It was dark in the bar, the only light was a a weak glow illuminating the rows of bottles in front of the mirror that reflected a drab room full of tired looking souls who avoided the mirror as much as they embraced the bottles. There was a band, and like every other band in every other dingy bar, they were too loud, unpleasant looking, and full of themselves. He didn't quite know why he was there. Somewhere between boredom and loneliness-he just couldn't take one more moment in his own skin. There were no seats so he stood with his drink at the end of the bar in a nook between the phones and the door to the bathrooms, and tried to look like he was happy there. With no one to talk to, he drank that first one fast, and had another, and another and with that one some of the self consciousness slipped off and he looked around for a friendly face. Her saw her doing the same from her perch at the bar. She looked familiar and he realized it was because she was so common; too old to be innocent and with insufficient makeup to mask the fear that showed itself in fleeting expressions that flickered across her features as she pretended to listen to the man talking in her ear over the noise in the room. She smiled at him.
Humans are the only animals that are able to escape reality and exist in an alternate state. Some other species are able to practice deception in order to escape detection by predators. For instance, chameleons can alter their appearance to match their surroundings, an adaption that may be the evolutionary precursor to the uniquely human ability to lie. Humans tell lies to escape situations where they are threatened or wish to gain an advantage they wouldn't ordinarily have. Like the chameleon, it is used most often as a temporary tactic, but if a lie persists for long, it replaces reality. If enough people accept the lie they will accommodate it and society will create institutions to enforce it. In this context truth, or reality, becomes irrelevant. Though lies are generally transactional, individuals are able to lie to themselves, another uniquely human trait, and those that do are more susceptible to believing an untruth told to them. He knew this, had learned it early in life, and thought, wrongly, that this knowledge inoculated him from the effects of his own deceptions, unaware that this was the primordial lie he had told himself.
If he ever needed a break it was now. There was a chance that if things went his way he would never need to worry again about the future. It came down to a simple choice: two paths that on the surface seemed equally promising, but each with potential hazards. He knew which ever one he chose there would be no turning back; the only certainty being that he had to commit completely or there was no chance of success. That part was easy. What was being left behind had only been existing, a bland stasis of days filled with an aching loneliness, a longing for some recognition from the faceless crowd, pressing in and threatening to suffocate him. It just required finding some courage to move forward, but he was paralyzed, rendered immobile by a crushing feeling of hopelessness and defeat that made limbs leaden, vision blurred and simple thought exhausting. Maybe it was true, that nothing matters when you have nothing to lose. Once, long ago when time had no meaning, every move was a leap of faith and he still felt a tiny flame of that freedom and passion flickering deep in his soul, and for a moment he let it warm his spirit. Then he turned his eyes to the horizon and took a step.
The piano sat in the parlor where the shades were usually drawn creating a mysterious chamber. The family rarely spent time in the room, preferring the kitchen where meals, homework and chatter filled the days. Occasionally, when out of town relatives were visiting or a door to door salesman was invited in to make his pitch the the drapes would be pulled back and for a time grownup talk would push away the shadows. So it was a little strange and exciting when one afternoon an unfamiliar woman came to the house, and the youngest, a six year old, was led into the room and lifted up on the piano bench. The lid was raised exposing the keys and the stranger, smiling, invited the youngster to place their small hands on them and press down. The sound was surprisingly loud, a pure tone that echoed from the walls and filled the room. That's all that was needed. At that moment a love affair began that has continued to this day, and that child, now looking back on countless hours spent engaged in the pursuit of perfection, perhaps never to be attained, feels a deep gratitude to having been given a connection to something greater than themselves.
You don't know you're at the bottom until you've been there a while. You don't see it coming, the long slide into that dark windowless room with funhouse mirrors on all the walls. It was exciting and compelling at first, being the outlaw, living your own reality apart and above the rest of society, until the bottom falls out and the thrills are exchanged for a cold desperate search for some sense of control. At the end you are alone, surrounded by strangers, in a dank fog of menace. Some do not survive, lost forever, but for a few a glimmer of redemption, in the form of another lost soul, provides a beacon showing the way up and out of the pit. An angel reaches out of the darkness to save you from being swallowed by the beast. There's a realization of how close you have come to self destruction, and you begin to rebuild your life one moment at a time. It's like rebirth, not in the evangelical sense, but with a renewed vision of possibility and hope. One truth emerges; you know with complete certainty that you would have perished if you had continued alone.
