The Waker Dreams is an elaboration on what has become a central theme of my work: dreams and their function within our lives. I happen to think that dreams can be vehicles towards the end of becoming more fully ourselves, helping us to understand who we’ve been, who we are, and who we wish we to be. 

When I sat down to order the songs after recording them, I found that there was a way to place them so that they echoed the cycle of our waking and dreaming. The album begins and ends with songs that remind me of lullabies, and the central songs wind their way through the day, wrestling with the images and messages of dreams. 

I’m aware that not everyone experiences dreaming in the same way, in reality some people have no dialogue at all with their dream life. I’d hope that when I speak of the idea, I’m not alienating those people. 

Daily life is full of a lot of busyness, and when we sleep we are going into recovery mode – there’s physical and mental wealth for our welfare there.  We go from intense periods of activity during our day to the extremely vulnerable state of sleep: lying in the dark, unconscious, unable to move, unaware of our environment.  Yet there are these moments of lucidity, of activity and sight in dreams that pockmark our catatonia- perhaps vision in this state is as vital as the waking life.

I try to journal the dreams I consider of significance. It’s not that difficult to discern what’s a weird dream based on bad digestion from a dream latent with meaning. I compare it to being in the company of both a drunk and sober friend: one imparts nonsense and the other’s insight stay with you. 

I moved to Europe in the beginning of 2017, which was a tectonic shift for me. I uprooted and felt that in re-rooting, in learning a new language, in engaging a new community, I was a floundering mess and unsure whether I was really up to the challenge. 

I had a dream while in Rome which is the basis of the second song on the record, entitled This Day Is A Feast. The lyrics are pretty much a literal representation of the dream, but in summary, I meet an older man in a boatyard who takes me to a basement to reveal something there. 

In the process of songwriting magic often happens: one moment you are fiddling around with chords and voicing melodies, and then synapses fire in your brain and the path forward makes sense, this idea belongs with that passage, this music feels like that image, etc. 

I came up with the chorus of the song first, and as I sang it the dream came back to me. That was it. The old man was revealing that chorus: 

disassemble the parts you’re made of / lay them out on the banquet table / this day is a feast you’re about to begin

all the layers of callous quicklime / melt away when you drink the house wine / this day is a feast, this day is a feast 

It’s the idea that there’s hope for the present even if I’d deconstructed my own former life. I just had to commit to doing the work. 

Our pasts are stratified, and it often happens that we carry our fears and anxieties and trauma and pain around us like shells. It was my choice to look at today as a gift to receive, a teacher that I submit to learning from, and hopefully release some of that which had encumbered me. 

My friend Heather Woods Broderick has a line in her song Up In The Pine that says “there is some dirt / and there is digging to be done.” I’ve thought of that lyric many times, how it synthesizes intuition and intention and connotes action.

That’s the gist of the record. The dream is a powerful encounter that intuits new truth, but its interpretation is rarely instantaneous. We have to sit with it, to see what it intended. In the meanwhile, there’s a whole lot of living to be done in the sixteen waking hours we’ll expend, a whole mess of questions that we’ll grapple with. 

“Look at your life, look at your choices”, says my visionary friend and choreographer Esmé Boyce.  

How have my choices revealed what I value?  How have I been shown love?  How have I in turn shown love, and where have I failed? What have I lost, and how do I cope? How do I accept where I am and what I’ve been given? Am I on the path towards change?

Asking the questions is the first step towards growth. 

Sleep eventually falls upon us and we are caught up in a grand new cycle. The title song of The Waker Dreams explores a different facet of dreaming, where dreams are a realm in which we come into contact with our ancestors: perhaps this initially sounds outlandish,  until you think about the fact that you’re a random combination of their genes, conditioned by their nurture (or lack thereof) and  living vessels of their history. Who we’ve been includes who they’ve been, and in dreams we can stretch our ideas of time beyond linearity and think of it more as a space we all co-habitate in the eternal now. 

These ideas are already spilling over into the creation of a new record that I’m so excited to dig into. There are plenty more dreams to share in song and I hope that I have enough life to share them with you all. 

With peace,

John