Going to Church with Chance the Rapper

Full disclosure, I’m a late comer to all that is hip-hop. I thought Macklemore’s The Heist was pretty stellar, but that’s about as far as I ever got. I stay pretty close to my Americana sensibilities most of the time. But over the last year or so, I’ve found that Americana and rock haven’t had a lot to offer me. They seem, in many ways, out of touch with a world that seems to be spinning out of control. 

I first started to “get” rap when I saw Kendrick’s Grammy performance last year. It hit right on a lot of the ideas I had been exploring (privilege, systemic racism, you know, easy stuff). I went and dug into his record (about a year after everyone else), and I found a voice that I had been missing in my music. A voice of a prophet, you might say. 

Adding to the Noise - When Silence is No Longer And Option

I don’t speak much about my thoughts on political and social issues. I’m fairly non-confrontational and generally prefer friendly debates over coffee or beer to Facebook and Twitter. I have also felt that as a straight, white, Christian male who has all of the benefits of privilege that one could possibly have, that my role was to make room for other voices to be a part of the conversation. I have spent much of my time over the last few years learning and listening to those other voices. My Twitter and Facebook feeds have changed drastically to include the voices of people on the front lines of social justice. I have learned a lot. 

But after this election, I have realized that it’s not enough to just listen and learn. I need to add my voice. The only way that the progress of the last decade can continue is that if the voices against hate, against racism, misogyny, and xenophobia speak loud and clear. 

I will still listen. I will still learn. I will still seek love and compassion above all else. But I will speak. I will find ways to leverage my privilege. 

I hope you will join me. 

If you want to listen and learn, here are some people I recommend following. You don’t have to agree with every word that they say, but listening has nothing to do with agreeing. 

**I would love to add to this list. If I’m missing someone, please add them to the comments section

Hold Your Head Up High

To my friends who are struggling with the results of this election, to my friends who are fearful of what the next 4 years will look like, to my LGBTQ, POC, and Muslim friends, 

I'm struggling with words. In those times I find myself turning to song. this is a song a wrote a couple weeks ago with my friend Blake. We didn't write it about this election, but in the last few days it has taken on new meaning. I hope that, at the very least, it brings you comfort and encouragement. We have a long journey ahead of us. Hold your head up high and press on.

Video to come soon

Hold Your Head Up High

Written by Jameson Elder & Blake Mundell

Darlin’ you feel like you’ve been washed out to sea
The current is strong and the water is deep
You can hardly breathe 
You’re calling out to ears that once heard your cries
But your friends all turn to strangers at night
Leaving you behind
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high 
Darkness, only ever stays for so long
But your love runs deep and your courage is strong
So keep on 
Some days feel like ripples, some days like waves
Keep your anchor up and your heading straight  
You’ll be ok 
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high
Darlin’ hold your head up high 
Darlin’, you feel like you’ve been left in the cold
But there’s one thing I want you to know
You are not alone 

On Opening Up

I’ve been thinking a lot about legacy over the past several days. Two weeks ago, a friend I’ve known since I was in the first grade passed away suddenly. Over the following days I watched the grief over Kappel’s death take shape both back home and here in Nashville through social media. It really was a huge blessing to see, and it made me proud to have known him. It has been an odd mix of sorrow and joy to read the stories of his life.

Probably the biggest thing that stuck out to me from all of the stories was how openly he lived his life. When he struggled with addiction and drug abuse for the years right after high school. We watched that struggle. When his life turned around in a miraculous way, we rejoiced in that. What made Kappel unique was that he allowed people into his life and he inserted himself into theirs, in a way that was genuine and loving, not dependent upon conditions or holding some perception of perfection. He just loved.

The Story Behind The Song: Fine Wine

The Story Behind The Song: Fine Wine

Sometimes it can be hard to nail down the exact story behind the song. Songs are elusive by nature, and it’s rare that I can recall that exact moment where a song truly came to life. But this one is different, this one is one I’ve shared from the stage so many times that it is permanently engrained in my memory.

I started writing Fine Wine in a hotel room in Houston. I had several days there and didn’t have much to do other than play guitar and write. I had recently had a conversation with an old friend I knew from high school. A lot of our friends from back then were getting married (which is always strange). As conversations like that can go, we started talking about what I want in a partner. I don’t remember much about that conversation, but something about it stuck with me. 

The Story Behind The Song: If I Die Tonight

The Story Behind The Song: If I Die Tonight

On July 31st, 2014, as I was driving home from my girlfriend’s house after reveling in the terrible glory that is Sharknado 2, I did what I often do and turned on NPR (does that mean I’m a real adult now?). During that drive home I heard the heartwrenching news that an Israeli airstrike hit a school in Gaza killing at least 10 people, many of them children. The school was a designated UN shelter and was supposed to be a safe haven for Palestinians to seek refuge from the war that plagues their homes. Immediately, I was overwhelmed with a mix of sorrow, anger, and confusion about how something so terrible could happen to the most innocent of human beings.

