Something amazing and terrifying happened to me as I entered into my 30s. I realized that I had run far off the course of my scripted plans, my projections for who I'd be, what I'd be doing, and how it would feel at this point. Then, the realization the mapped trail couldn't be recovered. A hound without a hunt, I was captured by unfamiliar woods far from earshot of the original game and players. Untethered by marriage with a scrap pile of maternal designs that never took root, I found myself forced, thank goodness, to let go.
The pageantry of over-identifying with past experiences and old ideals had ended. In review, I found that life's unfolding had exceeded my most elaborate visions while other hopes had slipped into ruin in the clasp of my determined hands. Meanwhile, a new meekness and curiosity made all of my experiences sacred and overwhelming, something akin to a reverent depression. Desire was quieted in my heart, and I was uneasy in the cool of my newness, wondering what I really wanted to do next.
When the label suggested that I consider working with Larry Klein, my entire focus shifted with a warm shrug, "Why not? He's produced some of my favorite records." Within a few conversations I had found plenty of reasons to trust the voice on the other end of the line. I knew that I was respected for my potential and achievements, and he wasn't new to dealing with strong women. Another shrug, "Why not?" I had plenty to sing about now, a heart cracked open by disappointment, a will broken by the truth. I was ready for a new project, the kind of baby that I knew how to make.
It was suggested to me initially that I make a record of covers. It was the very moment my hard head became bent on writing my way out of my valley, no matter how hard or long I'd have to work for it. I'd count my steps and tell stories until I met the ridge line without borrowing anyone else's view. This was not my hour to cover, but to uncover, and hopefully, the reveal would be worth something. I trembled in the wait for my own revelation.
I scurried around the country (Nashville, New York and LA) to have collaborative conversations with old and new friends. I remembered how to just sit with people and talk, even though I was on a schedule and budget. We all spoke like we were on Grandma's porch, but the work got done. To my delighted surprise, much of this record was written with Larry himself.
My average day of preproduction with him looked like: A sunrise run and swim at Santa Monica pier, showing up to his studio sandy, salty, and red faced, talking through beautiful rambles with him and David Batteau while high on espresso. Then we'd get snagged by a soulful riff from Larry's acoustic bass guitar as he noodled along (seemingly) aimlessly. Often a story would present a hook and we'd return the next day with responses. This felt like an old and dignified pace of work, but also kind of risky. However, I looked up after a few months of these weeklong neighborly sits and real songs were following us, a train getting longer, each car intact and connected as we rolled on.
In the evenings I listened to demos of the budding songs on my phone as the sun set over the Pacific. I could see them, unmade movies. The tide of communion would pull back and the shining pieces left could be made into anything. This is when I knew that I had, in these mosaic sessions, stumbled upon a new page of my life.
I remembered the feeling of being found. One of the most moving songs from it's inception was, "Somewhere Down the Mystic." Playing on the simple wonders of my rustic Appalachian life, we imagined a love lost to death and the feeling of it's lasting warmth, a nod to love's reach across life's threshold.
Months later, on February 20th, I had a near death experience, sliding across 300 yards of ice coated mountain curve. I softened my body and rested my hands in my lap. The heavy car floated silently towards a 75 foot ravine that ended with a wide band of frozen creek. "Ok" was the only thing I could get out in a sigh. I was stopped by a young bellwood tree that grew out of the bank like a hook. I slowed my breathing and meditated in suspension. About 20 minutes later, a young neighbor pulled the door open, reaching in with a strong arm to guide my climb out. Now when I sing the chorus, I see the gracious hole and the sweet sapling that grows over it. It threw me back, a fish returned to the river with a cut lip.
The pink bells of the tree can be seen on my homepage, and I want to keep such simple things close from now on. Why not? They were strong enough to save me. In surrender I experience freedom. The gift of an end is a beginning. I greet the sun with the only reason I've ever needed, "why not?"