Thank you for getting us to 41% in the first 6 days of our Catfish Sandwich Kickstarter Campaign! Here's a back porch performance of Redemption for you, as a thank you!
Thank you for getting us to 41% in the first 6 days of our Catfish Sandwich Kickstarter Campaign! Here's a back porch performance of Redemption for you, as a thank you!
16 years ago, we sat across the table from each other in Cracker
Barrell, trying to decide if we should quit our full time job and go
after our dream of being “full time musicians”. We were young, pregnant
(literally) naive and chock full of hope and faith. We just wanted to
be able to say that in our lifetime, we had really gone after the thing
we felt like we were made to do. Right then and there, while Michelle
was eating a catfish sandwich, (the whole pregnant thing) we decided to
go for it and we handed in our notice the very next day.
later, we have recorded 8 cd’s and played for thousands of people. We
have toured living rooms, coffee shops, bars, colleges, churches and
festivals. We have worked a vast array of part time and full time
jobs. Barry earned a Dove nomination and Michelle gave birth to four
babies. We have played all over the world and driven our minivans and
suburbans all over North America. We have been kicked around some and
got back up some. Record deals fell through while artists all over the
world have been recording our music. We moved to the mountains and moved
back from the mountains. And here we are, 16 years later, having
another catfish sandwich moment.
We are still sitting across the
table from each other, trying to decide if we should keep going for it.
We have learned a lot of things the hard way and we are much less naive
these days (are we?). We still really want to say that we did what we
were made to do. We are doing whatever it takes to keep food on the
table and always trying to find a way to do the music we believe we are
meant to do.
The Catfish Sandwich project is a group of songs that
sums up our journey, from Cracker Barrell to today. There are songs
about growing up, love songs, prayers, heartaches, hope and bustin’ yer
ass. Anyone who knows us will hear the narrative of our crazy life in
the words of these songs. It’s a story worth telling because it ends
with the future and hope we have always believed was ours.
returning to our Americana roots and taking the production somewhere
grassy and rootsy. Banjos, steel guitar, mandolin, fiddle and honkey
tonk piano will tell this story for us, the way we want it told. We
will record this project in Dallas and hope to raise the funds to hire
the studio musicians who speak that language the best. We want to raise
funds to master Catfish Sandwich in Nashville, like we did Long Straight
We haven’t packaged our cd’s in anything but cheap
envelopes in a decade, and we are aching for the packaging to match the
content of this project in quality and class. We want to raise funding
to make that happen.
We have never once, in the past 16 years,
been able to get any single project done without other people helping to
make it happen, so why should this project be any different?
Partnering suits us and helps us know we are doing something that is of
value to anybody else.
So, who wants to make a Catfish Sandwich?
If we exceed our initial goal, we will let ourselves dream bigger and plan for the most amazing cd release tour of our lives.
We use the fabulous CD Baby to distribute our music both physically and digitally. It is an invaluable resource for busy musicians. They are doing us a solid today and not taking their usual percentages from anything that sells! We will get 100 percent of the profit from any of our music you purchase from CD Baby today! It's all right here, folks!
As news of our impending move has been filtering out in bits and pieces, my inbox is full of messages from friends wanting to know the details of why and when we are moving to Texas. In an effort to get the full story out in one place, we blog it. 🙂
For the past few months, our question to the Father has been "What? What is the next move, the next step, the next thing you have for us?" The question wasn't borne out of a desire to get out of dodge. We have sincerely been in a place where we just needed to know that what we were doing was truly what God had for us. It was a dream come true for us to get to live here at all. That's a fun story….
I grew up 8 miles from my mailbox in rural Alberta, Canada in the foothills of the Rockies. Barry gew up in small town Alabama in the forests of the Smoky Mountains. Texas was where we collided and grew together. Even though our years in Texas were amazing, we never adjusted well to the concrete, the crowds and the heat. When Russell, Ivy and Elliott were really little, we started longing for them to have what we had as children….space, woods and mountains.
Barry and I took a scouting trip to see if we could get a feel for where we would want to live. I told Barry I wanted to live within an hour of the airport, so he drove as fast as he could from the airport, for an hour, and it landed us in Teller County. The beauty in Colorado is so familiar to our upbringings that we felt ourselves coming alive, with every mile between us and the city. Still, the cost of living was so high in Colorado, I had trouble believing that this was a dream that we could ever really live. We drove to Mueller State Park and we sat outside the gates while I muddled through my doubts and fears about this plan. We prayed together there and I felt like the Father was saying to me, "You can stay out here and never know what's in there, or you can go on in, trust me and get to see it." We bought a pass and drove on in. Mueller State Park is an old ranch-turned-park with an incredible view of several mountain ranges. There is no better place to see the whole shebang than from this vista. As we stood up there together, in the chilly October wind, looking out over this breathtaking tribute, we knew we had been issued an invitation to walk on into something we had been dreaming of. We kept that state park sticker on our car for the months to come, to remind us of the invitation.
