Leaving Pittsburgh…

By | life, year of no fear | 5 Comments

2014-07-04 13.49.17

Dear Friends,

It’s with a bit of sadness and a lot of anticipation and excitement that I announce that I will be moving to Philadelphia at the end of this Summer. I actually don’t know where to start but I thought I should let you all know.

Earlier this year I felt strongly that things would be changing, but I wasn’t sure what that meant. I wrestled with the idea of leaving Pittsburgh but tossed the idea out pretty quickly for a number of reason. On one account, I’ve become accustomed to this routine I have – leave for a few days or a few weeks, come home and reconnect with friends, family and my church community, then leave again. It’s a back-and-forth that’s been pretty predictable and fairly comfortable all at the same time. Ironically it’s also incredibly unpredictable as every day on the road is different from the next. But somehow both lifestyles have found a way to work together while being polar opposites to each other. And in working together, they have become very comfortable.

I used to think being comfortable was a good  thing;  and I’m not saying that it’s not (we all have our comforts), but comfortable for me has become fairly stagnant and stale over the past few years. I’ve been in Pittsburgh my whole life…or at least the greater part of it (since age 5) and you guys have treated me so well – welcomed me with open arms and helped me grow as a person and as an artist. Pittsburgh is an awesome place to be an artist!!! The last time I listened to my first album I cringed. It’s so terrible!  I can’t even believe you let it see the light of day…and kept listening! haha!  Some of you have been around since Day 1 – as encouragers, committed show attendees, financial supporters, word-of-mouthers and so much more! So I owe much to the people, and music/art scene in this town for helping me to become better, for sticking with me all these years (9 in total) and helping me to get to the next level.

Which brings me to this so-called new Chapter:
I’ve never had a 5-year plan. Or a 10-year. Don’t think I ever will. I like 1-year plans. I like looking at the past 12 months, seeing how I grew, what I could have done better, and then making realistic goals to shoot for in the next 12 months. This year, I felt strongly that staying where I’ve been (in the literal sense) would keep me in a holding pattern. So it’s been a restless season, full of uncertainties and not knowing what’s next.  I still don’t know :)

The few people I told in advance asked me if I’m moving to Philly for the music scene, for a life change, or to be with my sister, Peace. My answer was Yes. Yes to all 3 – primarily and simply for change. But the fact that my sister lives there sealed the deal (we’ll be living together). Regarding music: to be honest, I don’t really understand how the music piece fits into my life. It has always seemed like a foreign object that just set up shop in my life…and so somehow I let it stay. I still, believe it or not, feel like a fish out of water. I still don’t feel like a musician. I still don’t know why I’m doing music except that it is the gift God has given me to share with those around me. And at this point in my life I have become completely ok with it being just that. I am always expecting it to change. I am always expecting it to someday not be there (or at least to change its form in my life). But for now it is still around and so I am going to do it the best that I can! So if you thought I was going to announce a career change- that’s not happening…yet…or anytime soon as far as I know! :)

Aaaall that to say, being in Philly does make being a musician alot easier. I don’t have to be on the road for 2 weeks at a time because DC, Lancaster, Baltimore, NYC…etc are all 90 minutes-to 2.5 hours away instead of 4-7 hours.  That’s a huge perk. But of course I will still be traveling to the Midwest and going down south, so there will be long tours on the books as usual.

For years I told myself that I would/could never live in Philadelphia. The traffic alone was enough to make me pull my hair out! And the people…well they aint Pittsburghers (but you didn’t read that here)! hehe. But I guess I’ll just deal! :)  I honestly wish I could say that God told me to go there. I’d feel more confident about the move if that were the case. But I’m just making a move and trusting that he will honor it and keep opening doors.  I guess that’s how it works, right? You can either stay put and stick to what you know or venture out and discover all the possibilities. You’ll never know what you don’t know unless you get out of the box!  In any case, I strongly believe Philadelphia is just a stepping stone. Definitely not the end game!

Last but not least, deciding to move was especially hard when i thought about Samuel & Emmanuel – my two 4-year old recently adopted brothers who have become the light of my life.  I won’t lie – I’ve shed alot of tears on that one and if there’s anything that would make me change my mind, it would be them.. But I’ll be passing through Pittsburgh as much as possible  to stay connected. And i should also mention that I will of course be swinging through Pittsburgh for occasional shows.

