I cry at the gym a lot lately. I don’t think I’ve ever been caught but the cleaning lady might tell you differently. She’s usually the only other person in the building when I begin my workouts so I didn’t think that dropping a couple of tears between sets would hurt anybody. The process always starts the same. I walk through the doors listening to exercise appropriate music (right now Quiet Oaks, The Presets and Biggie are in heavy rotation). I can only make it through a handful of songs before I start digging through the folder on my phone titled “Songs to Consider”. Most the tracks are just half-evolved instrumental pieces but every demo Brecken and I have created for the next Strange Familia album lives here. I listen to the songs over and over again, writing and rewriting lyrics in my head, while I run on the treadmill. There’s something about the repetitive movement that takes me into a meditative state where it’s easier to focus and remain emotionally connected to the words I’m writing. In the past this process has served as a songwriter’s creative sandbox used to explore different ideas in lyric and melody. But lately it’s also been a sandbox for crying.


I hate having to type the ten words that make up the sentence that follows this one but it’s the reason I’m writing all of this so I better get them out — my daughter was killed in a car accident last October. For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, I feel compelled to apologize for sharing that.

Frankly, for the past thirteen months I’ve felt bad most times that those outside my immediate circle have asked,”How are you holding up?”. I guess I’m doing well in that I don’t have lupus and I paid my taxes last year. So it’s not entirely dishonest to say that I’m doing okay. But I know I’m really just avoiding the question they’re really asking, to which the sincere answer is: I’m struggling. It’s difficult to be honest when you know your response to a pleasantry is heartbreaking.

The truth is that I was good when I knew why I woke up each morning. I was good when I knew why I went back to school and why I worked jobs I didn’t love. I was good when I knew why I make music. Lila was the answer to so many questions in my life and, even though I’m not entirely empty-handed, the answers I have now carry only a fraction of the significance that she did. I’ve been hesitant to open up because I didn’t want to pull people into the same muted world I’ve been living in. I didn’t want to share the pain. The truth is that I’m still lost and I’m still trying to find a new normal.


Let’s get back to the sandbox of tears.

It was only a couple of months ago when I had my first mid-cardio breakdown. I was feeling disconnected from a lot of the material we were working on at the time. Those songs we had started writing the previous year about partying and new love felt insincere when most of my thoughts were occupied with Lila and directionless heartache. Stuck, I decided to revisit an old demo that we had worked on with our friend and co-collaborator Nate Bramhall. I had written a few lines about Lila for the instrumental months before but had shelved the idea when I realized I wasn’t emotionally ready to spend the hours and days and months it would take to finish the song. It wasn’t easy that night but as I allowed myself to write what I was really feeling I finally felt a little bit of life again. Maybe it wasn’t the same high that writing gave me before but the relief of finally scribbling something honest again was overwhelming. As I finished writing the lyrics in the weeks that followed it became apparent just how important honesty and vulnerability would be in my writing but also in my recovery. Lesson learned.


A few times over the past year I’ve heard some version of the following,”I don’t know how you are getting through this. You’re so strong.” While I appreciate the obvious sentiment behind these comments I can’t help but think about all of my moments of weakness. How am I getting through this? Well, my lungs just keep pulling in air. My heart keeps pushing blood through my body and the world keeps circling the sun so I don’t know… I just keep waking up. There were days I hoped I wouldn’t. If I seem strong it’s only because my family and friends have carried me through the past thirteen months. If you’re looking for a more accurate illustration of what the past year has felt like to me, go watch Weekend at Bernies. I’m not strong. The people who love me are strong and I’m grateful and indebted to everyone who has tried to help carry me. I’m grateful to Brecken for being here for me quite literally every single day. The music we write together is healing me and damn it’s been hard but it’s pulling me through. Thank you.

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So, I’m crying at the gym a lot lately. I’m realizing that if I can’t allow someone to be low with me then I may never find the hands that will pull me back up. I still don’t know when I’ll feel normal again. I still don’t have the answer but something feels different when I let myself be honest. Something feels better when I let myself be vulnerable.  

I hope the cleaning lady will understand.


