I ALWAYS buy the music that matters to me, even from my Friends.
I mean, if we aren’t going to Support our Friends, if we aren’t going to Support the Soul Poets, Artists and Entrepreneurs amongst us… Who the fuck are we going to support?
Hustle Up Starlings is a Battle Cry!
It’s a Record about Figuring It Out, about Growing.
It’s about Evoking Heroes. It’s about Being Heroes.
It’s about People who have passed through fire, flood and miles of bullshit, but they’re Not quitters. They Refuse to believe that their Lives are doomed to misery. They’re Digging In, they’re Committed!
The Battle Cry isn’t mere Survival, it is: Survival with Honor!
Matthew Ryan understands that suffering is not a value, only the Fight against it. And on Hustle Up Starlings, he Reflects, and he Fights… And his characters Reflect, and They Fight, and from their troubles, from their pain and their distress they Grow Brave, they Gain Strength and Courage. They are Us!
Hustle Up Starlings has been with me, a part of me, since its release. It has Spoken to me, it has Spoken for me: Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually, and it Always will. It’s one of those Records, the ones that live with you, Always. These are the Records, the Music, the Artists, The Poets, the Soul Entrepreneurs that we Have to Share with others, that we Have to Support, that we Have to Cherish. Artists who help to make us Believe in Ourselves.
I’ve spent the weekend in Phoenix with Ann and Lucy for a dance convention. Looking at Lucy’s schedule for Saturday, I realized that since she would be in class all day and didn’t start competing until 6:00 PM, that I had an opportunity to get out and Ramble. With the South Rim of the Grand Canyon being only 3.5 hours away from our hotel, I thought it’d be wrong to be within striking distance and not go. So, I set out at 11:00 PM on Friday night to catch the Ceremony of the Sunrise at the Grand Canyon on Saturday morning.
I parked my car on the South Rim of The Canyon at 2:30 AM on Desert View Drive. It was 33°. I climbed into the backseat, pulled my sleeping bag around me and gazed up and out the back window of my car into The Cosmos. If not for my plan to see the Sunrise, I may have just bundled up and spent the rest of the night outside Star Gazing. In fact, I’ll have to plan a Star Gazing trip of some sort soon, for what I saw and felt from the backseat of my car as I dozed off into sleep was the greatest sense of Awe, and something that I decided should be regularly experienced: Church.
I woke up at 4:45 AM in the predawn light. I was slightly panicked by how bright the sky was, thinking I somehow missed the Sunrise. I grabbed my bag and stepped out of the car, into the cold, onto the South Rim, and immediately started walking east towards Yaki Point. The Sun seemed to be rising fast, and without any previous experience here (and little research done) I stopped short of Yaki Point and instead took in the Sunlight landing upon The Canyon just past the South Kaibab Trail Head. It was incredible. After the Sun was up though, I eventually made my way to Yaki Point and realized why that location, with its views of the East Rim, would have been the best location to see the Sunrise. Definitely noted for next time.
At 6:15 AM, the day was already heating up, I stripped out of the layers I’d been in, and I started heading down the South Kaibab Trail. My destination, despite repeated warnings (posted online and on the Trail, itself) of not attempting such a strenuous out and back hike in one day, was the Colorado River, 6.3 miles down a very steep Trail. Many large groups had taken off long before me, but within an hour, I found myself breezing past most of them as they lounged around Cedar Ridge. Once I was free of the crowds, I found the Trail to be a Moving Meditation, a Sermon of Rock, Sky, Sun, Plant and River.
At 8:45 AM, my feet were in the Colorado River, and at 8:55 AM, I was hiking back up the Trail. The return trip was fairly demanding. I found myself stuck behind a mule team for a good portion of it, slowing me down as they stopped to rest regularly, but that was probably a good thing as I’d drink some water and tuck myself into any bit of shade I could find, resting my legs and waiting for the team to start moving again. I was finally able to pass them at 11:15 at Cedar Ridge and I was back out standing on the South Rim at 12:00 PM.
As I walked along the Rim Trail back to my car, I came upon a small group of Elk foraging. I stopped and took some video and photos, I got very close to them as they seemed very peaceful and at ease. I learned later that they are one of the most dangerous animals in the park and that they should be given a wide berth, something I really should have considered on my own. Another note for my next visit.
At 12:15 PM, I was in my car and heading back to Phoenix to watch Lucy dance.
We came from Florida, Brooklyn, Portland, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Long Beach and Japan to meet in Houston, TX — Open Arms and Open Hearts. Our Common Ground: Art, Music and Skateboarding. From there, well, Anything Is Possible!
