A video of me singing Carole King's "You've Got A Friend" at a show in Naples, Italy in November 2017. There's a magically fun moment near the end. Thanks to SoFar Sounds for hosting me. <3
A video of me singing Carole King's "You've Got A Friend" at a show in Naples, Italy in November 2017. There's a magically fun moment near the end. Thanks to SoFar Sounds for hosting me. <3
I was recently going through some papers and found a note I wrote to myself earlier this year, not coincidentally around the time of the inauguration of the current POTUS. Here it is.
In other news, I've just posted a new episode of my podcast Conquered 4 Life. Our guest on this episode is my neighbor Paul Thompson, a musical jack of all trades who has worked with PRINCE, STEVIE WONDER, WEEZER, DOLLY PARTON, and more. It's a wonderful discussion about his work with all those artists and his thoughts on all sorts of topics in music, including the attack at Ariana Grande's concert in Manchester in May of this year.
Here are the three of us:
I was recently a guest on the podcast Depression Session with Chris "The Genie" Biagini (who is the co-host of my podcast Conquered 4 Life), and in talking about what is driving my art these days, I verbalized something I'd been thinking to myself in recent months: I'm actually kinda happy. And by that I mean, I have a strong sense of self. I am no longer concerned with validation by musical peers, by the industry, by anyone. My motivation in making music is now simply this: It's what I do best, so why do anything else? I suppose you could say I've fully recognized my "calling", though I hate when people talk like that. The last album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll was me working through the last of my need to find approval, though it seems to understand the point of it all, I had to go through the humbling process of promoting it and releasing it, finding people who care about it and a lot of people who don't, and then even when you think you've got everything figured out (Ryan Adams likes my music! Reddit hammer strikes! Billboard is writing about me!), you realize that getting noticed is just the first step. After that, you've gotta deliver more than ever. So let's just say I've stumbled here and there on the follow-up, but now looking back on my tunnel vision approach to my career, I wouldn't have it any other way. I needed to be put on a pedestal and have it kicked out from underneath me to kill the one final demon standing between me and truly sincere art: My ego.
Scroll through an artist's social media pages, read their interviews, listen to their banter, you see ego everywhere. I believe the idea that a performing artist needs to have at least some ego to have the initial confidence to get out on stage in the first place. The thing is that ego is really just a filler when the artist has little confidence in his or her own art. Ego manifests itself when an artist has to make sure everyone knows they're great. "Here's a photo of me doing something really cool!" "Here's me with someone famous!" "Wow, thanks blog no one has ever heard of for saying something about me!" I am guilty of all the above, and I trust I will be tempted to repeat such things occasionally. Eventually though, as your talent develops and you find your voice, you just know you are doing something meaningful. The process and the result become the focus. Everything is there. What people think of it is ancillary at best. This is true self-confidence. Ego, on the other hand, is a shield. A form of defense to keep you going when you have no idea if your work is distinct.
So why do I feel like I am moving into a new phase of my career, one in which I'm escaping ego? I think there are a few reasons, here's some ideas:
Anyway, those are just some ideas. Regardless, I'm excited for the future of my work. I hope I can come up with something that moves you.
Actually, I have something now that may move you. As you probably know, I've been working on a project called 100 Conquered Songs since last July, in which I am writing songs for 100 different fans from around the world, based on the happiest and saddest moments in their lives. Well, I've finished over 80 of those now, and so I figured it'd be a good idea to compile a playlist of some of my favorites, as a primer for anyone who hasn't been following along super closely. Check it out:
Many thanks to National Endowment for the Arts and Iowa Arts Council for providing financial support for that project!
