There’s so much happening right now! I just filmed a music video for “Overwintered”, directed by Dawn Jones Redstone. How can I describe Dawn in brief? The word "phenomenal" comes to mind. I think it's also fair to call her a mover and shaker. Stay tuned for news on the video release, which will likely involve screenings in Eugene and Portland!
I have a ton of gorgeous new merch — T-shirts, tank-tops, hoodies, tote bags, and stickers — designed by Chad Lowe.
And I’m about to leave on a mini-tour, with shows in London, Frome, Kaliningrad, and New York! Check my website for dates. And make sure you're following me on Instagram and Twitter for updates from distant lands!
Now, for your free song. For this lush spring/summer month, I present to you a demo of “Arboretum”.
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(Each month I send a free secret demo like this to my subscribers — you also get access to all the past songs I’ve sent out!)
The orchestration will need some pruning. But for these monthly demos, more-or-less-finished is better than perfect! It’ll all be re-recorded in a fancy studio with real instruments. A percussion wizard will add percussion. Someone will use expert knowledge to get the levels right, and expensive plugins to make everything sound crisp and polished. At the risk of belaboring the point, this is a work in progress. Got it? Good!
In early 2008, I was in a long-distance relationship with a guy from Ohio — the Buckeye State. (He’s actually the person who suggested I start posting my music to YouTube! He was there when I filmed The Penny Song.) Our relationship inspired a number of songs, including “I am not a stranger here” and “Spring”.
Once, when he was visiting Eugene, we were walking on the University of Oregon campus and happened to pass by a tree with piles of nuts underneath. A buckeye tree, he declared. The state tree of Ohio!
We took a nut back to my apartment and somehow convinced it to germinate. It grew in a plastic cup for a while, even mustering up some real leaves before Georgie, my Senegal parrot — then just a few months old — destroyed it.
Later that year, we broke up. Walking by that tree he’d pointed out on campus, I imagined a palimpsest before me, with the specters of our past selves still hunkered down examining nuts.
Every day I pass this way
I expect to find you
Waiting for me
Beneath the branches
Of the buckeye tree...
He was gone, but in a way he’d rooted down into my life, and there was no getting around the memories.
But for whatever reason, I didn’t finish the song then. Still, the ideas floated around in my head from time to time, transforming slightly over time. I had other relationships, and for each one, I quickly established symbolic tree connections. A sugar maple for the guy from Vermont. A Northern Red Oak for the guy from New Jersey. And for the guy from Florida — a palmetto, an orange tree, a Bald Cypress stand, a whole ecosystem.
It was a formidable plot for one amateur gardener to manage.
When I returned to my notes for this song in 2016, I delved deep into the world of trees with the help of an incredible book called Trees Live Here: The Arboretums of America. I went back to the U of O campus — itself an arboretum — and wandered around, admiring the collection. Passing again by that tree the Buckeye boyfriend had found, I wanted to determine whether it was an Ohio Buckeye or a Yellow Buckeye. I tracked down a guide to the U of O arboretum and learned that the tree in question was actually a Red Horsechestnut.
In the end, I really leaned into the Florida imagery, because GOD, the biodiversity of Florida. I nearly start salivating at the thought of those glorious swamps, and then I remember the mosquitoes. 🙃
Now, I really need to get back to practicing and packing. Feel free to write back to me! I always love hearing from you!
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PS Do you want me to come to your city? Tell me and I’ll try to make it happen! (I don’t always know where people want me to go…) Also, if you’re curious about hosting a concert, it’s easier than you might think! Especially if you're in the US or Canada. Piece of cake.