Tuesday, May 23, 2017

We are soldiers in a war. We the entertainers. This is the new normal.

It's official. We can no longer remain silent about a truth that lays bare before our raw sleep-deprived eyes. We, we the entertainers, we are soldiers in a war. And this is the new normal.

Every time a terrorist strikes innocent people in the world, first responders, intelligence departments, police, military, they all jump into action. They don't hesitate. They don't cower in fear. They act, both to protect innocent lives and to hunt down the evil people who commit these cowardly unthinkable acts. As an artist, I have often felt helpless in this fight. But over the last few years, the terrorists have begun to strike at US, and at our fans. And guess what? We now have a new responsibility. It isn't writing a new song. It isn't praying for the victims. We are soldiers now, the risk to our lives is very real, and our mission has never been more clear nor more critical.

We are entertainers. Our job and our fight against terrorists who would seek to destroy us is simply this: TO ENTERTAIN. We must show up. We must be brave. We can pause and comfort those lost in this long battle. But as soon as possible, OUR fight must continue. Concerts must not be cancelled out of fear. Tours must not be cut short. Our world has become a black hole of misery, death, hatred, & destruction, led by dictators who thrive off war. Our job is to bring whatever light we can to all corners of our world. And now it has become crystal clear, we do so at great personal risk to ourselves and the public. We might be killed in the line of duty, but, and hear this loud and clear: THAT IS THE GIG. It might not be what you signed up for, and if you can't stomach it, then by all means, stay home. But if you are out there as an entertainer, you are personally a soldier in a war against terrorism.

Other soldiers know their mission, to hunt down and kill terrorists, to locate cells before they strike, to destroy training camps and stop indoctrination before it takes hold, both online and in person. But OUR job as entertainers is just as essential to the survival of humankind. We give the world hope. We bring people together. And to do this, we put ourselves out there in a VERY public way. Some of us will be hurt. Some of us will be killed. But this is war. And sadly, our army is not immune to those losses.

Stay strong, my fellow soldiers. Be brave, and live to fight another day!

#ArmyOfLove

Thursday, May 4, 2017

NSFW (like at all): Open letter to GOP, conservatives, and other fake christians...

Hello America,

This will not be a nice letter. If I seem a little off this week there are a few damn good reasons. 1. I am in the process of uprooting my life and relocating to the last glimmer of hope in this lost cause of a country. (California). 2. A personal tragedy occurred I will share below that feeds into... 3. You have once again shown yourself to be liars and selfish, devious racists, hiding your hate behind the terms 'christian' and 'conservative' to achieve your goals.

What goals am I referring to today?
Taking healthcare away from 24 million Americans because you 'shouldn't have to pay for someone else'.

Who are the someone elses?
They are your fucking neighbors you disgusting bigoted scumbags!

They might not look like you. (But many do) They might not pray to your god. (You know, that same god who tells you NOT to be the hateful piece of shit you are, but you do it anyway). They might not have as much money as you. (Let's face it, they don't, and you resent them for it... why should good hard working christians like YOU have to pay to take care of THEM?) They might have been raped and might need an abortion which is NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS YOU STUPID ASSCLOWN WHO, BY THE WAY, DOESN'T EVEN HAVE A UTERUS!!! Take care of your own family and get your own house in order and then, when YOUR daughter is raped and pregnant, YOU can chain her up in the basement and forbid her from getting an abortion. That is up to YOU. Praise Jesus! (But you know you wouldn't do that, would you? You would quietly find a Planned Parenthood 100 miles away, if you haven't shut them down yet, and you would get her the help she needs, you hypocritical slime ball).

But who really needs healthcare right?
I'll tell you who... me... you... your parents... your children... people with pre-existing conditions... and the MENTALLY ILL! You remember them, right? They are the reason for the 33,000 gun deaths in America every year. Remember what you said? It's MENTAL ILLNESS, not the unfathomable availability of guns with little to no background checks. So, you want us all to look away from common sense. We are not fucking idiots. We know it's the guns. But ok, let's play it YOUR way. Guess what? YOU CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER!

