I’m perched here, a few miles from Montezuma, Colorado, on the same enormous hunk of granite that I temporarily called home almost 16 years ago. The river below is orchestrating the same symphony it was then, sparkling in the late afternoon sun, cleansing as it goes, as it cleansed me those many years ago. The all-pervasive pines perfume the air with their particularly sweet brand of spicy musk— each of the million aspen leaves waving hello, or goodbye, as impartial to either as the gently falling rain now speckling me as I type. Pockets of that same robin’s egg sky peek through the puffy grey and white clouds, the warm mid-summer sun shining on behind and through it all. Remnants of the fire-pit-for-one that cooked my poor man’s dinners of packaged hot dogs and canned baked beans peer out from under a blanket of pine needles and cones, a decade and a half thick, a huddled handful of wildflowers having now called one side of it home. It was here— from the cozy confines of my single-man tent— I witnessed a meteor shower rain down from these unpolluted heavens that single-handedly contained as many shooting stars as I’ve seen before or since— combined— Where I first read Krakauer’s Into the Wild, fashioning myself as a kindred spirit to the tortured wandering soul who’s life the book portrays, an untamed wild child at long last afforded a glimpse into something real, something he was willing to trade for his life. Some things truly never change.
It was another lifetime. I was in between house and job, wandering, freely— the next open road just around the corner, the next great adventure but a whim away. Some new words entered my vocabulary that year— words like contentment, freedom, joy— glimpses into states I’d spend these many years since zig-zagging towards, then from, towards, then from again. Some of my first verses of poetry were penned here; as was a poetic truce to a grandfather I once feared. I can’t recall how long I called this rock home— maybe 2 weeks— maybe a month— but my time spent here is forever imprinted into my consciousness, quietly symbolic and representative of all I’ve seen and felt— both before and since. To revisit this place, now, after all these years, and on the very same day I launch the fundraiser that will help manifest the album that’s been stirring into form for close to two-thirds of that time feels— quite aptly— divine. It feels as though those brief moments I felt truly sheltered were not simply products of an overactive imagination, that those years wading through an endless sea of fear, confusion, and self-perpetuated illusions were not spent in vain. Redemption is alive, and well, and I am it, sculpted into flesh and bone, stories and song.
This journey is almost inconceivable to me as I sit here, the sun again beginning to fade. Coming from where I’ve come from, going to where I now go— an album alluding to it all perched on a horizon almost close enough to grasp. I have until the end of this month to raise the funds necessary to do this— $12,500— and without the continuing support of those who feel these words, those who’ve felt these tunes, obviously none of this could go on. If anything I’ve spoken of feels like it should continue, if anything I’ve sculpted into song strikes a pleasing chord within, please consider joining the campaign towards the completion of the album I’ve envisioned for all these years— the collection of feelings and thoughts that has lead me here: The Divine Game. All the details of what we’re getting into can be found over on my Kickstarter Campaign page, as can a list of the rewards I’m offering to those who find themselves called to assist. My deepest gratitude goes out to you all . . . .
Believing in Miracles and Dreams, O
I’ll breathe when I’m dead. Wait— that’s not how it goes, huh. I guess I should probably breathe now. It’s just that there’s so much happening— seems idle of me to pause long enough to actually get a full breath of air in my lungs. Just in case y’all haven’t heard, ya boi’s makin a record. Yup— just spent eight of the most intense days in recent memory up in Brooklyn, NY, tracking the early stages of an album close to a decade in the making. The foundation to all the tracks have been laid— drums and upright bass— and we’ll be back up there again in August to finish ‘er out. I wish I could say it’s been smooth sailing, but I guess smooth sailing is for retirees… ;)
I find that there’s something about diving into a task this monumental— this foundational to your life’s work— that really brings everything out the woodwork. You see, for the vast majority of this past decade, I’ve been plagued by a couple hips and a low back that haven’t quite remembered how to exhale. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep them somewhat in check with yoga and by eliminating anything high impact from my world— but these last couple weeks have been nothing, if not high impact. They say we store old emotion in our hips. That we store the past in our back. I’ll testify. By the time the eight days of rehearsal and tracking were over, so was the core of this body I call home. And once my hips go, my back is always soon to follow. I’ve been a hobbling reflection of my 90-year-old grandmother this past week— low back as constricted as a boa. Coincidence? Personally, don’t find they often exist. Even my rational mind looks at the plight I now face and says, “Well, yeah… .” You think you can dive headlong into a project rooted this deeply in your past— in the entirety of your tumultuous experience— and make it out without a few casualties?? Hmm. Pain is there to be unearthed. It wants to let go— to be set free— it just so often doesn’t know how. When something (or someone) reminds us that it’s there, it does so with the intention of bringing it to the surface just enough so that we can see it, feel it, release it. Breathe into the discomfort— remind the pain that it is a subject and not a master— that its stay has been informative and transformative, but that it is no longer a welcomed guest.
