Finding New Zones

I love writing and recording songs. It’s one of those activities I lose myself in, consistently imagining, creating, honing, and sculpting language and sound into 3-4 minute swatches of audio goodness. Although I have been starting to appreciate some other activities along these same lines, creating recorded music started as the one area where real magic happens in my life. When I’m working, I lose all track of time, and elements serendipitously fall into place. Very often, I only have to audition one or two synth sounds to find the one that perfectly fits what I’m trying to express with a part. Other times, tasteful rhymes will spill themselves out of my pen effortlessly. When I write and record, I am IN. THE. ZONE.

My next album, called “Reality Jockey”, is complete and almost ready for release. I worked on it for hundreds of hours and will be spending thousands of dollars to promote it to radio and press. To maximize my investment, it’s vital to spread awareness of the project as widely as possible.

Many bands start out playing bars and clubs, building a local following before they ever record their first song. Since I’m able to play all the instruments on my songs (although Reality Jockey features many guest players and singers), I’m able to realize my vision and satiate my artistic drive without ever setting foot on stage. There is good and bad to this. I am fairly prolific (Reality Jockey is my 12th solo album), yet I have a following that could fit on the tip of a pin.

Putting a band together to build a local following, and to create awareness and anticipation of my new album should be a no-brainer. But I’ll be honest: It doesn’t sound like fun to me. At the moment, at least. Should I force myself for financial reasons (return on the album cost investment) to play out? Which in the past few years has been fairly anxiety-producing, and in the end not that rewarding?

In my teens and 20’s I loved nothing more than playing for a crowd:

In my 30’s I was sheepish. The songs sounded great, but there was little magic to the performance itself. Too serious, man! Way too serious…

By embedding and watching these video clips I’m starting to realize something. They’re almost completely opposite in terms of energy. Which implies that maybe there’s a balance to be struck and that I just have to force myself to get out there in order to find it.

I have this ridiculous notion that I have to be the wild “Hey Cleveland! How ya’ll doing tonight!!!!” frontman, which does not *at* *all* reflect who I am. I need to start envisioning what kind of performance fits the music. What is my message musically? How does that conform to what I wear or what I say into the microphone in between songs?

Inside of me, I know there’s a kid that loves to perform. I know this because I was practicing guitar and singing by myself in my sunroom a couple months ago… totally jumping around and jamming out to one of my songs, “Molly Molly”. It was the kind of performance I hadn’t done on stage in decades. I thought I was alone in the apartment, but then Maureen came in and it scared the shit out of me. I stopped immediately and my shoulders sank, my face as red as a September beet. I actually said I would have been much more comfortable had she come in the room and found me masturbating! What can I learn from that experience? I feel expressing myself this way is somehow shameful? Acutely personal? The jury is still out. But the takeaway for me today is that, as I said, there is a part of me that loves to perform.

Thanks for reading this! It’s clear that I’m working some of these issues out just by writing about them, and this journal gives me the opportunity to reflect in ways that I otherwise wouldn’t. I’ll certainly be writing more about this topic in the future. I want to see where it goes!

Tell me in the comments about the best performance you’ve seen (rock show or otherwise) and what made it special for you. I’d love to get your input.

-WS