Brighter than the Sun - The Song

"Mostly what God does is love you.  Keep company with him and learn a life of love.  Observe how Christ loved us.  His love was not cautious but extravagant.  He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us.  
LOVE LIKE THAT."

from Ephesians 5 - The Message

 

This is my last post in this blog series.  Thank you for taking time to allow me to share this journey of healing and hope with you.  I pray that as we all move forward, that we can love each other a little bit more as a result of my experiences from the last few years.  The following are just some of the many lessons that I've learned along the way.  

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1.  BOUNDARIES;  RED FLAGS;  TOXIC:  These are words we've all heard used to describe bad relationships.  I'm starting to wonder...there must be a plethora of bad relationships out there, because I see many posts on social media about having the strength to "stand your ground to guard your boundaries", and to be able to "separate yourself from toxic people" and to "pick up the pieces".  Unfortunately, these words and phrases are commonplace in our world today.  It's ironic, don't you think?  I hear so many people say that "we need more love in this world" and that we need to "Love One Another"... to bring "a little more Heaven to Earth".  Yet so many people seem to be more in the business of creating boundaries rather than in the business of demolishing walls that isolate us from each other.  And if those boundaries are crossed, then red warning flags are raised.  Is this really how we define "Love" today?  I think (imho) that this fits more of a definition of "self-love"... these ideas are more about "self-care"...which is certainly important, too.  But sometimes I wonder if we get a little carried away with the concept of "self-love"... only for it to become nothing short of true "self-ish-ness"   Think about this:  How are we to truly "Love One Another" without caution...how are we to love extravagantly...if we are holding people at arms-length (or even pushing them out altogether) with the boundaries that we impose on one another?  

2.  "SWEEP IT UNDER THE RUG":  The longer we sweep things under the rug and don't deal with past issues, the larger the pile underneath the rug grows.  It's better to deal with the dirt as it comes rather than wait for the pile to explode all over the place.  It's better to face people and problems with courage and grace than it is to wait for things to get out of control.  Find someone that you trust that can help you deal with the hurt.  We all need a good friend from time-to-time in which we can faithfully share anything.  It always feels good to "clean house".

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3.  "IT'S ME (or us) AGAINST THE WORLD":  We were created for one another...to help each other...to lift each other up.  True...there are many inspiring stories about how some brave person faced adversity and beat the odds "on their own".  But is anything ever really accomplished by one's self?

4.  "BUT I WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD":  Being bullied (to be quite frank) sucks...there's no other way to say it.  But being hurt and victimized (in any form) does not give anyone an excuse to wallow in the past.  Learn.  Grow.  Teach Others.  Move Forward.  Always Love.  

5.  "WE JUST WEREN'T COMPATIBLE":  Although some people get along better with some than others, no one is truly compatible on this earth.  All relationships take work...they all take great care to nurture.  Take the time to listen to each other...to learn from each other.  Incompatibility is no reason to not love someone.  Incompatibility does not give license to completely shut someone out.  Bottom line:  We are all different from each other...we might as well learn to get along.  

6.  "THERE IS NO EVIL IN THIS WORLD":  The absence of love is the definition of evil...that's something to really think about.

7.  "SHE (or he) IS JUST AN EVIL-HEARTED PERSON:  Hurt people hurt people; and often times, it's the brutally wounded that need the most love.  Maybe take a little bit of time to try understanding the hurt rather than passing judgement.  You never know what someone else might be going through.

So there you have it...these are a few of the lessons that I continue to work on.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be.  And neither will any of you.  And that's alright...we're all perfectly imperfect.  But that doesn't mean that we can't strive for something more...for something better...it doesn't mean that we can't love each other through the imperfections of life.  I may not always love others the way that I should, but I do know this much:  I want to love others without caution...I want to love others with extravagance...I want to love one another with that kind of freedom and trust.  How about you?  Are you courageous enough to love (and to be loved) like that?  Until next time, live magnificently and love each other well.

p.s. 

I almost forgot!  There's a little matter about some song that I wrote.  The next time you're faced with an unlovable situation?  Well, I hope that you think of this tune.  

Dude - You inspired this song.  Thank you.

