And So It Begins

•June 4, 2011 • 1 Comment






•May 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I realize it’s only early evening back home, but it’s 10:34 PM here in Nottingham, England.  Tonight, we reach a new HWN milestone: never have I released the lyrics to a song before ever having recorded the song itself.  They’ll be at the bottom of this; I hope you like them.

An important disclaimer is that I am the opposite of articulate right now.  Finals are looming, and as the Brits would say, I’m utterly “knackered.”  Think less refined and more journal-like.

This is the part where I admit how awful I am at taking my own advice.  I’ve written repeatedly in this blog about how important it is to embrace the present and let go of the other tenses, but these past couple weeks have rendered that impossible for me.  My inevitable return to the States has dawned on me, and quite suddenly I’ve understood that I’m not ready for it.  That’s a weighty thing for me to say, considering all the friends and family I have back home, but there are two truths here: 1.) I hate having loose ends, 2.) I have many of them here.  Of course, the best medicine is community, so I’m throwing it out to the fans and sharing some new words with y’all.

Timing is a funny thing, isn’t it?  I say this because when I think about circumstances, I literally end up laughing about how unfair they can be.  Here I am, where everything is coming together in all the most perfect ways, and in three weeks, I get on a plane and leave it all.  I can’t go into great detail, but I can say that May 29th will be a profoundly difficult day.  Consequently, there’s a good chance I’ll have the first full-length HWN album completely written by the time I get back.  Recording is another story, but rest assured there will be no shortage of lyrical inspiration.

Anyone who’s studied poetry even briefly will understand that I am a Romantic.  I think lofty ideas are within reach, and I will fight like hell to make them happen.  Essentially, I see obstacles as a reason to go buy better knee pads.  The beautiful thing about human romance, though, is this: when someone else is involved, you can watch all your own plans go straight to hell, because you can’t make decisions for them.  That is a painful, powerful lesson, and it took a trip to England to teach me that.  My great piece of advice is this: by placing your trust in another, and risking your Self, you will get hurt more times than you can count.  Do it anyway.


Little boats weaving, a lake in my mind
In the silence I never knew.
Threads of a hidden, subconscious design
And the courage to see them through.

4,000 miles’ worth of all that I’ve been
And I thought I could leave it there,
But failed resolutions are too much to fend off
When memories don’t repair.

“I’m helpless but hopeful,” she said as I stared,
“But I guess that is all we can be.”
I learned then that timing will never be fair,
And that distance will always deceive.

So this is me,
Sweeping your history
From under your feet.

Little boats weaving, a lake in my mind
In the chances I never knew.
Threads of a quietly careful design
Where I’ll always have room for you.

The Ruse

•March 23, 2011 • 10 Comments

What is it about music that forges an immediate bond between strangers?  What is it about a song that makes us sit in our cars at 1 AM and think to ourselves, I will marry whoever wrote this?

For me, it’s honesty.  I remember the first time I heard a record by The Hush Sound (Like Vines), and I realized somewhere between the groove on “A Dark Congregation” and the poetic arrest of “You Are the Moon” that I should probably fly my golden minivan down to Sherburne’s in Stillwater, buy Greta Salpeter a rock the size of a small planet, and propose to her without introducing myself.

It’s the same reason that Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago puts me in a funk for nights at a time, that Eminem’s yeah-I-went-there subject matter gives me the greatest level of respect for him, and that Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak is one of the most heroic releases of our time.  There is something about a person willingly pouring out their soul.  It is inevitably relatable, and it is my lyrical ambition.

I have discovered over the past few years that honesty is actually the least forcible thing I can do: it happens when I’m not analyzing; when I’m not striving to make some sort of conscious impression.  After releasing Left, I found myself facing an unbearable writer’s block for months, supplemented by difficulties to reconcile with the content on the EP.  But after about five months, a funny thing happened – one night, I sat down in my basement and wrote a new song in one go.  No edits, no thought, just the “emotional necessity” that was responsible for Denuo back in 2007.

