Celebrating One Year 🎉
+ a special announcement + a little backstory
One year ago today I released my first song as Fog Chaser, right here through this newsletter.1
Last month’s post, Meditation 012, marked the end of — 12 new, original instrumental songs and visuals. And in just a couple of weeks, I’ll be sending out the first song of Volume II. I’m so grateful you’ve chosen to be a part of this, and I’m very excited about what’s next.
But before we dive into the next chapter, I’d like to take a moment to tell you why this newsletter means so much to me, and why I hope you might be inspired to show your support in the form of a paying subscription, as I now turn on that option. Not because I'm putting any posts behind a paywall (which I'm not), but because you value these meditations and the work they take, and what they add to your life.
Allow me to (re)introduce myself
For those who don’t know, I’m Matt — a musician and composer based in the Pacific Northwest, USA. For most of my musical life, I’ve been a singer/songwriter, playing and singing in indie/folk bands like Reddening West and Sleepy Holler.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to write instrumental music — to sit in quiet contemplation and create music that embodies and reflects the forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, and coastlines that inspire me. I also love taking photos on film, and I’d been looking for a simple way to share these shots alongside my music.
As I started to think about how to best distribute this work, I craved a consistent space where I could calmly share my in-process and finished music, visuals, and thoughts in a more direct way than the usual channels allow for, away from algorithms. The technology never really existed in the way I envisioned it. That is, until I came across Substack, where I’ve been able to send you songs and visuals directly in a clean, minimalist format. Magic.2
My intention was, and remains, simple. I’ve stuck to the same format for the last 12 months, and will continue to do so. Once every month, I email you a moment of calm — what I call a meditation — which includes:
an original instrumental music composition;
an accompanying visual of my own that inspired the composition (a photo, 35mm or digital, or a video).
In addition, each issue has also included:
a poem I find inspiring;
a collection of things I am currently reading, listening to, and admiring.3
The need for calm
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- Annie Dillard4
The process of writing these pieces every month — both the songs and the notes — is very meditative for me. My hope is that what I send can, in turn, be meditative and calming for you. In some ways, this project has been an accountability tool for me — it helps me stay grounded and focused when I find myself not doing what I need, when I get busy or stressed, or when I worry about the wrong things. Those moments when, as Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us…”5
Here, I’m building out the world I want to live in. And while it’s somewhat aspirational, I’m finding that the more I build it here with you, the more I live it in my everyday life: I get out into the woods more often, wandering, taking photos and grabbing field recordings; I take long, phone-free walks; I unplug more regularly; I fill my days more and more with things that fill my cup.
All of our lives are busy, varied, and, often, hectic. As a culture, we are burning out at alarming rates — I know I feel it — and we need reminders to pause. This newsletter helps me do that, and I hope it can be as much of a sanctuary for you as it is for me.
» A little history
In 2018 and 2019, I experienced two traumatic brain injuries — bad concussions that took me out of commission for months at a time, resulting in a cascade of negative physical, mental, and emotional issues. Pair these injuries with a string of significant losses and it’s not a huge leap to understand why I spiraled: I lost my dad to cancer in 2019 and my wife lost her dad to ALS in 2020.6
I was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2018 — which I more or less ignored, to my detriment — and then diagnosed more urgently in 2020. My anxiety is not something I’m all that comfortable talking about. I’m still managing it on a daily — even hourly — basis, but it’s had a bearing on how and why this project came about.
People who have experienced injuries like this, or who suffer from chronic pain, will understand: the invisibility of the pain, and the fear of loss, made for a very isolating and poorly understood experience that created some very dark days.
Thanks to 4 years of consistent physical and psychological therapy, I’m happy to share that I am in a very different place today. I wrote the song “On the Path” about this experience. Those years forced me to take a close look at my priorities. I took a good chunk of time off from writing music during that period. As I re-emerged, and started to feel excited about music again, I followed my newfound clarity — and “my bliss”, as Joseph Campbell put it.7 I needed to understand, and grab onto, the things that enriched my life — music being one. As the fog began to lift in 2021, and as I continued my healing journey, I experienced a clarity I’d never felt before. You’re seeing the results of that clarity here.
And that’s how this newsletter got its start.
You can expect more high-quality music and visuals. I plan to keep the same publishing pace — a new song every month. I hope these meditations can continue to be a place where you can slow down for a few minutes.
There is, however, one substantial update worth calling out.
» Announcing paid subscriptions
Effective, well, now, you are welcome to support this publication with a paid subscription.
A paid subscription doesn’t come with extra perks or posts. As I’ve always said, I won’t put these posts behind a paywall — they will continue to be open and accessible to everyone.
But if you find what I’m doing here enjoyable, inspiring, calming, or meditative, and if you are able to, it would mean so much if you would consider signing up for a paid subscription. A paid subscription is $5/month, or, you can pay annually for $50/year.
Your support will:
Support independent music;
Keep Fog Chaser paywall-free and available to everyone;
Ensure that I can do this work sustainably over the long-term.
The gratitude I feel to get to do this project — to build the world of Fog Chaser, to sit and write music regularly and share it with you — is almost overwhelming. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to share my work with you in this intimate way, and honored that you’ve chosen to receive my notes and songs.
I’d love to hear from you about what this newsletter has meant to you — it would be so great if you’d leave a comment to share what you enjoy the most, or which song has been your favorite so far.
The first post of Volume II will land in your inbox later this month.8 In the meantime, you can expect a special recap of Volume I in the coming days. As always, thank you for being here. I’m looking forward to sharing another year of music, creativity, and calm with you.
All my best,
Matt / Fog Chaser
I owe a debt of gratitude to composer Wu Fei, whose newsletter here on Substack showed me what was possible.
“If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living…if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.” - Joseph Campbell
Volume II will be made up of another 12 pieces, composed in the remaining 12 musical keys that I haven’t yet written for. I’m making my way around “the circle of fifths”, which places the most closely related key signatures next to one another in a visual format. I’m following the path of many who have written pieces in all 24 keys.