This essay appears in the liner notes for the “Best Of David LaMotte” CD.
In the summer of 1990, I couldn’t have imagined that over two decades later I would be putting out a ‘Best Of’ CD. I had just graduated from college at James Madison University in Virginia, where I had developed a passion for mediation and peacemaking, and that called to me as a possible career. I had also developed another passion, though. After spending my teenage years playing my guitar in my room with the door closed, I started to perform publicly in coffee shops and bars, playing tired covers with deep conviction. I occasionally slipped in a song of my own, and when people listened to those, I was especially grateful. When they started to request them, my spirit lifted. When I saw tears in their eyes, my heart was blown wide open.
I began to consider the idea that these songs might matter to someone other than myself, and that maybe I should focus on sharing them. I spent that summer trying to discern which of these unlikely paths I should choose, and in the end decided to give music a shot. I gave myself two years to work side jobs and see if I could make a living as a musician. I went full time four months later.
Over the 23 years since, music has sustained me, literally and figuratively. I’ve performed over 2500 concerts on four continents, put out 11 albums and played countless songs. It has been a joy, and it continues to be.
In about 2007, though, I grew restless. Things were going well for me as a musician, but comfort is dangerous to artists. I was running the risk of getting stale, of becoming an impersonation of myself. I also wondered if I was giving enough energy to my other passion, which had never left me. Deanna and I had founded PEG Partners in 2004 to work with schools and libraries in Guatemala, and I had taken opportunities to intersect with peace workers over the years in places like Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Palestine and inner cities in the US, but I wanted to walk the talk found in my lyrics.
Just then I heard about the Rotary World Peace Fellowship. I applied for it received it, allowing me to get a master’s degree in International Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and to live and work in rural India for three months.
Before I left for Australia, I had a long farewell tour, unsure as to whether or not I would return to music. Part of what I came to understand in that time abroad, though, was that the arts play an indispensable role in peacemaking, and world-changing in general.
So now I have come home again, literally and metaphorically. I am back in Black Mountain, NC, in the same little house I began remodeling when I was a young and broke musician. I am back to performing, though about half of my traveling these days is for lectures and workshops about how the world changes and how to discern our own roles in that process. In some ways this time is a return to my roots, and in others it is a new beginning.
So this seemed an appropriate time to put out a retrospective CD of songs drawn largely from my first ten records, with a few new recordings of old songs and one live track that has never been published before. I’ll be heading into the studio soon to make a recording of all new songs, but before I turn to that, here’s a look back. I have been amazed and humbled to hear stories of how some of these songs have intersected with people’s lives over the years. If this is true for you, thank you for that, and for revisiting them here. If these songs are new to you, here’s to new memories.
As always, thank you for listening.
The CD includes fourteen tracks, including three older songs I have re-recorded with some lovely guest artists; Grey Eagle features Josh Goforth on mandolin, Song for You has a contribution from national hammered dulcimer champion Joshua Messick, and Chris Rosser plays piano on a new version of We Are Each Other’s Angels. On the one song I haven’t recorded before, legendary drummer Bill Berg, who played on Bob Dylan’s album Blood On The Tracks, sits in on a newly recorded version of Traveling Shoes (Death Come a-Knocking), recorded live at the White Horse Black Mountain.
I’ve been working with some great designers at Kudzu to create the CD package as well, which includes notes about each song, some great pictures of me as a very young musician and this poster, which is roughly 10 x 18″. CD packaging has come a long way in recent years, and this one will be printed on recycled paper with a plastic tray made entirely of recycled soft drink bottles.
The cover art is by artist Scott Neely, who doodled this guitar drawing while actually sitting at a concert of mine, listening to me play my instrumental song Shadows.