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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.

Monday Music Update – 02/03/14

Jeremy Casella is in the midst of a new Kickstarter campaign for his forthcoming album, Death in Reverse. We’ll have more from Jeremy later in the week, but don’t miss your chance to hear the music early along with several other exclusives. Check out the campaign page for more information.

Don and Lori Chaffer are staying busy with several projects. They’re currently writing and demoing several country songs with writer Tom Douglas (“The House that Built Me”), writing instrumental music for licensing, and also slowly chipping away on a new Waterdeep record. The latter, according to Don, is “taking a very slow boat right now.”

Josh Garrels is finishing up construction of his new studio, and a new album will be underway as soon as it’s complete. The expected release date is sometime this summer, and the album will once again feature Mason Jar Music (who also appeared on Love & War & The Sea In Between) and A Boy & His Kite.

Jason Gray recently wrapped up his new record, Love Will Have The Final Word, and will release it on March 4. It was produced by Jason Ingram and Cason Cooley, and Jason says it might be his most personal group of songs yet. He says, “I didn’t write to a theme as much as I watched for one to emerge, and the common thread of all these songs is the power of love to heal fear and shame, and to make us new.” In addition, his son, Kipper, produced two songs that will appear on a special edition version of the record.

Eric Peters is releasing a brand new digital EP, Counting My Rings: B-Sides, tomorrow. The four-song EP includes three unreleased tracks and an unreleased demo of “Traveling Onion.” Look for full details tomorrow on the Rabbit Room.

While Chris Slaten, the man behind Son of Laughter, is currently on the hook for a spring semester of teaching, he’s also organizing a series of “free” house shows in the areas of Texas, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania during spring and summer breaks. If interested, you can e-mail Chris at

Monday Music Update – Jan 20, 2014

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors are heading on their first tour of Ireland and the United Kingdom, following their release of Good Light last February. The album debuted #1 on the iTunes singer-songwriter charts.

Ellie Holcomb is releasing her first full-length record, As Sure As The Sun, this spring after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign. The lead single, “The Broken Beautiful,” heads to Christian Radio on January 31st.

Sandra McCracken will be the featured musical guest, along with Lori Chaffer, at Laity Lodge for an upcoming women’s retreat from Jan 23-26. Speakers for the weekend are Laura Robinson Harbert and Susan E. Isaacs.

Andy Osenga‘s new EP, The Heart, should reach Kickstarter backers very soon. It will be available in the Rabbit Room Store in the next few weeks. Before he heads back out on the road with Steven Curtis Chapman and Josh Wilson (including a show at Carnegie Hall!), he’ll be working in the studio with Laura Story on a new Christmas record.

Eric Peters is releasing a new project, Counting My Rings: B-sides, on February 4. The digital-only release will feature four songs, including three previously unreleased tracks and an alternate version of “Traveling Onion,” originally heard on Chrome.

Jill Phillips is finished with half of the songs on a new record that she and Andy will record later this winter or spring. Of the recording, she says, “Andy and I are going to produce it ourselves this time and record at our house, the songs seem to be lending themselves to simplicity in production.”

While Chris Slaten, the man behind Son of Laughter, is currently on the hook for a spring semester of teaching, he’s also organizing a series of “free” house shows in the areas of Texas, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania during spring and summer breaks. If interested, you can e-mail Chris at

Monday Music Update – Jan 6, 2014

In the spirit of the new year, we’ve made a resolution to keep you more informed than ever, which means a new series called the Monday Music Update, a bi-weekly post about all of our favorite musicians and what they are up to. While some are still resting from busy touring seasons leading up to the holidays, other artists are already out of the gate in 2014. Here’s the latest:

Randall Goodgame, Andy Osenga, Eric Peters and Andrew Peterson will be participating in a special StageIt show from the Warren on Tuesday, January 7th. There are limited tickets, so make sure to head to the StageIt site and secure your spot fast.

Josh Garrels has made his three Love & War & The Sea In Between-related releases available for free on Noisetrade to those who still haven’t downloaded them all. The most recent entry is the audio soundtrack for The Sea In Between documentary. In addition, NPR recently featured Josh’s music in their story “A Christian Musician With More Questions Than Answers.”

Jason Gray has a few tour dates around the country in January and February before he heads out on The Bible Tour this spring. In conjunction with the popular mini-series, Gray will join Chris August, Sidewalk Prophets, and several others on a two-month spring tour hosted by World Vision.

