Monday, December 3, 2012

Lo how a Rose excerpt

Probably my favorite Christmas melody and lyric:

Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung!Of Jesse's lineage coming, as men of old have sung.It came, a floweret bright, amid the cold of winter,When half spent was the night.

Isaiah 'twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;Mary we behold it, the Virgin Mother kind.To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,When half spent was the night.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Pinhole View of the Universe

We perceive only a tiny fraction of what is going on around and through us. 

Take, for instance, electromagnetic vibrations. We see a tiny swath visually, feel some waves as heat, harness others for radios. We hear a minute fraction of the sounds that weave around us and pass through our bodies every moment. 

A gnat pushes air away as it moves, like we shove aside water while swimming. The earth feels solid and unmoving but it's hurtling around the sun, spinning at angle. We can't feel the "elastic nature of space and time(1.)" -- it seems to us that time "marches on" steady and measurable, that space is space, not an expanding, incomprehensible mass of empty.

We know so little, see so little, feel so little. To even admit this is true stretches, annoys, terrifies us. It is also glorious. And the "physical" is just one aspect -- what about the relational, emotional, spiritual realities that we move through and in, that affect us and that we shape with our willing and our waiting, our actions and our ideas? These things too are mysterious, vast, uncharted, dangerous and beautiful -- like the cosmos we can imagine a mere fraction of.

"Whoever has ears, let them hear." -- Jesus

(Inspired in part by "First You Build A Cloud... and Other Reflections on Physics as a Way of Life" by KC Cole.)
(1.) (p.50. Einstein via Cole).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tiny Wings (a musical and visual tribute)

There's not much I can say about this, except "I apologize..."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Goode on Better Days

It's been seven plus years since I recorded Seconds to Sunrise. A few songs from that album continue to matter to people...

A college friend Michael Goode recently posted this about the song "Better Days":

"It is does not deserve to languish in obscurity... it's the last song I want to hear going out."

The rest of what he wrote I can't quote here because he took Dylan's name in vain and stretched the compliment beyond reason, past hyperbole.  It's an honor, though, to have had the privilege of writing something that resonated deeply with this intelligent and interesting character (he just got his PhD, works as a visiting asst. pro at UIC, specialized in colonial American history, etc, etc).

Here's a video of the tune from the farewell concert, featuring Anita Barahona and a stage full of other friends of JRL...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Robots on a Curve

As part of my (almost) daily regimen I do a bit of drawing (a few minutes a day) and some guitar improvisation using the loop station. Here's some recent work -- did the music this morning, the drawings over a series of months, a bit at at a time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

March in Time

I help fallen leaves to stand up
(In the cracks between planed and nailed harvested trees).
The sun swings, sending circles from tabletops
We march in time around a curved line.

- JR 11.03.2012

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Songs lodged deep, sung for the sleepers

A couple days ago a friend asked me to play a few hymns at her father's funeral which took place this afternoon in a beautiful, small, old Presbyterian church. I sat up front on an oak chair with arms, resting the guitar on my too-big boots during the service, popping up to sing "The Love of God" and "Be Thou My Vision." at the appropriate times. This kind of thing is scary for me, such a different context, but sad and beautiful and hopeful too, which is what I'm driving at most of the time with the songs I write.

I grew up with these hymns. They stayed and stay with. I am deeply thankful for them, as were a gaggle of parishioners, most of them well past their 60's, who came up afterwards to thank me and reminisce about the songs. It's a gift to know and share music that crosses generational lines.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Making minivans cool (I need a new website)

Since getting a smartphone I've begun to notice how websites are changing. They can do interesting things and can get things across on large or small screens (exhibit A, exhibit B). They can also make minivans cool which is a bit like changing water into wine, although Christa and I slept in one during our 2010 travels and it was cooler than I expected.

For these reasons and a slightly more important one* I need a new website. Lucky I know someone...

* describes a small part of what I actually do these days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


A couple Instagram examples...

On Instagram

I started posting photos on instragram. If you're on instagram you can search for JONATHANREUEL.  If you're not on it and you use a smart phone, check it out -- I like that it's a mainly visual way of connecting, kind of bridges the space between art and facebook. I post shots of what I'm doing (tours, work) and also play with the medium (quirky shots, landscapes, etc). I find it to be a quick, fun and surprisingly versatile medium. No, I'm not getting paid to promote something, I just like it and it's another way to track what's happening with me, a less wordy way! :)

Iphone version
Android version

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Repairing metaphors

Over used, depleted, dried up metaphors are everywhere -- they are dogs with no teeth, clouds without rain, umbrellas that won't stay open. 

