[11:15] Lunch with my super agent and friend, Eugene Foley
[12:15] A not so good experience at a hotel in Meherrin
[25:10] The life changing Prison experience that Larry went through
[30:52] Listen to the song that started the James O’Connor Agency “Connected”
Early morning of October 14th, Columbus Day. That’s when I left Nashville headed to Virginia to start off my prison ministry.
My first stop was Pamunkey Regional Jail.
The check in time at the prison is 12.00 noon, so this gave me enough time to get myself ready for everything.
[2:35] Preparation for the show
There was a lot of nervous energy when I was preparing myself for the show. To begin with, the whole prison environment takes a bit of time to adapt to, so many steel doors, tiny rooms and new faces. My guitar even ended up falling off the hand truck in the load in process.
The guys were in a room, something like a lunch room. Rectangular shaped with seats everywhere, and they were all staring at me while I was setting my equipment up. It goes without saying that this only made the setup time very intense, and I could feel the swear rolling down my back. But I kept cool throughout the whole process, no one could tell what a bundle of nerves I was.
[5:40] Performance at the Men’s Section
I started off with a couple of songs, and then started to work in some of the stories.
The stories were all revolving around the setlist material that I chose. This included some of the inspirational and Christian songs that I’ve written. I was telling the stories in between the songs. This played a role in helping them understand the experience of what the songs are all about.
The entire performance was generally great. There were a few challenges of course, such as one inmate who kept talking to his friend while I was performing, but at the end of it all, I had earned not just their undivided attention, but respect as well.
I ended the show with a bit of interaction with the guys, while I passed out some Dharmic Evolution Podcast business cards. I promised to keep them entertained when they get out, and are back out on the open highway.
[8:42] Performance at the Ladies’ Section
‘’Where are the ladies?’’, Said I.
You can imagine my surprise when Jeff, the prison assistant told me that they were in another room. So, this meant that I had to pull down everything I had set up, and move it to where I’d be instructed, and then set it all up again. (where are my roadies when I need them!)
It took a while, but I broke the Ice with the ladies and everything was flowing in no time.
I did the whole performance sequence all over again, and it felt really great because I’m certain that my message did reach out and touch them.
After the performance, it was time for me to say my goodbyes and call this visit a success.
[15:20] Jail 2: Meherrin River Regional Jail
I headed south towards my second destination for the journey which was Meherrin River Regional Jail.
My first observation of the place was how strict they are. On arrival, I met this tough lady who wanted to inspect every single thing that I had with me, bags, cables, boxes, key etc, lock up my phone, keys, etc.
So, I went outside and reassessed the items that I had with me, and only took those that I essentially needed, and placed them on a cart. Afterwards, I was shown my way to the performance platform by the Major, who was in charge of the facility.
This stage was slightly bigger than the first performance platform at Pamunkey regional jail. And, because everything at the prison has to be done in its allocated time, I quickly set up my gear. The only alarming thing about this gig though, was that I had to do four sets, back to back. I hadn’t sung four sets in a while. And given the fact that I was a solo, and not as young as I used to be, I knew this was going to be an uphill task.
I had a bit of a similar experience like I did in the first tour. While I was performing, some guy was busy engaging his pals in a conversation. I didn’t let it get to me though, I ignored it and kept performing.
At the end of it, the whole crowd was jazzed up! Everyone in the backrow was bopping and dancing in their chairs, clapping their hands and singing the chorus. And once again, I had them!
When the performance was over, some of them came to me, shaking my hand and thanking me for the experience.
Personally, it meant the whole world to me that I had some kind of impact no matter how small or how great.
So wrapping up this experience, I would say that on a whole, it really could not have been a better kickoff for this new extension to my artistry, the JKO prison ministry has been baptized and is alive and well.
Thanks for your support!