Speaking of breathing, I’m about to go do some for real: In just about a week, I leave for one of my favorite places on earth— the stunningly majestic Rockies of Colorado. My first playground as an aspiring free man. From there I head back out to Cali, to begin an amazing two-week adventure/tour up the coast with my soul brotha, Rameses. While I play n sing my lil heart out, he’ll be droppin the beat— from his mouth— click here if you ain’t heard. After sayin hey to my old Bay Area digs, we’ll be northern bound: first Oregon, Washington to follow. As if I needed an excuse, I’ll be embarking upon this tour with the intention of promoting my very first Kickstarter Campaign. You see, making a new record is amazing— finding a way to fund it— a bit less so. It’s been an incredible ride so far, but we’re just about to the point where resources need to be pooled and stars aligned and wallets opened. On July 1st, we begin the month-long journey towards the $12,500 we’ll need to make the new record, The Divine Game. And without your help, it just ain’t happenin. So please, keep an eye out for next month’s newsletter, chock full of all the details of how you assist towards the aim of creating something truly great. After waaay tooo many hours here in front of my Macbook, I finally just finished the promotional video. Sneak peak right here before I release it to the rest of the world! :)
Breathing, or trying to remember to,
Been a couple days now since I shaved my head. Not exactly marriage or childbirth on the spectrum of newsworthiness (unless you enjoy People magazine or Entertainment Tonight)— but— it has reminded me how much of our identity can be wrapped up in a nifty little package called superficiality. Forget clothes and shoes and the wheels that take us from point A to B— what about that one part of your appearance you can shift and shape, transforming it before your eyes, without ever having to hit the treadmill or do another crunch? I’d be a liar if I told you that looking in the mirror now doesn’t feel slightly different than it did then. Same old me, no doubt, but on a super mind f#*k, twisted, rock-star-self-image sorta level, I gotta admit there’s been a mild, yet noticeable shift to the way I view me. Nothing revolutionary going on here mind you— I’ve just found it fascinating to witness the shift in my own perspective and self image based on some lil strands of brownish protein growing out the top of my head. . . .
Think about it: when you picture Jim Morrison, or Bob Marley, or James Taylor, how much is their hair (or lack thereof) a part of what you see? (And in turn, how you see them?) Honesty now y’all. . . . My guess is that it plays a fairly big roll for most of us. Not necessarily on a level of who they are, but rather, how it is you perceive them— the image you’ve created separate from the person underneath the mask. Curious thing is, beyond all the glitz and glam, image (ie, how we present ourselves to the world) can go to great lengths to actually serve whatever it is we’re trying to convey: could you imagine Jimi Hendrix in a business suit, or Gandhi in anything other than a simple robe? How bout Kurt Cobain, without his stereotypically grungy golden mane? I guess the trick is learning to separate the substance from the superficial, to know one from the next, and eventually, to come to enjoy it all.
On the note of enjoyment, life on the road is well. Spent the last week or so truckin across Georgia, North Carolina and DC up next. Some nights, after I play, folks ask me if this is how I make my living. When I tell them it is, their faces usually light up, reminding me just how incredibly awesome it is to be living these early stages of The Dream. So cheers to y’all— for comin out and listening to this guy’s very personal accounts of his trials, tribulations, and an entire laundry list of defective relationships— for reminding me why it is I do this— and how very blessed I am to be doing it. (With or without them sexy ole locks of mine. . . ;) Happy spring y’all— time to birth and rebirth and cut off all that no long serves you along the way. . .
