I have been talking about SeegerFest for over a month. I’ve been processing the opportunity that I was given, and I’ve been sharing stories with folks one by one…all trying to figure out how to write about it. I’ve spent the last month on the Cheyenne River Reservation - a place with a big sky, and working with people who have big hearts.
Last week, my friend Glenn Roth was here. He’s a finger style guitar player, and the kids in music camp really loved hearing him play.
It was a week filled with music. Glenn and I have played together for years, and what made our live performances out here more special is that we were joined by our friend Tiokasin Ghosthorse - a traditional Lakota flute player. We had a blast. We played my songs, we played old folk songs, we played 80’s rock songs - we played it all.
And we played every day, whether it was an informal jam session in our music tent or a performance for the town, we played because we wanted and needed to.
And that feeling, that amazing feeling that comes when you’re all in synch, and the music is flowing between each person playing, and passes out into the audience who may be singing along, and is fully engaged - that feeling of truly sharing a moment…
That was the feeling I got to enjoy all week, and at the end of the week it dawned on me: That was how it felt to be at SeegerFest.
Amazing things happened while I was at SeegerFest -
- I got my name in the New York Times as a member of ‘the new generation of folk singers’.
- Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) told me that my performance at Lincoln Center was ‘spectacular’.
- I got to sing at all five days of the festival- Lincoln Center, Hudson River Park, Hunts Point Park, the Bardavon Opera House and SummerStage in Central Park.
- I shared the stage with tons of amazing people: Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary), Fred Hellerman (The Weavers), Dar Williams, Guy Davis, Tom Chapin & The Chapin Sisters, David Amram, Adira & Alana Amram, Emma’s Revolution, Kim & Reggie Harris, Mike & Ruthy, The Owens Brothers, Amanda Palmer, James Maddock, Aurora Barnes, and many many other wonderful performers.
- I made friends with amazingly talented people who I’ll stay connected with throughout my career and life.
- Most importantly - I participated in a festival where egos were put aside and people were happy to simply make music and celebrate an amazing man and the folk music movement.
This idea of singing for something other than furthering your career, is how I’ve always felt you should approach each gig.
Unfortunately, there are times when I’m working with folks who are very clearly seeing a show, or sometimes me, as a step on the ladder. People get so focused on numbers - how many people are listening, how many cds/tickets/t-shirts/facebook likes do I have, that they forget that it’s about the music.
Spending time at SeegerFest with musicians confident enough to realize that it’s all about the music, and spending time out here on the Cheyenne River Reservation with selfless musicians like Tiokasin and Glenn who live for the music, made me realize that to spend time in this environment, I need to create this environment.
I need to demand this environment.
The feel at SeegerFest and our shows on the Reservation (which I’m now calling HopeFest) was so positive, so encouraging, and so hopeful because nothing else was getting in the way.
I will be pursuing that same feeling of joy, purpose and love at every single show of mine from now on.
I’ve always pushed for it - but I’ve never been able to clearly define and articulate what I’ve been trying to create until today.
I thank SeegerFest for that, and I thank the Cheyenne River Reservation for that.
And of course, this all goes back to Pete Seeger. A new friend. A man who met a young folk singer, and spent one of his remaining hours with her. I’ve been told by folks that Pete didn’t play games and he didn’t sit with fools. At SeegerFest, one of his dear friends told me, ‘if Pete took the time to sit with you, it’s because he saw something in you.’
And for that, I'm grateful.