And now, some other updates from my world:
I think that's basically everything! Here are some recent videos (also there are a few that are only on my Facebook, including a good live performance featuring J.E. Sunde, click here for those):
"What's the Name of the Town?" Live in Nashville, TN for SoFar Sounds
Headroom Sessions - Live in Denver, CO (includes a Jimmy Cliff cover and a brand new song)
Live at Down Under Lounge in Omaha, NE
A music video for my song "God Plays the Tenor Saxophone" made collaboratively by students at my alma mater Iowa State University
On September 11th, 2001, I was sixteen years old, and I watched our world change live on TV in my high school chemistry classroom. I lived in a very small town in rural Iowa. I hadn’t really ever seen much of the world. I didn’t really know what it meant, but everyone somehow knew that nothing would be the same. Since then, I’ve watched escapism completely overtake our culture. The march of growth has brought us a million ways to distract ourselves from reality. Netflix, Facebook, a world where we only see what we want and there’s a never-ending supply. Our attention spans get shorter and shorter, news is delivered in memes, and how many books sold are actually read? If it isn’t entertaining, we just switch it off, turn the channel. So it’s no surprise that a reality TV producer, a master of lowest common denominator amusement, is the President of the United States of America (insert crying emoji here).
This failure of society isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s everyone’s fault. It’s time to be better. Most of our current adult generations seem to be a lost cause, sadly. The majority of us are set in addiction to mediocre culture and denial of culpability for humanity’s problems. When I first sat down to write this, I concluded to myself that really the only hope is in our youth, but a few recent performances I gave led me to reconsider. I was reminded of the power of creative expression, I saw people come together around music. I saw empathy in those crowds, and love. The world is very dark right now, but people want to see. It only takes the tiniest bit of light. The truth is that it isn’t very hard to be a hero. Who among us will be artists? Who among us will take the time to read books and study the news* and the facts (alternative or otherwise) behind it? Who among us will embark on intellectual explorations to uncover original thoughts? Who among us will have the courage to share those ideas with the world? I really believe that it takes just a small minority of empowered thinkers and creators to subtly shift the world on a path toward justice. The truth is there, waiting to be seen, while the world sits in darkness, oblivious. Who among us will be a light? (No, the light of your smartphone screen doesn’t count.)
While I hold onto optimism for today (and boy can it be tough), I know that real, lasting hope is in our young people, the next generation of leaders, those who don’t remember where they were when those buildings fell. We need to educate our children to value critical thought, to really understand how government works, to have a deep comprehension of American and world history, and to read regularly**. Progressive values come naturally to people educated in this way. If the schools won't do it for us, then parents and community leaders, you need to do it on your own. And we all can vote for representatives who value science-based education and development of critical thinking skills, and protest the hell out of those who do not.
“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.” - Maya Angelou
Modern liberal democracy as we know it expanded to world dominance in response to the Third Reich and the Holocaust, in which at least 6 million Jewish people were slaughtered (Don’t let Mr. Bannon erase that). Now we see that grand vision in a fight for its life. Is America à la Trump the new norm or the death rattle of the 20th century "good ol' boy"? (Check out Randy Newman's album Good Old Boys if you don't know what I'm talking about) I don’t know, though I am hoping for the latter. What I do know is this: Nationalism is a sickness. Globalism is the only possible future in which our planet doesn’t die, in which everyone on Spaceship Earth (thanks, Buckminster Fuller) works as one “crew” with a shared interest in our one set of resources and our one home. Humanity is only as good, only as strong, as our weakest and poorest. It’s a crime that we shut ourselves off in relative decadence while people starve and live in real terror.
