Writing Yellowstone started long before I touched the piano. It was an idea that have been bumping around my head for 6 months prior. Last June I took a trip to India with my brother Barrett and part of that was a trek in the Himalayan mountains of Ladakh. When we set off for our adventure, my body was not ready at all. I've been sick with food poisoning for 3 days. I spent that time in a miserable place between being awake and being asleep in a hostel bunk bed with a bunch of random dudes coming in and out of the room. The night before we set off for our trek I managed to scarf down noodles for the first time since we'd reached Ladakh. In any case, this was our one chance to do this together, so I put on my hiking boots and we set off for a 5 day hike with no guide in the Markha Valley.
In the Markha Valley, there are no roads so if you want to take something somewhere, you have to strap it onto a pony or donkey. It takes 5 days to walk from one end to the other and once you start, there's only going to the end or turning around.
There were disputes among people we asked in town as to whether we'd even be able to take a road to the start of the trek. The Indian army is constantly setting off dynamite to avoid later landslides. It seemed like the consensus was that the only way to find out was to go so we got in a taxi and drove as far as we could. Eventually, the piles of rocks became too huge and we had to get out and walk 5km to the formal start of the trek in a tiny village called Chilling. We walked that day for about 9 hours. In our bags were liters and liters of water because we didn't know that we'd be able to refill our bottles along the way, so we had painfully heavy packs. I always joke that I like to suffer on a hike I never was that more true than on that first day. I was so weak from the days of being sick before but I could only make myself take 10 steps before taking a break.
The Markha Valley trail follows the river and all day our entertainment was watching the animals and the plants slowly changed as we went along our way. We stopped often for meditation and water breaks. It was the sort of pain that keeps you from thinking about anything else. There was no cell service in the valley so I left my phone at the hostel, hours away. By the time we finally reached the first house where we stayed I was completely exhausted. I laid down on that bed with the light streaming in through the window and closed my eyes. Often when I close my eyes, thoughts and worries flutter into my head but this time all I could see were oxen and birds and the river. It was one of the happiest moments of my whole life.
In Cheryl Strayed's book Wild, she says that the only thing that can prepare you for the next day on the trail is the day before and I definitely agree. Each day got easier even as the mountains became steeper. I felt so powerful and like I could do anything. I had a lot of issues in my life at the time and my brother and I talked through every aspect of our lives and I found solutions to a lot of things that hadn't been serving me anymore. But alas, all things end and I had to go back to my life in New York, but carried all that I'd learned from the trip back with me.
In December, I became friends with a very cool park ranger who told me all about his own adventures road tripping and exploring many of America's national parks. He remarked upon how beautiful and wild Yellowstone is and I was instantly hooked on its beautiful name and its breathtaking land and animals to match. At Christmas, I wrote the first draft of a song about leaving your capitalist chains behind and being in nature and embracing who you are and want to be. Cheesey? I don't know, maybe. But I feel deep in my soul that to find what's deep in YOUR soul, you have to get out and do something beautiful. Take a road trip! Make a meal with an old friend and leave your screens somewhere else. In order to really look at your life for what it is and make the changes that need to be made, you've got to step out of it for a while. And ideally you'll get that vantage point from atop of a giant mountain. And in case you were wondering, yes I'm currently planning my own road trip out west to see Yellowstone for myself.
Yellowstone will be out August 30th everywhere you get your music. Pre-save now and send me a screenshot for a chance to win the original Yellowstone artwork!