To Sir With Love

This one goes out to the one I love …

I’ve long been a devotee of Michael Stipe’s world view regarding love. You don’t sing about it. And if you do, you sing about obsessive love, dysfunctional love, or ironic love. “A simple prop to occupy my time.” That sorta’ thing.

But a few factors have led me to shake that ethos, to “spin around until [I’ve] lost [my] mind.” One of them is Stipe himself, who’s lyrics on ‘Up’ and REM’s more recent ‘Around The Sun’ have directly addressed romantic love.

Primary, of course, in my increased comfort with the subject of romantic love (going right and gone wrong), is Mr. Rogers’ influence. While he and I never spoke about love directly, we did, of course, discuss the value of all things “deep and simple.” What could be deeper? What could be more elemental? What could be a more human urge, to love and be loved?

Secondarily, releases by Ryan Adams (‘Heartbreaker’) and Wilco (‘I Am Trying To Break Your Heart’), coupled with a little growth on my part, led me to conclude, ‘What the f***.’

So … what the f***.

I spent all day staring at my computer. There are an unprecedented eleven images and over 1500 words in the packaging of ‘Love & Other Indoor Games,’ each element carefully considered and completely integrated, all found through the magic of intuition and unconscious.

The outside of the record is all exterior, all color, all beautiful, all persona, and all fiction: Jenny and me in Dumbo. The interior is all real, all raw, all shadow: b&w, grainy photos from the studio, plus an excerpt from my work-in-progress “Handshake Drugs & The Social Registry.”

And the heart logo is everywhere: on the cover (where the Columbia Records logo was on ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,’ the source material for the record’s aesthetic). It’s on some cool 1″ buttons I ordered, on t-shirts, and on the postcard announcing the CD release and subsequent tour. It came about rather organically. I was endeavoring to find a simple icon to speak for the entire release. Originally I was thinking a heart with an eight ball or dice inside. Duh, love and games. But it didn’t read. So I simplified. I integrated my existing website logo, a speaker with sound waves, with a heart. And it ends up looking like a beating heart. Or a heart in parenthesis (one of my favorite forms of punctuation, I might add).

I’m not so much bragging as I am pointing out, to myself first and foremost, that every new moment is a complete synthesis of all of the moments that came before. None of the ten songs — the lyrics, the arrangements, the performances — could have been this way at any other point in my life. Take my voicing, for example. I’ve had a tendency on previous records to sing as loudly and as high as my voice would allow. It was all about money notes. But this year has been all about finding my true voice. And oddly enough, I’ve figured out that it’s not about hystrionics or drama. It’s about breath. It’s about patience. It’s about being settled.

Not settling as in settling for, or settling down, or settling in, but settling as in being relaxed, confident, and poised. And I guess what it all adds up to is acknowledging that what my music’s all about, what I’m all about, what life is all about. It’s so, so simple: Love. That’s it. That’s all I care about. That’s all that matters.

Thank goodness, thirty-three years into this journey of mine, that I’ve not only figured that out, but I’ve found the courage to know that, and to communicate that, cheese, sap, and all.

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