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Gratitude

Sometimes I wish I were somewhere else.  Some days nothing is good enough, the world feel heavy and too huge and too close.  These are important feelings, and one’s comfort can be hard to find. 

People seem to look for it in a lot of places where it can’t live: the bottle, sex, drugs, travel, television whatever. The illusion of comfort seems to take people in with swiftness.  How do you measure comfort anyway?  How can a person know when they’re lying to themselves?  This is a question I try to ask.  I don’t really think there’s a good answer; I don’t think it’s good practice to ask questions looking for direct answers anyway.

Autumn is a grey season; I’ve always seen it as a season of death. This is the season where I tend to look for cheap comfort.  I am wary of autumn.

I see winter as the after-life. Where I’m from winter is a season where darkness and light contrast the most, the rang of light seems to me to be at its peak.   The day light hours are few but the winter sun seems to find a way to remind me of where I’m from, where I’m going…  In some ways it’s the brightest season.  Most days are full of sun reflecting on snow and ice, carrying on and on. 

 I always think of winter as an honest season, one that helps me hold on to what I have.  It seems less illusory than any other season.  I feel bad for the people in the world who don’t get to drink it in.  They are missing out.  I am always holding out for winter. 

 I was out in Ontario, playing songs for whoever will listen.  The trees have all turned, the skies are mostly grey.  It is beautiful and pretty (there’s a difference you know?).  I’m surrounded by Pre-Cambrian shield, masses of granite stretching across the part of the country that I have seem to know best.  I wish I were fishing.  I usually bring a rod with me on the road. This leg of the tour is just to busy for it. I should have brought one anyway.  It would have reminded me of so many moments where autumn was kind and comforting.  Besides I feel like the walleye must be biting, and I feel sure that I could find them today. 

 I am so happy to be out driving around in the fall.  It’s lonesome though, in a good way.  I am grateful for that feeling today.

Here we go

Time and time again I hear artist of all stripes say something to the effect of “You have to be yourself”, or “you have to be honest if you want to make good art” It’s a fine thing to say I guess, but I don’t think it’s true,  or helpful in any way.  Art isn’t made in a vacuum, artists don’t sit on the outskirts of society in some pure place that is immune from all the dirt that every other discipline is bound up in. 

The truth (as far as I can tell) is that you simply cannot be “yourself”.  The art that artists make needs to be celebrated and critiqued as something a community has made, not something one person, or one band has made.  I just want artists to be honest about their influences, and I want them to remember that they are being infinitely influenced, and their art as such is basically a result of those influences.

I believe that art should be made for people, not art for art’s sake.  Art that makes a difference seems to remember that it is always tethered to society and  specific culture framework in some way or another. It’s as simple and pragmatic as that.  This is the thought that governs my life as a song-writer.  I don’t want to write or sing for myself. I want to create for people.  I want to move people.  I want people to value and enjoy what I’m doing enough to support me by purchasing concert tickets, listening to the records and sometimes even buying them.  I want to congregate not alienate.

This can be tough though.  There’s lots of people out there ready to bark criticism, and sometimes I don’t have the balls to take it.  Sometimes you have to pretend that you’re better than them, but it really is just pretend. I’ve had a lot of people in the music industry tell me that I sound too country, or not country enough, or that I should only ever play solo, or that I should really hire and tour with a band.  On and on, there are no bounds to the things people will say and no bound to the amount of contradiction you’ll be faced with if you take them all seriously.  In some ways, though I believe it is the artist’s job to do just that.  You can’t be free from these connections so why not own them? This is when art happens.

 When you hear your favorite artist interviewed on the radio, or you read it in print and they try and express some version of the classic “you gotta be true to yourself” line, ask yourself if there’s really any self to be true to.  Instead of assuming there is a “self”, try for a moment to wonder what it would look like if artists were expressing a desire to be true to their community, instead of themselves.

"It’s like I told you last night son. The earth is mostly just a boneyard. But pretty in the sunlight, he added"

- Larry McMurtry