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From the Pacific Northwest to New Orleans--Tennessee to the Texas hill country--singer, songwriter, novelist, and poet Alex Rasmussen has spent much of the last several years traveling the United States and sharing his music: a unique blend of folk and rock fueled by the adventures and heartaches of a nomadic spirit. With hundreds of performances under his belt, and a million new experiences to mold into art, the Seattle native is now hunkering down in San Diego, where he is writing a second novel and working on new songs.

His latest musical release, Make it Real, is a five-song EP recorded in Los Angeles by Grammy-winning producer / engineer Sheldon Gomberg (Ben Harper, Peter Case). The tracks feature a skilled cast of LA studio musicians, including Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, who contributed violin and vocal harmonies to "Make a Living" and "Back to Nashville." Make it Real is now available in the "music" section of this site and on all streaming services. 

Alex's novel, Coloring outside the Lines--based on experiences collected while street-performing between Seattle and San Francisco--is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Coloring-Outside-Lines-Alex-Rasmussen/dp/1519624735

His poetry collection, Inside out, can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Inside-out-Alex-Rasmussen/dp/1790828384/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548871756&sr=8-1&keywords=inside+out+alex+rasmussen

Shovels, Sweat, and a Glimmer of Hope 

How a Day of Dirty Work Changed the Life of One Homeless San Diegan


Two weeks ago, I answered a Craigslist ad for a construction job seeking applicants who were “good with a shovel.” Though my dirt-moving skills had never been officially tested, I was sure I qualified. 

After showing up to a house in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, I started digging trenches alongside three men, one of whom was named Yoshi. As we filled wheelbarrows with earth, and took turns running them up a ramp into a ramshackle wooden trailer, Yoshi told me that he was newly homeless at 26 years old. He’d been a barista before Covid struck, and the pandemic had caused his job to dissolve. Fortunately, San Diego’s Convention Center was serving as a makeshift shelter, and Yoshi was staying there while he got back on his feet. 

When Yoshi told me he’d never done construction work before, he and I were side by side, scooting on our stomachs toward the back of a dank crawlspace. With a small jackhammer (which had to be operated almost horizontally to avoid hitting the floor a foot above us), we began digging a trench, fifteen inches deep, that was to run the perimeter of the crawlspace. Dirt from the trench was then scooped, either by gloved hand or small shovel, into a long plastic tub with a rope tied to it. Once the tub was full, either Yoshi or I would shout “Good!” to a man at the crawlspace’s entrance who would then pull the rope until the tub reached him. After this, the man would lift the tub out of the hole, dump it into a wheelbarrow, and poke his head back beneath the house to slide the empty tub across the ground to us. 

A day of this work was gruelling and monotonous. Occasionally, Yoshi or I would emerge from the house's anus for a drink of water or slice of pizza (graciously provided by the contractor). When in the crawlspace—over the rat-ta-tat of the jackhammer—we told stories and threw jokes around to lighten the mood. After what felt like an eternity, five o’clock came, so we shut off the headlamps, unplugged the jackhammer, and army-crawled toward the light at the end of the filthy hole. 

While standing in the sun, squinting so our eyes could adjust, Yoshi and I dusted ourselves off and talked about how good the impending shower was going to feel. He daydreamed aloud of his post-shift beverage. “That first beer is gonna taste so good.” Wiping his forehead, he added, “It’ll be a treat. Not like usual.” When I asked what he meant, he said that he was used to drinking out of boredom. “Or just smoking weed, sitting around, watching TV and feeling sorry for myself.” 

That night, Yoshi drank to victory, a fattened wallet, and to ease his sore muscles. I know this because I’ve worked with him several times since. After the crawlspace job, the contractor was so impressed by Yoshi’s work ethic and attitude that he hired him full-time. Yoshi and I have since moved on to another house, which we’re demo-ing with the help of a middle-aged Louisianan. 

On our lunch break the other day, between bites of a burrito, Yoshi told me that construction work—though unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and challenging—filled him with purpose. He said that he felt good at the end of each day, like he’d accomplished something. He felt like a man; and he joked that he wished he could see some of his male coworkers from the coffee shop try to swing a sledgehammer or lift a several-hundred-pound cast-iron bathtub. “They used to complain about lifting a ten-pound bag of coffee beans.” 

Yoshi said this with drywall dust caked inside his nostrils, and his statement got me thinking: If the construction job brought Yoshi such pride, maybe it’s possible that constantly challenging and exerting oneself is a cornerstone of fulfillment. 

