GBs in Europe 2012 - 5/13/2012

I dreaded leaving like I always do when I get used to the routine of being home. I love being a husband and father and I get in the mindset where I am perfectly content to never stray from my yard. As the date to leave for our European tour approached, I complained about having to go, and in retrospect I can see that being perceived as ungrateful behavior, knowing how lucky we are to see the world through our music. We had played just a few European dates in the past, one in Germany and a couple more in Northern Ireland. Truthfully, I was leary of the unknown. We would return to Germany, but also scheduled shows in Denmark, France, and Italy. Would we be able to connect with our audiences? Would they like our music? Would we be able to navigate a tricky train schedule having never tried that mode of travel before? Thankfully, Leigh put in a lot of legwork in preparation for this tour. He always does, but our European tour required a lot of thought and troubleshooting.

We flew overnight from Boston to Iceland to Copenhagen, Denmark. I made the mistake of crashing in my motel room in the middle of the afternoon. I would pay for it. My schedule was thrown off to the degree that I would get one hour of sleep for the next three nights. Oh, I would nod off on the train for a little bit here and there in the next few days, but overall, I was sleepless for the first third of our trip. Sleep-deprived and all, I was able to take in the physical beauty of Copenhagen and to enjoy the friendliness of the people we met. I was so impressed with the Danes' ability to speak so many languages so well. A girl at a coffee shop told me that she started taking English at eleven and German at fourteen. I met others who could speak French and Swedish. We had absolutely no problems being understood in Denmark. Our show in Copenhagen went very well. The highlight for me was performing "Arleigh," a request for a gentleman who said he had driven a long way to hear it. My grandfather would never have believed that someone in Denmark would want to hear a song about him. I lay awake until 3 a.m. and then gave up trying to sleep. I dug my notebook out and finished a song I had tried to write for a decade. I went downstairs to the lobby to try to find other signs of life when Joe Walsh came bounding down the stairs. "Wanna go for a walk?" he asked. Joe is all about experiencing life. He has a very curious mind and is not going to waste time in this world. He wants to see it all. We walked to downtown Copenhagen on a glorious morning witnessing architecture that we just don't get to see, the only blot on the morning being that we got chased down the street by a couple of working girls at 5:30 a.m. No thank you. They aren't lazy, I'll give them that.

We got off to a rocky start on our first train ride at 8:30 a.m. We got on the wrong section of the train and had to make our way with all of our luggage and instruments through several cars and past many disgruntled people. Once we got our bearings, we were fine and made it to Aalborgh, Denmark, relatively unscathed. Our show that evening went off without a hitch, another full house of grateful people. I returned to my hotel room happy, but again could not find sleep. Leigh had no problem, and Clayton, Joe, and Mike crashed a blues club downtown where they sat in with the band. I tossed and turned and then found my notebook and finished another song that I'd been working on for two years. We caught our next train and stayed on the tracks all day until we reached Buehl, Germany in the evening. Our driver drove us to the hotel at speeds passing 150 kilometers per hour. It was exhilerating. I could not wait to find a bed. I ended up watching BBC until I heard the birds singing at 4 a.m. They inspired me to write a brand new song at that lonely hour.

We were excited to play at the Buehl Bluegrass Festival. Top bands from all over Europe were there along with Nashville's Alecia Nugent and her band. We had a wonderful meal together downtown before taking the stage for two evening sets. I have never experienced that many cameras going off for that long during a show. The room was full and the people were as enthusiastic as could be. We received four encores. Heady stuff. I don't know if it was jetlag or being high on adrenaline, but I never slept. Unfortunately, I couldn't keep my eyes open through a magnificent ride through the Swiss Alps the next day.   Every time I opened my eyes, another brilliant vista would appear. Soon my eyelids would close. I just couldn't help it. I hope I get a chance to see that area again when I am well-rested. We reached La Roche sur Foron, France, and after an eleven-hour sleep, I woke up to one of the prettiest days of my life in probably the most beautiful area I have ever seen. I vowed to bring Corina back with me. I went for a long walk in the French Alps and wrote another song. Later in the day, I walked through the town with Joe and Clayton. We entered a church built in the 1500's. I felt such peace there and didn't want to leave the space. Our show that evening gave me one of my highest highs as a musician. We connected with the crowd in a way I didn't think possible when I left our country. Many could not understand our language, but they could understand our music. We made attempts to speak to them in French and they appeared to get a real kick out of us, especially when Clayton ran up to the mic with his arms in the air and exclaimed, "Zut alors!" Afterwards, we celebrated with audience members with delicious food and drink and just really took the time as a band to verbalize how blessed we were to experience such a place.

We finished our tour in Torino, Italy playing to yet another wildly enthusiastic crowd. We met several musicians during the intermission and after the show. I was struck by the fact that these players love bluegrass and revere the founding fathers and mothers of the music as much as we do and how it must be even more difficult to find an audience as a bluegrass musician in Europe than it is in the USA. I respect the European bluegrass musicians so much for following the music in their hearts despite this difficulty. We took a train to Milan and spent one more beautiful day there, culminating in a night of great food and conversation with our new friends Massimo, Icaro, and Collim from Italy's Bluegrass Stuff. Oh yeah, I wrote another song that day. I had only written two in 2012 and I have five to show for my week and a half in Europe. I don't know if it was sleep-deprivation, sensory overload, lack of phone and computer access, or a combination of all these things. I do know that I returned home more proud of this band than ever and inspired to push myself even harder.