What I'm Grateful For: 2023

What I'm Grateful For 2023
by Kara Manning | 12/13/2023 | 12:01am

Devon Gilfillian, Jaime Wyatt, Louis Cato, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash, Abraham Alexander, Olivia Dean, Tarriona Ball, Madison Cunningham, Tré Burt(photos: E. Afolabi,J. Domingue,S. Lainez, A. Morgan,P. Springsteen, C. Wise, Petros, J. Tau, C.M. Vogel)

A couple of years ago, as a pandemic-era holiday season launched with turkeys, tinsel, and vaccines, we asked artists we admired about their thoughts on gratitude. We loved the responses we received in 2021 and 2022, circling around the songs, charities, and moments/people/things that meant the most to musicians — and this year is no different.

During a chaotic time in the world (which seems a theme for too many years), a reminder of what matters most is invaluable. This year we're thankful that these artists have generously offered their angles on gratitude: Abraham Alexander, Tarriona "Tank" Ball of Tank and the Bangas, Tré Burt, Rosanne Cash, Louis Cato, Madison Cunningham, Olivia Dean, Devon Gilfillian, Rickie Lee Jones, Grace Potter, and Jaime Wyatt:

What have you been most grateful for in 2023?

Rosanne Cash: I’m most grateful for my husband, John Leventhal. I had to go through knee replacement surgery in September, and it was more complicated than expected. I really got to see the full picture of who I married when I needed a lot of hands-on, physical, and emotional care. It turns out I married a champion with an enormous heart and a ton of patience.

Devon Gilfillian: It feels like there’s too much that I am grateful for. I got to go on the Cayamo cruise early this year; go to the UK and Europe for the first time with My Morning Jacket; we performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"; and now we’re back with My Morning Jacket this week to end off the year. I’m more and more grateful for my team, my band, and my family around me on this music adventure. I’m grateful I get to do life with people that pull me up so much when I’m down and exhausted.

Grace Potter: My amazing family, both at home and on the road. I’ve had the extraordinary honor of surrounding myself with humans who care deeply for one another and love and respect each other, especially when the road gets rough.

Madison Cunningham: The power of honesty in music. How we can pour the best and worst versions of ourselves into it and there is bound to be someone out there who it means something to. That — and my bulldog Gus. She loves me no matter what.

Olivia Dean: I have been most grateful for people connecting with my debut album, Messy. and all the amazing new places I’ve got to see in the world!

Abraham Alexander: Seeing my dream come to fruition has been the most gratifying and fulfilling experience of 2023. The journey was filled with challenges and hard work, but the sense of accomplishment and pride I feel now is beyond words. It's a reminder that persistence, dedication, and a clear vision can lead to remarkable achievements.

Jaime Wyatt: While I played so many amazing stages this year, I think I am most grateful for the performance at the Newport Folk Festival. I was so honored to grace those hallowed grounds, and do hope I can go back again.

Louis Cato: 2023 has been a year of transition in absolutely every area of my life, and as such I have been most grateful for my circle of close friends that continue to go out of their way to be there for me through it all.

Rickie Lee Jones: That I and the folks I love are alive. I lost my brother this week. We have our health, we have our humor. And that we are a fairly optimistic bunch. We laugh a lot. Specific to 2023 as opposed to a few years ago … I must tell you that every single moment Donald Trump is not in any kind of public chair is a great day. A great year. The spirit likes to forget pain, so it's easy to forget how bad it was just a little while ago when Donald Trump, a crude and vile con man, money launderer, rapist, and molester of democracy-made decisions on behalf of the nation, set a tone of contempt we are still recovering from. So it's been a great year. We must not become complacent in our relief. And, oh yeah — I did get to finally put out my jazz record, Pieces of Treasure, with my old friend and producer Russ Titelman. It's a lovely record, and our reunion in the studio was fantastic.

Tarriona "Tank" Ball: I’ve been the most grateful for my friendships. They’ve been so supportive and loving but that’s pretty much always!

Tré Burt: This year I’m most grateful for family, community, and friends. They’ve kept me afloat and heartened.

Is there a particular cause or charity that means a lot to you ... and why?

Rosanne Cash: There are several I support, but at the moment my heart is extra devoted to Donors Choose, which provides under-served classrooms with desperately needed supplies — everything from books to chairs to snacks. Years ago, when I was on the Stephen Colbert show, he gave me a gift card already paid to Donors Choose, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It feels amazing to know a teacher stocked her classroom with my help.

