Favorite Things Friday

This is a last minute addition to the blog today, but I’m basically copying and pasting something Andrew Peterson wrote on the Rabbit Room site a little while ago. Ben Shive is an artist that I manage but in reality, I’m just a fan of his staggering genius. If you click on the link below, you can read the full post and listen to the first track “Listen” on Ben’s new CD The Cymbal Crashing Clouds. PLEASE read what Ben wrote about the song and you’ll quickly realize that he’s no ordinary songwriter, but rather he’s a poet. An intentional poet.


A quote from Andrew:

“I’m pleased and proud to let you know that my dear friend Ben Shive‘s newest collection of songs is now available for pre-order and/or immediate download here in the Rabbit Room. These songs are quirky, brilliant, poetic, and joyful—and the lyrics are smack-your-forehead good. I’m being serious when I say that I don’t know of any songwriter on earth who could make an album like this—one with pop hooks, chamber strings, great sounds, intricate poetry, and on top of that, Scriptural allusions galore. As the proprietor of this establishment, I implore you to download this record (or pre-order the disc) and listen to it eighteen times in a row, as I did when I first heard it. Then sit back and thank God that there are true believers in the world who are using their gifts for the glory of the Giver.”

From Ben, about the song “Listen”:

“The first stanza describes a street in Brunswick, Maryland, where I stood at four in the morning waiting for a ride to the airport after a week spent working on the Carousel Rogues record. The imagery here is borrowed from the fourth chapter of Revelation. The cars clothed in white blossoms are the twenty-four elders. The row houses are the creatures covered with eyes. The box elder seeds falling are seraphim (“box elder” was also meant to evoke “elder,” but it didn’t sing well so I left it out). The opening line alone is an exception, with its reference to Moses hidden in the cleft of the rock, waiting for his own vision of the Lord. Together, these images are clues that the silent street may be more than it seems, and that the silence here is pregnant with the anticipation of some imminent arrival.”

See what I mean? You MUST go check this out. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for Him there. George Bernard Shaw

What man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back with a hinge in it. Charles Dudley Warner

We planted a garden. Or should I say, we planted some seeds in rows of dirt. What will become of it, we can only hope. If our results are determined by our efforts, then our grocery sacks will be overflowing, and our neighbors will be getting unsolicited bags of okra, tomatoes, and squash left on their doorsteps in two months.

We’ve planted before. The first house Katie and I lived in after we were married had a very small yard, so we built a three by eight planter and grew tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. It was modestly successful so when we found out about a free community garden in Thompson Station (the next town south of Franklin), we claimed a plot. We didn’t know at the time that the plot was 30” by 30”. Do you know how big that is? Go ahead. Get out your tape measure. That’s 900 square feet. Our condo is only slightly larger.

Saturday was planting day. We had a late hearty breakfast with some friends and around 1 p.m. made our final visit to the local hardware store for a few last minute supplies—stakes for marking rows, a trowel, some plant food, and 12-in-1 multi-tool. The latter had nothing to do with growing vegetation. I’m just a sucker for gadgets sold in the checkout lane.

By the time we made it to the plot, it was a breezy 81 degrees. We had sketched out a plan to begin digging rows for squash, zucchini, and cucumber. Katie consulted the sketch and jumped in with trowel in hand and went for it. Of course, according to our diagram, she was digging in the wrong direction. But I was so impressed by her enthusiasm that when I corrected her, I quickly recanted. It is insensitive to confine this woman to a plan. Plus, she had a trowel in her hand and trowels are insensitive to my head when thrown at it.

A dozen rows into the process and I was completely spent. The term “back-breaking work” applies very literally. I couldn’t bend over without being reminded of my own mortality. My legs were jelly and could barely lift me out of a squat. Thankfully, we met Dee and Ray (that’s them behind me in the photo below), two men easily in their 70s who were also planting that day. They’d already finished two full plots and were working on their third when we’d arrived. Dee was unkempt in most every way except that he had the most meticulously groomed moustache and beard. He wore giant brown sunblockers designed to fit over large eyeglasses. From a distance, he looked old and alien, but up close he was young-at-heart and familiar. His voice was slow and genteel, as if he’d been a country and western deejay in the 60s, or recorded audiobook versions of William Faulkner novels. Or both. We had a pleasant conversation about the weather, this year’s planting, and last year’s harvest. Finally, he offered me his hoe. I’m sure it was out of pity, but I was happy to accept. Now I could dig while standing and finished the rest of the garden in no time. Sometimes the best thing an older generation can hand the younger one are the most practical of gifts.

The next morning was Easter and I couldn’t help but think of gardening. How something dead is put into the ground and covered with dirt. And how that which was dead, comes back to life and bears fruit in a way that feeds us all.

Katie and I kept saying to each other, “I hope this works,” or “do you think this is actually going to grow?” For us, this feels a lot like Faith. I can’t make a seed grow any more than I can explain the mysteries of God. At some point, we have to stop and let the mysteries be revealed on their own. One plant, one miracle at a time.


Favorite Things Friday

It’s Friday and it’s only been since September that I’ve written…so you know what that means. You do, right? Favorite Things Friday where I get to tell you about all the things that matter to me these days. Let’s get to bloviatin’.

Ian just moved to Franklin a few months ago from Greenwich, CT where he was the founder and pastor of Trinity Church. These days he’s doing quite a bit of traveling and speaking, visiting colleges with his daughter, and working on his doctorate. Oh yeah, he also has a new book coming out in June called, Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and me: a Memoir of Sorts. I just finished it and, well, it’s staggering. For many reasons. He’s a new friend and has inexplicably decided to walk along beside me during this season of career change (more on that later). Which is awesome.

He’s a client, so I have to mention him…right? No, I don’t. Ben’s spent much of his time in Nashville as a session keyboardist and string arranger, but these days he’s working primarily as a producer. This is a crazy inspiring song from his first CD The Ill-Tempered Klavier, but his new CD will be out by summer. Keep an eye/ear open for it…or just check back here. Another staggering friend.

iPad 2
Honestly, I just wanted to brag that I got one. I’m typing this very sentence on it right now. Yeah, I was one of those people who set his alarm at 2:58 a.m. so I could be one of the first to order online when they went on sale at 3 a.m. CST. I withstood the good-humored ridicule of my wife the next morning, but I’m glad I went to the trouble. Apparently, three weeks after the release, there are still lines for the gadget. Truth is, it doesn’t do much more than the first iPad. A little faster, a couple of crappy cameras, and a tad thinner. But, it’s my first iOS device, so I’m giddy with excitement. And that’s sad.

Ok. With that, get after the weekend…but not before you get after the rest of your Friday.
BIG congratulations to my friend Zach Prichard who is working his last day at his corporate office job today. He and another buddy of mine saved Blue Like Jazz and now they’re working for themselves. Yessir. That’s pretty cool.


David as Elvis, Bono on The Psalms

I don’t know why I’m thinking about this today, but that’s good enough reason to post this.

Years ago (2004), a nearly forgettable paperback re-re-re-release of the King James Version Book of Psalms came out. What was mostly memorable about it was that Bono wrote an introduction to it. Of course he did. Well, say what you will about Bono, but for the most part I’m a fan. I don’t look to him for theological direction, but he makes me think about what I believe. In that respect, so does Marilyn Manson.

Anyway, I really liked his introduction, comparing David to Elvis and many of his Psalms to blues music. It actually helped changed the way I read Psalms.

The actual introduction is a bit Irish-wordy but I’ll copy and paste my favorite bits. Just a little Thursday morning inspiration for you all. Enjoy

Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of whack? How about the poetic versus the actual truth found in the scriptures? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome, known as the Bible, who claim to hear the voice of God?

You have to be interested, but is God?

Explaining faith is impossible.  Vision over visibility.  Instinct over intellect.  A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.

Words and music did for me what solid, even rigorous, religious argument could never do, they introduced me to God, not belief in God, more an experiential sense of GOD. Over art, literature, reason, the way in to my spirit was a combination of words and music. As a result the Book of Psalms always felt open to me and led me to the poetry of Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, the book of John.  My religion could not be fiction, but it had to transcend facts. It could be mystical, but not mythical and definitely not ritual.

My mother was Protestant, my father Catholic; anywhere other than Ireland that would be unremarkable. The “Prods” at that time had the better tunes and the Catholics had the better stage gear. My mate Gavin Friday used to say: “Roman Catholicism is the Glamrock of religion” with its candles and psychedelic colours; Cardinal blues, scarlets and purples, smoke bombs of incense and the ring of the little bell. The Prods were better at the bigger bells; they could afford them. In Ireland wealth and Protestantism went together; to have either was to have collaborated with the enemy, i.e. Britain. This did not fly in our house.

Anyway, I stopped going to churches and got myself into a different kind of religion. Don’t laugh, that’s what being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is, not pseudo-religion either. . . . Show business is Shamanism: Music is Worship; whether it’s worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire. The smoke goes upwards…to God or something you replace God with, usually yourself.

Years ago, lost for words and 40 minutes of recording time left before the end of our studio time, we were still looking for a song to close our third album, “War.” We wanted to put something explicitly spiritual on the record to balance the politics and the romance of it, like Bob Marley or Marvin Gaye would. We thought about the psalms …”Psalm 40.”  There was some squirming. We were a very “white” rock group, and such plundering of the scriptures was taboo for a white rock group unless it was in the “service of Satan.” Or worse, Goth.

“Psalm 40” is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma and love replace the very strict laws of Moses (i.e. fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me; now it is a source of great comfort.

“40” became the closing song at U2 shows and on hundreds of occasions, literally hundreds of thousands of people of every size and shape T-shirt have shouted back the refrain, pinched from “Psalm 6″: ” ‘How long’ (to sing this song).” I had thought of it as a nagging question–pulling at the hem of an invisible deity whose presence we glimpse only when we act in love. How long . . . hunger? How long . . . hatred?