   

 

   

Brighter than the Sun - No More Hills to Separate Us

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The wind is gently whistling through the trees of this cold, Fall night.  I roll over and can hear the deep, steady breathing of Nicole's sleep.  Unfortunately, I can't find my own sleep, again, because I keep thinking about two brothers in the small village I'm from...their farms were located on opposite sides of a hill.  But it wasn't a hill that kept their brotherhood separated from each other.  Their story makes me sad.  I suppose they just didn't know how to resolve whatever conflict was between them.  It's ironic how their situation somehow strangely mirrors my own conflict with a former friend.  It's not merely three houses that keep us separated from our friendship.  It's my pride.  It's his pride.  And nothing that either of us seems to do can bring the healing and resolution that each of us seeks.

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The truth is, I had written a different blog entry over a month ago, but I can't publish it.  Although it was a beautiful anthem about brotherhood and how to resolve conflict, the honest and heartfelt apology to my friend felt somewhat unsettling.  Every word I wrote...it is so true.  I am very sorry for my part in this conflict...I wish that I had known about Adult Post Bullying Syndrome years ago...and how it effected things.  My buddy certainly didn't deserve a friendship based on insecurities.  But as I've been reminded, I also have a duty to love myself...and a duty to show others who have been gripped by bullies that they are worthy of being defended and that they can end the cycle of being bullied...and I have a duty to be truthful, yet loving, to my friend and his wife (someone who I also considered a friend).  But communicating all of this in the proper manner is a huge challenge...a challenge that even Nicole (as truly brilliant as she is) has difficulty in advising me on.

A few months ago, I memorized the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 13...it's the "love" chapter in the Bible (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=MSG).  I recite it by memory almost everyday, because I need a reminder to love the lovable, as well as those who are harder to love.  Without this daily reminder, it's easy to forget that hurt people hurt people...and that hurt people need the most love.  I don't care if you're a Christian, a Muslim, an atheist, a Wiccan, or a Buddhist or whatever...love is love is love in any language or religion.  And we need more of it.  I need more of it...because I've been hurt, too...just like most of you.  But I haven't been so hurt that I can't love those who have hurt me...honesty is a sign of love...if given the opportunity, I'd say the following:

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"Dude.  I tried pushing my way in when you tried telling me that you needed space.  That was wrong of me.  I became "needy" when I panicked at the thought that I was losing my best friend.  Although these three words don't feel adequate enough...I am sorry.  I never took a moment to consider what you might be going through...I only looked at things through my fear...and that was selfish of me.  I wish you could somehow understand just how sorry I am that I contributed to this mess.  And I also wish that you could know just how grateful that I am.  I was honored when you wrote to me that I was your "best friend / brother in the entire world".  I was honored when you asked my family to hang with your family every Sunday.  I was honored when you told me that "wherever I go, you go".  I was honored that you introduced me to others as your children's uncle and that you asked Nicole and me to be their god-parents.  I was honored that you invited Nicole and me to drink wine on your beautiful patio anytime that we wanted...even if you weren't home.  I was honored that you asked me to travel to your home state with you and to even plan to go on tour together.  I was honored you invited me to be your 4-day-a-week workout buddy...it was a blast keeping up with you.  I'm grateful for how you inspired me...and encouraged me...whether it was with a pat on the back or through one of the seemingly endless inspirational quotes that you emailed or an out-of-the-blue text just to check in with me.  And I was honored that you demanded that, if our friendship ever fell into conflict, that we should resolve it...even if we had to duke it out on the phone in the middle of the night.  And I was honored to reciprocate what you had offered to me...a picture of what a close friendship could look like for anyone. Were we attached?  You betcha.  Did I need to be flattered in such a way to be your friend...to help each other to get ahead in life...in relationships...and in music?  Not at all.  But I did feel very comfortable in the space that you reserved in your life for me and my family.  That "brotherhood" you invited me into?  That's why...out of all of the people on this earth...you were the first person I found courage to confide in about a large burden that weighed on me.  I trusted you with my fears and hurt and shame that bullying brought to me.  I just needed a buddy.  And when you needed to pull away, I panicked.  Because of this APBS stuff, I thought you were ashamed of me...that you hated me...and I just needed you to still see me as the friend that I was.  For as complicated as APBS can make things , my unwanted actions were based on one very simple truth:  I just wanted you to still be my friend.  

