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Jonny Jimison Presents: Martin and Marco

I’ve always been a storyteller, because I’ve always needed stories.

Facts, arguments, charts, and diagrams—they’re all a bit lost on me. But wrap your discussion in a story and I’ll dive into its narrative without a second thought. Living inside the story makes things specific and personal, and suddenly everything clicks—the abstract thought that once made me shrug becomes real when encountered through the experience of a story.

As far back as I can remember, I made up elaborate stories to explain anything I didn’t understand—which was plenty! One of those stories was The Hidden Lantern, which I set to paper in May of 2004. Here’s an excerpt:

The great and proud country of Arsendol to the west of Linoriath was far from the terror of Tor Danosh and therefore did not fear what they had not seen. But the great kingdom of Ramish west of the desert was near to the southernmost mountains of the country where the enemy lay, and their northern borders had already been assailed, so they soon offered to help the Nandor.

Yikes. Can you tell I was reading The Silmarillion?

I’ve kept The Hidden Lantern hidden for years—for obvious reasons. When Tolkien writes like that, it’s brilliant. When I do, it’s pretentious at best.

But while I kept the story hidden, it stayed alive—and over time it began to change. Tolkien’s horse lords and Witch-Kings—drawn from his background in classic English literature—were replaced by swashbucklers and bandits drawn from my background in classic adventure films. The overwrought Middle English dialect was gradually replaced by snappy banter and silly puns.

I began speaking a language that I knew.

As a child, I spent most of my time in worlds drawn by Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson, and Uncle Scrooge creator Carl Barks. My taste in comics has expanded and diversified over the years, but those three men still define my style, because absorbing their work taught me the language of comics.

It was thrilling—and eye-opening—to read newer comic works like Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet, Jeff Smith’s Bone, and Ben Hatke’s Zita the Space Girl and see the whimsy, humor, and carefree adventure of my favorite childhood comics being put to work in service of epic, ambitious, and often thought-provoking fantasy stories.

That’s when I pulled out The Hidden Lantern and changed the name to Martin and Marco.

Suddenly, the characters began observing pratfalls instead of delivering soliloquies. The cursed object that Marco acquires was no longer a wooden box but a child’s backpack with a goofy grin stitched onto it. The story thrived when I brought it into my own unique imagination and began to create out of what I knew rather than what I thought I should be. Authenticity paid off!

And once Martin and Marco got started, there was no stopping them. Three years of planning the story, scripting, thumbnailing, designing characters, reconceiving scenes and sometimes entire storylines—it’s all lead to a five-volume series of graphic novels called The Dragon Lord Saga. And at long last, the first volume, Martin and Marco, is ready for print and up on Kickstarter!

Happily, the bones of the story held up as I changed the skin. At its heart, this is a story about adventurers—characters on an unpredictable and dangerous journey. Dragons loom on the horizon, hoarding gold and power. But dragons also loom within, hoarding secrets and desires.

This is a story I’m living.

To those who believe in this project, who have backed the Kickstarter, who have spread the word—it means the world to me that you’re sharing this vision. If you haven’t met Martin and Marco yet—I’d love to introduce you. Visit them on Kickstarter (the campaign ends soon!) and at my website. I hope you’ll be a part of the story and join the adventure!

(Click the image below to view full size.)

Julie Lee & Friends @ North Wind Manor

Here’s a little taste of what might be going on at North Wind Manor this Saturday night during our Julie Lee & Friends (Sarah Masen Dark, Corrie Covell, and Ron Block) house concert. The first is Julie and Ron Block playing “Battlefield” at Nashville’s own Belcourt Theater. The second, from Under the Radar, is Sarah Masen singing “The Human Scale” backed by Julie Lee and Corrie Covell.

There are just a few tickets left and they are available here.

After All These Years: Preorder now!

On November 10th (in a mere three weeks!) my newest album, After All These Years: A Collection, will be released into the wild, so we’re commencing with preorders.What is this collection, you ask? It’s a total of eighteen songs spanning the last fifteen years or so of music—and that track list includes four (FOUR!) new ones and eight (EIGHT!) brand-spanking-new recordings of older songs (SONGS!). The new recordings of old songs were made in two days with some great friends and great musicians who I’ve had the honor of working with over the years: Ben Shive, Andy Gullahorn, Ken Lewis, Matt Pierson, Joe Causey, and Jill Phillips. Re-recording those old songs was strange and wonderful, especially since we reimagined some of them, which sort of gave them some new clothes to wear—clothes that fit better now than they did fifteen years ago. I can’t wait for you to hear them.