My Top 5 Netflix Binges of 2015

My Top 5 Netflix Binges of 2015

We’re all students of the Netflix binge. You start your Saturday, or Sunday (or Tuesday if you’re a real champ) watching just one episode and by midnight your eyes are glazed over, your shirt is covered in crumbs from the entire bag of chips you ate, and you still have no idea whether or not Steven Avery is guilty. So, I’ve compiled a list of my best Netflix binges of 2015. Some of these were in the course of 24 hours. Some required weeks, even months of daily dedication.

Let There Be Sorrow

It’s been a hard few weeks to be human. From Paris, to Beirut, to Colorado Springs, and now San Bernardino, we’ve been forced to stare the darkest side of humanity right in the eye. People react to in different ways. Some react in fear, some in anger, some in hopelessness. And it’s never long before those reactions find their way to Facebook, or the news, or worse, the comments section. Then suddenly we’re met with all sorts of arguments about who has the right solution. And then another dark side of humanity emerges, the side that starts throwing insults and blame in the midst of tragedy.

Now, I believe that Americans have some serious questions to ask ourselves. Questions that go to the very core of who we are as a country. And those questions are important. But before we do any of that, let us grieve. 

As a country we have forgotten how to grieve, we’ve forgotten how to be sad. In this age of immediate information it’s so easy to skip sadness. We jump immediately to anger, fear, or hopelessness because we can do something with those, they are active emotions. We can find someone to blame, we can yell on our social media, we can shut everything out. Grief is passive, all you can do is sit and wait. If you’re lucky enough you may find someone who shares your grief. Two people who share grief can be connected so deeply that, for a moment at least, they put aside their differences and just sit. 

For those of you who remember the show Lost, there is an episode where Jack talks about handling fear while he’s performing surgery. He gives the fear 5 seconds of control and then puts it aside and does his job. Now, this may just be the ramblings of an idealist who tries to see the best in humanity, but I wonder what would happen if we as a nation learned how to grieve, to sit in our sorrow and let it wash over us, if we stop rushing into anger because sadness is uncomfortable, just for 5 seconds, or 5 hours, or 5 days. Maybe, just maybe, we’d find that we’re standing on common ground. 

As a musician, I often find myself drawn to certain songs in times of sorrow. This is one of my favorites, an acoustic version of Bad Religion’s “Sorrow” by Jon Foreman. 


Bruce Springsteen & The Art Of Joy

Happy 40th Anniversary Born To Run!

Happy 40th Anniversary Born To Run!

Bruce Springsteen is my favorite songwriter. It’s not Dylan. It’s not Simon. It’s not Lennon or McCartney. It’s Bruce. That’s not to say I don’t love the other guys, it just that I find myself drawn over and over to Bruce (we’re on a first name basis here). I’ve never really sat down to figure out why until now, but I think I’m figuring it out. 

Bruce has, and has always had, his finger on the pulse of America. He is a chronicler of the stories of this nation. But more than that, he is a spokesman for humanity itself. Bruce has a way of merging together all of the complexities in the human experience, sorrow, frustration, anger, love, and joy in a way that makes them make sense.

It’s that joy in particular that is particularly unique to Bruce. Lots of us songwriters can write the sad songs, the angry songs, the songs about being worn down and tired (Bruce still does those better. Go listen to The River. It will break your heart). But joy, joy is hard. It’s hard because it can feel shallow, aloof. But the joy that Bruce sings is weighed down in sorrow, and that’s what makes it so potent. It’s joy in the midst of hardship.

Through these hardships Bruce has often been our guide. Born To Run and Born In The U.S.A helped the country deal with the ravages of Vietnam. The Rising walked us through the grief and pain of 9-11. And the more recent Wrecking Ball, Bruce voices our anger at at the corruption of the financial system and the broken promise of the American Dream. Yet in all of these records, this hardship is met with joy. There’s the longing for something better in "Born To Run”, the hope of recovery and rebuilding in “My City Of Ruins”, and the promise of redemption in “Land Of Hope And Dreams”. His songs put meaning to human suffering. And by the magnitude and longevity of his success that meaning has been felt by the masses.

If you’ve ever been to a Bruce show you know it’s a party. A 3 hour sermon and the gospel is rock and roll. And everyone there is a believer. They’re believers because they’ve been there. They’ve felt the pain. They’ve felt the longing. And for these 3 hours they’ll feel the joy, the kind of joy weighted in sorrow. The kind of joy that is real. That is human. The kind of joy that can last.

That’s why Bruce is my favorite songwriter. Because of his joy. Because in the tears you know that there will be laughter, you know that there will be dancing and that “together, we can break through the sadness… cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run”.