bringin' It

Songs are everywhere. We're bringin em to Fayetteville Arkansas and Pittsburg KS this weekend. Nashville on the 7th. Charlotte on the 9th. Johnson City on the 10th. And we're haulin em to this guy in Texas later in September.


Thursday and Friday

Fayetteville Roots Festival

Fayetteville, AR



Lakewood Concerts

Pittsburg, KS


Sep 7th

The Bluebird Cafe

Nashville TN

W/ Will Kimbrough, Kris Hughes, and Tommy Womack


Sep 9

Charlotte Folk Society

Great Aunt Stella Center


Sep 10

The Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room

Johnson City, TN



The Blue Door

Oklahoma City, OK



Live Oak Music Hall And & Lounge

Fort Worth, TX



McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Houston, TX



The Rock Room Concerts

Austin, TX



Gruene Hall

New Braunfels, TX


Thanks to Robert Anderson for the picture (and a new fan)


Your fan,




The Tail-Eating Head of North Carolina Politics


The Tail-Eating Head of North Carolina Politics

I don't care if everybody in the world is suddenly paying attention to politics in North Carolina. What I care about is if North Carolinians are paying attention. If it's finally caught your eye, then keep looking.

Look at how they've blocked health care access for the poorest people in the state. Follow the dismantling of environmental protections for our renowned natural beauty. Inspect their fingerprints on the ruins of our public education system.

They're not even conservatives. Conservatives believe in the power of individuals and local governments to control their own destiny. These are interventionists of the highest degree. Worse, they're obscurantists, using the misplaced fear and anger of their constituency to take us back to the same fictional history as the presidential candidate whom they endorse, when America was somehow greater than now. Was that 1970- the year I was born- when it was still illegal in North Carolina for couples of different colors to marry each other? Was that the great time? Or was it when thousands of our men and women died or came home amputated from their families and drug addicted from unjustified wars? Or was it when polio was so rampant that even the president was crippled by it?

What's so scary about the future, North Carolina? It's much less frightening than the past. Mayberry was black and white. The modern world is in a rainbow of colors.

Because it's already the future.

Welcome to it.

In 1988, I was a country bumpkin living in a log cabin in the woods of western Orange County. A girlfriend of mine took me to a club in Durham called The Power Company for the Miss North Carolina drag competition. I came home thinking 1) it takes a lot of courage to be different and 2) there's a place for everybody. Now I'm thinking, do we no longer have the courage to accept our own children? Do all the different people have to leave North Carolina to find their place?

When you alienate people you alienate the people who love them. You alienate the people who believe in love. And that's a lot of people. I still believe that's most North Carolinians.

If we don't start moving forward, we're going to lose business. We're going to lose tourism. We're going to lose respect. We're going to lose our real heritage as one of the most tolerant and forward-thinking states in the south. Eight thousand North Carolina soldiers fought for the Union.
We're not alone. It's happening in Georgia. Missouri. All over the south this thinking is rearing its tail-eating head. Are we going to defend some mythical southern honor to the ugly end again? Remember how that ended last time?

South Carolina took down the rebel flag. It's time for North Carolina to raise the rainbow.



report from Hogtown base camp

Toronto is shabby. Disheveled. Polite. Unassuming.

Did you have an unmarried uncle? His house smelled a little like a tacklebox. He had these weird books that you couldn't stop reading. He had a record player and you loved that Boston album but only at his place. He never told you what to do or judged you. You could put your drink down anywhere.

That's my Toronto. There's a shiny side but it's like when your mom went over and planted some flowers to brighten things up. Or when he wore that suit for your sister's wedding. You knew it wasn't real. It was a concession he made to being in a family of major cities. Then he went home and read his weird books and fell asleep with half a sandwich on the nightstand.

Today we had an Ethiopian feast under a television. The police dragged a woman out of a car in the Credit River. Outside on the sidewalk a man stood for an hour and asked for change. A graffitist tagged our doorway while we were rehearsing. Little coffeehouses and green grocers dealt in cash only. A crossing guard nodded his head and listened to Rush on his little radio bungeed to a light pole. Snowflakes dusted down so few and light that we questioned whether we had really seen them. All continents of people spoke languages I didn't recognize. Above us the sky parted and gold poured down on Hogtown. Papers blew across the street.

