I received a letter the other day. It wasn’t to me individually, although it felt like it was. It was written in a way that was so personal to the senders that I suspect each of us who read it was quite certain it was intended just for us.
It was an open letter from the band Ryanhood to their fans, explaining how they’ve been in a tough, discouraged place for the last couple of years, wondering if their artistic efforts would ever amount to anything. And how recently, they’ve realized that creating music and playing it is who they are, and to get to do that for us – to have fans who care – is an honor for which they’re grateful. They apologized for not realizing how astonishing this is sooner. They announced a new album, Start Somewhere, which comes out on Saturday.
I am beyond excited.
Ryan and Cameron are friends of mine. I feel like our quests to navigate the worlds of art are intertwined. Music, writing, being public about what’s private, becoming what God created us to be, the tension between inspiring others and struggling to stay encouraged ourselves. I remember when they flew in to play at the launch party for my second book, A Maze of Grace, right as everything was coming apart for them, and (although I was still in denial about this) for me. I was burnt out from a whole list of things, and convinced that hanging out with Ryan and Cameron would get me back on track.
So there I was at lunch one day saying (picture jazz hands): “Hey guys! if these events we’re doing go well, let’s do more of them!” and they looked at me with glazed eyes and said, “You go for it, Trish. But after this we’re on sabbatical.”
They took about a year off, then put out After Night Came Sun. It’s darker, and brilliant, and as they say in their letter, it wasn’t a new beginning but a last gasp.
Part of our long-distance friendship has been sharing our struggles to make sense of whether and how our work matters. On our most recent visit last summer, when Ryan was touring with his solo album, Running In Circles, Ryan and Cameron told me several versions of, “Don’t give up; your books matter! You’re doing something no one else is doing!” while I told them “Don’t give up! Your music changes lives! No one else is doing what you’re doing!” Then we all looked at each other like tired, retired people in our late 80s who should have been sitting around a pool in Florida, waiting for shuffleboard and our afternoon nap. We were exhausted.
Then a few months ago, Ryan sent me a link to a book he was reading by musician Michael Gungor. It’s about living in all this tension and coming out the other side with something new and unique; how when you’re brave enough to stop, step off whatever treadmill you’re on, regroup and collect yourself for awhile, incredible things can happen. I wondered if something was up. Turns out it was, and there’s a new Ryanhood album to celebrate. That is such good news. The sun is shining. And I am beyond myself with relief…and a fun sort of hope I’d forgotten about.
The narrative arc of Ryanhood’s albums since I’ve know them makes me smile. It reads like an explanation of life:
You realize that The World Awaits. Then you get your butt kicked a time or three. But you believe that After Night Came Sun, that this is how life works, so you sing about it over and over again, trying to convince yourself, desperately hoping it’s true. You spend some time off on your own, Running In Circles. Then, something shifts. Or falls into place. Or changes. You see things differently. And so you Start Somewhere. You rebuild, living again in a new way, eyes open to possibilities that weren’t there before. It’s a beautiful thing. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a beautiful album.
Here are some teasers.
You can preorder.
Or if you’re near Tucson, you can see them play live on Saturday night.
As I listen to the previews of their new songs, I hear hope, and happiness. It echoes what I’ve been feeling as I look out at my own horizon at things that weren’t there before. It’s a fun place to be, seeing these first glimpses of sun, and (as Cameron and Ryan describe so beautifully in their letter) greeting these days knowing who you are and what you’re here to do.
Start Somewhere. What a great idea :)