Honest Songs

I vividly remember sitting in my white Jeep Cherokee in my high school parking lot when I first heard Chris Carrabba belt out “please send me anything but signals that are mixed cuz I can’t read your rolling eyes.” I was immediately hooked upon Chris’s first breath and down stroke ofAgain I Go Unnoticed.” It was short, simple and driving. It was raw. It had so much emotion behind it. I’d pretty much bought in completely by the time they released their MTV unplugged album in 2002.

I feel even more in love when they released “A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar.” I will STILL watch the bonus DVD (Far From Home) that came along with that cd.

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that Dashboard was one of the BIGGEST influences for my own songwriting and music style. I fell in love with his language and the pure simplicity of his stripped down sets of him and his acoustic guitar. Same thing goes with Dan “Soupy” Campbell of the Wonder Years and Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties. The way he writes is just honest and raw.

Soupy Campbell

I’ve always been a “lyrics” guy so anyone that has heartfelt, sincere lyrics typically gets my full attention. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Turner and one of his songs “Try This at Home” has been a great reminder to just do it. Just create music for the sake of creating music. Who f’n cares if anyone likes it or will listen to it. Stop doubting yourself and just have fun with it. It’s not that serious.

Frank

Kati and I talk about this concept all the time. We (as humans / people) get so wrapped up in placement and position. We’ve been so conditioned by the mentality of “be the best or don’t participate at all” that we will not participate in something we enjoy for the soul reason we can’t be the best. How much are you missing out on because you’re too afraid to start or you don’t think you’re too good at it? So WS

Youre never gonna get people to listen to your music. No one cares about your writing. Your songs aren’t mastered in a studio. Why bother?”

Because I like writing and playing. I like the creation process and think it’s important to put that out into the universe. It’s that simple of an answer. That’s the “why.”

I took an extended break from the band back in my 2.5 year stay in grad school. I just didn’t have the capacity to do both. So we put our debut album out in October 2018… played a few shows and fell off. That’s mostly my doing. I had to make choices for my career and had to set boundaries. I still continued to write and put out acoustic stuff… and we did play a few shows… but it was just too much. But now that I’m settled into a job… music has resurfaced full force! I’m writing more solo acoustic stuff and hoping to play a good amount of those types of gigs. Also the band is back playing and getting ready to record 4-5 new songs! We’re kicking off the rust with a show at Interstellar September 17 and will hopefully start playing elsewhere in the upcoming months.

Da bois

Life is good. I’ll probably start making more music related posts with new songs, lyrics, and videos. I did a quick inventory of ALL the songs I’ve ever written and it’s something ridiculous coming in at +60 songs. Obviously most have never been released or recorded. Some are sweet. Some are mean. Some suck. Some don’t. I plan on releasing a lot more music from now to the end of the year so be prepared… or dont… I don’t really care one way or the other.

I do have a new single “October Skies” coming out on Monday. Well… it’s out now on SoundCloud and to download on Bandcamp… but will be available errrrywhere else on Monday (ie: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, etc)

But if you’re not doing something you think you might enjoy or something that you already love but you don’t feel you’re good at it… or that you think other people will think negatively of it… just do it. Who f’n cares. Be creative. Be you. Do what you want!

“The Mountains Are Calling”

When the mountains call your name
I hope you think of me
I hate the way this ended 
But it's how its got to be
When you burn that many bridges
You learn how to sink or swim 
But I won't be standing next to you 
When you burn em down again

This bond is broken 
And will never be the same
The words that you spoke to me 
Cut deep to the heart of my veins

When the mountains call your name
I hope that you still smile
I hope you find redemption 
In those Appalachian miles
You're Tennessee whiskey 
And I'm Alabama rum
But no matter how you shoot it 
We've got a long, long way to run

This bond is broken 
And will never be the same
The words that you spoke to me
Cut deep to the heart of my veins 

