The concept for Reckless Duality dropped in Summer 2016, when there seemed to be a shift in the narrative of my songwriting. I noticed cycles of small deaths and new births. “The snake which cannot cast his skin has to die. As well as are the minds prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.” – Frederick Nietzsche
I met Tom in March 2013. I had just finished recording an album with Deep Swell and had flown to New Hampshire to interview for grad school. Wandering downtown on Saturday morning, I saw people gathered for what I would find out was the weekly peace vigil on the square. I met Tom standing opposite the crowd, holding a sign that read either, “Free Bradley Manning”, or “Prosecute Bush War Crimes.”
We introduced ourselves and within minutes recognized our common love for music and became instant friends. I was immediately hooked on his wit and in love with his character. We spent that afternoon into evening at his piano. Music was his first love and I felt the same. Don’t get me wrong, Tom was an asshole. He was the kind of Saturn teacher that pushed all of your buttons at once and sat back to watch the hilarity ensue. That’s why I love him so much. Tom intermittently stopped me from singing and laughingly pointed out my mistakes. “Are you going to sing on pitch?” Tom’s ears were bat-like and his fingers were precisely graceful. I met Tom’s guitar that night, whom he lovingly referred to as Carol. We practiced Paint it Black and Somebody to Love which we covered the next day at the Hundred Nights Homeless Shelter Easter Sunday jam. I headed back to West Virginia to my pre-school-teacher-barista-rock-and-roll-singer-river-life and decided that grad school wasn’t for me, that music was all I wanted.
It’s hard to describe what happened with my relationship to music after taking it on as a job. When Deep Swell released Lore of the Angler, it seemed like I had won the game I was playing in my head; rock and roll fantasy actualized. I started partying like a wildebeest and chasing music like my life depended on it. My mental health fell through the cracks while my weakened body carried me from show to show. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by anything and I was pushing everyone that loved me away. I knew that I needed to hit the proverbial reset button but I wasn’t sure how.
A few months prior to my moving to New Hampshire in June 2015, Tom was diagnosed with ALS. He could no longer play music on his own. I went to Tom’s cabin every night that summer and we played, drank, and laughed. I couldn’t hide my broken heart from Tom. He knew heartbreak. He subliminally planted cheesy 60’s love songs into my subconscious forever. Tom was always rooting for my broken heart. He was always happier when I was happy. Tom kept reminding me that I was worth something. He was my best friend. When I started grad school in the fall, I had developed a routine of visiting Tom nightly. A small family of folks had formed; brought together by music and love for the crude humor of Tom Rogers.
I wrote the majority of Reckless Duality at The Rocky Brook Motel in Cabin 13. Tom’s presence fueled my creative fire and pointed me towards healing my fragmented self. When Tom died in January 2017, I wasn’t broken hearted, defeated, and powerless like I assumed I would be. Tom’s death happened the way he wanted it; wine, weed, comedy, and music. He always made me laugh. Shedding skins in isolation is difficult. Everyone who encountered Tom Rogers laughed; even the toughest contenders.
Death’s dance moved me to witness and grieve what had unconsciously developed in the songs that Tom and I sat in together. I paid close attention to the stories and traced threads of duality on a spectrum of recklessness. Thinking about those Shenandoah moonshine filled nights that carried into mornings watching the sun rise on a night of no sleep, the miracle of breathing in and out, the seeds becoming trees, the young growing old, students becoming masters, and life becoming death.
There is a spectrum of complexity involved in transformation. Metamorphosis, defined by a dictionary, is a “marked or complete change of character, appearance, or condition.” Humans are similar to the snake, crab, butterfly, and frog because we need certain fragile elements to be in sync before we can transform anything. The three key elements that welcome transformation are timing, safety, and the inner force. Reckless Duality is a record of cyclic struggles to tune in and listen to my inner force, to seek safety, and to find the time to let go.
This June I’m headed to M80 Recording Studio with a few great friends to bring Reckless Duality to life. It’s been a wild ride and I’m pleased to finally cast these songs into the kiln. Thank you for joining me on this trip around the sun.
Love Always Never;