Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The End of JRL

I've got a confession to make. For months now I've been wrestling with a big change in my life and and what it means for JRL. No, I'm not dying and we're not having a baby. On a metaphorical level I've run into sandwich board signs with "the end is near" written on them. On a practical level I can't keep doing everything I've been doing. And JRL has started to feel cramped.

Since 2004 JRL has been a big part of my life and identity. I even have nice business cards and look professional.

I've started a lot of bands and gone by a lot of names since I started writing music in the late 80s. JRL is the closest I've ever come to using my own name. Even though it isn't the name I was born with.

Closure is important. Part of me wants to keep every band I ever started as a possibility in my head, but life gets cluttered when you don't let go. You've got to let go of a million possibilities so that a few of them can become actualities. Getting married was hard because it meant narrowing infinite possibilities to one. The result of that narrowing has been a deepening and growth that I could never achieve while keeping my options open.

To put it another way, I've got commitment issues. Where I've overcome them amazing things happen. Where I don't, I'm always starting over.

So is this the end of JRL? If so why?

Not quite. I've got one more record to finish. I think it may end up being my favorite JRL record. I'm also dreaming about doing a "final concert" and trying to get a bunch of the great players together who have been part of JRL over the years. I'm not sure if this will happen or not. If you like the idea let me know.

And after that?

I'll quit booking JRL shows and stop promoting JRL.

I'll write songs, all kinds of songs, without giving a lot of thought to where they will fit or who will listen to them. Some people who have been listening will keep listening. Others won't. New people may tune in. Musicians may discover the songs and want to cover them. I am moving into a season of creativity and freedom.

It's sad though, to be moving on. The songs may be reborn, but JRL is drawing to a close. I think this song, which I wrote recently remembering my high school years (where in many ways music and love began), fits where I am as I contemplate the end of JRL... I hope you like it and can feel a little of what I feel, perhaps thinking about that time of your life and/or an ending or beginning that means something to you right now.

They Can't Tell You
City Song: Kidron (Millsbg) OH, high school
Copyright 5-7-08 Jonathan Reuel

Those days when music ignited
Every cell and muscle
Those nights when truth was a puzzle
Not everybody wrestled

They can't tell you how to find yourself
They can't force you into inspiration
They can't give you anybody else besides
Besides who you wrestle to believe in

Those hours under glaring lights
In the van holding hands in silence
That moment when I realized
I was still an island

Those days when I first hear God
Like the prophets promised
I never suspected what I didn't know but
Everybody's like that because

Those days when I turned away and set out on this journey
But I am who I am today because of what they gave me

(Audio for this song will be posted soon.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Throw them all together

Here is a group of disjointed thoughts, which I'll draw together at the end like an episode of the Cosby Show:

Traveling: I'm laying on a futon in a hot pine paneled room in Greenville, North Carolina. I just got back from Ohio where I played one show with the incredible Ohio version of JRL. And before that I was in the back woods of Arkansas meeting some soon-to-be missionaries, being rescued from copperheads (by a little dog) and tracking down the history of soul and rock and roll in nearby Memphis. This was the first time I have traveled without a guitar and been in 2 states (Tennessee and Arkansas) without playing a gig!

City Songs: Last night I was getting ready to leave VA -- ordering a few more copies of Now, getting the most urgent emails nailed and preparing for an upcoming event. I finished about 2 am. To relax I listened to some recently written tunes. David Oliver (from Bridgeland) and I have been working on this songwriting exercise -- write 6 songs from 6 main places (cities) we've lived. So far I've written about Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Kidron (OH), Asheville (NC), and Warm Springs (VA). Loose arrangements with guitar, vocals, harmonium, and djembe.

Another Now: The studio where I'm recording "Another Now" just got a new computer and is up and running. I'm aiming at a September release date.

Songwriting: I was recently hired to write a song as a gift for someone. It was an interesting challenge. I'd like to do more of this -- it pushes me to be creative and specific. An original song written for you makes a great gift...

CSM: My community supported music idea is finally started -- I've got two members. One from Alaska and one from Texas. I guess we'll start with the big states. Anyone in California want in?

Creativity and Change (the wrap up): So I'm still traveling but I'm playing less shows. I'm writing new songs that are stretching my songwriting skills -- city songs, hired gun tunes and songs that reach towards the roots of gospel, soul and blues. I'm finishing up what may be the last official JRL record while I'm getting the CSM launched so that people who want to follow what's happening with my songwriting can hear new stuff every 3 months. I'm not sure what's ahead musically. I do know that there are new things sprouting in my life -- songs, ideas and visions -- and I'm not sure where they will lead me. But I'm seeing a changing of the guard, and shifting of seasons, a kind of transformation (like water to steam or ice to water) happening in me. At a time when it seems impossible to believe in large scale, fundamental change, I've got this feeling that very soon I'll be able to say with the prophet: "The old is gone, the new has come."

"They can't tell you how to find yourself. They can't force you into inspiration. " (from the city song for Kidron, OH)