Monday, December 3, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
Sunday, November 18, 2012
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
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Saturday, November 3, 2012
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
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
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
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.
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
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
Thursday, August 16, 2012
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
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
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.
Friday, July 20, 2012
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Monday, May 28, 2012
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
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
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
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
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
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.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
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.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
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
Thursday, March 8, 2012
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
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
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.
Friday, February 10, 2012
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
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)
Saturday, February 4, 2012
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
Saturday, January 21, 2012
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
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
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.