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Small Town Lifers

Contributed by Jon Russelburg (solo artist and frontman for Jon Russelburg and the Sons of Man). His Ghost EP is available on iTunes, and you can also get an exclusive live bootleg on Patreon. Watch his music video for “Ghost” at the bottom of the page!

"Mr. Boy" and a Portrait of His Pup, Bender!
“Mr. Boy” and a Portrait of His Pup, Bender, whom he missed dearly while away on our 2015 Songwriters tour!

I have a memory like a steel trap. OK, so maybe I forget to buy dog food or milk, but when it comes to life events, I remember them as if it was yesterday. Its like I have a reel in my head that decides to play my life back to me in the strangest times.

It’s both a blessing and a curse. I can remember the way my girlfriend smelled four years ago when we snuck around Western Kentucky University’s campus drawing on the buildings with sidewalk chalk on our first date. But on the flip side, it also makes me nostalgic for times that honestly weren’t that great.

Ten years ago, I was a 17-year-old emo kid. I had shaggy hair and dressed like Chris Carraba from Dashboard’s unplugged DVD. I was a complete jackass. I used to go to Brothers Pizza in Owensboro, KY every weekend to watch local bands play. That is where I saw Why They Came and Stellar Kin play for the first time. I fell in love with local indie music.

I have probably seen Why They Came play 15-20 times. My shitty high school band opened for Stellar Kin once. We were terrible and loose; they were tight and terrific. No one was there. It was one of my favorite shows I have ever played. Ten years later, I spent a week in a van with Brandon Miles from Stellar Kin and Andy Barnett from Why They Came. We went on a Songwriters Tour (see pictures on Twitter and Instagram), just to see if it was a viable option for artists of our (non-existent) caliber. For the most part, it was.

After hitting his knee on this countless times, Jon finally took it off and yelled, "Why do you have a trailer hitch, Brandon... you aren't pulling a *@#%! trailer!"
After hitting his knee on this countless times, Jon finally took it off and yelled, “Why do you have a trailer hitch, Brandon… you aren’t pulling a *@#%ing trailer!”

I don’t remember the set lists. I don’t remember what we ate everyday (it was probably junk food). I honestly don’t remember much of the shows. But I remember the drives. I remember driving through the night in impossibly thick fog so we could sleep in warm beds. I remember the crazy cab driver that was apparently an actor and standup comedian (and a most likely professional lush). I remember crying as Brandon hugged me over a warm breakfast because I found out that I had gotten my dream job. I remember every single joke that Andy and I beat into the ground.

I remember every laugh. I remember every tear. I remember the pain in my knee from Brandon’s useless trailer hitch.

We looked like crazy people, speaking our own language. The truth is, we are crazy people.

When we got back, Andy and I hung out with our friends that didn’t get to come along. We quickly found that we had to cut back on the inside jokes. We looked like crazy people, speaking our own language. The truth is, we are crazy people. We decided to pile into an SUV and drive around the country for a week, singing songs to people who had never heard of us before. We knowingly spent every dime we had saved, just to get our music out there.

We were successful. Maybe we didn’t come out making a lot of money, and sure only the baristas were there to hear us play outside Chicago, but we made memories. Ten years ago, I watched Brandon and Andy play in a small pizza joint to a bunch of small town lifers, and I wanted to grow up to be just like them. I have grown up to find that they are two of my closest friends (not to mention bandmates). So here’s to the tour! I will gladly forget milk and dog food for the rest of my life just to be sure that I never forget a second of you.

Watch Jon Russelburg’s music video for “Ghost” from his Ghost EP below…

2 thoughts on “Small Town Lifers

  1. Love it. Really happy I could be a part of what inspired you to play. This in turn inspires me to keep writing and keep putting myself out there and playing myself.

    1. Yeah man! Thanks for playing in rad bands when I was a child.

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