In July 2010, I spent a day at August Ogren-Dehn’s Barn House Productions in Mahtomedi recording the song, then posted a video of our session on YouTube:

Almost a year passed, I came to England to study, quietly penned a lot of new material, and put The Ruse mostly out of my mind.  Then one day about a week ago, I started getting some interesting Twitter mentions.  To make a long story short, there was an outpouring of support for The Ruse from people saying that they had unintentionally stumbled across the video while looking up someone named Stana Katic.  My first thought was, who the hell is Stana Katic?  Luckily, I was born into the Google era, and I quickly discovered that Stana Katic is none other than the star actress of ABC’s Castle, where she plays Detective Kate Beckett alongside Richard Castle (played by Nathan Fillion).  I had to laugh when I figured this out, because my outspokenly nerdy buddies at Luther College are huge fans of Fillion from his work as Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Joss Whedon’s Firefly.

Next Question: Why the hell would a celebrity actress be generating publicity for one of my songs?

To answer this, I did what any respectable modern citizen would do; I combed through her Tweets like an identity thief in a back-alley dumpster.  Ultimately, I found out that a fan had compiled a Castle video montage in celebration of the show’s 2nd anniversary, which she had selected as “Fan Video of the Week” on her fan site.  The fan – wonderful person that they are (who are you?!) – used The Ruse as the featured song.  4,000+ views later, people were taking notice and giving me some very encouraging feedback.  Watch the fan video below:

There is nothing I love more as a musician than my fans.  They are responsible for giving me something to do, and letting me know that it all counts for something.  It is in the aftermath of that video, and of the subsequent feedback from it, that I decided to have The Ruse properly mixed & mastered, and released as a single.  Click the link below to visit the Official Online Store.  It has to be processed by iTunes before it will be available there, but I will post updates on Facebook and Twitter as soon as that happens.  Thank you, as always, for your continued support.  Keep listening.

HWN Official Online Store

Acceptance Through Education

•September 30, 2010 • 2 Comments



Dear Fans,

Normally, I don’t go out on any great political limbs or tackle any notably controversial subject matter in this blog.  But my greatest concern as a person, and as a musician, is humanity.  As you read about the tragic inner struggle forced upon young Seth Walsh, I want you to put yourself in his shoes, which I believe is the most effective medium for human understanding.

Now, I want to ask you this: When was the last time you made a conscious decision about who you were attracted to?  I don’t know about you, but when I see a woman on the street, I have absolutely no say in whether or not I find her beautiful.  It is an intrinsic part of my human instinct; I have no influence on it, I can only respond to it.

I promise you, my friends, that it was no different for 13-year-old Seth Walsh, nor is it any different for any member of the straight, gay or bisexual communities.  For somebody to suffer such smothering guilt that they would give up on life, for something that is an unavoidable facet of every human’s makeup, is something that should never happen.

Even broader than sexuality is the idea of cultural acceptance, which is my greatest passion as an anthropologist.  Quite simply, we ought to begin thinking about what backgrounds we all come from, and we ought to realize the profound influence of cultural upbringing.  I was raised in a certain region of the United States where certain ideologies are prominent, but if I were raised in a different part of the world, by parents who believed different things, I would undoubtedly believe those things.  Is it okay for me to believe the things I believe?  Absolutely.  But is it okay for me to denounce, reject, or actually act out against anyone else’s beliefs?  Absolutely not.  To do so is to literally deny a person their life experience.

I find that it is the same with love.

There are almost seven billion people on this Earth, and there are subsequently almost seven billion unique life perspectives to be discussed.  The moment you begin thinking that your life perspective is more valid than another person’s is the moment you become hatred’s ally.  The moment you realize that your beliefs do not have to encroach on other peoples’ is the moment you achieve honest coexistence.

In the case of Seth Walsh, it certainly was not he who failed.  It was not even the fault of the bullies, who will now have to bear the towering regret of this situation for the rest of their lives.  The call that I wish to set forth, the desperate need in our world, is for good parenting.

