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St. Mama

I was on the run from the law once for about three months. I rented an apartment, set up utilities, got a job, and navigated an emergency room visit with an invented identity. The US Navy and the police looked for me but they didn't find me. My mother found me.

My mother loves Jesus, America, and a good steak. Being impolite is just short of a sin for her. She did not turn me in. She called to make sure that I was safe.

When the Navy gave up and mailed my discharge papers home, she called me again to let me know. She drove four hours to see me play in a heavy metal band. She is not, to put it mildly, a fan of heavy metal.

The band didn't work out. Mama welcomed me into her home. I got a job and started another band. And another. Out of desperation I toured as a solo songwriter and accidentally hit my stride. Before I left home, Mama earned her Masters at night school while working full time at UNC and probably cleaning up after me. I did inherit this: If no one else will do the dishes, I must. Even at someone else's house.

Now I have a child and, Mama, I am so sorry. Oh God. It's hard. My only armor is this doctorate in Unconditional Love from the master.

Rock star. Saint. My mother. Happy Mother's Day, Mama.

Your fan,

JByrd

****************

Every Wednesday at The Kraken! Tonight with Violet Bell!

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

***NOT playing The Kraken May 22nd. Crystal Bright will host***

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 3 Saturday
Saturdays in Saxapahaw
Saxapahaw, NC

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

Reverend Mama.jpg

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Answers on Page 87

We lost money on a tour last week. I’ve never done that.

We had a great time. We saw fans and friends. We worked hard and put on great shows.

There’s an old joke in the music business. Q: “What would you do if you won the lottery?” A: “I’d tour until the money ran out!”

Funny not funny. I don’t plan on losing money again any time soon. I just canceled a bunch of dates in May for the same reason. My mission is to keep playing music for you for the rest of my life, and that means Daddy has to bring money home. On Monday, I reviewed all of our touring plans and it’s all looking good. I don’t plan on canceling any more shows.

When I’m flying, I get out the inflight magazine and do the crossword. I don’t know actors or athletes at all, so I usually get stuck on them. If a clue is keeping me from moving on, I look around to see if anyone is watching me before I turn the page back and look at the answer really quick. I try to block the rest with my hand.

As if anyone on the plane cares. It’s true that turning to page 87 is a failure. Failure means you’re trying to do something really hard. Failure means you learned something: the athlete who wrote a history of African-American athletes is Arthur Ashe. Not only did I learn that fact, I was reminded why sports are important.

So. Pretty good failure, all around. Thanks to Fargo, Winnipeg, and Minneapolis for your hospitality. We’re coming back smarter.

Tonight, we’re at the Kraken with special guest Greg Klyma:

Every Wednesday at The Kraken!

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 3 Saturday
Saturdays in Saxapahaw
Saxapahaw, NC

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

*****************

Flight to Minneapolis

The crossword whispers from between the pages of the inflight magazine,
a prefix meaning “wine,” beehive contents, and the tongue of the mind.
I skip the ones about popular culture, maybe because I’m the kind of guy
who does crosswords for fun on a two-hour flight, the brutish sort

like Catherine who married Henry VIII. My time draws nigh, imposed, as a tax.
‘Answers on page 87’ levies temptation, part of SOS in popular usage,
my empty coffee cup jammed in the seat pocket, a reference from Moby-Dick
and a four letter word for a phrase on a yard-sale tag, as is forty-two across.

I always have a pen and I always want to prove something. As a result,
I’m unable to sit still in the light of the postcard screen, in brief (two words),
seat back up, tray table securely fastened, seat belt fastened,
fascinated, 38 down, down into Minneapolis, home of the king’s heir?

What is there to do at a window seat? Learn a language? Read the pages
of field and stream, the shapes water makes like the nerves in my leg
going numb, the simple geometry of crosswords and western cities,
keeping the monkey mind from puzzling where it is in the wild blue _ _ _ _ _ _

walking to church.jpg

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Passed Over

This past week, we had a real Passover miracle. The two pictures are from a few hundred to a few thousand yards on either side of our house. The map shows the path of the tornado. Mature hardwoods two feet in diameter were snapped off like breadsticks. The blue star is our house. The tornado literally lifted up and passed over our house.

The other miracle is that we’re still eating leftovers. I call them passed-overs, and it may be how the Jews survived the exodus. It’s substantial stuff.

Unfortunately, Moses had T-Mobile and wandered in the desert for forty years looking for a signal. We’re better prepared for this weekend in Fargo, Winnipeg, and Minneapolis. The tour starts Thursday in Fargo and the dates are below with more detail.

Speaking of tour dates, I have some sad news. We hate to cancel anything ever and we’ve played gigs we shouldn’t have. However, when I started tallying up expenses for our northeast tour in May, I realized it was going to cost us around $5600. As in, we don’t make any money. We pay $5600 to play seven shows.

