Happy Year End, Folks.
At 67,000 miles per hour, we made another trip around the sun together. That right there seems like a mighty accomplishment shared. Pleasure to have been a part of it with ya.
I’m coming off an extended Christmas break with a small tour’s worth of mileage to show for it. From Provost, Alberta with my mom’s brothers and sisters to Tisdale, Saskatchewan with Melanie’s Grandmother (Laila Sady Johnson…which you will hear much more about with the release of Melanie’s new record) and finally down to the ranch in Kennedy to hang with my ma and pops, both sisters, and my brother’s little family. We had a new addition three months ago with his third son, Luke Jarid Riley joining the Berglund mix. I got into rolling dice (which will be a new tour pastime) and set a 1000 piece puzzle of Van Gogh’s works. Finally yesterday, I unpacked my bag and settled into the welcomed thought of somewhat staying home for the next six weeks.
I’m sure we can all look back on 2017 and shake our heads with how it provided an onslaught of, well, content. Whether it was the absurdities in politics, the passing of great musical icons, natural disasters, or the beautiful rise of people recognizing their voices in the name of good – a narrative developed that none of us were immune to, one that undoubtedly played into our personal journeys. It was tiring, let’s admit it. So tiring that we hardly batted an eye with The Pentagon finally releasing documentation of an extraterrestrial presence on earth. However, what a blessing to reach year’s end and feel like we developed grit. We’re tougher now. All of us.
I, for one, had more new people come into my life than many years passed. With a keen eye for symbolism and a belief system that leans on the idea of destiny, I saw all these relationships with an amplified sense of importance. Collectively, all those handshakes with strangers while I pitched them my “Jasper” album and what the funds were going to be used for – I’m still left blown away with the success of May’s door-to-door campaign. The generosity from a community that literally financed the launch of a record that had such personal importance to me. This theme of strangers coming into my life to become supporters and friends played right through the remainder of the year. What I dubbed the #May1000 campaign – the attempt to sell 1000 albums door-to-door between May 1st -31st resulted in a final total 1028. If you are reading this and were a part of that success, another deep thank you from the bottom of my heart. Truly.
With the album launch set for September 1, I moved into the execution of trying to have a release that was personal and artistic while leveraging a decade of experience as an indie. While mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, I stumbled across a low-budget video by Saskatoon band, In With The Old. The group itself carries a youthful quirk about them so the video’s low-fi appeal and strange storyline had me contacting band member, Jaxon Lalonde, at about thirty seconds in, to find out who was responsible for the production. He immediately sent me the contact to little jack films, in which I cold called, introduced myself and pitched doing nine music videos together. In under ten minutes, a major piece in the release of “Realms” was inspired and set in stone. As it tends to unfold in my life, random projects pop up that demand an area of creativity that is totally foreign to me – a video series takes that cake this year. A week here, a couple days there, all nighters, early morningers, on the road and off the road, we shot footage. “Pretty Good Guy”, “Crooked Old Earth” and “Heat of the Sun” were released, we have three in the bag and are wrapping up the remainder.
It was a year unlike any other considering the talent we shared stages with. The Dwight Yoakam crew treated us like gold but it was Marty Stuart and The Fabulous Superlatives that graced us with kindness, love and support during Regina Folk Festival. Hours of conversation throughout the day culminating to a final conversation without any words exchanged. Closing our main stage performance with “Word’s Gettin’ Around”, we were met in the wings by The Superlatives having watched our entire set – and in an act of response Marty stepped out on stage to a screaming crowd and played the 70’s solo to which our final song lifted its main lick from. A quick warm up in front of thousands was also him looking back at us grinning – “Don’t think I don’t know where that comes from, boys”.
The release of the new record following a summer of touring to promote its pre-release had it debuting at number 3 on the iTunes Country Charts and holding itself up there for a bit. A modest reward and realization of the hustle to come. I jumped in the van yet again with Bryce Lewis, Steve Leidal and Melanie (Belle Plaine) and we headed south, running business out of the back seat, minimal hotel rooms, an electric cooler keeping us eating healthy all wrapped up in a mighty road trip to get the good word out. Welcomed by countless musical communities all over America, it was Kentucky and West Virginia that found a way to sit among the most special in our hearts. As for Nashville, well, me and Nashville are getting along just fine – in fact, 2018 looks like it’s going to be split between pretty equal between Regina and Nashville (when not on the move.)
Finally, brother Colter extended interest in bringing his ol’ buddy Blake out on the road. As I joked from onstage each night – he’s as sweet as he is skinny. My initial tour to support the album release wrapped up on October 28 in Calgary, in which we left at 6 am on the 29th to make sure I made the first show with Colter in Montreal on November 2nd. little jack films was picked up on the way and we drove the red-eye to Quebec. If my “Quest for Real Country Music” in 2016 sparked a story worthy enough to capture readers with my writing then touring America with Colter Wall is as epic a tale. I took notes, lots. One crazy night after another with characters interesting enough for their own television series.
Road meditation became the go to alternative for rest and I continuously worked at my faith in 2017. That faith taking hard lefts and unexpected rights just when I felt comfortable with a concept, idea or belief system. I had teachers and guides present themselves and offer words of knowledge and encouragement. It was a year of releasing expectations and making it about the work. Through that, a trust developed that there’s already a game plan in place and all is falling into order like a screenplay unfolds.
I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kinda guy but there is the opportunity to project what December of next year could feel like. Seems like the idea of a better health gets into people’s heads this time of year – that’s speaking pretty loudly to me right now. The whole body being a temple thing. In the words of Socrates – “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” So there, I better get that YMCA membership activated again.
My Friends, I wish you a year a resilience. Let’s be kind to each other and move our fellow humans towards a path of enlightenment with compassion. Let’s listen to the stories of others and have empathy. Let’s understand that another’s differences, no matter how extreme, is an opportunity to have conversations of growth and understanding. I am grateful for all the support that was sent in my direction and hope that I can give a fraction of it in return to the world.
Bless y’all, make art, and kick ass. See ya on the flip side.
Ol’ Uncle Blake.