I've gotta figure out where I'm going from here 
Am I making any sense? Am I making myself clear? 
I never thought that I would see the day 
When I turn my back to you and slowly walk away 

This bond is broken 
And will never be the same
The words that you spoke to me 
Cut deep to the heart of my veins

“Fall From Grace”

Fall From Grace live at Ryktor
Call it women’s intuition
Call it anything you want
But self respect and dignity
Were the first things that you lost
I don’t need your point of reason
You don’t have to say a word
Close your lips, bite your tongue 
And save it for the birds

Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall, to fall from grace

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you ain't
Say goodbye and let it go

Light a match and watch it burn
Bridges broken, lessons learned 
Tired of living in your world. 

I’m pulling broken arrows 
And daggers from my back
You don’t get to play the victim
When you’re the one out on attack
I don't mean to stir up trouble
Lord knows that you know best
You wear your pain for the world to see
Like a patch sewn on your chest

Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
Not a long way to fall
To fall from grace. 

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you aint
Say goodbye and let it go
Light a match and watch it burn
Bridges broken, lessons learned
I’m tired of living in your world

I don’t meet your expectations
I don’t need that shit at all
I don’t meet your expectations darling
I don’t need that at all! 

You’re no angel, you’re no saint
Come to grips with what you aint
Say goodbye and I'll let you go

When God Lets You Down

When God Lets You Down live @ Ryktor
When God lets you down 
Left you alone and crying in the summer
Makes you wonder why you even bother praying
When God lets you down

Brooklyn, Brooklyn don't you fear
Even when the Devils in your ear
Bigger pictures aren't always so clear
Take comfort knowing that your God is near
When God lets you down 

Brooklyn, Brooklyn don't you cry
Wipe away those tear drops from your eyes
When those baby blues feel like they've lost the light
Take another look deep down inside
When God lets you down

When God lets you down
Left you alone and crying in the summer
Makes you wonder why you even bother praying
When God lets you down

Brooklyn, Brooklyn don't you know
Heavens looking down on you below
When you're lost and it feels like there's no hope
Keep counting all your blessings like before
When God lets you down 

Brooklyn, Brooklyn can't you see
Everything's not always what it seems 
Mountains can be moved with faith sized mustard seeds 
Hold on tight to what your heart believes 
When God lets you down 

When God lets you down
Left you alone and crying in the summer
Makes you wonder why you even bother praying
When God lets you down

God take control
They ripped him from his home
Far from everything he knows 
God take control
Is there something that we're missing
Are You even up there listing

Brooklyn, Brooklyn don't you cry 
Wipe away those tear drops from your eyes 
When those baby blues feel like they've lost the light 
Take another look deep down inside 

“Chasing Light”

Chasing Light live at Ryktor
The tears in your eyes makes me want to change
Makes me want to be a better man for someone like you 
The words on your lips make me feel ashamed 
Makes me rearrange everything for someone like you 

Well I'm not the man that I thought I would grow to be 
When I look into this mirror it's not what I want to see 
More and more it feels like 
I'm living someone else's dream
It's time to start living
It's time to start living
It's time to start living for me! 

The tears in your eyes makes me want to stay 
Makes me want to say all the words that I can't say to you 
The fear in your voice makes me feel afraid 
Makes me want to be a stronger man for someone like you 

Well I'm not the man that I thought I would grow to be
When I look into this mirror it's not what I want to see
More and more it feels like 
I'm living someone else's dream
It's time to start living
It's time to start living
It's time to start living for me!

I'll pack all my bags and head out West 
Where the skies always blue with red sunsets 
And I'll watch the sunrise through brand new eyes
I'll say goodbye to everyone I know 
Leave a note on the table with words I wrote 
Saying, "I'll be alright. Just chasing Light." 