The air was heavy and liquid as the sun hovered above the horizon as if waiting, reluctant to relinquish another Summer's day. Out here in the center of the hay field I thought that this is how it must feel in the middle of the ocean, with the distant trees on the property line seeming like a faraway island and a cloudless sky dominating from above. Soon the lights from the neighbor's farmhouses would signal the end of the day, and we'd make the last trip to the barn through the twilight. Shocking silence flooded in when the tractor's staccato rumble came to it's abrupt end, allowing the crows nagging squawks, the whispering evening breeze and the humming power lines to become the soundtrack for our labors. One task left; to unload and stack the sweet smelling bales, lit by the faint single bulb hanging from the rafters. Then, brushing the hay from our clothes and out of our hair as we went, the walk back to the house where dinner was waiting. For the moment the knowledge that the this day would be bringing another just like it was put aside, put into it's place in an order both urgent and timeless.
It had been a long day on the road, seemingly endless mile after mile of a arrow straight interstate with a flat featureless landscape on either side. In such a place the mind drifts, alternating between past and future, almost uncontrollably, as I tried to make some sense of how I came to this place and where it was leading me. As I considered my past I knew that every choice had been made by someone who was different than who I had become and that those choices steered me towards this moment and it's decisions. For the moment, however, the only option was to keep moving, keep looking ahead. I knew that at some point, hopefully soon, that this emotional desert would end and I would come to a place where the world would once again become complex, challenging and distracting. There I would find relief from the chaotic thoughts chasing me down this highway, and some comfort knowing despite all I had earned the right to be loved.
"Home For Good" is now on CDBABY and also streaming, but I hope people will download the album because it's a better way to support an artist. It's no secret that streaming music services are taking advantage of the fact that lawmakers are behind the times in regulating this industry. I am asking $1.99 to download, because I don't want any obstacle between the music and those who may be interested in it. That's 19 cents per song. In order for me to earn the same amount from Spotify I would need to get about 40 plays. I feel the problem with the streaming services is that the subscriptions are too cheap to support the music they provide at a level that would be sustaining for the artists. The other downside is that since people don't have to go to the effort to log on, and pay for the album they tend to rely on streaming, which if it doesn't provide a fair royalty is just as bad as piracy.
I've had a few people, other musicians, ask me if I regret leaving Nashville, along with asking if I had success there. When I get this question I answer with something like "Well, I put my songs out there but didn't get a cut." From there the conversation heads into how competitive the business is and so on, and how it's "who you know", etc...So, yeah, I haven't had a cut yet, and maybe I never will, but I do consider my time there a success for many reasons chief among them the amazing creative journey I had in the process of developing my songs. I feel that if I had been anywhere else I wouldn't have grown anywhere near as much or been as creatively challenged as I was there, and that's as fulfilling to me as if I had sold a song. In the process I met and worked with some great people, made a living in my chosen field and left knowing I would continue to grow. So no regrets, thanks, and we'll keep pitchin'!
I wasn't able to be part of the Americana Festival this year due to the move. It has been the highlight of my Fall and I've looked forward to it every year since when I first attended. The minute I learned about this all embracing genre I knew I had found a home for my music. I never quite fit into Rock, Pop, or Folk (Folk Rock?), but Americana as I see it gives me a frame for what I do. I'm drawn to sounds and styles that originated in the '50s and '60s and even earlier, and that strain runs through some modern music and for me gives it a sense of timelessness. Now, Americana directly includes artists who emulate "old-time" music, calling it roots and I think it provides another point of reference. The operative here is "America", and I feel that if you can reflect some of the uniquely American attributes and draw from all eras, even back to the turn of the century, then you are firmly Americana by any definition.