So Cannonball decided it would be a nice idea for me to put together a post to recap everything that’s happened in this incredibly eventful year, thank as many of you as I could fit in this post for everything you’ve done to make 2023 as good as it could be, and take a look at some of the things we have in store for you in 2024.
As I’m no longer his publicist, or anyone’s for that matter, due to the fact that I’ve declared myself fully opposed to the existence of the PR industry on principle*, my initial response was to decline.
Then I remembered something: I like to write. I like to write about the artists I like — and Cannonball is one of the artists I happen to like.
And, I’m the only person in the world who has access to the WordPress account that runs his blog and website — so I might as well do it, if only for the sake of doing something of value during my otherwise miserable winter holiday in London (a city I profoundly dislike**, but happen to live in, and can’t afford to leave for the purpose of leisure, as I also pay the exorbitant cost of renting a flat here).
* this is probably hyperbole.
** this is not, as anyone who’s ever lived here will tell you. Someone get me out of here. Please.
So the first and most important change that took place in Cannonball’s work this past year, as was the case with many professional touring musicians and performers, is that he began touring internationally again for the first time since the start of the covid-19 pandemic.
Whereas he’d spent the last 3 years of the 2010s on a seemingly never-ending world tour, Cannonball somehow managed to remain in a state of relatively sound mind without playing a single gig in 2020 or 2021 — though he did spend much of that time writing new material and some of that time recording at-home performances that he released online, in addition to doing deeper inner work that strengthened his mental, emotional, and spiritual health and resolve, which has been a large part of the inspiration for his songwriting endeavours since the pandemic began and can be heard on his recently released album Hard to Break.
This may seem like no small feat given how accustomed Cannonball had become to living on tour across multiple continents, and performing on stage nearly every night for years in and around NYC prior to that — but it actually paled in comparison to fellow road warriors such as the Canadian troubadour Scott Cook with whom Cannonball shared stages in Taiwan around the beginning of 2018, or the American artist Melissa Greener who photographed the album cover for Hard to Break — both of whom had lived entirely on tour for over 10 consecutive years pre-pandemic. If anything, Cannonball felt that he was incredibly lucky and had an easy time of it relative to most of his friends and family and others around the world during this period — I would tend to agree.
For everyone in fact, across every industry, the past several years have been an immense challenge, and many we love and care for deeply have suffered and died tragic, untimely deaths in this time. In the New York scene, where Cannonball got his start, many influential and supportive figures died of covid-19 and related causes, including Alan Merrill and Kid Lucky, both of whom Cannonball and numerous friends of his had shared stages and collaborated with in various ways.
After 2 years of not playing a single gig, 2022 had finally seen Cannonball giving a handful of performances in Southern Mexico, this time featuring collaborations with accordionist Negrita Yani, melodica player Jojo Rita, and saxophonist Osmar, all of whom also contributed parts to Hard to Break, which was recorded in the summer of that year — while he was here in the UK for a brief period, recording the bulk of the album in Somerset and visiting various friends around England and Scotland, Cannonball also gave a performance at Voodoo Daddy’s in Norwich, this time in duo format with longtime drummer and multifaceted collaborator Gem.
But it wasn’t until this past year that Cannonball once again took on the kind of extensive touring schedule he’d become infamous for in the 2010s, as it would not have been feasible for him to embark on a proper tour in 2022, due to the economic circumstances brought on by the pandemic. 2023 saw Cannonball giving over a dozen performances in NYC, and embarking on 3 English tours and 2 tours of mainland Europe totalling over 60 gigs in the year. He also wrote, produced, and acted in 2 music videos that were released this year (for his songs “Hard to Break” and “F Train Over Brooklyn”), curated several Cannonball Presents! nights in NYC throughout the year, and released his 31st album Hard to Break.
Special thanks go out to everyone who helped make the music videos possible, including Dylan Mars Greenberg, Preston Spurlock, Shane Dan Turner, Jay Turner, Liz Kresch, Joe O’Leary, Russell Statman, James, Beth Heuer, Dr. Bairavee, Cheryl, Kenny, and Arlene.
Additional thanks go to Aidan Watson, whose excellent photoshoot with Cannonball in Brooklyn during the time when the videos were being filmed can also be seen as telling a lot of the same stories told by the videos, in the form of still photography. Aidan also did an extensive interview with Cannonball for the print-only NYC punk & poetry zine We Are In The Shop #2, which features contributions from several generations of iconic NYC artists, including Eileen Myles.