The tears in your eyes makes me want to go 
Makes me want to show the world that
 I can be so much more for you 
The state of your soul makes me want to pray 
Makes me think that I might be a man that could be saved 

Well I'm not the man that I thought I would grow to be
When I look into this mirror it's not what I want to see
More and more it feels like
 I'm living someone else's dream
It's time to start living
It's time to start living
It's time to start living for me!

I'll pack all my bags and head out West
Where the skies always blue with red sunsets
And I'll watch the sunrise through brand new eyes
I'll say goodbye to everyone I know
Leave a note on the table with words I wrote
Saying, "I'll be alright. Just chasing Light."


“Painting Pictures”

Painting Pictures live at UMmm It’s Music
The desert's cold tonight, the moon hangs high above me
You grip my pillow tight and hum along while I sing
You keep painting pictures, I keep writing songs
About how I won't miss her when I come back home 

They say the writings on the wall 
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long

The City in the Pines, Hotel Monte Vista
I count the highway miles to drown out the distance
The blood spilled on your canvas, my words hang from a wire
Flowers left suspended for another life. 

 They say the writings on the wall
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long

This westward wind keeps blowing 
Our words into the sky 
Split tongues leave words unspoken 
And I don't ask why

We walk down San Francisco, your hand locked tight in mine
You're quoting Casablanca, I stumble through my lines
"Here's looking at you kid," the gin is running low
I stare into the sunset thinking thoughts you'll never know

They say the writings on the wall
But you keep painting pictures, painting pictures
All night long

“Halo” – American Dream Factory

We set out. 
You can still smell the rain from the edge of town. 
We walk slowly and you turn to say, 
"But they don't even know me." 

They only judge what you have done. 
They will never know the pain you have been through, no. 
They only see a loaded gun, not a victim of a game you weren't playing. 

Now there's tattooed memories, angel wings on her wrist. 
And one little golden halo you can't miss. 
A permanent scar reminder of a night that she can't change 
She said goodbye to a baby with no name. 

Tears fall down your swollen cheeks 
as we push our way through the crowd. 
I turn and smile, 
"It'll all be ok in a little while." 

They only judge what you have done.
They will never know the pain you have been through, no.
They only see a loaded gun, not a victim of a game you weren't playing.

Now there's tattooed memories, angel wings on her wrist.
And one little golden halo you can't miss.
A permanent scar reminder of a night that she can't change
She said goodbye to a baby with no name.

She laid her head in my lap and she cried herself to sleep. 
"I never even saw the face of the man who took my innocence from me." 
And I said, "I will always love you." 

Now there's tattooed memories, angel wings on her wrist
And one little golden halo you can't miss.
A permanent scar reminder of a night that she can't change
She said goodbye to a baby with no name.

Winter Winds

I quickly grabbed the familiar braided cable as my feet slipped out from under me. I removed the microspikes from my vest, slipped them over my S-LABS and glanced down at my watch as I continued to *crunch crunch crunch* my way upwards along the icy trail.

Midnight had come and gone without much notice. Ever since leaving an empty Alum Cave parking lot, words I wrote a year ago had been echoing in my head:

The stars shine through the powdered pines, tears like crystals in your eyes.

The trail grows dark, you know the way. The Appalachia’s in your veins.

You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

With the microspikes, my mind relinquished it’s footing concerns and moved it’s focus to the gentle snow flurries and cold Smoky Mountain air. I moved in and out of clouds as I enjoyed the quiet cadence of my footsteps. During daylight hours and warmer months, Mount LeConte Lodge is typically a vibrant hangout… but at 1am in the middle of winter, the lodge is at best a desolate ghost town shrouded in comforting darkness. Although there was only one car in the parking lot when I departed at 11:45pm, I kept the shine of my headlamp fixated on the trail as I passed the shelter as to not disturb any potential sleeping guests. I reached the summit a few minutes before 1am, tossed a rock on the pile and started the descent. I smiled as I thought of Albert Camus’s words, “Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Despite the icy conditions, it only took a little over 2 hours for the round trip. I noticed an orange piece of paper on my windshield as I walked across the parking lot. Overnight parking is frowned upon in the Smokies so I made sure I left a handwritten note in my windshield: “NOT overnight parking! Just a midnight summit. Left at 11:45pm. Should return around 2-3am.”

