Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Good News Hurts

It was an odd thing, hearing from someone I had worked with many years ago.  I wondered if some old mutual friend had passed away, or if I’d been seen flipping off the wife of the assistant minister at a nearby church when she nearly plowed into my stopped car.  Busted?  Seven on the Enneagram; I tend to think the worst at times. 

It turned out that Jeff was calling to invite me to play songs from Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us at a benefit for an amazing charity called International JusticeMission.

I had only to check out their website to know that their mission was unique and courageous, trying to set captives free from the world of human trafficking.  I knew that I needed to be at the benefit, not just to play my music, but to become more aware of a world that none of us wants to imagine.

I called Cindy Morgan and Amy Stroup to see if they would want to make cameo appearances and chime in on the songs they’d contributed to Mercyland.  They didn’t hesitate.

The day approached and I packed up my Blueridge guitar and headed over to the Renaissance Hotel for the big fete.  I was still basking in the glow of the concert of Mercyland songs we had performed the week before during the Americana Music Association’s convention.  Emmylou, Buddy, Shawn Mullins, The North Mississippi Allstars, sweet Matraca Berg, Kasey Chambers and a few other pals had sung their hearts out in this sold out concert.  People saw that as my night, my triumph, whatever, but I knew that it was an evening revolving around doing good in God’s name.

A week later, this evening wasn’t my evening; it wasn’t about my music, or even about my friends.   It was about doing something good in the name of God. 

And that made me happy, because there is so much more bad done in God's name than good.

My Southern Born Woman and I sat with Amy on our left and Cindy on our right.  Several Tennessee Titans sat at the table next to ours, basking in the glow of finally winning one by the skin of their teeth; first win of the season.  Wine and conversation flowed freely.  Jena Nardella, the young woman who gave a stirring benediction at this year's Democratic Convention was in attendance.  Forget the Titans, I've got to meet that woman, I thought.

Once the meal was over, Cindy and I ascended the stairs and took our microphones, and sang “Leaning On You”, our hillbilly hymn of brokenness- “I keep meanin’ to be leanin’ on You”.  Lord A-mighty, isn’t that how it is?

Then Amy got on mic and sang “Fell Like A Feather”- “Somebody make it stop, can’t look at the face of God”.

Our third and final number, Mercyland, the title track was tailor made for the evening, Merrill Farnsworth’s lyric articulating God’s best dream, “Ain’t no borders, ain’t no jails, ain’t no souls put up for sale”.

We used up our 15 minutes in 12, and that was that.  A speech about IJM’s work followed our music, and then the appeal for funds.  When you watch a film about an 11 year old girl sold into the sex trade, and see an interview with a slave owner, gleeful about his 25 years of success, the light of truth is alarming. 

Like my boss Emmy has sung on occasion, “Love hurts”. 

I found the evening gratifying and beautiful, as people of means wrote checks to a good cause.  It was good seeing old friends and associates from a world I don’t venture into much at all anymore.  A few old acquaintances shook my hand and hugged my neck.  I thanked Jeff for inviting me to be a part of the night; I would be leaving with a heart fuller than when I'd arrived.

And then everyone left.  We went home to our McMansions (or something with a roof at least), our computers, our comforts, our companions, our places of forgetting.

And now I’m trying to remember the face of a freed slave, his ragged teeth gleaming, his lips curved into a rapturous smile, his eyes reflecting light…

“Can’t look at the face of God, gonna give it all I’ve got, but the light stings as it tears through unbelief”.

Kyrie Eleison, Y'all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Big News- Bottoms Up!

Hold on to your hats, y'all, it's the resurrection mornin'!  It must be!  I haven't blogged in pretty long spell.

Good news abounds.  For one thing, Mercyland: Hymns For The Rest Of Us continues to slowly roll uphill- oh yes, it's uphill nowadays in the music biz.  But interest in the project is growing, and I'm at once humbled, proud, and penniless.

Thursday September 13, 2012, at 6pm, a few of my illustrious compadres and I will attempt to perform "Mercyland" at the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville.  You know the place- a conventional looking shell, housing what seems to be the entire set of Cleopatra's palace from back when Liz Taylor was riding high.   Anyway, the Wood Brothers, Kacey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, the McCrary Sisters, and one or two more (if I play my cards right) will all be joining the original Mercyland cast- Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Shawn Mullins, The North Mississippi Allstars, Amy Stroup, and me and whoever else surfaces in the next 8 days, for an early evening show.  I'm excited, y'all!

More news...

I'm about to launch a new Kickstarter campaign for a 2012 solo PM record, which is a little scary.  I don't anticipate anything major to come from the effort, but it's just time, like it was time to do a painting a few weeks ago, and it was time to load the dishwasher this evening. Some things just have to get done.  The songs have been written with Merrill Farnsworth, Cindy Morgan, Gordon Kennedy, and perhaps one I co-wrote with the wonderful Amy Grant.  You just never know.  But it's rootsy and positive and confessional, all at once.

Still with me?  Well, if you are, chances are you've been with me on this blog journey for the last few years.  I've gone from frequent blogger to infrequent... Something happened that I didn't feel like sharing in this forum, but I will now.

My friend Ian Cron and I were having coffee one day.  I was going about my usual business inspiring him, knowing he'd completely misquote me but enjoying him just the same, when he offered me the phone number of a literary agent.  I found some excuse to get going, and left my Venti Iced Coffee No Sweetner No Room sitting there at the Five Points Starby's, such was my excitement.  (And by the way, I am NOT the former Christian musician songwriter he keeps talking about- I think he's referring to Stephen Colbert).

Anyway, I got to my car, and dialed the number.  A voice answered, "This is Kathy".  Now was my chance.  I went for it:

"Hey Kathy, this is Phil Madeira.  Ian Cron gave me your number, thinking you might want to read my writings."


Kathy answered tentatively, "Well, I'm not looking for new clients.  In fact, I'm thinning out my client list at the moment and am too busy to take on anyone new".

I knew this tone.  I knew this voice.  Hell, I'd been on the other end of the call I was making, usually with someone wanting to pitch me a song her mother had written.  I knew the sound of someone wishing they hadn't picked up the phone.

Kathy went on.  "I'm not interested in picking up any new clients".

"Yes", I said smiling, "I can hear that in your tone".

She sighed.

"Ok.  What's your book about?"

Well, now I knew she was just being nice.  I could hear the resignation in her voice.   Why waste each other's time? I thought.  I defaulted to my WTF tone and said, "Well, Kathy, it's about trying to hang onto Jesus while simultaneously losing all the shit of religion".

There, I'd let her off the hook.

"I'd really like to read that", she replied.

A year later, I'm on the verge of signing a book deal.  I can't believe it, and for the moment, this is all I'm going to say about it. But you, dear readers, have been encouragers along the way of me discovering that I can do this.  I'll probably pull down most of these blog entries at some point; I've edited them a bit, and hopefully made them equally raw and redemptive.  I swear there's no altar call in the book, and my new publisher assures me that my discretionary use of 4 letter words will stay in tact.

So, kudos and heaps of gratitude to Ian Cron for inspiring something of grand or possibly grandiose proportions.  Drinks are on me, Ian.  (Wait, how much is a grande latte?)

I'll spring the title on you in a few days, and then I suppose this blog will turn into less of an experiment and into more of a forum about what I'm doing in the arts and where the book is taking me.

I'm overwhelmed, y'all.  Thanks.

All good things...