Of course, we can’t do that. We’ll pay $5,600 to play at Keith Richard’s 100th birthday, if that offer comes in. Other than that, we regretfully have to back out of these dates:

MAY 16 THU
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs NY

MAY 17 FRI
King of Clubs
Syracuse NY

MAY 19 SUN
Askew Prov
Providence RI

MAY 21 TUE
Rockwood Music Hall
New York NY

MAY 22 WED
St Lawrence Church
Portland ME

MAY 23 THU
Cafe Nine
New Haven CT

We’re KEEPING: 

MAY 24 FRI
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown NJ

MAY 26 SUN
Jammin at Hippie Jack‘s
Crawford TN

We’re ADDING The Kraken back May 15 & 22.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the changes.

Your fan,

JByrd

*****************

Every Wednesday (including tonight with Lyndy Butler!)

 Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 3 Saturday
Saturdays in Saxapahaw
Saxapahaw, NC

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

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Everything

I don’t know what to say on the internet today. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a television. I don’t know what the national conversation is. I follow physics on Twitter. I walk in the woods and take pictures of interesting tree bark.

I find tree bark interesting. Okay, let’s just back up and start there.

Tuesday, I flew to New York city with my love to see Hadestown. We had time to get to the hotel, find dinner, see the show, sleep, find breakfast, and fly home.

On the way to and from the theater, we walked by Times Square. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Times Square. It’s a seizure of capitalism. It’s the manic side of the bipolar marketplace. It’s as far from tree bark as you can get.

We took a selfie at Times Square. A stranger took this picture of us taking a selfie. A meta-selfie. Surrounded by layers of technology and blinding lights in the howling heart of the cyborg city, we look like we’re dancing. Somehow, there is space all around us.

There is an infinite stream of couples taking selfies in Times Square. For the one who is fascinated by them, they will never get old. I’m sure this photographer’s friends think he’s a little goofy. Maybe they think he’s boring. Sometimes I think I’m boring.

I mean, I’m on the internet talking about tree bark.

This cliche picture is beautiful, and I bet he took a hundred beautiful photos of the most mundane thing in New York City that night. What’s your tree bark? What gets you to ignore everything for long enough to realize it wasn’t even close to everything? Where do you find everything again?

Your fan,

JByrd

****************

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 17 Fri
King of Clubs
Syracuse NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

Times Square.JPG

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LA TX AR TN GA FL tour!

Starting Thursday, we are weaving a tangled web of sticky songs across the south. One show sold out weeks ago. If it’s a ticketed show, get them now. 

Normally every Wednesday night:
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC
***March 27 will be a Shake Sugaree special with Jess Klein, Mark Simonsen, and Mike June. April 3rd is unannounced- stay tuned to The Kraken’s facebook page. We’ll be back on the 10th! ***

Mar 28 Thu
Red Dragon Listening Room
Baton Rouge, LA

Mar 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 1 Mon
The Basement
Nashville TN

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 3 Wed
The Crimson Moon
Dahlonega GA

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

 

Yall come. Your fan, 

 

JByrd

IMG_9427.JPG

Tuning a b string with my mind. Photo: Kim Hawks

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Thank you for listening

Leonardo DaVinci filled an ox heart with hot wax and then used the wax to cast a glass version of the heart. He filled the heart with liquid and figured out how the valves close and open. He may have been the first person to discover coronary artery disease. He even connected the wrist pulse with the contraction of the left ventricle.

You may have heard about that. And the bicycle Leonardo designed. And the helicopter.

DaVinci died in 1519. Why did Leonardo’s ideas and research not spread all over the world? Why didn’t Shakespeare have a bicycle? Why did no one else understand atherosclerosis until 1950?

Leonardo had no formal education. He didn’t learn Latin, Greek, or Arabic. He had no way to communicate his ideas to other scholars. His notes were not published and were lost for centuries. DaVinci needed a community. One of the most gifted scientists the world has ever known wrote ground-breaking papers in a vacuum.

When I say, “Thanks for listening,” I mean it. When you take our music home and enjoy it, share it with friends, and ask me questions about it, it gives our work meaning. I’m not sure if we’ll drastically change the world, but we can give you words for your broken heart and a beat you can dance to.

Thanks for listening. Your fan,

JByrd

****************

Every Wednesday night! (this week w Stan Lewis!)
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC
***we will not be home March 27 or Apr 3 :( ***

Mar 28 Thu
Red Dragon Listening Room
Baton Rouge, LA

Mar 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 1 Mon
The Basement
Nashville TN

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 3 Wed
The Crimson Moon
Dahlonega GA

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 17 Fri
King of Clubs
Syracuse NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

photo by Bob Denton

photo by Bob Denton

1 Comment

6 Comments

Watch Johnny rip a hole in the Universe

After a show one night, a lady asked me, “Is that a normal electric guitar?” It is. It is not, however, a normal electric guitar player. It took 15 minutes to play this song because of how Johnny’s mojo bends spacetime. Watch. Share.

