The Lion: Finding Courage and Strength by Kevin Embleton

O how I have struggled with fear.

I fear so intensely at times I wonder if I'm sane or ill. This isn't just anxiety, because I wrestle with that too. This is a deep, start with your heart, grip you and shake you from the inside out type of fear. It's really annoying. So what am I afraid of?

People. The unknown. Danger.

Concerning danger, this is the less frequent. I remember a time when I went camping in the Appalachian Forest in Asheville, North Carolina with a few friends. After hiking for a while, we set up camp a few miles into the forest. For some reason I began to fear a bear would attack me that night. We had two tents, and I was in mine alone. It rained all night, and with every noise I trembled at the thought of a bear climbing into my tent and tearing me to pieces. Everything turned out alright, and I'd camp there again in a heartbeat. But the amount of fear I experienced that night left a serious impact on me. Weird stuff.

It's more in the day-to-day where I've experienced fear at its greatest strength. Oddly enough my fear of people has little to do with performing. It's the sheer wild card factor each person brings to the table. There's a part of me that lives for meeting and interacting with new people, and if the personality tests are right I'm about 51% extrovert. But sometimes on days where I feel least sure of myself, fear gets the best of me. I begin to fear the people I meet will hate me and curse me to my face, and that somehow I won't be able to explain something that comes up in conversation. This has never happened. Irrational as it is, I'll admit I've been plagued by this fear, even in the past couple of months.

I read a story a few years ago that changed how I face fear. It's something I go back to on the bad days.

In Healing of The Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey tells a remarkable story about a man who was plagued by a recurring dream, a nightmare "in which a ferocious lion kept chasing the man until he dropped exhausted and awoke screaming." The man was dismayed, he did not know what the dream meant. Was the lion a symbol of fear? One day the man was guided by his pastor to revisit the dream in prayer:
As they prayed, the pastor on impulse invited the man to recall the dream, even in all its fear. Hesitantly, the man agreed, and soon reported that indeed, the lion was in sight and headed his way. The pastor then instructed the man, "When the lion comes close to you, try not to run away, but instead, stand there and ask him who or what he is, and what he's doing in your life". Shifting uneasily in his chair, the man agreed, then reported what was happening. "The lion is snorting and shaking his head, standing right there in front of me... I ask him who he is... and he says, "I'm your courage and your strength. Why are you running away from me?"
- John Eldredge (Wild At Heart)

Cupid Failed - A throwback to my first country Song by Kevin Embleton

This week I decided to go with a throwback. I wrote 'Cupid Failed' as a heartbroken college freshman in 2008. It made its way onto a record called, Somewhere Far Away, a thirteen song rumination on love and faith which I recorded in my college dorm room without any outside opinionDon't go looking for it; I've purged the internet (to the best of my ability). But the over-honest, teenage opus did have a few shining moments, and I think Cupid Failed was a good step in my songwriting journey. Sure, it's immature, tongue-and-cheek, and though it doesn't have that twang some would call country, I think at its root Cupid Failed is inspired by country music.

As I fell in love with good ol' fashioned country over the past two years, I looked back at some of my first tunes and realized they're more country than I thought. If you would have told me I was a country artist in 2008 I'd have felt like punching you in the face. The folk/emo/post-breakup stage is real... At any rate, I'm ok with it now. Country music just sort of says it like it is, without being too cryptic. It tells a story. 