And so…
If you are in Pittsburgh, thank you for the part you have played in my life over the years.
If you are in Philadelphia, I’m looking forward to getting to know you better!
If you’re somewhere else, I’ll see you on the road!

That is all.
With love,


p.s. one final shows in Pittsburgh before I leave! Its free and with the band
AUG 21: Rodef Shalom Garden Party!



#365 Days of Eeeeeverything

By | art, beauty, culture, Faith | 2 Comments

Everything Matters

When i set out to write 1 post every day for 365 Days, I wasn’t sure why. Honestly, no one was holding a gun to my head, and it’s not like I was bored. I was already very sleep deprived and had plenty of other things on my plate. But I knew I wanted to talk about things that I never get a chance to talk about in 4-minute songs, 1-hour concerts, or 140-character tweets. And when All or Nothing (the album) came out last year, I kept getting this nagging feeling to share the themes of the album by telling the stories of other people living out those themes. I also wanted to talk about the intersections of faith, art, and culture within that context. 

For the first month, I was pretty consistent. 1 post every day meant staying up a bit later (i think clearer at night) or cutting out other activities to get the post up by 2am-ish so people would see it first thing in the morning. And within the first week I noticed that writing about “All or Nothing” (or AoN as I like to call it) made me see it everywhere I went. Sorta like how you start to see Honda Civics everywhere when you’re shopping for a Honda Civic. I started noticing things about how people work: like the difference between someone who cares about their job vs. someone who doesn’t. I wrote posts like #4 – about people in my life who were stepping out on a limb and becoming Entrepreneurs. I wrote posts like #47  –and #327 about absolutely terrible days on the road when i just wanted to quit. And I posted song lyrics like #287 – by artists whose music has profoundly shaped my life and young music career. I even talked about my favorite food chain (Chipotle) in #116 and why their business model has made them as successful as they are.

Over the course of the year I came to wholeheartedly appreciate and write posts about small business owners whose venues I was playing in (#326), and everyday people who never get recognized for the wonderful things they’re doing in their neighborhood (#334). And then of course there were posts about those people who cared a little too much…to a fault (#26). Prepare yourself  :) I wrote a Eulogy for my Honda CR-V (#114) – the one I killed due to overuse and bad maintenance. And then I wrote a much more serious Eulogy for my late older brother on what would have been his 35th birthday  (#200).  I learned and shared how to love (#342) and also talked about challenging art (#126), challenging movies (#318), and the challenge of making meaningful music (#297).

Was it worth it? Yes! I mean on one hand, I was getting much much less sleep (still bitter about that) and I spent hundreds of hours maintaining this blog. As in hundreds! I was committing to 7 posts every week, not to mention the 2 posts I was writing each week for my marketing blog, Grassrootsy. I was, staring at my computer screen even more than I’d already been, and I often felt completely depleted of energy and creativity by the end of the day. I suffered most in my songwriting. I only wrote 1 song last year. Yes…1 song! And I stopped journaling for myself. I also began to get confused between what was worth writing about and what would be a waste of breath. Ultimately I started to skip days and post less frequently. This blog could actually be called “415 days of All or Nothing”.

Regardless of all that, YES it was worth it! This last year of writing has been one of the most rewarding and worthwhile endeavors I’ve ever burdened myself with. For one thing, it brought tons of traffic and new fans to my website! hehe :)  But more importantly it has made me see people and art in a whole new way. It has made me a better writer, and, based on emails and comments, it has hopefully touched the lives of its readers. As I kiss this 365-day blog goodbye, there is one thing I am absolutely sure of: What we do matters. How we care for others, how we spend our time, how we choose to use the talents God has given us…it all matters.

The Glory of God is Man fully Alive.



#364 Overholt

By | music | No Comments

It’s Music Friday!

I’m coming to love this weekly feature more and more because there are so many wonderful artists to share! Last week while in Harrisburg, I had dinner with some folks who came out to my show that evening. It was only later that i found out that Trey Overholt was holding out on me!! It’s always the humble ones that are good! Anyhow, he gave me a copy of his CD at the end of the night and I listening to it on my drive back to Philly. I love it! The album is creatively abstract while still maintaining a singer/songwriter thread throughout its entirety. His stuff could easily fit into the folk genre (for live performances) but he does a little bit of experimentation on the album that easily makes him a cross-genre artist. And the project is also super cohesive! This is my favorite song off the album. I’ve also include a video whose song I absolutely love because of the story.  En*joy*

#363 Don’t Quit

By | art, life, touring | No Comments

Welp folks! I believe we’ve seen the last of the cold and snow and it’s finally feeling like Spring. Today I wrap up my month-long tour and settle back into Pittsburgh for the whole month of April. It has been quite a month and definitely the most rewarding experience I have ever had on the road. So grateful for all the friends I’ve made, all the places I’ve been, and all the people who came out to support. Words simply cannot express how thankful I am. This year I’ve really begun to see the fruit of seeds that were planted years ago: new doors opening, better opportunities, and goals being met. It’s like trees are finally growing and things are blooming. And i’m so very excited about the future!

