(Dave, Will, and I. Friends, old band-mates, our last picture together)
The year of saying goodbye, living in 10 countries, launch, and connection
2021 Could have easily been my 2018 had I not had the grace of 2018 and the strength and wisdom I gleaned from it. Pain is often the greatest teacher.
2020 was a year of external turmoil with internal calm. I am so grateful for that because 2021 was one of the strangest, hardest, soul-wrenching years I care to remember.
So let’s start off:
TLDR: 2021 can be wrapped up in five different words: Music; Goodbyes; Travel; Music; and Launch
January 1st. This New Year’s was FOR THE BOOKS. It was at a party in Sun Valley that all of the pieces of the music video just clicked. It was so much fun. Had great friends visiting Sun Valley and things were riding HIGH.
Best sales months ever in succession from September all the way to April. Every month was better than the one before.
We picked a date to shoot the video, March 14th and all the forces of decision started going into full motion.
Even though the original plan was to start releasing music in mid-2020…a worldwide pandemic had other plans.
This whole music project has been one of holding to the vision come what may. There’s been dozens of starts and stops, pandemics, flaky vocalists, loss of loved ones, travel, you name it.
But we saw it through and it was better than I could have ever imagined.
2 releases and a music video in a VERY turbulent year.
My word for the year was “accomplished” and Looking back, that’s exactly how I feel.
Surprise debut single ”The Fight” (Song for Dave)
On September 7th , I released a song for Dave. This was not the original plan I had for a debut, but it felt right to do. Dave was a huge reason for me getting into music in the first place, and it was amazing how the universe came together to make this song happen.
The song was finished and I decided to release it in a week. There was very little time for any marketing, and I’ll never forget the feeling of pushing publish on Spotify for the first time. It was TERRIFYING.
The Fight has reached a respectable nearly 30K streams on Spotify with essentially ZERO marketing. I hope Dave is proud of that.
Fire + Rain (feat. Jazmin Nikole) Release:
On 11/11/21, we FINALLY released Fire + Rain. This song was in the works since mid-2019. It was a song about loss, heartbreak, and rupture. It spoke to so many themes of what my year 2018 was, that I was adamant that it needed to be my showcase single.
Again, with essentially zero marketing (as of this post my Instagram STILL hasn’t been reinstated because of some ad parameter I apparently should’ve known about that IG still won’t be clear about what the reason actually was…even after promising twice that the account would be reinstated in 24 hrs….but I digress. Actually, being IG-free has been really nice and has opened up an hour/day that I wasn’t using productively! )
With nearly zero marketing or ad spend, we are now at 82K streams on Spotify! This usually takes years to achieve this feat without label support, so I am immensely grateful!! I pitched about 200 playlist owners and got on 97 playlists, so that was a big part of the strategy.
The music video
This video was a showcase of how when you have a vision for something and you have some good people around you, anything is possible.
The idea for this video was hatched on New Years Day 2021, and by mid-March we had wrapped up shooting.
So many things came together to make this video happen, from my incredible director Kelsey, to Yancy doing all the drone work, to the incredibly generous Mike and Joan for providing the location as well as several snow machines, plus all their HELP during the shoot.
There were so many laughs and even a few tears during the shoot….
In April 1st I waved goodbye to the US to begin a dream of doing some time abroad. Little did I know how soon I would be back.
On May 13th, we said goodbye to Dad. Nothing prepares you for losing a parent. We all have different coping mechanisms. I suppose mine is to honor his life by truly living and not taking any moment of this life for granted.
Dad seemed on the mend when I left in April, but within a 48hr period in May, he slipped away in the morning surrounded by his loving wife, children, nourished by his unwavering faith and surety of a life well lived. Accounting for mistakes, and profound in its dizzying effect of relentless simplicity. It was such a paradox that a man who was uneducated by the world’s standards was one of the smartest minds I knew, understanding the often juxtaposed relationship between systems of mechanics, electricity, hydraulics, thermodynamics, and weather (which he would call essentially every other day to give an update about)
Dad was a pilot having owned at least 3 different aircraft, a pioneer having helped his uncle turn a rickety well-drill into a thriving business before taking the leap and starting a water systems company.
Dad was a paradox. Most comfortable where others found discomfort. A farm kid who could wear a suit better than any politician, profoundly in love with the love of his life.
