Ok. So I got an interesting email yesterday, and it begs for a response. I owe it to those of you playing along at home. And somehow I feel like I owe it to myself. To explain, that is. Or to try and understand for myself. So here goes.
I’ve gotten this sort of email before, and I appreciate it. Basically, Hannah (who I don’t think I know, or I don’t know how I know) succinctly (and eloquently) responded to the frustration and aggravation that has been a recent thread in these pages.
“[Your] skewed vision of achievement annoys me,” Hannah wrote. “When I think of playing the Wagner version of ‘Babylon’ when watching the naked winter trees outside my window, pondering about childhood dreams lost and gone and washing away the dust of everyday life between the hours of 12 – 1 A.M daily – or when my roommate asks me routinely to play either ‘Dear Elizabeth’ by Benjamin Wagner or ‘Anna Begins’ by Counting Crows on my laptop as she snuggles with a hand-made quilt hugging herself whilst staring at the ceiling, smiling and feeling all the more relaxed as she reminisces about her grandmother she lost to cancer this past Autumn.”
Wow, right? Amazing.
So she’s encouraging me to not throw in towel, and maybe calling me on sounding a little too whiny, a little too Adam Duritz (you want whiny? Read his daily journal!), which I appreciate. A lot. But however odd or dysfunctional or narcissistic it is of me to keep this little public record of my life, it’s not a comprehensive representation of what’s going on. Words fail. Time runs out. And I gotta’ keep some stuff to myself. Fame is not the frustration here. I’m not entirely sure it was the goal, or is why I’ve lost a little steam of late. I can’t say that some sort of material or external measurements of success don’t have a bearing. Maybe it’s fatigue. Or old age. I’m not entirely sure. Lemme’ try and elaborate.
Yes, I’m restless. I’m in some sort of transition. I’m 31-years-old. I’m not a kid. The rocknroll fantasies and romantic delusions that hatched as a 11-year-old reading Rolling Stone and listening to Styx as my violently divorcing parents shuttled me back and forth between Philadelphia and Chicago, the “when everybody loves you / that’s just as happy as you can be” that fueled my twenties, are being tempered by time and reality. The reality is, recording and touring is expensive. I’ve spent well over $25,000 — just a guess, probably double that — in the last ten years as a “solo singer/songwriter.” The financial return has been minimal. It feels like the energy I’ve put into spreading my music — which, for the record, I believe very strongly in, and absolutely believe is on par with anything out there (that’s not the issue) — has been returned to me about 10%. The rest gets lost to the universe. Yes, I’d like a label deal. Yes, I’d like to be on the radio. I’d like to play shows every night. I’d like to see a hear full of people singing along. And I’ve had glimpses into all of that. And it ends up being less than I’d hoped.
I’m meandering. Thing is, I appreciate — really, really, really — that “Dear Elizabeth” means something to somebody, and has helped anyone in any small way. God knows it helped me. That’s why I wrote it. That’s why I write songs. Not to get famous, or get on the radio, not to sell records, but to let something — some emotion, some thought, some unsettled something — out. That motive remains pure, and rewarded, and the foundation of everything that matters to me. Still, it gets more and more difficult to put that emotion out there, to toss that money into the great beyond, and to remain hopeful when I feel like a tree falling in a semi-populated forest. Doesn’t mean I’m not grateful that YOU are there, are here, with me. I am. So grateful.
Thanks you Hannah, and Keith, and Amy, and Claire, and everyone who’s ever written — not to mention my parents and my brother and friends and all the people who have done so much to make this possible and meaningful. Your support and your emails are terrific fuel. I will continue to write songs. And record and release them in some capacity. And I hope you’ll keep writing. And reading. And maybe someday, watching on the big screen.
I won’t give up, I won’t give in, I will persist. I promise.