No corporate initiative or marketing strategy, just Friends Coming Together to Express their Love for the Peaceful Arts: In-Tune-Ment. What started as a Dream has become a Community: The Street Plant Battalion.
Once Houston was pinned on the map, we reached out to Friends in Austin, Dallas and Wichita Falls, TX as well, with a simple idea: Skate, Create, Relate and Enjoy! And this became the Open Hearted Texas Tour 2017.
Imagine, if the same Energy that we used to gossip, to make a joke, to be sarcastic, snide, ridiculing, satirical, degrading or passive aggressive was instead used to be Affectionate, Sympathetic, Compassionate and Understanding.
Social media, what we do and what we say online, is a microcosm of our lives and of our world.
What we project here isn’t fiction.
It is truth that reverberates and has long reaching effects.
What you say about yourself, is what you say about the world you live in.
Every day, every post is a time capsule.
A memo to yourself and to the universe.
When we laugh at everything, we permit nothing to have value.
Instead of tearing each other down, we should be Lifting Each Other Up!
The slightest shift of Energy and Perspective could Truly Change the way that we Interact with Each Other, and thus, Change The World that We Live In For The Better.
What if, instead of being quick witted, we were Kind Hearted?
You can’t fight the fire while you feed the flames.
We were 4 hours late to our visit at Evol in Izumo, Japan. When we were still an hour away, Hiroshi said to me, “You have a lot of fans waiting for you.” It sounded so implausible, amusing even — “Fans” — like that was a real thing. I mean, I understood what we were doing, driving a great distance to meet people but I had never thought about it like that and I just don’t and can’t frame things in my mind in that way. I just don’t think in terms of “fans” or that I have any sort of obligation to do this. For me, it’s about People and a desire to Connect. I just show up and Live in that Moment. I don’t take for granted that anyone will be there, ever.
As we turned the corner onto the street where Evol is located, we heard a loud roar rise out from the parking lot. Everyone who had taken the time out of their lives that day to come see us, and had extended that time into the night, cheered our arrival. I hated being late, it just feels so typical, but this really was a special moment. Still, I immediately thought of those who may have had to leave and miss our visit because of our tardiness and so, my joy was leveled by an equal pang of regret.
Any exhaustion we may have felt after driving all day and into the night was immediately vanquished by a surge of excitement, fueled by the Love and Enthusiasm of the Beautiful Faces greeting us as we stepped out of the van.
Photo and autograph requests ensued but due to failing eyesight, I had to step into the well-lit skate shop to see what I was doing. Also, I wanted to make sure that anyone who had waited that long to see me at least got a decent photo. I hate to be rushed in those situations, especially when people are pressing in, that’s when it becomes vital to slow everything down and humanize every interaction. Or what’s the point?
Once we’d shaken every hand, signed every item and taken photos with everyone, spotlights were focused on a jump ramp in the middle of the parking lot indicating it was time to Skate.
I grabbed my board and helmet and joined Joey and Kristian in a jump ramp session under the lights. It reminded me of being a kid and playing Little League Baseball. The night games, under the lights, always had an elevated aura and I’ve always Skated better at night. Not that I Skated all that well this night, but the energy was right.
My now poor nighttime vision, a very skinny jump ramp and a crowd pressing in too close (making me concerned about bailing and my board striking someone) made for a Fun yet reserved session for me. No one seemed to care though, it was all in Fun. Plus, Joey and Kristian killed it and I’ve found myself having as much or even more Fun documenting their Skating as pursuing my own at times.
All in all, it was great visit in Izumo. Much Love and Thanks to Tomokazu and EVERYONE who came out to see us at Evol!
Our vehicle for the past two Street Plant Japan Tours has been a van fronted, mini-motorhome: The Isuzu Fargo. Unlike any other vehicle I have ever ridden in or driven, the Fargo looks like something that the Jawas might have scavenged on Tatooine. Its wheels seem too small for its hulking body and its engine lacks any hint of power, but somehow it has proven its merit and transported us from Tokyo to Sendai, to Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, Zushi and then from Osaka to Kanonji, Kōchi, Saga, Sasebo, Karatsu, Kumamoto, Izumo and Kobe. That’s a lot of kilometers.
Kristian Svitak compares riding in the back camper to “rocking around like a boat in rough seas.” He sat in the back at the table, facing stoically forward out the front window, it’s all he could do all day long to keep his lunch from making a return trip up his esophagus.
When I have taken my turn behind the wheel, relieving our faithful Tour Manager Hiroshi to rest, Kristian has joined me up front, and you’d think by his shit-eating grin that he’d just won the lottery. Nope, just a few hours in the front cabin.
