K I N D R E D
sam pinkerton, liza anne, corey kilgannon, aliza carter band
After a year of dreaming, planning, touring, and debriefing, I'm currently back home trying to adjust to life after tour. Not a day passes without thinking about all the adventures, and all the inspiring and genuine people we met. When I think of my two months on the road, I think about the late night laughter and the impromptu dance parties. I think about the excessive amounts of granola bars, hummus and all the terrible road food. I think about the most kind and generous hospitality I’ve ever received. I think back of the challenging times that tested my character. I think back on the times I spent praying for strength, motivation and financial miracles. And for these times I am thankful, for they made me a better person in the end.
What is Kindred?
Kindred is an artist collective featuring my music and that of some of my best friends from Nashville: Liza Anne, Corey Kilgannon, and Zachary and Alicia Threlkeld (a brother and sister duo known as Aliza Carter Band).
The idea behind Kindred.
About a year ago, Zachary Threlkeld and I were at a coffee shop catching each other up on our busy lives and how we couldn’t wait to spend more time on music and less time in classes. From there, the conversation turned to the two of us dreaming up a tour together. Liza, Corey, the Aliza Carter Band, and I had all played many shows together, taking turns opening for one another at different venues in Nashville. We were all more than ready to begin playing elsewhere. When Zachary and I broke down the concept of touring and what we thought would be best for us and our music, we pretty immediately agreed on playing house shows. It was important to us to be in places where listeners could experience our music wholly. The intimate settings would allow people an opportunity to connect with us not only as artists but as individuals. Kindred took hold and the planning began on what eventually turned into a 20-city tour over a span of four weeks.
Kindred / CloseUp.
For those of you who have followed me or my friends on social media, I'm sure you've seen numerous amounts of posts and hashtags reading "kindredcloseup". Closeup is a company out of Knoxville, TN that helps artists plan and book their tours online. We had the opportunity to work with Closeup’s Nathan Fray and Austin Church as they helped us with logistics, making the tour so successful. While we began a long process of rehearsals and song selections, Closeup partnered with Noisetrade to hire a videographer/ photographer – our new friend Travis Fruge - to document the experience. Travis was a perfect fit for Kindred and he’s currently producing a documentary, which will be released later this year. Until then, you can find his photos under the photography tab.
The tour begins.
The first leg of the tour proved more challenging than I had thought. We were so busy with the planning process that I hadn’t given myself any mental preparation for what life on the road might actually feel like. I didn’t expect to react the way I did to the lack of personal space, the rigors of sleeping in a new city every night, and having to constantly extend myself and carry conversations with strangers daily. Not sure why I didn’t see it coming, that I would shut down, being as introverted as I am, but I knew I was where I was supposed to be, traveling with my friends, singing my songs. By the second leg of the tour I began to gain a new appreciation for life on the road and the sacrifices it takes to share your music and your soul every night. I was becoming much more comfortable with the house show experience and less anxious before entering a house of strangers. The nights we spent freezing cold on random people's floors were balanced by the warmth of hospitality and homes as luxurious as a 5-star hotel. Each day brought both blessings and challenges, and I began to enjoy that for what it was. The most gratifying part of it all was the overwhelmingly positive response that Kindred received. I was completely blown away and humbled beyond belief by the appreciation of our collective. In the end, the music of Kindred spoke to the hearts and souls of those who heard it, and the people we met along the way spoke to ours. The memories I have play through my head like a flip book. I have never been more excited to be where I am, doing what I am doing. I want to share some of the memories that have engraved themselves in my head as the stand out moments on tour.
The second day on the road we pulled up to a stranger’s house in our 15-passenger van loaded with band equipment. The home belonged to an incredibly talented artist named Gina, a friend of one of Liza's relatives. She opened the door and welcomed each of us with a hug as we entered. Inside, the walls were filled with her artwork; the most beautiful paintings I had ever seen. Each one was different from the others, telling its own unique story. The house smelled of home-baked goods Gina had prepared in her kitchen and this was just the beginning of an incredible night of hospitality. Birmingham turned out to be one of the smallest audiences we played for but it was one of the most well-received and meaningful nights on tour. For the first time ever, I talked about the inspiration for one of my songs, Fled, and there were tears shared by half the audience and myself. This was the kind of intimacy we had envisioned for the Kindred tour but it caught me off guard. At the end of our set, some of those in the room asked if they could pray for us. I remember seeing the beginning of tears in Zachary's eyes and I could feel them coming back into mine, too. I think we were all feeling an overwhelming sense of security and confirmation that we were where we were supposed to be that night. We knelt before an entire room of strangers who began to pray over us, asking God to continue to inspire us and to use us to bless others in the way they had been blessed that evening. If anyone from the Birmingham show is reading this post, I hope you know the impression you left on me and how much your encouragement sustained me throughout tour. Thank you to everyone there and especially to our angel Gina, for your hospitality and beautiful heart.