Experience that live this week around North Carolina and in the coming months as we hit the road:

Every Wednesday night! (tonight with Jeffrey Martin!)
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

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 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 1 Mon
The Basement
Nashville TN

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 3 Wed
The Crimson Moon
Dahlonega GA

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 17 Fri
King of Clubs
Syracuse NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Jammin’ at Hippie Jacks
Crawford, TN

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 27 Sat
Blue Note Bar and Grill
Durham, NC
w/ Jon Dee Graham!

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

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Stream a little stream of me

People ask me all the time if I get paid from streaming. I was paid $258 from Apple Music, Amazon, Napster, and others this past month. That doesn’t include satellite radio, which pays really well, or terrestrial radio and other sources. $258 is just streaming, and it’s pretty damn good for an independent artist.

I want you to know I love when you listen to my music, however you listen to my music. Spotify pays the least- it’s a great product, but if you’re concerned about artists making money, listen elsewhere. I personally enjoy Tidal when I’m home because you can stream CD-quality audio. The difference is subtle but undeniable, like having exactly the right amount of salt in your grits.

If you’re looking for hard-to-find Jonathan Byrd tunes, check out jonathanbyrd.bandcamp.com . There are live recordings, out-of-print albums, and demos- all available to stream or to download in CD-quality.

***********************

Our show is better than ever. We’ve been playing three hours a week for a year and three months. It makes a band tight. I’ve learned old songs I haven’t played in years. If you’re coming to a show and you’d like to hear something, send us a request at least a week beforehand. We’ll do our best to learn it and play it for you. You’re the reason we’re on the road and in the roadhouse. Your fan,

JByrd

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

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 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 1 Mon
The Basement
Nashville TN

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 3 Wed
The Crimson Moon
Dahlonega GA

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 17 Fri
King of Clubs
Syracuse NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

Aug 10 Sat
Oak Grove Folk Music Festival
Staunton VA

Aug 16-18 Fri-Sun
Bear Creek Folk Festival
Grand Paririe, AB

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South by Northwest

Last Wednesday, we played The Kraken on White Cross, North Carolina. Friday and Saturday, we played the Wintergrass Music Festival at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, Washington. Tomorrow, we’re back at The Kraken.

Two gigs 3,000 miles apart. The Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency differs significantly from our little tin-roofed roadhouse on a rural North Carolina highway, but the magic is the same. It expands to fill whatever space we’re in, including your four-chambered heart.

We don’t have to go through security to play The Kraken. And you don’t need a festival wristband to get backstage. Just bring that heart. Tip the band. Sing along.

Your fan,


JByrd

**************** 

Every Wednesday night!

The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

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 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

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How to Write a Ballad

I’m leading a workshop this morning at Wintergrass in Bellevue Washington. “How to Write a Ballad.” We’ll explore the ones I’ve written and, if y’all ask really good questions, I’ll learn something too.

Modern usage of the word ‘ballad’ is non-specific, and sometimes means mellow love songs. But ballads used to be a specific form: a narrative poem or song in simple verse. No chorus. No bridge.

Ballads fell out of favor in the 20th century except mostly as a device to write a song that sounded older than it was. Early Country Music, Old-Time, and Bluegrass writers used the ballad form to write songs that had an old-fashioned sound and still made publishing income for the original work.

A ballad is built on a strong melody, because that’s all you’ve got. It’s really hard to find a popular contemporary example of a ballad, but if we go back fifty years, they were still selling millions of records.

Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot

Ode to Billy Joe - Bobby Gentry

Girl From the North Country - Bob Dylan

A Case of You - Joni Mitchell

I’ve written a bunch. I find the ballad form fascinating and demanding. How can you hold a listeners attention in the age of information with such a simple form?

Let’s talk about that. How about today in the Maple Room, 2rd Floor Olympic Tower, Hyatt Regency Bellevue?

Here‘s a Spotify playlist, a handful of ballads I’ve written and/or recorded that you can listen to if you’re unfamiliar with my work. They are each more or less ballad-ish. In what ways do they break form? In what ways do they honor the form? You don’t have to come to the workshop- leave a comment or ask a question. Your fan, JByrd

 

I Was an Oak Tree

Wild Ponies

Lakota Sioux

Coyote

On the Edge

Diana Jones


https://open.spotify.com/user/jonathanbyrd/playlist/093uyq3FYXZQz2TOwht2eN?si=4ktg_B3nRW6g9l6ldcjUcA

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Makin' It Happen

“Do you dream? Do your dreams come true? What do you see? What do you do to make it happen?”

That’s a lyric by Matt Fockler, and we love it so much it’s on the back of our T-shirt. You can get one here, mens and ladies sizes: http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/t-shirts

The crazy thing is, Matt Fockler, secret songwriter, notorious avoider of all fame, has started his own YouTube channel. There’s only one video right now, and it’s a doozy. Watch it and subscribe to Matt’s channel.