When you remove the affordable care act, you lose the option to call yourself a christian. That ship has sailed. When you do the least christian thing in the world, you should be shamed, not rewarded. You are literally sentencing innocent people to die. The sick and the poor. The mentally ill. Good luck on Sunday after church. I'd recommend a bloody mary with your brunch. Blood is already on your hands, so you might as well start drinking it too.

But what  about the MENTALLY ILL! Yeah, remember them? Surely there are no consequences by making it harder for people to be healthy. Surely nothing bad can come from taking meds and proper treatment away from depressed people, right? If only they found Jesus before they found that gun...

Every day is mental health awareness day for people with depression. Some days are mental health wakeup calls. But this week was a mental health baseball bat to the crotch! I didn't talk about this much, but now it has become more public. A terrible tragedy:

This week, a friend of mine's husband passed away. He was young. He was on his way home and was supposed to pick up their daughter. But he never made it.

That would have been awful enough. But it got worse... Questions began circulating. Answers started coming in. A trickle at first, followed by a stream, then finally a flood. It turns out, this man, this father, this incredibly brilliant, funny, and successful doctor, had in fact taken his own life.

And inexplicably, the story gets even worse. He had been suffering from depression most of his life. He had been hospitalized a couple of times over the years. What people just learned this week is that he had been hospitalized 4 times in the last 8 months. His last day alive, he was heading home, having just been released from the hospital yet again. He was to pick up his daughter. But instead, he threw himself in front of an oncoming train. No warning. His daughter left waiting for him. Her Bat Mitzvah is coming up in a week and they will still have it. I don't know how, but they will go on. My friend and her family have been through so much over the years and they are among the strongest people I know.

All of this to say, I have been very distracted emotionally and mentally. And when I think of YOU [YOU the smug conservative, YOU the self-righteous christian, YOU the greedy republican, YOU the smiling white face about to take away healthcare from the sick, the poor, and the mentally ill], all I can think of is YOUR hand on his back, throwing him and so many others in front of an oncoming train. YOU did this. YOU made healthcare so difficult to afford. YOU made mental illness a stigma so that society can be sympathetic to someone suffering from cancer, but flippant about someone suffering from depression. YOU held the razor that sliced the wrists. YOU sold the gun that pulled the trigger. YOU tied the noose that ended the pain. YOU opened the bottle that contained the pills. YOU created an environment where people suffering from depression have to be so ashamed of and secretive about OUR illness that some of us never get the help we need, lest we become ostracized in our own communities and lose our jobs. This is YOUR hand at work. I hope YOU are proud of yourselves.

I don't know if this new vote-to-end-life (yeah that's right, good luck continuing to champion a pro-life stance) will succeed in taking away healthcare from 24 million Americans. But I do know that YOU want it to. And shame on YOUR disgusting soul. Life may be too short for us to see the karma that awaits you, but may you rot in hell in THIS lifetime. May you reap what you sew.

Namaste!

















Friday, February 17, 2017

Good morning Mordechai.

This story could start or end with an email I just received and responded to. Or this story could start two months ago on the narrow winding stone-laden streets of Jerusalem's Old City, or even two years earlier in the dead of winter shivering outside my former house in Nashville. This could be a story about forgiveness, about bitterness, about remembrance, or redemption. But instead, this story starts with a bizarre massage 13 years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yes, let us begin there.

The year was 2004 and I had been living in Boston for a few years. I had recently started dating someone. 2004 was a magical time before Tinder, Bumble, Okcupid, and Plenty of Fish existed; a time before the iPhone if one can imagine such a thing! So yes, we met on Craigslist. That was a thing back then. She was fun, quirky, spontaneous & wild, but a bit unstable. Ok maybe a lot unstable. But she had a dog. A german shepherd.  A great dog will make you look past a lot of things. And so I did.

During the first week I was seeing her, she informed me she was 'poly' and that she was seeing someone else already, but that 'he was cool with us'. Well, I told her I was not cool with that situation. I wasn't angry, but let her know it wasn't a situation I was comfortable with nor interested in. Within a few days, she let me know she felt so strongly about me that she told her other partner that she didn't think she was poly anymore and she only wanted to be with me. This led to me getting a LONG and rambling passive-agressive message from her partner about how much he loved having sex with her, but that she was nuts and I was doing him a favor. Oh how I wish I heeded those early warnings and red flags. The kicker: the guy was a huge fan of mine who had seen me perform a dozen or so times and owned all my albums. And with that, we were off to the races. 