So I made this video a month ago while practicing some fingerpicking. I wanted to feature Cupid Failed after Willie's song from last week. I always thought it might be a good tune for one of those cheesy "indie" flicks like Juno or something. I'm still waiting for my big break, whatever that means, just like Willie when he wrote Sad Songs and Waltzes. Here's Cupid Failed:

Sad Songs and Waltzes LIVE by Kevin Embleton

Man, I love this song. That Willie Nelson knew what he was doing. I was driving from Branson to Memphis in 2014 the first time I really heard Sad Songs and Waltzes. We were probably half way finished tracking the record, and I went out on tour for a week by myself. I spent a lot of time in the car alone, thinking about how to finish up the album. This project was a departure from everything I'd ever done. I was going from indie-space-rock to some combo between americana and alt-country. I knew this "laidback lilt" might surprise the bulk of my fans, but when I heard this line: "though my record may say it, no one will play it" I made up my mind. I would finish what I started, even if the record wasn't a smashing success. I said some things in "It Did Me Well" that I'd been waiting to say for a long time. They had been weighing me down for years, and for whatever reason all the other times I tried I just couldn't. But now I could, and Willie helped me do it.

It Did Me Well - Live from Wheaton by Kevin Embleton

"In search of answers to life’s little mysteries, Embleton draws upon the narratives of those around him...the passing stranger, the childhood friend.  He fills his songs with details and familiar emotions that help us connect, but leaves a vast amount of space for the gray areas that live in each story.  He gives us room to find our own answers, or ask our own questions.  Though not always the main character in his songs, his unyielding pursuit, his drive to figure it out, pervades each wandering prodigal he sings about." - Josh Compton

A little over a year ago I asked Josh Compton, a good friend and talented songwriter, if he would write a bio about me to put on my website. He agreed and sent me a masterpiece a few weeks later. The paragraph above is a quote from the original piece. When it comes to "It Did Me Well", I couldn't have said it better. It Did Me Well is about a friend of mine. I found his story so compelling I had to write about it. I felt so connected to the themes of the song I had to sing it in first person. It makes me feel as if it's my story when I sing it, and I hope you feel the same when you hear it. Though I didn't live every detail of the song, I know what it's like to feel empty, to go searching for purpose no matter what the cost, even to my own detriment sometimes. I have run away from who I was to find who I really am. Sometimes I came back feeling new, and other times I was just lucky I didn't lose everything. It Did Me Well keeps gaining meaning for me, and I have a feeling I'll be singing it for a long time.

Here's the album version:

Only Begun - Live from Wheaton, IL by Kevin Embleton

I played a show in Wheaton, IL this past summer and was able to capture it on video. I took the best songs and decided to release them. Here's the first, Only Begun.

I have a long love/hate relationship with this one. I think it's one of the simplest and most honest songs I've written, but it took forever to write. Only Begun has always had the same verses and instrumental part, but I spent a few years on the chorus. That's right, years. It used to be called "Scream" because of the chorus:

Scream at the top of your lungs, 
You're free, throw it all off and run, 
And scream, shout, just know that we've already won

I went through some dark years where I became insecure about writing songs. The lyrics and melodies stopped coming. I was desperate to finish this one, so I kept trying new things. I tried different keys. I tired changing up the rhythm of the words and melody of the chorus. It wasn't until I decided to throw away the old chorus that the new one came. One day I was pacing around the house, playing guitar (as one does), and it finally came to me:

Just know that we've won
'Cause we've only begun
Just know that we've won
And if you ever start to slip
Or the bucket comes up dry

I knew Only Begun was complete after that. It says everything I want it to. If you love it and decide that you must have, the album version is on Bandcamp and iTunes. Enjoy the video.

- Kevin Embleton

My first performance in San Francisco by Kevin Embleton

Last Monday I made my way to Hotel Utah in San Francisco for the weekly open mic. The Utah is a beautiful, compact venue on 4th and Bryant. As you walk in, the bar sits to the left and you head down a few stairs on the right to get to the stage room. The ceiling is low on the bottom half, to make room for the balcony. The room could probably fit 75 people if there were no tables. The stage is about 10 or 15 feet wide, and at the center towards the ceiling is a topless mermaid sculpture/statue thingy that looks like it should be on the bow of a boat. It's dark, as most of the light points to the stage, and it's easy to slip in unnoticed. Being new to the scene and all, I'm not looking for any grand entrances, so I didn't mind the vibes.

