In the summer, at a press conference in Nashville for Music Health Alliance, I decided to perform a weekend of shows here at our farm and donate the money to their organization to try to be a part of helping others the way they’ve helped our family.
As the time for the shows grew closer, I was nervous about stepping back onstage again with a guitar in my hand, without Joey by my side. Afraid that it would feel wrong to keep singing and sharing without her, and even more afraid that it might feel right.
In the end, though, it was both. Performing again on the beautiful stage in the barn that we built together felt so wrong... and so, so right. All at the same time.
Wrong because I miss Joey so much. And because she was such a great singer and performer that to me, whatever gift I have, pales in comparison to hers. And wrong because I selfishly want our song to go on together forever. Our lives and love story to never end.
But those two evenings in September felt right for so many other reasons. First off, I have come to believe that there are things in life that we do... and things that we are born to do. For me, I realized an hour into the first night, that sharing songs on a stage—however big or small—is one of mine.
Secondly, when I got on stage, time stood still. For me it did anyway. It felt like only a few minutes had passed when Russell motioned to me from the side of the stage that I’d been performing for almost two and a half hours and should wrap up soon.
I guess time on stage flies when you’re having fun.
I am at my core, a storyteller. And words are the tools of my trade. Whether in this blog, a book or film, or on a stage with a guitar in my hand, words, and stories are what God has given me to make sense of this world that most of the time makes no sense at all. And something inside urges me to share those stories, and not keep them to myself. That urge is what makes me wake up at ten minutes ’til four on a chilly morning like this one... and pour a cup of coffee and start typing.
It has been a month and a half since Joey’s birthday weekend. When I cracked the doors open in the big red barn and played those shows with our daughter Heidi by my side singing harmony, just like she always did for her Mom and me. With Randy Travis, one of our heroes, sitting in the audience next to his wife Mary, giving me a thumbs-up with a big smile on his face. They, along with Joey’s daddy and nearly three hundred other strangers, neighbors, and friends each night were cheering me on. Letting me know that it’s okay. It’s hard, but it’s right.
I have had some time to think and pray and talk with family about it, and I am ready to open the doors of the barn up wide and let some light in. To do more of what I’m supposed to be doing. More of what Joey would want me to do.
So we’ll start with some Christmas shows in December and see how that goes. And hopefully early in the year, we’ll pick some more dates to do shows in the spring and summer.
In 2011, Joey and I recorded a holiday album called “A Farmhouse Christmas” and even filmed our very first tv special in the barn with the same name. This is a sampler of what we made…
Though we’re gonna call these new shows “Once Upon A Christmas,” I’ll do a few of the songs from our Christmas album along with lots of other stories and songs about our lives and the journey that has brought us here.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year and this will be the first year that Indiana is old enough to begin to understand who Santa Claus is and what Christmas means, so it will be a very special one for us. I think having the shows here at the farm will make this holiday season even more meaningful. And in some ways, it will be a way for Joey to be with us. She is in every song I sing and story I tell. And every breath I breathe.
We’re going to do six shows over two weekends. December 1, 2, 3, and December 15, 16, and 17. You can purchase TICKETS HERE. Since the shows are in the concert hall here at our farm, there are a limited number of seats.
Hope to see you there… well actually, here.
PS: Thank you to Michael Hayes and Joe Owen for the wonderful concert photos and to Bryson Leach for the poster.