Last night we (The One Match Band) played our first of four festivals here in Minnesota. I’ve been in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for a week now rehearsing, writing and generally getting myself acclimated to being a “tour musician” as the summer unfolds.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how all this came about. ”All this” being a calendar of playing my songs – paddle songs and a couple of my hits – in between some canoe trips. For a little over 7 weeks. On the surface it looks like it was just a matter of a few emails, phone calls and then get in the van and go.
Far from it.
There are so many people out there who love music and love the outdoors and the combination of the two that without their enthusiasm, advice, support and friendship, none of “all this” would have been possible. Without them, I would be sweltering in the Tennessee summer thinking about how cool it might be to play songs up north and get a little paddling in between shows.
There’s Rick Skoog from Grand Marais who has tirelessly found venues and spare couches for me to homestead. There’s Bill Hansen at Sawbill Outfitters who not only welcomes me and my songs to his campfire, but wants others to be a part of “all this” too. There’s Ruthanne Fenske who gets her son-in-law, Todd, to clean up his Ely garage to host a concert for me. Scott Harris who has not only been on this journey since its inception, but also has even stepped in as a “road manger”. Diana Cox, who has tirelessly connected me with musicians, agents, venues, information and unconditional support. Paul Brunner who not only gives me a floor to sleep on, but makes me play the song once again to make sure it is right. Then one more after that. Gary Myers who helped me sit down and organize my goals. He says I deserve “all this”. Roy Holdren and Karen Krueger who “get it”. The list seems endless: Steve Dawson, Kaitlyn Laurie, Ray Alexiunas, Kari Kennedy & Family, Carrie Cartier, Robert North, Carol Smith-Narofsky, Shy-Anne Hovorka, Nola Risse-Connolly, all the volunteer “roadies” at Canoecopia, my amazingly supportive and adorable wife, Gracie. There’s all of you who took the time to read this blog and on and on (the “on and on” are those who I will later regret not putting their names in here).
Don’t be afraid to dream. Because the lesson here is that although you might dream, you don’t dream alone. Others want to see your dream come true. And if you let them be a part of it, it will.
Thanks to all of you for “all this”.
See you on stage or on the water.
Have you ever noticed that as you are approaching a landing site, or trying to maneuver in some way to make a better approach that a canoe really doesn’t like to go backwards? Oh, it will but with great resistance. And it never, never goes backwards in a straight forward manner. It doesn’t like going back to where it once was.
A few Aprils ago I went to the Obed River system near the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee. My paddling friend, Chad, knew of a great tributary to check out in light of the fact that we just had some great rainfall and everything was running nicely.
Knowing there were going to be more than Class I rapids, I took my trusty Royalex Mad River Explorer for the adventure. We met Chad’s dad at the put in and we all paddled solo in our own boats. I turned mine around and sat in the bow seat, then wound up kneeling most of the trip (glad I made that knee pad!) keeping the center of gravity stable.
It was fun and challenging with Class IIs and marginal Class IIIs for us to maneuver. Because it was a daytrip, I didn’t have a lot of ballast, just my river bag with a little gear for a change of clothes and some emergency items.
Approaching a constant set of rapids, I misread the rocks and hit one broadside near the bow. The canoe quickly reversed itself and I found myself with my back to the downstream side. In other words, I was looking back, but the canoe was most definitely moving forward. I quickly adjusted by safely turning around and just like my boat, moved forward.
I think that’s why I like a canoe better than other boats. It lets me look back on where I’ve been, but it won’t let me go back there very easily. It wants to move forward. Always.Regardless of the obstacles.
I love that lesson.
As the lakes finally give up their last shards of ice up north and as my performance schedule becomes very busy (see the “calendar” tab on this site), I got my analog calendar out. I put the performance schedules on the appropriate dates in red and then took my blue Sharpie and asked myself where, when and how do I want to paddle? I had to remember to schedule band rehearsals in the appropriate places as well as travel days to the festivals we are happily playing in.
And while I’ve scheduled some paddling trips with friends old and new, I noted some open spots where I can get a short solo trip or two in.
That brought back memories of my first solo trip in Quetico Provincial Park in Northwest Ontario. Although I had done lots of planning, I still look back on that excursion as a life long lesson not only in solo paddling but in life’s everyday travels as well.
I, of course, overloaded myself with gear and provisions such that I could have probably stayed in for weeks. And my 70 lb Mad River Explorer was enough of a shoulder weight as it is. I also remember no one told me to turn the boat around and sit “backwards” in the bow seat to center myself. So there I was, putting in on one sky blue September day at Dawson’s trail ready to go in all the wrong ways.