We put our stuff in storage and lived with family for six months to save up money for a down payment on a house. We arrived with a suburban, a uhaul, our trademark purple trailer and zippo money. Our parents were worried about us, to say the least. We checked into a hotel room to await our house closing, scheduled for the following day. My mother in law flew in with the baby who was too little to make the journey by car and we holed up there together, excited and nervous. She dumped out a bag of mail she had intercepted for us and had been saving for us for a couple of weeks. I went through it and, in God's perfect timing and flair, there was an unexpected royalty check there for $7000.00. We freaked out and marvelled that this provision would come to us on that night, and not weeks before. If we had opened that check even 5 days prior, the drive to Colorado would have required much less trust. I have never forgotten that kiss from God. I took it as straight up confirmation of His earlier invitation to us to walk on in.
Our years here have been stupendous. We have lived our dream every day. We have never, for one minute, taken our surroundings for granted. We were followed out here by scads of our most precious friends. Brian and Cathleen Hobson were transferred out here within mere weeks of our arrival. Mark and Christi Bovee followed a summer later. Stefanie Rohman & Beth Gilchriest left their families and jobs to make the pilgrimage. Ryon and Rebecca Fuqua were on their heels, baby in tow. How could we ever have planned that? Here was our community, with us, in our dreamland. We have journeyed here together through collaborative artistic ventures, church experiments, epic worship, camping tromps, romances, weddings and divorces, babies born, heart failure, job losses, cancer, hurts and heartache, healing and redemption, real, beautiful life.
And then there are the natives. While at first we took their non-Texan demeanor as stand-offish, we soon experienced Colorado goodness in new for-real Coloradan friends. We have lived here, in a patchwork community of transplants and natives, in real community. Dales, Vilgitates, Rohmans of all sorts. We have lived a kind of community that most people only dream about. We are in each others lives, day in and day out. I have come to know that in this family, I will be encouraged, confronted, trusted, kept accountable, comforted, taught, honored, fed, prayed for, forgiven, rescued, supported…..the list of goodness goes on and on. Community, however is not the God here, Jesus is. True community is a mere byproduct of the pursuit of Jesus as the focus, above all things. Jesus is the author of that beauty and it is as much a tribute to Him as the vista from Mueller State Park.
So, when the call came on a Tuesday morning with a job offer in Texas that needed to be responded to by dinner time, my first response was, of course, no. However, when we took it to prayer, we both realized that God was very swiftly answering the "What now?" question we had dared to ask. We knew that we knew it. It broke our hearts to know it. This has been our home for nine years. We will move out of our house 9 years to the day that we moved into it. Samwise was born here. Our family is here. Our mountains are here. There is no disfunction here that makes us shake the dust off of our feet as we leave. There is only deep gratitude for the goodness we have known here, in God and people.
The morning after the job offer came, Barry and I drove around in stunned silence at the shock of a decision like this. We drove to Mueller State Park and wept as we walked up to our familiar vista, the Sangre De Cristos, the Collegiates, Pikes Peak, Raspberry Mountain. Barry, who is as connected to this land as an aspen tree, grieved for what he is leaving and offered gratitude for the gift he was given. Even as we drove away, we knew the invitation still stood.
Since God hasn't changed, this new chapter of the invitation is no less good than it was the first time around. Our good Father isn't into ripping away things that are dear to us, to accomplish some tactical purpose of His that we will have no heart connection to. The same trust required to move to the mountains is employed to move back to the city. The same God invites, the same God supplies and fulfills. After nine years of knowing His goodness in the mountains, we are confident that as we walk on in, we will continue to know His goodness, to the fullest.
Barry is already in Texas. He has been doing leather and vinyl repair in vehicles for the past year in Colorado and will continue to do so in a much more productive environment. The kids and I will follow him when school is over in May. Our house went on the market on Friday. Barry will be studying his commute and trying to figure out the best area for us to relocate to, but it will be in the DFW area. The kids and I are trying to get the most out of our remaining weeks here, getting lots of friend time and living it up in Colorado.