Devon Gilfillian: I’m a huge fan of this non-profit called Equity Alliance based in Tennessee. They educate underprivileged communities on the democratic process and get those people registered to vote, empowering them to use their voices in our country. I teamed up with them in 2020 to help combat the voter suppression that is rampant in the South and all over in the United States. To me, this is a huge issue and I want to help combat it in any way possible.

Grace Potter: The Resilience Course, created by Dr. Lindsay Jernigan. Dr. Jernigan’s grief counseling provided me and my band with some transformative and much-needed connection when we lost one of our crew just this past Halloween. Her e-course, "Reboot: Resilience," makes support widely accessible. Sponsorships of the course allow Dr. Jernigan to provide guidance and counseling for families who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

Madison Cunningham: Candelas Guitars in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles is a classical, mariachi, family-owned guitar shop, where the guitars are built in house by the owners, and they have a nonprofit that funds guitar lessons for local youth.

Olivia Dean: VUSS Surf School in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. I got to spend some time with them in January. They teach kids the beauty of surfing and being in the water and how good that can be for your mental health.

Abraham Alexander: I was adopted, and this personal experience has made Gladney Center for Adoption an exceptionally important charity for me. Being adopted allowed me to have a loving and supportive family, and I understand the profound impact such organizations can have on the lives of children. Gladney's mission to provide a better future for children and support families resonates deeply with my own story. Their dedication to ensuring that every child has a chance at a loving home is a cause close to my heart, as it reflects the transformative power of adoption.

Jaime Wyatt: There are so many. I recently played a charity event for WakeUp Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. I was so impressed with their mission and impact. My show raised $18,000 for people who need and want treatment but can not afford it. I wouldn’t be alive without my recovery and I will do whatever I can for those in need. Also, I really love Jail Guitar Doors — I encourage everyone to check them out as well.

Louis Cato: The cause of music education in the United States means a lot to me. I’ve been so positively affected by the vast benefits of having a relationship with music, and I deeply believe in the value of our children having access to those same benefits.

Rickie Lee Jones: I like to support small charities, organizations that might be just one or two folks trying to do good locally. I follow the wild mustang and wild donkey battle with the Bureau of Land Management — that's kind of heart wrenching. They are supposed to protect the animals not just serve the cattle barons by killing horses. Hmm. Well, I grew up in the west so this is old stuff. I love the Audubon Society, I am a member. Birds make me very happy.

But I must say, my neighbor Gary L., he himself is a kind of charity. I watch him every day. He cleans up the garbage in the park by the tracks, he removed weeds between the cracks with a knife, he replants the trees that are lost in storms, and he often mows the grass in the park that he made, so people can enjoy it. Gary cleans up after the people who come there and then leave garbage and needles and such. The city rarely comes with even a garbage truck. He empties the garbage. He sweeps the sidewalks and cleans the leaves off the street. He is a most amazing fellow, part of the associations that monitor and enforce by laws and try to get a fair shake when the five or six houses closest to the Press Street tracks have their taxes raised more than anyone else for blocks! Gary means a lot to our neighborhood, he has brought us all together. We are the closest thing to "Sesame Street" a neighborhood could be. Gary is a charity that has really changed the world around him.

Tarriona "Tank" Ball: I love the fact that Trombone Shorty started the Trombone Shorty Foundation which gives instruments to children all over the world and New Orleans. Music is so powerful and healing and in that I believe that when you start a kid out on a positive trail early in life, it can guide them to the future they truly deserve.

Tré Burt: A foundation I’m very fond of is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. As a kid, it kept me out of a lot of trouble and a safe place to be after school.

When you look back at your life as a musician, what song are you most grateful to have written and why?

Rosanne Cash: I could say I am most grateful to have written "Seven Year Ache," as it is my most successful. It was a number one record and has airplay in the multi-millions. I am grateful for it, but honestly, I’m most grateful for the songs I wrote that were closest to the vision I had in my head for them: the songs in which I got out of my own way while writing and let them reach their potential. "The World Unseen" is one.

Devon Gilfillian: I’m most proud of “Love You Anyway” in this moment. I’ve seen how it brings people together and makes people want to have those hard conversations about different views. I hope it can bring people together all over the world in this time.

Grace Potter: “Stars." To this day, it brings me to my knees. It invites people to feel the deepest pain and feel seen and held in their loss while offering a wink and a nudge toward love and even humor. I still don’t know how that song fell into my lap but I’m glad it did.

Madison Cunningham: "Life According To Raechel" is the one people associate me most with. I felt taken seriously as a songwriter after that one, and everything felt a little more possible. It’s the song I don’t feel like I can leave out of a set.

