Singled Out: Bradford Loomis' Stories
Americana star Bradford Loomis released his new album "Where The Light Ends" today (Oct 11) and to celebrate we asked him to tell us about the song "Stories." Here is the story:
I play a lot of House Shows or DIY concerts where I'm playing for a host in unusual spaces. It's been an incredible way to meet my supporters and see the country. A few years ago, I was touring through the St. Louis area and had a woman named Kelly interested in hosting, but she lived in a small apartment. We were trying to brainstorm some ideas for a venue and she came to me with an unique idea. She volunteered through the chaplaincy and her seminary at a men's max 5 penitentiary and she told me, "The fellas would love if you would come play for them." I thought, "Heck yeah! I'll be Johnny Cash!" Man, was I in for a surprise!
A few months later I met up with Kelly, and we headed out to Potosi Correctional Center. We arrived a couple hours early so that they could give me a guided tour of the facilities. As we were headed in, Kelly stopped me and said, "Just so you know, none of these men are in for unpaid parking tickets. You are going to see men who are in here for molestation, rape, murder, you name it. I'm not going to tell you who did what though. Some of the men you are going to meet today are on death row." I have to admit I was a bit intimidated at her revelation. But I was more confused as to why she would tell me that but not include some seemingly important information about who did what. I later came to understand why she said that, and it changed my life.
I left the prison with a much greater understanding into the complexities and complications of our penal system. It was an incredibly profound experience.
Fast forward two years and I was playing STL and hanging with Kelly again. She told me that one of the men on death row that I had met just happened to be having a hearing for the appeal of his death sentence the very next day. I asked her if I could go with her since she was going, and so the next morning we set out. Now, at this point I still didn't know what he was in for or any of the details.
When we walked into that small courtroom in that 900-person town in southern Missouri, we entered a room full of tension and stern-faced police officers. Over the next five hours, as we listened to the grizzly details, I discovered that he had been found guilty of murdering a police officer.
At a break in the proceedings Kelly said, "Let's see if we can say hello." As I was shaking his hand, I was struck with the fact that I have never met someone, or touched someone, accused of murder. That physical touch was somehow significant. I hadn't felt compelled to decide whether he was innocent or guilty, I just sat in that tension. But this seemed different. As I was lost in my thoughts the only other civilian in the room handed him a slip of paper. He opened it and read Jeremiah 29:11. He then proceeded to recite it from memory. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This seemed significant as well.
As we drove back to St. Louis, I was struck with an understanding as to Kelly's words so long ago. She hadn't told me what the men had done, so that I could see the humanity in them. That in spite of the darkness of their stories, I would be able to see that they were still men just like me. There is a power in vulnerability and sharing your story, but there might be more power in listening to someone else's story.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album right here!
Singled Out: Bradford Loomis' Stories