There is no loss so uncomplicated as that of a beloved animal. In a relationship unadulterated by conflict, baggage, or ambivalence, the pain is sharp and pure. On Wednesday, we lost our dear Nigel, companion of 12 1/2 years, at the ripe old age of 14 1/2 or thereabouts. He found us in 2005 when we visited Nashville’s Metro Animal Shelter, where he sat, unwanted, a mature 2 year old dog among puppies, which are viewed as more adoptable. He was literally on death row. We could hardly believe our luck. He was beautiful; perfectly, almost painfully well-behaved, as cool and collected as the puppies around him were fractious and high-strung. He had something of the Buddha about him. We knew an old soul when we saw one, and we brought him home.

on the road

He had a remarkable life. He visited the Grand Canyon, stayed in nice hotels, rode through New Orleans in a horse-drawn carriage, swam in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, had fans all over the world, killed a possum, and once locked his owners out of their own house. He bore no animosity towards anyone, with the exception of any squirrel within his sight. His dignity was manifest – he did not do tricks, and was clearly offended by costumes of any kind. He did not jump on furniture, beds or people. He was a gentleman through and through.

He was famous – he appeared on stages with us throughout the southeastern US, strolling through the audience to greet everyone before taking his place underneath Barry’s piano. My #nigeloftheday social media posts were inevitably the most popular, most liked and most commented-on. He was beloved – not just by us, but by many people, most especially his dog-whisperer Rachel, who looked after him for long stretches of time while we were on tour and who has been a gift to all three of us. He was my very favorite photographic subject, although he abhorred the camera and only tolerated it out of good manners and love.

 

at home

On Tuesday night we knew he was at the end of the road. On Wednesday, Barry, Rachel and I gathered around him, gave him some vanilla ice cream, stroked his beautiful black fur hundreds of times, spoke to him softly and told him all the stories of his life. Dr. Regan Harp from Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, who I am sure is an angel come to earth, joined us and gave him the peaceful and dignified exit he so deserved.

He taught us empathy, patience, manners. He showed us how to express joy, how to love unconditionally, and how to age gracefully. He is utterly irreplaceable; as we often said, he was the Dog of a Lifetime, and we knew it. We are heartbroken. We are also grateful – for the long life he had, most of which we were able to share with him – and for the outpouring of sympathy and love from hundreds of people, many of whom never met him but somehow felt they knew him. And they did – his soul shone right through his eyes, even through the lens of a camera. His soul is free now, but we will never forget the brief decade-and-a-half when he took the form of Dog and chose us to be his family. Goodnight, sweet prince.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Eric Patton of Out and About Nashville awhile back about being a parent and a trans ally. An excerpt:

“I think a lot of people think acceptance means your child wants to be another gender or whatever, but the thing is, what people really need to understand about trans people is, that’s who they are. That’s who they’ve always been.”

You can read the entire interview here.

I’m excited to be coming back to the beautiful Union Chapel in London this November 7th, for our only UK show of 2017 as part of the London Folk & Roots Festival. We were last there on February 16, 2016 and for me it was one of the most memorable shows in 20 years of touring the UK. I’ll be joined by Barry Walsh, Conor McCreanor and Colm McClean; Hannah Sanders & Ben Savage open the show. Tickets have just gone on sale. Looking forward to seeing so many friends and fans!

I love Jimmy LaFave. I love him as a friend and as a fellow musician, and I’d love him even if I hadn’t known him for the better part of the last 20 years. As a songwriter, I’ve been graced with not one, but two Jimmy LaFave covers (“On a Bus to St. Cloud,” which appeared on his Texoma album, and “Revival,” which came four years later on Blue Nightfall). Whenever I play in Texas, I always joke that the former is a Jimmy LaFave song which I just happened to write. That’s the power of his voice…

To read this piece in its entirety, please visit The Bluegrass Situation.

You can watch a live webcast of our Three Women and the Truth (Mary Gauthier, Eliza Gilkyson & me) show at Blue Rock Studio February 11th.

Concert Window will be broadcasting the show from beautiful Blue Rock Artist Ranch & Studio LIVE at 8:00p CST. You can tune in all over the world from your computer, tablet or phone on Concert Window at: http://www.concertwindow.com/bluerock
RSVP at Concert Window and then tune in on Saturday night, February 11th for the show!