Most writers I know tend to avoid cliches like the plague (how possible is that?) OR they damn the torpedoes, ignore the critics and assume that if the sun has stood in for God or your true love for all these centuries who are we to question that...

The mountains are much used as image and metaphor. I find myself returning to them regularly. I look for a clever turn of phrase or a fresh angle, but I don't assume a song can't bump along the same rutted path so many other tunes have traveled before.

And I wonder if the prophet's declaration about the wilderness becoming a place of springs might apply even to the metaphor used in that thundering promise.

Writing on the road

Usually when I am on the road I don't have (or take) time to write. This trip I looked for some cowriting opportunities and also tried to plan some extra space. So far the result is good - two half songs, one co-written with Trevor, genius behind the Anabaptist Bestiary Project, the other penned late last night after a conference call that I needed to wind down after.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Review of Watershed by Stephen Ware

I met a musician named Stephen Ware in Nashville. We had a great conversation at an event we both went to serving food and music in a low income neighborhood. He was an unique individual balancing music and a military career, a straight-shooter who was obviously motivated to try to make peoples' lives better. I was shocked when I got an email a few weeks later containing the most comprehensive review I've gotten of the Watershed record to date. Here are some excerpts:

First off, this is a GREAT sounding album. You've got some really great sounding, chunky guitars here, and the musicianship all over is pretty excellent. This album screams old school Weezer and White Stripes. Maybe a bit too much, but I'll get to that. Like I said, I'm brutally honest man, so I won't hold back on either good or bad. BUT keep in yo head that I'm not a regular to this type of stuff (I border either really poppy rock or hardcore metal stuff). I can say that, undoubtedly, this is a definitive indie rock album. From the sound to the artwork. Excellent package.

"Bring Some Trouble" -Great way to start the album. The guitars are great, full, and loud in a garage-rock type way. The first thing that hit me was the similarity between the drums here and the drum patterns Meg White plays. It's a definite inspiration here. It's also great that you bring your voice into the sound right before the song get into the groove of things. Your voice is unique, especially among this genre, and it sets the tone for what's in store on the album.

"The Everything Change"- VERY reminescent of early Weezer (Blue album/pinkerton), but in a good way. The guitars are really heavy but fit the song great. Good choice of tone. Again, though, the drummer falls into the very White Stripish kick snare kick snare kick snare pattern in your verses. It changes a little in the chorus, but it's still pretty close. I think bringing in some really high guitar squeals and some serious amp feedback would assist in building the song into a huge monster right before you drop into the area where it's you and the bass. The dynamic of being so big and huge and then so quiet and calm would bring out a little more emotion. The same idea applies to the very end of the song. Bring it out with a bang.

"Carbon Blanket"- A true standout on the album; a definite strong point. The guitar riff is so simple yet works so well. Obviously the simpelist stuff works the best in music, and you know that. This song just oozes of rock goodness. When I heard the riffs, that was my "holy shit" moment. Really well done. BUT again, we're back into the kick snare kick snare kick snare pattern here with the drums. The pattern is effective, but after a while, it begins to rob songs of their character, because each song uses this beat. There's not a whole lot of variety in the percussion section this far into the album, and the guys that are suckers for great drums may get a tad bored at this point. For the bridge, the lead line sounds great. I would've raised the level just a bit, as it get a little over ran by the rest of the the guitars.

"Timepiece"- We're getting away from the White Stripes' drums, which is a nice change. Nice chord progression in your verses. I don't know about that drum machine in the background. It almost takes away from the real drums you have here. It works well to lead you into the song, but the drummer is playing something quite similar. In the portion where its just vocals and the drum machine, I'd have just killed the machine and let the focus go to your vocals. It's a unique sound, and it's an excellent point to let the listener get close to them with nothing else. The ending seems a bit abrupt.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cowriting in Nashville

Had a great writing session with Logan Heftel, a writer from LA who I met at an open mic. I'm very happy with the tune and the process was great. He has a great melodic sense, thinks deeply and plays well. I learned a lot and came out with shared credits on a great tune -- and the possibility of future collaborations.

