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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Souls (Tick The Minutes Away)

So, this song happened. Once upon a time I was in a long-distance relationship. Let's just agree that sometimes young lust, long distance, and creative aptitude with a guitar are not the best ingredients for brilliant pop lyricism. But, I guess what this song lacks in wordsmithery it more than makes up in sheer joy...or at least the closest thing I ever came to committing that particular emotion to tape.

Let's be clear; joy was not something that came to me easily. Not when I was 23 and I wanted to be a rock star so bad it kept me awake at night, tossing and turning and thinking about what my life was going to be like, in the future, when I arrived. In the future. Not when I was sleeping on a cement floor with no blanket and no money in Gulfport, MS, after a night spent singing alone in the corner to drunken midshipmen and their equally drunken girlfriends/wives. Not when I was shaking hands and selling CDs I'd spent $2 printing for a $1, and buying clothes I thought made me look cool, and smelling microphones covered in stale cigarette spit and beer and booze and lipstick. Not when I was finally realizing this wasn't gonna work out for me because I didn't have that certain savoir faire required of the very famous and the very destructive, and I sat down for the first time to work on this fiction story that I'd had bumping around my head for a year, and writing stories came back to me from a distant past I thought I'd forgotten but which had sat in my heart and my head and my fingertips and pried open the old and rusted cellar door of my soul and peeked out and blinked in the light. There was no joy in giving up music, just sadness and defeat and worry over a future self that did not include this part of me that had seemed so integral for so long that it had actually become me. I was the musician me and the musician me was all I had. I was afraid to ask, "What am I, if not this?" That question terrified me.

Yet, strangely, the writing continued. After that really bad first attempt, and the second and third equally bad attempts. After the novel that practically wrote itself then moldered on a shelf, and molders still. After the novella, and the screenplay for a movie that will never be made, not by me at least. After the short stories started getting better and popping up in places and other people who were not me or my mother started reading. And the writing continued even after I started telling people I was a writer and I started wondering what people thought of when I said that, those people who'd known me back when I was a singer, back when I was gonna be on MTV.

And the writing started to become the new me, and it fit me better. It was natural, something I'd done since I was a kid, something automatic like speaking or clapping or pointing at things that surprise you or delight you. This was something that I didn't have to try at, or pretend at, or wear a mask to admit to. This was me. This is me.

I still don't find joy easily. But this is pretty darn close. I don't listen to songs like these anymore and wonder what if. I listen and I say, "Listen to me. How brave I was to try so hard at being something I wasn't." It isn't easy to show the world a smile when you're wearing a damn mask. I suppose it isn't that easy without the mask either, but I'll try. Here you go.  


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