Friday, November 12, 2010

So Why Bother?

It's 5:25 on a Thursday evening in early mid-November. I'm semi-prone on the couch, not yet settled into a position where typing is comfortable, but getting there. Behind me is the big window that is, if anything is, the focal-point of the living room. It's open as it's always open. It's one of the old-school casement windows. Two separate windows, 2' x 5' each, hinged to open inward. When closed one latches to the other and the other to the sill. When open they swing wide, allowing the whole 4 by 5 window to open onto the yard.

It's cool out, quiet except for the occasion susurration of cars down on New York. Somewhere far away a siren wails and a dog barks, just barely audible. It's still warm enough that mine is not the only open window, and I just now hear the hollow clank of pots as a neighbor sets to cooking. My stomach speaks at the thought and I think that I might put something over a low flame. But I wait on that. I feel like writing, though I am sure that I have nothing of great interest to tell. This is new for me, this blog, and I suppose I am like a boy riding a new bike in circles on the driveway. No particular place to go, but liking the feel of the vehicle beneath him.

I've been off work now for almost two weeks. Much of that time has been productive. I had many promotional tasks to accomplish gearing up for my first real tour, and most of it is done. Enough, anyway, that I feel generally good about myself. There is paid work lined up for weeks once I give myself back to it. And this, what I am doing now, this writing just to write, is not entirely divorced from a greater goal. The idea has come up, mostly in conversations with my friend Duane Thorin, that an on-going web log might be an important component of a touring life.

Duane has become friends with a young woman named Danielle. She is a Canadian, and a performing singer-songwriter of considerable talent. Duane is deeply involved over at The Coffee Gallery, both in cooperation with Bob for shows produced in the Backstage listening room, and also in a number of projects he has initiated in the coffee house proper. Over the last year, Duane has established several nights a week of entertainment out front. He's over-seen the building of a stage, cobbled together a respectable PA system, and encouraged the video and live-stream experiments of others who have been swept along by his energy. He has become something of a leader here in town. Every week more people find his open mic nights - two a week - and some matriculate upward into more focused showcases. His efforts have brought people together and enabled friendships to bloom where none would have.

I could write this blog about Duane, and will re-visit him later, but I want to talk about blogging itself. How Duane figures in, is that somewhere in the flurry of activity, several months back, Danielle arrived. Maybe she was drawn here by the renown of the backstage. I don't know. Whatever the circumstances, she got here. From Canada. And she got here on a motorcycle. I'm not privy to the why of that. I asked once, and she turned the conversation sharply away. Whatever her motivations though, she has taken to the road with a vengeance, criss-crossing the continent several times. And she's been and gone and come back again several times. Duane has given her a stage and helped her find an audience here.

She's traveling, that's my point, and traveling a lot, and in an interesting way. And as she goes, she blogs. Duane read some of her posts, and he shared them with me. He saw how this online journal enabled Danielle's friends and fans to stay connected to her. And as importantly, to connect to adventure through her. This got my attention.

Now Alexia (my friend and partner in the music) and I had spoken several times about this. Early this year I was threatened with eviction (long story, neighbor dispute), and it seemed that I would soon be homeless. I had been toying with the idea of an RV for some time and I figured, if I did get tossed, I'd go ahead and get a motorhome. Of course, we had yet to do much of the work we've done since, so I was not ready to grab the guitar and pursue a gig-schedule. I would have been stuck in So Cal for a while, and forced to roam from place to place until a safe haven presented itself. I was spooked by the idea, but also intrigued. And Lex and I thought, if you have a change like that forced upon you, you might as well tell the story. To blog it every day; share the humiliations, and triumphs, and just all the mistakes and tricks learned, would probably be of interest. Particularly in economic times like these.

What happened instead is that the dispute died down, I refused to go, the landlord re-thought his position, and the crisis just blew away. The months since have been busy and meaningful for me. But a lot of what has happened would not have lent itself to public exposure. We've had some real breakthroughs in how my music is being heard and accepted. But how do you write about that for a general audience without coming off as a self congratulatory tool? Also, I went through the dissolution of a friendship that was also a key professional relationship. That little drama has thrown such a shock-wave through my little musical community, that I've had to withdraw and stay away from places where I used to feel completely at home. I feel wronged, and the other side probably does too. A bad end to a good run. And how do you write about THAT? I've done a lot of 'keeping my own councel' in the last months. I would have had to leave everything interesting out of any personal journal except a private one.

That is something else that Duane and I have discussed: how do you write honestly, and take on the ideas and insights that you are really interested in, without running afoul of other people all the time? Without hurting their feelings, or just pissing them off? It's a real question, and I am thinking about it long and hard. The last time I did this, oh about 5-6 years ago, it only took half a dozen posts to start feeling the pressure. I found myself leaving a lot out. And what I did tell, was starting to receive a nice positive spin. I'm no different than anybody else. I want people to love me. Or, short of that, I need to know that I am not costing myself too many opportunities or worse, triggering some sort of saboteur's instinct in people. But lying, or becoming Mr. Sunnybrook Farm is not interesting to me.

So why bother? Well the idea is simple. What I do is communication. I process the best and worst of what happens to me, somehow turn it into songs, and sing and play them for people wherever I can, hopefully delivering an experience worthy of the modest offerings I ask. Whatever else a song may be or do, it has got to communicate something. And that something has to be relate-able to the listener. I'm throwing my perceptions out there. The reactions I have had of late have made me feel pretty confident that the way I see the world ... my emotional response to it all, strikes a chord in a wide spectrum of people. Wide enough. Some of us are comfortable revealing all the squirmy vulnerable stuff hidden just beneath the surface. To do it is a service to those who aren't. If it's universal stuff, of course. And reasonably entertaining.

Is this, then, a good companion to the songwriting? I don't know. Will this more fully flesh me out, cementing me as an important voice in people's lives. I don't know. Or will writing so much at such length just remove whatever mystery I may have possessed, and wear my welcome out. I don't know.

I suspect that  it will mostly stay hidden in some dark corner of the Internet and cause no stir at all.

I feel compelled to do it though, so I guess I'll just do it and hope for the best.

Yours, Dave

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about the religious institutional's supposed to be a chance to let all the squirmy stuff out in the presence of a caring witness, one who is supposed to be a clear and compassionate mirror. There is communal confession of course too but it is pretty rote and a sense, blogging the way that you are doing it (and your songwriting too actually in some ways) strikes me as a sort of individual and communal confession simultaneously that can be quite courageous...the leap into the space between you and others in the hope that they catch frightening to watch as a high diver and as inspiring