Someone told me "Nashville is full of people who were the best writer in their town." I don't claim to be the best writer in the places I've lived, but I DO know that the bar here is so much higher that I felt a little bit like a beginner again, for the first time in a LONG time. The last time I came close to feeling as nervous as I did at the Blue Bird was years ago opening for Over the Rhine. Before that? It had to be in high school when I was just starting and so scared every time I played a song live that my legs would shake through the first few songs.

May have a session or two tomorrow.

Hacking through the inner underbrush

As a songwriter, I've learned to hold my opinion of songs I write loosely. A "wait and see" attitude is helpful, since you don't always know what songs will really connect with people and help them along on their journey. Once a song starts to catch on a bit, and you see people actually connect in more than a surface, I-like-that-hook way (although that's a good thing in and of itself) I get excited and want to share that tune more widely.

So when I wrote a book (the aforementioned Watershed Coursebook) I took the same approach. Held loosely whether it would be "a good one" and whether it would help anybody. Now that a couple people (out of the very few who have copies) are starting to tell me how it's been helpful, I want other people to get the book. I don't want to create or sell vanity press stuff -- and this IS my first writing (I had a section in a book back in the 90s...) but someone wrote me a long extended email detailing specific ways the coursebook is helping them deal with change and transition.

Here's an excerpt from their message:

"The more I read, the more it connects soooooo deeply! I love... "hacking a path through the inner underbrush." That is so how it feels! So glad you found Zac to help you get this out! It is so needed!" (Bonnie from IN)

So get a copy for yourself or someone you know who is going through changes. And send me a message to let me know how it's been helpful.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Who needs a workbook

I put together the Watershed Coursebook to accompany the Watershed album -- it's a collection of thoughts, drawings and exercises designed to help people grow through times of change. I was so tired by the time Christa and I finished the Watershed project (recording, art, two books, a mini-tour and the Kickstarter campaign) that I had very little energy to talk about (let alone promote) this little workbook. And I had some doubts about it -- Is it any good? Could it actually help people? While I've thought, spoken and written songs on the subject for years, I've never put together a workbook, so who knows?

So... it's been gratifying to see a few people beginning to read it and find it helpful. Doing themed concerts has helped since I can introduce some of the ideas in such a way that people glimpse why they are relevant to their lives and the changes they are facing.

If you haven't checked out this little book, you can preview (and order) it here:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Change and Growth, Chaos Theory and Transitions

Christa and I frequent the land of ideas. One area we visit most often is where the districts of Growth and Change overlap. Much of our music and art deals with this. Why? Because change is hard and yet pregnant with the potential for crucial adaptation -- and the arts can provide space help deal with the pain and allow creative new life to emerge rather from loss, even devastation. 

Two books on this topic have recently fed provoked me: Transitions by William Bridges and Surfing the Edge of Chaos (2000) by Pascale, Millemann and Gioja. Neither are new books (Bridges released a 25th anniversary edition) but both contained much that was new to me (and to many people I've talked with on the subject). 

Both texts give conceptual frameworks and practical handles on transformation can happen through change. It's also fun to see bits of chaos theory filtering down into other areas of thought and culture and becoming accessible and useful to those of us who lack the capacity, interest or time to deeply understand what that way of thinking about reality reveals about the cosmos, ourselves, and how God works...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Wayne Kirkpatrick, Distance Mentoring, Songwriting

Ok, so my main reason for spending some time in Nashville is to try to pick up what I can by watching and talking to songwriters. Last time I was in this town (briefly) I was struck by a number of things that are "in the water" so to speak, so much a part of the culture that they are almost givens:
1. Cowriting and collaboration are normal.
2. Songwriting is good work that is worth doing.
Just experiencing a culture where these two ideas are normative was significantly impacting to me, and influenced my decision to do the Surge On Smith project, one of the musical highlights of my last few years.

Hearing Wayne Kirkpatrick at the Bluebird last night was profound. In my early years I tracked Wayne's activities and appreciated some of his writing and production. I lost track of his work over the decade and a half, so it was great to get glimpses of the varied and diverse fruit of more than 20 years of songwriting. He played songs he wrote that I'd heard other artists perform that I didn't know he wrote. One of my great privileges has been seeing a few songs I wrote develop a life of their own (other people singing or recording them or finding new meanings in them). Seeing the same dynamic on a much larger scale was inspiring.

