short circuits

now playing: michael hedges (old vh-1 footage), “all along the watchtower”

somehow, this weekend has brought about a considerable amount of reflection as to what it is, exactly, that motivates me to do what i do, as a musician…and, dare i even fucking say, an artist…

i was sitting at denny’s earlier tonight, listening to the songs that were piped in over the speakers, a tune from the second jars of clay album came on…wendy said something about the song being about jesus – i immediately thought back to the amazing show i was at in nashville some years back, when they played at the ryman auditorium with a string section…honestly, it was one of those transcendent concerts where everything else falls away and nothing else exists but the circuit between the listener and the band. i remember the singer, at some point between songs, saying something to the effect of – “on nights like tonight, it’s easy to absorb all this – all this stuff going on around you – and start to think that you’re a bigger part of this than you are….” the gist of what he was saying, i thought, was that there was a secondary circuit between himself and where the music actually comes from.

and i was sitting there, staring at my plate…listening to this song, and thinking to myself that perhaps that circuit is a little weak for me right now.

i mean, i still play regularly, i’m gigging all the time, i’m still in the thick of this…as far as being active as a musician is concerned…so outwardly, all probably looks just fine.

i’m still pickin’…

lately, though, these little unrelated things keep happening – drunks walking up to me after shows and telling me that i should be doing my own stuff, for instance. there was a guy last night who spent most of the second half of the night playing drunken air guitar…he was wearing a kansas t-shirt and a lynyrd skynyrd baseball hat…your typical northern berks barfly, really…but he comes up to me at the end of the show and starts this self-righteous rant about how i should be doing my own songs, how people would really dig me doing my songs….

now, keep in mind this guy doesn’t know me from adam, nor i him…but it started to get under my skin after a while…in fact, i was actually starting to go pretty hard on him after a while. i so much as told him that he “didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about”. i asked him if he’d ever even played in front of people before, and he admitted he hadn’t, and i told him to spend a decade or two playing in front of people, slaving over your own songs, recording them and sending them out into the world to be largely rejected, and then he could come back to the village and tell me what the fuck i should be playing….almost verbatim…

earlier this week, angela – the woman in HR whos’ become one of a small circle of friends that i would have such a conversation with – told me that she was listening to my CD on the way to work, and asked what i was doing here (in the way that one does when they’re asserting that you should be doing something else). i gave her the short answer, with all the usual talking points – whereas, in jon cusack fashion, i pointed out “at least one and possibly all four of the following pieces of information”: the kind of music i do isn’t in vogue anymore, i don’t really have the ambition to maintain the kind of onslaught one has to maintain in order to hack through the underbrush, so to speak…i enjoy playing the role of sideman more than being the focal point, blah blah fuckin’ blah….

and the truth is, all of this is true. every bit of it.

then today, i had work to do at joe cala’s house (joe is the vp of sales at work, and one of angela’s superiors), and got the same question – the whole “what are you doing here” trip again…and i repeated the same schpiel again….

so tonight, i’m listening to jars of clay, and thinking about all the shit that we do to try and fill our various spiritual holes…with food, with sex, with material posessions, with guitars, with money, with whatever a given person might latch onto to try and satisfy whatever it is that they think they want out of their life…and remembering that there are two circuits at work in this exchange of energy that exists when this channel opens up – one between the performer and the audience, and the one that’s often overlooked – between the performer and the source of inspiration.

whether anyone chooses to acknowledge it or not, it doesn’t begin with them – as much as ego or vanity or whatever internal reasoning process might lead them to that conclusion, the good stuff comes from somewhere else – and in order to get to the really good stuff, that circuit has to be open.

i don’t know that this circuit is working well for me lately. in fact, i think i’ve all but shut it off completely in some ways.

i’m not entirely sure how this came to pass, but i think i have some ideas…but it’s after midnight, and i have to rejoin the ranks of the uninspired tomorrow to earn my living doing something totally unrelated to creativity…

the scary part is that getting up and going to work feels more natural than sitting down with a guitar for me lately…

….i gotta figure out what that’s about.


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