Singer and songwriter Phoenix Sigalove of Jacksonville has a fascinating story to tell . It's a story of pain, loss and depression that led him to cross the nation on horseback from Yellowstone National Park to the Mexican border, taking time to heal, see deep into his American Indian soul, eventually find his true home in the Rogue Valley, then, while enjoying a show at Britt one evening, find his true love sitting next to him.
"Phoenix Blues" is a wise and gentle story full of poignant moments set on a steep learning curve. Sigalove will present it at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, on the indoor stage at Britt Pavilion, 350 First St., Jacksonville. All tickets cost $20.
This intimate show is more like a cowpoke spinning yarns round a campfire, strumming, speaking, sometimes singing, finger-painting a soul's rite of passage out of prejudice (he's Euro-Native American-Filipino) and lost years of his youth to attaining the true manhood, honor and strength that allow him to be the husband, father, sage and troubadour he is today.
The story — richly colored by his love for his hapless dog, Blues — takes you in its grip from the get-go, where we find ranchhand Sigalove in despair, with a cocked gun in his mouth and his finger on the trigger "with only the slightest squeeze remaining." Then, through his tears, he sees his pup, very aware of what's happening.
"I was lost," Sigalove says. "The antidepressants quit working. I could feel no joy and no sorrow."
When he realized his relationship with Blues — the discarded runt of the litter — he thought, "If you don't give up on me, then I won't give up on you."
"I just tell my story," Sigalove says. "It's important to me that it not come across as a self-help piece, like, 'You, too, can ride a horse to Mexico and overcome your depression.' Any power and wisdom I found in this world came from out of that place of being lost and on the brink of mortality. That was the start and source of everything after."
Sigalove is a writer, poet and essayist with a degree in English literature from New York's Columbia University, and he carries the energy and understanding of a bluesman inspired by Dave Matthews, Ben Harper and Jimi Hendrix. With this skill set and the guidance of Claudia Alick, an associate director at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Sigalove hammered together "Phoenix Blues," debuting it last spring at Carpenter Hall.
Sigalove paints a vivid picture of wanderings over South Pass in Wyoming, pristine lakes of the Rockies, the beauty (albeit sparse food for his horse) of Utah's Canyonlands, hunting and fishing to feed himself and Blues — and being stalked by Indian-hating rednecks.
Sigalove paid a huge price in learning and suffering to find his story.
"I feel proud of creating something beautiful that people can connect with," he says. "It's a hard passage that is often looked down upon as mental problems or screwing up your life, but really, it's a universal experience."
The show is not suitable for those younger than 12, and no outside food or beverages will be allowed.