The only possible future is one in which we all live equally, and if that means that we in the “First World” have to sacrifice some of our wasteful luxury, then so be it. The only other possibility is not a future, just a road to the end. This isn’t a complicated idea, but since I’m more of a songwriter than a speechwriter, here’s a new set of lyrics I wrote for Inauguration Day 2017 (not sure if/when I will release a recording):
Two buildings fall, a September day
A country goes to war, someone’s gotta pay
I remember it well, I was sixteen
Watched it live in class, I think it was chemistry
I walked the streets that night of a dark little Iowa town
And I remember my friend saying “I guess everything is different now”
And I remember a couple days later, my brother left to join the fight
And I remember my mom crying herself to sleep that night
And I remember deciding that life it must go on
I went to college, I started a band, I wrote a whole lot of ok songs
Saw the world and fell in love about 13 or 14 times
15 years later, still nothing seems to rhyme
So I sit at my piano as the darkness closes in
Their words ringing in my head: “Don’t let the terror win”
It’s just another Inauguration Day, but this time I really see
Those words they said about terrorists, well, this is what they mean
Because they win with every bullet we decide to fire
Mistrust is coming up the lane, and the fear is creeping higher
And it doesn’t really matter now, who fired the first shot
The world is full of real poor folk and a shot is all they got
They did it 100 years ago and it started those great big wars
And the wars led to horror, and then to relief, and the world said no more
But people forget so easily, or maybe we just don’t care
History books are hard to read when there’s fake news to share
If we can read the signs but don’t, we’re not illiterate, we’re worse
We willfully play a part in the casting of the curse
And it’ll all come down just a-crashing amidst calls of “Kingdom Come!”
All because we spent our lives
If you waste something enough, eventually it’s gone
Those history books we never read will say wasted freedom
But no one ever wrote them, ‘cuz there was no one left to read
The whole world’s just towers now stretching as high as I can see
Everyone has got their own, we’re all trying to reach God
God is shivering in the cold, it seems a shot is all he’s got
And this song right here, it was never heard
Except for in the tune of the last blackbird
Who in his final moments learned
That even he was
And the greatest movie ever made is called “Wasting Freedom”
And they even made a video game called “Wasting Freedom”
And the toys have been a real big hit for “Wasting Freedom”
And they’re gonna make a sequel to it, called “Wasting Freedom 2”
And I hear there’s gonna be a spin-off show called “Wasting Freedom”
And hell, why not? even a Broadway musical called “Wasting Freedom”
And nobody ever seems to know that we’re Wasting Freedom
*Regarding news sources: I think the most consistently neutral are probably Associated Press and Reuters
**Can you tell I’m obsessed with people reading? Read anything, people! It allows for self-reflection, it slows one down, it exposes one to other perspectives, and hell, it makes people better at spelling and grammar!
This week I’ve got a few fun new things for ya:
If you want a very funny take on "freedom" and pretty much all of the world's ills, listen to comedian David Cross' album It's Not Funny. Lots of people always tell me I bear resemblance to him, by the way. I totally agree.
Oh, and here's a video of a performance I gave last year in New York City in which I elaborate on equality a bit more, um, intimately.
And another video from Milwaukee featuring a couple new songs along with a performance of "I Guess My Heart's Out Of Tune Again". Enjoy.
P.S. All opinions expressed here are totally my own and are non-sourced. They are not truth, just opinion. I didn’t even fact-check anything. I suppose I’m taking a cue from the White House on that one.
So I know I haven't posted to this blog is over 3 months, and its not because of lack of shit to post about. Since my last post on January 6 I've played shows all over Germany and Italy (well documented on my Instagram), hit up SxSW, and already gotten going back in the States with shows around the MidWest. I've also released an EP (order on iTunes here), and two music videos, one via Consequence of Sound and one via Billboard.com. It's a bit much for me to try to recap everything that's gone down in these past 3 months, and you probably don't really care, so I'll stick to what really matters now: my new album.
I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll drops on May 13th. Watch the album trailer below.
I also just posted a new episode of my podcast Conquered 4 Life, so if you are interested in the details behind everything that goes into making a record like mine, listen to that! We get deep into the business and all the self-doubt and self-loathing it fosters. Pretty fun. Subscribe on iTunes or listen right here on this site.
PEACE xOxO christopher
Hi, friends! A quick update from me. I’ve just arrived in Germany to start a bunch of shows in Europe, 10 weeks to be exact! Follow me on Instagram (@ctconquered) for loads of photos to come.
Mainly, I wanna tell you about a new EP I am releasing on January 29th, called I’m Not That Famous Yet. It features songs from my forthcoming album I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll as well as brand new exclusive recordings! You can pre-order it now on iTunes and get a song immediately, or order it from Maximum Ames Records and get unlimited access to stream the full concert film of me supporting iconic singer-songwriter Leon Russell at the century-old Englert Theatre in Iowa City, Iowa, on October 10, 2015. This film was produced by Deft and is available exclusively through this offer.