Can I tell y’all how awesome you are? Do you mind if I call you y’all? It’s my preferred non-binary pronoun. People who aren’t from the South think it’s plural, but it can be either. In a formal situation, the plural is “all y’all.”

Three weeks ago, I told y’all about a boarding school called the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, and how the children lacked toys, games, puzzles, and books to engage with after school hours in their common area. You responded! Friday the 8th of February, we met with Dr. Michele Handley, the school’s director, who was delighted to help us unload a Tacoma-load of great stuff. Another fan, April Thompson, saw my post, organized her own campaign, and delivered another carload of things on Valentine’s Day. Sandy Green at Guitarists for Good handled donations of musical instruments. Someone in Winston-Salem has offered a piano and we’re working on approval for that.

Y’all have helped me change the lives of these children and I can’t thank you enough. I like selling records and tickets. I love putting on a show. Helping other people brings meaning to all of it.

When I began my campaign for donations, they had no arts program. I dreamed of funding a small arts program at the school, but I kept it quiet until I could meet with the director. When I shared my dream with Dr. Handley, she told me they had just hired an art teacher! Maybe you’ve heard about public school teachers buying supplies with their own money? Yeah, that’s a real thing.

So I brought home a very conservative requisition list from the school to start an arts program from scratch. My hometown audience at The Kraken has helped me raised some of the money, and I’m considering how to raise the rest.

However, I want to take a moment to breathe and enjoy what we’ve accomplished together. We’re playing a three hour show this Wednesday night with no special guest. We’ll broadcast it on Facebook Live, 7-10pm EST http://facebook.com/jonathanbyrdmusic

****************

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, 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 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

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Coordinates to Paradise

In the Cameron House on Queen Street in Toronto, there’s a sign on the wall that says, “THIS IS PARADISE.” Corin Raymond & The Sundowners have played in the front room of the Cameron House every Thursday night, 6-8pm, for fourteen years. Ten years ago- when Queen Street wasn’t so shiny and old guys held the barstools down during the day- right before the last song the bartender would shout "Last call for day prices!"

In Corin’s song ‘There Will Always Be A Small Time’ he wraps it into a line: “It’s last call for day prices. The sign says ‘THIS IS PARADISE,’ and that’s exactly where we are.”

Last January, a few weeks into our Shake Sugaree Americana residency at The Kraken, Phil White brought in a Carolina blue sign with black letters that said “THIS IS PARADISE.” It’s almost impossible to take a picture of someone on the stage without that sign being in it. Soon those words were all over the internet along with the ubiquitous pirate flags of our favorite roadhouse.

Then I brought a neighbor on stage who had written an extra verse for Chicken Wire- a song narrated by a misogynist rooster- and his verse arguably made the tale even darker. When other men started telling me that they also had written new verses for Chicken Wire, I said “we need some women to write verses.” The result was a beautiful Kitty Wells-ian epic of contention and dissension. We did the version to end all versions with about twelve people on stage at our album release show, and then retired the chicken choir at least for the time being. Someone brought in a rubber chicken for our singalongs, and it’s still hanging on the wall next to me on stage.

        Phil brought in another gift, a chair that was covered with guitar picks and references to our show. Some scalawag absconded with it. We do have photographic evidence of its existence.

        Ella Bertram brought in her first place trophy from the White Cross tractor pull and refused to take it back. “I’ve got lots of them,” she said. We bring it with us on the road. (By the way! You can listen to Ella’s music here: https://ellabertram.bandcamp.com  

        Some nights, The Kraken is so packed that the parking lot spills out and down the country roads. When the highway patrol showed up and started ticketing and towing cars, we began announcing that everyone had to be parked all the way off of the white line that ran along the side of the road. Even if your rearview mirror was sticking out over the line, you could be ticketed. I wasn’t sure how they could verify that scientifically, except perhaps with a builders tool called a plumb bob. Phil got a metal hoop, some fishing string, and a rubber kraken. Voila. The Official Kraken Plumb Bob was born. Now anyone can pit Newtonian physics against the lawman’s eyeball.

        The other problem with parking down the country roads, especially once everyone really had to park all the way off of the pavement, was getting stuck in the mud on a rainy night. People would panic when they saw a tow truck, thinking the highway patrol was at it again. After one too many times, superfan Sarah Shapiro brought in a big beautiful yellow tow strap, signed in black marker “To Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys from your fan-ily at The Kraken”. If you get stuck, there’s a country gal with a big pickup ready to solve this problem in-house. (Or a guy! I don’t want to be sexist here.)

        It’s hard to say I have a favorite, but this latest gift really got me. Maybe it’s because I love to know my place in this big universe. I love being able to drive to someone’s house in Austin Texas from my house in North Carolina without looking at a map. I love taking locals to a towering sequoia they’ve driven by for years and never noticed. I love looking up on a cold clear night at the calendar/clock/map, the Swiss army knife of the heavens.