I was looking forward to Jacksonville for a few reasons: one, some of my family lived close enough to attend. Secondly, we had a day off at the beach and I was ready for the warmth of the sun. After an incredible day off exploring Corey's hometown, surfing, and lounging at a local coffee shop, we ended our night playing games with Corey's family, laughing hysterically on the living room floor at "telephone pictionary". The next morning, I was able to have some much needed alone time. I went for a run, wrote some music, read a book. Time like that was crucial on such a long tour, especially for me, being cripplingly introverted.
The show that night went very well. We got to do another unplugged set in front of many familiar but also new faces. After each show, we usually spent time getting to know the people who attended, which turned out to be one of my favorite things about tour. That night in Jacksonville I met an amazing young man named John. He told me he was an aspiring songwriter but also felt called into ministry and that he wants to be a pastor one day. He opened up to me that night and told me of his times of loss and heartache, leaving me in tears. I don’t normally cry very often which is why some of these stories might be stuck in my brain. I left our conversation feeling more connected with myself. I received much affirmation that night, all from talking to a 14-year-old boy. I won't forget the night in Jacksonville swapping stories of doubt, fear, loss and the journey of fully trusting God with the future. Also, I can't thank Corey's family enough for feeding us, giving us beds to sleep in and letting us lounge for the day.
SAINT SIMONS ISLAND, GA
Now, this is a memory that was made solely because I was surrounded by some of the most amazing people I have ever met. On October 19th we played in Brunswick, GA at the old coffee shop where Liza used to work. After the show, we headed to St. Simon’s beach around 11 pm with a 12-pack of beer and good company. Zachary's 23rd birthday was approaching in one hour and we wanted to celebrate at midnight. I'll never forget the cool air, seeing thousands of stars so clearly, feeling the cold, damp sand on my feet, wrapping myself in a blanket, drinking a Yuengling and singing. We laughed so much that night as we explored the island. I felt small but safe looking at the sky that night.
I'm not sure why Cincinnati captured my heart - maybe the cooler weather, the architecture, the street art, or the little cottage we stayed in, but I fell in love with this city. We were barely into the second leg of tour and my dear friend Caroline Kingsbury of The Red Headed Indian was traveling with us for a few days. Cincy is her hometown, so we drove up from Louisville and played with her and her friend's band, The Mitchells, at York St. Cafe. I'll never forget forming the conga line on the dance floor to the encore song, and laughing our heads off. The following day, before our Indianapolis show, we went downtown and explored the city for a few hours. We ended up at a little market where we sat on the curb, ate lunch and people-watched for a while. We didn't have an agenda, anywhere in particular to be, we just roamed the city and saw what we saw. It was absolutely beautiful. I guess Ohio is for lovers or something like that.
I had been to Chicago once before but never experienced it the way that I did this time around. I drove us into the city that day after leaving Indianapolis. When we got to Bryan's house (our host), his roommate Joe was hanging out for the day and offered to show us around the city. We'd never met him before but within a few minutes we all knew he would be a long-lasting friend. We walked downtown for some sightseeing and saw the bean, touched the bean, took pictures with the bean. You know, the normal Chicago things. Hah.
The show that night went down as one of my favorites, maybe my actual favorite. Bryan's band opened for us, a soulful, incredible trio with tight harmonies. The tiny living room was packed with people throughout the night. As soon as we finished, the lights went off, the music came on and we broke out into a dance party that lasted a good hour or so. I had so much fun dancing with all the random people that night, listening to rap music I had definitely never heard. For sure love the song, "Club's going up on a Tuesday" or whatever. My new jam.
Liza and I escaped the dance party and walked outside to get some air. We sat on the cold Chicago street curb outside the house. We laughed for a while, reminiscing on how good everything had been and how we were going to look back on these days as being the time of our lives. Liza is my bud, my absolute best friend, the person who knows every single thing about me and I was so lucky to get to go on tour with her. And for those of you who were wondering if we'd get sick of each other... nope. We had a good moment that night when we were smoking our hand rolled cigarettes. I looked at her and knew we would do this for a while and that this was only the very beginning of all the journeys we will have. I believe in Liza so much and was so honored to play music on the road with her.
The following day was our first day off in a while and we spent it exploring more of Chicago with Joe and our new friend, Nathan. Taking the trains everywhere, we got to do all the things that the locals do - for real this time. We had amazing coffee, went thrifting, wandered into record stores, and ate at some cool spots. I think what I loved most about this day was getting to spend it with Corey, Zachary, Liza and our new friends.