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Remember what I said earlier?  Love is love is love.  That's even true of tough love, because people should be able to say anything to each other...as long as it's said with love, right?  So to be respectfully direct, I need to ask you to stop twisting my story...stop twisting my actions.  I don't have any "attachment issues", as you claim.   Rather, what I have is a "you're-not-hearing-me" issue.  The things that you both accused me of are hurtful and wrong...and I'm defending myself...it's time that I break these bullying cycles in my life...it's over.  It's been two years.  Please have the courage and respect...both of you...to apologize for your words.  And the way you're treating me and my family hurts us very much.  Not waving at each other...not saying hello to each other...not talking things through and burying the hatchet...that is not Light & Love.  You were one of the most positive and hopeful people I have ever met, unless I didn't know the real you.  But like you said one time, I knew you better than anyone...and this is completely out of character for you.  Isn't it easier to come together rather than avoiding and ignoring us?  It's clear that you feel hurt, too, but it doesn't have to be like this.  Nicole and I agree...our door is always open to you and to your family when you are ready.  The bottom line?  Even though I don't miss the rollercoaster, I do miss you a lot, dude...and I should be able to say it without fear that anyone would twist my words to mean something ugly and impure." 

And to everyone else, if you really want to try resolving a conflict in any of your relationships...be it with a spouse...a child...a store clerk...or even a very good buddy, all you have to do is:

1) Pray or Meditate;

2) Set aside your pride and ego, because someone needs to be the first to man up;

3) Admit your own faults...be clear and honest with yourself about your part;

4) Apologize with a whole and authentic heart...no faking it;

5)  Air your feelings with pure love and truth;

6)  And pray more...pray that love has the power to overcome the dark. 

Think about it...God put all of us here on this earth at the same time.  Why?  Could it be so that we learn how to get along and to love each other?  That's our true, common purpose for being on this earth...purpose is not about a career path...or to obtain masses of money...or notoriety...all of that stuff is secondary (and almost useless, if you ask me).  But our main, common purpose that we all share is this:  To Love One Another.  If you don't practice that basic purpose in your life, nothing else will matter.  That's a phrase worth repeating...Nothing...Else...Will...Matter.  We should feel honored to share this space together!  Could it be that we should be gifts to one another...and that between us and through us is how God works his miracles?  Think about it.  Til next time, live magnificently...and love each other well. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

   

 

    

   

 

   

Brighter than the Sun-Bullying Scars: Part 2

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She looked beautiful as she sat across the table from me at one of my favorite, swanky restaurants.  It was a bright and sunny Friday, so my wife, Nicole, and I decided to splurge on an expensive lunch date.  We chatted about the kids, how our days were going so far, work...the typical.  Our waitress had a lovely and rather bubbly personality.  She spent a little more time with us than she did with her other patrons, mainly because she and I shared some friendly banter back-n-forth.  But as we bantered, I could feel it happening:  nervousness; anxiety; shame...these life-long, antagonistic acquaintances of mine had joined our table for two.  Our waitress walked away, certainly unaware of what was happening. Because of therapy, I've learned to identify and face whatever it is that I might be feeling:

Scott:  "She was making fun of me."

Nicole:  "What are you talking about?"

Scott:  "Our waitress...she was making fun of me."

Nicole:  "What are you talking about?  She was having fun with you."

Scott:  "Really?  Are you sure?  (Nicole nods) Ok.  I'm ok."

This is just one small example of my conditioned mind.  But what else should I expect?  Why would our waitress not be laughing at me or think negative things about me?  After years...decades...of being emotionally abused; being called names to my face and behind my back many times throughout the day; the whispers in the hallways; walking into classrooms with lies written about me across chalkboards and all over classroom desks; turning the other cheek while other classmates gawked at me, a senior, being physically harassed and punched by a freshman football player in the P.E. locker room; experiencing exclusion and feeling shame that I must be some sort of freak that people would actually treat me that way...this is just the way I believed life was designed for me.  As a result, I started to feel ashamed of myself, early on....and I never understood the reason why...until recently. And just like so many others who have been emotionally traumatized, the shame that came from bullying broke me.  I was alone.  But it turns out...as I now know it...I wasn't alone, afterall.  In Dr. Ellen Walser deLara's book, Bullying Scars, even Lady Gaga is quoted as saying:

"I was called really horrible, profane names...I was so embarrassed all the time.  I was so ashamed of who I was....when certain things are said to you over and over again as you're growing up, it stays with you and you wonder if they're true."