Though expensive, due to tolls, driving in Japan is a very pleasant experience. First, the landscape of mountains, hills, forests, rivers, seas, tunnels, villages and cities is forever stunning. Secondly, Japanese drivers are courteous, they do not suffer from the disease of entitlement, they respect the passing lane and thus traffic flows orderly and peacefully. In fact, I don’t remember ever hearing one horn honk, nor have I ever seen any sign of road rage while in Japan. Without the usual American manner of the highway being a pressure cooker, and an added stress to one’s life, driving truly becomes a much more enjoyable experience.
Over these past two tours, the Fargo has become an integral part of our experience, a 6th member of our touring party. I’ll never forget turning the corner, 4 hours late to arrive at Evolin Izumo. As we made our way down the street with the shop in view, we heard a loud cheer from the parking lot ahead. The locals had recognized the Fargo by sight.
Heart and Guts.
That’s what it takes to live decently in this world.
To say yes to life, even with all of its sorrow and loss.
That’s what makes a hero.
These are the people that Matthew Ryan sings about on his new full-length album, Hustle Up Starlings, and that is what Matthew Ryan is himself, a hero.
On Battle Born, Ryan sings of one of his heroes, Joe Strummer: “He took it straight in the teeth / To find out what was underneath.” But he could be singing about himself, about his own experiences or of anyone who has sought something deeper, more meaningful in their work, in their lives.
In all of these new songs, the intimacy and immediacy of Ryan’s personal storytelling rings out. He’s telling his story, but in doing so, he’s telling your story, he’s telling my story, he’s telling OUR story. These seemingly quiet songs continue to gain volume and depth upon every listen. What starts out feeling like a hushed journey through someone’s diary, becomes a thunderous collection of anthems for this Moment and the road ahead.
Early on in his career, Matthew Ryan got a taste of what success in the music business might look like, and instead he chose a more courageous path, away from the market driven industry. Some may say he shot himself in the foot. But better he thought, to limp through life than race to the bottom. And in a world where the bottom is what we are all being force fed, it’s voices like Ryan’s that we need more than ever. Where most everything on the radio is tainted by a fundamental dishonesty, a shallow aspiration for fame and riches, it’s the Artists limping along that we need to embrace and cherish, because they are us.
Japan is a Spiritual place for me. A wellspring of Inspiration and Motivation. But it’s not at the foot of the Beautiful temples that I find Glory (although I do worship the manmade architecture). And it’s not even at the Shrine of the Seas or Mountains that I bow (although Nature is my denomination). It is at the altar of the People where my Faith is Consecrated and where I am made Whole.
The is no language barrier between us. What is spoken from the Heart, goes to the Heart. Every relationship is Purified by Essence. Words fall away, replaced by Light and Tone. Love is its own language.
The Positivity and Energy that the Japanese Skaters give to me flows to every fiber of my being and informs my very existence: If we Live Right in This Moment, there is no need to worry about tomorrow. Every interaction Lives and is Honored in the Never Ending Now.
My Gratitude and Adoration for the Japanese Skaters breaks through and Rises Above jet lag, exhaustion and a natural introversion to Celebrate Our Common Ground, Our Love for Skateboarding, Our Love for Life! My Skateboard reveals itself under my feet and I Sing a Song of Love!
The New Arms EP was recorded with Matthew Ryan between January 19 & 22 in Beaver, PA. I flew into Pittsburgh on inauguration day and so, that circus, no matter how much I wanted to avoid it, became the background of our work that weekend.
We worked in an upstairs bedroom, while downstairs the TV seethed with increasing global negativity. We worked on Rise Above first, then Ice Age.
By Sunday morning we had time to work on one more track. I had this song idea, “Staycation” that was about retiring from a bunch of foolishness in my life. Matthew liked that song idea but he felt that perhaps there was a more optimistic idea in there somewhere and maybe something that wasn’t just about me.
We had stayed up late the previous night talking about the events that had been unfolding over the past 48 hours. I shared with him how Ann, Emily and Lucy had through the course of the election felt a very devastating blow to their sense of self, and how that had affected me deeply. The election was one thing standing in my shoes, it was quite another standing in theirs.
Matthew urged me to sing about that, what I wanted my wife and daughters to know, to believe, and then he shared with me some words that he had punched into the notes on his iPhone. I immediately connected with the words, it was everything I was saying the night before and we rushed upstairs to try to record the song while the idea was fresh.
Matthew hit record on his phone and began playing some chords on his guitar, urging me to sing along. The melody just came to me, and when I finished he asked, “How did you know what melody I had in my head.”
We ended up properly recording the track again a few minutes later but we kept returning to the demo version. Since it was recorded on an iPhone the demo version was missing something sonically, but it also had something spiritually that we’d never capture again and so, we included it on the EP.