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Atz Kilcher

Take Time to find your song

Atz Kilcher grew up on an Alaskan homestead and overcame an early life of trauma and hardship. He's a multi-talented singer-songwriter and author of a new book entitled Son of a Midnight Land. He stars in Alaska: The Last Frontier and is father to Jewel, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time.


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Episode Description


Today I'm kicking off my interview series with Atz Kilcher.   I felt like I sat down with someone, who at the age of 70, with perhaps nothing left to prove, is on the brink of discovering the true or perhaps ultimate meaning and purpose of his life.   

Atz is the son of Alaskan homesteaders, gaining unexpected fame late in life on reality TV on the series Alaska: The Last Frontier, and he is father to Jewel Kilcher, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of our time.  Amazingly, Atz might just now be hitting his stride in a way that is probably unimaginable to him. 

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I don't need to go through his life story in the intro of course, that's pretty well covered in the interview.  But before we jump in, you have to know that much, if not most of Atz's adult life has been spent peeling back layers shame, regret, guilt, fear, anger, and anxiety.  These layers were constructed by years of mental and emotional trauma, not to mention the physically demanding life of growing up on the family homestead in Alaska.  We spend a considerable amount of time talking about the relationship between Atz and his father Yule Kilcher, a remarkably complex man who made the solo voyage from Switzerland to Alaska.  But this relationship was not only to be the source of tremendous pain and trauma for Atz, but also became the model of the relentless pioneering spirit of discovery. 

Atz makes this clear by noting how fortunate he is to be guided by two amazing pioneers.  On the one hand he has his father who went out on foot, in search of a better life, and now his daughter Jewel, who has embarked on a life-altering journey into the inner-realm, shares her wisdom and experience with growing audience that extends well beyond her success as a musician.  Atz learned early in life how to persevere, persist, and fight through difficult times, and now he is on the relentless pursuit to discover who he is by tapping into his inner wisdom, to find peace and happiness in everyday life. 

Make no mistake, it's hard work finding that peace and happiness.  It isn't for the faint of heart.  You have to be prepared every day when you wake up, and the essential tools of vulnerability and gratitude are some of the hardest Atz has ever learned to use.   

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Prior to spending the day with Atz, I read his new book called Son of a Midnight Land. I was  riveted by the depth of his experiences but also emotionally touched in a way I would never have expected.  I told Atz several times that our upbringings and lives couldn't be more different, yet as a son, a father, a husband, basically as a human being, I found so much in common when it comes to life.  And as Atz is discovering, his journey is touching a lot of people because he has spent a lifetime acutely struggling with emotions that many of us have, but may only be vaguely aware of until something pricks us and reveals some underlying pain.  

I discovered talking to Atz, this isn't a story all about pain and suffering.  It's about the joy and peace that life has to offer once we learn to accept and manage our struggles, no matter how difficult or even unjust they might seem.   

So I believe it is a Chinese proverb that I'm going to attempt to recite here. "It's better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war".  Well, interpret that how you want, but I agree with Jewel, Atz is a true warrior.  He has the battle wounds to show for it.  He has stood up to every challenge, learned how to take responsibility for everything in his life, but now, and perhaps most importantly, he is learning to use the tools of vulnerability, compassion, and gratitude to cultivate a life of peace and contentment. 

This interview is in 5 parts, and is the most honest and revealing I've ever done.  It is amplified by the genuine and skillful use of music, as Atz stops on multiple occasions to deliver his message through song.  He can't help but become emotional as he reveals the scars of a hard life.  There are many of these moments as he talks about his Mom, Dad, the work he has done to mend relationships with his own children, the touching moments when he talks about working with men who experience PTSD and other emotional struggles.   

So let’s get started, and be sure to listen all the way through the end of this segment as we finish with Take Time to Find Your Song, what I would consider the theme song of this interview. 

So please welcome, my guest, Atz Kilcher. 

Thanks for listening,