Saturday morning I woke to a wonderful fantasy. I indulged myself and lingered in those daydreams. Fantasy, however, is fantasy. Dreams are dreams. And my morning indulgence promised only a fast lane adventure to nowhere. I had a decision to make. Stay under the covers with my hoped for future, or get out of bed and start making it a reality.
Motivation is at times in short supply. A deep sense of purpose fuels activity, but with Tuesday complete my well of purpose had been drained. I couldn’t rely on an emotional boost or the drive of a deadline. So I sat up and recalled my goals. I picked something to do and I went to work.
In the end, I had a very productive day. I made a lot of headway in purging unnecessary items and cleaning, so that, when it comes time to pack up and move, I’ll be ready. I spent a little time in practice, despite having no clear direction for the music. And while I felt no great sense of accomplishment, I ended the day satisfied that I had done what I could do.
I suppose some days you just have to keep moving. In the end, it’s the only way to get there.
Tuesday’s show marked an important first step. The whole experience has left me encouraged and hopeful for the future. That I expected. The whole experience also left me completely exhausted. I had nothing to give yesterday and no amount of coffee could get me over the hump. That I should have expected. The whole experience left me feeling empty. That, I didn’t expect.
The past three weeks I lived laser focused. My purpose to make the night something special. I prayed every night for the artists, the inspiration, the message and those who would hear it. I kept in contact with everyone involved. Worked out details for the coffee shop and people to run it. Talked it up at every opportunity to friends, family and fellow coffee drinkers. For a glorious three weeks, I pretty much knew exactly what I needed to do each day and I did it.
And it’s gone. It’s complete. It’s over.
I suppose I’m going to have to get used to this. Nothing lasts forever. I don’t like the vacuum, but that feeling led me to an important question.
Playing for the condo’s Christmas party provides an immediate answer, but an unsatisfying one. I’ve resolved to lean in so that I can grow from that commitment, but I find it lacking. Until a moment ago, I couldn’t articulate why. I feel it’s a desire for more of what Tuesday’s show gave me – collaboration and a greater purpose.
Thankfully, my goals for 2020 seem pointed in that direction. One, I am accepting a challenge to live this journey publicly. It will require me to engage with social media, something I’ve avoided in the past, but it continues in the spirit of Tuesday night’s show. I will share the process as I chase my dream in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. I’ll share more as it takes shape. Two, I will be writing songs. This is the one thing that by doing it, everything else I want to do will either become easier or unnecessary. While it’s not quite the laser focused sense of purpose that has guided me over the past few weeks, I feel confident I have a good start and today I feel a little less empty.
Here’s to new beginnings!
Tomorrow I will be playing my guitar and singing songs downtown. It amazes me how something so simple can be filled with such significance. At least for me. I’ve been a musician my entire life. I’ve sung with tracks, played in ensembles, recorded with choirs, and even played small two man gigs with friends. But in all that time, I’ve never played a solo set.
There were always reasons. I couldn’t play well enough. I hadn’t written my own songs yet. I just wasn’t ready. Truth is, there are always reasons, and there will always be reasons.
But I’ve learned a few things in recent months and years.
- Circumstances will never be perfect. I can’t always check all the boxes before acting.
- I’m not going to be perfect either, and that’s just fine. It’s okay for it to be what it is right now.
- I’m a lot better than I gave myself credit for, and the work has only made me better.
- If you’re following your passion, the work isn’t all that hard. Even when it’s hard. I’ve never had such an easy time practicing as I have preparing for this night. It’s been a lot easier to choose the work over distraction.
- I can’t be afraid of breaking new ground. New challenges and discoveries inspire and drive me forward. Real living builds momentum.
- Dreams are never realized by dreaming, or even with planning. Dreams come true in the wake of action.
All said, I’m excited and looking forward to a great night no matter who shows or how well I play (though I feel confident and ready). I’m going to put on the best show I can put on right now, and I’m going to have a blast with friends and strangers alike.
And if you happen to be in Memphis tomorrow night (Dec. 3). Come join us, 6PM at 109 North Main St., Qahwa Coffee Bar. Maybe I’ll see you there.
I’m about to begin work… and play.
Because yesterday I invested in new tools… and toys.
I’ve spent the morning studying the basics for my new DAW (Digital Recording Workstation). At one moment, the whole experience reminded me of college. I’m studying. Only this time I’m not struggling to drag myself out of bed. It’s not a curriculum of unnecessary classes or restricted access. No one is telling me what I can or can’t do. I get to play.
Sometimes it doesn’t go as smoothly as I expect.
