Genre Archives: Concerts

JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT

As part of a special Labor Day Eve Celebration with Jason Isbell and friends, we’ll be showcasing “labor of loves” from some of Wisconsin’s finest craft purveyors. From farm-to-table food and Wisconsin craft beer to locally crafted art and goods, our Labor Day Eve Celebration will offer a unique opportunity to see and sample a variety of Wisconsin-grown products. Gates open at 4PM and music starts at 5PM so please join us for this picnic-style celebration of great music, food, beer and more!

Welcomed by Triple M

A special thanks to our sponsors: Bud Light, Vintage Brewing Co, Potosi, Festival Foods, Madison Gas & Electric, Pepsi, Dentistry for Madison: Dr. Jay Hazen, The Great Dane, Gebhardt Galaxie, Old Sugar Distillery, Thompson Investment Management, Sunbelt Rentals, Schwinn, Lauer Realty Group, Hilton Madison Monona Terrace, Wisconsin Lottery, Frank Liquor (Jose/Smirnoff), Fisher King Winery, Park Bank,Union Cab, Isthmus


JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s new album, The Nashville Sound, is a beautiful piece of American music-making, but watch yourself: it will light a fire under your ass. “You’re still breathing, it’s not too late,” Jason sings.

This album is a call, and the songs on it send sparks flying into a culture that’s already running so hot the needle on the temperature gauge is bouncing erratically in the red. And while it’s understandable that, in this moment, some people want their radio to help them drift away, this finely calibrated set of ten songs is aimed right between the clear eyes of people who prefer to stay present and awake. It’s a call to those who won’t cower no matter how erratically the world turns, and who aren’t afraid of what looks back when they look in the mirror. Bruce Springsteen did that. Neil Young did that. Jason Isbell does that.

There are songs on this album that cut to the chase. “Last year was a son of a bitch for nearly everyone we know,” Isbell sings on the album’s first single, “Hope the High Road.” “But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch. I’ll meet you up here on the road.” As singular as that lyric is, there’s nothing coy or obtuse about it. Meanwhile, other songs here take a subtler tack.

Check out track three, “Tupelo.” It plays like a warm ode to Northeast Mississippi-on the first few listens, it sure sounds like a loving tribute-but on the fourth you realize that the town the protagonist is extolling is actually a blazing hellhole. Perfect-as a hideout, anyway. “You get about a week of spring and the summer is blistering,” Isbell sings. “There ain’t no one from here who will follow me there.” It’s the kind of twist that compels the fifth listen-and the fiftieth.

As with Isbell’s 2013 breakthrough, Southeastern, and his double-Grammy-winning follow up, 2015’s Something More Than Free, The Nashville Sound was produced by Dave Cobb. Isbell says that he and Cobb created a simple litmus test for the decisions they made in the two weeks they spent at RCA Studios (which was known as “The home of the Nashville Sound” back in the ’60’s and ’70s): they only made sonic moves that their heroes from back in the day could’ve made, but simply never did. It’s a shrewd approach-an honest way to keep the wiz-bang of modern recording technology at arms length, while also leaving the old bag of retro rock ‘n’ roll tricks un-rummaged. Lyrically, The Nashville Sound is timely. Musically, it is timeless.

It’s also worth noting that this album isn’t credited to Isbell alone. For the first time since 2011’s Here We Rest, Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, gets title billing. “Even when I was writing, I could always hear the band’s stamp on the finished product,” Jason says. “These songs needed more collaboration on the arrangements to make them work, and I felt like the band deserved it after the way they played.” Given Cobb’s strict insistence on cutting songs live with no demos or rehearsals, you can easily imagine how the brilliantly raw performances on the record will translate to the stage when the band takes these new songs out on the road.

And boy, there’s nothing like a 400 Unit show. Not just because the band smokes, but also because Isbell’s fans are among music’s most ardent. They listen to these songs for months and months on their own, and that momentum rolls them right up to the doors at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, or the Beacon Theatre in New York or the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta. And when the band kicks in, they are ecstatic. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll show that feels like fellowship.

