1) Who are you?
I’m a musician and storyteller from the town of Everett, Washington, which is a town about thirty miles outside Seattle.
2) What do you do?
I used to tour around all the time stomping and screaming songs. But these days I’ve been building a houseboat, fixing up some old houses and cabins, and occasionally making up songs about giraffes and dead people.
3) How did you end up here?
Which “here” do you mean? This unlikely and lovely plane of existence, or Webstock? I’m still figuring out the first one, but I’m at Webstock because when my friend Amanda Palmer was performing here in 2011, she somehow convinced them that a scraggly accordion player who doesn’t really like social media would be a good fit. And this year they were kind and crazy enough to invite me back!
4) What are the most important issues currently in your field?
There’s a lot of talk about whether it is possible to make a living off of music in a world where fewer people are paying for music. I’m more concerned with how to make music something special and rare in a world where music is everywhere all the time. I suppose these things are not entirely unrelated.
5) Tell us more about your talk at Webstock – why should folks come listen?
Why should folks come listen? Maybe they shouldn’t actually. I mean – my talk is at the end of the day, they’ll be tired, wanting to get to dinner or something.
6) Who are your greatest influences?
There are so many! Here are a couple –
Herman Hesse. His writings did something to me – caused an almost hallucinogenic disorientation with ultimately a very specific spiritual trajectory. At a fragile point, it helped me find my path.
Lois Jameson. My sixth grade teacher. She was one of the first people to ever really inspire me to be a creative person and live an unconventional life. She gave me lots of encouragement early on, but what resonates more now is that she was very perceptive about some of my faults. She died shortly after I was lucky enough to be in her class and I think of her quite often still.
7) Tell us three things you love (eg movies, albums, songs, poems, artifacts) and why.
I love so many things!
You have to narrow it down!
Hmmm…. I’ll just pick a category, how about Tall Things?!
These sculptures were built outside Los Angeles by a single man over the course of decades. Nobody knows why he built them. After he left, the city wanted to tear them down, but somehow they still stand. I wept when I first went there – it struck me as one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen – something about the mad tenacity of creation.
“The Two Skyscrapers Who Decided to Have a Child” by Carl Sandburg
This is from a collection of children’s fairy tales called “Rootabaga Stories”. The stories feature vegetables and accordions and all of my favorite things, but this little story, overflowing with heartbreak and whimsy, is the one I always come back to.
I want one.