The original Michael Hedges website, Nomadland.com, was created by Matt Guthrie. All of the content from that website formed the basis for the website you’re viewing – with many posts kept intact. Read Matt’s original introduction to the website appears below.
Words by Matt Guthrie, July 1997.
Welcome to the web page that answers the burning question, “Is Nomad Land the ‘official’ Michael Hedges web site?” And the short answer is basically “Yes”, but not in the usual sense. (Besides, who cares if it’s official or not?) But the long (long-winded?) answer is…
In 1994, my friend and fellow Roothead Al Olsen and I approached Michael about starting a newsletter since info on his doings had become extremely scarce. As you’d expect, the response from Michael and his manager, Hilleary Burgess, was one of total cooperation rather than the almost abusive way in which so many other musicians are happy to have someone start a fanzine or web site for them while concurrently ignoring them. The idea was good, but starting a print newsletter just as the web was blossoming was, to say the least, questionable timing. So we put out the one and only issue of Hot Type you see pictured at right in the fall of ’95 and then opted for the web instead.
The contents of the first issue, most of which have been incorporated into Nomad Land, included:
- Michael’s comments on The Road to Return
- “Aerial Boundaries” transcription pages by John Stropes (currently difficult to reproduce, so this is a link to Stropes Editions, Ltd., where you can get info on all of Michael’s transcriptions);
- An interview with Michael Manring in which he reflects on his history with MH and his own raison d’être
- A review of the Spring ’94 tour with Michael Manring
- Transcript of Michael’s interview from Guitar Works
- Reviews of Strings of Steel and the soundtrack to Princess Scargo & the Birthday Pumpkin
- Michael’s answers to D’Addario’s ’95 calendar questions
- a moving letter by Michael Ayers, an Oklahoma City fan who experienced the bombing and attended the benefit which Michael performed at
- a whole bunch of other miscellaneous stuff which isn’t really relevant anymore.
So Hot Type got dumped and Nomad Land got started.
After talking with Hilleary, it made sense that Michael’s merchandising should be brought on line at Nomad Land . Consequently, it also made sense that a hybrid arrangement should be worked out. So Michael’s publishing company, Naked Ear Music, now pays the rent for Nomad Land and I am, for lack of a better term, the uncensored landscape architect. This is an arrangement which hopefully represents the best of both worlds, i.e., is a genuine home-grown site by and for Rootheads while also being as informed as possible.
Thanks are in order to all the folks who contributed ideas, photos, words, and anything else that affected what Nomad Land has become. So thanks to:
- Jill Anania and Tom Larson for putting up with a lot of stupid questions (“What’s this red button do?”) and not kicking Al and me out during soundchecks even when the club manager wanted to;
- Michael Ayers for his moving article;
- Ed Ditto and Brian Jarbo for their interviews with MH;
- Jeff Espy, Ike Gauley, Laurel Paulson-Pierce, Ken & Erin Proctor, Alan Tignanelli, and Paul Abbott, for photos;
- Michael Manring, Al Olsen, Kevin Murphy, and Allan Piket for enthusiasm;
- John Stropes for cultivating a higher aesthetic;
- anyone who didn’t kill me for not getting Nomad Land going when I said I would;
- Mark Cook, who actually knows what a cgibin is and has graciously offered his services for the behind the scenes programming (check out Mark’s company, Neighborhood Box Office); and
- Michael and Hilleary who have the ultimate honor (?!) of paying for it on a monthly basis.
It’s been an honor getting to hang around Michael and bug him with my ignorance. But most of all, to just shut up, listen, and learn.
I have to admit that when I first approached him about doing a newsletter, it was for purely selfish reasons. I was looking for a musical oracle (’scuse the pun) to help make my music better. Not to tell me how to play guitar, but to help open up my head and heart so I could hear what I had to say instead of always trying to say something…which inevitably resulted in unfulfilling music. In other words, I didn’t want anyone to tell me how to play, but how to listen.
And absolutely no one listens to their mind’s and heart’s ear better than Michael. And he’s got the staggering chops to give a voice to what he hears. When he’s on stage and deep in the zone, he is inspiration incarnate and you come away with and energy which lasts way beyond the parking lot. And the multitude of folks who’ve told me they come out of Michael’s concerts incomparably more energized and focused than when they went in know exactly what I mean. The guy makes real “soul music”. But I would say that without the ability to listen at a profound level, all of Michael’s chops are worthless. And that’s what makes him a brilliant composer who plays guitar, not the other way around. Like he says, “I’m not trying to play the guitar. I’m trying to play music.”
I suppose Michael has helped me to listen by not doing anything at all. He’s a reluctant oracle.
He’s never given me quite the answers I’ve wanted. And the reason why is probably obvious to others who are more hip than me, which is that they aren’t his answers to give. You need to find your own answers as to how to get in touch with your own muse. Or as John Stropes once said to me, to “invest yourself in your music”. But like Michael says, sometimes the path to yourself is through others.
Ultimately, I think the most important and encouraging thing Michael has to say is summed up by this quote: “You can’t make your music good. You can’t try to be good. You can try to be present and you can try to remain open so what is going to speak to you can speak through you.”
I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon at his studio/retreat, the Speech & Hearing Clinic, a few months ago. That afternoon, Michael was working on the song “Torched”. Specifically, he was sitting in the control room with a white Steinberger electric running through a cheesy harmonizer/distortion box which I once swore I’d never be caught dead using. Regardless, he laid down one of the most incredibly emotional solos I’ve ever heard. (So much for cheese.)
As I sat next to him being blown away by this musical side to him I’d never heard, I thought of what Michael said about the thrill of sitting next to one of his heroes, Todd Rundgren, as he recorded vocals for his album Nearly Human: “About the closest I’ve ever come to the godhead!” And as I thought of that…he flubbed a note and had to stop the tape. Refreshing, don’t you think?