20 Years of GigsDecember 13, 2005
I'm certain that it's all going somewhere, but some days it's hard to see it. Life's a pretty serious struggle for all of us, no matter how much money you have, how secure or insecure your job is, how loved or unloved you are. I think there's something about the very nature of us that thrives on struggle and seeks it out, even when all the evidence describes someone who should be content. Without struggle there's no friction, without friction there is no heat, and without heat there is no life.
I'm having a hard time right now because for the first time in over 20 years I don't actually have a gig booked. I've been paddling this little boat called music (and bailing it out) since I was 15 playing in high school bands - competing to be worthy, competing to be heard. Dispite my better judgement, I've never given up, even when the only thing I could book was some show in a crappy cover bar for tips. I think I stopped booking, or making the effort because I was beginning to forget what the hell I was really doing it for anyway.
You see, making music is like anything you do that gives you bliss. It's like a really sweet dream that lingers for just a while when you wake up and gradually it fades and you can't recapture that feeling no matter how hard you try. All of the things you do to make a living as a musician seem to work in the opposite direction of that bliss it seems. I think it turns you into a self-centered, neurotic puddle of insecurity and false bravado that utimately destroys the gift that was there. Tapping into the well of the music - the purist connection to the soul that I know is such a healing process, but it requires an openess and a sense of surrender that can't be achieved when you are focused on the act of doing it and the outcome it will bring.
Every musician or artist I know, whether they admit to this or not, knows this hopeless feeling of something precious slipping away. The feeling that you will never be able to write another song, make another record or even hit a note that you used to be able to nail. It's that void -- that empty longing that sends us out on a cold night to set up in a strange place and play our songs for a lot of empty chairs. We're always looking for acceptance and validation -- someone to confirm that we really aren't crazy and that what we create has meaning.
Never having had any real commercial success like some of my well-know friends who over the years have become more of aquaintances, I feel like someone who made a wish, dropped a coin into a well and I am still listening for the "clink" that means it reached something solid. It's been a long time, and the larger part of me, the grown-up part has long given up on ever hearing that connection, but the hopeless optimist in me still lingers around the opening thinking that maybe, just maybe I'm good enough. Maybe one song that I wrote tapped into some bedrock of universal truth and it will resonate around the world and make people feel less alone, less despirate and more alive. Maybe then I won't feel this emptiness, this sense of failure. I know this is ridiculous fantasy, and that happiness is much simpler and more complex than any amount of musical success, but I would be lying if I said I never wanted it.
It's much easier when someone else can say that you're good than it is to say it to yourself --- and even harder to believe it.