The first time I cried at a performance was at the One World Theatre seeing Tommy Emmanuel play. I’d been in a terrible headspace for weeks or months, and I took Tommy’s mastery as a personal affront. Every moment of the show was a cruel reminder of all I hadn’t done, couldn’t do, would never do.
The first time I cried in response to performance was at the Cactus Cafe seeing Darrell Scott play 7 or so years ago. I don’t remember the song or the precise moment, but I remember being so affected by his manner, his quiet confidence, the focus on the quality of the music.
I got to see him again last Friday at Austin’s Saxon Pub. I knew I would likely get emotional. What I wasn’t prepared for was the weeping that took me over during the first verse of “Someday,” after being primed by his tribute to musicians “Fiddler Jones.” I spent the handful of minutes it took for him to finish the song holding my breath, trying not to break into sobs in the silence between verses.
For the last 3 or so years, I’ve been unable to remember what it’s all about. What does music mean for me, what’s the point? In the couple or so years following the release of my record, I was so focused on performance that I lost the core. Then John Winsor died and everything shifted, fell apart, withered away.
Suddenly, the things I’d spent my energy on meant nothing at all. My attitude toward being seen in public changed dramatically. And my musical life, performance-focused and becoming vapid, was desiccated. I stopped booking shows. I stopped writing. I stopped moving.
I spoke with an acquaintance recently who didn’t know I was a musician. They didn’t associate me with music at all, which embarrassed me and caused me to lash out at the person to whom I’m closest. But that feeling was the catalyst for a conversation I didn’t know I needed to have. It wasn’t me who made the realization, but my very best friend and partner. I couldn’t see what I was lacking; I’d forgotten what it looked like.
I’ve glimpsed it again. I’ve turned a corner. I feel excited and hopeful.
I continue to work a day job because having to rely on music as my main source of income taints it. And I don’t mind, because I remember why music called me in the first place.
I’ve never had a hero before in my life. I think it’s a strange designation. But I think I gained two in the past week: Darrell Scott is my musical hero. Last Friday I shook his hand and said something stupid and gushy that I wish I had said differently, but he looked me in the eye and thanked me for being there, somehow reminding me that you don’t have to be superhuman to be a musician. You just have to do the work for the right reasons.
Cat Clemons is my real life hero. He recognized a void in me to which I’d been somehow oblivious and shone light into the dark.
“I am feeling, though I do not shed a tear
my eyes are dusty, though I have faced my fear of fears
I am shaken by the coming on of years
I am a feeling man but I cannot shed a tear”