May I keep it super real for one minute?

Shannon and I don’t make a ton of money. Don’t be worried for us – that’s not the point – we’re doing okay. But we’re a married pair of working artists. And, to be perfectly clear, neither of us has a trust fund. And we haven’t gotten a grant or other massive cash infusion at any point. We earn our living by engaging a small community of people as directly and intently and intensely as we can – by working as hard as we can literally every single day to create as much value and inspiration and hope and art for you as we are able. It’s what we were meant to do, and it’s the best thing in the world, but it’s not lucrative. I know, I know, you’d think we were getting filthy rich playing shows for 40 people at a time in backyards and living rooms – but, no.

We’ve gotten ourselves to the point where we’re stable, and debt-free, and we’ve even started to save a tiny bit. For a married pair of working artists, this is a miraculous achievement. But 7 or so years ago, when we started building this current thing that we do, things looked a lot different for us. I had been touring with bands for a living, but the bottom fell out of the music industry in the 2010 streaming-related meltdown, and my work dried up. Meanwhile, Shannon had accidentally let her substitute teaching credential lapse due to missing a renewal letter while on one of her myriad tours playing to 8 people a night in coffeeshops, and the state was in a hiring freeze so she couldn’t get it back. So while we would have liked to have a transition period, what actually happened is that we both got thrown in the deep end, and without much warning at all in 2010 had to start supporting ourselves 100% as full-time artists. Oh no!

But there was one thing – one key thing – that provided us a bit of relief, which proved absolutely invaluable in making this transition: the Afforable Care Act, which had been enacted just months prior. Because of the ACA, and because we were basically living in grinding poverty, we qualified for California’s Medicaid expansion – which took our health insurance costs from $509/month down to $0/month for those crucial transitional years. This is literally the thing that made it financially possible for us to start our careers.

To put it another way: the ACA gave us grace, and it gave us freedom. Because of the ACA, we had the freedom to take a huge entrepreneurial risk, and to work our asses off on building this thing that you all now know us for – and which I know from the constant messages we receive and conversations we have brings a tremendous amount of value and solace to the lives of a large number of people.

Would you prefer that we’d not had this chance? Would you prefer that we, and people like us, should have to make the terrifying choice between a) spending 1/3+ of our income on insurance premiums, b) giving up and settling for some meaningless desk job because it comes with health insurance, or c) pursuing our dreams, but at the terrifying risk of permanent financial devastation if we have an unexpected medical emergency arise? That’s a terrible choice to ask would-be American entrepreneurs to contemplate, to say nothing of artists, whom I believe deserve special consideration, although I admit to being biased on this point.

Give this a moment’s thought, then call your Senator. The time is right now. The things the rich will take from us know no bounds; and they won’t rest until they’ve taken everything. Resist.

Here’s a brand-new video (highly excellent) by a brand-new band (from Finland) for a brand-new song (which I mixed). Sort of industrial-goth-trip-hop, perhaps. Featuring Kauko Röyhkä, who is a legend. I’m honored to be involved. Great song, too. Have a listen!

One of the big pleasures for us over the last year has been building a friendship with the legendary Martin Atkins. Martin was first a huge influence on me when I was a kid — he played drums in like 5 of the bands I was the most into in my most formative years. And then he was again a huge influence, on both me and Shannon, when he put out his book Tour Smart nearly ten years ago, which is where we got a lot of our initial ideas for how to do all the DIY stuff that we’ve been doing since with Shannon’s career.

Martin asked us to do our house concert presentation for him at 2112, a music/tech/film incubator in Chicago where he has an office. And of course we said yes!

2112 presentation

Oh hi! Tour is … well, not done … but VERY NEARLY DONE. We’ve been on tour so long that I can’t remember ever doing anything else. It’s been this pretty much every night (i.e., amazing):

val & karla concert

Just a quick note — Shannon and I have been asked to give a talk on how we do house concerts at the CD Baby DIY Musician Conference. It’s next week, in Chicago. If you’re an independent musician, you should go to this conference. It’s positive and it’s useful and the vibe is supportive and excellent and we recommend it highly. If you’re there, come say hi! We have a table and we’ll be around all weekend.

Shannon and I are heading out tomorrow for our EIGHTY-SHOW TOUR. Goodness. See you in October! If you want to come to a show, find one here that looks good and let us know and we’ll get you hooked up with an invite. See you out there …