Thankfully the orange literature wasn’t a citation. The sweeties running the show at GSMNP left a little notice letting me know that 441 was closed (again… it only had been open for a few hours) due to snow and ice. They were even so kind to leave me the code to the lock on the gate so that I could get out!

The sub-freezing temps on LeConte called for an extended hot shower. I finally crawled into the bed just after 3am.

3 hours later I found myself crawling up the stairs to share a cup of coffee with Ash and Bailey. For years, we’ve had a standing Smoky Mountain tradition that we call Mountain Girls Weekend. These weekends usually happen periodically throughout the year… winter, spring, summer, fall… and each season brings a different element of fun. These mountains mean the world to me, and some of my best Smoky Mountain memories involve these girls:

We chatted as we watched the seasons change during the ascent of West Prong.

Before long, our world became white.

Views were nowhere to be found as we hit the Appalachian Trail. Ash and I followed mountain cat tracks as we crunched our way up to Rocky Top.

After a brief snack break, we carried on a little past Thunderhead before turning around to retrace our steps back to the Tremont. When we passed the summit on the way back, we noticed Bailey had left her calling card atop of Rocky Top…

As usual, the mountain provided a serene escape amidst our hectic lives.

A voice calls out against the wind, the comfort of it makes you grin.

The setting sun, the coming night, cradle close the candle light.

You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

When dinner rolls around, we typically stick to what we know for MGW… but this time we decided to branch out. After a +2 hours wait for food… the decision to branch out again was a unanimous… “no”

Come Sunday morning, Ash and I drove up to Newfound Gap. We had every intention of repeating an 18 mile Bradly, Bradly, Bradly route that we did 2 years ago, but the Ice King had different plans.

After a dreadfully slow 3/4 of a mile along the AT, we decided Northbound was too icy (especially without spikes… not gonna call out anyone who may or may not have forgotten their spikes in the car… *cough DAYQUAN cough*…

We hopped NFG road and started Southbound along the AT towards Clingmans. This side of the mountain had a little more snowfall, but it was mostly just a coating for the ice. We had not so high hopes for faster movement, but in the end we were forced to slow it down and accept the tundra setting…

Though the actual temperature had been colder the previous days, the whipping wind made Sunday’s outing remarkably colder. We followed the AT for a few miles before scooting down to Clingman’s Dome Road for a somewhat quicker return to NFG. During the Fall, the road to Clingman’s is grossly mobbed with camera hungry tourists trying to snap pictures of the vibrant autumn colors… but the winter brings forth a tranquil abandonment.

With the exception of my one ungraceful fall, we gleefully navigated the ice/snow covered blacktop while we created stories for the wild animal prints we tracked along the road. The calming, beautiful blue hue of the distant mountain range served as a tender reminder to be intentionally present in the moment and enjoy what’s around you.

We navigated around the barricade to Clingmans Dome Road and moved along the roadside until we arrived back at Newfound Gap where Bailey was waiting. We snapped a quick pic in our stylish MGW shirts before we parted ways.

The drive back from the Smokies never passes quickly. Regardless of where the Sunday run ends… it’s typically a 5 – 6 hour drive back to Montevallo. Usually, I’ll throw on a couple podcasts to pass the time, but today was different. My mind remained immersed in an Appalachian conversation surrounding fears and insecurities that Ash and I had earlier in the day.