I'm going to read one of these weird books. See y'all this week. come as you are. Your fan, JByrd

The Temple Lounge At Donaleighs
Barrie, ON

The Cameron House back room
Toronto, ON

Moonshine Cafe
Oakville, ON

Grafton Town Hall
Alnwick/Haldimand, ON

House Concert
Sudbury, ON



Happy New Year

Happy New Year. My son turns six in a few weeks. We’ve been talking a lot about planets and orbits lately.
On New Year’s Day he asked me, “Does the world have an end?”
“You mean the planet Earth.”
“Yes. The planet Earth will have an end someday.”
“Is there an end to space?”
“That’s a big question. Some people think there is. Some people think there’s not.”
“What do you think?”
“I tend to believe that space has no end.”
“Me too. Otherwise, what would take over from there?”
“Yes. What would take over from there.”
“My babysitter says infinity is the last number.”
“Well she’s pretty smart. I don’t think of infinity as a number.”
“What?! Infinity’s not a number?”
“To me it’s an idea for something we can’t imagine. Like God. God is infinite. You can’t imagine God.”
“Right. Because there’s just more and more and more of it.”
“Dad. Can I have a cookie?”
“Finish your cauliflower.”
Then we looked at pictures of Sputnik, which was basically a metal beach ball that we threw really hard. It worked and Sputnik orbited the Earth for three months before it fell and burned up. Then we did it again but we got a stray dog from the streets of Moscow and put her inside it. Laika was her name. She overheated and died within a few hours of orbiting Earth and was cremated by reentry five months later.
Dr. Vladimir Yazdovsky took Laika home to play with his children before the launch. "I wanted to do something nice for her: She had so little time left to live."
Which is the greater human achievement: doing something nice for a stray dog or launching the world’s first artificial satellite? Maybe there’s not one right answer for that, but it’s worth thinking about. Like infinity. Or God.
What I learned this year, and every year: Don’t be in such a hurry to eat the cookie. Learn to enjoy the cauliflower. Infinity is a long time.


We’re orbiting the southeast in the Byrdmobile 3000 for a few more dates in January.

Thursday, January 7, 7:30pm
The Landings Club
1 Cottonwood Lane
Savannah, GA
The Landings Club is a clubhouse in a large private community. My dad would call it “swanky.” The staff are outrageously friendly. The show is open to the public. Email for the details.

Friday, January 8, 8pm
The Crimson Moon
Dahlonega, GA

Saturday, January 9, 
The Parlour at Manns Chapel
Chapel Hill, NC
Benefit for Paul Ford

Sunday, January 10, 6pm
The Purple Onion
Saluda, NC

Friday, January 15, 8pm
White Horse Black Mountain
Black Mountain, NC
We’ve never played here. We stopped in one day to look at it. The room is incredible. It’s one of the most naturally great sounding rooms I’ve ever been in. I would love to fill this show up and rock all your faces off in this Black Mountain temple of sound. If you are in the area, please spread the word. If you think you can help promote this event, get in touch and I’ll trade you a couple free tickets and a CD for your help. Thanks!

February 5-7
Blue Rock Songwriting Retreat
Blue Rock Studios
Wimberley, TX
Sign up at or email

Your fan,


(artwork by Jan Burger of Paperhand Puppet Intervention)


1 Comment

Denmark dates

Friday, February 13Global Copenhagen, Denmark

Saturday, February 14 Ebeltoft Kulturhus Ebeltoft, Denmark

Sunday, February 15 Spillestedet Blokhus Pandrup, Denmark

Wednesday, February 18th, 8pm Næstved Music and Culture School at the Fladsaa School Mogenstrup, Denmark

Friday, February 20 Stars Vordingborg, Denmark

Saturday, February 21 Hagges Music Pub Tonder, Denmark

Your fan,


1 Comment


tour dates

Thanks for spreading the word in the Pacific Northwest. Johnny Waken and I are hitting a lot of new territory and loving it. You can listen to us as a duo right here:  

Here's where to send folks to hear this action live:


Thur OCT 2 Char’s Landing Port Alberni BC


Fri OCT 3 Duncan Showroom Duncan BC


Sat OCT 4 Hornby Isl Community Hall Hornby Island BC


Monday, October 6 The Old Fire Hall Whitehorse, YT


Wednesday, October 8 The Green Frog Bellingham, WA


Thursday, October 9 The Secret Society Portland, OR


Friday, October 10 Axe and Fiddle Cottage Grove, OR


Sunday, October 12 The Barn 68467 Three Creek Rd., 3/4 mile south of Sisters, OR


Thank you! Your fan, JByrd



New record preview, Ontario and Quebec tour

I'm bringing my next record, You Can't Outrun The Radio, to Quebec and Ontario this week, a CD that won't actually be released until the fall. Why? Click this link to Corin Raymond's sneak preview of the record, and then come back and read.