I quizzed Kirkpatrick about his songwriting process afterwards. He was low-key, gracious and revealing. He prefers a balance of co-writing and working alone. He's not a 9-5 writer. He tries to follow inspiration (but ends up doing some writing most days).

I'm not sure why it's so helpful for me to ask these basic questions and hear the responses. Part of it is just being around people who take songcrafting seriously and spend significant energy at it. I did not learn a new technique or a novel approach to the craft, but I came away with something valuable nonetheless.

After tracking a person's work and learning from a distance, even short conversations I find that even short conversation and simple questions can be quite helpful and encouraging. Distance mentoring with a real life touch point...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Learning at the Bluebird

Went to the Bluebird Cafe tonight at the recommendation of Greg Bower (my go-to drummer for anything near Texas). He plays music with a guy named Zane Williams and Kylie Rae Harris, both writers.  Wayne Kirkpatrick and Susan Ashton were also there. Zane is a wordsmith whose songs are straight forward, emotional and tricky. He pulls them off well. Harris isn't tricky, but her songs work, she can sing and there's grit in her voice. Hadn't heard Ashton since the 80s. Like her voice -- in general I'm less taken by her melodic sense or lyrical sensibilities, although she had some great tunes too.

That's the thing that strikes me about Nashville and songs (or NYC and painting) -- there is such a wealth of quality material it's ridiculous, feels almost criminal. Maybe a bit like what traveling to Rome from Gaul or Ireland during Jesus' day might have been like -- I'm struck with the volume of cultural wealth and development -- and troubled by the fact that decadence in some form seems to go hand in hand with these gluts of cultural/aesthetic treasures. Mainly, though, I'm thankful for the chance to get to hear quality songs and learn from those who forged or birthed them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Preparing for Themed Concerts

Christa is building art, I'm getting songs ready -- we're both thinking, sketching, and working with the ideas. I'm really excited about this "themed concert" concept that continues to evolve as we prepare for the early August trip. Besides an art show and a talk at 808, I'll be doing two "themed concerts" and one collaborative evening with poet/songwriter/humorist Andrew Kreider.

The themes? 
Transitions (see drawing above -- this is the idea in process) at NMC.
Adaptive Challenges at the Butlers residence.
Family will be a theme at the Andrew Kreider Free-For-All (actually it will be a very classy and funny event at what looks to be a wonderful bakery/coffeehouse venue).

Hope to see you there. More specific info on events available on FB.

Recent sketch

"Waiting wind of Gabriel, blow soon upon the hollow bones." - Mark Heard, Treasure of a Broken Land

Friday, July 20, 2012

Steady Like a Garden

Wrote this for the upcoming Goshen "themed concerts".

Shot live from the back of a pickup truck in North Carolina (camera teeters on truck bed, no film crew, in case you wondered.)

Copyright 2012 Jonathan Reuel (words, music, live performance).

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Steel Wheels live and the Backup we all need

This is a photo of my calendar for a recent evening. I had the chance to see the Steel Wheels at the Grey Eagle in Asheville, a venue I've wanted to visit for years.

JRL did a show with Trent and the band a few years back, and it was great to hear the maturation of their material and performance since then.

It left me thinking again about the challenge and joy of touring regularly -- you develop competencies that are a profound gift, but it comes at a price, even to those who do it well and wisely. I left encouraged, sobered and inspired, and hoping to find that balance in the season ahead where I become more competent and able to give a gift that is worth peoples' time and money -- without trading in my deep love of music and message and beauty and core relationships rooted in a specific time and place.

I see this as sort of a tightrope walk requiring regular miracles and interventions both divine and human. In reality, though, the road a traveling musician walks is in it's essence not much different than many other professions -- each come with unique challenges and require the sort of backup to do well that most of us don't have

"When will we see the need to call in backup?" 
- JRL, Backup, 2005 (thanks Amber)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Also called "An Education in the Art of Waiting"

Quick disclaimer: for those of you who like finished products, please DO NOT WATCH this video. It's a super rough version of the song I wrote for my dad -- minimal lyric-editing and recorded right after I wrote it. It's rough, but people have been asking to hear it so I don't mind sharing it "in process" for those who like that sort of thing!