Where the heart is at home
And the harder things come
The heart, it just opens wide
It’s interesting how, depending on the magnification of our zoom, a simple concept can take on so many forms. On its grandest scale, we consider home to be planet Earth— spinning in this particular solar system, in a galaxy named for a candy bar, perched playfully somewhere within the all of an incomprehensible cosmos. Zooming in a bit, we call home the house in which we live, or the city or town or field in which it sits. From there, home begins to shift— from the concrete, towards the ethereal— possibly to the place we were born or grew up, or else to where we feel most at ease. Beyond even that, there exists another level still— beyond the worldly and passed that which greets the eye, encompassing who we are and where we’ve been, the lessons we’ve gathered along the way. It’s deeper than the deepest canyon and more omnipotent than this air that we breath. It’s been spoken of, and alluded to, by the seeker and the sage, set to sound by the singer, cast ablaze by the painter and the poet. It’s been broken down and discussed in ten thousand lectures and dissertations, been the topic of theses and lifeworks, been the rallying cry at protests and demonstrations from San Francisco to Shanghai. And at the fundamental level of existence, when the mind is left as secondary and particles give way to space, it quietly awaits our recognition, our acknowledgement that it indeed is home.
I’m speaking, of course, of love. But not puppy love, or the kind sensationalized on TV. Not the kind of love we’ve been taught to fear— or else approach warily with armored hearts. Neither is it the kind that’s somehow become mythical— something of legends and fairytales— cast out into a far off realm— alongside leprechauns, werewolves and a giant fish called Nessie. It’s the kind that we run from as often as we run toward. I’ve been scampering across the globe enough this past year— and for over a decade before that— to wonder: where exactly does this elusive space reside? Unmovable, unchangeable, forever anticipating our return. Everything is fleeting, consumed by time, crumbling faster and faster to dust. But as much as Time appears to hail supreme, it’s the other, far more controversial four-letter word to which we bow.
So after one more go at here in the Philly area, at Steel City this coming Friday, I fly south (about 3 months past due!) for another southern swing. Just the other day a friend asked if I ever get lonely on the road. After pondering a bit, I realized I often experience something that could be called loneliness here, at “home” more, even, than while out on the road, touring from one city to the next. I feel in line with a sense of purpose when I’m performing— driven towards a state of connection with myself and those around me that transcends all definitions of home but the last: the one that crosses boundaries and hurdles divides as surely as it warms the hearts that it ignites— the form of home that’s quiet, undemanding, self-assured— informed and sustained by love— forever the destination and the way.
Headin home, on the road,
This is officially the third time I’ve packed up the old Integra, thrown security to the breeze, and taken to what is still very much the great unknown. So far it’s been an absolute mess. :) But before sending any well wishes, condolences or i-told-ya-so’s— allow me to explain. . . .
I’ve learned prodigiously during the course of the first couple legs: what to do, and to a slightly lesser degree, how to do it, bookended by an entire truckload of what not to do. Entering round three, I felt primed and ready to dive in, armed with a storehouse of my newly accrued trial-and-error ammunition, prepared to take my hustle to the next level, lord help any sukkaz that be gettin in my way. Annnd then real life came-a-knockin. Almost from day one, the Universe, in its interminable wisdom and guile, made it excruciatingly clear that it would be having none of it. “But whyyyyyyyyyy??????” I proclaimed, countering with such bold and compelling catch phrases as “This is my path!” and “I’m on a mission!" Mmmk. . . . so why then, it asked, have things so quickly become so— ordinary— so— empty-bar-room-predictable? Where, it asked, is the manifestation of all this inherent Madison-Square-Garden-prestige you’ve been claiming is due? And exactly why is it you’re doing this in the first place?