While on one of my friend’s Instagram today, I came across this photo (below) and it felt so appropriate. It felt like a great way to wrap up this tour and begin what is hopefully the next chapter. Don’t quit. Don’t ever quit!

(via Amena Bee)

#362 NOAH: a review

By | movies, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Let me first say that I was conflicted about seeing this movie for one and only one reason – I didnt want to waste my money on a movie that wouldn’t be worth a $12 ticket if it turned out to be a waste of my time. Secondly let me say that i have no problem watching movies that are deemed “unsafe” by Christian media critics and reviewers. But third and most importantly, I absolutely do not enjoy watching a movie that is inaccurately advertised and promoted as a means to make a quick buck off of its target audience despite the fact that it is lacking in quality and content. And this is how I start my review.

It’s hard to write this review from a completely unbaised perspective -after all I am a Christian who believes wholeheartedly in the sovereignty of God and the validity of the Bible. But I also wanted to watch the movie as someone who loves good art, is an avid movie-goer (and critic of sorts) and has a solid grasp (I feel) on the intersection of faith and culture.

There are two ways to approach this movie:

1.) from a strictly artistic point of view: Is the movie entertaining, well-made, and creative?
2.) from a Biblical perspective: Does the movie honor the text, reflect Biblical truths, and care to show context in order to give viewers a better understanding of the story it claims to be based off of?

Artistically, NOAH is “ok”. Just ok. I suppose if Russel Crowe agrees to star in a movie you can expect that there’s going to be some kind of standard. It looks great, has a good plot, has a good guy (Noah), a bad guy (the King of the land), great acting, mini subplots, and a little bit of action. I was however annoyed with the National Geographic-like stock footage used in certain parts that pulled you out of the movie and made it feel more 21st-century at moments. The movie also opened with about 15-20 minutes of back story that was completely unnecessary and distracting. In fact, I can barely remember what those first few minutes were about. I do however remember an incredibly cheesy start that made me feel like I was in the wrong theater and had perhaps signed on to watch a Flintstones movie. When the movie finally got into the crux of it, you might as well have arrived late. You wouldn’t have missed anything.

But as you’d expect, I have much more to say about the Biblical accuracy of the movie. Before heading into the theater I read the story of Noah (Genesisb 6-9) so it would be fresh in my mind, and then re-read it once again when I got home. I’m someone who thinks that creative license is absolutely necessary in order for a good movie to be great. Subplots, sideplots, extra characters, dialogue that may or may not have actually happened. All of that stuff is fair game.  But it’s really hard to appreciate a movie for its artistic liberties when you feel it takes advantage, misrepresents, and misinterprets the very story it claims to be about. And I felt this movie did the story of Noah a huge injustice. I would even go as far as saying that this movie is not the story of Noah – its just a movie about a flood and a highly dysfunctional family.

To me, the biggest surprise was the molten-rock Transformer like creatures who were introduced early in the story. They were described as fallen angels who lost favor with God and ultimately decided to help Noah build the ark in order to regain His favor.  The clunky rock creatures just don’t fit and introduce a sci-fi element into the movie that seriously makes you wonder if Shia Lebouf plans on making a guest appearance. At the end of the movie the rock giants explode in battle and return back to God.

The other huge surprise for me was the fact that the King of the land (don’t know his name) made it onto the Ark as a stow-away and while in hiding began eating the animals to regain strength so he could kill Noah. Ham, Noah’s son, was in on the plan and helped hide the King. Later on he does eventually try and kill Noah but fails and ultimately dies. But you know who doesn’t make it onto the Ark? Noah’s Daughters-in-law. Yup. Ham and Japheth do not have wives. In fact, Ham almost gets a girl but she gets stampeded by a crowd as they try and get on the ark. But if you did want to stretch your imagination you could technically say that their wives were on the ark – after all Shem (the oldest son’s wife) was pregnant with twin sisters (as we discover later).  So that could be considered creative liberty.

