Thoughts From A Train 10.26.21
A few things to sort out right away: I call myself a troubadour because singer-songwriter or folk singer doesn’t quite cut it. Story telling is definitely involved, but I’m not out here just singing old folk songs. Of course I know quite a few and can drop one at any moment. I tend to sing something like Big Bill Broonzy’s “How You Want You’re Rollin’ Done” or Sonny and Brownie’s “Stranger Blues” when I am overseas more than when I am back home in the USA—or maybe I just enjoy singing them more when I am far from home.
I am not famous by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy little pockets of glory as I make my way around the planet. I do not possess a heavy marketing influence on the few people who follow me on social media. I do not have mad streaming numbers on Spotify nor do my songs make it onto many playlists. The algorhythm gatekeepers of the day don’t even place my songs on the Americana playlists while the Americana radio format has had my album on their charts for several weeks now. This is not a self-pity rant, I am just telling it like it is. I do not command high ticket prices, but I also do not travel with a large entourage or crew. Still, I am a very lucky and successful troubadour at the moment. I get to play overseas or up in Alaska during a time when many of my more successful songwriter buddies are not able to tour across borders. It is a difficult time to be a traveling songwriter-especially one with a full band, but traveling lone wolf style I am able to make ends meet.
I wanted to document what it is like out here right now as we hopefully climb over the hump in regards to the pandemic. I rely very much on the comfort and sustenance provided by fellow travelers and host families across the globe. The self-contained troubadour route is most likely why it has been possible for me to travel and play music at this time. There aren’t many parts to this machine, and it is that simplicity, plus years of grinding it out on the folk circuit, that has enabled my simple and joyful career.
It isn’t a 24/7 kind of joy. A few friends told me I was crazy for planing to travel overseas and play gigs at this time, but I knew there would be some benefits to being the canary in the coal mine in regards to being one of the first American troubadours to return to Europe or Scandinavia after the quarantine time. I have found ways to laugh even during the more challenging moments of the day to day travel hassles.
The journey overseas alone was 23 hours of mask wearing exhaustion. I chose to go the Cheapo Air route and they sent me though Miami and Spain to get to Denmark. Big mistake. At the time the price looked right so I went for it. Other than the little side trip to Madrid for a few hours, this trip is primarily to one country, which is another reason why this whole thing is possible. Each country has different protocol for restrictions and immigration or border procedures for travelers coming in. People traveling from hot zones have harder times, for example. A few months ago, when I was in Alaska, my home state of Tennessee was one of the red zones. Today, Finland and England are looking troubled while Denmark itself is looking good. There are numbers going up, but mostly with children who are not vaccinated. Over 75% of the people in Denmark are vaccinated, and that is why there are not a lot of masks being worn outside the airport or main train station. In fact, I have not seen a single mask all day as I am currently taking a train from Struer to Aarhus. In this very moment, it does not feel like there is a global pandemic, and for that I am grateful.
One thing to note is that I did get a PCR test right before I got on the flight. This cost $200 and as far as I could tell from reading Denmark’s requirements on line, getting a negative PCR test was a mandatory thing to do before getting face to face with one of their immigration officers. However, and most likely because I entered from Spain, I never went through any Danish immigration process. Nobody ever asked me for the results of my expensive PCR test, which was fortunately negative. I did fill out some question and answer forms on line in regards to entering Spain but it was more based on the honor system than showing somebody actual test results.
In regards to the global pandemic, we are of course far from being out of the woods. Rather than go into a long rant about vaccinations and how I think it is a good idea to listen to scientists, I just wanted to touch on the subject that we could do better by just being kinder to each other. That seems to be the Danish way. I know they have differences- we all do, but basic human kindness or decency, even if you disagree with someone, seems to be the norm here. This reasonable attitude seems to be missing from much of my own culture, and certainly my home country's political culture. If you disagree with someone’s politics, then it seems you can and will fight them about anything. I wish we would find some common truths that we agree on. We all want our children to have access to healthy food and water, warm clothes, and a good education, for example. Many are disagreeing about what our teachers are teaching and to that I say let the teachers do their job and you try and concentrate on your job. If you do not like your job, try becoming a teacher. Until you walk a day in their shoes, then focus on what you are able to change about yourself.
Okay…getting a little preachy there. I need to check myself. I just enjoy writing my thoughts on a train. I wish I could travel the whole planet like this, all while working on keeping my side of the street clean. We all judge. We cannot help ourselves. Songwriters judge other songwriters. Guitar players judge other guitar players. Parents love to judge other parents about raising children. It certainly is a lot easier to do-or more productive and empathy based, if you have kept your own side of the street clean. Thoughts From A Train. Sometimes it will have to be Thoughts From A Plane or even Thoughts From A Boat. Either way, let’s try this again someday soon.
Tim E. in Aarhus, Denmark