Mark Erelli

February 2019 Newsletter

February 2019 Newsletter

I recently put the word out on social media asking if you had any particular questions or things you wanted me to write about. I treasure the relationship we've built up through this newsletter, and it is really challenging to find new issues and ideas to explore each month, so I appreciate your suggestions. This month's question comes from Pete in Houston, TX. It seems rather specific, but it got me thinking about a lot, so here we go:

"Hi Mark, think you’ll ever reprise the Western swing kinda thing? Like a Hillbilly Pilgrim II?"

Hey Pete, thanks so much. I'm really proud of the Hillbilly Pilgrim record, which is now (gulp) 15 years old. I hinted at my love of swing music on Compass & Companion and The Memorial Hall Recordings, but those songs seemed like fun exercises in between more serious fare. When deciding on a direction for my fourth record, I was at a fork in the road. I had already written most of the heavier, politically-inspired songs that would populate Hope & Other Casualties, but I also had a bunch of original swing and rockabilly songs. We were still in the long shadow of 9/11, my record label was excited about the swing album, and it seemed like a fun, western swing record was just what the doctor ordered.

At the time of its release, Hillbilly Pilgrim was my most successful record, selling maybe 5,000 copies. It was the first time I knew exactly what genre to call my music, as well as how it was supposed to look and be packaged. I had a killer band, with members of The Spurs backing me up at most shows, and we dressed in western wear that made me feel like I was part of (pearl) snappily-dressed gang. I wrote all but one of the songs myself, I had a blast playing them live, and the record still feels like a very complete statement to me.

That said, I can't imagine making a Hillbilly Pilgrim II. Let me explain. Over the years, I have developed a pretty strong impulse to not revisit musical territory that I've already covered. Music is an infinite endeavor, and I'm simply more interested in forging ahead than circling back. But it's also deeper than that. Some artists seem fully-formed from the start, and everything they do t feels like a relatively minor variation on a theme. I respect for artists who cultivate and curate a singular vision, but I'm drawn more to the restless souls, the Neil Youngs and Joni Mitchells. They may not make a masterpiece every time, but they keep you guessing just enough that you can't turn away.

Ultimately, the songs lead, I follow and basically pray that you all stay with me. It's not impossible that I could write another batch of swing songs, but I've not had a nibble in 14 years or so, and I've spent much of that time with my line in the water. Thanks so much for continuing to tune in, and if you have an idea about something you'd like me to explore next month, reply to this newsletter and let me know.

BY DEGREES: A couple weeks ago, my son's middle school had a security scare involving a threat to bring a gun to school. The community did a great job keeping the school open and the kids safe but, frankly, it freaked me out and it was hard to see my own child rattled by the experience. It feels like as good a reason as any to remind you to visit the By Degrees website, where you can purchase the track for any amount you like and all the money will go to Giffords: Courage To Fight Gun Violence.

MP3 of the MONTH: My home recording setup hit a snafu last week, so I wasn't able to sonically massage this month's offering to the usual degree. It's a live recording of a new song "Doubt My Love," recorded at Club Passim last fall. It features guitar god Duke Levine, playing along beautifully to a song he'd never heard before. Download it for free for the month of February. Enjoy!


Fri Feb 1 - Rockwood Music Hall Stage 3, New York NY - 7 pm
I love this little room down below the Lower East Side. I haven't done a good ol' set of my own material in too long, so I'm really looking foward to this one. This is an early show, especially for NYC. They run a tight ship at the Rockwood, so don't be late!

Sat Feb 2 - Irvington Town Hall Theater, Irvington NY - 8 pm
I'm so thrilled to open again for the wonderful Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams. They are two of my favorite Americana singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists working today. Larry was, ahem, instrumental in my "By Degrees" project last year. It's an honor any time I get to share their stage.

Feb 9-17 - Cayamo: A Journey Through Song, FL, Jamaica & Mexico (with Josh Ritter)

Mar 2 - Center for the Arts in Natick, Natick MA (co-bill with Liz Longley)
Mar 3 - Academy of Music, Northampton MA (opening for Rosanne Cash)
Mar 5 - Bluebird Cafe, Nashville TN (in the round with Caitlin Canty, Robby Hecht & Caroline Spence)
Mar 6 - The High Watt, Nashville TN (FULL BAND show, supporting Sadler Vaden)
Mar 23 - Levon Helm Studios, Woodstock NY (opening for Josh Ritter)
Mar 31 - Temple Isaiah, Lexington MA


updated: 7 months ago