If you feel a pull in the direction of the musical world, if your medium of choice is plucking melodies from the collective of ideas floating somewhere beyond the veil, and you manage to pull that indefinable thing out of the air and craft it into a living, breathing song that can then be played on a phone, in a computer, in a car, in headphones, on a stereo, in a room with other people or by yourself on an instrument of your choosing, it’s a feeling unlike any other.
My dad is funny. He, the classical pianist, who taught me to love music from the time I was born (age 2 found me screaming and pounding the stereo speakers when my parents turned off the music), texts me the other day and asks me if I’m finding myself in my music. “I spent a lot of time there…once…” he said, as if he is no longer a musician, as if after 53 years of playing piano it would simply vanish in thin air.
The music never goes away. Not if it’s in your bones. And you know if it’s in your bones, because you can feel the ache, the urge, that something indescribable that can only be manifested through the instrument of your choice–be it vocals, guitar, piano, violin, drums, bass, what have you. It screams to come out.
Many people ignore it calling them, they wrestle it into a tight knot, push it back into the deepest closet in the mustiest shed out back, but it never stops tugging at their guilt, calling faintly through the layers of duct tape wrapped around its mouth for them to come back.
I tried to put my music away, once. I was beaten down by life, had put all of my hopes into one thing and found that the one thing I wanted wasn’t really what I wanted, or was what I wanted, but wasn’t actually the real thing I was seeking.
(I’ve always loved earlier U2 because it’s not just music, it’s poetry to music. Combining two of my favorite arts.)
There are cesspools out there, sudden gaping pits in the tarmac of our personal highways with clawed hands that reach up and grab to trip us on our path. Before we know it, a whole decade has passed and yet, when we seek to find our true voice, the whispers are beckoning, softly, and if we listen, we’ll find ourselves back there where we began, only older, more world weary and afraid of making mistakes again, hesitant, naysaying, wondering if there is even a chance now that we are suddenly out of the invincible phase of earlier youth, knowing for certain that we are headed towards an inevitable death.
But I think while I’m still alive, there is time. I won’t stop trying to wrestle these songs out of the air into tangible form, if only for a small circle to enjoy, get something out of. It takes so long, the process is so tedious, but I feel like I should have been doing this all along, like I got lost in the last decade, my twenties were a wilderness tangle of dead end paths. I look back and I think, “What the hell did I even DO in my twenties?” Seems to me everything I’ve started doing with purpose, finally, slowly trudging this endless, but necessary uphill climb, has been recently.
In the end, I think that the person the art comes through is the one who changes the most, it uses them as a medium. I don’t know if the call or drive to create is innate or learned, I think it’s a little bit of both, like that idea we all have some sort of mission here, something I like to believe when I’m not being a doubting Thomas.
The thing that trips me up, always, is this. Why do we have these great urges to create, can see our potential, know what we’re capable of somewhere deep inside, but have to work so hard, for so many years, to get those visions to actually manifest (most of us)? Why do our creations always hover just out of reach, taunting us in the dead air space between perceived reality and the subconscious?
Can you tell I was in the studio all day tweaking songs? Jack Douglas, who produced John Lennon’s songs and currently works on Aerosmith’s songs was the teacher for the class at the college where I was given free studio time (it’s an exchange of studio time for the artist, and the process of recording is handled by newbies learning the ropes of music engineering, overseen by a competent engineer). Somehow, Douglas has managed to have a career in the industry for decades, and he still loves it. He was working 12 hours yesterday, and then off to teach a class, and then, he said, he was driving to LA that night. “Jeebus!” I said, “Is that where you live?” “No,” he said, “I live in New York.”
It was nice to have him there instructing the students, I always feel like my songs are in good hands when he’s overseeing the classes. Like I say, enjoy every moment, you never know when it will be your last.