Here are the lyrics:

It's father's day and I'm not one
But thank You God I've still got one
Of all of the gifts that I treasure
This is one I must makes sure to count
Sometimes what you need most
Is the farthest thing from your mind
Behind the scenes and when no one's watching
You'll find what a person believes in

And this man would give his shirt (his car) away
Loves a good song and a mountain range
Fights through winter for the one he loves
(Though may, just maybe that's gone on for long enough)
I hear the southern weather calling
After decades of snow falling on these dreams
It's an education in the art of waiting
I pray the sunshine overtakes him when he least expects it
Like the thousand gifts he gave
When he least expects it
Some day like today

Some dads help you by talking
Others send you away
This man modeled the things he thought most valuable day by day
Now some of those lessons I learned
Others came back to haunt me
Like an iced-over window and a frozen door (lock)
The kind that my dad was always prepared for

Copyright June 17, 2012 Jonathan Reuel.

Some day Like today

I hear the southern weather calling
After decades of snow falling on these dreams
It's an education in the art of waiting
I pray the sunshine overtakes him
when he least expects it
Like the thousand gifts he gave
When he least expects it
Some day like today

For my dad... copyright June 17, 2012 Jonathan Reuel

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Next Steps with Music

Coming off of sabbatical I've been unsure about my direction musically. I'm writing some songs, and playing a concert here and there when it makes sense. I don't have a plan for the next album or a big tour. Surge On Smith is still on my radar and I'm doing a bit of collaborative songwriting.

It's my normal approach to dream big and launch towards those dreams with whatever I have at my disposal and figure it out as I go.

At the moment it feels right to approach it differently -- to take the opportunities that present themselves, take it step by step, watch as things emerge, and make plans when things are clearer.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Shifting Gears

One of the metaphors that's been tossed around in the leadership development circles I run around in is the idea of "shifting gears" -- especially related to taking sabbaticals of the sort that allow you to truly "go into neutral."

Biking with my dad last week that image became viscerally present to me again -- same amount of effort + new gear = different results (more speed, the ability to climb a hill you couldn't otherwise).

I am experiencing something like this personally post-sabbatical. I'm doing some of the same things I did before (playing songs, coaching leaders and artists) but it's working better. What's different? Hard to pinpoint but it has something to do with having been totally in neutral for a while and coming back with in a new gear and and -- perhaps even with access to a few new gears.

So yes, disconnecting and resting deeply and profoundly can and does have an effect on "the things you make" (which is what this blog is about).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Coaching Songwriters

I was back in Ohio last week connecting with family, playing a few concerts and speaking at the church I grew up in. During my time there two friends of mine asked if I'd help them with their songwriting. This is strange -- it keeps happening to me, so I'm starting to pay attention to it.

I had good 2-3 hour sessions with each of them and they both made good progress in their craft, getting past writer's block, charting a course, etc. It was helpful for me too in that helping someone else move forward is making me clarify some of my own practices and approaches that have helped me consistently finish songs over two decades.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What's Stuck in the Birth Canal

Last year experienced cowriting for the first time and really loved it (Surge on Smith). I thought I was going to be cowriting in Indiana on this last trip, but it ended up being something else -- more like assisting a birth. I joke about being a songwriting dula, but it's a pretty apt description. Here's what happened:

I first met with the songwriter for 3 or 4 hours helping him clarify what he really wants to say and explore through song, and what sort of songwriting would work best for this. Then we picked one of the themes and started writing. From there I threw out some chords and a line from time to time, but mainly just encouraged him and when he hit blocks helped him go over or around them.

It did feel a bit like a way scaled-down version of what I imagine prepping the would-be mother about birth would be like, followed by helping them through it (they do the real work, but they need the help -- maybe the metaphor breaks down a bit since you can't really stop mid-birth with a human baby and people do it with songs all the time), and then celebrating the "kid", messy and red-faced as it may be once it's over. (I suppose rewrites are like baths and cutting the cord, and all the other stuff that reveals the stunning reality that is under all that writhing, crying mess).

A lot of it came down to "you just got to get this stuff out." Not out into the world, just out of your own soul. Many of the songs you have push out don't need to be shared beyond a few friends -- but you never get to the ones more people need to hear if you don't write the ones that are stuck in the birth canal.