As any child with a new toy, I broke out the software and MIDI controller as soon as I got them. I thought it would be fun to craft a simple arrangement of a Christmas song with my niece and nephew. My actions were the very definition of wishful thinking. An hour later I set everything aside and cracked open the manual. The adult in me, if nothing else, knew the shortcut to play lay a few short lessons away. Now, armed just enough to be dangerous, I’m diving in again.
I’m positive it won’t go anywhere near as smoothly as I hope. It won’t be anywhere near as good as I want. But I can’t wait to get into it. I can’t wait to play, even if I have to work at it to get where I want to go.
And where do I want to go?
To the place where I get paid to play… I mean, work.
“You don’ do what Adam do? Or say, “Baby, let’s put this back on the tree” ’cause we have everything we need.“
– Kanye West, Everything We Need
These lyrics set the dominoes of inspiration in motion. Once again, I am the domino one removed from the source, and I am deeply thankful because my friend’s take on Kanye’s words opened my mind to something a little deeper. You may recall my mention of her desire to inspire and encourage through art at the coffee shop. One of the phrases to accomplish that task was “All you have is all you need”. It is this that she paired with the idea of putting the fruit, the forbidden fruit, back, and the more I thought about it the deeper it went.
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent months delving into the idea of the true self. True self is not a term I had when I started, but I gathered it along the way. It encompasses the created identity God gifted us with at birth. It’s who He created us to be. Much like Adam and Eve, He gifted us with all we would ever need. But also like Adam and Eve, we tried to become something else. To deal with the world around us, we put on a false self.
Part of my journey has led me to the Enneagram. As a tool, it has helped me to better see and understand my false self. In turn, it also helps me to see and uncover my true self. This is an act of putting back the fruit. It requires me to look at the promises of the false self. The promises of control. The promises of power. The promises of safety. I have to let them go. I have to put the fruit back and embrace who God made me to be.
I am learning right now, and I am only just beginning. What I can tell you is that it is an ongoing process. Every day is a process of facing the enemy, putting the fruit back and embracing the true self. It can be terrifying! It is also exhilarating! I feel I can also say He is faithful and, Yes, you have everything you need! Other than that, well, why don’t you join me on the journey and we’ll find out together.
“The melody and the chord structure comes pretty quickly, lyrics are the bitch.”
Over the past few days I’ve been writing. Most of the time I don’t have trouble finding words. Ask anyone who talks to me. I rarely have trouble expressing myself whether it be my journal, the occasional poem, or a story. Words come easily.
Most of the time…
Music is the same way. As with Mr. Wainwright, melody and chord structure come pretty quickly.
But “lyrics are the bitch”.
Lyrics wear me out. For me, it’s a grueling hunt. Not just for the deeper story. Not just for the right words. It’s a hunt for words. Period. Just words. It’s a slog through the back country looking for anything to put on the table (though I’m always hoping for a trophy buck).
Someone might think I’m crazy to keep it up. They might wonder why I’m doing it. Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing it. In the end, it’s because I want to. Despite the frustration, I like it enough to keep coming back day after day. I like it enough to sit in front of a blank page. I like it enough to take myself on walks because I know inspiration meets me there. And I like the results. There is a song in all that mess, and I’m going to see it when it’s done. And I hope it will inspire someone the way it inspires me. In the end, I’m an artist and this is my pen. I write with words, and I write with melody.
So I wonder, what is it that you’d come back to time and time again even if it’s a bitch? I hope you’re crazy enough to keep at it.
Over the past few days I’ve been busy binge watching Songland. From where I stand, it feels like a master class on songwriting. Not only do I get to hear constructive criticism from some of the top writer/producers in the music industry, I also get to see how they transform good songs into great songs.
One particular concept hits close to home. One Republic’s Ryan Tedder summed it up in a word – duality. I think of it in terms of Yin Yang philosophy where Yang is present in Yin and Yin is present in Yang. Each has an element of the other within it. In life the brightest light often casts the deepest shadow, and without the contrast we might never recognize it for what it is. This has always been a struggle for me. Not only with music, but in any form of creation. As an Enneagram seven, I prefer to live in bright places and, pun intended, make light of the shadows.
I’m learning. In order to make the beautiful ideas more than pure idealism, I have to expose the pain and hurt that makes it real. It requires honesty and vulnerability. Not only with my readers or listeners, but first with myself. It isn’t easy, but I believe it is necessary. That kind of honesty is where shared experience sets the stage so that great ideals have a chance to become real in the lives of others. It brings the divine into the realm of mortals so that maybe, just maybe, we allow it change our lives.