Kerrville Folk Festival

Hospitality: A Rule of the Road

Everywhere we go this summer— from Bulgaria to Tennessee, and Texas to Colorado— one theme is constant in our travels:


Surely grace and kindness went ahead of us on the road this summer, preparing our way.  

Just a couple of RV babies.

Our trip began in late May. 

We flew home from Bulgaria and, the next morning, we started a thousand-mile trek down to Texas for the Kerrville Folk Festival. I found out in April that I was a finalist in the New Folk Competition, a thrilling way to kick off the summer! Crunched for time and beyond jet lag, we pointed south, driving through flash floods, hail and Louisiana heat in a brand-new RV, scared shitless we might crash and burn.

Call it our initiation. (One we are not eager to repeat.) 

Frazzled when we pulled into Kerrville 48 hours later, our next-door neighbors at camp greeted us with an offering of cold beers (God BLESS them), and every stranger we met offered up a warm smile and a “Welcome home." Cultish? A little. But endearing. Kerrville is its own little family, and they pulled me into the fold.

My performer button gave me special backstage powers! I loved being part of this festival.

Coming to Kerrville as a New Folk contestant was a revelation. Radical hospitality was the unwritten rule of this festival. The Rouse House Camp hosted all 32 of the New Folk contestants at Kerrville— offering tents and sleeping bags, cooking breakfast, keeping coolers stocked with cold drinks and snacks, and hosting song circles. They pointed us to the nearest river on a hot day. They jumped our RV battery when we killed it. They made this place home for us.

Also, I won the competition, along with five fabulous humans (pictured here)! 

New Folk Winners and our hosts, the Rouse House Camp! 

From left: Ben De La Cour, Rachel Laven, Addie Brownlee, Deb Rouse (host), Lindsey Lee (host), Yours Truly, Justin Farren, Liz Rouse (host), and Joe "Cartoon" Shields.

After Kerrville, we took our RV into the shop to get a pesky “Service Engine Soon” light diagnosed. Turns out our fuel pump, A VERY IMPORTANT THING, was ... technically-speaking ... kaput. (I just had to look up how to spell "kaput," by the way.)

Luckily, we had purchased an Extended Warranty on our rig, which covered the repairs, but it took 3 weeks, 20 hours of labor, 100 phone calls, voodoo, goat sacrifices and witchcraft to get everything fixed. 

In the meantime, we packed our bags and went on a giant hospitality tour of Texas with a sign around our necks that said: 

“Gypsies — Temporarily Kinda Homeless — Will Sing for Food/Beer/Bed.”

Happiness is... a quiet cabin, a bed with a quilt, and my guitar.

This led us to a friend's ranch in Boerne, Texas, where we drank Glenlivet 18 and befriended a longhorn by the name of Waylon.

Our next stop: Blue Rock Artist Ranch, where we swam in a pool overlooking the hill country and I wrote songs surrounded by leather, vinyl and chocolate chip cookies.


The road then took us to Houston, where a friend's mother cooked two different quiches for breakfast so that we could have choices. It took us to Austin, where I met a musical community I fell right into like family.

Magic in Rebecca Loebe's living room in Austin, Texas. We had a giant potluck and songwriters' circle. Photo cred: Raina Rose, phenomenal singer/songwriter/guitarist and friend.

Turned out there was a silver lining to that busted fuel pump. We had to depend on others to take care of us … and they DID. They showered us with food, space, love, kindness and songs.

Here's the message I’m receiving these days -- those who offer hospitality will receive it in return, tenfold. I think this is a Law of the Universe, so true that I'll even capitalize it. The Law of Hospitality is spiritual physics. 

Confession: I can be tight-fisted and selfish, especially when I feel stressed out. When I believe there's not enough to go around, I hang on with white knuckles to my space and time and money. 

But I’ve met all kinds of people this summer who live rich lives and give so much away.

I want to be like that. I'm trying to be more like that every day -- to be in a sweet, trusting dance with the Universe.

A message from my favorite artist, Brian Andreas. Also, the way folks along the way made us feel.

Asking makes us vulnerable. Receiving makes us vulnerable. It can be tough. I often feel that I owe something in return. Maybe that’s what drives me to write so many thank-you notes. (That, and my mom’s sensible voice in my head.)

But I think this is the dance we are called to do. To ask ourselves and each other what we really need, and to open our hearts and our hands both to give and receive.

I wish boatloads of love, magic, and delight to you and yours,


Our New Home

It's official! 

Bringing baby home!

We moved into our new (to us) rig! On April 11, we bought a 2003 Damon Challenger down in Chatsworth, Georgia, from a family who had it sitting in their barn, beautifully cared-for, but unused. We're thrilled to get this baby back out on the road!

The day we bought the Challenger!

Cue: huge sigh of relief. Although we started looking at RVs about six months ago, things got really serious in March. We knew we needed to find a motorhome before May, to give us time to fix her up and move in before hitting the road this month. We found the Challenger just in time!

If you ever want to hear our WHOLE story about shopping for RVs, just buy us a few beers and we'll drop all our hard-earned wisdom on you. But to summarize, here's a little guide:


1) Spend at least four hours a day scouring Craigslist.

2) Visit several RV dealers, look at rigs in your budget, then behold all the problems they have! Mold, rotting, leaky roofs, missing batteries, flooding, high mileage and salvage titles. Eeek!

3) Realize that you can't possibly get what you want for the price you want to pay. After much debate with spouse, increase budget by 20 percent.

4) Scramble to save additional money for RV budget. Stop eating out and go on a new cleanse I call the "Lentils + Rice + Whatever Else is in Your Fridge" diet. 

5) Avoid sellers who live 10 states away, are unloading a rig for a price that's WAY too good to be true and want you to wire them money as a "deposit." (So many scammers out there!)

6) Pray, chant, visualize your new RV, burn sage, and cross your fingers. Repeat daily. Avoid retrograding planets.

7) Get an inspector to check out every aspect of your rig before purchase and negotiate your price! The Challenger needed six new tires, so we got the price lowered by $2k.

8) CLEAN HOUSE! Give away half your clothes, sell your furniture, pack up your fancy wine glasses and your heavy book collection. Rent storage unit. Laugh about how your 5x10 storage unit is WAY too big-- you only have a few boxes and a TV! Proceed to fill storage unit completely and eat crow.

9) Consume a strict diet of burritos and coffee for 2 weeks during moving process. Forget what it's like to shave your legs, wear makeup, eat or sleep or exercise on a regular schedule, or have a social life.

10) QUIT YOUR JOBS, close the door on your old life, and answer the call of the open road!

First stop:  Kerrville Folk Festival! I'm honored to be a finalist in the New Folk Competition over Memorial Day Weekend. I'll be playing and camping with 31 other songwriters in the Texas Hill Country and I can't wait! See you soon, future Kerrville family!

Lots of love,

Emily (and her co-pilot, Rous)