2014 A.D. has shaped up to be the most momentous year of my life. It has brought me a house in which I have made a home, my dearest love (a beautiful bride to be), FATHERHOOD (and the mystical joy and wonderful challenges that come with such events), a shot at making a living making beer my own way, under my own company. Lately, life has brought me up in the wee hours to attend to my beloved daughter; during which times as I cannot easily return to sleep’s embrace, I find the space to express such reflections as you read here.
A mere few weeks ago now, life brought me the unique pleasure of hosting my favorite musicians in my own town (Little Rock), and in my home. Joshua James and his band of gentlemen were on tour and dipped into the South on this particular stretch. To my surprise, I found he was to play right here in town, albeit at my less than favorite venue. Those who know me well know I have been listening to his music for years, learning and covering his songs at every opportunity the guitar comes into hand, which unfortunately has been few and far between as of late. My taste in music usually veers towards the deep and brooding lyrics, wrapped in accessible key structures and chord patterns. There are few musicians who reach so deep within themselves to pull out so honestly their struggles, hopes, and fears wrapped in delicately placed strums and hums as Joshua James. One of my favorites from his latest album From the Top of Willamette Mountain can be found here, one of my favorite live recordings here.
When on tour, they frequently stay in the beds/floors/couches of warm hearted strangers who would offer such. I was honored to share all of the above with them recently. In Little Rock, they played to a mostly empty yet enthusiastic crowd of approximately 10 souls, and despite being road weary, played and sang with vigor nonetheless. We then came to my home to be greeted by my lover and child at the gate. As much as I wanted to grab my guitar off the wall and sing and play, hear and be heard by and with the boys, I could tell they were more interested in a conversation and bed. So it was a toast with Moody Brews: to the road, to an empty show, to the great mystery of life we share in our moments of breathing. Conversations of gardening and traveling and camping spots soon turned to fatherhood, as three of the four band mates have young ones of their own. Laughs were had over the lack of sleep, revelations of how difficult it is to be away from one’s pride and joy while on the road. In my life as a gypsy brewer, I can mildly relate.
We talked the business of making money for ourselves and our family, how the calculus of such changes with the addition of a life for whom you are now responsible. For an artist, money will always be a strange necessity. When I had no one to care for, I loved the work I did as Head Brewer of a small brewpub and didn’t mind too much the small paycheck. It was enough to make rent, I had all the food I could eat at the restaurant, fresh produce from my dear friends at the local community garden (who gladly traded for brew), my own beer to drink. All I had to do was work very hard every day creating a product people enjoyed. It was honest work; similarly for a touring musician. You are able to make rent doing what you love. You don’t “get ahead,” but that’s not the point. The point is the experiences you get to share, create for others, and in so doing, create your own.
At one point, I declared how incredible it is to be making my own beer, doing this thing I love, but how in reality, at least so far, how little I get to put back for myself, my girls. “I mean I can’t even afford to make a t-shirt order right now!” says I, and how hard it is to say no to charities at this point in the business. To which, Evan, the incredibly talented and very kind lead guitarist, responded: “we are just now breaking even on the vinyl pressing we did for an album two years ago… but we get to make money doing what we love” And that my dear reader is the POINT of this meandering story.
The boys were off before daylight, off for a long trek to Nebraska I believe, but not before some baby holding and picture taking. To my new friends, should you read this: thank you for your company. That time helped put my mind back on track to where it matters most.
I don’t know if Moody Brews will ever make a bunch of money doing what it does. It’s certainly not at present. But I know I am doing what I love. And I am thankful for folks who pay their hard earned dollars to buy and hopefully enjoy my beer. There’s no guarantee that this venture will work, but know I am giving my ALL (head and heart) in what I create and present. And that is where I want to be, where I have to be.
Joshua James performing one of his newest songs “Favorite Diamond”:
“I’m tryin to carry, my weight around for awhile,
Living’s harder when it makes no sense Pa,
I said I wish I understood the conviction in your blood
He said, son keep giving when you’re heart has given up”
Cheers to my friends on the road, to road itself, which presents us all with twists and turns, possibilities of which we never dared hope.
Josiah Hunter Moody.