RIP Chris Cornell

In 1992, I had a page cut out of a magazine hanging on my wall with a picture of Chris Cornell onstage with Soundgarden, and the caption, “It takes a big heart and a healthy set of lungs to be the voice of a generation.”

This one hurts a lot.

Chris Cornell pretty much got me through high school. That he took his own life after giving hope and solace to me, and people like me, for thirty years…it’s just, it’s is a fathomless loss.

I saw Chris perform with Temple of the Dog in Los Angeles in November. He was magnetic and playful and sounded unbelievable. I didn’t expect him to sound as good as he did post-50, and post so many years on the road and everything else. It was kind of breathtaking.

My heart breaks for his many bandmates, and his family, especially his kids. 18 months ago, he performed Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” with his daughter Toni, and it’s wonderful, but highlights what a loss today represents.

When I started Sci-Fi Romance, people asked me what we sounded like, and I always told them, “You ever hear that time Johnny Cash covered Soundgarden? Like that.”

I have performed one of Chris’ songs — Temple of the Dog’s “Wooden Jesus.” But nobody can sing like he did, so I changed it up. Doing a shitty cover where I tried to ape a legendary voice didn’t seem like any fit way to pay respect.

Peace, Chris. You are missed already.

 

A Letter to Trump Voters

You won, and everybody in America wants to know what happens next

It always feels good when your side wins, and you won big. You now control the White House, both houses of Congress, your guy will appoint potentially several Supreme Court justices, and you’ve got a big lead in state governors and legislatures. You’re in charge.

But a lot of Americans are really, really worried, and they have a right to be. The president-elect said a lot of really divisive things on the campaign trail to get where he is right now. And I heard a lot of you on television and radio saying, “I don’t agree with *everything* he says.” Maybe you voted for him because of economic issues, or because you wanted to throw a brick through the windshield of status-quo electoral politics. If that’s the case, I don’t understand personally why you sent so many incumbents back to Washington, but it’s your ballot.

Now that you are in power, I ask you to use that power wisely.

One reason why so many people are so scared right now is because maybe you don’t agree with “everything” the president-elect said on the campaign trail, but folks don’t know which parts you like and which you don’t. When people listen to 59 million Americans saying “Make America great again, like it was in the 1950s,” they don’t hear “…when there was a strong middle class,” they hear instead, “…when we had Jim Crow laws and African Americans had to use separate facilities.” A time when minorities needed a Green Book to know how to simply stay safe on family vacations. For millions of survivors of sexual assault, having a president who says of women that “You have to treat ’em like shit” feels like an existential threat. For people who simply believe in America, the idea of throwing our political opponents in jail conjures Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany. And these people are not wrong in hearing those things in the president-elect’s words. Those are, in fact, the same things those dictators said, and people who lionize those dictators supported the president-elect and voted for him, just like you did.

Paul Ryan himself described some of the president-elect’s comments as “the textbook definition of racism,” and in less than 48 hours since the election results were announced, the country has seen swastikas spray painted on schools, students lining up to threaten their fellow, Hispanic students with deportation, and strangers verbally attacking minorities in public. So people have legitimate, founded-in-reality reasons to be worried.

If you don’t agree with that kind of behavior, you have to stand up and be a voice against it, too. You must, and right now. Today. If your kids are chanting “Build That Wall” at their classmates or telling Black students to go back to picking cotton, you need to sit your kids down right now and get some things straight with them. Because your silence is an endorsement, and it’s terrifying to the people who believe America is better than that, and whose lives are now under open threat.

There are a lot of eyes on you now. Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You must be vigilant. You must make sure that those incumbents you sent back to DC stand up for what is right, and speak up against disenfranchisement, and bigotry, and hate speech, and you must raise your voice to guarantee that is never again enshrined in the laws of this country. You need to prove the fears of millions of Americans wrong. Please. You must do this.

Because I also heard a lot of you say about the president-elect that, “he tells it like it is.” He empirically does not tell it like it is. This is a fact. It is not how I feel, or how Hillary supporters feel, it is a fact. No matter how much you dislike the man, President Obama was not born in Kenya and is not a Muslim. Those are simply untruths, and it’s up to you to hold this man who has said all of these things to a higher standard now that you have elected him to the Presidency. You must hold your Senators and Representatives to that standard, as well. You must seek out the truth, and not settle for hearing reinforced what you only believe to be true. We all have to do this.

And if your elected leaders don’t live up, you’ve got to get them out, regardless of party. Remember that when Republicans got carte blanche in Kansas, it didn’t go very well. Like Stephen Colbert said, for too long we’ve been “worrying about winning and not what the consequence of winning is.”  Nobody can wave a wand to bring jobs back, and reality is fluid. You can’t step in the same river twice, and the time for some things, some jobs, certainly, has passed by and will not return. We all have to figure out the future and adapt together.

All eyes are on you. You are in the lead, and you must now lead by an example that doesn’t push people to the margins. If you feel marginalized, you know better than most how awful it is, and vulnerable people across the country are worried you now seek to visit that same hardship on their heads.

Don’t do it. Empathy will bring us together. Not payback. And silence in the face of injustice is complicity.

americanflags

– A folk singer and videographer from Texas, living in California.

A Burning Ember to a Grove of Trees

A Burning Ember to a Grove of Trees CoverHere we are, less than ten months after releasing our album Dust Among the Stars, with a surprise EP. It combines new recordings and previously released singles in one collection, most of which share a message of (cautious) optimism despite our current social calamities, and it was important to me to get this out before the 2016 Presidential election. These are our most political songs, and I’m sure I’ve never written an “important” song, but these are probably as close as I’ve gotten.

The EP kicks off with a brand-new song “In the End,” which was written in response to the constant howl of this election season, and recorded the first week of October. So that was, like, last week. It was the unexpected chance to jump in the studio and record this song that made the EP possible.

I’m basically a folk singer, and I felt like I had to get something out there about all this noise. Because the thing is, the votes are going to get counted and one of the candidates is going to go away, but we’re still going to be stuck with each other, and I think people have lost sight of that. I’m not a political party kind of guy, I care about human beings. I care about empathy and I’m terrified at how easy it is to lose that for other folks. You know, Woody Guthrie wrote “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitars, but Pete Seeger wrote “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender” on his banjo. I think that second one is the sentiment I was going for the most.

To go along with the track, I also made an immersive, 360-degree music video shot inside the studio, showing four of me performing all of the instruments. This’ll probably hurt your head:

Lyrically, “In the End” focuses on all of us bearing some responsibility for how we treat each other, and the fact that when people are hurting, we have to turn *to* one other, not turn *on* one another. That sentiment ties the track to two previously-released songs on the EP that come from the same emotional place – “Just to Win the Fight” and “A Mile of Ground.” Both of those were released in slightly different forms in 2012 and remastered for this EP. They focus on the human aspect of struggle and conflict, and the human cost.

Two cover versions of folk standards “Goodnight Irene” and “House of the Rising Sun” round out the EP. Our take on Lead Belly’s “Goodnight Irene” is being released for the first time, and was recorded during the Dust Among the Stars sessions.

The title of the EP, which has more words in it than the release has songs, is a metaphor for fear, which we could all do with a little less of, and is adapted from a line in “Just to Win the Fight.”