People give me things. It’s one of the best indicators that I’ve given them something- and that is often on my mind: am I doing something worthwhile?

I don’t think about it all the time, like when I’m watching SciShow videos on YouTube, but when I’m on stage or writing this blog, I question the value of my work constantly. In fact, I have to tell this annoying little question to shut up sometimes so I can use that part of my brain to remember lyrics which, as a singer, seems like a more worthwhile use of my baseline level of anxiety.

The line between friend, fan, and family can get blurry. Some of y’all are thinking, Wait a minute, Cowboy. Blood is thicker than water. (Which is a hotly debated phrase that can mean a lot of different things, but most people in my life have used it to mean “genetic connections are somehow stronger or more important than friends, business associates, or anyone who has a less shame-laden, passive-aggressive way of expressing their bond with you.”)

What is absolutely true is that humans have historically, and hysterically, had a hard time accepting people who are a little different. For instance, if you are queer, artistic, or one of the one percent of wealthiest people in the world— because let’s face it, there are percentage-wise way more gay people than extremely wealthy people, so being super-rich is weirder than being gay and therefore conservative parents should probably discourage it— you have to find the people who are weird like you.

What can I call this group? Kurt Vonnegut invented the term “karass.” Unless you’ve read Cat’s Cradle, that word sounds like “harass” and “caress” at the same time, which is considered socially unacceptable more and more these days unless you’re super-rich, which we’ve already shown is basically the weirdest thing you can be, so let’s not use them to justify karassing someone in the workplace.

I can’t hear the word “tribe” without thinking about the arbitrary in-group pride and dehumanization of those not in the group that leads to neglect, mistreatment, and even genocide.

I’m going to call it fan-ily. Friends can be fan-ily. Even family can be fan-ily, though in paradoxical anti-tribalness, artists and other weirdos often face rejection from their families in pursuing their most authentic life. That is, until they’re super-rich. Then you’re everybody’s favorite weirdo.

You don’t have to be an entertainer to have a fan-ily. Your fan-ily shows up when you need them. Your fan-ily is amazed at how awesome you are! Your fan-ily does not constantly remind you of that one time you ate poop. Seriously, nobody needs that in their lives. Stop it.

This is a small spread of gifts from my fan-ily. Jamie Shea sent me his great new record. I do know John McCutcheon, but it was a local fan who passed his record and book on to me. The astronaut memorabilia came to me from a fan who used to work with Commander Chris Hadfield, an astronaut I shared a stage with once. The jar of honey is from a local beekeeper and the cards came from other fans local and abroad.

Not pictured are the dozens of albums and t-shirts that other artists in my fan-ily have given me. One Christmas, I gave everyone in my family my latest album (honestly it was all I had left to give) and I heard some grumblings about my immodesty. A popular phrase in the South is, “Don’t rise above your raisin’,” which I think is a holdover from the British class system, and means you should at least appear to be as dumb as the median dumbass in your family.

That kind of thinking may be going out of style, but giving people something you’ve made is always fresh! It’s actually how most of the world does it without the basic necessities of western civilization, like Walmart and actual money. If someone in your family gives you their new album, just think of it like when your great aunt crochets trivets for everyone, only it cost $30,000 and took three years to make, and perhaps the biggest reward it will ever reap will be for you to actually listen to it and discuss the work honestly with them.

Which is what my fan-ily does. They even purchase more copies of the new album and give them to their fan-ilies, or anyone they are fan-iliar with.

To be clear, my family has been supportive, though like everyone I’ve had to find my fan-ily within my family. I don’t think my mother understands half of what I do, but she’s the matriarch of the fan-ily. I’m lucky that my family is full of brilliant minds. I try to at least appear as smart as the median genius among them.

One thing I learned from my family, and again from my fan-ily, is to be grateful. Thank you for your gifts. Thank you for letting me know that my work is worthwhile. Thank you liking, sharing, commenting, and for being my fan-ily. You make me feel super-rich. But not in a weird way.

Your fan,



I found copies of two albums that have been out of print! If you’ve wanted a hard copy of The Law & The Lonesome (Diana Jones! Coyote!) or You Can’t Outrun the Radio (Poor Johnny! A Big Truck Brought It!), get ‘em now. I have just a handful of each. Order them direct:


Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

Jan 10 Thu
Muddy Creek Cafe And Music Hall
Bethania, NC

Jan 17 Thu
Old County Jail
Iredell Arts Council

Statesville, NC

Feb 1 Fri
Society Garden
Macon, GA

Feb 2 Sat
TOL Coffeehouse
Columbia, SC

Feb 10 Sun
The Alleghany Arts Council for The Beat Goes On
Sparta, NC

Feb 14 Thu
Muddy Creek Cafe And Music Hall
Bethania, NC

Feb 22-23 Fri & Sat
Wintergrass Music Festival
Bellevue, WA

Mar 14 Thu
Muddy Creek Cafe And Music Hall
Bethania, NC, United States

Mar 15 Fri
The Cary Theater
Cary, NC

Mar 28 Thu
Red Dragon Listening Room
Baton Rouge, LA

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD