Growing up in Portland, OR, I have to admit I was oblivious to the rich muddy history of the Memphis Music scene with the exception of a vague awareness of Sun Studios and Elvis Presley, given to me by my father and his college degree from UC Santa Cruz in the history of Country and Western Music. So when I came to Ardent, referred to the lovely Rachel by my best friend and occasional tour partner, John Elliott, I had to admit I was incredibly taken aback by the eponymous albums hanging on the brick walls of the hallway down which I was stumbling, sleep deprived.
It was February of 2009 and the International Folk Alliance was exploding in the Memphis Marriott overlooking the deep and hungry Mississippi. I am in turns either a tornado, or a responsible and clean cut grown-up… while participating in this conference I tend towards the former, often staying up til 8am, drunk and barefoot in the hotel lobby with my dear brothers and sisters in arms; comrades who understand and also subject themselves to a meager living, the world through a windshield, small stages with (hopefully) quiet eager audiences, stranger’s sofas, and gas station coffee… all to play songs.
I found myself driven to Ardent by one of my heroes, Cory Branan, Memphis’s prodigal son and painfully brilliant songwriter. Cory gave me the quick run-down of who had wrung the very blood from their hearts into the red brick and blonde walls of Ardent Studios… I obviously had no idea what I was getting into. The faces of famous musicians watched me pass by as I walked to a room that has the warmth of countless voices embedded in it’s walls.
Weary, I played my heart out (a heart which had been recently broken and also just been stunned by the walls of Jerusalem two weeks prior) to an incredible sound engineer, Alan Burcham, the beautiful Rachel Hurley, and a few others. You can hear my voice crack like ice in a few tracks. It felt only natural to let it all go in that room. I am so grateful I got the chance to sing under the branches of that amazing family tree. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know anything about it before I set foot there, I probably would’ve been a bit more nervous.
I left feeling entirely more full than when I arrived. My deep appreciation to Ardent for capturing me in this moment… It is a true honor to be included in Ardent Presents. May it continue to bring the sweat and the blood and the spit out of people, in song form, that is.
I am writing this from the shot-gun seat of the 15 passenger van I am traveling in all summer with my band—Andrew Pressman on bass, Trevor Smith on banjo and Anthony da Costa (a fantastic songwriter in his own right) on lead guitar and harmonies. We are pushing my new album When May Came which includes many of the songs I recorded in my first Ardent Session.
Driving through the luscious hills of southern California, we just finished listening to Cory’s Ardent Session which was recorded in the hour after mine that same day. I sweet talked the engineer into mailing me a copy of Cory’s sesh in addition to mine. His recording has become a favorite among our friends. Shhhh!