Here’s the quick highlight reel of the new songs:

“After All These Years” was written right after my 40th birthday this year, as a deliberate exercise in gratitude. It felt appropriate to write a song that would be a sort of Ebenezer stone in the wilderness—a song of thanksgiving to God for his abiding love over the last four decades, and one that I would have to sing every night for the next few years. A lot has changed in my life in a short amount of time, and I’m prone to some boneheaded grumbling these days. This song (and this record, for that matter) is my way of stacking stones, a cairn on the hilltop that I’ll be able to see from the valley floor in the days and years to come.

“To All the Poets” was co-written with Gloria Gaither, and is an ode to the many poets, songwriters, and storytellers who have carried the fire and given us all words to pray when we had none of our own. (I’m looking at you, Rich Mullins and C. S. Lewis.)

“Romans 11 (Doxology)” was written right after we recorded Love & Thunder, but it never made it to an official album. I included the demo of it on Appendix A and then forgot about it, more or less. Then I met a guy named Charlie, a song leader from Michigan, who told me that he had been using it for years as the closing doxology at the retreat center where he works. When I sang it at the show that night I was overwhelmed by the sound of the congregation singing it back to me and decided to include it on this collection. Thanks, Charlie.

“Everybody’s Got a Song” was finished backstage at the Ryman Auditorium right before the Behold the Lamb of God show in 2012. It’s a love song to Nashville, my family and friends here, and to the coming Kingdom. This one features Nate Dugger on lap steel and the great Stuart Duncan on fiddle.

This link will whoosh you to the Rabbit Room Store, where you will not only be able to preview the tracks, you’ll be presented with three (THREE!) irresistible offers. 1) Preorder the download of all 20 songs for a mere $10. 2) Preorder the disc (which would only fit 18 of the songs). 3) Preorder the download of all 20 songs AND the physical copy (which includes a pretty extensive booklet featuring an essay by Mark Geil). All three of these options helps me pay the mortgage, so we Petersons give you a hearty thanks.

I hope these songs are a blessing to you and yours.


Rich Mullins Cover Night @ The Local Show

We’re super excited about tonight’s Local Show for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the first Local Show to feature a theme—something we hope to see more of as the show evolves. And second, it’s going to be an entire night of Rich Mullins songs as a slew of artists pay homage to the man who inspired so many of us. We hope you’ll join us tonight for this special show. It’s going to be a ton of fun.

To give you just a taste of what might happen, here’s a video of Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Jeremy Casella, and Andy Osenga covering “Calling Out Your Name” at a show a last month. Get your tickets here.

The Local Show – “Calling Out Your Name” from The Rabbit Room on Vimeo.

Listening to the Right Voices

Eleven years ago I knew exactly what kind of parent I was going to be. I had decided what books my daughters would read, what songs they would love to sing and how I would handle difficult situations.

It turns out that life cares little for my theories.

The challenges facing our children seem to grow on a daily basis and the truth is that some days I go to bed feeling like every choice I made turned out to be the wrong one. It feels like the future is approaching at an ever-increasing pace, relentlessly mocking my naïve arrogance and tempting me to give in to the fear that I have not adequately prepared my daughters for what lies ahead.

For me, one of the most sobering moments in the entire Old Testament narrative is when the children of Israel discover that the land they are ready to conquer is inhabited by giants. Crippled by fear for the future of their children, the Israelites turn back and head for the wilderness. Every time I read it I wonder whether I would have acted any differently in their shoes. Honestly, I doubt it. Sometimes, when I look at the world around me, the temptation to retreat can be almost overwhelming.

It strikes me that the thing which swayed the Israelites more than any other was the voice they chose to listen to. All twelve of the spies saw the same thing when they looked at Canaan. Giants. Strongholds. Danger. The facts were inescapable.

Live at North Wind Manor: Julie Lee & Friends

Next Saturday night we’re hosting a house concert for Julie Lee at North Wind Manor. We told you last week that Julie would be joined by Corrie Covell and Sarah Masen Dark, and this week were happy to announce that Ron Block will be joining in as well. We can’t wait to have you over for the evening. Bring a snack and enjoy the music (and the company). There are only about 20 tickets remaining and they’re available here.

Unfamiliar with Julie’s music? Check out this video of her performing the title track from her most recent album, Till & Mule.

And don’t forget about Rich Mullins Cover Night at next week’s Local Show. Tickets here.

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