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Matt Conner

writer, music journalist

Matt Conner is a freelance writer and journalist who has interviewed nearly everyone who has ever played music. That isn't entirely true.

RR interview: Ellie Holcomb

Every holiday season, many of us enjoy the old, old story of Christmas told through the songs of Andrew Peterson and friends. Behold the Lamb of God has become a holiday tradition in the last decade, and the Proprietor serves his audience well by inviting such a talented group of friends to carry the message alongside him. Each year brings a new face or two on the winter tour, and this year Ellie Holcomb is the newcomer.

For those who aren’t acquainted with her work alongside husband Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors or her own solo releases (check out her new EP, With You Now), you’ll find that Ellie’s delicate vocals fit perfectly into the BTLOG mix.

You’re on the Behold the Lamb of God tour this year for the first time, correct?

Yes. I’m in a band with my husband and it’s called Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, and every year for the past five or six years we’ve done a Christmas tour ourselves, and it has been awesome. But because of that, I have never been able to actually go to a Behold the Lamb of God show. We just always make sure we’re not doing our Christmas show in Nashville on the same days they’re doing Lamb of God. We usually have to make sure we go to a different city.

Last year was the first chance I had to go. We had just had out little girl—she was maybe two weeks old— and because I’d had a baby, we weren’t doing our Christmas tour to the same degree. So we ended up being in town on the same night as the show, and I just laughed and wept through the whole thing. It was so wonderful. I was like, “This is the best thing ever!”

Review: Over the Rhine – Meet Me at the Edge of the World

[Over at my website, Stereo Subversion, John Barber recently reviewed the wonderful new double album from Over the Rhine. Here's what he had to say.]

Nobody does double albums like Over the Rhine. Their 2003 magnum opus, Ohio, is one of the best records of the 21st century. Married couple Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler consistently deliver good music album after album, and in terms of quality, Meet Me at the Edge of the World is no different. Nor is it a surprise when the new album is a double. For fans of the band, it’s like finding out that twins are on the way.

What’s different about this record is the tone. Meet Me at the Edge of the World is unique in that it feels a bit like the listener is an intruder, eavesdropping on something special. The audience is somehow a witness to a great love story. The songs are intimate and quiet. They’re love songs written and sung by Detweiler and Bergquist to each other, and most importantly, for each other.

You can read the rest of John Barber’s review at Stereo Subversion.

RR Interview: Melanie Penn

“If I had a donut for every time I’ve listened to this album I’d be dead by now.” -The Proprietor, on Melanie Penn’s Wake Up Love.

After winning us over with her debut three years ago, Melanie Penn returns this fall with Hope Tonight. Working once again with Ben Shive, Melanie believes if you’re a fan of the first album then this one will win you over, too. We talked to Melanie to find out how she’s been spending her time and what to expect on Hope Tonight.

Can you tell us what you’ve been up to creatively speaking?

I finished production on the new album, Hope Tonight. Ben Shive produced it and partnering together again for this album brought a lot of joy, laughs, and inspiration. I also had the opportunity to bring Steve Elliot to Nashville to record a lot of the guitars. It was great to involve a musician from my New York family—something I wasn’t able to do on Wake Up Love.

There’s some other stuff happening in New York. I try to be involved as much as I can in sessions, and I love co-writing with some dear friends there. I’m also singing in other bands, and leading worship at Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Resurrection Park Slope. My main push this fall, though, will be to get Hope Tonight out there.

You have your debut in the rearview mirror, so did the approach to the new album feel different?

RR Interview: Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet was ready to dream again, so he quit his dream jobs to carve out some space for that to happen. Now he’s stepping out into the unknown to allow new stories to come to life. If you’re familiar with Auralia’s Colors or Through a Screen Darkly, then you know to expect good things. Jeffrey is  one of our speakers this year at Hutchmoot 2013 and we recently caught up with him to find out a little about what he’s up to.

I saw recently that you cleared your freelance slate for the first time since 2001 so you can “dream new stories.” Can you tell us about making that move? Do you have any glimpses of what’s to come?

It’s complicated. And it will sound crazy—but yes, I’ve pretty much quit all of my dream jobs.

RR Interview: Subjects With Objects co-author DKM

[Special pre-release copies of Subjects with Objects are now available exclusively in the Rabbit Room store. We also have high-quality SubwOb art prints and weird greeting cards!]