What do I fear the most? I sometimes catch flak for my lackadaisical viewpoint of life and death, but honestly, death isn’t something I’ve ever really feared. I became friends with my Death a long time ago and don’t really exhibit any death anxiety. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to die… and the name of the game is to prolong death as long as possible… but if my life were to end abruptly, I’d be satisfied with the life I’ve lived. So to some, a solo midnight summit of Leconte in icy conditions may seem foolish or reckless, but in my own heart and mind… it was a calculated risk and one that was approached with caution and safety in mind. I always want to walk away from an adventure alive and well and return safely to my Dark Princess waiting at home. So far, I’ve successfully stuck to Rule #1 of my own personal adventure rules: don’t die.

On the one end of the spectrum… I’m a man’s man. I love guns. I enjoy craft beer, good and bad whiskey and red wine. I’ll take an elbow in a mosh pit and wake up the next day and run all day in the mountains. On the other end of the spectrum… I’m sensitive. I’m emotional. I cry during sad movies and anime. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I love cats. I enjoy painting my toe nails and vibrant colors. I love to dance to synth pop and goth music. Honestly, I could care less at what society deems as appropriate for manhood. I’m not afraid to be my authentic self.

So what do I fear the most? I think what I fear most is the thought that the people I love most don’t/won’t truly understand their significance in my life.

Words mean the world to me. Maybe that’s why I adore musical artists that are great lyricists. Maybe that’s why I enjoy writing and stringing together my own lyrics so much… because it’s so intimate and personal. I do think sometimes I over analyze peoples’s language… verbal and nonverbal… and look too deeply into the soul’s abyss. But in the end… I take words to heart. Over the years, I’ve actively tried to become more and more mindful in expressing my feelings towards the people I love because in all honesty… you never know when Death will come lead you across Styx. I can only pray that when my time does come, the people I leave behind will understand and have no doubt about how much they meant to me… even if it’s not always verbally communicated. One of my biggest hopes is to live my life in such a way that when Death does come, It will grab my hand and we’ll smile together as we float across the river to a new beginning.

Winter Winds

by: Anakeesta Sun

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

A voice calls out against the wind, the comfort of it makes you grin. The setting sun, the coming night, cradle close the candle light. You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

The stars shine through the powdered pines, tears like crystals in your eyes. The trail grows dark, you know the way. The Appalachia’s in your veins. You feel It’s touch, the cold embrace, praying for another day. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

He takes your hand to lead you home. It’s cold as ice inside your palm. He feels your fear, He squeezes tight, walking slowly into the light. You feel the sun, the warm embrace, the song of angels guide your way. Your soul cries out, “te amo Deum.”

The winter wind is coming for us all. The winter wind is waiting for the sun to fall. And the chill in your bones runs deeper than you know. Blood runs cold in the deafening snow. The winter wind is coming for us all.

American Dream Factory

From listening to Garth Brooks in my parents car as a child to purchasing my first Green Day cd to now writing my own music, I’ve always been obsessed with music. I honestly can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t have a soundtrack.

Like most young boys in the South, I grew up listening to the country music that my parents would listen to on the radio. Once I was old enough to own my own cd player, I would anxiously wait by the radio for my favorite songs so I could fumbly hit record on my cassette player and record my favorite songs on Casey Kasem’s Top 40. But out of all the countless musical inspirations of all the years… I’d have to say year 2000 was probably the most influential music year of my life! Between Linkin Park’s Hybrid Theory, Dashboard Confessional’s The Swiss Army Romance and Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP, I was lost somewhere between acoustic emo Heaven, screaming teenage angst Purgatory, and “I hope my parents don’t find this cd and snap it in half” Hell. I simultaneously wanted to write sappy, sad love songs while screaming beautiful poetic thuggery at the authority figures in my life. I’m still willing to fight anyone who says the late ’90s / early 2000s era isn’t the BEST and most innovative era in music.