(Before any baristas get angry with me, I respect the coffee job and know several people who love that work, but Yoshi was looking for something different. In fact, he’s even talking about starting his own construction company someday). 

We live in a society where the majority of what we need is available at the click of a button. If you want it, someone will bring it to you. If you don’t want to do it, someone will do it for you. As a result, if we feel so inclined, we are able to spend as little effort as possible on a daily basis. The reward for this conservation of energy is convenience, but there is also a law of physics that says energy cannot be created or destroyed. This being the case, is it possible that the energy we conserve must manifest in other ways? 

Maybe as swirling thoughts that target the thinker. 

Maybe as a need to lash out at someone at the grocery store, or leave a nasty Yelp review for no reason. 

Maybe a key to happiness is not hoarding one’s energy, but spending it in a helpful way—releasing it into the world—giving as much of ourselves as possible before our wick burns out and we fade away like Yoshi’s barista job. 

Obviously, we must take breaks to recharge the batteries. I’m not advocating self-induced exhaustion. But I am saying that deep satisfaction may be the result of spending our precious and finite energy on work, relationships, raising children, creating and sharing art, charity, physical activity, learning, or whatever else we might find to be worthy outlets. 

Whether or not this is a universal remedy for some of our modern-day maladies, it seems to be working for Yoshi, and that’s good enough for me.

Into the Wild 

I recently read “Into the Wild,” which is the true story of an upper-class college grad who sheds most of his possessions and travels the U.S. After two years of hitch-hiking and hopping freight trains, he wanders alone into the Alaskan wilderness, where he hunts and lives off the land for several months. Unfortunately, he eats a toxic plant and dies, but not before scrawling a potent revelation into a book he left in the abandoned bus which served as his off-the-grid home. 

In a Throeau-esque moment of clarity, Chris McCandless (or Alexander Supertramp, as he had dubbed himself) concludes that “Circumstance has no value. It is how one relates to a situation that has value. All true meaning resides in the personal relationship to a phenomenon, what it means to you.” 

Though I don’t believe that circumstances have “no value,” I do agree that immense power lies in how we choose to connect with, react to, and interpret the world and events around us. 

Contemplating this notion makes me think back to living in Nashville, when I chatted with homeless guys who sold flowers on Broadway that were ten times happier—and more enjoyable to be around—than some of the more materially wealthy, aspiring songwriters who were in town trying to “make it” on Mommy and Daddy’s dime. 

My job at that time was driving a pedicab around Music City, and I remember one Tuesday night, downtown, a coworker pulled up beside me to complain about how slow the night was. As the words left his mouth, another pedicabber sped past with four drunk guys crowded on the back of the bike, hooting, hollering, and headed for the strip club (which gave cabbies a payout per body we could get in the door). On that ride alone—fifteen minutes of work—the driver made at least sixty bucks. 

Those two coworkers had the same circumstances that night, but vastly different outcomes based on their mindsets and actions, their “relationship to the phenomenon.” 

I love thinking about how this concept relates to my life, about what could be done to improve my own mindset and which behaviors could be adopted to facilitate further growth. Then I think about the collective beliefs and actions of our country, the world... 

We’ve all been on the receiving end of the interpretation game as well. In my experience, people are especially expressive when I’m street performing. Out there in the human jungle—with minimal boundaries, rules, or supervision—I become a blank canvas onto which people project their inner worlds. I’ve had folks tell me that a song I played made their day; or they might email later to say that the book they’d purchased from me touched their lives. I’ve also had people spit on me, call me a beggar, or try to rob me. 

Same circumstances: a guy with his guitar and books, different responses. 

Attitude's influence over our experience fascinates me, as does the spectrum of outcomes, the symphony of perspectives. 

Sometimes in harmony. Sometimes discordant and clashing. 

But we play on, regardless, like that band on the Titanic.

Make it Real 

Announcing the release of five new songs to help kick off your summer! 

My latest EP, Make it Real, is now available in the music section of this site and on all streaming services. 
Massive gratitude to the skilled team that brought these tunes to life. With the exception of fiddle, vocal harmonies, and a few auxiliary instruments, the band and I tracked everything live, which gave the session an exciting energy. 

The idea to record as musicians had "back in the day" came from Sheldon Gomberg, who produced, engineered, and mixed the EP at The Carriage House in Los Angeles. 

Also engineering were Bill Mims, Mirza Sheriff, Jason Gossman, and Johnnie Burik. 