The next morning was equally unforgettable. We woke up in a small apartment that Corey's friend Brock opened to us. It was early, we were all very tired, and getting colds. We woke up at six and had to carry all our bags and gear down the apartment and across the busy, early morning trafficked streets of Chicago. It was freezing. Zachary carried my gear because my back was hurting and I think he may have hated me for it but he'd never say it if he did. He is too kind. Corey ran and got the car that was parked a bit aways. Zachary, Lize and I stood there for a while without saying a word to each other. I had a stupid grin on my face because for some reason this morning was comical to me. They definitely weren't going to address it either. To top it off, I mapped us to some terrible, run down coffee shop (on accident) where my latte tasted only of bad almond milk and water. I kept quiet because I chose the spot and didn't want to be the one to complain but, we definitely should have just gone to Starbucks. I actually love Starbucks. I don't know why we didn't go there. Corey drove us out of the city about eight that morning as the gray clouds hung low and were covering the tops of the buildings. I will never forget listening to Bryan John Appleby, sipping my crap coffee, and watching Chicago disappear out the foggy passenger side window.
Travis and Alicia were unable to come on the second leg of tour so we took Corey’s Honda CRV instead of trying to drive a fifteen passenger van through the bigger cities we had in November. We had just enough space to fit the four of us inside with our gear in the trunk and our bags on the roof. After leaving Chicago and traveling six hours, we began to play a car game that Joe had told us about a few days before. It was probably incredibly dangerous to be behind the wheel, considering how hard I was laughing. Corey. Sweet, quiet Corey, says the most insane and unexpected things. His sense of humor always catches me off guard and leaves me with stomach cramps. He and Liza had me white knuckled, leaning over the steering wheel trying to watch the road while laughing myself to all of our potential deaths. Not funny, but true. Somehow, I managed to get us safely to the home of Andy and Rebecca, a cute, young, married couple that opened their home to us. That night when we arrived, we all sat outside and had a spaghetti dinner under the bistro lights on their back porch.
Andy is an incredible musician and vocalist for his band Ledges. You really need to listen to them, it's good stuff. The house was warm from the 80-something people who were crammed into the living room. For the last song, “Clearer”, Ledges came up and sang with us. "This song is about good things", Zachary always said. There was something about singing that chorus, "it's getting clearer all around us" over and over, and looking around at who I was standing next to. Everything seemed to make sense that night. After the show, Corey and I, along with the guys from Ledges, gathered around the piano and sang pop-punk songs. I relived my high school days singing and dancing to the songs of Relient K and Mayday Parade.
The next morning, the four of us got up and joined Andy and Rebecca for breakfast. They had made us pancakes, eggs, bacon, juice, coffee - all of the good things. I had never received such hospitality from someone my own age. They really showed us love those two short days. We headed out fairly early that morning and went off to the actual Ledges in Akron. The four of us explored the woods and climbed rocks that overlooked miles of beautiful trees. I think that's something that was so special about tour, getting to see such beautiful, secret gems of the U.S. and being in the company of my friends.
I didn't expect much from Lynchburg, mainly because it's a small town in the middle of nowhere Virginia, but also because we didn't know too many people in the area. We stayed with Andy's brother, Alex, in his loft that rested above a coffee shop downtown. He lived there with three of his friends, Luke, Zach and Zack. The four of them had a beautiful home with wooden floors and handmade furniture. Their place looked like something straight out of a Pottery Barn magazine. We quickly made it our home for the next few days.
What made this stop so great was nothing more than the people we spent time with. We quickly made friends with Alex and his roommates. The day after our show we decided to kick it in Lynchburg for one more day instead of heading to Knoxville. The guys showed us around town and took us to coffee shops, record and thrift stores - the usual. When we got back to the loft, Corey set up his hammock on the wooden beams that ran across the ceiling and fell asleep. Lize passed out on the couch while Zachary and I played inhumane amounts of Sudoku across the open room. When Zack Arp, one of the roommates, came back home he got us all up because he wanted to do a shoot. We ventured downtown in the cold, climbed through a broken window of an old warehouse and took pictures. Zack was one of the kindest people I met on tour, and also an extremely talented photographer. His pictures are posted under the photography tab.
After a trip to the grocery, Lize and I assigned each guy a job to help prepare dinner. Mac Demarco's Salad Days was playing through the loft as the six of us were all in the kitchen chopping vegetables, cooking rice, grilling chicken, preparing our homemade dinner of choice - naked burritos. Liza made her homemade guacamole, my favorite thing. It was chaotic and loud from all the laughing but I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I remember Corey's eyes tearing from the onions he was cutting. I remember the taste of the great local beer we bought, and smiling at all the boys trying to help but also trying to not be in the way. Luke was the only one who really seemed to feel comfortable in the kitchen. My favorite part about it all was the community that we had in Lynchburg with those guys and the deep laughter we shared. We ended the night by watching a terribly depressing Shia LaBeouf movie as all of us dozed off on the couch. I didn't want to leave the next morning but our final show in Knoxville awaited.