The album would likely be regarded "protest music" by most people, since it touches on a number of contemporary hot-button issues such as homelessness, immigration, consumerism, exploitation, war, violence, poverty. But it should be noted that the songs don't protest anything. They're not about issues or politics. There really is no social comment (excepting Protest Song and Pax Americana, but what we find there is still not quite protestant in nature). Instead, the songs on this album tell stories about people - a homeless man, an immigrant, sweatshop workers, civilian casualties.
But holding up a mirror often leads to awkward situations. It's like pointing out when a person has a piece of something stuck in his or her teeth. Nobody likes having an ugly piece of something in his or her teeth, and they hate having it pointed out. It's embarrassing. But it's for this same reason that we are often thankful that a friend will point it out to us. We need to be made aware of the problem so that we can address it.
I've made a similar point about dishes: everybody wants a revolution; nobody wants to do the dishes. They just pile up higher and higher and we refuse to take care of it because "they're not all my dishes!" We fail to realize - or perhaps in our stubbornness refuse to recognize - that it doesn't matter whose dishes they are. What really matters is that there's a sink full of dirty dishes, they're piling over onto the counter and stove top. They are everywhere, they belong to everyone, and sooner or later, somebody's got to deal with them.
My new album is a picture of the sink of our society, flowing over with dirty dishes. It's a mirror showing us the broccoli stuck in our teeth.
In Protest Song I invite my listeners to "boldly look the devil in the face and bring hope, peace, and love where there is violence and hate." In other words, we need to take a long hard look at the sink, put on our gloves, and get to scrubbing! We need to grab a tooth pick or brush and take that itty bitty bit of broccoli to town… except that it's more like we have a whole head of broccoli stuck in our teeth, some really monstrous problems to deal with! We need to be the changes in the world we want to see.
These songs are very important to me because they represent a time of great growth as a writer and artist. In the course of the past year and a half I've really discovered what I am called to as an artist. I've discovered that I have a special kind of perspective on the world, that I can see the world in a way that most people can't (or won't) and I've learned how to reflect this world to people in a more constructive way. This has been a difficult learning process. I've engaged many tough conversations with close friends, relatives, fans and supporters that have critiqued my new work and my overall approach in addressing the issues tackled in my songs, especially those on this album. I maintain that there's nothing wrong with pointing out the dirty sink or the piece of broccoli. But I've realized that simply pointing out the bad things in society doesn't get us too far.
Hopefully it opens peoples' eyes to injustice and increases their capacity for compassion… but does it give them a vision for a different kind of reality? does it inspire them to positive action? are people galvanized and mobilized for the greater good?
This is where I can really make an impact as an artist in this society; this is what I hope to work toward: to inspire and unite people under an alternative vision for the world and its future, a vision of peace, hope, and justice for all; then to empower them to move forward in solidarity.
This is what I hope to do. This is why Protest Songs Are Dead. I do hope you enjoy the album, always wearing your thinking cap, and beginning to dream up what such an alternative vision might look like!
Looking forward to dreaming with you and as always wishing you