Hi buddies. Just checking in to promote my final solo show of the year at Java Joe's on Saturday November 12th. Free stuff for all who attend! Invite some friends a go bar-hopping in Normal Heights afterward. Take a date and grab a scoop of ice cream before. Gosh, I'm full of awesome suggestions. See you there, yes?
Hi friends - I'm excited to share a new song with you based on the latest book selection for my songwriter book club. The book was Slade House by David Mitchell. This was my first pseudo-spooky read. I'm not normally into things that go bump in the night, but I think my songwriting shield helped protect me from getting too spooked!
I drew a majority of inspiration from the novel's surrealism, paired with the antagonists’ pragmatic approach to survival via deception. One particular line stuck out to me in the first chapter, when the first victim – a lonely, socially abnormal young boy – is unwittingly lured into the trap by a new playmate. “Maybe this is like having a friend.” It was a moving line that reminded me how willing, even desperate, we are to put our trust and faith in the promise of a meaningful relationship, sometimes against our own better judgement. Victim after victim, this theme was reinforced in the story and it resonated with my own experiences with suffering and survival. How many times have I made a logical decision for my own survival that caused an innocent person pain? How many times have the roles been reversed and I was the one who felt the blows? One scenario seems unfortunate but necessary; the other seems cruel and unfair. I have been both soul-sucker, and the sucked-soul.
This song is written from both perspectives…a purposely muddled narrative culminating in a final question…what do you give or give up in order to get or get through?
1. Sit still, don't breathe
This is how you leave - you have been deceived
Nostrils flare, scare eyes
You can't event cry - you are paralyzed
The fleeting fox, the hunting hound
Chase each other around
Was it real, or just pretend?
Tell me this isn't all there is to being a friend
2. Deceased, you feast
Tell me how I taste at least
Pursed lips, time drips - what a winning waste of a losing grip
3. Detect, report
Truth and lies distort - where's my life support
This is how you flee - showing no mercy
Familiar with my band The Lovebirds? No? I'll fill you in. It was a music duo started over 6 years ago. The music? Awesome. The message? Awesomer. Performing? Super fun. Touring? Loved it. Meeting awesome people along the way? Lived for it. The work? Harder than most things I've ever done.
And now it's over. After the official announcement went out last night, I woke up to a text from one of my friends that called it a "loss of part of your identity." Talk about hitting a nail on the head. My head, to be exact. With a really grimy sharp nail and a huge hammer, to be exact. I thought about that statement and tried to quantify roughly how much of my identity I donated to The Lovebirds cause since 2010. My conservative estimate would be at least 65%. I flexed all other aspects of my life around it - my job, love life, family, free time, self-care, and sanity, to name a few things. The ROI was always worth it. Until it just wasn't anymore.
I know in the long run things will be better than they ever were. I've been through enough shitty shit in my life and have gone to enough therapy and have re-pinned enough inspirational Pinterest memes to truly know that. But I also know it's okay to just feel how you feel. And right now I feel sad and hurt and angry and insufficient and extremely, extremely, extremely, one more extremely for good measure, insecure. And ugly. Have you seen me after 4 days of crying? It is not adorable like Michelle Phifer cry face. It is hideous like Claire Danes cry face.
The music scene can be a hostile hustle that requires extreme tenacity from a business standpoint, and extreme confidence from both artistic and marketing standpoints. I'm good to go in the tenacity department, thanks to my dog-with-a-bone maternal DNA, but the confidence could always use some work, thanks to my frozen-in-thought paternal DNA. Being in The Lovebirds helped raise the confidence meter. I'm a fiercely determined lyricist but an unmemorable musician. What luck to be paired up with one of the most charismatic and talented musicians I've ever met! I enjoy performing and traveling and being goofy and meeting new people but I'm socially awkward and introverted AF. What luck to play and tour with someone who shared my oddball sense of humor and understood my periodic need to retreat from interaction with others.
The thing I had the most confidence in was our shared story, which essentially became the message behind our music: that love and hope and humor and music are agents of resilience and healing. (Promoting The Lovebirds press...force of habit). As I mentioned earlier, a large part of my identity over the last several years has to do with my commitment to this partnership, both onstage and behind the scenes. I couldn't begin to explain who I am without detailing all that I've given to Veronica and all that I've received from her. Putting this particular story to bed and starting almost completely from scratch feels about as unsettling to me as watching Joey's spin-off after the Friends series finale. *Wince.
I don't know if you've heard my solo music. It can be pretty bleak. I tackle the subject of resilience a lot actually, because I always seem to be army-crawling my way through life's latest little trench of terrors. You know on American Gladiators (millennials, see: American Ninja Warrior) when the contestant tries to make it through a timed course while being pummeled by both rigorous and ridiculous obstacles, hoping to reach her final destination with both bones and dignity in tact? Many times I don't get around to writing a song from the triumphant finish line. I write my songs balled up in the fetal position in a pit of foam failure, crying and fishing a spandex wedgie out of my ass after being assaulted by a barrage of Diamond's 100 mph tennis balls (millennials, see: I don't know what to tell you, the 90's were just cooler).
I write songs before the bandage goes on. Before the caution tape goes up. For me, the writing of the song is the bandage and the caution tape. But what then, do I ask of my listeners? I know the subject matter is quite easy to relate to. People endure unfathomable hardships all day, every day. But so far I'm not convinced that what's left of ticket-buying listening-room audiences will allow themselves to be that vulnerable with me and a room full of complete strangers and whirring cappuccino machines. People pay good money to escape the harsh circumstances of life during their free time, and here I am attempting to be the world's most fucked up-and-coming Willy Wonka? Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure desolation? Besides, what can I even say that doesn't wind up in the bargain bin on triple clearance at the Fiona Apple superstore?
Like I said, insecure. I'll add it to the list of things to work on, right next to guitar chops, social functioning, making it 24 hours without crying, writing a new story, and finding an audience. In the meantime...
image credit: Darci Fontenot