Which begs a question: Why do Jason’s songs strike us so deeply? What makes this music of the soul? The answer has to do with Jason’s authenticity, his intellect, his rootedness in both tradition (see: the childhood in Green Hill, Alabama, near Muscle Shoals, where he grew up picking and singing in the style he remembers here on “Something To Love”) as well as modernity (see: Jason singing about anxiety, or his complicated relationship to his iPhone).

Simply put, Jason has a gift for taking big, messy human experiences and compressing them into badass little combustible packages made of rhythm, melody and madly efficient language. The songs are full of little hooks-it could be guitar line that catches one listener, or a quick lyric that strikes to the heart of another-and an act of transference takes place. The stories Jason tells become our own. The music is coming not from Jason and the band, but from within us.

As you listen to this record, you will hear many themes: humor, heartache, wisdom, beauty, hope. But chief among them, strangely, is leadership.

If Southeastern (2013) was the Getting Sober record (Jason has been searingly honest in both songs and interviews about the time he spent in rehab), and Something More Than Free (2015) was the New Clarity record, maybe this one, The Nashville Sound, is the Way Forward.

And who better to lead us forward than Jason Isbell? Jason is a relentless and fearless selfinterrogator. (The first line of “Cumberland Gap”-“There’s an answer here if I look hard enough”-will be familiar to those who know him.) And this album is a challenge, a gauntlet in song: Let’s claim ownership of our biases (“White Man’s World”). Let’s embrace and celebrate the uncomfortable idea that the force that activates both life and love is death (the instantclassic “If We Were Vampires”). Let’s consciously choose light over darkness (“Hope the High Road”). And for God’s sake, if you are feeling anxious, alone, disenfranchised, depressed, mad as hell, or scared as shit, find something that gasses you up and work at it (“Something to Love”). Jason, it seems, after years grinding the rail that separates terra firma from the brink, has put in the sweat equity it takes to hug it out with his demons and fill his life with meaning, bright and clean.

If that sounds good to you, this album lights the path.

GARRISON KEILLOR’S PRAIRIE HOME

THIS SHOW BROUGHT TO YOU BY: 

Madison Gas and Electric (MGE), Festival Foods, Pepsi, Galaxie, Schwinn, Wisconsin Brewing Company, The Great Dane, Dentistry for Madison: Dr. Jay Hazen, Wisconsin Lottery, Dane County Regional Airport (DCRA), Thompson Investment Management, Park Bank, Union Cab, Isthmus, WPR, WORT, Capital Times, WOLX, Hilton Madison Monona Terrace

BOY BAND REVIEW

For fans of: Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, & One Direction

Boy Band Review – Is the best Boy Band Tribute Show in the country! Bringing full production lights, video, dancing, harmonies and energy, Boy Band Review has captured the hearts of fans with their #boyband shows that transport audience members back in time to the days of frosted tips and hunky frontmen professing their undying love.

Bringing some sweet hip thrusts and air grabs performed perfectly “N SYNC”, Boy Band Review, helps you relive the best years.

The #boyband shows  are an incredible throw back experience with dancers and back up singers where the audience members relive the best years!  They are playing to capacity crowds throughout the Midwest and spreading nationwide. They have played numerous high profile events, private engagements, a Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood Casino, the NHL Stadium Series Classic Blackhawks game, and countless venues across the country to capacity crowds.  Boy Band Review is everyone’s favorite show since the 1990s!

 

Sinkane

For fans of: Woods, William Onyebor, Kevin Morby

Sinkane music — every note of it — comes straight out of a generosity of spirit. Never has that spirit been on more vivid display than on the uplifting new album Life & Livin’ It. This is feel-good music for trying times, celebrating what makes life good without ignoring what makes it hard.By the time they finished touring for their acclaimed Mean Love album in late 2015, Ahmed Gallab and the band had spread the gospel of Sinkane to the world, playing 166 shows in 20 countries. During the same period, he had also led The Atomic Bomb Band — the highly celebrated 15-piece outfit that played the music of elusive Nigerian electro-funk maestro William Onyeabor. The band included David ByrneDamon Albarn, members of Hot Chip,LCD SoundsystemThe RaptureJamie Lidell and legendary jazz musicians Pharoah Sandersand Charles Lloyd, and they played all over the planet, including making their TV debut on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. “Those 14 months really changed my life,” Ahmed says. “Not only did I learn how to put on a bigger show, but all that touring brought Sinkane closer as a band.”