Similarly, La Grosse Radio in France, David Couldrey at Island Echo, Casimir Brou at amNewYork, Lou Terry and Hard of Hearing Magazine, Tim Casterton at Leighton Buzzard Gazette, Action Ali on WFUV Public Radio, Raül Hinojosa on 3CAT Catalan radio, Stephen Doyle and Bob Osborne on Salford City Radio, critically acclaimed French novelist Simon Baril, Michel Filiod on Radio Canut Lyon, Michael Bittl of Radio Javali, and Olivier Wouters at Music In Belgium all deserve a great deal of thanks this year as they’ve made my job as Cannonball’s publicist a whole lot easier by presenting, featuring, broadcasting, and writing and talking about his work in ways that make him look very, very good, and are, in my view, quite accurate.
2023 also saw Cannonball’s first ever performances in Portugal (two in Lisbon and one in the rural village of Coja) and additionally saw his first performances at events connected with compassionate and humanising approaches to mental health treatment and survivors of psychiatric abuse and imprisonment, which are causes Cannonball cares deeply about, both as a survivor of psychiatric abuse, imprisonment, and trafficking in the US and Mexico, and as someone who’s long been a witness to the dehumanising and violent approaches to mental health in much of mainstream society. Taking a more active role in this struggle and sharing some of his personal experiences on stage for the first time has been incredibly uplifting and empowering for him, and hopefully also for those present at these events.
Another highlight of the year was Cannonball’s performance with Jason Trachtenburg and Lethal Chu as part of the London Antifolk Festival at Windmill Brixton. Cannonball and Jason had been frequent performers at the New York’s bi-annual Antifolk Festival, as they were both part of the New York antifolk community — Jason having been involved since shortly after antifolk’s inception in the early 1980s and years later becoming the frontman of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, who were, for a time, the most popular antifolk band in the world, bringing now world-renowned antifolk artists like Kimya Dawson and Jeffrey Lewis on extensive tours with them as openers in the early 2000s — whereas Cannonball then became part of the scene in his teenage years and has now, reluctantly, become widely regarded as the “king” of the beautifully anarchic Millennial/Gen Z wave of NYC antifolk that blossomed in the 2010s and produced a variety of uniquely talented bands and artists, including Ben Pagano, Robot Princess, Out of System Transfer, Crazy & the Brains, Sourdoe, Kung Fu Crimewave, The Grasping Straws, and Becca Florence Moon, all of whom expanded on the myriad antifolk anti-traditions of the 1980s, 90s, and 2000s and could easily be considered antifolk royalty in their own right, along with surely others I’ve forgotten to mention here — with the New York Antifolk Festival now on hiatus following the closure of Sidewalk Cafe in 2019, this year’s London Antifolk Festival marked the first time Cannonball or Jason had performed at an Antifolk Festival since the beginning of covid, and it was a lucky coincidence that it happened to be taking place during Cannonball and Jason’s extensive European tour so they were able hop on the lineup.
There was a particularly memorable moment during his set at the festival when Cannonball performed a rare track of his called “Flushing”, with its noteworthy homage to antifolk’s (arguably) most influential “founding father” Lach (“off to play a Bushwick antifolk show for the bartender, walls, and weirdos”), that the London antifolk crowd instantly recognized and resonated with, despite it being a relatively obscure NYC antifolk reference (Lach would often say those who performed after around 1:30 or 2 in the morning or later at his weekly AntiHoot in NYC would be playing to an audience of the “waitress, walls, and weirdos”, and these were also the hours when the scene’s most interesting performances would often take place).
And speaking of audiences, this past year has been a remarkable year for both the size and quality of audiences at Cannonball’s gigs, which is in no small part thanks to the promoters, venues, and local artists who’ve been doing their part in making it known that these are performances worth coming out to, listening to, and engaging with. Many of these people are thanked in the paragraphs below, but some we’d also like to thank who aren’t mentioned there are The Looms, Gutless, The Loneliers, Christoph Jesus, Crazy & the Brains, Jesse Sternberg, Danielle Kolker, Unruly Collective, Joe Wakeman, Millennium Film Workshop, Shane Dan Turner, Liz Kresch, Justin Arena, Phoebe Blue, Brook Pridemore, Preston Spurlock, Ben Pagano, Kung Fu Luke, Tae Kwon Jo, Neil Kelly, Kung Fu Crimewave, Alexander Hale, JT Soar, Eleanor Kate, Joe O’Leary, Mike Rechner, Dina Levy, Prewar Yardsale, Thomas Patrick Maguire, Ashley D Escobar, Matt Proctor, Quasi, Momo, Casey Holford, Francine, Mana Bugallo, The Den, Lost Dog, Milky Bones, Ben Tripp, Blain Cunneen, Ben James Wood, David Cronenberg’s Wife, Eamonn, Betsey Trotwood, Sad House Daddy, Biddle Bros, Cage Girl, Ragdoll, Blue Vesper, Bored Tourist, Francis Wolfe, Sam Sinclair, Josh Leuner, Dylan Mars Greenberg, Matt Ellin, Kev Daintree, Del, Angry, T-Bitch, Grant Sharkey, Gazza Records, Crooked Crow Bar, and Will Poyer.
2023 also saw the first time in over 7 years that Cannonball went on a tour with his old friend Mallory Feuer of New York antifolk bands The Grasping Straws and Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage. After doing several tours together and sharing countless stages in the first half of the 2010s, Cannonball and Mallory stopped gigging together as often when Cannonball left NYC in the summer of 2016 to embark on his 3 year world tour that primarily took place in Europe and East Asia, and then spent much of 2020-’22 in Mexico, as he’d been visiting family there for Christmas at the end of 2019 and then became stranded there during the covid lockdowns.
With Mallory touring the UK and Europe frequently in 2023 as a member of Jeffrey Lewis’s band, they were once again in the same place at the same time, and decided to reunite the classic Cannonball/Mallory tour lineup often referred to as “Dogs vs. Straws”, for a 1 week UK tour over the summer at the end of one of Jeffrey’s UK tours. A “mini-documentary” of this tour was later released on Cannonball’s YouTube channel. They also performed together at a Democrazy event in Gent, Belgium that spring as part of a double bill of the Cannonball Statman trio and Jeffrey Lewis’s quartet that features Mallory on violin and keyboards, which ended up having the highest attendance of any date on both Jeffrey and Cannonball’s spring tours this year, and was well received by the press and the public. It was great for Cannonball to reunite with Mallory, Jeffrey, and so many other longtime friends of his this past year, most of whom he hadn’t seen in person in several years due to the covid-19 pandemic.
The spring tour where Cannonball and his power trio played with Jeffrey and his band in Gent was also noteworthy as it was the first time he’d performed with the new lineup of the trio, featuring Manchester born, Norwich based artist Lethal Chu on bass and additional vocals. This was quite a feat as Cannonball and Chu hadn’t even met until a week or two before the start of the tour, and Chu had never heard the songs until shortly before they met. This was the tour for Cannonball’s 2022 double album Miracle on Neon Clown Avenue, and involved the live debuts of many songs from the album, along with songs from 2023’s Hard to Break, 2017’s Playing Dead, and 2019’s Rhinoceros Crossing.
There were only a few rehearsals before the start of the tour, which took place in a recently repurposed warehouse and events space in Norwich where Cannonball was living in the days leading up to the tour. The tour lasted the entire month of May and spanned 6 countries and 6 different drivers, because Moon, the original driver, had to be towed back to England from rural France shortly after the tour started due to his car breaking down the day of one of the Paris shows. Many thanks go out to all the drivers – Moon, Freddy, João, Boris, Parreira, and Albert – and everyone else who helped make this tour possible, including Nick and The Peer Hat, Martin and Number 39 Bar, Matt and Swinging Arm, Dr. Bairavee, Kenny, Cheryl, Arlene, Gem, Honor, Lethal Chu, VICE VERA, JD Meatyard, Rusty Strings, Noémie Lecoq, Democrazy, Lauren, Tom, Veronique, Céline Float, Marlon Ruivo, Yiye and The Rincón Pío Sound, Cal Biure, The Missing Leech, Sala Mariscal, Marina, Agus, and Cotton Guest.
Another fan made “mini-documentary” was released of this tour on the Cannonball Statman YouTube channel in June, along with an extensive radio interview in rural Portugal, and a tour playlist featuring 2 full concert videos (from Darwen, England and Don Benito, Spain) and full individual clips of some of the songs that were played on the tour.
The release of Cannonball’s 31st album Hard to Break coinciding with his 30th birthday celebration and subsequent 7 week autumn tour was by far the highlight of this year in Cannonballism, with the 11 song release being called “album of the year by a mile” by UK radio DJ Stephen Doyle and its title track being named “Song of the Year” by Lou Terry in Hard of Hearing Magazine, and the tour spanning 9 countries and seeing countless memorable collaborations and reunions with friends, new and old. A lot of videos and photos from this tour have yet to be released, but some can be seen in the 3 Instagram highlights Cannonball made of its various legs (England, most of mainland Europe, and Sweden), and more will be released in the coming months.
Many thanks go out to Gem, James, Ben Turner, Pete Fletcher, Dr. Bairavee, Kenny, Arlene, Yani, Jojo, and Osmar for making the album possible, and to France de Griessen, Jason Trachtenburg, Stephen Doyle, Jonas Selander, Mandus Berg, Larry Farber, Jeffrey Lewis, JD Meatyard, VICE VERA, Johann, Lethal Chu, Lou Terry, Cowtown, Tonsils, Ant, Derrick, Albert Portavella, The Missing Leech, Cal Biure, Ateneu 24 de juny, Can Patot, Céline Float, Associação Terapêutica do Ruído, Kate Connolly, Filthy Pedro, Tom Mayne, Alan Caruso, Kym Winstanley, Tim, Windmill Brixton, Sentient Rash, James Koch, Clayton Blizzard, Curro Rumbao, Fidge and Juliette, Bruno, Martin, Librairie La 25e Heuere, Radio FPP, Stefan, Moritz, Renate, The Hanging Gardens of Ehrenfeld, Joey Molinaro, The Shovels, Edi, De Nieuwe Anita, Amadou, Apollo, Lauren, Paul Armfield, Medina Bookshop, Oisean, Dougal, Daniel Stephen Turner, Dan, Danny, Rob, Andy, Sam, Barbara, Marina, Rose, Matt, Sue, Rusty Strings, Archy, Claire, Gary, Anne, Anna, Charlotte, and everyone else who helped make the tour.
Though he and Cannonball have yet to physically reunite since the start of the pandemic, additional massive thanks go out to Joe Bendik for taking on the mantle of hosting NYC’s legendary Monday night AntiHoot at Baker Falls this year, bringing new life and a new dynamic to New York’s antifolk scene after it had been on hiatus since the 2019 closure of the Sidewalk Cafe, where the AntiHoot had previously been hosted by Somer Bingham, Ben Krieger, Lach, and others over the past few decades.
While often maligned by the industry, local independent scenes like this that help build and sustain unique and sincere working class artists and bands are key to any lasting career, and without people like Joe putting in the time and effort to give these scenes the spaces they need to live and grow, chances are not many of your favourite artists would even be making music in the first place. Cannonball hopes to return to NYC as soon as possible, in large part so he can finally attend the AntiHoot again.
And as always, a million thanks again go out to Cannonball’s parents, Katherine Koch and Mark Statman, and the family dog Cannonball, who Cannonball the human took his name from.
Looking ahead, 2024 is likely to be another eventful year for Cannonball Statman, starting with the recording of his self-titled 32nd album, which will be released in October. His 2024 tour dates will primarily be in the UK and Europe, including numerous dates with the Paris based artist France de Griessen, who is also contributing vocals to several songs on the upcoming album and will be performing duets with Cannonball throughout their tours together, expanding on the duets they did in 2023 at select performances in Paris, Brussels, and Stockton-on-Tees.
Cannonball also plans to reissue a number of his long-lost “limited edition” albums of the 2010s this year, which promises to be exciting for new and longtime fans alike as it provides many windows into lyrical and sonic avenues Cannonball hasn’t explored in a long time.
In all likelihood, 2024 will additionally see the release of the “mini-documentary” of Cannonball’s Hard to Break tour, which looks to give fans who couldn’t make it to the gigs a taste of what this tour was like, and act as a fun bit of memorabilia for those who were there.
Other than that, a lot of what Cannonball is going to do in 2024 remains unknown, as we live in chaotic and uncertain times. Regardless of what happens, we hope you enjoy what’s to come, and, from all of us at Cannonball Statman HQ, we wish you a Happy New Year!
See you soon!