A local kid born in the Great War, a warrior spirit curbed by a love for order and peace…and a fierce love for his wife and thereby his children. Unashamed at any moment no matter what anyone else thought.
A paradox with some of his own children. Someone we looked up to during some seasons, feared, respected, and finally loved, especially in the end.
A man who had a handshake like a hydraulic pump, but who would often be found playing guitar or piano when he wasn’t laughing at some joke he would tell on repeat--relishing in each telling as if it were the first.
A paradox of a powerful specimen of humanity, weakened by a microscopic disease of cancer, and yet stronger than all of the expert predictions by a factor of 1400%.
A man recognized for his strength, but never too proud to kneel to his God and offer his being for a greater purpose.
That man passed from this world.
On May 20th, After a last minute flight (during COVID) from Zagreb, Croatia, I said goodbye to him, kissing that forehead one last time.
During this time, it was so amazing watching the Prairie community put aside their differences for the times it matters. It’s amazing to me that such a group with the heritage of stubborn Germans, Irish, and a few English and some French can ever come together for anything…but wow. Every. Single. Time.
It speaks to the deep well of faith and fervor that runs in the waters there. The Camas Prairie is where the “Blood and the Land are One” I like to say. Where there’s a glimpse of how things used to be, which has its own set of pros and cons when encountered by and encountering a global perspective.
The reality is, I saw people, the same people who would likely have cussed Dad out, (and he probably did too haha)…those same people were asking how to help, bringing over food….showing up when it mattered.
Just as losing a parent is something you can never prepare for, only experience as it happens, there was nothing to prepare for the news I received just a week after his funeral.
With Dad there was at least time to get ready, the knowledge for 14 months that he was not long with us.
There is nothing on this earth that would have prepared me, and I think the entire Prairie community for what happened next.
May 22nd. I was driving when I got the call from Will. “They can’t find Dave”
I didn’t know what to say then, and I still don’t know what to type now.
There was no way to make sense of losing someone who I had called ‘best friend’ since I was 3.
Even writing this all these months later, I still can’t believe Dave is gone. My head knows it, but there are times when my heart refuses still to believe it.
Dave, Will, and I a few days before his passing. Miss you man.
There are now countless memories that I alone am now the custodian of. Memories of those crucial developing years when having friendly confidence was where the real truth resided. Dave and I would tell each other everything in those years and then remind each other during the years where we were both busy in our respective pursuits.
The only way I knew how to process it positively was music, which was something we both loved immensely.
I guess it was fitting that this was the year that I finally launched some of the music I’ve been working on.
In high school, Dave and I were on the verge of going to Nashville to ‘strike it out’ in the music world. If there’s one regret that I have, its that I didn’t give this at least a year…that I caved to the pressure to ‘go to school’ yada yada. Dreams and desires are on our hearts for a reason, and I’m convinced that we commit a terrible evil to ourselves when we don’t pursue them.
Even though we never made it to Nashville, I’ll never forget when I showed Dave the almost final cut for Fire + Rain. That wry grin he always gave when he punched my shoulder and said “You finally did it, and your voice actually isn’t half terrible”
(The Fight single cover from a road-trip we did in highschool)
It’s moments like those that I will treasure…and thousands of others.
The Prairie Community
What I will also treasure was just how much the Prairie community banded together AGAIN for Dave and his family. Not knowing what else to do since the searches for Dave's body kept coming up empty, Will Schlader and I started a gofundme to help build a fund for Dave and Danielle's children.
We were both blown away by the support. We set an initial goal of $30,000 but we ended up raising $100,000 for
them. I've raised some interesting numbers for other ventures, but this will always be the thing I'm most proud of.
The prairie community is such a unique phenomenon. The more I travel, the more I am blown away by what a steadfast group of people it is that reside there. Now that there has been 4-6 generations of the same families, I can attest to the fact that if the world went to pot, that's the place to be.
We had people offering their helicopters to aid in the search and the brave guys who kept taking their jet boats out every day and night risking their lives to help bring closure to Dave's family...Most of them hardly really knew Dave, but they answered the call again and again long after the professional Search and Rescue had gone home.
I just wanted to say for my part, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Will sure miss you, Dave.
Will sure miss you, Dave.
Saw this rainbow over the spot where Dave passed on the same day. I have a feeling he's still with us somehow
2021 was a LOT of a year. Already at over 2,000 words, So I will be publishing the second part of the YIR post in a week covering the rest of the year.