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.)


gabriel said...

Sorry I haven't posted before.... been crazy around here. And, I wasn't sure what to say. On the one hand, I think it's really cool that you're following God, making the tough decisions, and moving on. I also thing the CSM system is interesting.

...on the other hand, I'm selfishly sad about the announcement. The CSM system requires more commitment than I'm used to giving to an artist. I've always been comfortably anonymous in my music buying habits. When I've got some money for music -- I love going to buy an album and thinking, "Hmmm... what to I want to buy today?"

But I don't want to miss out on your music -- 'cos I really dig your art (like the song you just posted... of which I can't wait to hear the audio, the lyrics are powerful). I just wish I could buy the downloads on-demand (be it Amazon or bandfarm or dandelionseedco or your own website).

So.... I don't know what to think or how to feel... but I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm glad you've got clarity, though... and that you get to move into a new chapter. :-)

Bryan Moyer Suderman said...

Thanks for posting this, Jonathan, and for continuing to blaze a trail of honesty and art and community and receptiveness to God's leading. Wherever the post-JRL trail leads, you can bet a whole bunch of us will be listening.

In response to Gabriel's comment, it may be worth pointing out that the CSM (Community Supported Music) approach doesn't necessarily mean an "either-or," where now you won't have studio recordings available for purchase (on CD, or download, or whatever). My experience is that it works well to have a CSM - for those who want to participate that way - and continue to produce studio albums that are available as well (for that "comfortably anonymous" music-buying habit that I enjoy too...). This is good, it seems to me, for the artist (each new "CSM membership" can also lead to a new studio album sale, and vice-versa), as well as for members of the "listening public" that can choose how - and to what it extent - they (we) would like to relate directly to (and financially support) a particular artist's creative process.

Jonathan Reuel Live said...

It's been good to get these responses -- I got to talk to Gabriel in person and am looking forward to my next connection with Bryan. Others have been responding to the "end of JRL" in other ways, mostly encouraging.