you have to be okay

by Deadbelly

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I put this album together in the weeks and days before Nate died. It was intended to be given to him/made public as yet another little push, another weapon for him to carry against death. I was feeling somehow pressured to finish it and give it to him, but I was working on an instrumental piano track (still unfinished) that I wanted to include. One particularly difficult day, I sent him just “Still low (but rising)”—the first song I’d ever written for him (and I’ve written many) that carried no cutting edge, no apology for loving him, no joking tone to ease the embarrassment of how we felt about each other. Aside from “For Ma”, which was written for my mother’s birthday in April but is appropriate for this project, “Still low (but rising)” is the only song on this album that he was able to hear before he died. In fact, he sounded a little absent on the phone the night before he died and I recorded him the “Dead Flowers” cover and emailed it to him, challenging him to record me something and send it back. When we spoke on the morning he died, he said he was going to get off the phone and listen to it and send something back right away. Recently, I went to check my email and found that he was logged in on that computer, my email still bold and unread in his inbox.

Of course one response to all this is to feel spooked or unsettled, somehow further devastated. This is not my intention. Please don’t listen to this until you are ready. I have hesitated to make this music public not only because I’d lost my voice for a time, but also because I did not want to accidentally upset anyone’s grieving process. If it means anything to you, this music comes from me to you with peace of mind (his and my own). Njal is okay now.

Sitting with him in my kitchen in Easthampton, MA just a few days before his death, he was laughing and talking to me about everything. He mentioned most of you, he spoke of heartbreakingly awful experiences and emotions, and of perfect victories. Of consonance and dissonance with himself and others and the world. We were excitedly making plans (together and apart) for this week, next month, next year, and beyond. He was better than I’d ever seen him since the day that I met him, truly. At one point that night, we were talking about a moment a few weeks ago where we were standing at the edge of a field in the Hampshire woods. He was staring across the field at a mountain and as I walked up to him, part of his song “Emerging Stars” (Cladonia Rangiferina/ Flight of the Hound-Hunted) interrupted all my thoughts and played back to me as loud and clear as the recording. When I reached the spot where he stood, he gestured ahead to the field and mountain and said “this is where ‘Emerging Stars’ came from.” I just replied, “I know” but did not have the words to explain the full experience to him until that moment in my kitchen weeks later. When I told him this, he just chuckled and said “Ha! Yea, magick is real, duh.”

I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again.

Rest easy, Njal. Love you without end. I would go to battle with or for you literally any day. It has been my honor, never my burden.


released January 13, 2016



all rights reserved


Deadbelly Mirambeau, France

digging myself a shallow grave, light ain't shit but a map of a map. sorry Ma, I truly am.

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