My life has changed quite radically in the last five years, beginning with my son Mason’s birth, then moving to Australia to study as a Rotary World Peace Fellow, doing field work in India, working for the NC Council of Churches, beginning work on the AFSC’s Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Task Group, publishing one book (White Flour) and writing another (Worldchanging 101), and, finally, moving back home to Black Mountain, North Carolina.
One of the biggest differences about what I do these days, of course, is that more than half of it is speaking rather than playing music. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying challenging some prevalent ideas about how the world actually changes, who has an impact, and how. The presentations aren’t about telling people what they should be doing specifically, but rather about opening up possibility and taking a practical look at how we go about having an impact—the impact they want to have on the issues they feel called to engage. It’s empowerment, but not empowerment for personal gain, but rather for the greater good—to change the world for the better.
A lot of those workshops, conference keynotes and concerts happen in the context of church gatherings, and some happen in secular spaces like colleges or Rotary conferences. Both of those are authentic for me and I thoroughly enjoy both, though I use different stories and context to make my case.
The way I travel and arrange shows has changed drastically, too. I used to string together tours across the U.S. and/or other countries, driving from show to show and being on the road for weeks. Often I would play a string of tiny places in between the bigger events. Sometimes I wouldn’t come home for months. I loved those days, but they were different days than these.
I love these days too, but these days I’m trying to balance being a decent dad with the deep callings I feel—both to lead conversations about how people can have a positive impact in the world, and to play music that hopefully gives people strength, makes us smile, opens our hearts and reminds us of our truest selves, as well as some other truths. That has required some re-examination of how I do my work.
Several times recently, I’ve had people mention to me that they were looking forward to when I was coming to their area, and hoped they could line up a show while I’m out their way. But the thing is, that’s not really how things go these days.
Here’s how it happens:
Mostly, I fly out (or sometimes drive) to be with folks in a given area for a few days, then I fly home. Most of the time that’s a weekend (like the Worldchanging Weekends I do at churches or college visits that include speaking, small group interaction and a concert). That’s not as expensive as some folks might think, but it does mean that I don’t get to do as many events, and that I don’t get to do things that don’t pay as well. Believe it or not, that really does make me sad, because I don’t want money to be a primary consideration in whether or not I can do a particular event. As a dad, though, I’ve had to realize that this time is incredibly important, especially in these early years, and it’s quite costly to my family when I’m away too much. So I try to be home for dinner and books most nights. On the whole, this is working very well. I’m doing fewer events (though still staying quite busy!), and that allows me to give more time to preparation for each one, and to be present in my son’s life as well as my wife’s.
What this means, though, is that I’m unlikely to be ‘out your way’ unless there is a specific invitation. Since I no longer string together tours, I only show up in a given area if I’m going there to be with some folks who have asked me to come.
So if you would like to have me come to your area to perform or lead a workshop, I’d love to, but it will mean taking the initiative to be in touch. Tamara Feightner (pronounced with the accent on ‘Tam’ and ‘Feight’ like ‘fight’) runs my office and handles all of my booking these days. She’s wonderful and friendly, and if you drop her an email or give her a ring at 828-808-5230, she’ll be happy to send you a workshop flyer, either for a secular group or a religious one, or information about my concerts (and if you’re nice, probably a CD too!). You can also download those things here.
Then you can take those things to the folks at your college, or the conference planning people, or a church community, and they can kick it around and see if they would like to invite me. She can also talk with you about what things cost and work out details and such. Tamara will talk you through things and answer any questions you have.
Thanks for being interested in these ideas and this music. It has been an extraordinary privilege to share both with you for 24 years. Keep in touch!