Yesterday I was walking down the street and bumped in to a real, honest-to-Pete alien with big bulgy eyes and a huge head, the works. And he asked, “Why is there war here?”
I said, “I don’t know, man. But maybe some people just want a bigger piece of the pie.”
He said, “There’s pie??”
“No, that’s just a metaphor”, I said.
“…but I know where we can get pie.”
So over coconut creme pie, he asked me again why there is war on Earth. I said, “I think it all boils down to human insecurity. We feel that there isn’t enough to go around. We fear scarcity. We alienate (no offense) certain groups of people because of their religion, their ideas, their culture, their sexuality, their skin colour, and we make them an enemy because they are supposedly different. But that’s only a justification. It’s all about a mindset of lack and fear and mistrust.”
The alien played with the whipped cream on his pie as he considered this. “Don’t they know that the sun provides ample energy to support you all, and that cooperation is better than fighting?”
“I guess not”
“Good pie, though”, he said.
I usually don’t succumb to depression. I had a big enough dose of that in my thirties, and I promised myself I would never let myself go down that dark road again. But to say that I am immune to it would be kidding myself. There is unfortunately much sadness in this life, in our own lives and at the world at large.
Sometimes you just have to lay down and feel the sadness. Just don’t do it for too long. Despite what some people think, forcing yourself to feel good all the time is a burden. It is important to keep a positive outlook, as this is how you attract more good into your life. However, feeling good all the time is impossible and trying to impose it on yourself is setting yourself up for failure.
Feel the sadness if it is there. But have faith that it is temporary. Take care of yourself, but persevere. Nothing great was ever achieved by laying down and giving up. But there is nothing wrong with laying down for a while to recharge.
I’m back to cruising the seas, this time on the Pacific Ocean for the first time (though I once dipped my toes in when I was nine years old). Though SoCal and northern Mexico are “suffering” the coldest spring in recent history, I’m grateful to see the sun most days, and a sweatshirt is better than a winter coat any day!
This time around, I am not writing quite as much but I will be recording some more demo videos of songs that I wrote on my last journey. So be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for future tunes!
In the 5 months between August 13, 2016 and January 15, 2017, I set myself the goal to write 30 songs. This was an unprecedented level of prolificness for me (I would typically write 3-4 songs during that period). To give me a fighting chance to achieve this goal, I allowed myself to write songs of anything length. As a consequence, I ended up writing a handful of very short songs, from 30 to 90 seconds long. I became intrigued with this medium, which I now call micro-songs, and they are becoming a significant part of my artistic palette.
I have always loved short forms of writing. I appreciate the ability of writers to pack great beauty, imagery and emotion in a short piece, such as a haiku or a short story of only a few thousand words. I thought, why can’t this apply to popular music? Has the radio formatting of the latter part of the 20th century ingrained in us the expectation that a song must be roughly three minutes long?
Of course, micro-songs not a novel idea. One of my songwriting heroes, Steve Poltz, released an album of micro-songs that he recorded on his answering machine (and thus had to be 60 seconds or less). So, while I’m not the first, I am nonetheless excited to integrate these tunes in my performances. I believe they will bring vibrancy and dynamic tension to my shows.
Here’s an example, which I release on Valentine’s Day – a little love song, partly inspired by the poetry of Rumi:
Love is Nature (You Tube)
(photo by James Skinner)
When I was a child, I had a wide variety of interests. It didn’t seem weird at all to be simultaneously athletic, outdoorsy, artsy and scientific. I had it all. I had no reason to think one was better than the other.
Then the question “What are you going to DO when you grow up?” was posed. And as time passed, that question became more and more pressing.
I knew I was a good athlete but I probably wasn’t going to “turn pro”. I knew I was a decent singer and guitar player, but I probably wasn’t going to “make it big”. I knew I could paint pretty well, but I wasn’t going to “be an artist”.