Back in 2004, I was trying to put my life back together. I had been recovering mentally and physically from a series of major surgeries and hospitalizations surrounding a near-fatal illness in 2002. I was depressed, hopeless much of the time, suffering from PTSD, and also from physical pain. By 2004, 15 years of touring in music and DJing had finally taken it's toll on my spine. Both my neck and back went out the same year and I was 'living' with nearly constant excruciating nerve pain. Not everyone knew this, but I couldn't use my right arm for about 6 months. It shifted back and forth between having no feeling whatsoever and a horrifying flood of high voltage electric nerve pain. It is a feeling one only understands if one has the misfortune of experiencing it. Showering was a challenge, getting dressed was a 20 minute project, lifting a guitar was a pipe dream. I went for many tests, MRIs, PT, steroid shots, pain pills, and spent hours on the phone with suicide hotlines. I was just barely living and couldn't imagine going on much longer in that condition. My then-partner suggested I go to see a 'friend' of hers in Cambridge who was a massage therapist. I was desperate so I agreed. Let's call him Mordechai.

I do not write 'her' name anymore. I do not speak it aloud. I cringe now when I see it in print or hear it. For the purposes of this story, let's refer to her as Irma (after Irma Grese, the 'Beast of Belsen' for those into Nazi concentration camp history). So, Irma set an appointment for me to meet Mordechai at his apartment/massage studio in Central Square. I didn't fully know what I was getting into, but I was desperate, depressed, and in constant pain. Once I was at Mordechai's place, I got on his massage table, clothed of course, as he proceeded to torture me with the most painful 'trigger point' massage ever conceived of. I probably made it through 15 minutes of that agony. Worse than the massage though was the small talk. It was odd and borderline creepy. He kept asking inappropriate questions about Irma and about our budding relationship. By the end of the ordeal, I remember thinking Mordechai was no ordinary friend. They had been lovers or something more involved. I never asked Irma. I never asked Mordechai. I didn't care. I didn't want to know. Regardless, I left his studio that day and thought I would never see him again. That was to change 12 years later in Jerusalem of all places. But one thing at a time.

We can skip 2014. I have written extensively about that year. About the tragedy that brought Irma and I back together in 2013 against all my better judgment. And of course, I have written about the bitter end. Sure there are followups, like learning of her child last fall on social media. But this story is about Modechai, me, and an email he sent this morning. Mind you, I have had possibly 3 conversations with him my entire life. But on a random Shabbat afternoon, in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city, there he was. Two months ago... In the flesh... "Mordechai?!?!?" I exclaimed as we literally bumped each other walking through that narrow passage way. I had to remind him who I was, but we both looked a bit different. Turns out he had moved to Israel shortly after that odd day in 2004. He was very religious and was wearing all the clothing one might expect from an orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. He now wore a long unkempt red beard with proud curly payes down the side, a traditional black hat and coat, and he was running late to yeshiva. "Russell!! How many years has it been?" I told him exactly how many it had been. Before long, he asked about Irma. How couldn't he? I gave him a very brief history of the fall of Rome. Mordechai looked on in shocked amazement as I explained what had become of her. We laughed awkwardly about coincidences/small worlds, we said our goodbyes, and I figured that would be the end of that for another 12-13 years.

Then came this morning. I didn't sleep particularly well last night. I seldom do. I suffer from insomnia after spending years on the road, and am haunted by many demons that just won't die. When I awoke, my brain was fixed on my search for serenity in the new world (The West Coast). Out of the silence came a *ding* and a popup message on 3 devices (Thanks Steve Jobs). And with that, I was pulled right back into a world I thought I had escaped from. It was Mordechai. And as usual, the subject was Irma. What follows will simply be the email thread as it played out. I am ok. I will be fine. My stress level was through the roof as I began writing this morning.. But somehow, I find that turning my pain into stories and sharing with anyone who cares to read them calms me down. A lot. I have no pride, so I take all the help I can get. 