Olivia Dean: "Messy." When I’m singing it live and I see people singing it back to me I can see that it brings people a real sense of warmth and acceptance within them, and that was my goal when I was writing it.

Abraham Alexander: No song to me is greater; I love them all for what they are. It's like choosing a child. Each song I've written holds a special place in my heart, and they are all unique in their own way. They are like chapters in the story of my musical journey, and I wouldn't be the artist I am today without any one of them. It's not about picking a favorite; it's about embracing the collective expression of my creativity and the different emotions and experiences each song represents. They are all a part of me, and I'm grateful for the entire musical tapestry they've helped me weave throughout my career.

Jaime Wyatt: This question certainly depends on when you ask. Right now it is "Hold Me One Last Time," which is a song on my new album, Feel Good. I honestly love all the songs on this record so much, however, this song kinda stands out right now for me. It helped me heal after my last relationship while still appreciating and acknowledging the beauty we had. It's such a big epic song and I adore performing it. Maybe I also love it so much because it's so wild to play.

Louis Cato: I think so far, I’m most grateful to have written the song “Human” from the new album (Reflections). I’m grateful that I was able to achieve that degree of clarity in my emotional landscape, and I’m even more grateful that once I put it out, people were able to connect with the honesty in truly meaningful ways.

Rickie Lee Jones: Hmmm. From my place as a writer, “The Last Chance Texaco.” It is still one of the most unique songs I have ever heard. But I must mention “The Horses” too, because it's made so many people happy through the years. I wrote it for the baby I was about to have, Charlotte, so it's very deep for me. Maybe that's why it struck such a chord with people — it's a living anthem to my daughter. 

Tarriona "Tank" Ball: I'm so grateful that I wrote "Rollercoasters" to remind people to fall in love over and over again; "Black Folk" for the love letter to my community; and "Stolen Fruit" for an ode to where we came from and where we are going.

Tré Burt: There’s still many songs to be written but today I’d say the song I’m most grateful to have written is "Traffic Fiction." It gave vision to a new sound I was approaching when I was forming a new direction.

- November 2023

Abraham Alexander released his critically-acclaimed debut album SEA/SONS this year and tours in the winter of 2024 with Black Violin. Watch/listen to his 2023 FUV Live concert from The Bitter End.

Tarriona "Tank" Ball and her bandmates with Tank and the Bangas just wrapped a residency at New York's Blue Note in November and release a new EP, Floating, on November 24.

Tré Burt released his third album, Traffic Fiction, this year on Oh Boy Records and kicks off his "Traffic Fiction" tour in January 2024.

Rosanne Cash is celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Wheel, an album she describes as being about "transformation," via a newly released expanded and remastered edition. Co-produced by Cash and John Leventhal, she will mark the anniversary with a 2024 tour, "Reinventing The Wheel," which includes two dates at New York's City Winery on January 15 and 16.

Louis Cato is the bandleader for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," and he also released a new album, Reflections, earlier this year. He performs on November 28 at Lincoln Center with Cory Wong, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Chris Thile.

Madison Cunningham was nominated for a 2024 Grammy in the category of "Best American Roots Performance" for "Inventing the Wheel" from the 2023 expanded edition of her 2022 album, Revealer. It's Madison's fifth nomination. She'll support John Mayer on his EU/UK tour beginning in March 2024.

Olivia Dean was nominated for a Mercury Prize this year for her debut album, Messy. She recently released the Ladies Room EP and has an extensive UK/EU tour in 2024.

Devon Gilfillian's second album of original songs, Love You Anyway, was released earlier this year and the title track is a hit for the Tennessee-based musician. Watch/listen to Devon's 2023 FUV Live concert from Rockwood Music Hall and see him on tour in 2024.

Rickie Lee Jones's Grammy-nominated 2023 album, Pieces of Treasure, not only finds her covering beloved jazz standards, but working with producer Russ Titelman again. (Titelman co-produced her 1980 self-titled debut and 1981's Pirates.) She tours the West Coast and Australia in early 2024.

Grace Potter released her latest solo album, Mother Road, this year. She has a slew of dates in 2024, but first, she'll make her Holiday Cheer for FUV debut on December 6 at the Beacon Theatre, joining The Gaslight Anthem, Iron & Wine, Thee Sacred Souls, and host Nicole Atkins.

Jaime Wyatt recently released her third album, Feel Good, produced by Black Pumas' Adrian Quesada. Jaime played an FUV Live concert at The Bitter End in October which will be featured on FUV the week of December 4. She has a winter 2024 tour ahead which includes a stop at Music Hall of Williamsburg on February 7.

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