All was well until I entered Pickerel Lake, a monstrous, beautiful, super large, clear, behemoth of a lake. I should probably also mention it is really, really big. That day was a headwind that would challenge even the most experienced paddler. My goal was to cross Pickerel that day and find my first solo campsite. About a third of the way across, I remember saying out loud to myself, “I think I’m taking on too much here.” My first realization of how serious solo paddling is and how careful one must be.
I was bouncing around in the lee of a small island looking at my map and my desired destination seemed worlds away. Then I realized that just to my left was a small island. That became my goal – get there, rest in the lee out of the wind and then figure what’s next. Upon reaching that island, I spotted another. There’s my new goal. Then another, and another. I set my goal to only getting to the next protective island lee and then the next. Shifting my focus off of getting across Pickerel, I did just that. Yes, it was difficult. Yes, it took a long time. But yes, I made it.
Driving up to International Falls, MN for that first trip, I remember my friend Tim calling to see how I was. He said, “I hope you find what you’re looking for out there”. I remember telling him I wasn’t looking for anything except a good paddling experience.
But the wilderness has ways of teaching us lessons we don’t even know that we need. That day I learned the importance of having a lofty goal and while not losing sight of it, I needed to reset my goals to smaller “do-able” ones.
Looking back, I realize I have accomplished a great deal using that philosophy, often times without even knowing it. I didn’t get across Pickerel without those islands. I didn’t get songs on over 15 million records without writing one song, then another, then another trying to make each one better than the last. I didn’t fall into a north woods festival schedule by jumping in the deep end. I realize this summer has been years in the making with baby steps setting up bigger ones. Small goals to bigger goals.
So what’s next? That’s hard to say. I haven’t set a goal of playing my paddle songs in Carnegie Hall, but who knows?
I do know that I’m ready to take on Pickerel again.
One island at a time.
The middle of April in Middle Tennesse is always a time of new things. New hopes and dreams are replenished and as the temperatures slowly start to rise after the winter doldrums, new thoughts and plans about paddling inevitably begin to emerge.
Such was especially the case April 13 when the good folks at Paddle Adventures Unlimited hosted the Cumberland River Paddlefest. As the weekend approached we were all hoping for sunny skies and warm temperatures.
We weren’t disappointed. In fact, attendance was at an all time high of 412 participants coming out to celebrate paddling and kick off another season of the great outdoors. Numerous vendors were displaying their wares, happily discussing who they are and what they do to all the folks ready to get their paddles in the water.
A bunch of outfitters and individuals brought their canoes, kayaks and paddle boards, enthusiastically offering newcomers and veterans alike advice and lessons on handling the various silent sports crafts sitting on shore.
It was a very special day for me. Not only because I proudly was one of the many sponsors of the event (and The One Match Band played paddle songs in such an idyllic setting) and not only because it was so much fun to see so many people of so many different walks of life loosening up their stiff winter muscles with a paddle in their hands, but it was especially endearing to see so many kids canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. They were everywhere and having a ball.
Seeing youngsters skimming around the surface of a lake instead of surfing the internet, playing video games or texting their friends across the room not only puts a smile on my face, but gives me hope that the next generation of paddlers will be strong in number and will be there to keep the rivers running and the waters clean long after I take my final paddle to the other shore.
As I feel like I just now am able to come up for a breath of air, it is hard to believe that it was only a week ago that the One Match Band was playing to a standing room only overflowing crowd at Canoecopia in Madison, WI.
It was an excursion that exceeded all my expectations and I’m constantly reminded at how an event like this takes not just a team but an entire village to pull it off. Of course, there are the wonderfully talented, fun and supportive musicians, Tim Buppert, John Foster and Steph Gertken. Then out in the audience is Rick Skoog helping with computer tech set up to play “Me And Molly” live to a slide show. Shy-Anne Hovorka helped by adding her sweet vocals to two songs as a guest. Brian Cerney set up his extensive video gear to capture the concert footage. And each concert had a group of volunteer “roadies” helping to set up and break down stage equipment and man the merchandise table. Each concert welcomed at least 6 people (+ Gracie, my lovely wife) to give of their time to make it all happen. I was constantly in awe of the efforts and am still deeply grateful to all of them. And, of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without an enthusiastic audience. Playing to a full house is much more fun than to an emtpy room!
Here are a few pics of the event:
First this is a photo-shopped pic taken by facebook friend Dennis Panczenko of the One Match Band on the Canoecopia “stage”:
Second is a great pic (thank you Lynda Childs) of the prettier part of the stage with Shy-Anne Hovorka and Steph Gertken.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin Callan showing up in his cow costume (complete with an udder) to play “More Cowbell”:
As you can see it was fun, crazy and creatively fulfilling. Most of all, I am in awe of the fact that we, the band, the team and the audience all gathered together because we love the idea of coupling music with our passion for paddling and the great outdoors. And for that I’m more than deeply grateful. I am truly humbled. Thank you for being there with us.