Here's how the open mic works - you show up around 7:30, write your name on a piece of paper, stick it in a beer pitcher, and wait for the host to draw the names at 7:50. The host, Brendan (whose voice sounds strikingly similar to that of Tom Hanks) dramatically pulls out each name to create the lineup for the night, and each performer listens intently. As Brendan announced the bill, I secretly hoped I wouldn't be last.... or even towards the end... and that pitcher was pretty full. But the 10th slot came and went... then the 20th... honestly I lost count, but i think my official number was somewhere in the thirties or near forty.

Luckily, each performer is only allowed 6 minutes to perform a song, comedy routine, or other form of art, and things were moving pretty quickly at the start. At 10pm a featured performer goes on for half an hour. Eileen Torez performed a beautiful 30 minute set that evening. After that, Brendan announced the rest of the lineup. The policy is that everyone gets to play. I'm not even kidding, but it felt like he rattled off twenty more names before I heard mine. I considered ditching, but it just didn't feel right. I didn't want to be the guy who signed up for an open mic and then left because he wasn't patient enough to wait around for his turn, especially my first time around.

So at about midnight I heard my name. "Kevin, you're on double deck." Double deck means there are two performers ahead of you, and "backstage" means you're next, so get ready. Right before my set, Brendan hopped on the piano to play a rendition of Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight to remind people to move their cars before street cleaning. The San Fran police will get you for that. I'm not kidding, the ticket is like $70 bucks.

Anyway, I'll admit, I wasn't really in the zone to play. I had warmed up about five hours ago... but that was five hours ago. The lower half of my body was definitely numb at that point from sitting on a hard chair all evening. And as far as liquid courage, that PBR a few hours earlier wasn't doing anything for my nerves. I knew I only had 6 minutes to make it happen, so I walked on to the stage and just went for it. It went well.

The cool thing is that Hotel Utah records their performances and gives you a chance to share them. Here's a link to my profile on their website.  I tried to make a sports joke in the beginning but no one cared... thankfully. These are my kind of people, and I won't be commenting on sports around here anymore. The recording isn't glamorous, but I want you to hear it. Imagine as you listen in:

Like a River Running Wild and Free (LYRICS) by Kevin Embleton

I was recently asked about the lyrics of my new song, 'Like a River Running Wild and Free" Here they are:

I could be anything for you
I could be all that you want
If I could learn to dream again
And not only play pretend

I think I could learn to dream for two
But talking about these dreams won't do
Been waking up with a dizzy mind
Looking out to find that

I've been watching the years like falling stars
I see that I'm getting older
I feel like the rain has only
Rain has only started

Now that I've planted myself next to you
Your currents taking over my countryside 
Others may wither and wilt, the clouds withhold 
I promise that we're never too young to die
Growing up to find that

I've been watching the years like falling stars
I see that I'm getting older
I feel like the rain has only
Rain has only started

'Cause I believe in trying
I'll never leave you hanging
I want to see you thriving
Like a river running wild and free

'Cause I believe in trying
I'll never leave you hanging
I want to see you thriving
Like a river running wild and free

I've been watching the years like falling stars
I see that I'm getting older
I feel like the rain has only
Rain has only started

First Fruits of California by Kevin Embleton

In May 2015 we filmed An Attic Session with our new friend Josiah Parry in Canton, Oh. Josiah discovered our record on Noisetrade and filmed the session on his way out to the West Coast. He lives in the bay area when he's not going to school in New England, so we met up a few days ago. After exploring the city for a couple of hours we found a spot to shoot another session, this time a new song called "Like A River Running Wild and Free". 

In all honesty, I hadn't planned on playing it. I've had a pretty good case of writer's block for the last year. This new one is the closest I've come to finishing a song in a long time, but I wasn't sure if it was done yet. I figured I'd play an older, more familiar song like Mountain Time or Sad Songs and Waltzes. But I've been longing for something new... And as we rambled around Ocean Beach in San Francisco, looking for a place to record, I decided to go for it.