        The gift is a bracelet made of string with a little white plastic tablet inscribed in black:

35.9241 °N

79.1760 °W

        It’s the big red X on the treasure map. If you ever want to find Paradise on a Wednesday night between 7 and 10pm EST, whip out your sextant, or type those numbers into your favorite navigation app.

        If you’re landlocked, we might bring Paradise to you some night. The coordinates will be different, but like a ghost ship on the high C, you’ll appear out of the mist in a little roadhouse outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Be sure you’re anchored all the way off the white line. Find your coordinates below and pass them on to the quartermaster. Your fan,

JByrd

****************

 

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, 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 29 Fri
Fort Worth Live
Fort Worth, TX

Mar 30 Sat
Fayetteville Public Library
Fayetteville, AR

Apr 2 Tues
The 5 Spot
Nashville TN

Apr 4 Thu
Museum of Commerce
Pensacola, FL

Apr 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 11 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 9 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

Jun 13 Thurs
Muddy Creek Music Hall
Winston-Salem, NC

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

Jul 11 Thurs
The Park Center
Hayward, WI

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

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i'll sing you a song on the phone

Want me to call you and sing a song over the phone? Well keep reading, because I really want to do that too.

My friend Sandy Green chairs a non-profit called Guitarists for Good. In short, they provide guitars to homeless shelters. When Sandy heard I was raising donations for the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, she casually mentioned that she wished she could donate instruments, but the bylaws of Guitarists for Good would probably not allow it. Homelessness is a crucial part of their mission statement.

(Anyone who is thinking, ‘Um, deaf kids? Musical instruments?’ read this article: https://www.washington.edu/news/2001/11/27/brains-of-deaf-people-rewire-to-hear-music/)

Thursday night, I played a short set for Carolina’s Credit Union Foundation awards gala, an event to recognize philanthropic efforts of its member credit unions. Sandy Green, who also works with Local Government Federal Credit Union, brought me in for the event. The gala organizers paid me well for my time, but they were reluctant to let me sell CDs and other merchandise. I offered to donate 100% of my profits to a cause and Lauren Whaley, the gala’s organizer, loved the idea. She suggested I donate the money to Guitarists for Good.

We raised $650 in about twenty minutes. Sandy was ecstatic. I was happy to contribute to Guitarists for Good, and for new fans to drive home listening to my records.

Saturday, as the Pickup Cowboys and I were driving to Columbia, South Carolina, Sandy Green texted me. The Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf fits into their bylaw structure. She has already found an acoustic bass for the school and is proposing two acoustic guitars. We think it would be great to have a piano on campus.

If you’d like to make a tax-deductible contribution toward these instruments for the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, you can donate online, on the phone, or in person. You can give cash or an instrument. Visit: https://www.guitaristsforgood.org/support-us

Send an email to sandy@guitaristsforgood.org and tell her your donation is for the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf. Any amount is welcome.

I gave $650. Anybody who matches that or donates an instrument: show me your receipt, give me your phone number, and request a song. (My email is info@jonathanbyrd.com ). I’ll call you and sing it. Love y’all. Your fan,

JByrd

****************

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

Feb 1 Fri
Society Garden
Macon, GA

Feb 2 Sat
TOL Coffeehouse
Columbia, SC

Feb 3
Arcana
Durham, NC
special guests for a 25-minute set! With Charles Latham

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 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

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Contributions for NC School for the Deaf

These bright girls attend the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf. It’s a boarding school and they live together in a dorm all week away from home while they attend school. They eat meals together and hang out in the evening in their common space. 

Many of them come from poor families. One of the mothers who lives in Chapel Hill recently noticed that their common space is quite bare. There’s lots of room for games, books, art supplies, and musical instruments (yes even though they are hard of hearing they love music). 

So I’d like to collect some items for these young ladies. Elementary through middle school children all live together. Board games, puzzles, picture books through easy-reading chapter books, craft supplies, children’s videos, toys— anything in good shape will bring these children joy and make their living environment more fun and fulfilling. We’ll get some over to the boys dorm too. 

Bring your donations to The Kraken tomorrow night. If you live far away from us and you’d like to ship some items to the school, please include a letter explaining the purpose of your donations and send them to: Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, 1311 US-301, Wilson NC 27893

Thanks y’all! Your fan, 

JByrd

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Pedal Power & more tour dates

Have you ever wondered what I’m plugged into? What am I doing with my feet during a show? How do I get such a great sound out of my guitar?

For the uninitiated, guitar “pedals” or “stompboxes” are little self-contained circuit boards with footswitches, usually arranged onto a “pedalboard” at a guitarists feet. They do various things with the sound of an instrument, and are a necessary part of a touring musician’s gear. I tend to use them in subtle ways that most people don’t notice- but musicians always notice. You may be surprised at how much is going on at my feet during a show, and I’ve made a video explaining it.

