Out now on Whitelabrecs

I heard the term “a tree hollow” described in an NPR story memorializing the death of Dr. Li Wenliang one year after he passed due to COVID-19. Dr. Li had been the first to sound the alarm and he died of the virus in the nascent days of the global pandemic. “You find a tree hollow in the forest and seal your written secret in there so you can feel better,” Huang Zhisheng, a professor and researcher at the Free University Amsterdam explained of the Chinese tradition. Since his death Dr Li’s lingering social media presence had posthumously transformed, and people were sealing messages on his unattended page.

“I quarreled with my mother today”

“Will I pass my graduate exams tomorrow, Dr. Li?”

“Dr. Li, I pet a cute orange cat today! I’m happy!”

不能 “I can’t”

不明白 “I don’t understand.”

In 2018, as I prepared to move away from Chicago with my wife and daughter to rejoin family in Texas, we received news of a friends disappearance, then of their death. We pushed the move date to make it to the funeral and made a hasty goodbye to our home. Two months later we learned of the death of our niece, stillborn within weeks of her due date. Shortly after that funeral, a family fracture emerged that cast a dark shadow of doubt over our decision to leave Chicago.

In the oppressive Texas rains of late 2018, I began rebuilding a studio in the spare bedroom. As we emerged from grief, as family bonds were slowly restored, as trust in others and ourselves was replenished, and as we found focus and budding purpose in our Fort Worth community, I began writing these pieces – for myself. I eventually decided to share a few of the tracks in early 2019 but ended up sitting on the work for over two years, first delayed by my own self-doubt and then by the cataclysms of 2020. In the face of such global and systemic tragedies, what could I say?

It wasn’t until I heard the story of Dr. Li in February of 2021 that I found a renewed interest in this project. These pieces had been a tree hollow in the forest, into which I had sealed my secrets so that I could feel better. That was enough for me, but moreover, I found hope that there might be enough room in them into which an audience might place their own secrets.

(Note: This album was originally released under the artist name Tum Tum)