So that left science. It was a “respectable” profession. I started in computer science, but couldn’t see myself being in front of a computer all day, so I thought I would meld my interest in athletics with science and I went on to complete a Masters degree in exercise science (yup, I’m over-educated).
I went on to teach at a highly respected university, but I was miserable. I was writing and playing music on the side but I dreaded going to work every single day, to the point where I would often drive past my office and keep driving until I had the courage to face the day.
Finally, I left. It’s hard to believe, but it has been almost 15 years since I left that life behind.
I still haven’t “made it big”. In fact, there have only been a few short stints where I have been able to support myself fully with music. There have always been other sources of income.
But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, heart and soul that this is my profession. It is what I profess to do. It is my soul’s contribution to the world, for better or worse. It is what I do now that I have grown up.
Being back on land brings with it simple pleasures, like playing banjo in the morning and setting it aside for a home-cooked breakfast!
I suck at social media. I really do.
I have somewhat of an excuse over the past 8 month because I’ve been on satellite internet that is roughly equivalent to the dialup of the late 90s and early 2000s. But when I look at people like my #1 idol, Steve Poltz, I know I fall very short of what a modern artist should be.
He posts something pretty much every day, even about going to the toilet. And it’s stuff that helps him connect with his listeners and shows him as a cool human bean.
I keep saying I’m going to keep my cell phone in my pocket and take more pictures. But I have to admit, sometimes I’m just too busy living to take pictures. I always promise myself to try harder, but it’s difficult for me to get in that habit.
I went on a casual date with a woman recently on a beautiful Dominican Republic countryside. She spent so much time either taking selfies or asking me to be her photographer that I began to wonder if she was actually enjoying the place. It’s like she lived inside her phone.
I know there’s a balance and I know I will find it, but for now I hope that you appreciate my occasional posts. Here’s a couple of photos form that Dominican excursion, so that maybe I can suck a little less at social media. 🙂
Like any job where you are isolated, there comes a point in the contract where it becomes really hard work. Staying motivated is a real challenge. But I only need to remind myself of how fortunate I am to be playing music in paradise! When I am playing Take It Easy for the millionth time, when my back hurts, when my voice is shot and my throat is sore, I remember there are so many worse things I could be doing. And I remember that this is a stepping stone to making a living playing my own songs.
Thank you to everyone who supports not only live music, but ORIGINAL live music!
So I’ve been super busy writing new tunes down here in the Gulf/Caribbean. The beautiful weather and the homesickness have certainly affected my writing, and I can’t wait to share some of these new songs with you. This will be happening soon, I promise, as I am just waiting for the Amazon mail gods to deliver a camera to me 🙂
I set myself the goal to write 30 songs during the 5 months I’m here. I’m about a third of the way to that goal and working hard every day.
Keep an eye on all the usual channels and keep on truckin’
Jack Canfield has this saying: “Nobody can do your push-ups for you.” There are just some things we need to do for ourselves even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes we just need to slog it out even if it seems like too much effort or we don’t seem to be making progress.
Lately I made a commitment to write every single day even if I didn’t feel inspired. At first I felt really blocked, but I showed up and did my “push-ups”.
One thing I did, in case I didn’t feel inspired to write anything brand new was to assemble all my partially finished songs so I could pick away at them.
To my astonishment, I had almost 30 unfinished songs!
For almost two weeks, I showed up every single day, even if just for ten minutes. And still nothing to show for it.
Then yesterday, I had a day with no commitments and sat down with my guitar. I struggled for a while. I took my notebook with me to lunch and pored over lyrics. Back to my room and my guitar. Several hours later, eureka, I had a song finished (looking back, my first in almost a year I believe)
At point, it was about 6 pm and I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could finish one more song tonight? I was on that indescribable high that you get after completing something that has been blocked.
Well, to make a long story short, I finished THREE more songs.
The “push-ups” I had done for two weeks paid off all at once! Working through frustration sometimes leads to leaps and bounds.