On a related note, I am giving away a private show to someone who helps me spread the word about the new EP. Hit this link now for all the details. I’m really excited to share my new music with you, I hope you dig it! That giveaway is part of the 12 Days of Christopher, which is now wrapping up, but if you hit up my Facebook page you can find some cool new stuff, including a cover I did of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" with a bunch of special guests! It's also on my Soundcloud.
Also, I’ve just posted a new episode of the Conquered 4 Life podcast, which features me and co-host Chris “The Genie” Biagini talking our adventures in life and art. This is the only place you can hear a new track from my forthcoming album! Subscribe on iTunes or listen here.
Oh, speaking of podcasts, I just uncovered this episode of a podcast called Fairly Local where they say really nice things about my music and my new single "I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll!"
Ok, last thing: big props to everyone who came out to my residency at The Slowdown in Omaha for the month of December! Some of you made it to all five shows, you are very cool, I think! Much love to the crew at Omaha Dispatch for calling my vocals "exceptional" and my "song prowess, transcendental."
It has been far too long since I’ve given y’all an update here, but it’s for good reasons…namely, I’ve been playing a whole lot of shows! And hell, that’s why I exist, so that’s good, right? Anyway, as the year ends, I figure it’s time to go over everything that’s been going down since September.
First of all, I’ve officially released a live album and a new 7” record, which features tunes from the I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll sessions at Ardent Studios that didn’t make the album cut, but are still plenty stellar! You can order both of those in my store.
I also recently got some fun thoughts from folks around the country, including Washington D.C.'s Brightest Young Things, which said “There is something deeply off about everything that’s happening here and I’m 100% sold.“
If you care what anyone else who's not you is saying, hit this.
So yeah, I've been on tour, and recently I've gotten to play shows with Leon Russell, Martin Sexton, Madisen Ward & The Mama Bear, and Andrew Bird! Here's a few photos:
Also, I recorded a couple songs at Treehouse Studios in Chicago for Consequence of Sound, and they even filmed the suckers! Here's me singing Bob Dylan with a dash of Jackson 5.
Next up, I finish my residency at The Slowdown in Omaha (every Wednesday of this month, tickets here), then I head to Europe for 9 weeks of shows! When I get back in the spring, my new album will come out. I promise.
Last thing: Someone recently sent me this video, which is a beautiful profile of a music lover in Iowa City who just happens to like my music. My album The Fate of A Good Man ends up making a notable appearance.
Consequence of Sound was super super nice enough to debut my new music video for the song "On My Final Day", which is on my forthcoming studio album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll. Here's the full CoS article. Pre-order the album here and get tons of rad extras, including a song written just for you!
In other news, Billboard Magazine was sweet to me and wrote this piece about my album, Ryan Adams, and Reddit and how those three things fit together.
If you wanna learn a bit more about everything that's been going on since Reddit helped me reach a ton of people (thanks, internet!), you can get the dirt on the newest episode of my podcast Conquered 4 Life. Subscribe on iTunes or check it out here. You can also stream via Soundcloud below.
Also, don't forget that I'm heading out on tour later this month, heading south from Iowa to Texas, across through Louisiana and up to Tennessee then around the Midwest! I'm also opening for Leon Russell in there! Holy hell, that makes me so excited to think about. Dates here. I'll be promoting my new live album A Passing Melody which you can pre-order here.
Here's 3 new live videos for ya if you need some convincing to come see a show!
Lots of rad stuff happening in the last week, starting with the first of five videos for my forthcoming album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll. This one is for the song "What's the Name of the Town?" and my goal was to make at least one video my mom would like, so this one's for her! Watch it below or check out what PureVolume.com had to say about it here.