The music influences in my life are endless, but the above mentioned are 3 of the most influential. I wanted to learn the guitar in high school but didn’t have the time or commitment to do so. So the anti-social, college freshmen version of myself would lock himself in his 12×12 dorm room and strum chords and attempt to sing. Eventually that attempt turned into covers and eventually turned into the production of my own lyrics. Given at first, mostly the songs were Dashboard-like…

oof. this dude ^

But hey… college is an emotional time. I eventually got decent enough to play music at the bars…

And then progressed to playing my own music in the local scene…

I carried on with the acoustic stuff for a while before landing a gig as a lead singer for a band called Beyond Me. It was the first time I’d ever been part of a real band! We played everything from basement shows…

to the 5 Points Music Hall…

and even got a side stage gig at Bayfest one year! I still considered this year or so one of the most fun years of my life!

After All was one of the more popular songs!

so many feelings…

I ended up leaving the band after our drummer passed away. He was working a double shift at a restaurant and tragically fell asleep at the wheel on his way home. Jared was one of the realest, most authentic dudes I’ve ever met. Every single time a Fall Out Ball song comes on I think of him.

Me and Jared – 2009

I took a long break from music after Jared moved on. I just couldn’t find the motivation to write or perform. 7 years passed before I would find the motivation to start playing and writing again.

In 2017, when I finally came to terms with my jacked up douche shoulder (aka: tore my labrum enough to where my shoulder would easily slide in and out of place when I was sleeping) and had surgery… I had to take a 6-7 week break from running. Feeling stir crazy and like a lazy blob, I picked up the old guitar and started strumming. I instantly felt a creative surge and excitement that I hadn’t felt in almost a decade! I could hold my shoulder in such a way where I could switch back and forth between chords without too much pain and slowly but surely… fell back in love with writing. In the past, I would always write about relationships and the little hardships I had of college life… but now… I was happy, married and didn’t really have any issues that I deemed worthy enough to write about. So what the hell do you write about when shit is going great in your own life? Other people’s stories and situations! Crazy concept right? I found it sooooooo much easier to look objectively at others’ situations and struggles and formulate songs around them. With the exception of 2 songs, I think I wrote the entire Cheers To Our Ghosts album in a matter of weeks.

After writing a bunch of songs and pulling a couple from the archives, I reached out to a buddy of mine that I would get together to jam with from time to time. Blake’s old band TRAI played a few shows with Beyond Me back in the day and we cultivated a friendship over the years. I think the exchange went something like…

Yo dude… I’ve written a bunch of songs and would love to maybe put together a band. Nothing serious… just a fun group and play some. What do you think?”

I don’t even think Blake heard a single song before saying, “I’m in!!”

From there, I reached out to another member of his former band, Matt, and the next thing I knew we were recording a 5 song acoustic EP with Matt Sanderlin as our producer.

We scooped up Chris Estes (now playing with The Brickmasons) to drum on our debut album and Jack Braxton to play lead guitar. Roughly a year after putting together the band, we recorded and released our first full length album Cheers To Our Ghosts.

artwork by: Breanna Cornell

It’s been nothing short of an amazing ride! I’d missed performing, writing and simply enjoying the beauty of music!

So where are we now? We’ve settled into our core group: me, Blake (bass), Matt (guitar) and Justin (drums) and have been having a blast playing some local shows!

live stream show at Ryktor

I’ve also been playing and writing a good bit of acoustic stuff. I put out a real rough acoustic EP under my side project named Anakeesta Sun. It’s more of an acoustic/folky sound and the Huggins Hell EP is a 6 song EP surrounding my love of the Smoky Mountains.

I’ve been enjoying the creative process more and more as the days roll by. I’ve committed to being musically creative for at least 15 minutes a day… even on the days when I don’t feel creative at all.

Going into the new year, I’m stoked to be not only getting the band back rolling again with some new music and possibly new EP (hint hint)… but also continuing to play/write acoustic songs. I do have an acoustic show coming up that will be live streamed at Ryktor! I’ll be playing 8 or so all original acoustic songs!

Cheers to another year of letting the creative juices flow!

Prattville – Creekwalk Concert Series