On Friday, I am playing a show at Smith's Olde Bar in the Atlanta Room. Friday is also my 29th birthday. Geoff Goodwin (my former bandmate from Pocket the Moon) and Noah Dennis are joining me on drums and bass, I will have other guests artists joining me, there will be cupcakes, and it will generally be a great time! Juliana Finch is playing before me, and Aaron Edward will close out the night. Come at 8:00 pm for Juliana Finch, I'm playing at 9:00 pm, and stick around for Aaron Edward at 10:00.
I keep telling people this will be "my last show in this context." What does that mean?
Last year, around this time, I talked about how I was going to focus on my writing and take the focus off of music. I think this was definitely a wise decision, but I have really struggled with it. Being a "musician" became such a deeply ingrained part of my identity, and when I started saying things like, "well, I used to be a musician" or "I'm not really doing the music thing anymore," that created a lot of pain for me. There was so much sadness in this idea of "giving up" music. I felt like I had given up--like I had been defeated. I was driving to the gym one day, and I randomly turned on the first track of Pocket the Moon, the 2011 album that Geoff and I wrote and performed. I ended up driving around Marietta for an hour, listening to the whole album, and having an emotional breakdown. It was like post-breakup sobbing. And I was weeping for a loss in a way. I was weeping for a lost part of myself.
I used to have these dreams that one day, I would "make it" as an indie singer/musician. I never wanted to be selling out Phillips Arena or anything, but I thought that maybe one day if I worked hard enough, I could sell out the Variety Playhouse. But show after show to 10 or 12 people at Smith's Olde Bar or The Earl or other random venues in the Atlanta area--it all wore me down. I was having all of this success as a writer and I wasn't seeing much success as a musician. So I decided that I needed to focus on my writing and think of music as sort of a hobby. And there was a lot of pain for me in this decision because it felt like I was giving up. It felt like no one appreciated the sad songs that I wrote so I was just going to stop writing them and singing them. I realized, though, that that is not the way I should be looking at it. "Making it" as any type of artist requires a lot of passion, energy, hard work, and dedication. I was trying to "make it" as a writer and a musician, and I didn't have enough energy to spend on both things. It's like Ron Swanson says on Parks and Recreation: "Never half ass two things. Whole ass one thing." And I felt like that's what I needed to do with my writing.
So. I may still sing at Unity or write songs or share covers on YouTube. I may still participate in things like 500 Songs for Kids or play at a friend's wedding. I may even write or put out another album in the future. And I might even play another show at some point if someone just asks me to play a set to a crowd that will already be there and I don't have to do any of my own marketing or expect to "bring a crowd." But this is the last time I will be playing a show like this--in this context. This is the last time I will be playing at Smith's Olde Bar (or a venue like it) in Atlanta--putting together the bill, inviting my friends and family, doing all of my own promotion/marketing, etc. This may be the last time that I play the songs from Unsent Letters and Pocket the Moon live.
But the truth is that even if no one else does appreciate my music, I am proud of the songs I have written, and I love them. And I know that there are other people who love them, too. I have had people tell me that certain songs I have written really helped them through difficult periods in their lives. I have had people tell me that they were incredibly touched by songs that I have written. Sometimes, it's just hard to hang onto those comments. When you write quiet or reflective music, it's often the quiet and reflective people that are touched by your songs. Just because you don't see how they affect or inspire people doesn't mean that they aren't.
It's like this poetry exercise I did recently where we were supposed to write an inspiring or uplifting poem and leave it in some random place for a stranger to find. I did so. Now, this poem could have ended up in the trash--read by no one--or it could have stopped someone from committing suicide. I have no way of knowing. But the point was that I put it out into the world, and it was beautiful. And that is how I think of my music these days. And that is what I will be celebrating on Friday--along with my birthday. And I hope that you will join me.
Not to be pretentious and quote my own lyrics, here, but it really is like the end of "Rooftops."
It's all a dream to me if we just leave it behind.
I hope that you will help me to remember it all.