How to be a Coverblogger, Part 2:
Writers Write, Bloggers Blog

Twice a week, instead of grading papers or putting my children to bed, I hunker down in front of the computer for a 3-4 hour writing session. Sometimes I start from notes, written on scraps of paper up against the steering wheel; other times, I start with the music, perusing artist catalogs, skimming songs collated by theme and subject over the years, willing inspiration to fall out of the sky. And once in a while, it’s just me in the dark, with a song to start with, trying to figure out what sort of framing device would justify posting the hook caught in my ears.

Of course, sometimes the urge strikes at the odd hour. Like life itself, my wordpress archives are littered with half-started drafts, a few sentences to hold an idea in place after it falls from the sky uninvited. But most of the time, I don’t know what I will write until the blank screen opens up before me. For, after all, I am one of those writers that writes first and foremost to find out what I think.

And you know what I think, at least so far. Because, after all, you’re here.

From the outside, this praxis must look like a lonely life - no different from the secret hobbyist who retires to his basement each evening to stuff delicate ships into narrowneck bottles. And certainly, at first, the impetus to write was not a social one, but a personal one: having just been stunned by Richard Shindell’s cover album South of Delia, the honed writer’s urge in me insisted that I write about it, the better to make sense of this all-covers folk album in the context of art and culture.

But if I’ve learned anything at all in my three years as a coverblogger, it’s that blogging is not as solitary an activity as it seems. Quite the contrary, in fact. Your daily comments, the occasional kudos and linkbacks from other bloggers and print sources, continued attention from the labels and musicians themselves, our inclusion on Hype Machine’s list of the 100 most popular music bloggers: these things make of this little project not a journal, but an epistle, a poster, a dialogue, a bi-weekly soapbox, with a crowd everpresent to shape expectations, call out suggestions, correct my misimpressions, and demand the best of me.

Which is to say: in all of this, I am sustained by the community. The artists who I’ve met on my travels who know the blog, and appreciate the approach. The fans who hug me in the audience between sets once the conversation turns to songsources, and who seek me out at my yearly folk festival jaunts. The label reps who write emails and send CDs and personal notes, making it clear that they know who I am, and really think I’ll like what they have to offer. You, the reader, who takes the time to comment, and critique, thus keeping us all honest, and helping make this place as much about you and your love of good music as it is about me and mine.

I’m also humbled by the willingness of otherwise strangers to give what they can do help keep the blog afloat financially. Yes, this blog runs on your donations - it has to, as I’ve no interest in compromising my focus on artists with advertising, and it currently costs just under $1000 a year to host the growing demand for dowloads. And in honor of our fourth year together, this weekend, I’ll be putting up a new year’s worth of bootleg coverage, recorded by yours truly in the 2010 Summer fields, ready to send out to those who give to the cause; this year’s package includes delicious, otherwise-unavailable coversongs from Dala, Chuck E. Costa, Red Molly, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave, Tim O’Brien, The Greencards, Sarah Jarosz, and more, and the quality is surprisingly good.

I’ve no intention to turn this year’s anniversary post into a full-blown pledge drive plea. But if you enjoy what we do here - if you, too, believe that our constant work to connect new fans and artists is worth sustenance - I hope you will consider giving a few bucks to help us continue that good work. As always, all who donate will receive our annual Summer Bootleg Mixtape, a grateful gift to you in thanks for your support. Donate now, and I’ll throw in BOTH this year’s and last year’s bootleg mixes - an offer good only until Sunday, when I’ll start sending them out, so act now if you’d like the set.

But whether you choose to lend your support through readership or participation or donations, the very fact that we are here together sustains me. It keeps me up late into the night, trying to make sense of the folkways inherent in coverage; it keeps me coming back week after week, even as life stacks up on the kitchen counter alongside me, demanding my attention.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am grateful, humbled even, by the way Cover Lay Down has turned from a solo project into a shared space, a node, a community for all of us. And though there are certainly times when blogging seems onerous, know that as long as this place lifts me up - and it does, oh it does - I’ll be here in the morning.

A soundtrack for our shared journey, then. Nothing so tight as all that, just a few favorite songs that speak, however obliquely, to how we write our life into being together, and to the commitments that we make to the world. Some songs, in other words, about you.

Cover Lay Down is honored to be your favorite coverblog. Y’all come back real soon now, y’hear?

Category: cover lay down, metablog

4 Responses to “How to be a Coverblogger, Part 2:
Writers Write, Bloggers Blog”

  1. Berni

    Love the blog, of course. Wonderful writing and great music, with glimpses of an interesting person’s life. Thanks for sharing!

    One thing that I’ve often wondered is how you keep track of so much material. Do you just remember all these songs (so-and-so covered so-and-so…) or do you have an elaborate filing system and use a program to cross index things by categories?

  2. Simon

    Love what you do here.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. Robin Marie

    You have introduced me to more than half of my favorite bands of all time and you continually feature artists who I love and respect. I think that the time and effort that you put into this blog is an incredible blessing to the folk world, and I can’t imagine my music world without you involved!

    That sounds gushy, but it’s true!

  4. Gary

    Keep up the fantastic work. I read your blog obsessively from all the way down here in Brisbane, Australia. You’ve introduced me to many great artists. Respect!

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