Aside from shame and embarrassment, the following are other symptoms of those who have been identified with Adult Post-Bullying Syndrome (also taken from Bullying Scars):

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1.  Self-Esteem Issues:  "I virtually have no confidence in myself."                

2.  Problems Trusting Others:  "I constantly worry that others are judging me." 

3.  Problems in Relationships:  "You begin thinking you don't deserve any type of good relationship."

4.  People Pleasing:  "I feel my best defense is to blend in by pleasing others."

5.  Substance Abuse:  "I drink a lot to help me with anxiety I feel from past bullying."

6.  Emotional Problems:  "Bullying has destroyed my spirit."

7.  Feelings of Anger:  "I feel angry with myself." 

8.  Body Issues:  "I've tried changing physically so that I'm never bullied again."

9.  Positive Outcomes:  "I have more compassion and empathy than the average person; and I am inspired to do good with my life as a result of being bullied."

Just like so many others who have been bullied, I've experienced all of these symptoms at some point in my life.  Just like countless stories as told throughout Dr. deLara's book, I didn't know that I had the power to defend myself; nor did I feel like I had anyone to talk to about the emotional trauma from which I suffered...even into adulthood.  And just like so many others, I hid.  I hid the hurt...I hid the shame.  And I kept the pain hidden until I met one of the best friends I ever had...someone who had become like a brother to me; and I to him. 

I'll share more about my journey of healing in my next blog entry, but until then, live magnificently and love each other well!

 

 

 

 

    

   

 

   

Brighter than the Sun - Bullying Scars: Part 1

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     I haven't been myself lately.  In fact, I'm beginning to realize that I maybe haven't entirely been my-self for the last forty-plus years (I'm 47).  One certainty is that (as friends have often tried to tell me) I haven't always viewed myself as I should.  But I suppose that's what happens when you become a people pleaser...you tend to lose part of yourself trying to please the people you hope will love you back.  In fact, even now...even among all of the incredible lessons that I've learned over the last two years, it's difficult to find a launching point to tell this story.  Why?  Quite simply, because life can be messy at times. And within that clutter are people that I care about...people that I love...people who love me, too. But maybe there's a balance that I can find in telling my story while respecting those who are woven into this tale...to tell it with the grace and mercy that we all deserve from one another. After all, the goal here is to share the good lessons that I've learned (at least from my perspective) of how to live...to live authentically. Purposefully.  Wholeheartedly.  Unapologetically.  A life without regret.  An honest life where anything can be said...AS LONG AS it's said in love and truthfulness.  No.  This is not a story of dragging people through the mud.  This is not about the wagging of fingers or childish tattling.  Hopefully, this is a story of what love can accomplish.  A telling of healing.  A lesson about how to forgive and to rebuild and to inspire.  A narrative on how to resolve conflict, because I've learned that we, in general, do not know how to find resolution...I mean, look all around you...endless conflict is not only recounted on the evening news, but is also played out within our own neighborhoods and grocery stores and families. How in the world can we demand world peace if we can't even make peace on our own streets? 

     Speaking of truth, thankfully, these truths I do know about my life:  #1) That I love my wife, Nicole, and our extraordinary boys.  These are the people who see me within the four walls that I call home...and they know all of me...and they love me unconditionally.    I'm so grateful for the life we've built together.  From the moment I knew she was my soul-mate, I became forever committed and loyal (I am a pisces, after all); and I would do anything to scratch and claw to keep that love and commitment alive and true.  Without question, I share the same sentiment for my boys...they are pure joy.  And #2) that my belief in our Heavenly Father is true and real. That my relationship with Jesus Christ is sealed in blood. In fact, I remember at the age of nine arguing with God in a moment of doubting his existence that, "If I'm going to believe in you, God, and in your word, it's not because my mom and dad told me to.  I'm going to have a relationship with you, because I have found you on my own."  And he lets me find him everyday.  These are the two truths that I've never compromised for anybody. 

     Before I begin to tell my story, I need you to make a promise.  Do not feel sorry for me or pity me. There are no victims here. Rather, please know that God has used all of the sour, bland, icky/sticky, and spoiled ingredients of my life and has turned them into the most incredible masterpiece.  And, yes, although I am writing about my experiences, this is not about me...this is about all of us...for anyone else who has also lived in fear and doubt...for anyone who has been too afraid to tell their own stories of emotional trauma...people who feel alone just like I did...this story is for anyone else who also wants to live authentically and wholeheartedly and unapologetically.  I hope you realize, too, that, "I was never alone in this".  Always remember that through this retelling that this is a story of healing and of hope and of love. Do you promise? Good...then onward!