How long until creation grows up and the chaos of its precocious, hell-bent adolescence has been discarded? I thought it odd that the vocalising of such questions could bring such comfort; to me too.


Favorite Things Friday

Busy week. Good week. I got home late Sunday night from Portland (more on that below) then left home again late Wednesday afternoon. It’s been a while since I’ve had such a short week at home. Needless to say, the days were packed. However, one thing stopped me in my tracks and, yes, brought some tears to my eyes.


Are you familiar with Arcade Fire? Well, they’re brilliant. Their new record The Suburbs is killing me. It’s a concept album about growing up (and so much more). Their new video/experiment was released with little fanfare but has been generating lots of buzz on Twitter and Facebook. The best way to describe it is an interactive video using Google maps and Google satellite imagery. Just go watch and participate. First, a few hints:

1. close every program other than your browser

2. Download Google Chrome (Google’s browser) if you don’t have it. You should get it anyway. It’s free, it’s fast, and works better than Explorer or Safari.

3. You’ll need the address of where you grew up. Don’t worry. They’re not collecting data. It’s what Google uses to make your version of the video personal (remember, the song is loosely about growing up).

4. Don’t expand any of the windows once it starts. Various windows will open and close as part of the experience. Just let it happen on your desktop.



Got in from Portland late Sunday night having spent an incredible weekend with old friends and making new ones. Here are some of these friends, old and new. I really hope this doesn’t come across as name-dropping. I’m a fan of these people too…so call it marketing.

DON MILLER – Don and I had a mutual mentor (David Gentiles) who introduced us several years ago. There are about 15 people I know that if I could, I would talk to every day. Unfortunately, two of them (Brent Abney and Don) live in Portland…about 2000 miles away.

MAT KEARNEY – He played an incredible sold-out show at Portland’s Aladdin Theater and was kind enough to put Don and me on the guest list. Being away from home is never fun. Being with good people and listening to great music made it worthwhile.

DAVE BARNES – I’ve known Dave since he was a fresh MTSU graduate. Like good, stinky cheese, he only gets better with age. That’s a compliment.

TYLER BURKUM – I met Tyler when he was only 18 and hitting the road with Audio Adrenaline. He’s married with three kids now and making music that splits my heart in two. He’s also playing guitar for Mat Kearney. This  isn’t a video…so just listen.

KATIE HERZIG – She opened up for Mat at the Aladdin. I had only seen her do two songs on the Ten Out of TENN tour, which wasn’t enough. Turns out, a 30 minute opening slot was too short too.

After the Aladdin show, we all went for some late late dinner/dessert at the Portland Food Carts at 12th and Hawthorne. Why doesn’t Nashville have this?

That’s it this week friends. The weather couldn’t be better for this L O N G Labor Day weekend. Go make the most of your time. Spend it with people who make your life richer and doing things that make you a better person.


I Want a Motorcycle

This morning, I was driving Katie to work and mumbled/sighed, “I really want a motorcycle.”

Katie: “Really? I didn’t know that.”

(this is not news)

Me: “You didn’t? Yeah, I’ve wanted one a l-o-n-g time.”

Katie: “Well, I’m living in Pretend World right now.”

…later, I’m dropping her off…

Katie: “I don’t know why I thought a sweater vest was a good idea. I’m burning up.”

Me: “Well, in Pretend World it’s very cold.”

Katie: (shutting door) “See you later, Matthew McConaughey”

Pretty funny. But, in pretend world, this exists (yes, that’s him and he’s riding one of those).

I really want a motorcycle.


Favorite Things Friday

There’s several other things I’d love to write about today, but it’s Friday…the day I decide to shove some opinions down your collective throats. However, since it’s been a year since I’ve done a Favorite Things post…well, let’s just say I’m a tad overstocked on some things, so let’s stop the typin’ and get to the hypin’.

THE DAYLIGHTS — it’s just impossible for me to express how I feel about The Daylights. Sure, they were groomsmen in my wedding. Sure, I’ve hyped them here before. They’re new single is called “Rogue Machine” (honestly, who writes songs called “rogue machine” anymore?) and is brilliant, as is Walter May’s video for the song.

Ok…one more. Not a more inspirational song out there. “Weapons” makes me cry, for so many reasons, but probably mostly because they sang it at a friend’s memorial. But honestly, it made me cry before that too.

Weapons by THE DAYLIGHTS – 09.14.10. (click the song to listen)

IRONIC PARENTING HIP HOP — I love creativity. I love absurdity. I love creative absurdity…and funny ridiculousness. These videos are all of that times a million. The first one was don’t by Church on the Move in Tulsa, OK for Father’s Day and the second one was done for the Toyota Sienna.

PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS REAL — No words. Just awe. I really hope this is real.

Until Monday, y’all be good.