We need to begin openly educating our children not only about their own sexuality, but the sexuality of others, and the imperative nature of accepting where others’ beliefs originate.  We need to have dialogue upon dialogue about why differences are not only acceptable, but indispensable to human life.  And finally, we need to set the example.  I believe the most powerful aspect of parental reinforcement is the adoption of the ethics that we try to pass on.  To those of you who are parents, and to those of you who, like me, hope to be parents: Please do this.  Do not nurture a world in which humanity is met with opposition.  Teach your children to see differences for what they are: beautiful, perpetual, essential.

To the loved ones of Seth Walsh, and of the countless individuals who have suffered similarly: I promise you that I will fight for a different world.


The Perpetual Summer

•August 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve found the three annual months of summer particularly difficult to swallow.  As a child, they taught me that all good things pass.  As soon as I started college, however, an entirely new beast was introduced into my yearly summer conundrum, in the form of inescapable public preconceptions.

I remember coming back from my freshman year at Luther and expecting to be this entirely new, impressive, refreshing person to all those around me.  What I discovered was, because these people had known me for 18 years, they expected me to be the same.  And as much as I tried not to, and actually wanted to be the farthest thing from it, I found myself meeting those expectations.  It was as though the environment lent itself to my old ways, so I naturally met them – and of course, I hated being home.

The exhausting aspect of music is this: when I write a song, I put something unexplainable into it.  I release it, and it becomes the property of the listener.  But every time I perform, I have to climb back into my past, just for that 30 or 40 minutes.  Combined with the looming cultural pressure to constantly plan ahead, I have often felt attacked by all tenses.

There was one night at The Beat Coffee House in June that especially weighed me down, and afterward, I went over to a friend’s house for a late-night, therapeutic swim.  The conversation he and I had that night sparked what has become my great revelation of the Summer of 2010:

The past is over, and the future is fake.

The past is good for two things: fond memories and lessons.  The future, meanwhile, literally does not exist.  It is a fabrication of our minds, the way we think things ought to end up.  But what about the present?  Where does it go amid our concerns?

The answer, for me, has been this: It gets lost.  So wherever you are right now, stop and take a look at where you are.  Ponder your environment and realize that there are beautiful things around you at all times.  And then, go out and do it constantly.  Our pasts AND futures are created by this very moment, and each second, our present is gone.  So what are you creating?  Are we really going to spend the entirety of our existences hating Mondays and waiting for the weekend?

Right now.


Respect Tha Insect: A Semester in Review

•May 19, 2010 • 1 Comment

Ah, yes, liberal arts schools.  Where no matter your specialty, you must at some point dabble in the awkward.  Where regardless of your apparent inability to nurture anything away from its inevitable death, you must inescapably take a general biology lab class in which you raise insects inside your dorm room.

Aaron, meet insects.  Insects, meet Miller 420.

Because by some miraculous stroke of nature, I managed to keep all of these creatures alive, I thought it would only be right to blog about them.  This is also a product of the embarrassing separation anxiety I now feel as a result of being required to turn them in to the Biology Department.  Though they will probably all be dead within a matter of weeks due to an inherently hasty life cycle, I predict the blogosphere’s lifespan to last much longer.  Let’s make my public tears worthwhile.

My first occupant was Papa Roach, a glorious little Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa).  For a more detailed photo, go here, though I far prefer the character of this one.  Interestingly enough, Papa Roach never did hiss, even after hours and hours of pipette prodding.  So, apparently he was a mute, though he sure as hell knew how to eat dog food.  Papa Roach, you were silent, low-maintenance, and preferred the darkest of desk drawers.  You are missed, my friend.  I hope your new owner, unlike me, is brave enough to de-feces your dish so you don’t have to constantly lay in it.  (Sorry)

It was around this time that we learned about pesticides in class, and my frustrations with modern chemical application, combined with the picturing of my insect companions falling victim to a very lung-damaging death, could only become adequately expressed in the form of gangsta rap (logically).  A visit to my friend Andrew Prahlow’s hybrid dorm room / studio produced this angsty nugget:

Yes, that is me on the piano, and yes, that is me rapping the first verse.  And yes, I promise to stop exploring this genre in my music career, no matter how temporarily amusing it seems.