If you were fortunate enough to support and score a copy of the newest Rabbit Room Press title, Subjects With Objects, then you know how enchanting the mix of Jonathan Richter’s painting and DKM’s poetic commentary can be. The book is both intriguing and inspirational, much like its writer, the mysterious poet known as DKM.

In this Rabbit Room interview, I’ve probed the mysteries behind those initials to learn a bit more about the man as well as to discuss the beauty of the project itself. The bad news? We’re still no closer to knowing who he is. The good news? There’s more Subjects with Objects to come.

Who exactly is DKM? Can you unveil any of the mystery behind the initials?

In the standard English Alphabet, one typically has 26 letters to choose from. Occasionally one is able to slip a 27th past the gatekeepers, and if it’s late enough or those in authority are drunk enough, then there have been a handful of recorded cases of this or that writer in this or that obscure corner of the English-speaking world managing to wedge in a 28th letter (most-often disguised as one of the lower 26). Shakespeare is even rumored to have discovered a 29th and 30th letter during the writing of King Lear, but if the stuff of such legend has any basis in fact, those letters were quickly repressed or purposely obscured in translation.

In order not to incur undue attention from those who monitor such things however, I restricted myself from the outset of the Subjects With Objects project, not only to the 26-letter variation, but to a subset of that: only those letters that have an utterly vertical line in their design. The reasons for this should be obvious, so I won’t condescend to explain them here. Plus, it wouldn’t be safe for any of us. At any rate, having narrowed my letter choice to 13 candidates for a 3 letter combination (any more would have been cost prohibitive!), I was faced with 2,197 (13 x 13 x13) possible letter combinations. To save time, I simply chose the first one I could think of: DKM.

It has a decided lack of elegance. It was clearly the antithesis of mellifluous and therefore well-suited to being a repository of mystery, as it were. When people go by initials, it’s mostly JJ or AJ or DJ or JK or RJ (Are we beginning to see a pattern here..?). Something simple and easy to say and, let’s be honest, something that prominently features a “J.” There, I’ve said it. Somebody needed to. Let the chips fall where they may.

Much rarer in recorded history are those who have been branded by three initials in the public imagination: MLK, FDR, LBJ, JFK, RFK, but again we begin to see a definite pattern: One must either be president of the United States, be running for president, or at least be a controversial national political figure before one is granted the three initial formation.

So in adopting the DKM moniker, I was both subverting tradition, and making a statement: You do not know who I am. You will not know who I am. I might be hidden in the light, or the shadow. I might be your grandfather, your neighbor, or one of thousands of unfollowed bloggers in the grey Northwest. I might be a hacker, an anarchist, an artist or a theologian. I might be a fact, a fiction, or a fact masquerading as a fact masquerading as a fiction.

In short, as DKM I might be anything you hope or believe me to be, and its exact opposite—at the same time. As DKM I am free to haunt the dim recesses of your imagination, poking and prodding as is necessary. I am the ghost in the machine, at the end of the day inexplicable even to myself.

Also, it makes book signings 70% quicker, with less chance of hand cramps.

It’s either presidential or serial killer-esque. Either way, why not enjoy the spotlight?

Andy Osenga House Show Tour

From the release of his incredible Leonard the Lonely Astronaut to his face-melting performance at Hutchmoot 2013, it’s been a great season for Andy Osenga.

This week Andy announced that he’s venturing out this fall on a house show tour. If you’ve caught any of his recent StageIt shows, you already have some idea of how intimate his music can be. Head over to Andy’s website to catch all of the details and see how easy it is to host a show yourself! In addition, a portion of the proceeds from the tour will benefit the ministry efforts of Young Life.

If you’re new to Leonard, you can hear Andy talk more about the new album here in our Rabbit Room interview. Also catch part of his performance at Hutchmoot below:

RR Contest: Son of Laughter’s “The Mantis and the Moon”

To highlight The Mantis and the Moon, the new release from Chris Slaten, aka Son of Laughter, we’ve got a new contest for you. Yesterday we posted the title track for you to stream, and now we’re giving away a copy of the EP to two different winners.

How to enter? 

1. Share the Mantis and the Moon release announcement post on Facebook and leave us a comment (here on this post) to let us know you’ve passed it along (or else we won’t know to enter you into the contest).

