The words baby coming now flashed across the screen.
“I’ll book a flight,” my manager said.
I called Holly and told her I was on my way. Then I headed to the bathroom and threw up.
The baby was two months early, and I was exactly one take into recording a new record.
2 hours later I was watching a room full of world class musicians play along to my scratch tracks via a garbled wifi FaceTime connection thirty thousand feet in the air, but after that my memory fails me. I had a layover somewhere, but the only thing I remember about the trip home other than the disembodied sounds of studio work was that someone directly in front of me boarding the flight home to San Antonio was wearing a t-shirt from a festival I had played. I stared at my name on the back of the shirt for what seemed like an eternity. Then I was sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car, and after that, I remember the mixed look of relief and pain on my wife’s face when I walked into her room.
A few hours later I became a father for the second time.
This ain’t no spring break story. If you’re looking for songs about a bonfire party in a field or hell-raising anthems to crack a Natty Light to, well, you’ll be disappointed. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve done all of those things. I’m just not doing them now.
This is the story of a guy in his mid-thirties with a young family. This is the story of how youth shapes a person, and how that person might then shape the life that is ahead of him. This is the story of a Pennsylvania kid who did a cannonball into Texas in search of the mystical inspiration that gave Guy Clark and Robert Earl Keen and Walt Wilkins and Bruce Robison their voices. This is the story of a life devoted to the craft— of a thirteen-year path that eventually landed him in Nashville, almost exactly halfway between his past and his present as far as the geography goes, to put that devotion down on tape.
We had to change quite a bit of our game plan for what was to become the record that will forever be exactly as old as Oliver because, quite simply, a life ended up changing what this record would become. After 37 days with him in the NICU the songs felt different. The sounds felt different. I felt different.
There are plenty of stories about life on a beach somewhere, and when my feet hit the sand you can bet those are the songs I’m queuing up, but that’s not my story—that’s my vacation.
To be honest, I got tired of waiting for somebody to sing to me on the radio. I kept wanting to hear someone tell a story that I could relate to at this moment in my life, but I couldn’t find it.
So I figured I’d sing it myself.
This is the story of what life is like for those of us somewhere in the middle of it all—the journey to get to this point, and the giant question mark-shaped path we’re following onward from here. Of how even the best-laid plans for your next big step have to so often be altered because, well, because life calls.
Quite literally, sometimes.