Allow me to bring down the fourth wall.
I left home on September 7 with a simple goal in mind. Go with the flow. I have a brand new album in my back pocket that I spent months working on. A challenge in its own rite – a ton of material scrapped weeks before stepping into studio with my producer and now even closer friend, Jason Plumb. Months of preparation, playing songs on the road, the boys knowing there parts, only to have me break the news that we were going to go in a completely different direction. A concept album about the breadth of the human experience – some of the songs able to translate over but essentially start from scratch. A cosmic and spiritual event on December 9, 2015 left me with a world turned on its head. Still searching out explanations for the experience I felt the best way to find answers was to have my art imitate life. Everyone involved in the project gave me their trust and I will forever be grateful – our time spent together with an overall common goal and truth in that process has made myself, The Vultures, Melanie and her trio a tight family – and like any family, dysfunctional at times. But they all followed my lead and vision. The all managed my insecurities and recklessness, especially Melanie. A search that she remains by my side in.
Any other producer would have seen their role to get the product completed but as an artist, Jason understood my torment. We spent hours recording players and parts, only to scrap them – late nights and bunting heads. Arguments that put me in tears at the end of the day. I had never been a part of such a draining process. I tapped into the depths of my emotions, parental relationships, family issues, and personal dependancies to lay all vulnerabilities on the line, and out there for judgement. For as cathartic and healing as it was, it left me dry. All this, in and around parameters to stay true to a concept, sub-themes, and artistic integrity. It is my most truthful self-representation.
I’ve developed a map of how to release a record over the years. It isn’t perfect, in fact, it’s riddled with flaws. But throwing it all at a wall, seeing what sticks and having my nose to the grindstone has blessed me a modest support group, ticket purchasers, and a network of industry people that support my moves – but outside of my joint efforts working with Melanie, I’m still a lone dog in the game. For the fist time in years I chose to use my recording as leverage in building a team to take everything to the next level, share a vision, support vulnerability in art and day-to-day decisions. The years of hustling door-to-door has me confident in approaching people, so by relying on this I felt it was time to build that team. A contact event like Americanafest in Nashville seemed like a good place to start – I received the masters a week before leaving.
With a lull in our touring schedule, having started an intense summer on May 7 and working the road until the end of August – part of me wanted to take my five weeks off and help my family harvest. Fill the creative well and spend time with my mom, dad, sister Jody, brother Jarid, his wife Britt and two adorable nephews, Tucker and Clyde. But something was just eating at me inside to honour and instead of heading home for harvest, taking a weekend to fly to Nashville for Americanafest, and heading home, I allotted five weeks of freedom. I had Americanafest as an anchor but weeks before and weeks to follow I would find my creativity again through osmosis and see as many live shows as I possibly could.
As independent artists, we are programmed in this day and age to report back – Tweet, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Part of this is driven by ego – I was ‘here’ and you are not. However, it is an outlet for the growth of any artist’s brand and should be treated as such. With my decision to drive around the states, I was excited to unplug. But no indie artist can afford to neglect that instantaneous fix their followers desire so I thought I would commit to a few blogs. Take some notes in a couple of the live shows and share a vein of country music that is dear to me. Sacred, if you will. Then the first blog got shared.
For as confident as I am with songwriting, I’m extremely insecure about other forms. Longhand, essay, creative, blogging. It’s been instilled in me that I’m ‘too wordy’. My grammar is weak and I make up words. After suppressing this side of me for years I felt it needed to be approached head on so four years ago I began reading. An intense workout for that side of my brain. As many different styles and authors as I could take in. I had yet to still put myself out there with writing.
I followed up with a second blog on September 11. The intent, to pay attention to detail – a prevalent attribute to McMurtry, McCarthy, and Irvine. But nobody did it better than Donna Tartt in The Goldfinch. Little did I know that by developing this story about a conquest for Country Music and approaching my writing insecurities it was becoming a massive creative outlet. A side I hadn’t tapped into since March. I brought my guitar on the trip with the intent to write – it was replaced by my laptop. As the blog gained traction I also found its evolution into reading like a book with backstories and memoire-esque entries. All which I welcome and am excited about.
The Quest is still a thing and is being honoured. I’ve been frantically taking notes and attending amazing shows, meeting influential entities and still going with the flow as much as possible but now the responsibility of keeping up on the story in blog format is shaping my decisions in the journey. Where art imitated life, I find myself making decisions for the sake of how the story will play out in blog format. I’m three weeks ahead of the storyline and filling my time with typing in a coffeeshop in East Nashville before having to leave on Sunday for responsibilities with my band and partner, Melanie. I guess this is a small spoiler to the story, conflict with self.
I’m jumping back on the wind, friends – I have one more week in the state of Tennessee and will be astounded if it plays out wilder than my last few weeks. There are major developments in the Quest for Country Music, characters that have changed my life, truths I have recognized within myself.
I am committing to a dedicated amount of blogging time to continue the exercise of writing and moving through creative insecurities. I am committing to developing these entries into book format – I never saw it coming – these original entries will remain but an editing process and additions will find their way into a publishing. All based off this blog. This entry included. You are all getting my first draft in real time, uncensored and honest. Lastly, I am preparing the release of a record that I’ve never been more proud of – who will be a part of the release is still undetermined but regardless, its content is devout to the Spirit of Country Music, its my songwriting at its best. Its Bryce’s guitar, Steve’s drumming and Melanie’s voice in their truest form. My brother Chris Henderson and sister Megan Nash give the album texture. And Co-creator Jason Plumb proves why he is one of the most forward thinking producers in the country. We have local players from local bands – Saskatchewan being the most vibrant scene…well, internationally.
The Quest has become Spiritual. It’s become a battle and I recognize my role. Actions that I stand by may have been skewed from the original message and undoubtedly have affected my career and maybe even the career of others – namely my outspokenness about the quality of today’s songs driving the mainstream market – but I will remain true to my belief that no matter who has taken the hit, myself included, it can all be fixed with one thing.
A well written song.