The student asks, the teacher answers. Or, in this case, the teacher asks and the teacher answers. Reunited with a wonderful friend here in New Hampshire, we explored the depths of this prodigious fall. Stimulated by an online lecture exploring the commonalities between MLK, Apple and the Wright Brothers, by 2:30am we had made our way to the kitchen floor, speaking of purpose and the inner workings of leadership and success. By 4:30, we had analyzed and critiqued to the point of poetry, and I, having come face to face with a trajectory counter to that of my dreams, had once again been reminded of The Point. Reminded why things— once promising— grind to a halt; why things that had— just yesterday— been so alive and full of magic and possibility— today— whither and die, architects of their own demise. Turns out, it’s just a case of an inside out perspective. The predominant focus lying not on what you do, but rather, why you do it. It’s this simple, yet often overlooked roll reversal that separates failure from success, the extraordinary from the routine. For me, the what is simple: get free. In everything I do, in every situation in which I do it. Though the why, moment to moment, remains a touch more elusive— focus so easily distracted away by the point A to B mentality that calls for survival before prosperity, notoriety before contribution. So, while clarity abounds, here goes— as succinctly as I’m able:
If I become Me,
I can help you become You.
And if you become You
and I become Me,
become the embodiment
Exploring the why,
So I’m at this Songwriting Competition in VA. . . . Won't get into the details of what it took to make it here— that’s another story altogether— but suffice to say, i finally did— in just the nick of time— and I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen for the finals. Mind you, one of the other two finalists is— wait for it— a 14-year-old little girl. Ouch. Can’t help but to keep thinkin about how much I reeeeally don’t want to lose to her— not because she isn’t good— but well, because, she’s 14— and if a 14 year-old girl beats me, I’d probably still end up feeling compelled to share the news to the entirety of the known world by way of Facebook and/or Twitter and/or an enormous newsletter/rant (and/or smoke signals). And who knows whether I’d be able to endure the weight of such public humiliation and shame.
But check it— this girl’s actually good. But not just pretty voice, thoughtful lyrics, well crafted tunes good— character good. The kind of good spiced with humility, humor, self-reflection, vision. The kind of good that might make losing taste a bit like community and consolation feel a touch like a bear hug. The kind of good that just makes you feel good. Not at all the kind of good folks tend to craft by age 14 (or ever, for that matter). Good enough so that a moment ago, during my set, I found it pertinent to refer to her as “the bad-ass” that played before.
So we’re sitting there, awaiting the judges’ results, and she wanders over to congratulate me— and to tell me that she’d “already won”. Before I had a chance to ask her what she meant, or if she knew something the rest of us didn’t, she offered the words— as sweet and unassuming as could be— “Because I’m a bad-ass.”
And so there you have it. I give you Alex Norman, AKA The-14-Year-Old-Bad-Ass, AKA The-Little-Girl-Who-Whooped-Me-In-The-Finals. Yup. And I even lived to tell about it. . . ;)
In humility and unending shame,
(Editors Note: At the time of this publication, Alex as of yet has no Facebook account, or any other online links that I know of, because she “prefers to write songs” instead of wither her life away in front a glowing screen like the rest of us…) %)
I’m back home now, and it’s snowing— the first real covering of the year. I’m here in my cozy lil office/studio, affectionately known as The Void, pondering things like beauty and disappointment, expectations and the many things to come. It’s quiet, warm, contrasted perfectly with the bitter wintery scene out just beyond these old panes of glass. A joyous way to close out 2012 and usher in yet another new and bountiful year. Which, by the way, I’ll be kickin off with a bang here in Philly: my very first show at World Café Live on the 4th, then up to NYC the following night to play the gorgeous Studio at Webster Hall. One last show back down in the burbs of PA at MilkBoy Coffee on the 10th, and then (for some unknowable reason) I’m back up to the Northeast for a month-long Winter Wonderland Tour. Wish me luck. Based on the way things been goin, I’m gonna need it. . . . ;)
