There are things that I’m fully passionate about that just don’t come through to other people. I get that, too, I really do. It’s not that I am angry at them or think they are frustrating or anything.
But when I tell people I’m a musician, knowing full well that I work a full-time job and raise four kids alone, they give you that “okay, good for you,” look and tone. It’s easy to do, and I totally understand. With programs on the television where people join a rock and roll band camp for the chance to play guitar behind the lead singer from White Lion or something, I get that they’re skeptical. I totally understand that they’re not able to understand what playing the guitar means to me.
My wife was one of those skeptical people. She saw me live on stage but always thought of it as a kind of phase that she’d hoped I’d grow out of. I never did.
Here’s why: music, particularly blues and rock and clever/intelligent songwriting always crept through to me and touched me. I don’t know why, I’m just wired that way. I believe my brother is the same way, though it’s not like we sit down and have philosophical discussions about it. We write and play music. That’s enough and it’s enough of a connection. I understand it, many others don’t. There’s something about being able to throw a sideways glance across a stage at my brother and there’s really no other need for communication, he sees where I’m going or I see where he’s going and know what to do next. It’s improvisation; it’s emotional release; it’s creativity . . . it’s art, whether that sounds pretentious or not.
Just a few days after Andrea passed away I went into the office in my house (we don’t live in that house any more, couldn’t afford it) and pulled my guitar out of its case. The guitar is a custom shop 1988/89/90 Eric Clapton signature model Fender Stratocaster. It’s 7-up green and my older brother affectionately named it “Dot” after the giant red dot on the 7-Up cans. The name stuck. It’s about as perfect a guitar for my hand as I’ve found.
I picked it up and started blindly playing the guitar, unplugged – as it was somewhere around 2 or 3 in the morning – and started riffing on a chord and playing around. I ended up by night’s end with pieces of 3 or 4 different songs. I’ve recorded one with AJ already. I’m working on demos for the other 3.
I survived the months after Andrea left because of family who lived with me. I’ve made no secret of that. They drove miles away and lived far away from their home to help me adjust. Part of that adjustment for me was opening the door for that music to come back into our lives. The guitars aren’t locked away in another room any more. They’re out. They’re played. And amplifier sits between the speakers for our stereo in the living room.
My Dobro hangs on the wall. A guitar stand sits in the corner holding my Strats and I play them a lot. My kids sing with me. I sing when I cook. They sing in the car and show me new music.
I took the girls to a concert in the Spring. I’m taking them to another soon. Nothing back breaking. Music in the park, music in the town center . . . whatever.
It’s rare you meet people who understand that connection. Usually it’s other musicians. In rare occasions – my folks, a dear friend in another state, all those people understand. For some they can do this as a hobby and it’s fine. For me it’s not a hobby. It’s part of who I am.
When a singer/songwriter friend stayed at the house we had this discussion. The guitar – the one guitar(s) that you play and just . . . fits. Fits in your hand, is perfect, so you can play and when you play you don’t even notice the notes coming off your fingers. That’s amazing. The guitar is like part of your left hand and you wouldn’t know what to do without it. I get the rare criticism that I’m dreaming too much when I write or record . . . but not often. It’s because I know my life as it is now. But the industry’s changing. We are selling copies of the last CD digitally and I’m not even working at marketing it. I am writing and recording (when I can) and I love every minute of it. Why? It’s just part of who I am.
It’s not a hobby. It’s a passion. It’s a passion for life, and this is my life. Is it easier to live this way now that I’m the sole adult in the house? Yes, I’m afraid it is and I’m saddened by that. I also understand that my kids see that’s what makes me happy. My daughter taped me playing below on her phone. A group playing a fundraising gig at our church wanted to do cover tunes for a charity that is helping kids still affected by the earthquake that devastated Haiti – and a school in Kenya that a family in the parish has adopted. I said I’d do it and went from playing rhythm to singing some songs to lead guitar. I am OK with that, I have amazing callouses now, and I’m thrilled to be playing and passionate about it. My daughter skipped a party to watch me play and to record the night. It’s an amazing thing to see that she listened and enjoyed her old man on the stage.
But she also sees that I understand she loves drama and theater . . . and though I couldn’t act my way out of a paper bag . . . that’s her passion.
It’s a passion for life.