It’s a weird thing to put your life in boxes and then hop on an airplane destined for the other side of the Atlantic. Especially without a job or much idea of what to do when you get there.
In January 2019 I moved from Tennessee to the Czech Republic. And looking back at the past 14 months, there have been a lot of obstacles to creating new music with all of the cultural changes I’ve had to get used to. Not a prolific year musically.
But sometimes after many dark nights of wondering why or experiences that don’t make sense – a song finally comes. And as you sing, you realise maybe it was all worth this one moment of clarity and joy. And so you sing your heart out until you’ve got no voice left.
So I’ve got a few songs in the works for my next album. But I’ll give them time to evolve, so they come from a natural, spontaneous place (you can’t rush the Muse).
In my time here, I’ve been experimenting with Slovak overtone flutes; specifically the koncovka and fujara – both used by shepherds in the Carpathian Mountain region of Slovakia.
The koncovka doesn’t have finger holes. You play it by opening and closing the single bottom hole as you vary the air pressure. The word ‘koncovka’ means ‘ending’, as the bottom hole is located at the very end of the flute.
And the fujara, the most popular of Slovak shepherd instruments, has 3 tone holes. By overblowing, you can produce expressive overtones that seem to imitate sounds from nature such as gurgling streams. These combined with rhythmic peculiarities make up the natural, nurturing, and almost otherworldly musical character of the fujara.
Not only used for music, shepherds also used the instrument to signal to sheep, for communication with other shepherds, and even to pray and worship if they believed in a higher power.
So what’s next for me musically? I’m still searching that out. But I’m sure these Slovak flutes will find a place in my next album. They tap into that minstrel, free-spirit mentality that drew me across the sea in the first place. And when I’m at a loss for words, they give sound to my prayers.