raptors in 6
It’s me, hi,
I’m writing to you from an airplane flying over Southern Ireland, heading to Berlin to do some interviews about the new album & I find myself thinking a lot about football. As a sports fan, international travel can be tricky, specifically when you want to keep up with American sports in Europe. It’s often on late or requires a tech-savvy that i don’t have. you find yourself exhausted & googling about VPNs & the whole thing feels bootleg and lonely.
I think a lot about why I love sports and why I came to it a little later in life. I grew up with 2 sisters and we were all performing-arts kids. In college I loved celebrating an Alabama football win by getting drunk at house parties in Tuscaloosa, but I never invested much in the game. If I can trace it to anything, I think I would go back to early spring of 2019. I had been sober about 8 or 9 months and I was trying to figure out how my life was going to work.
Up until I got sober in June of 2018, the entire time I had been a musician I drank very heavily. I come from a DIY scene where there’s no disconnection between the artist and the audience. We would show up to the show, hang out with whoever was there, drink beer or whiskey, play whenever we felt like it or someone told us to, continue drinking late into the night, get up and do it again the next day. When music became a job for me, it was a strange transition to approach it any differently than the wild and ramshackle way I was used to. Regardless of how much more responsibility I felt I had, I never could shake the feeling that I was the ringleader of a room full of people’s night out. It was always so challenging for me to disconnect that from drinking myself. Until of course one day it wasn’t, and navigating my life became promising and excruciating at once.
Okay - so something everyone should know about Kevin is that he’s an amazing storyteller. I’m his biggest fan. I’ve listened to all his stories multiple times and I often don’t stop him from retelling an old one just because I’d usually like to hear him tell it again. Whenever he surprises me with one I’ve never heard before it’s like it’s my birthday. I get so excited.
Around the spring of 2019, Kevin was on tour supporting his record Oh My God and I was taking time off to write what would become Saint Cloud. Because I wasn’t busy and was bouncing off the walls, I hopped on the road with them quite a bit and felt a little like an extra bandmate. While we were on that tour the NBA playoffs were happening & Kevin liked to go to bars to watch the games when we could. Basketball (& football, hockey, baseball, etc.) games had always been static playing in the background of my life, but Kevin had a way of making every game like an episode of an amazing series show. Every player had a backstory and every team had something driving them beneath the surface. There were heroes and villains and underdogs, each with their own style and approach to the game, each filling a role that was unique to them. Every team had its own dynamic force, every night there was a new drama. And from the very first round of the the playoffs there was a player I noticed and immediately recognized as special. His name is Kawhi Leonard and at the time he was playing for the Toronto Raptors.
Athletes, sort of like artists, are inherently mysterious. We demand to know what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, what they plan to do better and they give us stock answers while ultimately keeping their heads as in the game as possible amidst the chaos of it all. Personalities, especially big ones, emerge out of that mystery giving us these powerful leaders like Lebron or these complicated antiheroes like Kevin Durant, but a lot of the soap opera that we see play out in the games is assumed or implied or created by us, the fans. It was like watching a silent movie with no subtitles. There’s something really stimulating about filling in gaps for yourself and I became so enamored by the enigma of Kawhi Leonard pretty much right away.
Kawhi had left the Spurs for the Raptors in the 2018-2019 season and the overly-simplified reason my amateur-sports-fan brain attached to was something called “load management”. In short, Kawhi prioritized his health above everything, causing him to sit out or manage minutes in the game in a very strict and unorthodox way. This caused a rift between him and the Spurs owners and managers, and thus he landed in Toronto. I was and am pretty inspired by this whole vibe. Throughout the playoffs he was an obvious force to be reckoned with, continuously helping to propel the raptors forward, giving very awkward interviews and subtly spreading the message that he does the NBA star thing his own way. I was completely obsessed and followed the playoffs so closely that I’d sometimes leave the stage from singing a song with Kevin to run backstage and see what was happening on the screen. I didn’t miss a single game and I watched the Toronto Raptors win the finals that year in 6 games with tears in my eyes. Kawhi was the MVP.
What I think about this looking back, now a fan of basically all major spots, is that seeing people have discipline and razor-sharp focus on something they love was an example I needed in my life. I learned that there are always a million ways to be great at what you love and we’re on our own to figure out what’s gonna make us great and implement it.
I also think my whole life at night was always about drinking and sports gave me something to care about after dark that felt like a positive influence. pretty simple really.
So anyways - that’s what I’m thinking about at 6 am on a plane to Europe. More soon. Thanks for reading.
PS: Tickets to my tour are selling! A couple have sold out, a handful are approaching low ticket territory! Get ‘em if you’re gonna.