Buddy Greene will be playing a few dates in Texas in January followed by a house show in Vail, Colorado at the end of the month. And for those of you still in the holiday spirit, don’t miss out on Buddy’s new album December’s Song.

Ellie Holcomb finishes up her first-ever Kickstarter campaign early this week for her new full-length album of scripture-inspired songs. She’s already well past her initial goal, but stretch goals and cool exclusives are still available if you’re interested.

Sandra McCracken will be the featured musical guest, along with Lori Chaffer, at Laity Lodge for an upcoming women’s retreat from Jan 23-26. Speakers for the weekend will be Laura Robinson Harbert and Susan E. Isaacs.

Andrew Osenga recently gave his fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of both tours that have taken up much of his fall and winter seasons. Osenga spent several weeks on the road with Steven Curtis Chapman on the Glorious Unfolding Tour and followed that up with another year on the Behold The Lamb of God tour. We’ll have an update soon enough on Osenga’s first of four EPs on the way (four-thcoming?), but for now check out the recaps before he heads back out on tour this spring with SCC.

Eric Peters will be playing a show in Nashville with Nick Flora and Jon Morris at Bongo Java’s After Hours Theater on Sat., January 11th. Tickets are $7. Sounds like a good time for a meet-up with local RR readers before hitting the show together.


My wife and I recently spent an evening out discussing our childhood memories of the holiday season. I didn’t have much to share. I am an only child raised by a single mother, so the discussion of Christmas tradition is a short one with me. One year, I remember convincing my mother to leave the decorations in the back of the closet. I didn’t feel like retrieving them and the fuss wasn’t worth livening up a house for two. She still regrets that one.

As a member of a small family who put very little thought or preparation into the Christmas season, it’s not a surprise that we got very little out of it. The season consisted of a few presents, an artificial tree, and visits with rarely-seen family members. Rinse, repeat.

One year my mother wanted to inject some meaning into the holiday, and it’s the only memory that stands out for me. I remember complaining when my mother said we were going to read the Bible before opening presents. Specifically, we read about the birth of Jesus. I was anxious to unwrap new toys, I’m sure, but I remember sitting there as a frustrated adolescent while my mother opened the scriptures and read aloud the birth narrative.

Fast forward several years. My wife and I are now awaiting a birth of our own. We’re just a few weeks away from the arrival of our baby boy. For the last several months, we’ve endured a wide range of emotions, asked questions, considered names, asked more questions, discussed parenting techniques, and prepared our home. We have painted and rearranged, registered and unwrapped, laughed and cried. We have inhabited our own advent season.

RR Interview: Arthur Alligood

If you were at this year’s Hutchmoot, you will undoubtedly remember the moment a roomful of people came alive to a new voice among the mix of Square Pegs and Friends. Arthur Alligood hadn’t picked up a guitar in over a year, and even then was uncertain how the night would go. After playing two songs, the songwriter described the night as a “glorious moment” and one that would lead to newfound inspiration.

If you’re new to Arthur’s music, his ability to stand out even in a songwriter’s circle speaks to his incredible ability to connect so deeply and meaningfully. His music is now available in the Rabbit Room store. Look for a sample of one of his songs at the end of the interview.

You just played Hutchmoot and told us it was your first time playing in a while. Just how long has it been?

I think I played a show last September if I am remembering correctly. It was miserable, I do remember that. There are not many things worse than being away when in your heart you just want to be home. So, its been a little over a year since I’ve performed. I desperately needed a break from the touring machine. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still on break.

But I can’t imagine a better way to reenter performing than to share a couple of songs at Hutchmoot! I feel grateful to have been invited to play. I’d like to attend the entire retreat next year, if I can get a ticket. I hear they go pretty fast.

For those who weren’t at Hutchmoot, the room came alive and people started clapping along to “Darkness to Light.” How was that moment for you?

RR Interview: Russ Ramsey

As the Advent season approaches, Behold The Lamb of God will be a popular topic of conversation around the Rabbit Room. Andrew Peterson’s album and subsequent tour has become a beloved tradition for many at Christmas time. The addition of Russ Ramsey’s book added a new dimension, telling the Advent narrative in 25 chapters as a lead-in to Christmas Day.

This year, we’re proud to introduce the special Behold the Lamb of God audiobook, read by Russ himself. The book was always intended to be read aloud, so the audiobook presents the material in the way it was intended to be taken in. The way in which we hear a story can alter it entirely, and Russ hopes the familiar becomes fresh in this new offering.

What’s the hidden challenge in making an audiobook? Is the process different than you thought it would be?

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).


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:

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.