     I was five years old, standing in the school yard before the morning bell rang.  A heavy-set, blonde-headed eighth grader was directing me in front of a group of other kids.  I was surrounded by them, if memory serves me correctly.  "Do it, again...do it, again", she implored me. Everyone laughed.  And although I don't remember what she was encouraging me to do over and over, I do remember that (initially) I felt appreciated by this audience. But it didn't take long to realize...they weren't laughing with me.  And I believe that was the moment I was falsely labeled. Forty-two years later, after decades of being emotionally beaten up, broken, and bruised (often multiple times daily), I've been identified as suffering from Adult Post Bullying Syndrome (APBS).  And now, after all this time, I finally have a name for this strange "cloud" that used to be eclipsed over me...and I'm finally seeing glimpses of light pierce through to the clear blue skies.   It's been a very long road these last two years, but I'll explain more about this part of my journey and the effects of APBS in the next post. Until then, live magnificently and love each other well!

 

   

Brighter than the Sun - Introduction

I just finished writing a song called "Brighter than the Sun".  I wrote it as a letter...to someone that used to call me his best friend & brother...a letter that someone has encouraged me to write for almost two years, now.  I also wrote this letter to the entire world.  There's so much needless hurt and anger...so much unkindness...so much time wasted hanging onto bitterness and rage rather than working through our differences together. Although I rarely share songs before I record them in the studio, my wife, Nicole, encouraged me to share this one with all of you.  But before I do that, there's a lot I want to say about what inspired this song.  There's a lot of backstory and I'm going to ask you to be patient with me as I invite you on an inside glimpse of a very personal journey that I've been through, overcoming the darkness of being bullied.  My hope is that for anyone who is in conflict...whether on your street...within your family...between the boundaries of countries and cultures...that you will be inspired to find a way out of fear and hate and to fall in love with the human race, again.  I'll post my thoughts from time-to-time here on my website.  When I do that, you'll be the first to know.  All I ask is the favor that you share my posts with all of the people that you care about in your world, too.  I'm looking forward to all of us inspiring each other.  Til next time, live magnificently and love each other well!

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Burt Bacharach, The Brill Building, & Me

     Day 1:  The wheels of Delta flight no. 6104 touched down at LaGuardia Airport at 11:41am (EST).  I traveled to New York to get down to work and there was barely any time to spare.  Grab the bags, hop in a black, shiny Suburban, and set off for The Four Seasons Hotel.  Traffic stood still...one hour and some minutes crept by.  There it was...the city...finally.  Gargantuan and seemingly never-ending.  Will we ever get there?  Yes we will! "Welcome, Mr. Gray" said the hotel's doorman as he greeted me.  Hurry up.  Unpack, press some wardrobe, and regroup.  Anxiety and nervous anticipation began to settle in.  I had never done anything like this before....ever.  I'm more of a "behind the scenes" kind of guy.  I view myself as a bit more timid rather than a huge risk taker; more passive rather than overly-assertive.  But in the last couple of years (yeah...especially these two years...more on that in later blogs), I've learned that sometimes you have to push yourself beyond your own limits.  Sometimes, you have to be the one to push yourself off the cliff...to force the jump.  After a quick bite with Lady Liberty standing watch nearby, it was time to hop into another black, shiny Suburban.  It was 3:00pm.  The glitz and glamour of lower Manhattan faded into graffiti-lined streets and abandoned warehouses as my motorcade-of-one whisked me to an obscure bar deep in the heart of Queens.   Call time was 4:00pm and we made it.  The filmmaker, a Russian man with very broken English, was setting up the scene.  His translator told me to change in the creepy basement...and for a moment, I thought I was in a segment from "The Silence of the Lambs".  Thankfully, I wasn't!  Rather, I was getting ready to shoot a music video for the first radio single for a song called "Maybe It's You", a drum-and-horn driven tune about a pick up artist who falls head-over-heels in love.  (Side Note - for the record, Mom, just because it's being promoted to radio doesn't mean that radio will actually play it.  Yes, I love you, too. - End Side Note).  A few hours later, we were done shooting in Queens.  Back to lower Manhattan for a nice dinner at Wolf Gang Puck's restaurant called Cut before going back up to my hotel room to get additional shots.  10:30pm.  Off to Times Square for more shots of me and actress, Radika, as we fought our way through masses of people strolling amongst the seemingly-monolithic rows of sky-scraping lighted billboards.  12:30am...It's a wrap.  By 1:30am, I was finally enveloped in the cloud-like surface of my hotel bed...getting ready for another day of work.  "When can I see the video?", you ask.  It's hard to say.  It may never be released...I won't know until I see the final edit.