We hiked the ocean cliffs for over an hour, searching for some shade. From a lighting point of view, the normally cloudy bay area was letting us down. The sun shone proudly, making for a beautiful day but terrible filming conditions. My acoustic guitar, packed safely in a hardshell case felt like a million pounds by then, and the 64 oz. Nalgene we were sharing was nearly depleted, taunting our thirst. The waves proved too loud in some places, and we just couldn't escape the sun in others. Finally we settled for a spot under a few trees, near a well travelled path.

During our hike I felt it would be a waste to just play an old song. I'm 3000 miles away from the place I lived for 11 years, and everything around me screams a new beginning. I wasn't sure if "Like a River Running Wild and Free" was ready to perform. I had finished writing the second verse that morning, but the song as a whole wasn't in my muscle memory yet. But I just couldn't play an old song. We had come all that way, and creating makes me feel alive. Immortalizing it on film could be terrifying, but also exhilarating. And sometimes you have to put a song to tape to call it done.

Thirsty, we shared the last of the water and went for it. The first take was interrupted by a fellow hiker letting off some steam with a loud yelp. And then a plane flew over. Not knowing what the second take would hold, I went for it. We kept it. Here is Like a River Running Wild and Free.

- Kevin Embleton


An Attic Session | Podcast Follow Up by Kevin Embleton

I hope you've enjoyed the first episode of The Ten or Twelve Podcast, and thanks for helping me spread the word. There are new episodes in the works, one of which I had hoped to have out this week. My wife and I are moving to San Francisco on Sunday, and needless to say, things are crazy. It's difficult to wrap my mind around leaving the place I've lived for the better part of a decade. When I arrived in the Canton area in 2004, my family had moved around a lot... ten times by then, I think. Tired of moving, I worked hard to make this place home and resisted the urge to run away when things became difficult. I'm thankful I stayed. Northeast Ohio, I've come to love you. The people make you worth it. It's time to move again, but know that I'll miss you fiercely.

I'm going to keep hard at work on those podcasts and new music. Maybe I'll record a few of my thoughts and adventures on our drive out to the bay. It's a long one. Until then, I wanted to share a new video session with you and tell you how you can download the audio on Noisetrade. A couple months ago a guy named Josiah Parry contacted me to ask if he could shoot a few videos of us for his Youtube channel, "An Attic Session". How fitting that he was traveling from university on the east coast back to his home in the bay area. Not only did we get a few sweet videos out of the deal, but I made a friend in my new home town. #winning.

Subscribe to the Ten or Twelve Podcast on iTunes

Subscribe to the Ten or Twelve Podcast on iTunes

Download An Attic Session on Noisetrade

Download An Attic Session on Noisetrade

"The Ten or Twelve Podcast" is Out Today. Listen to the first Episode. by Kevin Embleton

I'm so excited to announce Embleton's newest creative endeavor: The Ten or Twelve Podcast. I've wanted to create a podcast for a long time but wasn't sure where to start. So I decided to create one that explores listener perspective on our latest album, It Did Me Well. I also wanted to offer some of my own thoughts on how these songs came to fruition. 

For this first episode I interviewed two listeners: specifically about how they felt after listening to the song, She's Not There for the first time. While my guests hail from opposite sides of the country, both of their stories share themes of loss. The major difference, however, proves the perspective time brings to a lost relationship versus the bitter sting of a recently broken heart. You'll also hear what I was going through when I wrote the song. 

Two things. Subscribe to The Ten or Twelve Podcast on iTunes! Also, the point of this podcast is to hear from you. Please email me at if you want to tell your story. I'd love to hear how any of these songs have impacted your life. I'll be putting these stories together regularly until we find something else to talk about. I can't wait to hear what you think.