Inasmuch as the above storyline changes are deal-breakers for me, they pale in comparison to the biggest deal breaker for me – the underlying message that God does not love people or care about them. Now, as a Christian the story of Noah (the version that you read in the Bible) is a tough one. God makes man, God sees the corruptness of man due to the entrance of sin, God annihilates man so he can start over with a clean slate. No matter which way you cut it, its hard to be ok with thousands of people dying. Its just hard. But If I were God (and I’m not), and I remembered the beauty and perfectness created in the Garden of Eden and my hopes and dreams for a race of people who had no knowledge of corruption, murder, pain, or sin of any kind…if I were working off of that premise, starting over would surely be easier for me to wrap my head around.

In any case, there is a running theme through the movie that God has no interest in the affairs of man and that man must take his destiny into his own hands. In fact, Noah decides not to find wives for his younger sons because he strongly believes God doesn’t want that. He later “hears” from God that he must kill Shem’s twin daughters in order to ensure that the human race dies off and is discontinued forever. The movie never once addressed God’s holiness and his desire for man to also live holy. In fact, if I were to give my two cents, I’d say God was actually the real “bad guy” in this movie.

Like I said earlier, every movie, even those based off true stories, has the right to exercise creative license. But like I also said, there’s nothing I hate more than false advertising – especially if it involves making a quick buck off of a specific demographic. And when Paramount puts this disclaimer at the end of its radio promotions, “we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide I expect to go to the movies and see a film that stays true to the essesence, values, and integrity of the story of Noah. BUT this did not happen and I’m pissed off. But they got what they wanted – they got my $12 and I’m not getting that back.  



#361 Joel Ansett + Jasmine Tate

By | music, people, touring | 2 Comments

Yup, it’s Music Friday!

Jasmine Tate + Joel Ansett are no strangers to this blog. I’ve shared their music in past Music Friday posts. But today I wanted to drop a note and ask you to seriously familiarize yourself with their music and mark the above dates in your calendar for when they’re passing through your city.

These two are so special to me and they are going to change the world with their music!  If you are a homeowner and are open to welcoming them for a house concert contact them via the above links. If you have a local coffeehouse, venue, or art center in your community that is willing to host them, please reach out and book them. I’m nearly certain they will have an open date or two that YOU can help them fill! In fact, here are their email addresses so you don’t make an excuse for not knowing how to get ahold of them :)  [email protected][email protected]

And lastly, here is a sneak peak of the music goodness you’ll get in return.

Happy Music Friday!

#360 The 3 Most Influential Independent Artists in My Life

By | beauty, music, Uncategorized | No Comments

Well, even though its not quite over, im kinda already mourning the end of this blog.  I’m on post #360 of 365 Days of All or Nothing. And while I’ll continue to blog occasionally, I do feel like I only have 6 posts left that really count. So today I was thinking about things that I really want to share in the next 6 days. And this post was one of them.

Given that the blog is is all about sharing original ideas and people who are doing their own thing unapologetically, it only makes sense to share the 3 artists who have impacted me the most (in no particular order). No doubt i have already referenced each of them at least once over the last year.

Josh Garrels

There are certain voices that sound like they’ve been lived in – like they’ve been through something  and lived to tell the story. And for me that’s Josh Garrels. I dont listen to Josh Garrels just because I like his lyrics or his music. I listen to him because his music actually puts me in a completely different place. To me his music is like a life-long voyage on a ship. I often envision myself staring into a huge sea and daydreaming about the life I’ve left behind and where I’m going. His music for me is nostalgic and reminds me of past loves. I think listening to his stuff makes me feel like im still connected to those past things.


It might sound funny to say that, of these 3, I identify most with the hip-hop artist. But it’s true. I’ve been following B.Reith for what feels like a very long time. His story is one of trial an error,  big doors and even bigger dissapointments, hope, dreams, and the whole nine yards.  And he shares it all in his music.  I love B.Reith because of his honesty. His music is an open door into the life of pursuing your passion and I have listened to his music and often been overwhelmed by the beauty of a genre I dont often indulge in. There isnt any other artist I think about and pray more for than B.Reith because I know his voice is absolutely important to my generation. And I am just asking God to pour out more and more into his life so he can continue to share his beauty with the world. Here’s my favorite song of his.

