Mark Erelli

November 2015 Newsletter

November 2015 Newsletter


We like to think of inspiration as a “bolt from the blue,” but I find that more earthly endeavors like observation and experience hold the most sway on my writing process. What I choose to let in directly affects what comes out, which is why I take regular walks in the woods and listen to as much Tom Petty as I possibly can. Despite desperately wanting to write another “American Girl,” sometimes the things I see around me feel so pervasive and overwhelming that I am compelled to write them out of my system. And so I spent a recent airplane flight furiously scribbling down a new song called “By Degrees,” inspired by the uniquely American epidemic of gun-related violence dominating recent headlines.

Though I believe the human experience has been demonstrably enriched by songs like “Blowin’ In The Wind” and “Rockin’ In The Free World,” I’m aware that many people resent musicians who mix art and political commentary. But the nature of inspiration is such that if this musician is to avoid writing about certain topics, then I literally have to stop paying attention to the world. Tuning out sounds very appealing, especially in the face of such senseless tragedy. But I’m responsible for raising two boys, and they depend on my engagement with the world to help better prepare them for the things they will see in this life.

Though they are still a bit young to directly engage on most current events, I have come to view many of my songs as a sort of open-ended, future conversation with my sons. I relish the chance to someday talk openly and honestly with them on all I have learned about love, or the nature of faith and hope. In the meantime, and I suppose after I am gone, they can listen to my songs and know a great deal about the things their father wrestled with in his heart and mind.

The increasing frequency of mass shootings, our nearly fetishistic relationship with guns and the 24-7-365 news cycle ensure that our predictably partisan responses to a new shooting barely have time to land anymore before it starts anew. The violence—the parade of young, (mostly) black souls gunned down by law enforcement, our children and grandparents under fire at school or church—is sickening. That we cannot engage in a civil dialogue leading to some consensual compromise to somehow interrupt this savage cycle is troubling. And the notion that this is somehow an immutable fact of life we all must learn to live with is simply reprehensible.

It is in the spirit of all the above I wrote “By Degrees,” a humble offering that tries to understand how we have come to be able to live like this (available as this month’s free download). Putting something like this out into the world always feels like a bit of an artistic risk. If you can’t abide any marriage between politics and art, then you might tear this song apart, or worse: ignore it. It's a free country and that is a beautiful thing. But If I can’t look this thing in the eye and give voice to what's in my heart, then I remain a mystery to myself and, I would argue, I'm not doing my job as a citizen or a father.

If those are the two outcomes before me now, then I know which one I can learn to live with.

MP3 of the MONTH: This month's track is a home recording of a brand new song "By Degrees." As always, it is available for free for the month of November (and maybe longer for this song) on my Bandcamp site. I would also encourage you to share this song...on social media, or (gasp!) even in the actual real world, where you might use it to strike up a conversation with a fellow living, breathing human being. If we can't even talk about these sorts of issues, that is perhaps the biggest issue of all.

"BY DEGREES" VIDEO: I'm not the biggest fan of those videos where a singer/songwriter plays a song into a tiny computer camera and you listen back on the crappiest speakers in the house, so I took a different approach with "By Degrees." Since this is an issue that leaves a lot of us numb, I wanted to do something that made us feel anything but. I'm proud of it, it is offered with deepest respect for the sanctity of human life, and I encourage you to check it out HERE (and share on social media, etc.).


Thu Nov 5 - 7 Central Songwriter Series, Manchester-by-the-Sea MA - 7 pm
A new series on the North Shore that I'm looking forward to. Great food, an ocean town in the late autumn after all the tourists are gone? Sign me up. Come on down and we'll check this one out together.

Fri Nov 6 - Cotuit Center for the Arts, Cotuit MA - 7:30 pm
This is Kami Lyle's Sit-A-While show, a wonderful indpendent variety show in the spirit of a Mountain Stage or Prairie Home Companion that brings together national and local talent for a night of story and song. For this concert, Paula Cole and I will be the special guests, performing with each other and backed up by a house band of Cape Cod's finest. The show is already sold out, but not sure if there's a waiting list.

***Supporting & accompanying Paula Cole
Thu Nov 12 - Music Box Supper Club, Cleveland OH - 8 pm***
Fri Nov 13 - Seven Steps Up, Spring Lake MI - 8 pm***
Sat Nov 14 - City Winery, Chicago IL - 7 pm***
Sun Nov 15 - Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis MN - 7 pm***
I don't get out to the Midwest nearly as much as I'd like, so I'm thrilled to come back as part of Paula Cole's band. I will also be opening all of these shows with a set of my own material and can't wait for the opportunity to get into some new rooms and in front of some new faces.

Thu Nov 19 - Burlap & Bean, Newtown Sq PA - 8 pm
One of my favorite rooms and it's always a treat to return. As far as coffee gigs go, I've never seen one with better sound, and so this one always inspires me to bring my A game.

Fri Nov 20 - Godfrey Daniels, Bethlehem PA - 8 pm
This is one of the nation's finest small listening rooms and a mainstay on the singer/songwriter circuit for 40 years now. I'll be following in the footsteps of John Gorka, Bill Morrissey and countless other artists that have influenced me over the years. I haven't played here in at least 10 years, and so we'll have a lot of catching up to do.

Sat Nov 21 - Salmon Brook Music Series, Granby CT - 7:30 pm
You might not know it but there are many parts of Connecticut that remain relatively rural, with lots of farms and open, green space. This is one of those places and it sounds like the perfect setting for some late autumn folk music. This show will take place in the South Congregational Church.

All my sideman gigs this month are with Paula Cole, and I'm opening those shows so they're listed above.

Dec 3 - Loomis NE^^ (duo Plains states tour with Zachariah Hickman on upright bass!)
Dec 4 - Hastings NE^^
Dec 5 - Lawrence KS^^
Dec 6 - Hesston KS^^
Dec 12 - Tamworth NH
Dec 18 - 12th annual Under The Covers show at Passim, with Rose Cousins, Jake Armerding & Zachariah Hickman (2 shows, selling quickly!)


updated: 3 years ago