A bit of wider application for those of you who aren't writers: there may be things in your life you just plain need to do, things which may require some assistance to get pushed out of the birth canal. You may not want to do them. It's possible you procrastinate or ignore them, even though it hurts. There are many reasons for this. Maybe you're not very skilled at doing these things. Maybe they don't fit your image of yourself (or other peoples' image of you). Maybe it is just because doing something creative or meaningful is hard work and requires the use of your heart, which is a subtle, unpredictable and vulnerable organ.

Examples of this sort of thing that might get "stuck in the birth canal": Hard conversations with loved ones or coworkers, spiritual growth practices, weight loss, balancing the budget, taking a day off, etc.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I'm hosting a songwriters round table-ish gig on Sunday Jitters

7 pm this Sunday (June 3) at Jitters in Millersburg I'm getting a number of songwriters on stage to play their tunes. Some of the Brilliant will be there, so some songs will be acoustic, some more "filled-out." I love more informal evenings like this where the writer can let you into the song a bit more -- if you like that too, come enjoy it. Not announcing the lineup currently because it's still in process. Probably 3-6 artists.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Live at Java Jo's this Saturday night

I'm excited about the upcoming gig this Saturday night. Partly because it's a reunion with Brilliant bassist Toby Hazlett who played on Watershed and the short pre-sabbatical tour. The rest of the rhythm section is drummer/percussionist Kevin Himes. We'll be joined by local legend and multi-instrumentalist Tim Shue, which is worth the price of admission in and of itself. By the way there is no price of admission, so come ready to enjoy great music and use that money you didn't have to pay to get in to buy cds and coffee! It's a great venue but it's sort of little, so come early if you want a good seat.

We'll be playing a mix of tunes -- reaching back into the JRL catalog, hitting Watershed songs, and maybe even throwing in a couple new tunes never before played in Ohio.

7:00pm at Java Jo's, Berlin, OH, this Saturday, June 2nd.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Writing Songs and Recording

I made my recent trip to Indiana for a number of reasons, one being to trade recording/mixing time for songwriting with longtime collaborator Nathan Butler. I help the guy write some tunes, he helps me get some of my recent ones recorded. He ended up with 4 or 5 songs written and I got rough versions of 4 of my new songs recorded. I hope to make them available in some format before too long. It was hard and rewarding work that I was privileged to be able to do. Add to that getting to see my nephew and it made for a fabulous trip.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Electric Brew

Playing in Goshen this Friday night at the Electric Brew opening for Nathan Butler, old friend, collaborator, drummer on most of my recordings, etc, etc. Can't wait. Great venue. Hope to see you there.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music Entrepreneurship and Spirituality

After a great week in Nashville coaching bands and connecting with leaders and musicians, I find myself again thinking about the relationship between spirituality, business and music (or the arts in general).

When people whose music has a strong spiritual focus find some way to put distance between their creative work and financial recompense there is often an increased impact.

On the other hand I've seen artists who submit to a rigorous assessment of their work from a business standpoint really benefiting -- not just practically but creatively as well. Read a brief article about musicians and entrepreneurship that hits one aspect of this.

This still leaves me thinking, since my creative work bleeds into the realm of spirituality regularly and the world of business periodically.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Surge on Smith gig

Played two and a half concerts in Texas. The Jonathan Reuel and the Brilliant show was ROUGH! 8 months since my last time playing those songs really showed. Only the brilliance of the Brilliant Texans Joel and Jared kept it afloat. Still love the music though.

The Surge on Smith set was stunning. I almost broke down in the middle of one tune feeling the weight of the ideas in the songs -- people caught in human trafficking -- and the audience really connected. We sold out all the cds we brought (which we arranged judiciously so as to not seem prideful making it look like we thought we'd sell so many). This hasn't happened often for me over the years.

Something is happening with this music. We played at a church we have a long relationship with over the years and the pastor asked Kelly to share a bit about her journey with music and songwriting -- a longtime dream, wrestled with over many years -- I think that was part of why it all hit so hard. That and the kindness of God who cares about people trapped in horrible situations -- and who likes good music! Photo by Wasinger.

Monday, April 23, 2012

My Human Size

Under the surface
where I never thought to dig before
God revealed
This arrogant assumption
Built in me before I even had the language to describe
This feeling
That somehow the weight of saving the world
Was on my back

(For best results, read out loud. From another in-process tune).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We had people in our little apartment...

Yes, it happened. Was fun, sort of a hushed art museum type vibe without the high ceilings or guards in burgundy uniforms... and outside are the mountains!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

29 Years Part II

My first songwriting adventures consisted of putting new lyrics to hymns and Beach Boys tunes. That was grade school. I still do it on occasion. For instance...

