Somewhere Stephen Hawking’s Laughing: The Year That Was 2019

Where to start with the year that was?

When I woke up this morning I thought I’d be inspired to write you a long rambling piece about the state of the music industry, El Duce to the south, how I got a handle on alcohol, how I almost died in a car fire, how and why I moved back home, the lost loves and the hopes to pivot and find permanent employment. First you get the money….oh you know the rest.

But instead I turned on my phone and became distracted with friends New Years Eve pics. Who did what? Who seems lonely? Who’s in love? Who’s a new parent? Who’s writing and performing new music? Suddenly two hours slipped by and I realized we are alike in that regard. You don’t have the time or inclination to read the ramblings of another middle-aged, white, male singer-songwriter – ‘shut up…you have nothing to say.’ I agree. (Then again, I’m still writing this missive).

Another year over and what have I done?
I’ve watched CNN / MSNBC and read WAPO and the NYT  a lot. Too much.

I know I’m living in my propagandized silo of media information. I’m a willing victim much like you are. I’ve been kind enough to keep my mouth shut and not voice my political opinions in polite society. I mean, what am I supposed to say? That Dana Bash, Rachel Maddow, David Axelrod and Jeffrey Toobin are my Beatles? (That must mean FOX pundits are The Stones – “at her feet was a footloose man!”)  That Agent Orange is likely to cause a civil war? I can’t say that.  I don’t know what to believe. My compass is broken. My phone just beeped. I’ll be right back.

As the year progressed, I became less and less interested in the panels of 12 angry men and women giving us their thirty second insights on prime time cable news. The FISA reports, Robert Muller, Putin and the end of democracy. Even though I know it’s Fascism 101 to have the public tire of double-speak – I tuned out and turned off.

I re-read Morley Torgov’s A Good Place to Come From. I subsequently met Morley.
I composed and entire suite of music based on a sleazy politician. Now I have to record it.
I read a lot about alcohol and it’s effects on society and families. I decided to limit my intake.
I finally forgave myself for walking away from a woman I cared for so deeply. That was big.
I went out and saw live music again. My occasional bass player Vivienne Wilder playing at the Tranzac in Toronto. Shakura S’aida killing it everywhere.

I picked up my guitar again. I started playing old songs from artists I used to listen to.
I revisited the five hundred CD’s in my collection from artist friends who I’ve met over a lifetime on the road. There are so many great artists out there trying to build safe spaces. Places for your mind to wander and relax…away from the madness that is the real world. Find them and if you can’t find them, just ask me for recommendations.

Then, on December 20th, during an annual holiday show in my hometown, my long time road partner Fid Zueff (D. Ranger Donnie Zueff) surprised me with gifting me his old banjo on stage. I was blown away. Literally the best gift I’ve ever received and I was so thankful. He taught me three chords and I wrote a song in twenty minutes. It’s the kind of song I can write in twenty minutes all day long every day. (Know that going in…)

Jay with his new banjo

So that’s about it for me this year. A year of major self-reflection and deep diving in and out of politics, literature and music. The first year I’ve not had to wake up every day and move on to the next show in the next town. (With the exception of a terrific 11 show run over two weeks in Manitoba and Saskatchewan). A year of signing on with my first record label: Fallen Tree Records. A year of working closely with a great manager Dan Greenwood who’s already applied to 80 festivals on my behalf. (Fingers crossed.) A year of introspection. No hardcore touring. No girlfriend. No partying. Wow. It feels strange but somehow necessary.

So what’s my resolution for 2020? Try to be a kinder person. I mean…really try. You know? Oh and find a job and settle down and get back to the basics of life. We’ll see.

I truly miss all of you out there. I really wish there was a way all 3000 of you could transport me to your backyards for another show and another conversation. I wish the musical climate was better and I could have made a living at this but alas…we all have to be realists. Remember the vow of poverty? I made it eleven straight years. I’m the richest I’ve ever been. It’s TRUE!

I continue to remind myself how fortunate I’ve been for the gift of music. For without music, I wouldn’t have met you and learned so much and felt so much love. I know who you are and I am rooting for you big time. Keep the faith. We’ve got this!

Happy New Year.



One response to “Somewhere Stephen Hawking’s Laughing: The Year That Was 2019”

  1. Happy New Years Jay
    Hope you find what your looking for, not an easy task ,but can be accomplished with time .
    Still enjoy your music.
    Donna Graham

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