4.29.2010

Buy Yourself a Birthday Present For Me

In a recent letter, Linford Detweiler of my favorite and best band, Over the Rhine, wrote:

"We have some big news.

For the first time ever, this coming May 17, Karin and I are planning to travel to the West Coast to make an Over the Rhine record. We are going to work with producer Joe Henry and an amazing cast of characters. We are going to make a record that we can't quite imagine. Hopefully it will be a little bit strange and a little bit wonderful.

Hopefully we will, "Blow the seams out of the songs..." (JH)

One thing for sure: We are going to be surprised.

There are at least three reasons why we still want to make music:

One: We believe making music has something to do with what we were put on this earth to do. If we leave our songs alone, they call to us until we come back to where we belong. When we live in the sweet spot of that calling, it gives others (you?) permission to discover the sweet spot of your own calling and live there.

Two: Both Karin and I have had occasion to bury loved ones. When we put loved ones in the ground, we find that we lose interest in acquiring stuff. We know we can't take it with us when we go. No, it's not about acquiring, rather it's about what we are able to leave behind. That's what gives life meaning: doing work that you can leave behind, your personal token of gratitude to the world in return for the gift of getting to be alive in it. (We believe the opportunity to make this record with Mr. Henry has everything to do with what we will leave behind.)

Three: Presence. There is a beautiful passage of scripture that made an impact on me as a child that I have never forgotten. Jesus said that if you help someone in need, someone hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned, if you are able to be present with them and soothe them in some way, it's the same as if God was hungry or naked or thirsty or imprisoned and you found a way to help God.

There is so much need in this beautiful broken world it can be overwhelming. Maybe the most profoundly satisfying thing about making music for the last 20 years is we have watched people invite our music to be part of the big moments of their lives - a slow dance in the kitchen with someone who changed everything, a walk down the aisle at a wedding, a child being born... Unfortunately, big moments also occur during seasons when it feels like everything is going horribly wrong. We all need music during those dark times too - I know I do. It's always humbling and amazing to learn that our music can be present in those too-difficult-too-imagine times. In some small way, through our music, it feels like we get to be present too, even when that is physically impossible. We get to be there in spirit.

That's enough to keep us coming back.

That and all the sex and drugs...


I'm just kiddin'."

In order to make the record they want to make but stay independent, they've kicked off a good old-fashioned stewardship campaign. You can kick in $10,000 and get a private concert, or you can just prepay $15 for your copy of the album. Impressive goodies are available at every level (who wants to be credited as an Executive Producer?).

I've already kicked in my share (with a little help from my parents), but I wanted to encourage others to participate as well. You can tell yourself you're buying Katherine a thirtieth birthday gift. The music of Over the Rhine is... well, if you know me by now, you can fill in the blank. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a patron of their artistry.

Linford's complete letter is here. It's as long as it is lovely.

And the link to donate is here.

Let me know if you decide to buy yourself a birthday present for me. :)

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