7:03AM CST Mordechai: 
          subject: great to see you in jerusalem!!
                                      
          id like to broker a peace between you and irma
                                      
          i didnt tell her i saw you i havent talked to her in years
                                      
          i think its just good for everyone to try
                                      
          i have literlaly no investment in this and like you both 
                                      
          peace is good!!

7:23AM CST Me:
          She deserves nothing of the sort. She is one of the most evil human beings on the planet. 
She commit fraud and lied to me. She stole my home, kept me around for months, took advantage of my family's kindness, THEN threw me out of my own home in the middle of a frigid night. At midnight. 

After that she lied to a judge several times trying to further terrorize me by falsely accusing me of abuse in an attempt to steal my dog. She commit purgery that day and was thrown out of court. Among other lies, her insane brain told a sitting judge that my dog was a 'gift to her from the dog breeder'. The dog breeder however was a longtime friend of mine and was in court that day as MY witness. 

Irma was sleeping with someone else and got knocked up right after we were in court. (Unless she lied and that evil baby is mine. I certainly hope not). 

The next time I hear her disgusting name, I truly hope it is someone asking me if I heard that she died. Ph^ck her. For eternity. May she know no peace in her life. She is a sociopathic maniac who deserves nothing but suffering, pain, and misery. 

Other than that, hope you are doing well. 

7:27AM CST Mordechai (with a partial but irrelevant reveal I had always suspected):
Subject: wait so you are saying you dont want to? lol 
wow im glad i didnt end up with her!!

what a journeyh sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh man sorry to hear it

of course a peace would involve fair restititution but ok lets let it go
          my friend and i wished we had invited you to come hang out at yeshiva with us!! 

7:40AM CST Me:

         I would have loved to. Maybe next time. 👍🏼



As I write this on the couch, I am snuggled between Rosie, my beautiful boxer girl and Casey, my boston terrier who has been faithfully by my side for so many years. I hope you all have a great and meaningful day. We don't know how many days of any sort are left in this world nor how many are left in our lives. Someday, I hope to trust again. Someday I hope to love openly again. Someday I hope to walk tall again and return to making art in the way I know I am meant to. I hope someday is soon. 

Peace


Monday, January 30, 2017

Water is thicker than the blood of fascists! #nazi #trump #muslimban #theresistance

Water is thicker than blood. Especially when that blood flows through the hardened arteries of a racist conservative piece of shit!

This morning, I had to disown a blood relative after he disrespected my mother. Fred Wolff (I name names). He has been a raging conservative asshole (redundant) for years. Among other things, I told him to fuck off; what a worthless piece of shit he is; what a horrible human being; and what a shameful excuse for a JEW (of all things) he is to still support Nazi Scumbag Trump.

After all that loveliness was done, I walked silently to the giant Meiji temple and shrine in Harajuku, Tokyo. I meditated a bit and considered how many people I care about who actually support this monster.

I have come to the undeniable conclusion that I cannot respect their choice. They are completely full of shit and contradicting everything they said and did for the last 8 years. I can't tell if they are terrified, ignorant, bigoted, or just fucking stupid. But these people and their decision to support (actively or passively) bigotry, fascism, white supremacy, misogyny, rape and murder of innocent men, women, and children, mass expulsions from our nation and bans from passing through our borders based on religion... These are simply indefensible un-American values for which there can and should be no respect given. There is quite literally nothing less American than those views.

This is NOT a time for coming together. Unless that means coming together as Americans to fight the bigotry and tyranny of our new fascist dictator and his little Nazi bitches.

But if not, then this is a time for rising up against this administration in any and all possible ways. This is civil war. Bring the motherfucker on! I am fighting!

As we learned in the last civil war, there is nothing more American than fighting to protect the union, and also: the confederacy will fall once again. I just hope we don't belong to Russia by then. (Seriously, that's a thing)

Thank you David Hungate for loaning me some lighter fluid that my fire desperately needed!

Viva la resistance!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

You are the destroyer of worlds.

I am sickened. I cannot and will not remain silent.