Of course, the best thing is to experience the magic of a live show, during which we usually forget about technology. A show is a human experience, a chance to sing along with all the people you argue with on Facebook. Live music is one of the things we need more than ever. Come see us:

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

Feb 1 Fri
Society Garden
Macon, GA

Feb 2 Sat
TOL Coffeehouse
Columbia, SC

Feb 3
Arcana
Durham, NC
special guests for a 25-minute set! With Charles Latham

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 5 Fri
McGonigels’ Mucky Duck
Houston, TX

Apr 6 Sat
Sycamore Creek Concerts
Dripping Springs, TX

Apr 25 Thurs
The Aquarium
Fargo, ND

Apr 26 Fri
West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Apr 27 Sat
The Warming House
Minneapolis, MN

May 11 Sat
Tobias Music
Downers Grove, IL

May 16 Thu
Caffe Lena
Saratoga Springs, NY

May 19 Sun
Askew Prov
Providence, RI

May 21 Tues
Rockwood Music Hall
New York, NY

May 23 Thurs
Cafe Nine
New Haven, CT

May 24 Fri
Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
Morristown, NJ

May 26 Sun
Island Pride
Gaithersburg, MD

June 29 Sat
Songs From the Wood
Deep Gap, NC

July 12 Fri
Rhythm of the River Music Festival
Jackson, MN

July 13 Sat
Levitt Shell
Sioux Falls, SD

Your fan,

JByrd

Jonathan Byrd Boxing 2018_20181130_7907 smaller.jpeg

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Moonshot

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which also happens to be my son’s ninth birthday, which also happens to be the day after a lunar eclipse. It was cold last night for North Carolina, 16 Fahrenheit or about -9 Celcius.

That made for a clear sky to see the lunar eclipse, and my son stays with me on Sunday nights. We laid out warm clothes and a small telescope. I promised him I’d wake him up to see the eclipse.

We didn’t end up using the telescope much. Just seeing it with your naked eye is fairly breathtaking. As the eclipse approached totality, it seemed as if there was a spotlight on one side of the Moon, as if it was hung in an art museum for quiet contemplation.

It’s hard to tell from our human perspective just how far away the Moon is. We can put a thing into orbit, ready to meet the International Space Station, in a little less than ten minutes. It took four days to get to the Moon. The entire planet Saturn and its rings would fit between Earth and the Moon. It was so hard to get there that humans haven’t been back in more than 46 years, despite the fact that the tiny device you are probably reading this on has replaced maps, cameras, multicomponent audio systems, compasses, books, cash registers, calculators, travel agents, guitar tuners, alarm clocks, and— if we’re not careful— actual experiences.

We still don’t have an app for justice and equality. We haven’t replaced the magic of a real celestial event. The innocence and vulnerability of our own children is a reminder that it’s not enough to imagine these things.

Because the crew of the Apollo mission risked death, my son is able to come home and explore the surface of the Moon and even Mars on a computer screen. Because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others risked death, my son can learn and play with friends of all cultures and colors. I imagine what it must have felt like for the Apollo crew as they lifted off from the Moon. We’ve come so far. We have so far to go.

*********************

Every Wednesday night!
The Kraken
Chapel Hill, NC

Feb 1 Fri
Society Garden
Macon, GA

Feb 2 Sat
TOL Coffeehouse
Columbia, SC

Feb 3
Arcana
Durham, NC
special guests for a 25-minute set! With Charles Latham

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

photo by Aaron Honeycutt

photo by Aaron Honeycutt

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Rest In Peace, Mary Oliver

Rest In Peace, Mary Oliver. There is no flag to fly at half staff for poets, and governments do not care much for poets. Poets don’t care much for flags either, nor the insecurities they soothe with their soft flapping.

Mary Oliver cared about each little brown flag of last year’s beech leaves sighing their chittering death rattle into the wind. She cared about clarity. Though she never met me, she cared about me. She told me, and all of us, over and over that we belong. She told me that if there is any knowable god, it is on the Earth and in each other. The Church told me that I was an alien here, that I was somehow different from all the creatures and plants and rocks and waters of the earth, that my home was somewhere far away. Mary reassured me that I was as natural as a woodchuck. She agreed with me about the strangeness of modern life, about the absolute insanity of homework when there was a whole planet to be explored. She told me that there is no nothingness, but there might be an end to consciousness.

That is the value of poetry, the value of reading, and the value of an education. It’s not about finding a job. It’s about finding meaning in your work. It’s not about being smarter. It’s about being accountable.

I wish I could’ve met Mary. I’m not sure what I would’ve said, but that is the way with meeting famous people. Maybe I would’ve memorized something like what I’ve written here and recited it as if I was meeting some head of state. Mary was more important to me than any head of state, athlete, scientist, musician, or any celebrity you can name. I might have cried and hugged her and I’m sure she would’ve been uncomfortable with the whole thing. I am not very famous, but famous enough to know that the art is not the artist.

