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