On Tuesday the unflappable Mr. Oliver texted me "I want to hear all about the song 39 years (29 years pt 2). He may of been joking but I went ahead and blew 30 minutes on this... (Therefore DO NOT watch it if sloppy in-process work bothers you -- this is very ROUGH, live, first take after writing...)

P.s. I wrote a song called "29 Years" a little over a decade ago -- this is approximately the same tune.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Riddled through with Glory

The first decade I wrote songs they were pretty much geared towards a Christian audience -- encouraging them to delve into their faith, get closer to God, be honest about their journey, pay the price to really give following Jesus an honest shot. Then for a while I wrote songs that were mostly vertical in orientation, prayers, spiritual songs, etc. Then I started JRL and explored writing songs that could (hopefully) connect with anyone, whatever their spiritual state or religious inclination.

Well, that's mainly the songs I released. I was still writing songs to God too -- it's part of how I survive emotionally and stay alive spiritually. It's sometimes a wrestling mat, a threshing floor, and an open field.

I collected seven of these songs (five from previous albums, 2 unreleased demos including a hymn my sister and I wrote an extra verse for) on an EP we decided to call "Riddled Through with Glory: Songs of Worship and Waiting." If you'd like a copy, mosey out across hyperspace to the little Sonchild station and pick yourself up one!

Please note: It is NOT a new full-length studio album (that's why it's so cheap), and it's NOT available for download, but it IS pretty mellow and meditative and it DOES have a pretty sweet photograph on the cover, slightly abstract and liquidy but not photoshopped even a smidgeon, compliments of the close-up queen herself, Kimberly Glick.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Playing in Texas

I'm playing in Texas later this month. 04.28, 4-4:30pm at the N.9th Arts and Music Festival. Also as Surge on Smith at 530. The inimitable Joel T on bass. First post sabbatical band gig. Can't wait. What a gift.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The axe is at the root of the trees and Seconds to Sunrise is the first to go

My 2005 release Seconds to Sunrise has been out of print now for a couple years. It was one of the most fun recordings I've ever done, and it struck a chord with a lot of the people who have followed my music over the years.

I have one unopened copy of S2S left. I've been paying $50/year to make it available for download on itunes and amazon, and people (39 to be exact) have downloaded it, although less recently. Small price to pay to keep it available, but...

I'm streamlining the business side of my music endeavors (I usually focus on the creative side) and cutting costs. Unfortunately Seconds to Sunrise is being cut . . . in 6 days. So you have from now until April 9 to go to itunes or amazon and download it (unless enough people download it to pay for another year).

Many of you who read this blog already have the record. Two people told me they wore out the cd -- I gave a burned copy to one of them but I can't remember who the other one was, so I hope you're reading this. :)

A couple of Seconds to Sunrise songs are included on the Best of JRL album which lives on in the cloud on Amazon and Itunes and which is not, at this point, slated to be "cut off, thrown into the fire and burned." But the axe is at the root of the trees, friends...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Name Me

Track 5 on Watershed. Comments?

I like the way the song builds, ebbs and builds again. Guitarist Chris Freeman did some great work on this tune. I'm not in love with some of the guitar tones -- especially since Freeman has become such a tone-master in the last few years (besides being a genius player and very good composer).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Art Cards with Creatures

Here's a close up of a few of the Creatures in Context series, as well as a shot of another card I did with a Nativity Theme (which sold over the holidays).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

After all these years

To see what you see
After all of these years
Outside my fierce belief
I defended through my tears

Are there fields beyond these walls
Gardens planted, shadows fall on houses
Could I find myself out there
Could I make it out
of patterns I am now aware of

(from one of a number of songs I'm writing based on sabbatical experiences and changes)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Chance Encounter

I ran into a kid in a music store. Conversation. I gave him the Watershed CD. The story ends. Usually.

This time the kid had a dad (well often that's the case, but this dad was unique -- stay with me now).

The dad likes the music.

The dad blogs about said music on his interesting, well-written blog (a much LESS common phenomenon).