Brooke Waggoner

From her very first album, Fresh Pair of Eyes, Brooke Waggoner had me hooked! She was one of the first artist I truly attached myself to and “studied” to learn how to craft a beautiful song. The thing that mesmerizes me most about her music is how equally simple and complex her music is. The core of her songs are seemingly uneventful but they lay a solid foundation and build so beautifully with her swooning vocals, lush string arrangements, and intricate piano solos. It’s so beautifully cinematic! Brooke Waggoner’s music is what made me fall in love with strings and I’m certain I can blame her for heavily contributing to who I am as an artist today :) It was hard to pick my favorite of hers, so I thought I should choose the first song I ever fell in love with.


#359 12 Rules to Live By

By | life, Uncategorized | No Comments

Since i just created 10 Rules to Live By for the Independent Artist on my Grassrootsy blog, i thought I’d do one for this blog. It seems pretty fitting given that this 365 Days of All or Nothing blog is nearing its end. Anyhow, these have become some of the major things I’ve taken away from this past year.

Don’t Settle

No matter what! Don’t settle with a job that you “like” but don’t “love”. Don’t settle for a guy or girl who isn’t “the one”. Don’t settle for anything.

Be Adventurous

Takes risks. Life is meant to be lived fully. If you try to stay safe all the time, you’re not really living. The glory of God is man fully alive!

Enjoy your food!

Food is so yummy! Try new things…especially when you’re in new places. And most importantly, eat with other people. It only makes the experience better.

Speak Softly and carry a big stick!

Careful what you say. Careful how you say it. Speak in love. But make sure they hear you. That’s where the big stick comes in :)

Be Yourself

It takes a lot of effort trying to be someone else. That’s why you’re you. Stop trying so hard.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect

When we live in a culture where image is everything, its easy to forget that no one is perfect. The grass is hardly ever greener on the other side.


Let your principles and morals govern your success. Not the other way around.  And let your reputation precede you.

People are more important than goals

This is always true. If you start to step on people on the way to your top, it will be lonely when you get there.

Less talking is always better

Stop talking so much.  You might be in love with you own voice but no-one else is.

Know who you can trust

Be careful who you share personal information with. If your friend is gossiping to you about someone else. You can be sure she’s also gossiping about you to other people.

Go to bed with a clear conscience

If you think you messed up or hurt someone, apologize. Guilt sucks.

Treat Everyone with respect

The golden rule basically solves every problem on the face of the earth. It’s a shame that the simplest principle is the hardest to live by.



#357 Teamwork!

By | little epiphanies, touring | No Comments

If I were to base my opinion of NYC solely off of yesterday’s experience, I would tell you that I LOVE New York City!  If you know anything about my past experiences there, you’ll understand why that’s a pretty huge statement coming from me. Especially if you take a few minutes to read post #47: “Trouble“. I wrote it almost exactly one year ago to the day!

my neighbor, Rachel

But yesterday was special indeed. and it reminded me of something I already knew – no job is too big when you have many workers. Upon arriving in New York, my friend Andrew and his girlfriend Alexandra had me over for an early dinner. After dinner we were running late to the venue and Andrew took my keys and offered to drive so I could focus on contacting the venue about my delay and making a few other last minute connections. Andrew helped shave 10 minutes off the GPS time and got us to the venue in time for a soundcheck  (20 minutes before doors opened). Upon arriving to to the venue, Alexandra hopped out with me and helped me load in while Andrew helped me park my car. And Rachel – my neighbor who lives 10 houses down from me in Pittsburgh and was coincidentally in NYC for the weekend- arrived to set up and run my merchandise table.

The only thing I had to do last night was soundcheck, tune my ukulele and pick a set list. And when i got on stage, I felt more stress-free than I have felt in a long time. Up until today I’ve never fully realized how doing everything has taken a toll on me and kept me from focusing on the main thing. It distracts me and keeps me from playing well, fully connecting with people, and  feeling like I’m operating in the moment. I’m so used to wearing so many hats and thinking about what comes next so that everything can flow smoothly.

Alex and Andrew

Anyhow, I told Andrew, Alexandra, and Rachel that I feel so indebted to them for making last night run so well. They told me that I didn’t owe them anything and that they enjoyed being there. And i decided that I need to stop being afraid to ask people for help and feeling like I owe them something when they do offer their time. Most times people feel rewarded simply because they get to be a part of the big picture. Anyhow, here’s to Andrew, Alex, and Rachel!  I honestly don’t know how I could have done yesterday by myself. Thank you guys so much!