As Ahmed got into the depths of writing for Life & Livin’ It, he had a clear goal; to conjure the ups and downs of a universal experience, and have fun while doing it. “I would listen to my favorite records, like Funkadelic‘s America Eats Its Young, and realize how great they made me feel. That carefree, light and fun feeling I was getting while writing this record is what I want everyone to feel when they listen to it.”

Ahmed soon brought the band in to help with the material, testing the songs at a four-show residency of sold-out shows at Union Pool in Brooklyn where the audience’s reception fed the creative process. They toured throughout the summer before setting up shop at Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas. Once again produced by Ahmed with lyrics and help from longtime collaborator Greg Lofaro, the album draws from the best elements of Sinkane’s previous records: the slinky funk and soul grooves are there, so are the sparkling melodies with roots in sub-Saharan Africa. With basic tracking played together live, the fun and immediacy of Sinkane’s live show is a central feeling of the recordings. Each one of the four members of Sinkane — bassist Ish Montgomery, drummer Jason Trammell, guitarist Jonny Lam and Ahmed — sing and contribute additional parts on the album, with Trammell contributing lyrics to “Theme from Life & Livin’ It,” and Lam helping with arrangements. Jas Walton and Jordan MacLean of Daptone recording artists Antibalas contributed horns.

In making a record that feels like this, Ahmed’s primary intention was to make music that is joyous, but also socially conscious when you scratch beneath the surface. The songs “U’Huh” and “Theme from Life & Livin’ It” conjure up the simple pleasures of hanging with friends, but there are heavier vibes in there. Ahmed says, “I remember listening to Bob Marley as a child. Dancing with my family in our living room and then my mother telling me what issues he was addressing, and that it was important to remember those things while listening. It made the music even better because it became about something more.”

“Favorite Song” came about from Ahmed’s experiences DJ’ing in New York. “As a DJ you’re always paying attention to the collective energy in the club. When you play a song that everyone knows, everybody is connected, lost in the music.” That song, along with “U’Huh,” has lyrics sung in Arabic, Ahmed’s native tongue. “Kulu shi tamaam!” means “everything is great!” while “ya zol ya zain!” is a Sudanese term of endearment meaning “my beautiful friend.” “It’s really easy to understand the tone of those words,” Ahmed adds. “They just feel good, you don’t have to know what they mean. It’s kind of like listening to Caetano Veloso or Jorge Ben — you don’t have to know Portuguese to feel what they’re saying.”

True to its name, Life & Livin’ It is an album about all kinds of experiences. When Ahmed Gallab sings, he sounds unafraid yet vulnerable. But while he once sang of feeling like he was on the planet Mars, Ahmed is now firmly grounded on Earth. He’s no longer searching for his home — he has created a home for himself. There’s a party there, and Life & Livin’ It is playing on the stereo. You are invited.

 

 

 

 

Hilltop Hoods

For fans of Hermitude

DRINKING FROM THE SUN, WALKING UNDER STARS RESTRUNG. IT WAS ALWAYS THE PLAN, ALBEIT ONE THAT WAS LONGER THAN EXPECTED. COMBINE TWO OF THE MOST ECLECTIC AND SUCCESSFUL ALBUMS OF ADELAIDE HIP HOP ACT HILLTOP HOODS’ CAREER AND TOUR THE WORLD SEVERAL TIMES OVER.

Tour some more, then secretly regroup with their old friends at the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra to reinvent and reimagine their much loved tunes.

It’s a courageous step from any band, from any era, but from day one, MCs Pressure, Suffa and DJ Debris have had ambition to burn, which has fuelled the biggest success story in Australian Hip Hop.

