I spent the weekend along with Jesse Miller at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. My second time. Last year was just feeling it out. It made a big impact on my musical journey. At once overwhelming and totally welcoming. I was determined to go once again this year in a curious investigative frame of mind. To avoid getting swept up in the marketing aspects which drive much of it and just hang out with lots and lots and lots of incredible musicians who also, by the way, tend to be really nice, welcoming people. Somehow this branch of music and songwriting which values poets and quirky authentic performers over catchy phrases and slick performance seems particularly approachable. And the folk tradition of singing and improvising together infuses much of the music, though this group as a whole is pretty far from traditional folk.
The experience of NERFA is the most intense combination of intimidation and motivation that I have ever had. Total reality check watching and sitting next to some of the best songwriters on the planet. Writing one truly great song would be a life’s dream for me – they write many. So the only conclusion is that I just can be the best teller of my story – not Joe Jencks, or Zoe Mulford, or Jonathan Byrd’s story. Being around them does strongly motivate me to improve and go deeper through my songwriting. And while yes, I spend lots of guerrilla showcases comparing myself to the other mortals, that is also inspiring. That so many people write songs is truly something to celebrate. And to recognize the intense satisfaction of singing with and to others – why wouldn’t everyone want to do that?