This week we did an episode of Unprofessional in which I was seated next to our guest Julian Velard in his Brooklyn apartment. Afterwards, Julian and I recorded this extra-special rendition of the show’s title music.

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The first Airplane Mode song, this was written and recorded back in 2006 as an experiment for my old band, intended to help me learn to write for two guitars. The whole thing happened while messing around in GarageBand, trying to figure out how things worked. Somehow, it turned into this. The title “Better Elevation” is just the first pair of words that came to mind when thinking about the song’s two chords, B and E.

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I recorded an acoustic cover of one of my favorite Killers songs.

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The “trust too much” line is borrowed from an unreleased Refreshments song. It was supposed to be a placeholder lyric, but I like the way it pays off the stammer of the lead-in. Here’s hoping Roger Clyne doesn’t mind.

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I don’t typically talk about technical details, but this song marks an important first for Airplane Mode: Drums and backing vocals were provided by my friend Dave Hamilton. DH lives in New Hampshire, so we collaborated by sending individual tracks back and forth via Dropbox and discussing changes online. It was a great, fascinating experience. Hopefully we’ll do more together.

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As you may or may not know, the poppy outro to Chasing the Train was used as the theme music for a podcast I do called Unprofessional. Since our regular release day lined up with Christmas, we decided to make this week’s show our holiday special. I also thought it might be fun to re-record the theme music in the spirit of the holiday.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Hug someone you like.

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I was a bit of a mess when I got back from Amsterdam. Not in any grand sense; I just had a hard time staying focused. When you know what you want and it’s thousands of miles away, it’s easy to be distracted wishing you were somewhere else.

The girl and I would email back and forth every day or two. She’d tell me—in her adorable slightly broken English—about her day and the crazy things that would happen with guests at the hotel. I’d do my best to walk the line between being easily understood and condescending, writing flowery letters and wondering how much harder things would have been without the Internet to bridge the gap.

It really did help, being so connected. Skype and broadband meant that we could talk as much as we wanted. With video, even. You hear stories about how video calls can create an emotional connection so real as to be overwhelming, but until you experience it for yourself it’s hard to get what all the fuss is about.

One day I took a walk around my own city of Denver and took a bunch of pictures for her. The wide streets and tall buildings. There’s nothing quite like it in The Netherlands, and I thought it might give her a better understanding of who I was and where I was from. When I traveled, I’d send her pictures of the cities I visited. The whole time, I’d write and record songs to send to her.

Somewhere along the way, we made the decision that I should go back for an extended visit. We both knew there was something interesting between us, and we wanted to explore it. Because she was finishing up school and I had the ability to work from anywhere, it made more sense for me to cross the ocean.

So I moved to Amsterdam.

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My friend Kyle isn’t really a relationship guy. He says he dates, but he’s kind of secretive about it and is totally happy being alone most of the time. Every so often when I talk about a girl I’ve met, he just rolls his eyes at me. He doesn’t understand why I get so excited. Sometimes he can’t take it any more and calls me on it. “You’re always into some girl,” he says. “But this is different,” I say. “You say that every time.”

You know what? He’s right. I do spend a lot of my time excited about some girl. But why should that be a bad thing? In my life, I hope I’m always excited about someone. Even if I’m 90 and I’ve been married forever, I hope I still wake up every morning with that same dopey butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling that makes me want to write songs and cross oceans. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.

So here’s my love-letter to the chase. It doesn’t always go as planned, but it’s always worth it.

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[This track is from my old band's record, Another November.]

Years ago I worked in a call center doing tech support for a cable company. My days were mostly spent telling people how to unplug their modems and then plug them back in. It wasn’t exactly fulfilling work. If you’ve never had the experience of working in a call center, they’re all just giant cubicle farms full of underachievers, working moms, college students entering the workforce, and process-friendly middle managers. It’s okay as jobs go, but the very smart and very dumb don’t last long.

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A friend of mine was working on a video for a client who had written a children’s book. In the video a mother would be reading the book to her son at bedtime, and as she read, the room around them would come to life in the style of the book. My friend asked me to record something light and fun to go behind the narration, and this is what I sent him.

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