You Can't Outrun The Radio was born one night on the sidewalk outside The Green Room in Montreal. That was the first time I sang with Alexa Dirks and Andrina Turenne, the ladies you hear singing now. If you're listening, I don't have to explain how special they are. These tracks were cut live off the floor. They sang into one microphone about two feet from my face, just like on that sidewalk in Montreal.

I was touring with Corin Raymond. We opened for Graham Playford and his great band. Chris Bartos, who produced the Law and the Lonesome, showed up out of nowhere and joined the jam. At about 2am, the bartender said, "Please don't stop singing, but you have to come inside." He locked the door. Corin and I left the bar at 5am, me with a handful of songs in my mind that I knew I'd record with them someday- I just had to write the rest of the album. It took two years to put the session together. Alexa and Andrina are in a group called Chic Gamine. You may have heard them on A Prairie Home Companion or seen them in New Orleans at Jazz Fest or read about them in Huffington Post this morning. So yeah. They were kind of busy.

I went to Winnipeg in February 2011 to get these ladies in the studio and record this album. Jaxon Haldane, the engineer, was still scrambling at the last minute to assemble a band to back us up. What nobody could have predicted was the star power that walked into that little cottage in Gimli, Manitoba. Grant Siemens on electric guitar. Joanna Miller on drums. Rej Ricard on bass. If you know these names, your mouth is a little open right now.

I couldn't have made this record as good as it is. Two days in the studio with these people made me a better musician. It's still one of my favorite records. I don't mean of the records I've made; I mean it's one of my favorite records ever. I hear the same from the other musicians- that they've kept this magic little recording on hand ever since we made it. There's a bar in Winnipeg where people think the album is already out. They've been listening to the the cue mixes from the session for three years.

In many ways these provinces where I'm touring for the next two weeks- and the people in them- are responsible for three of the best records I've ever made, including this one. I've sold out more shows and sold more records in Ontario and Quebec than anywhere I tour. You Can't Outrun The Radio is slated for a fall release. I won't be back to this part of Canada until next year. That's too long to make y'all wait when I have them in my hand. The sales from this small tour will help my team get this album out in a few months- to fans and also to radio, press, and other industry gatekeepers who turn the world on to great music every day.

11 shows in 16 days, starting Saturday night in the city where it started. I'm bringing my band, The Pickup Cowboys, who will melt your face and bring a final end to this interminable winter. Don't wait to reserve or buy tickets. Some shows are sold out already. We try to sell them all out.

Saturday March 29, 9pm Petit Campus Montreal, QC We were the opener, but Sam Baker canceled. We are now headlining this show! My friend and amazing song poet from Whitehorse, Kim Beggs will open.

Sunday March 30, 4:20pm Blacksheep Inn Wakefield, QC with the fantastic Catherine MacLellan

Thursday April 3, 8pm The Bleeding Carrot Owen Sound, ON with the indefatigable Corin Raymond

Friday, April 4 Kilgannon Concerts Hamilton, ON ***SOLD OUT***

Saturday, April 5 O'Hara Concert Toronto, ON ***SOLD OUT***

Sunday April 6, 7pm Full Circle Theatre 26 Craig Street Perth, Ontario I believe this will sell out. Buy your tickets here now:

Wednesday April 9, 8:30pm Moonshine Café Oakville, ON

Thursday, April 10, 9pm Hugh's Room Toronto, ON Corin Raymond opens. This show will sell out. Guaranteed. We've already sold 100 seats. Get your tickets.

Friday April 11, 8pm Magnolia Cafe Guelph, ON

Saturday April 12, 8pm Old Town Hall Waterford, ON I believe this show will sell out too.

Sunday April 13, 7pm McKiernon House Concert Grand Valley, ON for info and reservations, email

Thanks for listening. Share the music. Bring a friend. Drink a beer. Your fan, JByrd



Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. Quebec and Ontario. And you, Texas.

