I live my life beyond each death 
From the deeper well of trust. 
To know that when there’s nothing left 
You will always have what you gave to love. 

In this life the love you give 
Becomes the only lasting treasure. 
So that what you lose will be what you win. 
A well that echoes down too deep to measure. 

A silver coin rings down that well 
You can never spend too much. 
A diamond echoes deeper still 
You will always have what you gave to love. 
You will always have what you gave to love.”

– David Wilcox, “Deeper Still”

I lost a lot over the past year.

I lost my canine best friend. I lost my last grandparent. And in one especially disastrous day, I lost a significant portion of my trust, security, and companionship.

Through all that, I was grateful to have Folk All Y’all as a focal point. But I also knew it needed to evolve along with me. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like, but I knew I would run us both into the ground if I kept doing things the same way. I was doing all 25 steps of putting a series together and running the nonprofit to support it. Maybe I could try just doing 20?

When I saw that the brilliant folks at Crosstown Arts had created a gorgeous listening room space that looked like it had been pulled directly from my dreams, I figured out pretty quickly what my next step should be.  And when David Wilcox’s team reached out to see when we could bring him back to Memphis, it all came together so perfectly it felt planned all along.

David was the very first artist to perform under the Folk All Y’all banner and became a beloved friend during multiple visits in the intervening years. He was the first and truly only logical choice to take the series to its literal and figurative next stage in The Green Room.

And clearly y’all were just as excited to see him as I was, because we set a new ticket sales record. Which was wonderful, of course, but also just a weeeee bit stressful as I worked through combining my M.O. with the already smoothly established routines of the room*.

I very rarely plan out what I’m going to say when I introduce an artist, but in this case, I didn’t want to forget anything. So after a suitable amount of my oversharing, David took the mic and officially began our journey.

I said in my intro that David’s work finds a way to bring whatever your heart needs, but the real magic in his live performances is that he finds that path by following his own. He has played a wide range of sets for us, from an evening he laughingly described as a James Taylor concert for its rollicking run through old favorites to shows like this last one where he moved through his much more recent work, including a song he’d written just three days prior.

David joked that he has the total freedom of someone who’s never had a hit, but the truth is that his devoted fans know they may not hear a single note of his most well known songs, but they’ll still leave feeling totally fulfilled. He is the exceptionally rare artist who is so consistently insightful and surprising that you can’t help hanging on every word, even if — hell, especially if — you’ve never heard it before.

I can’t give you a set list for the night because even after googling my notes of lyrics, I couldn’t place half of the songs performed. Many of them, I suspect, have never been recorded. And it turns out they’ll stay that way for now, because my video camera was the only thing not ready for the new space and most of what I filmed is a pixelated mess. Which seems fitting, really. It truly was an experience that had to be lived in the moment. (With apologies to our patrons; I’ll make it up to y’all.)

Maybe it was my own emotional tuning or an echo of conversation we’d had earlier in the day, but I felt the thread of loss running throughout the set. David is dealing with a lot of transitions in his own life and working alongside those he loves deeply to figure out what the next part looks like. Many of the songs he shared with us dealt in one way or another with letting go — of guilt, of expectations, of tribalism, of grief. He even let go of the original lyrics of a song and essentially built it all over around the old frame.

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about David’s work is his ability to shift my perspective on something I’ve looked at a thousand times. Just the day before the show, I was letting the space-computer randomize his catalog and it pulled up his circa-2000 song “Deeper Still.” I have to admit I didn’t know it; I’ve missed a couple of his 18 albums, unfortunately. I was moving around the house as I listened, not fully tuned in, but then a line hit me like an arrow: “You will always have what you gave to love.”

Nothing is lost in love. It’s given. It’s the difference between dropping a ring down a storm grate and presenting it in a velvet box. Giving is a choice, not an accident, and it deepens us, no matter the result.

Damn, Dave.

I had no expectation that he would pluck that song from the hundreds in his bag, but when I realized that somehow he had, I had to consciously breathe over a gasp. Or maybe a sob. Doesn’t matter. I happened to be sitting right next to the stage right at that moment to take pictures, but then the camera battery died, so all I could do was sit at his feet and take in those words with my full attention. I had to let go. It was a gift.

It felt like a dose of musical medicine prescribed just for me personally, but as I looked around and talked with people afterward, I realized how many people were in search of that same balm.

For five years, Folk All Y’all has allowed me and our guests to have those moments, the perfectly timed lightning strikes of connection no one could have predicted. I was nervous that making the series even a little bit less DIY might risk losing that, but instead, it’s made our potential deeper still.

*Footnote: When I approached the folks at Crosstown Arts about a collaboration, they directed me to Jenny Davis, one of the organization’s two music coordinators. Jenny was immediately enthusiastic about a partnership with Folk All Y’all and helped guide our transition with the care and conscientiousness I’m sure she always has but in this case definitely knew I needed. Despite capably running multiple shows a week, every week, she patiently answered and accommodated me for months so I could make sure the series still felt like the thing I’d been building over the last five years. She even let me go on the dang radio with her to talk about it! I knew it was going to be a challenge to let any part of the series’ responsibility fall to someone else, but it couldn’t have been in better hands. Along with the support of Todd and Chris at Crosstown Arts, Jenny is the reason this could happen. And huge thanks as always to our fantastic engineer, John Christman, who ventured into this brand-new space with an incredibly well attuned artist and made it look and sound exactly right. 

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