(He's prolific, peace-loving, intelligent, conservative... hmmm, all those things always go together, right?... I feel honored, awkward, and gleeful to have my music featured on it (he posts sacred music on Sundays). I love 2012.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Steampunk Angel TShirt

I designed a steampunk angel tshirt. I like bringing together words I made up and something I drew (and now you can wear it). You can buy it if you like. The Etsy site continues to emerge -- I'm slowly but surely adding stuff.

Detail of drawing used on the tshirt

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What do you think of Watershed tunes

I love hearing peoples' responses to songs I wrote, so I thought I'd post a couple Watershed tunes for people to comment on. I may post a couple responses I've gotten earlier too.

So, feel free to leave your comments -- as long as you shoot straight. Can be as simple as "I like it" or "I don't" but it gets way more fun when you get specific!

Handmade Cards

Being on Etsy I've noticed that a lot of the stuff I like best is handmade (as opposed to printed in mass quantities). So I started working on one of a kind cards. Things got a little out of hand and soon I was cutting paper, making envelopes from scratch and adding paper latches and crazy stuff.

If you're looking for a really unique card to give someone these holidays, this might be your thing. These handmade art cards are priced between $14.50 and $120. Everything is hand drawn, hand cut, pasted, and one of a kind.

Power Trio Art Card and Handmade Envelope with Crazy Latches

Friday, February 10, 2012

Two Drawings

Here are two drawings inspired by sabbatical netflix watching. The first is called "Mr. Stewart Jests" and yes, it's inspired by the John Stewart Show (which I rarely watch). The second is called "A Cunning Message" and it's inspired by a Firefly episode.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Simple words for those who have strayed from their true heart

Why don't you dream anymore
What's in the way
How come you point to the door
And ask me to stay
Why don't you flash that smile like you used to do*

I'm looking through you, where did you go
I thought I knew you, what did I know
You don't look different, but you have changed
I'm looking through you, you're not the same**

* (the Cars' Ric Ocasek)
**(the Beatles)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Art Shelter

I have an Etsy shop.

It is an upscale art shelter. I use it to temporarily house things I make with just a pen (mostly).

Art shelter residents include drawings, artist trading cards, idea maps, a memory enhancing laser gun and a hat.

These art pieces are happy in their fancy no-kill shelter. Do not pity them. If, however, you might be ready to give some art a permanent home, please feel free to stroll around the premises and see if anything catches your eye or nips at the your pant legs.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Will be Posting Soon

Christa and I extended our sabbatical an extra month. This leaves us with 2 more weeks in the wilderness.

We are well.

I will be posting soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Venturing Farther

We are now, dear intreped blog reader, even now, venturing deeper into the territory that had been clearly marked -- 6 months ago, mind you, and you know how quickly things change in this global, technological age -- "post-sabbatical."

Yes, we were clear before hand that the afore-mentioned sabbatical might get extended, it's true. Still some of us (me, for instance) were pretty sure it would be over by now. There were, of course, signs that indicated otherwise, arrows pointing in another direction, but I (for one) ignored them.

So if you're reading this, I was wrong. Simply and completely.

In recompense for that travesty (and as a sort of waiting-room-magazine, although hopefully better in quality, and certainly with less recipes and adverts) please enjoy these images, culled from the Reuel art archives:

Justin Clemons shot the photo.
Christa did the folded art.
I drew the birdy things.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Literary Vestigial Organs

Now it may be that this post is unnecessary, a sort of literary vestigial organ. I may be back now, full of vim and vigor, ready to do whatever it is that I will do here on the other side of the wilderness. If so I apologize.

However, please remember, dear reader, that I was thinking of you when I so carefully crafted these words of subtle humor and muted good cheer.

And so, if these words are missive tonsils, little toes of gathered words, literary adenoids or -- tragically -- the written nictitating membrane of the eye (so to speak), I hope that you may, in a fit of creativity rivaling the sculpting of the David or the penning of Louie Louie, find some good use for them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January Is When We Were Planning to Return

The question is are we actually back from the wilderness or not?

While you're waiting to find out, take a look at these (shot during the spring Watershed tour):

The first photo is Surge on Smith playing at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum, TX. Joel and Greg, members of the Southern brilliant (bass and drums), The amazing Blackwells (violin and lead guitar). Kelly (band leader, lead singer, songwriter) and me (guitars, bvs, and co-writer of the songs).
Photo by Justin Clemons.

The last several photos feature me, Toby and Joel playing Jitters in the metropolis of Millersburg.
Photos courtesy of Heather McDonough.