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I Was Wrong, But Right


I am not writing to feel bad about myself. On the contrary, I do think that for a long time I have held an opinion of myself that has been distorted by many factors that affect a creative person who engages in the business of music.

Why anyone starts to make music is anyone's guess. We're drawn to it? We find a way to express something we were too tongue-tied to say? (It's a known fact that stutterers do not stutter when they sing.) Maybe this is why people say that we musicians are "gifted." I was never sure that I was. I just had things to say that it seemed no one was listening to. One of my first songs was called "Get The Madness Out Song." I wrote this when I was ten. Maybe my parents thought it was a cute thing that I had done. But I got their attention.

Soon enough, my adolescent response to life was to create moon-eyed love songs that I would never sing to the objects of my deep desires. Songs were the vessels for my confessions. A lover of poetry, I fancied myself a musical poet. My mother's Joni Mitchell albums fueled my desire to be that person.

My world was one of fancy, songs, unrequited love dreams.

I think songwriting was protection for shyness. There was control here. An instrument I could love, somethings to do. My first jam partners were always boys, and the guitar made intimacy safe.

But when I was signed and in the music industry, things changed. The attention, the photos, the press, and the A&R people made me feel I was very special, even more talented than other people. This felt odd and untrue to me, but I decided to go with it. I focused on myself, my work, and removed myself from listening to other artists my age, too much. It was too threatening. This was MY time. I had to put everything into MY career. The music industry took my old friends away from me and assigned session musicians, who came in to the studio, played and got paid. Even the people who carted in their gear were paid. (Little did I know that all of this cost was being added to my advance and would end up in more debt.) The ride in "the industry" was fun, but then it would end, and there was always the "well, now we have to find a new deal."

Other artists became seen as "the competition" and listening from the heart, the way I used to listen as a child, was replaced by critical comparisons and judgments. Deep under all of this, was some deep sense of insecurity and fear. More powerful than the acquisition of a deal is the horrific losing of it. I would feel so worthless and would make lists of all of my incompetencies. This while others thrived, got signed, had "things" going on.

All of this, the success, the letdowns, and the thinking that accompanied it. SO WRONG. So isolating.

It took COVID for me to get right. Having been forced into being alone, I had to confront my need for skills and for a creative product I could offer people that wasn't going to be my own confessionalist catharsis.

I made my record, but then I looked around Facebook and started to find musicians. I started to buy CDs again. I started to shut up and listen. Only now I was a part of a group of musicians called The Roadhouse. I had followed Zak Nilsson and listened to every Canceraoke. We lost him. I found friends on FB, musicians who were also grieving the loss. In light of Zak's loss to us all, I thought, "What am I doing?" And it occurred to me that listening to others would bring me insights.

Next time, I want to write about who I found, those musicians, and what they have taught me.

Because the answers to what music is are not to be found in the business. I won't be naive and say we need no money or attention. We do.

But if we neglect those around us who are making music, if we don't listen, then we are depriving ourselves of the food we need to sustain.

If you are reading this, and you are a musician, particularly one who has reached out to me recently, I am not done. I am still listening. My making covers of your songs is not about money. It is about going back to my childhood. Recreating and expressing feelings that I cannot say.

Because I am still that introvert. My defect has made me crave music because I can give you my gratitude that way. You are part of what saves my life every day, and without what we do there is very little meaning or beauty or purpose to why I live.

What I have written feels far more the right way. The way I want to create, live, become and befriend.

It's Friendember. Almost Thanksgiving.

Gratitude is good. So thank you for reading this.


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