GRATITUDE JOURNAL – Phil, Aaryn & Dylan

THE NEW INVINCIBLE CZARS – Dylan Younger, Aaryn Russell, Phil Davidson, me.

I’m writing this entry from the road on the best tour I’ve ever had.  I’m grateful beyond words for this but it’s not going to stop me from using some to express it.


There are several factors contributing the greatness of this tour.


A big one is the fact that we’re mostly playing venues/towns we’ve played before and setting it up and doing it has been easier than any ever before from a logistic standpoint – even the dates in Canada (and getting in/out of Canada.)  This has eased my mind and attitude on the road a bit. I’m not scared of our imperfections pissing off promoters.  They already know and like us and know that we’re pros.


Another factor is the audiences. I don’t know that we’ve played for more enthusiastic, responsive audiences than on this tour. Thank you if you’ve been among them. I’ve met a lot of really cool folks out here.


We beat our old single-night merchandise sales record – old record in Buffalo, new record also in Buffalo. That’s pretty awesome!


Mostly, though, it’s the line-up. I’ve taken to calling it The New Invincible Czars: Aaryn Russell, Dylan Younger, Phil Davidson and me.


I’ve never had as much fun on the road. Set up and tear down has never been so easy. Everyone knows how to set up their gear, the PA and how to troubleshoot. We’ve never powered through challenges (broken window, a few long drives, lack of organization and some unfinished planning on gigs and lodging by me, truncated load-out times, etc.) as well as this tour. We sound good and instead of little mistakes coming into the music, they’re more like intentional improvements.


For the first time, everyone wants to be on the tour. Everyone’s getting along. Everyone sounds good. I look forward to every single night. Ideas are accepted, considered, built upon. It’s the most functional team I’ve ever worked with musically.


Phil and I have been playing in this band together for 12 years. This tour almost didn’t happen but Phil had faith in what we do and in me. He’s always been flexible. He’s always taken my crazy ideas into consideration and sometimes followed me down rabbit holes when I’ve wanted to take an ill-advised risk. I guess there’ve been enough of those that turned out ok to keep him coming to practice. Thank you, Phil, for standing by me all this time.


Aaryn is a real road warrior and one of the most pleasant, fun people to tour with. One of the best moments on the whole tour was listening to …And Justice For All in its entirety with Aaryn riding shotgun as I drove. It’s been a long time since there was someone in the band who has many of the same favorite albums as me. Aaryn is supportive and appreciative at all turns. He’s connected, talented, flexible and has added more than just his musical skills to this tour. Thank you for joining the ranks, Aaryn.


It’s particularly hard to express my gratitude to Dylan. He drove down from Minnesota to do this tour without really knowing much about me or the band. He took a BIG leap of faith and I hope the rewards have been worth it for him. I feel incredibly lucky that I stumbled upon him in one my darkest hours. He’s taken on the very difficult co-star role (next to Phil) and done it masterfully and surprisingly quickly. When most people would’ve said, “good luck with all that,” to a desperate stranger,  he was friendly, supportive, willing to do tough work and enthusiastic. Thank you for taking this risk, Dylan.


All three of these guys have brought their A-game to this tour. They’ve brought every bit of fun, musicality and enthusiasm that they can. That is the best any bandleader can ask for. Thank you, guys, for joining my on this journey and for all the great moments, shows and lessons for me to learn.  If this isn’t nice, what is?

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – DAY ??? – The Culture of Sharing Useful Information

I feel extremely grateful to the countless number of people throughout history who figured out how to do something well or right, documented it and then shared it with others.


I suppose I could just say that I’m grateful for the scientific method – but its not the method I’m talking about here today, its  the people willing to use it and the fact that they share their findings in hopes that the next person to confront the dilemma or issue can skip a few steps, gain new perspective or just learn something new.


I think of it more like a culture of sharing useful information and it’s the people who exercise it outside their tribe (family, co-workers, investors, etc.) to whom I’m particularly grateful.


Sure, some of these people have made a lot of money helping others help themselves but most don’t.  The incredible volume of actually useful do-it-yourself instructional videos on YouTube that will never make any money for the creators is pretty astounding.


Why do these people do it? Maybe they thought their video would go viral or that it could lead to some other lucrative activity.  That doesn’t bother me. I believe that this is one of the seldom recognized great things about humans that’s easy to overlook in the 24 hour news cycle era.  I believe we’ve somehow incorporated the idea of helping the next person into our lives over the course of who-knows-how-long.


That’s not to say that all information out there is good.  It’s not. I’ve been into self-help books since I was about 24 years old.  A few great ones stand out including The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Feeling Good Handbook.  But for every one of those, there’s at least one Four Agreements or The Secret – books that enjoy popularity and have some good parts but mostly rely on subjective, spiritual mumbo-jumbo or pseudo-science as a basis for their teachings and/or, in my opinion, are less about truly growing and more about justifying irresponsibility (and making money for the author.)


But by and large, there’s a lot of good, useful information out there and in fact the concept of school and education is an outcropping of our evolved sense of helping the next person.


So the next time someone impatiently or angrily tells me when I’m doing something wrong or that there’s an easier or better way, I hope to take a step back and just thank the person for caring enough to set me on a better course.