Mark Erelli

March 2017 Newsletter

March 2017 Newsletter

It wasn't until I considered bringing children into this world that I really started to pay attention. In the wake of my 2002 marriage, the country was reeling with post-9/11 grief, craving security and revenge. What did it really mean to be an American? Where is the line between the things we will do to protect our country, and things that will degrade the very nation we are defending? Yearning questions of social justice have inspired many of my favorite singer/songwriters (Bruce Cockburn, Jackson Browne, etc.) and, as my wife and I began to chart our course toward beginning a family, they consumed my art as well. The songs that I wrote during that five year process became the bulk of my 2006 album Hope & Other Casualties.

Fast forward a decade or so and, ahem, nothing much has changed. Paying attention to the world around me is still my primary source of inspiration, from the natural imagery in songs like "Pauline" or "Kingdom Come," to the social commentary of "Passing Through" and "By Degrees." The darkness I see these days makes me crave the light like never before. It's very hard to write a song about this sort of thing without coming across as polemical and righteous. As my friend Jeffrey Foucault often needs to remind me, a "protest song" must function primarily as a work of art before it inspires listeners toward any meaningful action.

When confronted daily with such brazen contempt and cynicism, it once again feels revolutionary to promote and celebrate the power of love (in all its forms and various persuasions). That's what I had in mind when I began a new song called "Love First," concerned with how we it feels like we're losing touch, as a nation, with the most powerful force for positive change available to us. I'd recently read an interview with Joan Baez (who regretfully has never heard my songs) about the need for new protest music, for a more modern echo of the musically simple anthems of the 60's. I tried to keep my new song's melody and chord structure fairly basic, and a tender new ballad came together fairly quickly.

It's always rewarding to birth a new song into this world, but it has to be sturdy enough to survive on its own fairly quickly. When I played it for the first time for my wife, it felt so toothless and anodyne, kind of wussy, really--a wholly inadequate response to these turbulent times. I was prepared to set it aside, with hopes that I might recycle some lines or images in a future song, but something wouldn't let me let it go. Neil Young often creates very powerful art out of almost simplistic poetry and images, and I pondered for a moment what he might do. "Well," I thought to myself, "if Neil were writing this, it would have a great guitar riff." So I picked up my guitar and got back to work.

I was able to significantly change the music and the feel of the song, toughen it up some, in hopes it would be a bit better-equipped for these modern times. I didn't have to change many of my initial lyrics to fit the new musical form, barring one line in the chorus that just would not scan correctly. A week or so later, the final line came to me one morning immediately upon waking from a sound sleep, something that's never happened before. I haven't played it live yet, but you'll probably hear "Love First" at one or all of the shows below.

Bruce Cockburn once sang in "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" (and U2 later referenced it in "God Part II"), of kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. That, now more than ever, is all I'm trying to do.

markerelli 2119
LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT: I recently had the honor of playing Lori McKenna's timely anthem "Humble & Kind" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It was an incredible experience, in a long line of incredible experiences I've had with Lori. You can watch the whole episode on the CBS website, or just check out our performance.

MOUNTAIN STAGE: I taped my Mountain Stage debut back in January and the show will begin airing on Friday March 17, with most stations carrying it that weekend. Airtimes vary by station, so check this complete list of stations to see where you can tune in. About ten days later the show will go up in its entirety, including songs not included on the radio, as a podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

T-SHIRTS: I have lovely t-shirts for sale. But as I wait for you to buy them all, I'm getting a little tired of how much room they take up in my office. Come to a gig this month, buy a cd and get a FREE T-SHIRT (limited sizes, while supplies last).

MP3 of the MONTH: Since this month is all about the process behind writing the new song "Love First," I'm giving you TWO tracks this month (well, more like 1 and 1/3). You can stream the folky fingerpicked version (which fades out after the first chorus) to get a sense for the song's humble beginnings, then download the final, more rockin' version. It's free for the month of March so get it while it's hot. Enjoy!


Thu Mar 9 - Parlor Room, Northampton MA - 7 pm
I'm happy to take part in a tribute to Willie Nelson at one of my favorite venues, and with some of my favorite people. Dietrich Strause will lead the festivities, which kick off with a sing-a-long of Willie's classic Red Headed Stranger album. I'll play in the Red Headed Stranger house band, then join the cavalcade of local talent for an additional set of Willie classics.

Fri Mar 10 - Light Club Lamp Shop, Burlington VT - 8 pm
A really cozy spot with a bit of a speak easy feel, plus dozens of cool vintage lamps hanging from the ceiling. They're all for sale, so I'm essentially going to get paid in lamps for this gig. I haven't done my own show in Burlington in maybe 15 years or so, when the heavens opened on an outdoor show and I played acoustic as the audience and I crammed under a bandshell.

Sat Mar 11 - Listening Room Music Series, Concord NH - 7:30 pm
Never played this series, associated with New England College, but I'm looing forward to it. Not sure I've ever done a show of my own in Concord before, though I was there last fall with Josh Ritter. If you know someone who might like to come, please give them a heads up about the show. Or better yet, drag them to the gig yourself. Venue is located at 62 N. Main St.

Thu Mar 30 - Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 2), New York NY - 8:30 pm
A solo acoustic show in the Big Apple! Every time I go to New York I feel a bit like Curious George, gawking at the big skyscrapers and speedy traffic, looking for the Man with the Yellow Hat. Come on out and let's make a connection in the concrete jungle. Bonus points if someone wears a yellow hat.

Fri Mar 31 - Burlap & Bean, Newtown Sq PA - 8 pm
Many of the nation's most respected songwriter venues are suprisingly located in unassuming strip malls south of the Mason Dixon. Here's an exception: a wonderful listening room in a strip mall a little outside of Philly. They get great artists passing through here and I'm always honored to come back for another show.

Sat Apr 1 - Sounding Board Coffeehouse, West Hartford CT - 7:30 pm
I've lost track of how many times I've played this long-running church coffeehouse, but I'm always psyched to do it again. But it's better if we do it together. That came out all wrong, but you know what I mean.

Mar 12 - Academy of Music, Northampton MA (with Lori McKenna)
Mar 25 - Oak Point Park & Amphitheater, Plano TX (with Josh Ritter)

*Canadian tour supporting Rose Cousins
4/3 - St. Johns NL*
4/5 - Halifax NS*
4/6 - Frederickton NB*
4/7 - Monckton NB*
4/8 - Charlottetown PEI*
4/22 - Moab UT


updated: 2 years ago