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February 2009

My Story (the full interview with Jamendo)

Below is the full interview with my favorite music site; Jamendo.  The interview was conducted for the article just published yesterday.

When and how did you start the Abscondo project?

The Abscondo project started at about the time I decided to move from Seattle to Slovakia.  While Abscondo is my music alias, I would say it is also a lifestyle that I have created. 

To abscond is to run away or hide; taking something, or someone, with you.  I began this experiment after making a few observations.  While I did like Seattle and enjoyed the benefits of my software sales career, it was becoming clear that a life spent commuting to work and sitting in a gray cube was no life for me.  For various cultural and political reasons, I was unable to create a life that felt authentic to me in the United States.  I wanted badly to escape for a long time.  I had a clear idea of freedom, of life's possibilities, of how I wanted to spend my days.  At the same time, I've always been too responsible or simply unwilling to make the harsh sacrifice of giving up all that I had worked for (after having earned an MBA and building up a 10-year sales career).  I knew that, for me, it could not be a choice between this or that.  Everything I was to do had to be a combination this and that – the best of both worlds.  So I set out to determine whether it was possible to create a life that felt authentic and vibrant, one that is lived on my terms, and to do so without too much sacrifice.

Prior to 2005, when I left the United States, I had already been a self-taught guitarist for 8 years and had recorded one amateurish solo album (under another alias).  During that time, I played mostly cover songs in private and never performed live.  I had never taken myself seriously as a musician.  I only gravitated toward writing and playing my own songs once I left the United States.  I had something of my own to say and I had the time and space in which to say it.  Music and writing became the most natural way for me to express my ideas, experiences, and emotions. 

My music weblog ( has become the central place where I share my music and express these ideas.  I hope my music provides an escape, but my purpose is to inspire people to listen to their own, unique inner voice and to find the self-confidence and courage to live more authentically, on their own terms.

Tell me about moving to Slovakia, and what impact that decision had (if any) on your music.

In Slovakia, I began recognizing truths and patterns that I believe are not commonly understood.  I came to see that the meaning of life is, quite simply, to be the unique genetic mutations we all are.  If society already has everything figured out, and we are meant only to conform, then why do we exist at all?  Most of us define “perfection” in terms of whether or not we do things “correctly” (according to social norms).  But I came to believe that uniqueness is what perfect is.  We have to find a physical or virtual space to exist that is far enough away from all those external cultural and institutional voices (advertising, media, the church, the workplace) before we are able to obey the wisdom of our own intuition.  In order for our individual uniqueness to thrive, we need to claim a certain type of sacred personal space.  We need a basic amount of freedom to be left alone by society and, even more importantly, space to co-exist with others in creative ways that are kept away from social judgment.  This is never something that is given to us or approved of.  We must create it for ourselves.

Like most Americans, I had always defined myself by the groups or movements with which I identified.  But actually I was never very good at fitting in and only when I stopped trying did I improve every aspect of my life.  When I had carved out a life on my terms, others respected me more and became interested in meeting me half-way.  I became more effective in my work, so my employer has even found a way to continue working with me in a way that is mutually-beneficial.  But with respect to my creative world, I believe that I have ideas and experiences worthy of sharing.  My music is the primary way in which I do this.

How far have you gone professionally? Have you toured, released an album? Did you have a musical 'career' in the US before you moved?

I have only found a substantial audience for my music after releasing my debut solo album, “Midnight Snow” on Jamendo in 2008.  Prior to this, in 2007, I released an album called “Imperfect People” as a member of the recording duo Sungod Abscondo. 

We initially released “Imperfect People” using the more traditional approach.  The album was initially for sale in digital format and CD form, but not available for free.  I had faith enough in that album to invest thousands of dollars into hiring a promoter.  Our tracks were ultimately played on a few dozen non-commercial radio stations in North America, but we were dissatisfied with our ability to reach an audience who cared about our music.  The truth is, if Jamendo didn't exist, and I hadn't reached a substantial audience with the Midnight Snow album, I wonder whether I would have found to motivation to still be recording today.

As for performing live, I've played several Sungod Abscondo shows in Slovakia. 

What are your main influences, the musical tradition you would like to be a part of?

The band that changed my life, in the mid 1990's, is Belle & Sebastian.  Their music felt so authentic and fresh. They opened the door to the world of indie music. 

My most obvious influences are singer-songwriters like Leanard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Glen Hansard, and Damien Rice.  But I'm also heavily influenced by artists as varied as Wolfsheim, Pulp, Mercury Rev, Snow Patrol, Arcade Fire, Badly Drawn Boy, Kings of Convenience, and Matthew Sweet.  Sometimes I wonder whether my greatest influence isn't the fact that I used to listen to Neil Diamond when I was very young.  I've been known to karaoke Neil Diamond quite well!

Lyrics and melody are most important to me.  I see myself as part of the folk music tradition and I mean that in the truest sense.  I think the Creative Commons model is the modern equivalent of the old folk music tradition...before the days of the big labels.  I want to continue making free music because I believe it is the only way to create something entirely on my own terms in a way that keeps business separate from art.  I want Creative Commons music to break through and eventually overtake commercial music.

How did you discover Jamendo and why did you choose to post your music there? What do you expect from the site?

Not wanting to spend any more of my own money promoting the release of “Midnight Snow”, I sought out all of the channels available for releasing it digitally.  Jamendo has, by far, been my best experience releasing music.  You seem uniquely able to pull in a large audience who actually cares about new and obscure music.  The Creative Commons model completely breaks down when there is no organized way for fans to sift through the vast amount of unknown music.  Jamendo solves this problem.  

Do you also sell your music, or just give it out for free?

I have also made my albums available for sale digitally.  If some of my listeners feel that artists should get paid, they can purchased my work on-line from any digital retailer.  Ultimately I would like to begin selling albums...perhaps releasing free promo EP's via Jamendo and selling full-length albums elsewhere.