Both albums ‘Drinking from the Sun’ and ‘Walking under Stars’ debuted at No. 1, achieved double platinum sales, two ARIA awards and spawned a 4 X platinum & a 1 x platinum single each.

These records were the group’s most personal, intimate and above all – formidable statements yet.

The ending of relationships, the beginning of new life, and the very real possibility of losing it, MCs Suffa, Pressure and DJ Debris grew considerably over the course of these two projects.

That statement is not only indicative of the album’s subject matter, but its sound.

Putting so much of their own heart into the projects took the group into new directions, sprinkling both albums with powerful hip/hop soul evident on the platinum single ‘Won’t Let You Down’ featuring Maverick Sabre and ‘Live and Let Go’ Featuring Brother Ali and Maverick again.

Fans came along on the journey with the new material which sat comfortably alongside the trio’s staples of beat driven Hip Hop like the 4 X platinum ‘I Love it’ featuring pop royalty Sia and 4 X platinum festival anthem ‘Cosby Sweater’.

Now the fans will get to immerse themselves in their favourite songs all over again, in stunning orchestrations helping transform them into sweeping, cinematic Hip Hop laced with the warmth of 52 very accomplished musicians.

Much of the material their 626,000+ Facebook and 70,000+ Twitter followers have fallen in love with on the two number one albums was written for this project in mind, adding further depth to their most expansive body of work to date.

Along with key songs from the ‘Drinking from the Sun’ and ‘Walking Under Stars’ albums, ‘Restrung’ contains several new tracks including the first hit single ‘Higher’ feat. James Chatburn. ‘Higher’ reached number 9 on the charts and was the number one most added to Australia radio – Triple J, HIT, SCA Regional and Nova – while it rockets towards platinum status. New single, ‘1955’ featuring the bright talents of Montaigne and Tom Thum, has smashed itself into top 10 in the first two days of its release.

Along with the 7 ARIA awards and sold out national and international tours under their belt, Hilltop Hoods prolific career has led to the group’s largest Australian shows yet following the release of ‘Restrung’.

It bookends arguably the most extensive project in Australian Hip Hop history, culminating in arena size shows around the nation, performing their most diverse body of work to date with State orchestras to more than 10,000 estimated fans each night.

And with this final chapter in the ‘Drinking from the Sun/Walking Under Stars’ trilogy, they’re not just redesigning Australian Hip Hop – they’re redefining it.

‘Drinking From The Sun, Walking Under Stars Restrung’, is out now through their label Golden Era Records/UMA.

2014 WALKING UNDER STARS
2x Platinum status, ARIA #1

2012 DRINKING FROM THE SUN
2x Platinum status, ARIA #1

2009 STATE OF THE ART
2x Platinum status, ARIA #1

2007 THE HARD ROAD RESTRUNG
Gold status

2006 THE HARD ROAD
Platinum status, ARIA # 1

2003 THE CALLING
Platinum status

80s vs 90s: 10 Years of Decade Battles!

It’s been 10 years since we took over the Majestic, and it’s also been 10 years since the debut of what has become Madison’s favorite retro dance party:  80s VS 90s Music Video Battle of the Decades.  On Friday September 29th, the founding fathers of 80s VS 90s, DJs Nick Nice and Mike Carlson are returning to do this 80s VS 90s up the way it was conceived — in the ULTIMATE battle of the decades.  Nick Nice will represent the 80s, and Mike Carlson will represent the 90s, taking you on a tour of the greatest dance party jams from both decades.  Expect everything from Michael Jackson to Salt ‘n Pepa, Britney Spears to Madonna, Run DMC to Notorious BIG, Prince, Beastie Boys, NSYNC, Duran Duran to Blink 182 and SOOO much more!  Which decade will win this 10 year celebration of dance??  Only YOU can decide — be there at midnight to vote your favorite decade!  This is 80s VS 90s.
CONFIRMED GUEST LIST INCLUDES:
• AC Slater
• Marty McFly
• Cyndi Lauper
• Alf
• Robocop
• DJ Jazzy Jeff
• Alicia Silverstone
• Madonna
• 2 Pac
• George Constanza

EKALI

For fans of TroyBoi, Louis Futon, Jai Wolf, Boombox Cartel, Mr. Carmack 

I make music and travel the world playing it.

