Deep & Simple Songs

Some of my co-workers, by virtue of working for a television network, are entitled to vote on the Emmy Awards (the TV equivilent of the Grammys or Oscars). So they’re deluged with VHS tapes and DVDs “for their consideration.”

Jen Vinyard, a writer for MTV News, shares her DVDs with me ‘cuz she knows I’m a DVD fiend (and ‘cuz she’s a sweetheart). Some of it’s pop junk, like MTV’s “Flipped” (which wishfully aspires to be considered for “Excellence in Children’s Programming,” of all things) or “Alias,” with its vinyl-clad heroin.

But tonight I’ve been screening some of Discovery’s documentary programming — one on NYC firefighters post 9/11, one on the ecological state of the planet, and one on children coping with cancer — and it led me to realize what a powerful and important medium TV can be. It made me realize, just tonight, how badly I want to be involved in more substantive projects.

My mother rents a house on Nantucket next door to Fred Rogers. Yes, Mister Rogers. Last summer, he gave me a tour of his “Crooked House” (it actually leans southward). He played “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” on the piano in his study. He sang happy birthday to me (it was my 30th). He asked me about my father, who, in five years of knowing my mother, he’d heard nothing of. And standing on his patio, looking out to sea, he said to me, “So much of the world today is complex and shallow. We need more things that are deep and simple.”

I think about that every day. I love my job, but MTV is neither deep nor simple. We have a lot of fun, and it bankrolls my recording and performing. But I want to contribute something to the world other than updates on J. Lo’s love life. I want to move people, lots of people, to help them through tough times, as music has always helped me. I think that, unconsciously, I’ve been endeavoring to create deep and simple songs for years. I hope so anyway. I just need to figure out how to get them to more people…

My friend Kevin Medina, musician manager-in-training, is helping me line up dates for a September “Summer’s Gone” mini-tour. I hope that, with his help, I can get my songs out there a little further, to connect with people a bit more. Ours is not a world that rewards deep and simple. It does not applaud earnest statements, or well intentioned sentiment. It values head over heart, bluster over belief. But I will persevere. After all, what else is there?

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