In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard yet, a bomb was dropped on the Red Dirt country music world who were overjoyed to hear some big news regarding the genre’s biggest question mark for the past year, Evan Felker.
The night before this news broke, Josh joined me on the Hippies & Cowboys Podcast to discuss Red Dirt Music and the new book. Josh also had alluded earlier in the day that he had big Evan Felker news. As a huge Turnpike fan, I was boiling over with excitement and curiosity to hear the news. Naturally, what I was hoping (dreaming) I would hear was this: Evan and the Turnpike Troubadours are back.
I know, I know. It’s selfish, and it’s hard to admit that that was my initial reaction. But where else was my mind to immediately wander to?
The time came, and Josh shared with us the great news that Evan is happy, healthy, and feeling ready to get back into songwriting. Josh read the following excerpt from his book:
“‘I’m going to make music. At the end of the day, I feel like that’s what I was put on this Earth to do.’
Evan Felker had just spent a year off every grid imaginable, yet in early August 2020, he handled the obvious “what’s next?” with the same charisma that commands attention from every eye in sold out amphitheaters when he’s on stage.
‘And I’ll tell you another thing, it’s really hard to get good at something,’ Felker said breaking into a full throttle laugh. ‘Look, I’ve tried over the past year and I’ve learned, you may as well stick to your day job.'”
I started to really think about the impact that this news would have on the Red Dirt community and the reaction that it would get from Twitter fingers everywhere. I’ve given it some thought, and after seeing the reactions I am confident that most Turnpike fans will agree with me here. If they don’t, well, listen up anyway:
Yes, I openly admit that I want the Turnpike Troubadours back. Everyone does. And yes, as I said, that’s the wild fantasy that came across my mind when I first heard that there was Evan Felker news. Having said that, the absolute most important thing to take away from all of this is the fact that Evan is sober, and happy.
Personally, following the events that led up to Turnpike’s hiatus and seeing the apparent toxicity of the situation and knowing that there was problems in the band was almost more difficult than not hearing anything at all. It is a huge relief as a fan, knowing that Evan is happy, and starting to “feel the pull” of getting back into songwriting, as Josh mentioned. Josh also added that part of the reason Evan reached out was that a lot has changed since the hiatus and the Turnpike story in the book really wasn’t the story anymore.
“Evan called and he said, ‘you know look, a lot’s happened in two years, it’s a different world and I think the story you’re telling in the book,’ which at the time really went back and forth between the history of Turnpike and the break they took, and he said ‘I don’t feel like that’s the story anymore,’ so I said ‘what is the story?’ and really I just let him talk.”
I don’t think there’s any problem with hoping that Turnpike comes back, I think every fan out there (myself included) is dying to hear them together again.
I do however, think there’s a problem with not seeing these artists for who they really are: human beings, like you or I, with real adversities that are just as (if not more) difficult to deal with. Something that Josh shared with us from his interview with Evan for the book stuck with me after we talked: Evan, quoting Stephen King, said:
“Life isn’t a support system for art, it’s the other way around.”
And Josh added some more perspective on how different people process struggle:
“If you or I go through a time of trouble in our lives, we take a week off of work… If Evan Felker takes time off work, it’s a blown gig… there’s so much riding on you making all these tour dates… that lifestyle takes a little bit of humanity out of the equation.”
Evan Felker, like every one of your favorite artists, is a human being. Sometimes when they’re up there on stage blowing us away with their talent, that can be hard to comprehend.
Evan is happy. Evan is ready to start making art again. Though it may be difficult, true fans should be patient. Evan is gonna do whatever he needs to do and take any more time that he needs, and we should be happy with that.
If and when the time ever comes for Evan, with Turnpike or not, to take the stage again, I know damn well all of us will be ready.