     Day 2:  This day was different than the day prior.  Although there were goals to meet, there was no carved-in-stone agendas to force our time.  My good friend and make-shift-Artist-Manager-for-the-weekend, Scott Littlejohn, made sure that we stayed on task (btw, Scott...kudos to you for a job very well done!).  Our mission for the day?  To get shots of me in Central Park for a semi-homemade music video that I'm working on for another single called "Someday", a piano-and-guitar-based ballad about how sometimes someday never seems to get here.  The day?  Beautiful.  The skies?  Blue and clear.  Dotted with fluffed-up, white clouds.  Expansive amounts of green sprawled out before us amongst the lawns and towering trees.  Concrete and glass skyscrapers towered over and lined the park everywhere I turned.  And locals and visitors alike took time to benefit from New York's famous backyard.  A couple of hours later, my time in front of the camera was over.  We capped off the day by watching Mayweather patiently pummel the Irishman, Conor McGregor, in a 10-round boxing match with other fellow New Yorkers at a local neighborhood bar....life is good.  Good indeed!  "When can I see the video?", you ask.  It's hard to say.  It may never be released...I won't know until I see the final edit.

     Day 3:  While in New York, I told Nicole that I wanted to sing in a show...to take full advantage of my time while in the Big Apple.  So, she booked me at a small club located between Times Square and Hell's Kitchen.  I decided to perform a song called "Raincoats", the title track from my upcoming album called "Raincoats & Other Short Stories".   "Raincoats" is a fun, horn-driven song about a guy who likes a girl down the street where he lives, but who is too afraid to tell her how he feels...all set against a piano line that could've been written straight out of The Brill Building back in the day (Side Note - The Brill Building is a landmark where many music companies and artists would go to work in the 50's & 60's...producing what is known as The Brill Building Sound.  Notable writers associated with this building include Carol King, Neil Diamond, and Johnny Mercer, just to name a few).  Walking to the stage, the host greeted me with a bit more fanfare than I had anticipated.  When I explained to the room that I live in Nashville, TN, applause erupted from all the tables.  And as I muddled through the song (the piano player [a great pianist who is currently working on a show for movie actress, Kathleen Turner] and I never had a chance to rehearse prior), it hit me...I was singing for the first time in New York City.  As I finished, I felt incredible!  But before I could exit, the show's host pulled me back to the stage by saying, "That reminds me so much of Burt Bacharach".  Wow...Burt Bacharach...another Brill Building composer great.  This is a comparison that has been drawn to me before and a compliment that I always carry with humbled gratitude.  Beyond the obvious glitches, it was a fun and successful night overall.  Yes.  It really was.  And to wrap up yet another long and exhausting day, my buddy, Scott, suggested that we take one final walk through Times Square and it's surrounding streets on what was our last night in the city.  And as fate would have it, along our path, we walked right up to none other than...you guessed it...The Brill Building.  Was it some kind of sign from up above?  Eh...I don't know.  Perhaps it was just a final, interesting note to a very incredible weekend in New York City.  As you ponder for yourself the meaning of this coincidence, here are some pictures of my trip for you to enjoy.  Til next time, live magnificently and love each other well!    

A Return to Boston

     The last time I visited Boston was nineteen years ago.  At the time, I was working for a very successful, singer-songwriter who had a performance scheduled at The Wang Theatre in the downtown theater district of town.  Never having visited Beantown before (for you trivia buffs, a reference to the very famous picnic and outdoor BBQ staple of Boston baked beans), Nicole and I decided to travel to the city to see my boss in action.  Not only was the concert phenomenal, but we fell in love with the city and vowed to visit it, again....someday....to discover everything it had to offer.  Somtimes, someday doesn't come as soon as we'd like.

