Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Tonight I went to see "Long Day's Journey Into Night" starring David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf. Had cheap tix but I got to the Box Office and they said 'we can move you to the 2nd row, orchestra. Would you like that?' Um. Yeah. Duh. So I sat close enough to see the wig lines around Laurie Metcalf's temple. Close enough to get spat upon. Close enough to be weeping like a baby. This was undeniably one of the best pieces of theater I have ever seen in my life. And afterwards, I was walking around the neighborhood looking for something to eat and ran smack into Laurie Metcalf on the street and babbled at her "you were...I mean...I'm so sorry to bother you, but you were...devastating, amazing...thank you for your performance" and she was so nice and smiled under her knit hat, tiny as a slip of paper she was, and I felt like a gurmy drama student. But my soul was stirred and I was wandering alone in London, just wanting to grab onto someone's arm and stop them and say "did you SEE that?" Do you know the play? It's devastating. Long. And bleak. And there are these moments in it that just brought me to almost choking. The moments of each character confessing or realizing that they are all reaching, or were reaching, for some big awesome truth something larger than what is there in reality, some DREAM, that failed them. Each of them were wrecked by the realization of the failure. To me: that is communion. WE all have that. The thing we want that we lose or we never reach. Perfection. Andrea Del Sarto, wasn't that the poem by Robert Browning? "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for?" (sounds like a graduation speech). But that's the tragedy of life and it just tore through me tonight. IN a way that was both completely depressing and completely uplifting.
And then, I had to eat and drink some wine. Quickly.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
York to Bristol...
We didn't spend enough time in York. What a beautiful town and everywhere I turned in the small winding cobblestone streets lines from Richard III echoed through my head. I brought with me (on the IPad, I'm not lugging my Riverside Collected Works nor my most prized possession of a First Folio) the Collected Works of Shakespeare and confess to re-reading Richard III and Richard II on the drive out of York.
One thing that saddens me is to see in these old parts of the city the same stores: Boots, TK Maxx, Banana Republic, The Gap. Strip mall culture has hit. And it's sad to see TopShop right next to a thousand year old Church. Homogenization of the world is a sad sad thing. Nothing to fight. It's inevitable. But I prefer the old Parfumaries and the 2 chair barber shops and the tea shops. I don't need to buy anything while I'm here. I'm trying to downsize my life, get rid of the extraneous. I take pictures and write. And buy a sweatshirt because I'm freezing. Other than that, you can have your tat.
I read and slept on the drive back up to Bristol. I've discovered a podcast out of Marfa, TX radio by Tift Merrit, called The Spark. I listened to her interview (full of giggling) with Patty Griffin, a serious one with Mary Gauthier, and a really in depth one with Emmylou Harris. I love this podcast. I'm looking forward to getting to the rest of them.
Billy White, Alejandro's guitar player, is this interesting guy that once played with Dokken (hope I'm spelling that right, not having much knowledge of hair band music), gave it all up to go live in San Miguel de Allende to raise a child and has come back. He's very deliberate in conversation and spiritual and the conversations are always interesting. Bobby the bass player is the voice of reason. Been there, done it, and still has a wide-eyed fascination with life and is wise wise wise with a sharp and dry sense of humor. A vegan and a long distance runner, he's inspiring. Chris is the drummer. Young spirit. LIke this is his first time on the planet. He's funny, chatty, welcoming and warm, and reminds me a lot of my brother Matt. The Sprinter is filled with fruit and hummus and soft bread and rice cakes and organic peanut butter and water. Town to town....
A restless night in a taco that was disguised as a bed in a Bristol Travelodge that seems nice, except for being stuck in the elevator yesterday during a power outage and the car I was in dropped 1/2 a floor. Might not seem like much, but I had an electric moment of thinking this would be a horrible way to go (me=quick to jump to the worst possible conclusion). Trapped there for probably only 2 minutes, claustrophobia setting in, gripping my throat and I tried to remain calm. Pressed all the buttons, but there was no Emergency Button nor no way to contact anyone. When I was released, I spent the next few times up and down to my room on the stairs. I was ready for a drink. And to get out of this hotel for a moment, so I wandered into the center of Bristol with Mike our tour manager to the canals and we found a lovely old pub named, of course, Shakespeare's Tavern. And had a nice meal. Not that I'm a heavy drinker or someone that eats a ton of meat, but I had a few glasses of wine last night after really not drinking much on this trip and I had steak and ale pie and I did not sleep well. It's quite revealing to give something up and then add it back and see the havoc it can wreck on your body, sleep and psyche. I woke up completely depressed and sluggish. Didn't feel right. Thought I was coming down with something. But I wasn't. And I wasn't even hung over. Just the effects of adding toxins back in after detoxing. I love wine, don't get me wrong, and I like to eat meat once in a while, but after 12 days of not really drinking and sticking as much as I can to a clean diet, it really did a number on me.
Bristol is nice, so far that I can see, but I think, after I get my head back together after a good strong cup of tea and some yogurt and fruit for breakfast, I'm going to take a run and then take a train to Bath. Get out. Explore something new. It is bound to change something in my psyche. Letting go of anything is such an effort and takes way longer than any of us ever would expect. And it creeps up in odd places and in odd ways. Like a ghost bird, limping along beside...I think what this fog in my heart calls for is some solitude in a new town with a new journal. Then to get back to Bristol for dinner and play guitar tonight, finish a song, start a new one. Just stay in the moment, grey as it may be, but full of possibility....
