There's a line in Jason Isbell's song 24 Frames that goes "And this is how you help her when the muse goes missing" and that line haunts me for many reasons today, but with regard to songwriting, the reason is clear: I don't want it around anymore because my muse was FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt). Almost every time I had an idea for a song it was about something negative and to write the song meant diving deep into those bad feelings to salvage some sort of beauty from the wreckage. That actually sounds kind of positive, right? I'm not so sure. Those deep dives took a toll and every time I went back down the toll grew greater, as I found new wrecks to explore and then surfaced with the heavy weight of sad memories around my neck. I would drag these memories around with me until the song was done and then go back for more. Yes, I wrote a few positive songs, but far more were about everything that was wrong with my life -- all the regrets, my struggles with hope and optimism -- it was slow murder and I was the one who was dying. So every time my melancholy muse has come knocking nowadays, I haven't answered. But here's the paradox: I love writing songs and the only songs I seem to right make me feel worse about myself. So my struggle these last several years has been how to reconcile these two opposites. I don't have the answer yet, and maybe I never will, but I can't go on suppressing my love of songwriting because it hurts too much so I've decided that it's better to accept my muse for what it is, not try to change it, and dive back into all those feelings to salvage whatever beauty I can.
A while back, I worked on a set of songs with my friend Dave Tutin. We called the result "Deep Salvage", which is now the name of my "band", and while the CD we released had four songs on it, there were supposed to be five. But the chorus of one song refused to be written. Over and over and over I played through the chorus and mumbled the words... and every time, even though I thought the chords seemed good and Dave's lyrics fit nicely, something just did not feel right. I thought about the song when I woke up, when I went to bed, and many, many moments in between, playing the chorus again and again in my head. After a few months, I wanted to give up. I had plenty of other songs, did I really need this one? But I liked the song. And I believed I could get it right. And I did not want to admit defeat. And then, one day, I was out for a walk and justlikethat the right phrasing and melody for the chorus played in my head. I repeated the idea again and again to be sure I liked it (and also so I would not forget it) but after I recorded the new chorus, I fixated on how the harmonies just weren't working ... until one night in a fit of frustration I got out my microphone, strapped on my headphones and did my god-damned best to sing it myself at home. Playback was was tolerable so I sent my vocal tracks to Jaimeson Durr, the BRILLIANT engineer I always work with, and asked him to futz around with my voice until it sounded reasonably cool and more like a texture than a guy who had no business singing. He sent me the result and...
I was done.
So without further rambling, I give you Undeserving. (Yes, the thought has crossed my mind that I was simply undeserving of this song.)
I've always believed in second chances. Even third and fourth. We only live once and it seems only just that in our lifetime we should be able to get more than few shots at getting things right. This is my forth shot with music. Dreams die hard.
Shot One was post-college when I went to Musicians Institute in L.A. instead of trying to get a job. I had been playing guitar since high school and loved it but knew I was no rock star in the making. I didn't party much, I hadn't gotten any girls pregnant, and during a battle of the bands my stage presence was compared that of a statue. Still, given my utter lack of interest in the 9-to-5 world, I opted to take my chances.
Shot Two was post-guitar school. I had moved back to the Bay Area and was living in Burlingame, just south of SF, and working in my first semi-career-oriented day job. I was down, so down, but I was pulled from my hole of deep, dark soul searching thoughts when my friend Toby Germano asked my to join his new band. We were a good band but a new job about a year into the band gave me hope I'd never had that maybe I could be happy working 9-to-5.
Shot Three started in a hospital. I was there because of a severe traumatic brain injury which had happened without a good story: I simply fell and hit my head hard enough to shatter a small part of the back of my skull and drive a bit or two of bone into my cerebellum. As I recovered, I found I could write songs more easily than before. It was like the crack in my skull was allowing ideas to find their way into the world more easily and as those ideas moved my hands hands across the guitar and pen across the page song after song took shape. Maybe this was it, the "break" I needed. I built a web site, recorded some albums, got started on a few videos, considered playing live but I also got married and had kids and decided I just could not roll the dice on rock. When the doctors game me the okay to return to full time work, I went back to 9 to 5. But like I said earlier about dreams dying hard...
Welcome to Shot Four.