“Gotta first crack before it can sprout wings.” These are the words I found myself texting to a friend, in reference to her heart. As if the more we open ourselves, cracking slightly as we grow, the more we’re able to tend to and expand upon the faint suggestions of freedom lying yet dormant. At first glance, the cracks in my world have been largely superficial— but you know me— I can’t help but dive a bit deeper, excavating a symbolic grain or two whenever possible. First to go, my trusty iPhone. Personally, I thought it looked way better withOUT the Spider Web App. :/ Next, and tragically, my beloved nylon string guitar, Graciela. Split right through the thickest part at the base of the neck, completely against the grain, then down 12 inches on either side. Took her in to see a renowned guitar doc who said he’d never seen anything like it. Needless to say, neither had I. And it’s not like I used her for a chair or something. . . . just happened completely unprovoked. The guys here in Savannah took to ghost stories to explain it away, saying this wasn’t the first time they’d seen things that don’t make sense. I myself chalk it up to the same equation it seems the rest of the world is experiencing, even as we speak: opposing forces + building pressure = the inevitability of release. All with the great aim of expanding horizons and stimulating growth— new life born of flames. (If only that last part could hold true for poor lil Graciela. . . .) :(
Can’t say I know quite how it’s all gonna go down, but it seems to me them old Mayan folk were on to something. Movement and creation converging over years, decades, millennia to spawn our particular version of Now— signs of the changes to come at practically every turn— and all, if you ask me, en route to a Spring unlike the world has ever seen. A Spring of the mind, of the heart, of creativity, of technology, of interconnection— or rather— the acknowledgement of such. Been through Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Austin, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta and Athens since we spoke last— and the common theme I’ve witnessed in each is hunger: for the authentic, the organic, the type of experience that connects and uplifts and reminds us that life is magic, that the opportunity to create and experience joy is real and forever here to be claimed.
I’m grateful to be reaching the end— of another year, another epic journey, 7,500 miles and 3 months on the road. Thrilled to be heading home for Christmas, and to be playing a bunch of hometown shows to celebrate. Jazzed to take the next steps forward towards the Dream, with tours, festivals, and a full length LP on tap in 2013. Privileged to be alive at the cusp of a time that promises such remarkable change. Thankful you’ve read this far. :) So if the music moves you, consider sharing it for the holidays: CDs, ‘Get Free’ Ts and Stickers are all available at orionfreeman.com— or else just hit me up on Facebook and share the love there. I’ve got 900-some ‘Likes’ and I’m shootin for 1000 by the New Year. Help a brotha spread the gospel! :)
Cracking, so that I may bloom,
Things are changing. More, and faster than ever. Whether your taste is for summer blockbusters or the contemplative plotlines of the winter and fall, there’s something here for you all. Even those craving status and wealth and possession must be beginning to sense the change, as a howling or an itch, somewhere deep within themselves.
A funny thing happens when you’re out wandering towards the fall, accumulating miles as swiftly as seconds tend to turn to years— a more subtle example of change, but poignant none-the-less. One moment the surrounding foliage is alive— an entire spectrum of colors and shades— the very next, the explosion is silenced— exhausted and embracing its inevitable time of rest. But here’s where the plot thickens: beyond the next incline, or just up around the next bend, the colors return— as if temporarily freed from the unrelenting grasp of winter and enlivened once again, for one final brilliant display of life, uninhibited and unrestrained.
A lot like the rest of life, actually— its fluid, non-linear course continually ebbing and flowing between activity and rest, extravagance and simplicity, (re)birth and death. Just when you thought the motion had slowed, change springs forth yet again, another wave to carry in the latest shade of indescribable grey.
I’ve been living within this grey, within these colors— ‘victories’ and ‘losses’ blurred together like a rainbow in a blender, as if I could distinguish the two to start. In the last month I’ve trekked through more uncharted lands than some do in a lifetime, been acknowledged by one of the forefront songwriting magazines, slept in my car alone and consumed by my fears, witnessed for the first time the majesty of Niagra Falls, saw part of my childhood get swept out to sea, been shown God in the faces and acts of strangers brought together by emotion and sound, been brought to the edge of glory only to be told it’s not yet time, seen the heartbreak of unfulfilled longing spawned when Ignorance seduces Hope, heard the rustle and crunch of leaves unfamiliar with a city street’s embrace, lived a dream and lived a nightmare, often in the very same day. . . .
And many more of these shifts and changes to come, no doubt. If you’re bored you’re not paying attention. The coming days will surely put Hollywood’s finest writers to shame. And since in this tale we are the writers, directors, and stars, we might as well make this a love story, yes?