If you haven't seen this yet, I am currently running an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to make a two-minute movie musical to accompany another song from the album. One of the perks is my new studio album, on either vinyl, cd or digital! Also, this counts as an official pre-order so you will get loads of awesome stuff, including a song written personally for you by me. That's right, I'm going to write a song for every single person who pre-orders my album (well, the first 365...if we get more than that I might faint). Also, you can be in the video, or you can get a puppet (puppet face below)! Damn. YES. Please support the campaign here.
We also have a new episode of Conquered 4 Life ready for y'all, you can listen below, or better yet subscribe on iTunes (and please review/rate it positively!), or you can dig into the hardcore shit right here on my website. iTunes is best, though. In this episode, we talk about the immediate effect of the "Ryan Adams bump", which is pretty interesting (well, to me, at least), naming your band, and more! Check it! (Note: this was recorded before all of this Reddit business, we'll discuss that on the next episode.)
Regarding the Reddit thing: Last week, I wrote about how Ryan Adams posted about my music to a bunch of followers, which was very nice of him. Actually, it was incredibly fucking awesome of him. I thought it'd be interesting to quantify the effect of his share, and I just posted the results on Reddit. It kinda blew up, which was supremely unexpected. Check it out here! I will share more about this next week!
Ok - I am going on tour this fall. By myself! Please come be my friend. Here are all my dates from now through that tour, with some more shows to be added soon (links to tickets are here):
8/14 - Cedar Falls, IA - The Octopus
8/15 - Dubuque, IA - The Busted Lift
8/20 - Omaha, NE - The Slowdown
8/21 - Lincoln, NE - Knickerbockers
8/22 - Waterloo, IA - Cedar Valley Pridefest
8/22 - Waterloo, IA - CV PrideFest After Party at The Wedge
9/04 - Minneapolis, MN - 331 Club
9/18 - Indianola, IA - Simpson College
9/19 - Kirksville, MO - Aquadome Presents
9/24 - Winona, MN - Ed's No Name Bar
9/26 - Des Moines, IA - Live Album Release Show at Salisbury Hous
9/29 - Oklahoma City, OK - The Blue Note
9/30 - Denton, TX - J&J's Pizza
10/01 - Austin, TX - Hole In The Wall
10/02 - Lafayette, LA - Artmosphere
10/04 - Nashville, TN - City Winery
10/05 - Athens, GA - Flicker Theatre
10/07 - St. Louis, MO - Foam
10/09 - Secret Show (Stay Tuned!) - Milwaukee, WI
10/10 - Chicago, IL - Tonic Room
10/15 - Columbia, MO - The Bridge
Next up: The Mountain Goats. One of my favorite musical artists. I wrote a very personal article about their album All Hail West Texas for Chicago-based Music. Defined. I'm really proud of it. You should read it.
Ack, so much to share. Here's an update to my weekly Spotify playlist, which starts with "Earth Angel" so you cannot go wrong!!!
I have never met Ryan Adams, but he's obviously an incredible rock and roller and he got his hands on an advance copy of my forthcoming album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll. I'm not giving up on his album Rock N Roll, though. It was super nice of him to shout out the disc on his Twitter and Instagram feeds. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram! And listen to the first single from the album below:
I also got some love from Vice.com's Noisey today, along with 9 other great Iowa artists! The truth is there's 90 more great ones not mentioned here! Come to Iowa! Let's be friends! Read the full article here!
Ok, today is an important day because I've just launched my first ever crowdfunding campaign! I am working to make a 2-minute movie musical to accompany one of my new songs, "Everybody Rains", which is featured on my forthcoming studio album I'm Giving Up On Rock & Roll. Perks include copies of the album, the opportunity to be in the video, and a badass custom made puppet! Support the campaign now, if you can, or share it with others! Click here. It ends in one month.
Last month, I played a really fun fest in my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa called 80/35. QRO Mag was there and took some nice photos, check 'em out here!
And, as I do every week, I've updated my Spotify playlist. This is a big one! Everything from Shania Twain and Ariana Grande to Disney songs and Ween! Follow the playlist here, follow my artist profile here, and start listening to good music now!
I am real close to announcing a ton of shows for the fall, too. Stay tuned!