The Barn Birds are playing three nights on the Great Plains next week. Don't wait to reserve or buy tickets. Some shows will sell out. We try to sell them all out. Thursday, March 13, 7:30pm 4th & Main Downtown Grille 402 Main Street Wray, CO There is an amazing dinner before the show. If you're coming to Wray from somewhere else, you're coming a long way. Reserve dinner. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 14, 7pm Bar Z Concerts Salina, KS 785-825-7135, This is a house concert on a horse farm. A horse concert.

Saturday, March 15, 7:30pm The Listening Room at The Lark 809 West Second Street Hastings, NE 402-984-4073,

Share these dates with your friends. They can check out the Barn Birds here:

You can follow the Barn Birds at


I'm bringing The Pickup Cowboys to Quebec and Ontario. The Boys are going to blow your doors off. Here's a 25 minute live show with The Pickup Cowboys at Hippie Jack's in Tennessee:

Don't wait to reserve or buy tickets. Some shows are sold out already. We try to sell them all out.

Saturday, March 29 Petit Campus Montreal, QC opening for the unforgettable Sam Baker

Sunday, March 30 Blacksheep Inn Wakefield, QC with the fantastic Catherine MacLellan

Thursday, April 3 The Bleeding Carrot Owen Sound, ON with the indefatigable Corin Raymond

Friday, April 4 Kilgannon Concerts Hamilton, ON ***SOLD OUT***

Saturday, April 5 O’Hara Concert Toronto, ON ***SOLD OUT***

Wednesday, April 9 Moonshine Café Oakville, ON

Thursday, April 10 Hugh's Room Toronto, ON Corin Raymond opens for me? I've MADE IT. This show will sell out. Guaranteed. Get your tickets.

Friday, April 11 Magnolia Cafe Guelph, ON

Saturday, April 12 Old Town Hall Waterford, ON

Sunday, April 13 House Concert London, ON


For my final miracle of spring, I'm bringing Corin Raymond back to Texas. He's like a northern Johnny Cash teddy bear with incredible stories and heartbreaking songs. You'll never forget Corin and if you don't come you'll never hear the end of it from your friends who did.

Friday, April 25 Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse Dallas, TX

Saturday, April 26 Fischer Haus Cantina Fischer, TX

Sunday, April 27 Arhaven Concerts Cedar Creek, TX

Wednesday, April 30 Dosey Doe Music Cafe Conroe, TX

Friday, May 2 Artworks San Antonio, TX Don't let the website throw ya. We're playing there. Art studio for children by day. Folk grotto by night.

Saturday, May 3 House Concerts in the Hill Country Boerne, TX

Sunday, May 4 Simply Devine House Concerts 603 Windy Knoll Devine, TX 210-884-1572

Tuesday, May 6 Southern Elms Clubhouse Tulsa, OK 918-240-0182

Thanks for sharing the music and the tour dates with your friends. Your fan,




Happy Valentine's Day you crazy lovers. A song from Hamburg.

Søren Kierkegaard stole Regine Olsen's heart and then broke it. He seemed unable to imagine being a committed husband and also a committed writer, passionate Christian, and active philosopher. He thought that marriage would stand in the way of his ability to know himself. Kierkegaard's genius is widely known and unexaggerated, but in this regard he was blinded. Love is a great and terrible mirror. My love brings me closer to God and closer to the devil every day. Without her, I may have never known myself. I go to her and she tells me who I am. It is not like reading it in a book. It is like raising the blinds on the morning. It's all there. She simply says, "Look, you fool."

While many philosophers believe that we cannot prove the existence of other people, I believe now that other people are the only proof that I exist. The love of my life is my greatest proof that I am a worthy soul, created by God. How else could this incredible being love me?

I understand Kierkegaard. Any driven person can understand the reluctance to commit to a lifetime of maddening spiritual confusion and ecstasy. I have things to do. I am across the ocean on Valentine's Day. Love is inconvenient.

Look, you fool.

This song is for Kierkegaard, Regine, myself, and my love. Happy Valentine's Day, you crazy lovers. Don't give up.

I Don't Understand Myself

I hang my hat on her door. She whispers like a war. She doesn't have to win me. I'm helpless in her eyes. Old lovers write her letters and speak as if they know her. She sees what they don't show her and finds me where I hide.

But I don't understand myself with her I don't understand myself.

In the bedroom and the kitchen she calls me her magician. It's a difficult position and I'm trying to make it last. She keeps me in the present. It's a gift she gives me daily. My heart waits in the future until her moods are past.