To all those people who supported this monster, this Hitler, this destroyer of worlds... To all those who said: 'he is just saying these crazy things to get elected', 'he doesn't even mean what he says', or 'he won't actually do any of these things'...

To those who proudly ignored us while the SANE people begged you and pleaded with you to support Hillary Clinton, the most qualified presidential candidate in history, and to do so for the good of our world...

SHAME ON YOU.

YOU bear responsibility. YOU have blood on your hands and should never sleep another peaceful night on this earth. YOU have condemned innocent human beings to torture, rape, and death. YOU have no moral compass. YOU are Donald Trump and YOU are everything he stands for. YOU are the bigot, the racist, the homophobe, the misogynist, the antisemite, the white nationalist, the Nazi, the anti-American policy maker, the tax evader, the rapist, the hater of
Muslims, the killer of women and children.

When the final bomb falls and the dust of a thousand years settles, it will have been YOU that caused all of this...

YOU are the destroyer of worlds.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two black guys, a Jew, and Paul Wolff walk into a Thai restaurant…

There we were, together at a table in a strip mall; in an Laos restaurant with 837 reviews on yelp and 4 solid stars; on the eve of the illegitimate inauguration of the worst man to ever run for president. A scumbag like no other, a rich bully out of touch with anyone beyond his family and circumstances, a white supremacist, an antisemite, a proud rapist, a con man, a tax criminal, a man guilty of treason, a man that speaks of ‘banging his own daughter’, and so much more. As we ordered dinner, all of us minorities… (and Paul), the conservation turned inevitably to what we now faced: a reality too horrible to fathom, and an undeniable end of the United States of America. It is a conversation that has gone on for over a year now; one that intensified after the election. 

At approximately 3:00am EST on November 10, 2016, when the election was called in favor of this awful human being, WE collectively stood at the edge of a cliff. Paralysis took over our motor skills, disbelief occupied our mind, we were unable to breathe… What next? Do we jump now? Do we slit our wrists, THEN jump? Do we tie a rope to a tree, put a noose around our neck, THEN slit our wrists, and THEN jump? Most of us just stood at the edge, stunned, staring hopelessly into the flaming abyss. Many people, (I will not out them) made plans and took actions. I know several people personally who have established citizenship in other countries since that night. And then there were the activists… (many of whom didn’t even fucking vote) YOU STAY AND FIGHT would become their battle cry.

The reality is, we the people have very little control over what has just happened, nor what is bound to continue to happen. While most of us (especially the poor and people in the arts) are worried about losing healthcare, there are much larger moves being made on the chess table. Putin, Netanyahu, Trump… all buddies. Think about that for a second. Please, I beg you. I am very pro-Israel because I am not a schmuck. I cannot be blind to how anti-semitic the world and the UN are. But Netanyahu? Complete bully and douchebag. The three of them together can make up their own axis of evil. Not to mention all the extreme rightwing leaders around the world now joining them in a joyous hora around their cauldron of death. (google hora my goyish friends). This is one of those moments in history where almost nothing good can come from where we stand. And at this sobering moment, I am very grateful to be surrounded by friends and artists right now. I will not turn on my tv today, and I  will turn off news notifications. Later today, I get to perform on stage with my friend Larry Mitchell at NAMM and that is a great honor and privilege. Larry is one of the sweetest and most talented human beings on the planet. Great friend, great man.

As I write this, our finest and classiest president, Barack Obama and his beautiful wife and family just left the White House for the last time. (until Michelle is elected). I am so proud to be a citizen of the world. Proud to have compassion for people of all races, faiths, and sexual orientations regardless of their socio-economic station in life. (THANKS MOM!) I am proud to stand up and fight vigorously for the rights of those who do not yet have ‘equal rights’ and to call any conservative a bigoted asshole when they say ‘those people’ want ‘special rights’. But this morning, and many other mornings over the last year, I find myself deeply ashamed and flat out sickened to be an American. Here’s the thing: REAL patriotism will make any decent American share that feeling at this moment. (Fuck you Lee Greenwood and your confederate fans) I know so many of you good people are out there. And I share in your shock and mourning for our nation. The United States of America had such great potential. But it is officially over. We have no moral authority… anywhere in the world. Not home, not abroad. And in 4-8 years, we may have no world left. 