     Fast forward to July 2017.  Finally.  A return to Boston...to the City of Champions (again, for you trivia buffs, a reference....here's to Boston's awesome sports teams:  the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins, and the Patriots).  The irony is, this time, we were traveling for another concert.  My concert.  Me.  My voice.  My songs.  And by concert, I mean a very short set.  And no...I didn't perform at The Wang Theatre nor was I backed by the Boston Pops Orchestra.  But I did perform at one of the top 10 pubs in America (thanks to my radio promoter's suggestion), while being supported by the fabulous, Berklee-trained jazz pianist, Marlene del Rosario.  So for all of you who have checked in with me to see how it all went (thanks for caring, btw!), it was an AWESOME experience.  In fact, my wife's critique included words like "Spot On" and "Powerful".  And by the ear-to-ear, beaming smile on Marlene's face, I'd say she was in agreement (and for the record, Marlene...YES...I would love to sit in with your trio the next time I'm in Boston).

     Here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.  Til next time, live magnificently and love each other well!

Focus on the Possibilities Rather than the Impossibilities

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.  Impossible is not a fact.  It's an opinion.  Impossible is not a declaration.  It's a dare.  Impossible is potential.  Impossible is temporary.  Impossible is NOTHING." - Muhammad Ali

It was 1992.  Or was it 1993.  I had just moved to Nashville from the metropolis of Keyesport, Illinois.  Unlike many of my peers who had also recently graduated from college, I found myself back in the classroom rather than on the 8th floor of a large, major corporation.  By this time, I had decided against pursuing a career in law and politics....a path I felt passionate about at a very, very young age.  Instead, I felt the music industry tugging at my heart....a tugging that started in the 7th grade after seeing a news story about some rising Christian singer named Amy Grant.  So after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a BS in Political Science (yes, I know...do you, too, get the irony?), I enrolled in a few music business courses at Belmont College.  I'm not going to sugar-coat it, I was A-F-R-A-I-D.  I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  But because I was convinced that I was being led by the hand of providence, I had to believe that everything would be A-OK.  During my time at Belmont, I took a particular music business course (by which name I no longer remember), led by Professor Larry Wachholtz.  I'm sure that Dr. Wachholtz was a brilliant teacher, but out of everything he taught, I remember only one thing that he said to the entire class:  "YOU can start your own record label."  What?!?  Isn't that impossible?  I can?  Really?  Me?  And ever since, I've been hooked on....well....that possibility.  So now fast forward to 2016.  As I continue to be blown away by how my journey forges on....for all of the opportunities I've been given....for all of the incredible people I've been blessed to meet along the way....it's long overdue that I pull the trigger on yet another dream.  A dream called Music.  Music that I make.  Music that I release.  Music that I promote.  Music that I perform.  That's why Nicole and I started "The 500 Hats Music Company"....an outlet for a dream to become a reality....atleast in some form.  Please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not changing my career.  I'm not necessarily redirecting the course that I've been set upon.  I'm just upgrading my life to include something else that I'm passionate about....and those who know me best know how deep that passion runs (Right Jane?  Right Linda?  Right Mike?).  There's much to do before I release this upcoming, 6-song EP entitled "Raincoats & Other Short Stories".  There are more photos that need to be captured.  Graphics that need to be created.  Radio and PR to be considered.  Blogs to be written.  Distribution.  Videos.  Licensing.  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. (Can you guess why we named our company "500 Hats?)  As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts involved, but I'm determined to focus on the possibilities rather than the impossibilities.   Right now, I've been focusing on building a live show with the direction of my musical director, Mason Embry.  Mason is a brilliant pianist and has been the keyboard player for country artist, Chris Young, for the past several years.  I'm extremely thankful to have his expertise on board.  We got together for our final pre-production meeting before we pull in the rest of the band for rehearsals in November and thought you might enjoy an inside look at what we're doing to plan the show.  I've also included a few sound bites of several songs we're adding to the mix.  Although they're merely piano tracks for rehearsal purposes, I thought you might want to take a listen.  So grab a glass of wine, plug in your earbuds, and take a moment to relax to some very beautiful music.  Oh...and you might hear me hum or sing along from time-to-time....complete with missed or strained notes....and a cough or two....hey....I'm just keeping it real, folks.  But before I let you go, I'd like to ask one thing:  What possibilities are on your horizon that you've been convinced are impossible?  Think about it.  Til next time, live magnificently and love each other well!