But I don't understand myself with her I don't understand myself.

The yellowhammer glistens. Far away, she listens. The world is filled with music. The queen dances with her fool. She gathers sand together. Her castles last forever. Even rust finds favor in her golden rule.

But I don't understand myself with her I don't understand myself.

The river sits in silence. The preacher studies science. The children all baptize him back into the world. The rain falls like her long hair. The day is dark and wanting. I know she's like the weather, unable to be held.

But I don't understand myself with her I don't understand myself.



The Happiest Man I've Ever Met

In far northern Germany, close to the historically fickle border, there are Danish communities. They fly the Danish flag. They speak the Danish language. They've even imported the boggy Danish weather. There was a 95 year old man at our show tonight who was impressed into the German Army in 1944. He was sent to the bloody eastern front, leaving behind his family and the love of his life. He fought and dodged death for three weeks before he was captured by the Russians.

For five years, he worked in a Russian camp. No one knew if he was one of the 30 million who died from combat, starvation, exposure, or disease in the largest and deadliest military confrontation in world history.

In 1949, the Russians simply opened the gate to the camp and said, "You're free to go." The man walked and hitchhiked 1500 miles with no shoes, no food, and no money to go back home and settle in the remnants of his Danish community, still contained within the borders of Germany.

His love had waited for him. They married and then farmed the land for more than sixty years. His wife passed away of a stroke a few years ago.

He came to our show tonight and stayed for both encores. He didn't walk with a cane or fall asleep during the show. If you'd asked me, I would have said he was sixty five years old. After telling us his story over dinner, our host had this to say:

"He is the happiest man I ever met."



Decomposing the Blues

If you offered to help me carry gear in the past seven years, you probably noticed this handmade rope handle on my otherwise stock guitar case. lifetime handle

I wore out the handle of my first case in a few months. Because it was the original case, my Martin rep scored me a new case for nothing. I broke that handle in a few months. I asked my Martin rep if they had a case for, you know, someone who actually carried a guitar around in it. He gave me another case. That handle broke a few months later, right before the 2007 Kerrville Folk Festival.

I carried my guitar into camp underneath my arm and it lived handleless under the big camp tarp with the other instruments. One morning, I woke up and this handle was on my case. T.R. Ritchie was up early. He had one of his harmonicas in pieces and was tuning it by hand.

"I made you a handle. It's better than nothing."

Damn right it was better than nothing. It outlasted the "real" handles by more than six years. This handle has been from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. From Texas to the Yukon. From Austria to Iceland. Now even the case is falling apart, the corners worn away, the back peeling off the sides, duct-taped together for one last tour of Denmark and Germany in February. The handle will outlast the case.

In fact, it outlasted its maker. T.R. died this morning of pancreatic cancer. He wasn't famous like Pete Seeger and this obituary won't show up in The Huffington Post. But like Pete, T.R. left a legacy- in this handle, in our hearts, and in his songs.

He also had a wicked sense of humor. He's been warming up all his life and now he's really ready to sing you this song.



I didn't wake up this morning; I just lay there in the bed. When I finally came to my senses I realized I was dead. No more problems. No more worries about paying my dues. I'm just gonna lay here 'til somebody finds me, Decomposing the blues.

My doctor warned me this might happen. He said I was pressing my luck. I guess I should've been listening But I was too busy living it up. The party's over, But I think I can see the point He was trying to prove. There's a very thin line Between a really good time And decomposing the blues.

Now I'm staring up at the ceiling With a look of sober surprise, And I'm having a lot of mixed feelings Concerning my recent demise. Part of me feels kinda foolish; Part of me just doesn't care; And part of me's glad I'm unable to smell The aroma that hangs in the air.

I can see where my present condition Might put a little cramp in my style. I'm just gonna have to adjust And hope I get used to it after a while. It won't be so bad. The irony of it all is gonna keep me amused. 'Cause, see, now that I'm dead I'll probably get famous for Decomposing the blues.


Nobody else die this week, okay? Thanks. Your fan,




Pete Seeger

In 2004, I woke up on a couch in the cabin that Pete Seeger had built on a hill outside Beacon, New York. His grandson Tao was staying there and I was hanging with Tao. The Seegers lived across the driveway in a modern house. I heard Mr. Seeger had built the cabin by himself. Sitting in the log living room having coffee, I stared at the massive stone lintel over the fireplace. It must have weighed five hundred pounds.

