Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing Retreat

i lack the discipline to quarantine myself away from wonderful people and things to do, even for a short while, when they are right outside my door. in the city, there's more psychic clutter that comes with all the movement of people and cars and ideas... sometimes it makes me numb and i am less scared of the ringing in my ears than of never being able to hear it.

so, i split my intentions for this writing retreat into three categories:
-feed the muse (write, listen, study, move, etc.)
-create (songs, poems, letters)
-document (photos, video, blogging)

having not been alone with myself in a long time, it took about a week to notice a decrescendo of restlessness. the first few days, i cleaned and slept a lot. i conquered a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle, listened to great music, and made friends with a robin who nested on the front porch and taps at the kitchen window. (at first, that was sweet. now, it's annoying as hell and i swear she's going to come right through the window, tapping on it and throwing herself into it as she does. crazy bird. i can do nothing to stop her.) i also watched the sunset with a dead fox carcass on the beach. its skin was almost gone, but its teeth were bright white. i took pictures. i love a morbidly-beautiful juxtaposition.

there's an antique clawfoot tub here, so i take a lot of epsom salt baths. not being one to commit, i am reading Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and AW Tozer's The Pursuit of God.

not that it always happens this way, but the best way i've found to try to organize my day is to write in the morning as soon as i wake up (like it says in The Artist's Way, before the inner critic wakes up). i brew tea and sit at my makeshift workspace and see what comes up, or finish something i have already been working on. i write and play and record until hunger sets in and then usually come back to that workspace before the end of the day with new ideas from walks in the woods or reading, sunsets, dead foxes, etc.

i am still caught up in some of the things i wanted to leave in Austin, but as superfluous things fall away, these hangers-on are so much fewer and actually more important than they had seemed.

hooray for clarity!

Monday, May 25, 2009


except for the chair and guitar, all that stuff fits into this bag:

i take it on airplanes because i like getting searched at all TSA "welcome centers." we have such a good time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rhodri getting "all Oprah on your ass"

Below is an excerpt from this article by Rhodri Marsden:

"The internet has entirely switched the focus from making music to sales and marketing. While some might say that this is just the harsh reality, it's what you have to do to survive, I say bollocks. I'm not just being romantic about this. There's a choice: play gigs, experience that peculiar bonding you get with fellow band members, feel that curious mixture of love and antipathy you get from an audience – and make no money. Or obsess about selling mp3s – and make no money. My children, and my children's children, certainly won't want to hear about my tedious marketing efforts to secure a song that I wrote 250,000 views on YouTube. (Note that I sold barely 100 MP3s as a result of this colossal and unexpected exposure – which certainly made it an interesting experiment, but also a fairly solitary and unfulfilling one.)

What would have made a better story would have been to wangle a gig in a Parisian squat where the electrics are dodgy, suffer a massive electric shock off a mike stand, get carried from the building while everyone cheers loudly, be left rubbing your head while slumped against the side of your van, the promoter takes advantage of the confusion by running off with the mixing desk which he's holding ransom because he claims that the PA company owe him money, at which point you realise that you're not going to get paid, and you look at your fellow band members, and then you start to cry. That's the story I'd rather tell, and frankly it's the story I'd rather hear.

Music's biggest function, from time immemorial, has never been its capacity to make money. It's its powerful social glue. Without wishing to get all Oprah on your ass, it may be an expensive hobby, but it brings people together in an utterly unique fashion."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This many

I want to bring home this many albums from my writing hibernation. So far, i just sing forlornly into a handheld recorder that AJ bought for me during my Flipnotics residency many moons ago.

But, one can see why i might be destracted...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins knows what's up. i saw him interviewed yesterday on the Austin City Limits soundstage in studio 6A. he is the glowing figure on the right.

Mr. Rollins is 78 years old and doesn't like being called a legend because he says he is still working toward a sound he hasn't achieved. in response to a question from Waterloo Records owner John Kunz, Mr. Rollins was quick to mention a guy he always thought was better than he was (Percy France), but shied away from mentioning who he himself had gotten the better of along the way.

when asked what he thought about women in jazz, he said he believed it was possible.

he doesn't use set lists and tries to at least have the first song of the night decided by the time he leaves his dressing room for the stage. he tours more since he lost his wife in 2004. his passion for music keeps him going. he doesn't listen to much recorded music, because he spends so much time creating it.

he has a mystical view of music. why would you need drugs when you could have the most incredible out-of-body experiences with music? he mentioned that when asked by a jazz student what advice he wishes he had gotten when he was younger. he also said that if you're in the music business for fame and riches, you will never be fulfilled. creation has to be an end in itself, something you would do even if the pay sucks. being focused on anything but the passionate pursuit of music will only put limits on your experience.

sonny rollins is wholly unscripted. constantly challenging himself to evolve. another one who calls it like he sees it and inspires other to do the same. we're all just trying to get through.