Now that we are over the shock of this decision, we are full of hope! We are excited to see what God has for us in the DFW area. Texas is where we soaked up so much of God! Texas is where we learned how to walk in community in the first place. Texas is where we fell in love and where three of our babies were born. Texas is where we were sent out from! Texas is the mothership! We are excited for opportunities, provision and connection. We love Texas and more importantly, Texans! So many dear friends of ours are ecstatic about our return and that is paving the way for us to return.
We can encourage you, if you are standing at the gate of an invitation from God, walk on in, up to the vista. See it, taste it, feel it, live it. Know His goodness in the land of the living whether that land has a slope or not. You actually CAN turn your back on your fears and choose to trust. The only thing you will ever regret is any time you wasted, muddling through your fears, sitting at the gates, afraid to enter in. He is always, always, always good.
We have known Kap and Wendy McWhorter for almost 15 years now. We met them at Vinelife in Huffman, TX in 1997. Vinelife was a home away from home for us for the better part of that decade and we have many friends from our times there. You know when you meet folks that you immediately like but you both have so many small children that you never actually get to know each other? That's kind of what it has been like for us with them. We have both, as families, both been in the same stage of life for so long. So, when we see each other, we smile at each other from across the room and wish we could ever have a decent conversation. When we knew they were on the tour schedule, we were excited at the prospect of the time with them AFTER the concert. What would it be like to put children to bed and have an uninterrupted adult type of conversation?
Well, it was awesome. And a long time coming. Their house show crowd was warm and responsive which made for an all around glow. I (Michelle) put on my stretchy pants and we stayed up way too late for Wendy, who teaches a Dirt Bag Boot Camp at the crack of crack in the morning. We talked about kids, Jesus, Galatians, families and the church. We laughed a lot. It was everything we hoped it would be. :)
And here enlies, potentially, the best part about what we have the privilege of doing on a house concert tour. When you stay with a family, lounging in your stretchy pants 'til the wee hours, you make a connection you would not make if you packed up your gear and loaded out at 10. When your breakfast together in your jammies with a gaggle of kids, you know stuff about each other that you wouldn't know if you were waking up in your hotel room and shuffling down to the hotel buffet. If we really are going to be about relationship, this "waking up together" scenario will remain of value to us. We are so grateful that people will make up a bed for us, throw a quiche in the oven and fire up the coffee for us. We are so grateful that this week, after so many years of knowing Kap and Wenday, we finally got to sit up together and laugh and talk. Invaluable.
The next day we finally decided to deal with our radiator issues. We had been pouring coolant into our van every few hours on driving days, due to a terrible leak. We exchanged ashes for beauty in Kingwood and got a brand spanking new radiator. We are so thankful that God provided the resources for us to take care of it and that we had a day off to get that done. Now, with a back door that opens AND a non-leaking radiator, we know we are better off than most travelling musicians.:)
On our day off, we rested at our friends, the Maynards' place. We did laundry, ate Mexican food, blogged, did school work, played the piano and watched some Bethel dvds. More stretchy pants, more laughing. Also, Barry may or may not have walked six miles in silly shoes back to the Maynard's house while the car was being fixed.
We have been playing for audiences for most of our lives and have, of course, felt the pressure to HAVE an audience. When folks show up to hear you play, whether it is in a living room, a church auditorium, a coffee shop or a bar, it always feels better. It is an easy ego feed to have a sizeable audience. You could easily validate yourself with numbers, whether the event ended up being meaningful or not.
For those of us who have plugged along in music as a ministry, there is a different economy we have to learn to tap into. It is a Kingdom economy where people and their hearts are the priority. It is an economy where externals like numbers and timelines are secondary to what God is doing in any given moment. As it says in Ecclesiastes, we can make all of the plans we want to all of the time, but God will be doing what HE wants, all of the time. Wouldn't we rather find out what God is doing and jump on THAT bandwagon, than push for our own agenda, that may never accomplish a Kingdom work?
Case in point. One night in Deep Ellum in 2003, we loaded into a bar with a well-rehearsed band. We had advertised well and felt prepared to give a great show. Nobody came for the first twenty minutes of the show. Then one solitary girl walked in and sat down directly in front of center stage. I (Michelle) felt my heart leap towards her. From the moment she walked in, I felt like I was singing every word of every song for her. Indeed, I was! She hung around afterward to talk and it was obvious that this encounter was meaningful for her, perhaps moreso than if she had been one of many. I didn't walk away from that night feeling like I wished there had been 50 more people, I walked away invigorated that God would go to such trouble to arrange a private concert for someone who needed words of life sung over her so badly. I am sure my performer ego took a hit, which is never a bad thing.