 

NIGHTMARES ON WAX DJ SET

It is no exaggeration to say that Nightmares on Wax’s work is synonymous with a place in time. It is a place individual to those who have savoured his popular brand of sun-drenched dubbed out soul, where fragments of hazy memories, halcyon days and past snapshots encapsulate a generation’s sofa sojourning.

For George Eveyln, the man behind Nightmares on Wax, did indeed create some defining moments in the 90’s. Firstly there was his involvement in writing two of the U.K.’s early rave classics Dexterous and Aftermath (with then writing partner Kevin Harper from the Nightmares A Word of Science album). George then went alone and in ’95 bought us Smoker’s Delight, a downbeat opus and the archetype 90’s stoner album (not surprisingly, he was a one time high judge of the Cannibus Cup in Amsterdam). The effect of Smokers Delight was palpable as it is considered one of the main catalysts in the explosion of the chill out / down tempo genre today.

Following Smokers, in 1999, Carboot Soul was delivered. A sublime languid success, it solidified George’s reputation as the patriarch of this very popular genre. Regardless of the connotations now associated with chill out / ambient / down tempo, both Smokers and Carboot remain untainted zeitgeists, still viewed as soundscapes of good times past, music that a cross section of people enjoyed, often whilst languishing post clubbing. Zeitgeists of an era, these albums have sold over 150,000 copies and continue to, ten years and six years respectively after release.

However, the Nightmares success story doesn’t end there. Having been away for nearly four years (like a fine wine, the maturation of his work is crucial to its production process!), George honed a more polished production technique, and in doing so, in 2002 presented the addictive brew of pop, dancehall and old-soul that was Mind Elevation. Conquering the unknown, two hits on the album Know my Name and 70’s/80’s were embraced by the radio fraternity, infecting our airwaves that following summer with their sweet vocals, lush melodies and lolloping hip hop beats.

Spring 2006 sees the drop of another one of George’s musical gems, in the form of In A Space Outta Sound. It is a contemporary and varied album of many textures, tempos and tones, with harmonic inflections from cultures beyond these shores. Whilst this is an album deconstructing George’s musical make up, by inviting you down a personal retrospective journey, In A Space… also unwittingly reflects the urban multi-cultural landscape we live in today. This mish-mash of geographically distinct sounds are heard whilst treading the streets of London, or Leeds where George is from, or any other big city in Britain. The society we live in is a racially heterogeneous one and this album is as diverse in its influences. Tellingly, this pastiche of styles has for many years also been reflected in his DJ-ing output (under his DJ name EASE).

It is a sonic palette taken from each continent; each track presents a facet whether it be the infectious repetitive African percussion sounds of African Pirates, the recurring Caribbean reggae riddims as heard in Sweetest and Flip Ya Lid, the seduction of the Persian snake charmer’s harpsichord entwined around Damn!, or Mo-town’s soul-laid-bare in I Am You. Sometimes it is a blend of all of the above.

Once again, Nightmare’s trademark stamp is evident; rhythms infectious in their simplicity, blues infused time signatures overlaid by Quincy Jones-esque synth lines and the inherent fusion of relaxed dub, hallucinogenic hip hop and Balearic melodies. And there is another factor in George’s formula, the intangible touch of glowing warmth that infects his music. As the Times newspaper once commented, “George Evelyn is one of those people who can bottle sunshine”. This blissful quality is perhaps the x-factor in his success as a musician and it is one that George consciously and liberally mixes in. He takes from the essence of soul where emotion is its driving force. However, it is apparent that his emotions veer on the lighter side. As he says “I want to share my positivity in life, in music.”

