The night we played Bonnaroo, I sat with my younger brother Sam, my wife Ellie, and a few other dear friends, reclining in plastic lawn chairs in the midnight Tennessee heat outside our tour bus, drinking wine and listening to music. After a decade of touring, (over 1700 shows) and making records, it's easy to forget the magic of music. We took turns introducing each other to new bands and artists, talking about our lives, our dreams, our failures.
Music has always had a medicinal quality to me, and that's why I started writing songs and touring in the first place. I first needed the medicine when I was seventeen. I lost a brother that summer, 1999. He was a great kid, lived life from the view of a wheelchair, and was gone without warning a few days before his 14th birthday. I took lots of medicine that summer, from Radiohead and Bob Dylan, from Pearl Jam and Otis Redding, from Bob Marley to the Temptations, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Rage Against the Machine. I played the guitar in my bedroom, learned songs I loved, sang along in my car alone or with a friend.
A year later I went to college and I became an addict. I was introduced to the medicine of Patty Griffin, Whiskeytown, Springsteen, Tom Waits, the Jayhawks, Wilco, Beck and hundreds more that could fill pages. I went and saw their shows and played their records over and over and over. The honesty, the intellect, the stories, the raw emotion, the rhythm, the vulnerability; it all made me feel like I was not alone. Music was a way of saying, "me too," a way of finding hope and meaning in the sorrow and confusion of life.
Somewhere in those late college years, I started writing songs, at first feeble attempts, but it grew and grew, and I got better and better. I booked shows, I made myself vulnerable and stood onstage and sang earnest songs about love and joy, pain and tragedy. I convinced myself that making medicine was something I could take a swing at. After graduating, over a cup of coffee, I a