My second assignment involved not just one or two organisms, but a whole damn family of them.  Raised in a tiny petri dish equal in size to Papa Roach’s, I was given the task of breeding Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus).  And as I found out very quickly, what began with two adults (male and female) and one nymph would prove to be the most raunchy rave-orgy I have ever witnessed.  And I’ve seen a few raunchy rave-orgies.  In case you think I’m exaggerating, I’ll point out that the two adults mated for OVER 24 hours straight on one occasion, only to outdo themselves a couple days later.  It is for this reason that I dubbed the male Marvin Gaye, and the female, respectively, Ke$ha.  Eggs were laid, more nymphs were born, and my own little incestuous Brady Bunch lived happily in their dish of sin.

My third and final guest was easily the prettiest, though I never figured out if it was a male or female.  This was not a problem, as I settled on the name Laser Jesus within the first day.  LJ, a Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) started as a caterpillar that literally swam in its combined food/beverage mush, like so.  I should note that I loved this little creature; I did not have to take care of it in the slightest. Eventually, Laser Jesus pupated, and I transferred it to a wire cage so the butterfly could escape without imminent death.  When he and/or she emerged about 8 days later, this was my new friend.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!  Needless to say, I had half a mind to let LJ go, partially because it would flip shit every time the sun hit its cage, and partially because I couldn’t get it to eat.

In summary: mute cockroach, pesticide rap, milkweed bug orgy, dieting butterfly.  My sad life.  Thanks for listening.



•April 12, 2010 • 2 Comments

Last week, I laid down in a field for a half hour.

I just grabbed a coat, headed out, found a dry spot, put on some music, and looked at the stars because they were there.

I didn’t go looking for something, I went to leave a lot of things behind.  See, I don’t take time for myself, I don’t slow down.  I live a fast life, I juggle perceptions and try to keep everyone happy, I pull all-nighters to get shit done, I keep a full calendar, and I make a lot of phone calls.  It used to be that when all those things piled up, I would write songs as a vehicle for transcendence — but then, music has a business side as well, with all the pressures of academia.  So, for me, this was an act of profound meaning — I set aside time to let everything drift.

I discovered something that night: decisions aren’t out there waiting to be unearthed or chiseled out of other people.  They are inside us, brooding and unnoticed.  How often do we ignore what we actually want because of safety?

When friends come to me with hard decisions, the first thing I ask is: “What do YOU want?”  I usually hear, “I just don’t know.”  And after my half hour under the sky, I’m done accepting that, because it’s a lie.  You DO know, you know exactly how you would have it if you could, but you’re afraid to take the risks that might make it that way.  I used to think I was so introspective that it had to be poisonous, but in reality, introspection wasn’t the toxin — the toxin was that I refused to take my own intrinsic wants at face value.  Introspection is healthy, but you must take it in its rawest form.  Trust yourself.  Don’t say, “No, that must not be how I feel,” instead say, “Whoa, no shit, I guess I have to act on this.”

If I keep living the way I have been, I will end up ninety years old, wishing I would have had the courage to step outside of this walled-in world and express all the things I feel right now.  I refuse to become that, don’t you?  I’m going to Nottingham for a year because I want to do it — I want to see the world and talk with an accent and drink foreign microbrews and cook my own damn meals.  I want to tell people what they mean to me because my plane could go down, and I want to live without fear because in two hundred years, nobody will remember the times I embarrassed myself.  I want to step on the stage and know that I have a story to tell, and replace nerves with love and community.  And my deepest wish: to ignore all the boundaries that get in the way of people knowing I love them.  Those are the boundaries that ruin humanity.

I don’t know about you, but I love the lessons that risks bring.  The fields and rooftops and car hoods are out there, waiting for you to lay down on them and listen to yourself.


P.S. A cool backlit photo of us performing Bon Iver’s cover of Lovin’s For Fools, originally by Sarah Siskind.  This is the sense of community I live for.  Photo taken by Kelsey Olson at Club Pyramid in Decorah, IA on April 9th, 2010.

4.9.2010 - Lovin's For Fools