Thank you Mary Oliver, somewhere in the somethingness. Thank you for leaving behind a meticulous map of important things. The call of the wild geese, over here. The white fire of the stars, up there. The dark skirts of the earth, down there. You said you read Rumi every day. I read you every day. The Earth was your Beloved. Now you are together. You were never apart.


The Journey, by Mary Oliver


One day you finally knew

What you had to do, and began,

Though the voices around you

Kept shouting

Their bad advice‚

Though the whole house

Began to tremble

And you felt the old tug

At your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

Each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

Though the wind pried

With its stiff fingers

At the very foundations‚

Though their melancholy

Was terrible.

It was already late

Enough, and a wild night,

And the road full of fallen

Branches and stones.

But little by little,

As you left their voices behind,

The stars began to burn

Through the sheets of clouds,

And there was a new voice,

Which you slowly

Recognized as your own,

That kept you company

As you strode deeper and deeper

Into the world,

Determined to do

The only thing you could do‚

Determined to save

The only life you could save.

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We Are Fan-ily

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,


JByrd

**************** 

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:

http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/the-law-amp-the-lonesome

http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/you-cant-outrun-the-radio

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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

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Home Away From Home

The Pickup Cowboys are excited to try something new this year. Starting January 10, this Thursday, we’re starting a monthly residency at Muddy Creek Music Hall in Bethania, North Carolina. Of course, we are also playing tonight, Wednesday, at The Kraken. After a year of playing every Wednesday, The Kraken feels like home. We’d like to make Muddy Creek our home away from home.

Another first for us: we’re going to jail! (Okay, technically a first. We’ve never been to jail as a whole band before.) The Old County Jail in Statesville, North Carolina is now a performance space. You know I love a dark tale. And ANOTHER first for us: we are playing Wintergrass!  Will be on stage Friday and Saturday during this great Seattle-area Bluegrass and Americana festival in February.

All the tour dates:

Tonight! *and 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

More to come. We hope to see you in your home! Your fan,

JByrd

Jonathan Byrd Boxing 2018_20181130_7867 smaller.jpeg

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2018, Year of The Kraken

I can’t remember a year of my life as dramatic as 2018.

My stepfather developed dementia and my mother became his caretaker. I separated from my son’s mother and my lover of eighteen years. I went to jail. I started a podcast and dumped it. I started teaching songwriting and loved it. A drummer, Austin McCall, joined our band and we completely reworked our music. We lost two agents and a manager. I fell in love again. Johnny and I released an album we’ve been sitting on since the late Paul Ford was diagnosed with brain cancer. Through it all, one thing has propped me up more than any other.

One afternoon when I was twenty-something, I poked my head into a little tin-roofed roadhouse on a rural highway outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Two guys sat in the neon twilight, smoking and watching TV. I left and never went in again until one year ago, last December. 

When I was 35, I bought a house two miles from that shack. It used to be called ‘Lil Bar’. It was ‘Catahoula’s’. It was ‘54 Crossroads’. At some point, it became The Kraken, and I noticed a changeable-letter sign with local bands on it. Sometimes, there was a touring act. I thought hmm, I gotta go in there and check it out, but I never did. 

We barely toured the past few years. Johnny and I worked with some of the best musicians in the world, but we never found a consistent third member. Of course, there was no one like Paul. Then there was the chaos of musical-chair agents and manager.

So last December, I’m scratching my head, wondering how I’m going to pay the bills. Beyond that, how do we stay tight? Johnny and I had a great show but we toured so little, we had to learn it all over again whenever we went out. I had mused for years about a local residency. Wouldn’t it be great to build a community around a regular night? Maybe it would take years, but it would be worth it. Wouldn’t it be great if I could practically walk to it? 

I went online and checked the schedule for The Kraken. Weekends were for touring acts. Tuesdays were Old-Time Nights. Every other Thursday was a DJ. What about Wednesday? I drove down there and walked in. Good thing too, because I found out later that no one had updated the website in months. Kirk had forgotten they had a website. By some magic or coincidence, the website was correct. Wednesday nights were open. 

The stage is surprisingly big for such a small place. I thought, Yeah, we could do this. We might be playing for ourselves some nights, but we’d be playing. 

I eventually caught up with Kirk Schmidt, co-owner of The Kraken, who helped me hang posters for a show twenty-five years ago. He looked at me sideways. We worked it out. Start at 7pm.  Pass the bucket. If it’s a good night at the bar, they’ll tip us out a little. Start in January. 

My ego said, “Byrd. You’ve worked hard for almost twenty years to sell out local venues. You want to play big places like the Haw River Ballroom. You haven’t passed the hat in fifteen years. Wtf are you doing?” 

I told my ego I was tired of sitting on the album we’d made with Paul. I wanted to play. I wanted to meet my neighbors. I wanted to serve somebody.

Johnny suggested we talk to Austin McCall about playing drums with us. I said something like, Well I hope it’s not too loud. My ego is a real turd sometimes. 