Be it so witnessed that these distinguished paddlers and/or lovers of the outdoors and/or music aficionados (who are only exceeded by their excellent taste in music!) by virtue of their unrelenting support and enthusiasm have been heretofore inducted in the 2013 PaddleSongs Hall of Fame. May they receive all the perks and accolades they deserve!
Thank you one and all for being part of the dream. -Jerry
John M. Allen
Mary Murphy Miller
Mary Jean Blaisdell
Pete (Jackfish) Swiggum
Bill Hansen of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters
Nathalie Lavine of the Country Music Hall of Fame
Randi Michaels Block
Mark and Evea Stevens
Lili Colby of MTI Adventurewear
Lynn O’Kane of Voyageur North Outfitters
Ruthanne James Fenske
Sue and Andy Ahrendt of Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters
William V Pyle
JoAnn M. Abbott
Poutine La Masoneaux
Amy Payne Fekas
Kevin F Hagan
Michael D King
Every year I notice a lot of folks participating in New Year’s Day paddles. I love to hear about them as they are happening on streams, lakes and even oceans all over the world. There truly are many kindred spirits out there that live to have a paddle in their hands and water under their boats.
I can’t wait until New Years day myself. There’s a scenic little river paddle – the Harpeth River – about 45 minutes out of town (NashvIlle, TN) called the Narrows of the Harpeth which has a unique horseshoe bend in it. You can put in on the left end of the horseshoe, paddle about 7 miles and take out on the right end and walk a 1/2 mile trail back to your vehicle to load back up. No shuttles or pick ups to plan. That’s especially nice for a day solo trip.
But in my impatience for a New Years Day paddle, I upped it to New Years Eve. It is now my little tradition and in that tradition I realized there couldn’t be a better way to reflect on the rapids we’ve been through and excitedly anticipate the ones ahead.
Funny how we can find life/paddling analogies so easily.
The attached pic here is my canoe resting happily on a Harpeth River gravel bar New Year’s Eve.
I hope your 2012 rapids were Class I and if not, they were exciting and you got through them with the open side up. I hope your 2013 rapids will guide you the directions you seek. And next New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day I hope “you look back in wonder and know that your heart and your paddle were true and deep”.
All the best, Jerry
Most of you that know me would proclaim I’m way too ancient to have groupies, and I heartily agree. Well, kind of. And it must be reluctantly said that as a songwriter to loves to perform but doesn’t do it as much as I’d like to, having a “groupie” has only been a sort of wishful thinking since the day I first picked up a guitar and started playing folk songs.
But today the wonderful folks up at Tuscarora Lodge and Canoe Outfitters on the Gunflint Trail in the Boundary Waters just made it possible for me: they simply like me and my songs enough to want to hear them again.
What an honor. Check out their blog post called “Jerry’s Groupies”.
With friends like Tuscarora Lodge, I’m set. Thanks Andy and Sue!
If you get a chance, go to their new Facebook page and give them a “like”.
Thanks so much to Laurie Ann March and Outdoor Adventure Canada.com for their awesome recent review of the “True and Deep” CD. In case you didn’t know, Laurie is an outdoors cook extraordinaire herself (when she isn’t running or drinking coffee) with some great camp cookbooks, “A Fork In the Road”. Check her out.
Meanwhile, you can find the short but very sweet review here: Outdoor Adventure Canada review of “True and Deep
Hey Minnesota Friends, I’m leaving in the morning for points north for some “paddlin’ & pickin’”. If you’re in the Grand Marais/Tofte or Ely area, come by for some fun music. Here is my schedule between canoe trips:
July 20 – Grand Marais, MN – 5:00 pm Guest appearance on The Roadhouse, WTIP North Shore Community Radio (please listen in where ever you are).
July 20 – Grand Marais, MN – 7:30 pm Concert appearance at “What’s Upstairs At Betsy Bowen’s” 301 1st Avenue West, Grand Marais, MN 55604 (218) 387-1992
July 21 – Grand Marais, MN on the Gunflint Trail – 7:30 pm 3rd Annual Unplugged Concert at Tuscarora Lodge Dining Hall. Everyone is welcome!
July 25 – Tofte, MN – 7:00 pm Campfire jam session at Sawbill Outfitters and Campground
August 3 – Ely, MN – 7:30 pm House concert at Lucky Boy Farm
Hope to see you there,