Grandpa walked over to visit with us in the afternoon. Tao encouraged me to play a song. Mr. Seeger listened intently and then apologized for his poor hearing. He sat beside me and asked me to speak the lyrics again. He asked questions until he was sure he understood.

I had one question for him. I pointed at the fireplace and asked, "How did you get that stone into place?"

He smiled and reminisced for a moment. "I lifted one end and wedged a stone underneath it. Then I lifted up the other end and got a stone under that side. I kept going like that until I had it where I wanted it. It took a while."

Pete Seeger was not in the tradition that I grew up with. In that moment, sitting with him on the couch where I'd slept, I couldn't have picked his voice out of a lineup. Tao introduced me to his grandpa's music later that day with an unreleased solo recording of a college gig in the sixties. The music was riveting, but it almost didn't matter.

Pete Seeger was bigger than music. He was John Henry. He was Odysseus. He was Gabriel. He will not be contained in a thousand obituaries today, however hard we write. He will not be complete in the history books. When I met him he was a deaf old man who hardly seemed capable of half his legend, but I asked the right question and he told me his secret. When I think of him now, it's the only thing I really know about him:

When a thing seemed impossible, he saw that it was only difficult. Then he worked until it was inevitable.

Yesterday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, he laid down his hammer and he died. Rest in peace, Pete Seeger.



I'm Going To Change The World

I'm writing songs to record in Denmark with a Danish band, The Sentimentals. I'm also writing a check for $20 for Hope Station in Wilson, NC. Ain't much money, but it matters and I told a fan I'd deliver it. The total we've collected from ticket sales and donations this month is $1042, going to homeless shelters and food banks local to the shows we played. We have three more shows this month- Morganton, Knoxville, and Johnson City- before I fly to Denmark. I don't have a gig this weekend. I was wondering whether or not to share the song I wrote yesterday. I mean, who cares, really? There are more than enough songs on the internet. But what if it did something? What if somebody pushed a button and it made a difference?

I recorded it. It's called "I'm Going To Change The World." Click on the link to buy it for a dollar. Or more. You can definitely pay more.

You just changed the world. I redirected my bandcamp payments. The money will fly like a digital arrow to Urban Ministries in Raleigh, NC. I'll be able to track it and of course I'll let y'all know how we do. In fact, not just this track but ALL Jonathan Byrd bandcamp purchases will go directly to Urban Ministries until I come back from Denmark. Urban Ministries feeds, shelters, and counsels Wake County's homeless:

Share! Share! Share!

"Being a warrior does not mean being forceful or powerful. Being a warrior means being committed." -Sommer Sobin



We Are Family

I hosted a Q&A on family relations yesterday for my son. He'll be four this month. We diagrammed and discussed mamas and daddies, brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and grands. When he'd had enough, he was quiet for a while and then concluded, "Everybody is family." I'm learning a lot. Last weekend we raised $1120.80 in donations for Urban Ministries in Charlotte and The Ark in Athens from a percentage of my ticket sales and a surprising harvest of unsolicited audience donations. We also collected food and laundry detergent for Manna Food Pantries in Pensacola, Athens Food Bank, and Rainbow Children's Home in Dahlonega.

This weekend, we'll be in Fountain, NC.

Saturday, Jan 11, 7:30pm Fountain General Store 6754 East Wilson Street, Fountain, NC

I've already committed 10% of our ticket sales to Urban Ministries in Charlotte. If we sell the house out, which is 120 tickets, I'll write an additional check for $100 to Hope Station in nearby Wilson. We will also collect food and sundries for them. I just talked to them on the phone and we'll deliver the goods to the night supervisor after the show on our way home. You can read Hope Station's wish list here:

If you know ANYONE in the Wilson/Greenville NC area, let them know about this show. My band is amazing, I'm a haplessly entertaining loser with a couple of good songs, and we're making a difference for people who are literally freezing to death.

We'll give 10% and collect goods for the rest of the month:

Friday, January 24, 7:30pm Grind Cafe Coffeehouse 136 West Union Street Morganton, NC 828-430-4343

Saturday, January 25, 12 noon Knoxville Visitors Center 301 South Gay Street Knoxville, TN

Saturday, January 25, 8pm Down Home 300 West Main Street Johnson City, TN 423-929-9822

Thanks family. Your fan,