One of the oldest phrases in any language must be ‘tell me a story.’ Songwriting is storytelling, and telling your story in a compelling way is all about detail. It’s about what you say, and what you don’t say. It’s about the truth, not necessarily the facts. In this three day workshop, we’ll explore the process of songwriting—the art and the craft, and the delicate balance between the two. We’ll learn how to keep a sense of creative play and when (and how) to welcome the inner critic into the room. We’ll find ways to work through “writer’s block.” We’ll learn that only through the specific do you achieve the universal—and that’s the holy grail in songwriting and all writing. We write to find out who we are, and in the process we find out we are not alone.

This three-day workshop with me will include:
How to build a back story for your song
Finding the melody of a character
How to arrange your song
Surprise guest speakers & musical events
Song Critiques & sharpening skills with me and my guest teacher
A one-on-one session with me
In addition to the intensive days of songwriting, you’ll enjoy a surprise once-in-a-lifetime private concert, a closing night group dinner, surprise guest songwriting friends who will join us and inspire you, song circles in the evenings where everyone can share songs, and an opening night dinner at a Nashville home!
Registration is open – only a few spots left.
If you have any specific questions, please email Lydia Hutchinson.

The best Christmas present I received this year, by a mile, was learning from President Barack Obama himself that I’m on his iPod! A few days before Christmas, my husband Barry Walsh (whose full name, when he’s writing to Presidents, is James Barry Walsh) received a personal response to a letter he’d written to Obama. That would have been gift enough, but the next sentence was a complete shock, in the best of all possible ways. I’m beyond proud to count President Obama as a “big fan” (the feeling is mutual, sir)!

Kelly McCartney of The Bluegrass Situation asked me to share some thoughts post-election. I don’t normally post political items on my website. I know people come here for updates on musical things. But these are not normal times.

Like virtually all my musician friends who have spoken out, I’ve been on the receiving end of some vitriol. I’ve been advised to “stick to music” and “keep your politics to yourself”. If you know anything about my music, you know that my politics, along with my worldview, my sense of empathy for the vulnerable and my deep desire to bear witness for the underdog are at the core of my work as a songwriter. I try to speak truth as I see it. So should you. So should we all. I chose a career as a singer/songwriter; at no point did I sign an agreement to be silent about injustice, inequity and above all, hate.

peace,

Gretchen

You can read my op-ed piece at The Bluegrass Situation’s website.

Thanks to WMOT and Craig Havighurst for giving me the opportunity to remember the great Leonard Cohen. His influence on me was profound and lifelong. I’m so grateful to have seen him perform (I flew to Portland, OR in 2010 to catch his show there since I was on the road when he came to Nashville); on stage he was elegant and wryly funny and incredibly generous with the spotlight – everyone in his prodigiously talented band had a moment. He was the master of song.

You can listen to my interview about Leonard Cohen here.

Tomorrow I’ll be playing my last set in the UK (my second home, it seems) for awhile. The usual scrapes, bruises and bumps – proverbial and actual – aside, the road has treated us well. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to play with this incredible band. I’m a little emotional about this tour coming to an end; even more so than usual, for reasons I’ll explain below.

I’ve been touring hard for ten years now, with very little in the way of breaks. So in 2017 I’m going to take some long overdue time off. I won’t be touring for the rest of the year after we get off the Cayamo cruise in late February. It’s time to rest, to be still, to think about what’s next. I’m going to be tending to family matters, doing some writing – I may even get a houseplant. During this hiatus I’ll be sending the newsletter out about once every couple of months – no tour dates means less news, and there’s no point in taking up space in your inbox unless I have something to share. I WILL still be posting a new free download every month – I’ll post a reminder on Facebook and Twitter when it goes up. I do hope to stay in touch with you via social media, and I’ll let you know what I’m up to every couple of months or so via email. There’ll be news I’ll want to share; I just won’t be sharing it quite as often. I so appreciate your support, encouragement and love. I’m excited about taking a break and I know it’s the right thing – but I will miss seeing your faces in the audience and I’ll be back before you know it.

x
G