Another case in point, last January, on the Swan Song tour, we booked a house show with new friends and promoted the show well. Hardly anybody came and we performed kind of sloppy set in an uber casual environment. Our host had gone to much trouble to prepare for the event and she and I were both kind of mystified that folks didn't come out in droves. :) We were sitting around afterwards with our friend Marsha, who had come out for the show, getting to know our host a little better. Our hosts told us about their journey with infertility. It was a heartbreaking story for us to hear and we were moved on their behalf. It just so happens that infertility is a huge piece of Marsha's story and God has moved radically in her life and given her two sons, when she was given no hope. She was able to encourage our friend and we all prayed together for God to do the same thing for this family. She conceived within two weeks and gave birth to a beautiful, answer to prayer, little girl a few weeks back. If there had been a ton of people there that night, hanging out and chatting afterwards, such an intimate conversation would not have happened and those prayers would not have been prayed. There is not a chance that I would trade that encounter for a crowd.
His ways are higher, His priorities are more beautiful and His ideas are more miraculous. We are learning to trust His ways, His priorities, His ideas….Him. The more we walk with Him, the less we care about crowds and the more we are falling in love with the miraculous purpose of His agenda.
Two days ago, when we showed up at one of our favorite places in the world, The Abiding Place, where our friends, Bob & Teresa Nix live, we were just so excited to be there. The Abiding Place is a retreat center, a counselling hub and a surefire place of rest for so many. We have played there before to a good crowd and we were excited about the night. We knew we would be free to be ourselves with a group of like minded believers. Allison Cornell was coming in to open for us and we were excited to meet her and hear her music.
Nobody came. Let me rephrase that, crowds did not come. All kinds of last minute things came up for folks that had rsvp'd and when it was 20 minutes past time to start, two sweet ladies were sitting in the living room, up for anything. We decided to do a "casual" house concert…that means uplugged and sitting on the couch. Allison shared some of her beautiful music and we loved every minute of it. She sang a song about family that you will probably hear us sing soon. We sang a few songs and some of the songs moved us all into conversation about things God has brought us through. We connected with Donna and Vanessa, our two attendees, in a way we would not have if a bunch of folks had shown up. When the "concert" was over, we stayed in our spots on the couches and just talked. We shared some of our heartaches with Bob & Teresa and soaked up their wisdom. The next morning at breakfast, coversation picked up where it left off and the Nix's, Allison Cornell and the Pattersons got down to the heart of several matters over pancakes and bacon. Teresa did a craft with our travel weary boys and we rested and recouped. We received faaaaaar more than we gave and that, most certainly, was not our agenda.
His agenda is for me, as well. So many times, on a night where we assume that we will be the ones giving out, we are the ones who end up doing the bulk of the receiving. God economy is rooted in love because that's what He is. Why fight that kind of an economy? It's an adventure, it defies wordly thinking and pulverizes our pride. So, what do you do when nobody shows up? You chill out, try to tap into what GOD is doing, and enjoy the ride.
We scooted on out of Dallas after the second service in a hurry to get to Kirbeyville for a house show at our friend's, Jay and Kathy Sharp's place. Per usual, Samwise talked non-stop until two miles from our destination.
We unloaded in the dark while the boys made a b-line for the trampoline full of Sharp (and neighbor) children. The trunk door to our van has been permanently locked for five months. In order to make the trip in the van, we have been loading in through a side door and removing a seat from the van every time we loaded or unloaded. Michelle was explaining the situation to Billy, a Kirbeyville fellow who was helping us unload. He made his way to the back of the van, punched the door like Fonzy and it flew open. Halle-stinkin-lujah!!! Our life got a whole heckuva lot easier with one swift punch! Billy trained us in the ways of punch opening and we are now opening our trunk and loading in like any other normal travelling musical family of six. Billy, The Door Whisperer, you can have free Barry and Michelle cd's for the rest of your life.
You know that feeling you get when you walk into someone's home and you know you are cut from the same cloth? That's what it was like for us to be in the Sharp's home. We met them almost a decade ago in FW and we had a good connect even then. We could tell, as their people filled up their living room, they live in the same kind of community as we do…one where you are family, bloodlines or not. We could see that they are well loved and that they love well. The Kingdom of God is alive and well in Kirbeyville.
Jay and Kathy are preparing to record in December and we asked them to play a few of their own songs to open the night up. A highlight of the night for us was Jay, standing there in his socks, singing a fabulous song about how the devil will get his butt kicked. No shoes required. Our friends Rodney, Kathy and Meredith Moore came out from Beaumont and fit right in. We talked about grace and sang about the goodness of God. We laughed and worshipped and had a really good exchange with the Kirbeyville family.
