#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.



#363 Don’t Quit

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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)

#355 Music +Film

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So I’ve been licensing my songs through The Music Bed for about a year now.  The last time i shared videos, they were specifically wedding videos. Most filmographers used my song “Time” b/c its a love song and the arrangement was fitting for wedding footage. You can see those videos here. I also shared the Brazil video that I am still most excited about to-date. The videographer used Promised Land for that one. You can see that here.

Well today…I came across a handful of new projects by videographers from across the Ocean! I found some cool footage of nature and architecture and wanted to share it with you. I think its awesome how music can somehow finish the story and help to tell it more fully. And I’m glad that each author of the below pieces decided to make my music part of what they captured. Im also excited by the fact that the music is being paired with projects that are filmed in other countries. For me, visuals fully complete the songs and give viewers the once unseen half of my music

And lastly, I also thought it was quite a coincidence that each of these videos’ creator was testing out new technology – Canon, Nikon, GoPro…etc. Pretty cool!

The Pantheon in Italy

An Underwater Exploration off the coast of Spain (my song starting at 0:52)

A hike up Peak Vihren in Bulgaria

Out in the Woods

#338 Jubiliscious! Changing the World One Passion at a Time!

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It’s that time of year again! Time when I get to spend a whole weekend with thousands of college students all across the Northeast and Midwest – praising God, listening to incredible speakers, and connecting with students! My favorite thing!

Jubilee has always been the highlight of my year during my last 5 years of involvement.  It is unique in the sense that it is not just another Christian Convention.  You would be terribly mistaken to think that. Jubilee is the one and only thing I’ve ever been to that encourages Christians to live outside of the Christian subculture bubble. It’s a conference that exposes students to new NGOs, challenges students to think outside the walls of the church, and brings in athletes, business men, artists, teachers, politicians, scientists, writers, and more to talk about what they are doing in the world.

It where I first heard about – the first ever micro-loan venture, it’s where I met Charlie Peacock, heard a compelling talk from Bill Strickland about education in America, learned how PNC Park was designed, and watched Emily Adams teach an Intro to Dance class.

Jubilee fuels me and keeps me going b/c I get to hang around and sit under the lecture from creatives from all different disciplines. It makes me remember that music-making can change the world. And so can other disciplines…that is, if people are passionate about sharing what they love with the rest of the world.

p.s. Jubilee is for student and adults alike. If you’ve got a FREE weekend, you can still register.

#333 Free as a Bird!

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Guess what! It’s February – the month of L.O.V.E.!
My dear friend Brittany and I have decided to team up and bring both of our talents to the table for all you ladies out there! And also for all you men who need a gift for your ladies :) This month we’re doing a special sale >>> my All or Nothing album + her handmade Clavicle Havoc Free as a Bird heart necklace.

Given that the album is made up of mostly love songs and that the bird/heart design perfectly corresponds with the album themes and artwork, I’m pretty excited about this!

Also, with this year’s Year of No Fear theme, the Free as a Bird design is especially significant to me. And as you know (or don’t know), Clavicle Havoc has an accompanying Scripture with each of its pieces. Here’s the one for this necklace:

“We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
The trap is broken and we are free!”
Psalms 124:7

The necklace will be available through Feb 28th. Each necklace is custom made and will include your choice of a black heart, silver heart or antique gold heart.

Last but not least, if you remember, Brittany was post #12 in this “365 Day of All or Nothing” blog. If you wanna know more about her and her art, check out #12 Clavicle Havoc.

Clavicle Havoc on Facebook
Clavicle Havoc on Etsy
Clavicle Havoc on Instagram

#297 Seriously though…what is art?

By | art, culture | 2 Comments

Imagine my lack of surprise today when I came across an article about “DJ” Steve Aoki breaking the news to his fans that he is not actually a DJ. To be honest, I have no idea who Steve Aoki is…even after reading the article. I only clicked on it b/c there was a photo of him with Kanye West…and on occasion I like to read articles about Kanye West b/c I find that I still somehow manage to be surprised when I hear about the things he says and does. That’s besides the point.

Anyhow, today Steve Aoki told his fans that he is not actually a DJ – that he has spent the last 15 years of his life (his whole adult life, mind you) pretending to be a DJ because he wanted to mock the music industry by confronting it with its absurdity.  The article, though said to be completely satirical, is intriguing. Aoki says, “I wanted to explore the fickle nature of popular music fads by devising a public and onstage persona that could push the bounds of ridiculous behaviour to an extreme and still manage to get away with it.”  Mission accomplished.