Every Wednesday night has been packed. It snowed a foot and people came out. Kirk and Jody forgot to pay the power bill once and we plugged into the food truck. The summer got hot and we played with the doors open. So many people came they had to park on the side of the road. The highway patrol started handing out tickets and towing, so we added an announcement to make sure people knew how to stay within the rules. 

Musicians have come from Canada and the UK to be our guests for tips on a Wednesday night. James, the Wednesday night bartender, confessed that he had been looking for another job before we started the residency. Kirk and Jody were able to put money into the HVAC system. Kirk told me weekends had slowed down and Wednesday nights had saved their year. When we couldn’t be there, local musicians stepped in to cover the night.  

Austin McCall on the drums has changed everything. We played songs we’d never played live before. Austin got people dancing. Two people came to our Halloween show dressed as Austin McCall. He built a smokeless campfire that we used for the album release show- a packed house at The Haw River Ballroom. Suck it, ego.

I tallied up the money musicians have made this year, passing the bucket on a Wednesday night at The Kraken. $40,000. In a roadhouse. On a Wednesday night. Passing the bucket. 

Surprising to everyone, becoming a bar band has been the most successful move of my career. A community has formed around these Wednesday nights that beats all I’ve ever seen. Some people have been there every single Wednesday night since it started. 

I live on the third floor of my mother’s house. My ego is learning a lot. I’ve written, and I’m still writing, a series of erotic poems. It’s actually helped my ego’s fear of being judged, which I suppose is shame. Maybe the poems are an act of confession: a timeless way to process shame, and an invitation to forgiveness and love. I’ve been reading them out loud at The Kraken, which has been fun. I might be the first person to ever recite poetry in that little roadhouse. A handful of times, people have bought the poems off the stage. 

Not everyone gets the sexy poems. Many of my most requested songs are tragedies about death, addiction and murder. I’ve never been shamed for any of those, but a few fans are very uncomfortable with erotic poetry. So I’m handing your shame back to you. I’m living at my mom’s house and I don’t have room for it.

We’re going to work on an album with Austin this year. We’re talking Johnny into making a Christmas album with the musical saw. I have more poetry projects in the works. There are a few 2019 wild horse calendars left- a practice run for a whole book of Rodney Bursiel’s equine photography and my poetry. https://rodneybursielphotography.com/product/2019-horses-of-camargue-calendar/

Please sign the email list. Social media is free and easy but it’s chaotic and hard to know what reaches you. Sign the email list. It’s a place just for us. http://eepurl.com/ckeOhD

Someday, I’d like to complain about how much I pay in taxes. Someday, I’d like to not have to negotiate for health care. For now, I’m going to keep living on love and trying to say what everybody needs to hear. I do believe there’s a business in it.

We’ve been doing Facebook live on Wednesday nights and we’re working on a better quality broadcast. We want everyone to experience the neon beauty of this place my friend Nathan Brown called “a Quentin Tarantino movie.” 

We’re starting a monthly residency at Muddy Creek Cafe in Bethania NC. First one is January 10th. https://www.muddycreekcafeandmusichall.com/muddy-creek-bethania

For touring, we’re working with Craig Grossman of Green Room Music Source and he’s been good for us already. Thanks, Craig. https://www.greenroommusicsource.com

I’ll be scheduling another Online Songwriting Retreat soon and you can keep up with that here: http://eepurl.com/dCLKEX

Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys really is a fantastic album and a beautiful 64-page color booklet, a family photo album of our touring life with Paul and the making of the album. http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/pickup-cowboy

On the T-shirt, Paul’s face sits right above your heart. On the back, there’s one of Paul’s favorite lyrics by our friend Matt Fockler. “Do you dream? Do your dreams come true? What do you see? What do you do to make it happen?” We’ll print one more run of these, and then they’re gone. Lots of ladies size L and XL left in classic black and emerald green. http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/t-shirts

I’ve sold 500 copies of my first poetry collection, ‘You’ve Changed.’ It’s still surreal to have my name on a real book. It has that book smell. http://www.jonathanbyrd.com/the-store/youve-changed-1

we are in heaven
the sky is an illusion
like any border

Like this border between years. I often think we mark time so we can more accurately mourn it. Time is real, no doubt about that. I hope you feel like your time was well spent reading this.

Division seems to be a trend lately. At a little roadhouse on a rural highway outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the guy in the NRA hat is dancing with the county’s Democratic Party fundraiser. We’ve got babies, dogs, grandmas, doctors, mechanics, hippies, farmers, and code writers. It’s our own Wednesday night prayer meeting. Lord knows I’ve needed it almost every week this year.

Y’all come. Please do park all the way off of the white line. The ticket is $193, and the show is worth it, but we’d rather you put it in the bucket. Your fan,

JByrd.

photos by Stan Lewis, Bob Johnson, Jim McKelvey, John Respess, and Rodney Bursiel

photos by Stan Lewis, Bob Johnson, Jim McKelvey, John Respess, and Rodney Bursiel

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