New Girl


I didn’t know her at all. She was just the girl with the locker next to mine until the one lunch break she approached me and asked if I’d be her boyfriend. It seemed like a fine enough thing to get involved with as a seventh grader so I agreed. I spent the next two weeks in a fairly consistent state of fear. #lockergirl

I was afraid of a lot of things but probably my parents most of all. In the culture that I grew up in, boys aren’t supposed to date exclusively until they’re 21. What I’m saying is that If my parents found out about Shelby, I would definitely not be going to Jake’s birthday party at Nicklecade the next month. I was afraid of my friends. What would they think? What if they liked her too? Is that good or bad? I was afraid of the girl. I had never been a boyfriend before so I didn’t really know how to do it. Who does what? What is it that we do? We’re going out now? Where are we going? Oh it’s not a place you go? Okay. It’s all very confusing as it should be. I didn't get it but she made the whole thing very easy by never talking to me. I don’t think we said a word to each other through our entire fourteen day courtship. When compared to future attempts, Shelby was a fantastic success. #success

Dating was usually pretty terrible for the next decade. That’s a dramatic way to describe it but I just wasn’t very good at it. Were any of us? It could have been for lack of guidance. My dad was screening female phone calls until I was 18 so fatherly advice outside of him grounding me for breaking the no-dating rule was hard to come by. Maybe it was because Boy Meets World and The Wonder Years set unrealistic expectations for us 90’s kids. How did those two brothers (in-real-life) Ben and Fred Savage end up with their own shows and my childhood dreamgirls? It’s that kind of nepotism that led me to believe I would one day marry Mary-Kate and my brother would marry Ashley Olsen. #lies

Truly though, the most likely culprit for my ten years of shitty dating was youth. Inexperience. Not knowing what the hell I was doing and then taking advice from other kids who also didn’t know what they were doing. After my first set of heartbreaks a close friend told me I was being too nice. I needed to play the game with a little more intention. If I cared less, they would care more. It was so backward to me but I tried the care-less technique and was surprised when it actually worked. I italicized the last word of the last sentence to represent sarcasm. It didn’t really work. Sure, caring less protected me in a way but it was really just a fearful wall that kept me from growing. In our song Red Lipstick I described these years of caring less as an “ apathetic decade walking bulletproof”. Have you ever done the “care-less” thing? It’s sucky, right? I became philophobic (I googled for that one). A love cynic. Have you heard our song Ms. Badblood? I’m not a psychologist but, I think she might be me. #projection

So, Time passed. The nice thing about time passing is that it does a pretty good job at providing experience. While friends suggested my love struggles stemmed from things like incompatible astrological signs and poor taste, I’m (almost) certain I just needed some extra time to figure out how to be a boyfriend. #experience

Okay, I must admit. I didn’t mean to keep you here this long. I wanted to write something short that would give you some back story to New Girl but I’m already a page into this Word document and if I keep going like this I’ll turn this into a five pager and lets not do that. Please allow me three more paragraphs and a PS section. Thank you. #thankyou

If you were ordering a marriage… from the marriage store... in Utah, and you ordered “The Usual” you would probably get 6-8 months of dating, 2 months engagement, and for believers, married forever. When you’re 6-8 years past The Usual, you wonder if maybe you’ll just stay alone forever. Full disclosure: I’ve never been alone forever so I don’t know that it’s the worst thing ever but I like not being alone A LOT so please don’t mind me assuming that I’d prefer an alternative. That’s where Ali comes in. #theusual

You develop modest expectations in dating once you’ve been doing it for a while. To be honest, I didn’t expect the first date let alone the second, third, and fourth. That phrase they tell you, the one about just knowing when it’s right, like we’re born with some kind of soulmate spidey sense, finally clicked for me. She made me feel normal. Without context that might seem a weak compliment but one I’ve dreamed of giving. She gets me. She does a million other things for me but making me feel uncrazy is one of my favorites. I hope I make her feel normal. #normal


PS -  You know that scene in The Wedding Singer when Adam Sandler plays his bi-polar-The Cure-influenced song “Somebody Kill Me Please” for Drew Barrymore? Out of nowhere his calm love song goes to hell after his girlfriend leaves him? New Girl can relate in way. Twelve months after Ali and I started dating she was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. I couldn’t believe it. Things were finally right and now they were taking her away? New Girl was going to be an easy love song but reality put a little wrinkle in it. Fortunately for the team, she will be home for good in three months. #praise

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