Drums - Jimmy Paxson 
Bass - Chase Baldwin 
Fiddle / Vocal harmonies - Sara Watkins 
Guitar / Lap Steel - Ben Peeler 
Keys - Chris Joyner 

Mastered by Blake Bickel at Dynamic Sound Service. 

Spotify link is here:

https://open.spotify.com/artist/3q9b44LunqytGQAodE88jL

Enjoy!

Back to Nashville 

I'm thrilled to announce the release of Back to Nashville, the first single from my forthcoming EP. 

The song was written two years back while speeding down I-65, headed for Music City, which would become my home-base for eight months and serve as the setting for one of the most inspiring, challenging, and growth-inducing chapters of my life. 

Produced, engineered, and mixed by Sheldon Gomberg at The Carriage House in Los Angeles.

Also engineered by Bill Mims, Mirza Sheriff, Jason Gossman, and Johnnie Burik. 

Drums - Jimmy Paxson 
Bass - Chase Baldwin 
Fiddle / Harmonies - Sara Watkins 
Guitar / Lap Steel - Ben Peeler 
Keys - Chris Joyner 

Mastered by Blake Francis Bickel at Dynamic Sound Service. 

The song is available on all streaming services and in the site-wide audio player below.

Enjoy!

Hustlin' Hearts 

New video posted above and in the "videos" section!

A father and son selling bottled water to tipsy tourists on the streets of Nashville. Immigrant construction workers sweating it out out six days a week in the hundred-degree Texas heat. A farmer’s market jeweler shivering through a Seattle winter to put food on the table for her son. 
These are a few of the everyday heroes. 
The hustlin’ hearts. 
And this is their song. 

Thanks to these talented people for bringing this to life. 
Recorded and mixed by Brad Kaminski 
Mastered by Blake Francis Bickel of Dynamic Sound Service 
Bass by Chase Baldwin 
Drums by Heather Thomas 
Fiddle by David Salonen 
Harmony vocal by Fae Wiedenhoeft 
Performance footage by Brie Golden Breeze 
Video edited by Wyatt Olney 
Check out Nature's Twist jewelry online or at Pike Place Market. 

Song available on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you stream music. 

Inside out 

After almost four years of writing, re-writing, editing, and second-guessing, my first poetry collection, Inside out, is available for purchase in paperback or Kindle format on Amazon. 

"...the poems explore topics from love to loneliness, eccentric painters to hollow consumers. Each work is a piece of a puzzle which, once assembled, shows in vivid detail a life shaped by the journey from turbulent childhood to nomadic artist." 

Follow this link to check it out!

https://www.amazon.com/Inside-out-Alex-Rasmussen/dp/1790828384/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548871756&sr=8-1&keywords=inside+out+alex+rasmussen

A huge thank you to editors Anna Eklund and Sarah Pasillas for your hard work and patience. 

Cover art by my very talented sister, Ashley Zuckerberg (Instagram: @fromatozcrafts).

Graphic design by the one and only Mario Di Sandro (Instagram: @disandroid).

Enjoy!

My Kinda Crazy 

Here's a new video for you!
Shot in Nashville by the very talented Monica Baranko.
The tune is a tribute to women who live by their own rules. 
Lyrics are available in the Youtube video info. 
Enjoy!

On The Road Again... 

My two months in Seattle was a blur of gigs, recording, and working a few jobs to pay for recording. 
Now, I'm happy to announce that the 6-song EP is officially finished and--after a few days of much-needed rest in Salt Lake City--I'm headed to Cleveland, OH, to kick off a Midwest mini-tour and pick up the discs. 

I'll let you know as soon as the new music is available for streaming / download!

One Brick at a Time... 

After a gorgeous six-day trip from Austin to Seattle--complete with stops in Albuquerque, Salt Lake City and Bend, Oregon--I'm now back in the swing of Northwest livin'. My first three days at home were spent at Paradise Sound in Index, tracking vocals and putting finishing touches on a soon-to-be-released six-song EP. I'm very excited about the way these tunes are shaping up, and I'm aiming to have them finished and released before I leave for a Midwest tour on March 29th. 

In the meantime I have several solo gigs--and a few with the trio--in the area. Check the calendar for a date near you and come hang!

I'll also keep you posted as my poetry collection--Inside Out--gets more polished. I don't have a projected release date for this project, but once the poems are cleaned up--thanks to editor, Anna Eklund--I'm going to be sending them to some publishers with the hope that some larger entity will release the work. This process will take some time, but it could be worth the wait. 

Keep checking back for updates and have a good everything!

-Alex