Aoki stated that as the years went by his onstage persona became even more and more ridiculous to the point where he loathed waking up in the morning only to face this version of himself that was not actually himself. “That’s always been the toughest part, seeing myself become this clown and never being able to say ‘Hey guys, it’s not real’.”

For me, this begs a very serious question: what is art? What counts as real? And are we being faked out every single day? This is something I think about alot. 

In 2011 I attended an arts conference in NYC hosted by International Arts Movement (IAM). It was the first time I had ever heard the term “generative” used in the context of art-making. The conference’s focus revolved around what it would look like to live in a world where art is truly original to the point of producing healthy offspring  (art begets art). We were challenged to ask questions like, “Is my art a clone? Does what I create bring life or death? Is what I have original?” We talked about music,  furniture, visual art, Ikea,  Walmart, and so much more. I didn’t know it at the time, but this conference significantly shaped my view of what I currently do (or believe I’m doing) as a singer/songwriter/performer.

I often ask myself whether many performers out there think they’re actually artists (I ask myself this too). Are they willing pawns or naive and unknowingly playing a game they never knew they signed on for. I know enough about the music industry to know that most of it is math.

x: make the song sound a certain way
y: find someone with sex appeal
z: spend $$$ on marketing. lots of $$$

Eventually you will have a hit single, top the charts, and you can have as many wrecking balls as you want (if you know the right people, of course). And in Aoki’s case, you’ll be able to to get away with absolutely anything!   “I kept adding more and more unnecessary vulgarity to the show, bright flashing lights, topless performances, silly hair, Indian headdresses, trampolines. I kept thinking that at any moment people would realise that this was no longer dance music but that it was an absurdist pantomine and the game would be up. But no-one has ever even suspected.”

“Even when I started throwing cake into the audience, which I intended as a not-so-subtle reference to the circus that my show had become, the audience just lapped it up. No-one thought to themselves ‘Oh look, he’s started throwing cakes into people’s faces like a f-ing clown, surely this can’t be legitimate dance music?’.”

I guess I’ve got alot of question here.  Did Aoki become a victim of his own creation? You’d have to think that after 15 years of living a lie a person eventually becomes that lie. I’m sure he asked himself the same question. But my ultimate question here is: How did we get to the point where its ok to have cake thrown in our faces? When do we wake up and realize that we are being duped?

This video should bring the point home. (Portlandia is stupid, though).

And if you need some edifying food for thought, here is Makoto Fujimura’s keynote speech from IAM’s 2011 Conference. This will be a breath of fresh air.

#276 The Process

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I missed going to this year’s International Arts Movement conference, so I’ve been catching up through the videos. Here’s a great one about the process of making art and why it’s more important than the art itself. I really appreciate this speech.


#222 Socks Puppets

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So over the weekend, 3 little girls (and their parents) helped me make puppet socks for an upcoming music video I’m working on. I can’t share much about the video yet, but I wanted to share the fruit of their labor. Their minds were so creative and we had so much fun! I think I’m in the wrong industry ya’ll! I should be doing thing with kids!

Anyhow, here’s my favorite two from the bunch. You can see the others hereSo much fun!


#202 Little Bits of Awesome!

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Today I started my tour with Brooke Annibale. This is actually a 2-week tour for me, but the first 4 days are with Brooke.  The day was a little exhausting because I got little sleep, left town 2 hours later than I had wanted, and arrived to the venue in a hurry. But nevertheless, there were some great moments in the day that reminded me of why I love touring so much. Here’s a little story book…

Twin Couple! I love these two! They’ve come to every Cincinnati show I’ve had since I started touring through the area 5 years ago. They drove an hour for tonight’s show in Dayton. I met them while playing a farmers market in 2009 and they came to the show at a coffeehouse I played later that night. And to top that, the following day, they came to other show I had in Cincinnati on the other side of town. They’ve always been my cheerleaders. I call them twin couple because they look sooo much like each other. It’s so cute :)


Portrait! This was drawn by and audience member, Brendan Higgans, during the show last night. He posted it on Twitter after the fact. I’m in awe of his talent and I love this! He’s got alot of incredible paintings that you can see here.

Warm Like Coffee. I love this picture of a dimly lit room room, packed in chairs, and attentive listeners. I love Ghostlight because it feels like a living room. This is both mine and Brooke’s second return to the area and its quickly becoming one of my favorite spaces to play in. There are bulbs hanging from the ceiling, excellent acoustics, and the front row is 5 feet away from the stage area. Brooke shot a similar photo (below). And here is a similar photo I took from my last time through.