OR

2. Share the Mantis and the Moon release announcement post on Twitter using the hashtag #SonofLaughter.

It’s that simple and that easy. Entries must be submitted before Sunday night at 5:00pm CST. Winners will be announced on Monday.

Also, Chris is currently booking a series of house shows. If you’re interested in hosting one, please contact him at sonoflaughtermusic (at) gmail (dot) com.

Dave Eggers on The Writing Life

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the artistic process as much as by an artist’s completed work. Whether it’s interviewing a musician about her craft or reading an essay about the writing life, I’m consistently drawn into the thought process, the equipment used, the joys and frustrations. When I recently came across a Dave Eggers column (which is not recent) about his own writing process, I knew I was in for something worthwhile.

I first read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius back in 2000. His memoir is tragic, manic, hilarious, disconcerting, and emotional. It’s also my favorite book. I’ll never forget the impact of that first time through an Eggers novel, and it’s a journey I’ve taken several times since.

A Heartbreaking Work, winner of the Pulitzer for non-fiction in 2000, was the first of several celebrated releases by Eggers. What is the What won the Prix Médicis, Zeitoun won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and his latest, A Hologram for the King, was a finalist for the National Book Award. He wrote the screenplays for Away We Go and Where the Wild Things Are, and he also founded McSweeney’s, which if you don’t know, is a source for wonderful literary things of all shades.

I write all of this not only because I greatly admire Eggers, but because he’s a remarkable writer. This is important because to read his take on “the writing life” is to get a glimpse into something rather unremarkable. Despite the awards on the bio, a peek behind the curtain reveals an ordinary man with an ordinary routine sitting at an ordinary work space dealing with ordinary struggles. In short, Dave Eggers is human. Here’s the article. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

And here is where I spend seven or eight hours at a stretch. Seven or eight hours each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write—sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen—I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It’s a terrible, unconscionable ratio.

Click here to read the rest of Eggers’s piece.

RR Contest: Leif Enger’s So Brave, Young and Handsome

This week, we’re giving away a copy of So Brave, Young and Handsome, the second novel by this year’s Hutchmoot special guest, Leif Enger. The Rabbit Room community recently read through the book and held a discussion of it in six parts, so if you win be sure to go back and follow along as you read. It’s never too late to join the conversation.

How do I win? you ask? Take to the Twittersphere and share a link to the book’s discussion post using the hashtag #leifmoot. That’s it.

The link to use: www.rabbitroom.com/2013/04/discussion-so-brave-young-and-handsome

The hashtag to use: #leifmoot

The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday.

Fine Print: Neither Leif Enger nor Charlie Siringo are allowed to win this contest. Neither is Pete Peterson.

RR Contest: The Zero Gravity C.S. Lewis Edition

My mom always told me that winning isn’t everything. Or maybe it was winners can’t be choosers…or losers. Either way, there was something about winning in there that I was supposed to learn. However the one thing I’ve learned about winning is that it’s fun, so to that end we’re excited about a new weekly feature that we’ve creatively named The Rabbit Room Contest.

Every Monday, you’ll find a brand new contest post detailing the prize(s) available. The goals will change from time to time, but the ultimate goal is to give you that exhilarating feeling of having bested everyone else. Pride. Glory. You know, the fruits of the Spirit.

For our first Rabbit Room Contest, it’s appropriate to give a nod to the man who provided an inspiration to us all: Clive Staples Lewis. This week’s prize will be a brand new set of Lewis’s celebrated space trilogy, which includes Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

So what does it take to win? This week, we’re asking you, dear reader, to add a review to the Rabbit Room store. Whether you are purchasing a new product or remembering something you’ve owned for a long time, we’d love to give other art lovers a better idea of what they might enjoy in the store. Have an opinion on your favorite Andy Gullahorn album? Want to weigh in with your take on a Jonathan Rogers novel? Let us know in the Rabbit Room store (every item in the store has space for user reviews) sometime between today and Thursday evening at 5 p.m. (CT) and you’ll be automatically entered to win. Winners will be randomly selected. At random.

Winners will be notified personally and we’ll announce the winner each Friday morning.

Fine print: Original members of the Inklings are not eligible to win. Neither is Pete Peterson.