Embracing the Fall,
It took just shy of a decade and a half of wandering for the cycle to complete itself. Back to Philadelphia, to the land where it all began, fresh off the epic journey that saw everything from the majestic peaks of the Andes and Rockies, to the sprawling valleys of Waipio and Napa, to the uncharted internal landscapes relative to each. And yet— here I am again— a year later, guitar in hand, the road reclaiming its customary role of home. And I absolutely love it. Everything I’ve ever cared to know is right in front of me. All the things I’ve ever deemed valuable lay within arms length, unearthing themselves one by one, as I’m ready, excavated from the very path I walk. I guess that’s how you know you’re home: when each day becomes your favorite teacher, and every situation is the lesson plan that lines your dreams.
But don’t let the poetry fool you— I never said this shit was easy. . . . ;) As beautiful as it all can be, I’ve found that another tell tale sign of being where you need to be is how much work there is to do. Out there. . . In here. . . With her, and him— towards the future, alongside the past. My plate has never felt so full of food, so full of colorful combinations with which to brew up something divine. Problem is, some of this delicious food went bad— fifteen years ago— and yet, I’m still cooking with it— still infusing delicious dishes with energetic sludge not fit for a hog’s trough. Herein lies the work: Differentiation, discrimination, release. On route to these: inclusion, acceptance, freedom.
Speaking of colorful combinations, Boston’s just beginning to bloom— speckled by the first few splashes of the fireworks soon to come. In celebration, I’ll be truckin around New England for the next few weeks or so, exploring the sights and sounds before migrating south— just in time to miss the first howl of the proverbial winter blues. Don’t have too much lined up in advance for this first leg of the trip; plannin on takin it back to my roots of exploration and wandering— discovering new lands and planting seeds for the eventual spring to come. In the mean time, I plan on enjoying the changes in store, and I hope you all do the same. . . .
Wandering towards the Fall,
I’ve never been much for the water. Too many variables, too much beyond what the eye can see. Never felt at home with the unpredictable currents and their lawless ways. But at some point, when the waters are growing deeper, and the waves are barreling in, you realize you need to paddle. The old adage sink or swim becomes very real. You realize where you are, and rules that govern the game, and you relent. You realize that struggling takes you further from the surface than does release; that attempting to run when immersed in water is as futile as swimming through wet sand. After stealing an objective glance or two at your surroundings, you realize that this release has a beauty to it; that within the eye of the storm, a deep calm waits, eager to extend its refuge and peace. And at some point, after resenting and resisting and straining against the sea that surrounds you, you may even turn your face up towards the sun, curl the corners of your mouth up in the direction of a smile, grab a board, and ride. . . .
So far the waves here in San Diego have been small, but consistent. Consistent, yet unpredictable. I’ve spent half my trip soaking up the sunshine and half clinging to my board for dear life. Exploring new lands by day, navigating rogue waves by night. I leave for Los Angeles sometime later today, and though I have no reason to expect less than the same, all is well. Sometimes, I can actually convince myself that this ride is even fun. ;) Shouldn’t be hard later in the week— I’ll be playing two shows in LA on Wednesday and Thursday before continuing on, up to the Bay to reunite with my old digs for two more. Then back home to Philly on the 14th for an amazing show at the wonderful Psalm Salon, presented by WXPN DJ and Philly Folk Fest Founder, Gene Shay, who just so happens to have taken a liking to yours truly. . . . Get a load of this:
"I saw Orion sing, one night on my radio show and I still haven't recovered. He has the music, the charm and a mystique about him, that touches my heart and soul… I believe he's the next big thing to come out of the Philly scene."
Big words, from the man who first brought Bob Dylan to Philly back in ’63. But that’s all simply the beginning, as it always is. . . . By the end of the month I’ll be headed up towards the North East to blend with fall colors and sing songs to new ears, the latest installment of a journey with its fair share of crashes and burns. For now, I’m truly humbled and overjoyed to be sitting here, on the ground, melodies and song directing my course. And when they come again, as they surely will, I’ll be aspiring to ride these unpredictable waves towards the distant shores of my dreams. . . .
(Oh, did I mention I have T-SHIRTS?? :D )