We slept a tad late, awoke to an amazing breakfast and got in a couple of hours if great conversation with the Sharps. No pretense needed, we just dove right in. We talked about life, loss, grace and Jesus. Our kids were so sad to leave and Samwise tried to sneak Rosa, the chihuahua into the van.
Be sure to check out www.jayandkathy.com and watch for their new project at the turn of the year. Kirbeyville, we can't wait to see you again!
We had a fabulous Saturday night in Dallas with our friends, Josh and Krista Miller. We met them in church circles in our DFW days and we were excited to be a part of what they are doing in Dallas. After a fun jaunt for Sam and Michelle on the DART system, we set up for a house show in the living room of their new abode, flanked by their babies (dogs) Harvey & Brooke. Michelle has been doing some songwriter coaching with Josh via skype through www.recordingbazaar.com, so she bossed him into doing several of his own songs to kick the night off. Almost everybody in attendance that night was new to our music, so we felt blessed that they would take a house concert risk like that. We spoke about walking away from bitterness and about the Galatians-ish outlandish grace we have in Jesus. It was a warm night and we were excited to meet new folks. A special treat for us that night was that a few of our youth from Bethesda showed up. It made us feel old, but it also made us feel cool that they still wanted to hang with us.:)
We were up early for a jaunt into Josh and Krista’s world to help lead worship for two am contemporary services at Highland Park United Methodist. We learned new songs (real quick like) and had the really cool experience of singing our song “Smile” with a choir. We relied heavily on teleprompters and enjoyed their well rehearsed band! Thanks, Josh and Krista, for letting us be a part of what you do.
It’s been a long time since we have played in Dallas and we were glad to be reunited.
Via a facebook event invite, we found out that our buddy, Doug Leavy, was doing promotional stuff for a concert in Colorado Springs with The Choir and Michael Roe (The 77’s) and their collaborative effort, Kerosene Halo. I (Michelle) pretty much hyperventilated because, as a 1991 high school graduate, I was a hard core fan of both of those bands and I couldn’t believe they were coming so close! Doug graciously offered us an opening slot and I am still trying to think of what awesome thing we can do for him to thank him.
It was so, so cool to hear these guys play again…not like they have ever stopped. Their classics still moved me (and made me wish I could still get away with wearing crushed velvet leggings, leather boots and some variant form of tunic) and their new stuff hooked me big time. They were still amazing, still funny, still kind and still approachable. These guys are great songswriters, (yeah, you may have heard of a little song Steve Hindalong, the drummer, wrote called “God of Wonders”:) stellar performers and warm communicators.
Maybe the best part of the night for me was when they said that that have been doing house show tours. What? Just like me? Maybe the winds are a changing and a venue that we have chosen for accessibility has all of a sudden become cool. (Obviously, if they are doing it, it has!!) As we left the house today for a twelve day Texas house show tour, I know I felt cooler thinking about those guys doing the same thing.
We finished up a little EP to take with us on this tour just this morning. Barry was mixing while I was packing the van. Tomorrow we get the awesome opportunity to hang out with Shane Bernard.
Lucky (or maybe unlucky?) for Shane Bernard, I seem to have turned a corner last night in the way I act around famous people. My nervous custom prior to last night has been to act too cool for school because I have no idea what to do. I know that if I start talking, idiot fan girl will babble on incoherently, so I just plaster myself to my seat, or a wall, and act like I couldn’t care less about being there. (For verification ask my mom how I acted backstage with Amy Grant or ask my friend, Christi Bovee how I behaved at a breakfast with my favorite writer, Ken Gire.) But last night, I got over myself. I let my giddy out and ate the whole night up like a skinny puppy. I smiled non-stop, idiot girl babbled on, I stalked Steve, Mike and Derri for pictures and I gave them my cd’s. Shane B, get ready, super fan finally put her cape on last night.
We are so excited to be headed back to our mother ship, the great state of Texas, for a November tour! Please come and see us! Here is a link to our dates. There are plenty of shows to choose from. We even have a Sunday morning the 20th open if we can serve you and your fellowship in any way! Email us at email@example.com and we will make it happen! If you wanted a date on this last tour and didn't get one, we are coming your way again in January and March, so let us know and we will be in your LIVING ROOM!
Watch your inbox for news about our upcoming tours, cd projects and a house concert documentary we will be working on!