Like many fortunate music enthusiasts, his love of music was passed down from his parents. The Evelyn household was one often enveloped in the indignant funk of Curtis Mayfield and the smooth melody lines of Quincy Jones (where George’s devotion began). The sweet, cloying lullabies of Sarah Vaughn were as often heard coming out of Mr. Evelyn’s precious mahogany 78 players as Duke Ellington’s lively compositions. Having come over from the West Indies as a young man, George’s father also passed on to his children musical legacies of his birthplace, frequently playing staple classics of Soca, or Calypso as it’s now called, found too at the local dancehall he frequented.

However, like many, George’s musical epiphany was most keenly felt through self-discovery. When only a pre-teen, he joined a local break dance crew, having immersed himself in the first wave of hip hop filtering through to Britain in the form of Rappers Delight and Buffalo Gals. It was here that he also found an early allegiance to soul where the sampled voices of the OJ’s, Isley Brothers and James Brown were used over and over again as scratches on such records.

However pre-dating his initiation into hip-hop came the pivotal moment when he discovered bass. It was inevitable that he would stumble upon local sound systems that mates’ older brothers were involved in, but the effect the heavy, reverberating dub breaks that each collective tried to out do the other with, would be long lasting. In George’s young mind, the louder those bass lines were, the bigger the impact it had on him hence his lifelong love for those heavy, rolling beats, integral to his sound. In fact, on his next tour, promoting In A Space… he will be performing as part of a sound system from a local Leeds collective.

Naturally, it was also a great privilege to meet and collaborate with personal heroes like Scientist and De La Soul but his interests certainly don’t end here, also citing rare groove, ska and 80’s electro. A compliment to his taste, he has had not one, but two established music compilers (!K7 and Another Late Night) approach him for a personal selection of favourite songs for release, and within 3 years of each other. An endorsement of his popularity if ever there was one.

George’s success is enduring, and he has often been praised for his polished production work. Indeed with a state of the art studio, no one can fault the craft he has been honing for fifteen years. The subtle complexities and layers to his music is also what makes it so accessible. However this is certainly not the sole result of one man and a mixing desk. He works with a varied group of local musicians; a range of percussionists, classically trained keyboardists, guitarists etc., and evidence of this was found on his last tour to promote Mind Elevation, doing a string of dates with a thirteen piece band. Live musicianship is also quite apparent on In A Space…. where much of the ideas came from impromptu studio ‘jams’.

Producing the genuine article and constantly evolving and progressing is the prime motivation behind Nightmares’ music. It is about taking the sounds of soul and reggae and hip-hop and more to a new plateaux. “Today’s music is inspired by what’s gone on before and that is what fascinates me. Following on in that tradition I am inspired by the old and want to evolve it into something new. I see it as a never ending cycle and that is where I want to be.”

Medicine Tribe Presents Nahko – My Name Is Bear

For fans of Trevor Hall, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Citizen Cope, Dispatch, Xavier Rudd

Some people go a lifetime without knowing their mission in life, without feeling they have true calling, and without knowing why they even do what they do. Nahko is not one of them. And that calling and mission has never been clearer than it is on Nahko and Medicine for the People’ s third full-length album, HOKA (SideOneDummy Records).

On HOKA, Nahko’s voice is strong. His mission is clear. The mandate has been thrown down. “Hoka is a Lakota word, an indigenous tribe from the Great Plains, it is a call to action. It’s what Crazy Horse would say when he went into battle, ‘Hoka, hey!’ My call is to put action to the words that I speak and the lyrics I sing. Not just to talk, but to do,” says Oregon-born singer/songwriter Nahko, who is of Puerto Rican, Native American (Apache), and Filipino descent.

“This is the soundtrack of the movement for a better planet,” he continues. “I want to challenge myself and others to make a change.” “Hoka,” which is the intro to the first track, “Directions,” is one of the album’s many song intros used as a way to round out the storytelling on the tracks. “On this intro, my uncles are chanting the lyrics to ‘Directions’ in Lakota, and the three female voices include a clairvoyant, an astrologer, and a friend who all had important messages for me that are a big part of my story,” he explains.

