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JPR Live Session: Sean McConnell

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On Friday, October 29th at Noon, JPR will broadcast a JPR Live Session (from afar) with Sean McConnell on Open Air.

Sean McConnell is a man unafraid of asking questions of the situations in his life. It manifests itself from the moment he wakes each day, on a small farm outside Franklin, Tenn., a very different environment than his upbringing in Massachusetts.

“No, I didn’t grow up like that at all,” McConnell laughs. “But my wife grew up on a farm. She’s more used to it than I am."

“We’ve got pigs and chickens and some acreage. We are growing a garden and such. The older we get, the more we want to just kind of be self-sufficient. We enjoy getting our hands dirty and getting out into the woods and taking care of animals. It brings us a lot of joy and grounds us.”

A central feature of the small, well-appointed house is a wood-burning stove that provides much of the heat to the structure. There is both beauty and function in the process of maintaining the stove’s output in the colder months, something that parallels McConnell’s work in his studio a stone’s throw away, asking questions of both his own work and those with which he collaborates.

“Time seems to breed creativity, especially when there’s very little else going on,” McConnell says of the stillness brought about by the events of 2020. “Other than this record of mine, I’ve produced records for four other artists out of my studio."

“This period has forced everybody, internally and externally, globally and socially, to take a good look at our lives and examine it,” he continues. “Everything from our marriages to our workout routines, social injustice to planet politics and religion, spirituality and our internal environment…everything has come to the surface. It’s been the tipping point of so many things right now, so obviously that bleeds over into art and music.”

If there’s an overworked word surrounding the previous year, it’s been “uncertain.” (“Unprecedented” might run a close second.)

There comes a moment we must admit to ourselves that we don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening around us. Tapping into the broad spectrum of our human emotions and observations is what makes McConnell such a versatile collaborator and sought-after songsmith over the years.

To listen online, click the orange 'Play' button at the top of the page and select "Rhythm & News." Or grab the JPR Live Sessions podcast at Spotify, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts.