Wolverine Traveler: Deep Below Heaven - Chapter 1

Posted On: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 , Wolverine Traveler

As we departed NYC on June 1st, we asked ourselves, when does an adventure actually begin? When you walk out the door? Which door? Onto the plane? Into the car?

As we rolled quickly down to Nashville from NYC for the first show of the tour and then into Florence, AL for the second show, we quickly realized our trip would be full of arbitrary starts and stops, each moment as new as the next one. From Florence, our route was directed to the west, towards the Pacific. We had a week between shows, leaving time to kill as we crossed the states. There were many penciled in marks on our map of places we dreamed of visiting and one bright red circle: White Sands, NM.


On Tuesday we woke up in Elk City, OK – a city we both remembered from reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath”. As Elk City disappeared into our rear view mirror, we raced through storms into Tornado Alley, trying to reach Amarillo by the morning, as George Strait’s greatest hits played as we crossed the city line. The further west we drove, the more the terrain changed. On the doorstep of New Mexico, the trees got shorter and scrubbier, the dirt reddened and the sky seemed taller.


We drove into White Sands just before sunset; it was unlike anything we’ve ever seen. White slopes of sand extend as far as the eye can see and it was unbelievably quiet. Small black beetles scurried across the white surface and improbably little pink flowers bloomed on desert plants. Our red circle was truly a magical part of the country.


As we raced straight across Navajo Nation, deeper in to the west, we caught the sunset beyond Shiprock from a dirt road that was littered with broken bottles. The red rock formation truly looks like a ship in the distance, full sails against the flat expanse around it. As the sun went down, we pulled into a gas station to ask directions to the nearest motel. As a black dog wandered the parking lot, peering into the parked cars, we were informed that the nearest lodging was 30 miles behind us. We gave the dog the last of our sandwich meat from the cooler before we began our retrace down 64 and settled into our motel for the evening.

We’ve never traveled America like this before; being lead by one road leading to the next, all the interconnected highways and byways crisscrossing the land. The landscapes slowly changed before our eyes, taking it’s time, then exploding with beauty. We took US 89 right up to Jacob’s Lake in Arizona, near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We checked into our cabin and took inter-state 67 south for a Grand Canyon sunset. Travelers like ourselves sat lawn chairs on a stone ledge and watched the sun as it lowered slowly over the canyon. We took a trail to the left where kids were running around, making their parents nervous climbing on the edges of the cliffs. We found a quiet rock and stared out into the worldly abyss. It was our frist time ever seeing it, and it was so much more than we’d ever imagined.


We traveled north into Utah. Our updated paper map had certain roads that ceased to exist or changed names. We took a wrong turn and saw a sign for Corral Pink Sand Dunes. We followed that road for quite a few miles and started to wonder if it was in fact an outdated sign, or we had made yet another wrong turn. Then, around a bend, we were indeed surrounded by towering sand dunes dusted in a rust color. A park sign explained that the sand came from red Navajo sandstone, funneled over time through a notch in the moquith and Moccasin Mountains. We took our shoes off and climbed in.


After 7 days of wandering in the Southwest we had to finally start making our way towards L.A. and the string of shows that would take us up the coast. We crossed the Mojave Desert in 106 Degree heat, under an unrelenting mid-day sun. We turned off the AC so the car wouldn’t overheat and hot wind poured in through the windows. As the hot wind hit our faces, I tmade us think about how things used to be done, how people must have crossed the desert generations before us, on foot, or on horseback, by sheer will-power. After miles of nothing and brutal heat, we stopped at a 7-11 in Twentynine Palms, CA and enjoyed Klondike bars in the shade.

We arrived at the Joshua Tree Inn, a welcomed oasis after the long days’ drive. A perfect paole gold moon was rising over the hills in a pink sky. We walked up into the desert as the evening cooled, past little houses set back from the road as we experienced a moment of calm before the next week of shows.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of #WolverineTraveler and a gallery of photos from the trip.


Wolverine Traveler: Q&A with Melaena Cadiz

Posted On: Monday, May 26, 2014 , Wolverine Traveler


Shortly we will kick of the new #WolverineTraveler and while you know a lot about photographer Mikael Kennedy and his past journeys with Wolverine, we haven’t fully introduced you to his very talented and lovely wife, Melaena.  Equipped with #1000Mile boots, Melaena and Mikael will take off on a month long tour to promote her new album, Deep Below Heaven.  Get to know Melaena a bit more through our Q&A session with her below.



As a little girl, what did you want to be “when you grew up?”
An acrobat.  Then a writer.

When/how did you start playing music?

I always sang, my parents had to implement a “no-singing-at-the-dinner-table” rule.  Then, in high school my dad brought home a classical guitar after one of his business trips, he’s an architect and would travel a lot for work.  He gave my brother and I all these songbooks with hits from the 60s & 70s and we became obsessed with learning those and then writing our own songs.  My friends and I started a band, played a lot of NIN covers and performed at coffee shops and  school festivals.

How would you describe your music? And who or what have been your biggest artistic influences?
I think the best way to describe it is as Americana.  It’s influenced by folk, country, rock, blues, sometimes I’m inspired to write something very classic country and sometimes a meandering psychedelic chant.  But I think it’s all very much of America and saturated with the places and people I’ve known living around the country.
My biggest musical influences as an artist are pretty classic, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Loretta Lynn, Billie Holiday. I love Joanna Newsom. I’m really drawn to all sorts of music, but always get hooked in by strong lyrics—whether intricate like Joanna Newsom or simple and Hemmingway-esque, like Tom Petty.  I’ve been getting into more pop music lately and the economy of words in good pop songs is mesmerizing. 

What does your “dream” band look like… who would you most like to play with?
I really got back into Mazzy Star lately, I love their sound, the simplicity and restraint of it.   I was just listening to some of Lucinda Williams’ records, she has this great hybrid of classic country and dreamy more contemporary guitar parts woven into it.  Emmylou Harris’s “Wrecking Ball” album is like this too, it’s one of my favorites, produced by Daniel Lanois.
I’d love to get to play with a string quartet—my producer Alexander Foote wrote some amazing string parts for this record and I’d love to be able to play them live.  

What’s the inspiration behind Deep Below Heaven?
The title comes from a short story out of Sam Shepard’s “Motel Chronicles” about a man in a motorcycle accident.  He falls from his Kawasaki and he has the sense of being “deep below heaven, the tallest sky he’d ever seen.”  I fell in love with that phrase, this idea of us humans swarming the earth with all our love and sadness, our desires and defeats.
I like to think of the record as a book of short stories, myself and each of the characters struggling in our own universe but united in that struggle, deep below heaven, far from grace, reaching for something.

What are you most excited about as you begin your cross-country tour for Deep Below Heaven?  What are you least looking forward to?
I’m so excited to see all these parts of the country where I’ve never been.  The Grand Canyon, the Badlands, and catching up with friends along the way.  I’m not looking forward to a bunch of 15 hour drive days, but we’ll make some good playlists. And I just got CDs to learn Spanish!

What books are you currently reading or what is your favorite book?
I love “Out of Africa” by Karen Blixen, “East of Eden” by Steinbeck, “Of Water & The Spirit” by Malidoma Patrice Some, a really beautiful true story about ritual in West Africa.  I just read “Mrs. Dalloway” – I can’t believe I hadn’t read it before, it’s amazing, the way the narrator hops from inside one person’s mind to another and really gets at the things that are so hard to put into words; people’s struggle to connect to one another, our apart-ness, the nature of time passing. Reading that I felt like, “wow, this is what I’ve been trying to capture in a lot of  my songs”  I guess in a sense it’s what everyone tries to capture and express in their art.

Outside of music, what is your favorite pastime, how do you relax?
I love to cook, my dad just taught me to make Paella, so I’m going to give it a whirl this week.  My husband Mikael and I go for walks in the country whenever we are able to get out of town.  My girlfriends and I have craft nights when we have the time, we gather at my house and make dinner and paint and sew things—I’ve been working on mobiles for my friends’ babies out of sticks and felt. 

What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you?
Maybe a lot of people don’t know I’m half Filipina, my dad was raised in Manila and my mom’s English-Irish from Caro, MI.

A fellow Michigan native, what are a few of your favorite things and places here?
The sleeping bear dunes, I remember going there for the first time as a little girl and how magic and other-worldly they were. My family also spent lots of time at my grandparents cottage in South Haven on Lake Michigan, I had the best summers running around with all my cousins and taking our little inflatable boat out into the waves. That was a really wonderful way to get to g
row up.

Stay tuned as we follow Mikael and Melaena on their journey! #WolverineTraveler