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Back in the UK again, it's been three years. Last time I was over here was a follow up to my supporting Ian Hunter's Acoustic Tour, where I came back over with James Mastro and did a handful of dates on my own. That was May 2009. It's now July 2012. I've been wanting to come back since 2009, but had to wait on a new record, had to wait till my label found a fiscally sound reason to release it over here. If it were up to me I'd have just come over, album in hand, and sold off the stage. But this being a whole different country, I took others' advice and waited till I was told the timing was right. The timing, this time, being an invitation to support Alejandro Escovedo's UK Release tour for "Big Station", his wonderful new album. Part of this tour was a leap of faith. As 'support', you really don't make much money. You hope for good CD sales from the stage to offset the cost of traveling, and since I'm coming over during Wimbledon and right before the Olympics, my travel costs were sky high this time. As well as some stupid glitches I made (um, customs tax on shipping CDs because nobody advised me how to do this...). But Alejandro's gang have made it easy on me, by inviting me to travel with them in the band van. Which helps me to not have to rent a car, and it's been great, because the guys in the band are all really kind, very interesting guys with war scars and open hearts and they welcomed me in from the start without any hazing or attitude. Mike Allen, the tour manager, is a big Glaswegian with a heart of gold. And Alejandro is one of the classiest and humblest people I've met in any walk of life. A huge huge talent who is revered in many circles and is one of those artists that many people feel should be way more famous (to me, he's pretty famous) and who, once in his presence, the fame thing falls away -- YOUR response to him, not his response to you. He seems to treat everyone with dignity and respect and meets people at their levels. He is such a decent guy that I feel like I'm remembering why I started doing this in the first place. And the kind of artist I aspire to be.
Sometimes when I travel, I'm tempted to blog about the things I see, what I eat, all the unusual happenings, but not this time. I've seen rolling fields of green dotted with sheep with sheets of rain from the window of the Sprinter. I've seen red brick buildings stained grey from old soot. I've seen castles from the highway, distant. Our days are running together. Wake at about 8am. Make tea from the room (good thing I gave up coffee this year for tea). Take a 1/2 hour run if we're in a safe area. Or do a bit of yoga in the room. I've taken to doing an excruciating (for me) sit up routine, as I'm frustrated by my body seeming to take some age on in the middle. Eat fruit and yogurt that I've snagged from the dressing room the night before. Meet at the van at noon. Drive 3 or so hours. Read in the van. Get to the next hotel. Check in. Nap for a minute. Load in at 5. Check emails while the band sound checks. I soundcheck for 10 minutes. We all eat dinner somewhere. I play my 45 minutes. They play for 2 1/2 hours. I join them on a few songs. We pack up, take all the food and waters from the rider for the van. Get to the hotel, check a few emails. Sleep.
It's not glamourous. This is where it is a job. No real time to sightsee. We get a taste. Then we're off to the next place. But for 45 minutes I get to play some songs and do what I love the most and it's all worth it. I don't make much money. Never have. I wonder if I ever will. I know that I need to. Leading a creative life since I was in my 20's, I never really had the luxury of making more than I needed and setting myself up any kind of cushion. It's always been a month to month existence. I've chosen this. I know it and I don't complain but it is unsettling. And I wonder if there will come a time where I'll need to surrender to the realities of the economics of this ever-shrinking/ever-growing music business -- a lot of people out there making it, and not a lot of people buying it. I've heard way too many times "there's too many girls with acoustic guitars out there" -- especially here in the UK. Bullshit. I hate that phrase. Are there too many boys with electric guitars? Are there too many banjos? Yes. There are a lot of girls playing folk/americana/roots music. A lot. But each is different. Just because Mary Gauthier and Diana Jones and Carrie Rodriguez and Anais Mitchell and Tift Merrit are out here touring (I see their posters and their names on the bills of the places I'm playing) does it mean there's not room for another? Can you really compare any of those women I just named and say that they are the same thing? Don't they offer something different? Something unique and maybe even essential? Don't they touch hearts in different ways?
Maybe I'm just the eternal optimist. I struggle every day with the monkey-mind of comparison. The voice in my head that tells me I'm not good enough and someone else is... better, prettier, thinner, younger, older, whateverer. That voice is exhausting and I wish it weren't there, but it is, always there. In all of us, right? I remember the first producer who wanted to sign me to a ridiculous 7 term deal, just to make demo's for me. 7 terms and ownership of all of my music just to make a few demo's. It was the most ridiculous contract and I thanked him and declined. He said, "you'll never get anywhere in this business". It was a line out of a 1950's movie. And he said it with venom. That was 1998.
Hanging around with Alejandro and Bobby and Chris and Billy and hearing their stories, I feel like, again, I'm in a club -- a club of people who have heard these things and slapped them away. Told those voices to piss off. While we followed instinct, sometimes down dark paths that led us to our knees, and sometimes to these small moments where one really great show, one amazing sound person, one kind club owner, one small club full of 100 fans who love every song we're doing makes a magical night and we all realize that THIS is what we're after, despite the voices, the doubts, the struggles, the poverty, the lack of sleep, the loneliness, all of it.
A string of moments.