It’s been three years since the Los Angeles, California-based Nahko and Medicine for the People’s last record, Dark As Night. That release reached No.4 on Billboard’s Top Alternative New Album, No. 6 on the Heatseekers album chart, No. 36 on the Top Independent Album chart, and No. 7 in Australia on Triple J’s Top 10 Roots Albums of 2013. Nahko and Medicine for the People gathered more members of their global tribe of like-minded fans as they spread their powerful and impactful musical message on tour with such acts as Michael Franti, Xavier Rudd, SOJA, and Trevor Hall, and on festivals including Outside Lands, Electric Forest, Wanderlust, Bumbershoot, California Roots Music Festival, Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival, and many more.

Critics have praised the group’s worldly blend of rock, hip-hop, and alt-folk. OC Weekly called the group – which also includes Chase Makai (lead guitar), Justin Chittams (drums), Pato (bass and kora),Tim Snider (violin) and Max Ribner (horns), “empowering” and “powerful. “The Huffington Post called Dark As Night “beautiful and stirring,” and compared Nahko to Bob Marley and a “musical prophet.”

That prophetic nature comes through even stronger on HOKA, which was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Ted Hutt (The Gaslight Anthem, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lucero, Dropkick Murphys) “Over the last three years, I’ve been cracked open so deeply in my own healing to really give this record my all,” explains Nahko. “My style of writing and my intentions with how I put things together has evolved a lot. I’m able to better paint the picture after time on the road, seeing first-hand the emotional state of the people of the world, of how sick people are, and how much healing they need.”
The personal healing that he refers to, is based on the fact that he is product of a mother who was just 14-years-old when she was forced into human trafficking. He was adopted at 9- months-old and in his 20s, learned about his family’s tragic backstory. This is the inspiration for his life’s work and music.

To that end, “San Quentin” is a pivotal song in the telling of his story. It was inspired by Nahko’s visit with the imprisoned man who murdered his father – a father he had never met. “It’s about forgiveness,” says Nahko. “I went there to forgive this man and in forgiving him, I freed myself. It only hurts yourself to hang onto hate. Forgiveness empowers you to create change. I believe everything happens for a reason – good and bad. People are put in your life for a reason, and you need to turn that pain into something positive to make the world a better place.”

“Make a Change,” which features singer/songwriter Zella Day, represents the heart of this record. “I was challenging myself to take action on what’s important, to not make the same mistakes over and over, and continue to evolve. It’s aimed at the youth, in a sense, because we as the youth have to be the ones to get out of the vicious cycle of negativity,” he explains.

Another pivotal song is “Tus Pies (Your Feet),” which was inspired in part by Chilean poet and politician Pablo Neruda. “It’s about friendship and being an anchor for someone. Pies is the Spanish word for ‘feet.’ At the end of that poem, Neruda says a line I cherish: ‘I love your feet for how they walked on the mountains and through the rivers and through the valleys until they found me.’ I’ve always loved that picture of how we find people in life and all of the intricate twists and turns that it takes for someone to arrive.”

“It Is Written” tells the story of how Nahko finally got closure on his past, giving him even more motivation to continue on his musical path and social mission. “This song is the story of the clairvoyant, who speaks on ‘Hoka,’ who reached out to me to tell me some very important things. She said, ‘I talked to your dad and he’s really sorry for what he did. I talked to your [Indian] grandma and she’s gathering the nations for you. It is written. Don’t push your destiny. Just let it happen.’ This was a big step in my healing process and the first real step to letting go. They are my guides.”
Other guests include Trevor Hall, Xavier Rudd, Rising Appalachia’s Leah Song, and the female trio Joseph on both “Directions” and “The Wolves Have Returned.” Hawane, a Hawaiian singer, and Pua Case, one of Nahko’s spiritual teachers and Hawane’s mother, appear on “Ku Kia’i Mauna.”

The album cover, by artist David Hale, sums up the theme as well. Nahko explains, “It’s a warrior dancer. The warrior needs to be strong, and the dancer represents grace. Through the merging of the two you get change through peace. You get Hoka.”

 

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