By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
By Jena Ardell
By Mary Willson
By Bree Davies
By Tom Murphy
By Tom Murphy
Nowhere is this clearer than in the "Sunday Prayer" series of songs. Every Sunday, Strackany revisits and revises a recurring song concept. The vocal melody is more or less the same from week to week, as are the first line and last verse of the lyrics, but the rest of the song evolves and changes, depending on what the songwriter feels moved to explore. In this series, the listener gains the most insight into Paleo's internal odyssey. On April 16, 2006, at the outset of the project, Strackany begins with a sweet, wistful line: "Time and time again, I like to share a drink with friends." This is the voice of the small-town boy who longs for the comfort of those who know and love him best. By February 25, 2007 (or 313 days, 127 cities, 37 states, 172 shows, 47,322 miles and 45 Sundays later), we hear: "Time and time again, who is that monster in the mirror?"
Perhaps it's not surprising that the tone has changed slightly. After all, traveling constantly, leaving behind all that's familiar and forcing yourself to write a song every day has got to take its toll.
"I'm pretty at peace with travel these days," Strackany declares. "The highs are rounded down, and the lows are filled in a bit. I miss having a favorite diner, but I find one in every new town. I miss my friends, but I meet people who look like them and talk like them every day. It sort of becomes its own kind of routine. At some point, I stopped feeling like I was moving at all -- more like the world was moving under me, and I was pretty much standing still."
Even the songwriting, which might seem like a burden, doesn't have that weight for Strackany. "I don't think it's really answered anything for me in the way that I thought it would," he confesses. "But I feel much more at home with myself than when I started. There were definitely demons to exorcise, and this process created some new ones, but I wouldn't use the word 'burden.'"
In fact, the project itself has, at times, been the only thing to get the songwriter through another day. "Last night I had the stomach flu," he recounts. "I was in a town where I didn't know anyone. I ended up sleeping for eighteen hours and throwing up in the street. I couldn't even drive, so I couldn't go anywhere. In moments like that, it feels less like a burden and more like an anchor -- it becomes the thing that makes the terrible worth it. The only thing good that came out of that experience was that I wrote a song." That song is appropriately titled "All Misery and No Company."
There's a Zen-like tranquility to Strackany's acceptance of his life and the world as it is. Though his songs are filled with characters who are alternately distraught and enraptured, despondent and transcendent, the man himself is remarkably self-possessed. In a few short weeks, all that he has known for the past year -- the project, the diary, the tour -- will come to an end, but even that prospect fails to perturb him. Talk to most young musicians and they'll tell you that they want to keep making music and touring as long as they can get away with it. But Strackany's musical ambitions are part of a much bigger picture.
"The day after it's done, I'll probably want to write a song, but I won't," he predicts. "What I put my efforts into is going to change a bit. I'm getting most of what I needed to get out of traveling. If I stay on the road for two or three more years, more people would be into what I'm doing, but it wouldn't be challenging, and I wouldn't learn anything from it.
"When it gets to be about popularity," he concludes, "it isn't really about anything at all. Art is a path to peace, understanding and being a better human, as long as you're using it the right way. And I feel like I'm running out of time."