I urge you all to do something I did (though quite accidentally). When I almost died 15 years ago, that illness effectively ended my artist career. It altered the course of my life, and left me with the gifts of PTSD, depression, and insomnia. For a couple of years I was suspended in a cryogenic state, unable to move, think, make any forward progress in my life. Then, somehow, I was able to wake up. I was reborn. I had a level of drive and energy I never knew BEFORE I got sick. And I started to truly LIVE. Every day, every year, every moment. Nothing was wasted. Nothing was put off. I began to travel the world. To live fearlessly. To just GO FOR IT in all of my endeavors, no matter what the IT is. It is intimidating at times. When I think about how I have lived over the last 15 years, I think how is that possible? There is no way I can do it (But I did do it). LETTING GO OF FEAR was a side effect of almost dying and truly part of a much greater internal ‘fuck it’ movement. 

We get one life. That’s it. It can end at any second. And we cannot let the folly and bigoted ignorance of this country define our personal worth and value. There is a whole world out there. Explore it while you still can. And yes… FIGHT… FIGHT like hell for the people who don’t have it as good as you do. Don’t be a selfish asshole. If you see someone you can help in some way, it doesn’t matter that you are saving money for a new guitar, or a vacation, or addition to your house. Your soul will thank you much more for helping where you can. While today might mark the end of our country as we know it, it does NOT have to mark the end of our humanity and dignity. Donald Trump, he does not represent anyone except himself and the bigoted white supremacists who support him. But he does not in any way represent America. Not me. Not my family. Not my friends. And not anything close to the majority of this country. 

World: we are truly sorry for this scum we have elected by default and for the evil things he has already done and will continue to do. Some of it is irreversible damage. But please know that we are mourning WITH you. We are huddled with OUR families too, wondering what the heck to do next. How to make sure OUR children are safe and have a future to look towards. This is a dark day for the entire world, not only America. A dark day for women, for Jews, for Muslims, for blacks, for gays, for Mexicans, for recent immigrants, for REAL Americans (again, fuck you Lee Greenwood and your ignorant fans). There is no turning back. We have fallen off the cliff into a deep, dark valley. There is only walking forward. And since there is no light to walk towards, it is up to all of us to create that light.

Please join me today in turning off your news feeds, turning off your TVs and radios, and taking quiet moments of reflection and meditation. 

Ponder this question in those moments:
How can I be a source of healing and light in this world?
How can I be a source of healing and light in this world?

Then meditate on this theme:
I am the source of healing and light in this world.
I am the source of healing and light in this world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

GRATITUDE

Gratitude

There are certain moments, brief but oddly significant, when I take a step back and look at where my life is. It is humbling to realize how truly lucky I am and how far I have traveled on this path. Today, after a not-so-fun trip to the dentist (seriously, don't forget to floss), I went over to Blackbird Studio. For those who don't know, Blackbird is one of the premier recording studios in the entire world. And it is one where I have had the honor of working several times. Today, I was handing over some files from the upcoming Rachael Santos record I produced to my good friend & Grammy award-winning mixer, Steve Marcantonio.

Blackbird Studio to someone like me is like the Vatican would be to a devout Catholic. And walking in today took me full circle to ten years ago when I produced my first album there. They recognized me at the front desk. They pointed me down the hall to where I was meeting Steve. This priviledge was not taken lightly. I belonged there. I was welcome in a revered place in my industry.

Blackbird is where I really got my start in Nashville. Where I first met John and Martina McBride (the studio owners). Blackbird opened so many doors for me in this town. And the friends I have made along the way are spectacular. Steve is a mensch and he knows it. But he is also one of the greatest engineers of all time. I am so incredibly lucky to work with him on this project and truly grateful to call him a friend.

It seemed very fitting today to walk into Blackbird (the studio John McBride named for the Beatles song) to hang out with Steve (who was working with John Lennon the day he was stolen from this world).

I take nothing for granted. Especially now. But as I look towards the future while firmly planted in the present, these words ring true:

I stand on the shoulders of giants.
I walk on a path cleared by legends.
I humbly create art in the presence of masters.