We accept the success we think we deserve.
Boy, am I going to live up to that.
As it would happen I spent another 4 days in NYC. This time it was upon gracious invitation of Eli Zoller, to play for his show. I arrived 2 days prior to the shindig, having never heard his music. I knew that he shared musical interests of me that excited him in all the same ways. My music writing changed when I heard “Blind Leaving the Blind” by the Punch Brothers. His changed when he heard the “Goat Rodeo Sessions.” **applause**
So there’s the premise, and main teaser-trailer explanation of the weekend.
Here is the full plot:
DAY 1. Friday I landed in NYC at noon. This time I only had one backpack and one banjo and mandolin to carry. (Last time it was all of that plus a guitar and trumpet–not conducive to steady sidewalk ship sailing.) I went to wait for my buddy Ben Clark to get off work in Union Square on a park bench, practicing some Bach on the mandolin. I was surprised to attract a crowd of people that sat and listened to me. None of them knew the name of the instrument I was playing. So I’ll chalk that one up to an “E” for education.
It was once I got home (it feels like it’s my home too) to Ben & Nick’s apartment, began the moments that will have, once again, changed my life. Ben and I decided to try new songs on each other. I went first. I got good responses. I was pleased. Yay for me…and stuff.
Now, I think back to all the great musicians that ever lived and recall descriptions about them. Gustav Mahler was emphatic with the idea that his music had to be something that would live in the history books. If not, why write? I certainly agree, and I certainly try to write with that in mind. But I try. I can think of plenty of other musicians who were described as ones who wrote to win. They wrote from the heart, from the mind, and with gold in mind.
Now it was Ben’s turn. Adorning his tank top fitting of his personality and the blistering heat that oven-baked his apartment, he sang a song. It was beautiful, and I couldn’t even tell you what the hell it was about. I’ve known, biased or not, that my friend Ben was wildly talented, articulate, and more aware of the world around him than other fellows his age, or older. I’ve known that he should be famous, largely listened to, and highlighted by the people. But it was then, after this song, moving up and down the neck of his guitar with the awareness of a mechanic and the grace of a dancer, that I realized who he was.
He’s someone large masses will hear. He’s someone large masses should hear. He’s great at what he does. He’s great at how he speaks. He has the attractive Mahler quality (without Mahler’s stuttering walk and outlandish quirks or temper) that sets him apart from others doing the same thing. He wants gold, and dammit he’ll get it.
DAY 2. I had rehearsal with Eli from 12-5 the next day at some Manhattan studio rehearsal space. My music was given to me right when I walked in, and I saw ‘twixt the fiddle player (whom I knew from prior visits) and my empty chair this pretty tiny little cello player. She sounded so great on Eli’s music, and it was great to play with a cellist again. Turns out she loves tons of great music, some I don’t know, but probably should, and is so easy to be around. I would later go on to talk to her more and realize that she is someone I need to keep around.
So as to Eli’s music, never having heard it before this rehearsal, we played through it all and I was thoroughly impressed. Being privy to hearing him explain why he wrote each song was a treat, too. Playing music that propels itself further emotionally because it creates contentment inside of you is just the single most experience I look for. We flew through his songs, hearing lovely arrangements and Eli’s very clever use of the cello and violin, and arrived to his song “Dear Daughter.”
I had the same moment I had had with Ben. I was fortunate to not play on this song, so I just got to sit back and listen. I had no words when he was done. The only feelings I had were ones of great emotional facility and the stuttering realization that I was before a fellow musician who had tapped into that realm we all search for. The realm where logical anecdotal pictures are painted with such ease.
DAY 3. After recovering (as one does when often miles from ones loved ones) by way of waterboarding myself (not really) and cold-shower-shocking myself, and a quaint little hipster breakfast with Ben, I went to soundcheck at Joe’s Pub. It was quick, easy, and fun; it would be a great foreshadowing to the performance.
After having a really awesome afternoon with my new friend, Kristine, it was time for the show. Passings of pre-show whiskey were made, banjos were tuned, bowties were hastily tied.
The show went amazing. Musical moments captured me; eye contact and that rush of emotions of belief in what your friends are doing took over. And I, in typical fashion, and never at all aware, apparently danced like a fool whilst playing. Though the fool card I played was received by a few as “super entertaining to watch.” SO…boom. Relief is hearing my contorted, violent but love-inspired, dance moves are appreciated.
DAY 4. And I’m back to Texas again. I’m already refining my timeline on how quickly and seamlessly I can make back it to that beautiful city. I’m singing Eli’s songs, missing my best attachments in life, and dreaming of hypotheticals.
I have much more to write for. I have much for to fight for. I have two album’s worth of music I’ll be recording. There’s much to be done.
Like Ben, like Eli, I want to win. The heart wants what the heart wants, and the redeemable qualities of NYC and company are far too plentiful. I’m still writing a lot of small form, but I know I’m building up to writing in large form, both structurally literally and metaphorically.
Dammit, I love New York.