Thursday, February 11, 2010

Over the Rainbow

What a lucky man am I!

At recess in the fourth grade, without knowing how to make a note, I remember the feel of my friend’s guitar, how it just seemed to fit against my body. Two years later, in a class of twelve, ten of us got guitars and started learning the folk songs we had been singing all year with our teacher, Ellie (who trades emails with me 45 years later!).

Another teacher encouraged me to try out for the variety show in high school after I had played him the first song I had written. My friends teased me only a little bit when I jammed along with the Dead and the Allman Brothers at our parties. In college, they faithfully came to coffee houses where I stumbled through a growing list of originals snuck in between the covers.

My greatest supporter, of course, has been my mother, who noticed when I chose not to bring the guitar on a camping trip (no complaint or relief, just noticed). She tolerated all the bad notes and patiently sat through renditions where the phrases did not work at all. Even today, as far away as she seems to be, her eyes light up with tears of some distant memory when I play for her during our visits. Even if she doesn’t understand, I still make sure she hears the newest ones and the stories around them, the joys and pains.

And after all this time of striving to imitate the sounds in my head, we have spent the last week in a studio, bringing them out nearly as clearly as I had imagined. It is a birthing project, and like a good parent, I feel myself preparing to stand aside and let the songs go out into the world, to stand or evaporate as only time will tell.

Twenty-four years ago, again in transition from a marriage to a new life (the one before this one), I made a worthy effort to get them down with the technology then available. We stood in a bathtub draped with blankets to cushion the sound and layered tracks full of ideas that trickled out, but never solidified. Once in awhile, I listened to them, full of content with just a single verse and a half, a little wistful for what could have been.

This time, I declare the project will be completed and the first third of my songs will soon lay out there as the best that I can do. Compromise is always necessary, but will be minimized to give them the best chance of surviving on their own.

The luck comes in that I have crossed paths with such genuinely happy and talented souls who are encouraging and supporting the project to such a degree. Through Facebook, email and other sources, I can upload the day’s latest effort and get nearly instantaneous worldwide feedback on what sounds good or should be redone. My sister in Oregon can point out where I am flat, the way she used to from the other room in our home growing up.

The long and late hours at KTR Studios was as much energizing as exhausting because of the enthusiasm of Kyle who adopted the songs as his own, learned to love them, twisting the knobs to enhance their shape and texture. By the second night, he had enlisted other musicians to contribute guest tracks to fill out the sound. Corm, the assistant, asked eagerly to take a copy home after having heard them ad nauseum for two nights.

Most importantly, I am astounded by the dedication given by my band mates who tirelessly give themselves to this process of birth. Sporadically compensated (at best) for gas money and some good meals, but not at all for the countless hours of hard work three times a week for months that has been required to bring us this far, their contributions of spirit as well as notes has been vital to the process.

Ian pounds the drums with youthful exuberance, but with such perfect measure we can only tease him and not complain, holding the vision for the rest of us of the tour bus and rounds of golf he is sure we will have between shows across the country…this summer(!). Dan quietly intensifies his licks across the songs and steps to the microphone to sharpen the vocals. Kent focuses on the bass notes with relentless precision to learn the songs properly and sports a big grin and shots of whiskey to make sure we none of us take ourselves too seriously.

This experience humbles me. For no reason I can fathom and against all odds that they should persevere, these songs have appeared and stayed with me to insist on their existence. They soothe my soul to give them life. Playing them in this physical dis-ease has provided relief better than any and all of the drugs prescribed by my doctor.

The music comes through me, not at all mine to own or brag about. To play it is to swim in a world of exotic waters, full of life and warmth and resuscitating energy, no matter where it may take me. It is impossible to experience without the support of all of you who are sharing this part of the journey with me.

My apartment is neglected and mal-Fung Shui’d, bills are piling and ignored, and the Redster rumbles and rattles in need of repairs. Regularly spasming, my body slowly rejuvenates to enable the surgery that will hopefully restore my health. My heart fills with love and new life, braiding the old and the new together. Surely such abundance was never imagined, yet surrounds me like a blanket, providing the warmth that lets me shout out how much I believe I am a lucky man.

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