Sunday, July 13, 2008

the drag of ambition and the smell of roses

On The Fourth we watched the fireworks turn the fog red and orange and green over Oakland as bottle rockets screeched out from the cracks between the buildings and the freeways below. We ended up back at my place, where I never think to invite people, where I realized how many guitars I actually have for a good jam, along with the piano, which does still need to be tuned, and the shaker that Anton has with him all the time now, and the awesome songs that Shawn had written for a friend's band that morning, and the covers that Aaron and I were learning for this weekend.  The fireworks were really just a symptom of the day, something we wouldn't and couldn't miss, but the core of the night was spent around the plates and bowls and bags and boxes of food crowding the kitchen counter, the conversation, and the music.  There has been a lot of music purely for the sake of music recently.  It is a bummer to think of how rare of a thing that really is.

There has always been a goal.  When I was a kid I saw being a professional musician as a way to escape nine to five, a societal role with the expectation of acting outside of the societal norm.  I wanted it bad enough to get it, for now I guess, but because I was always working towards something, I always have had trouble setting aside the ambition and just enjoying it.  There is nothing I love more than writing and playing songs, but having all of those goals in the room with you while you're trying to do what you love can just ruin the experience.  I love having meetings and phone calls to discuss my music, and hell, I drove to LA and back just to do a couple hours of recalls on mixes last week without blinking, but it is a bummer to be thinking about that stuff when you have a guitar in your hands.

I didn't talk about the country at all on The Fourth.  I just kept talking about how in love I am with my new album, how I can't stop listening to it, and how much I learned and how much fun I had through the struggle to make it.  I've decided recently that you're doing something wrong if you aren't your own biggest fan, aren't writing the exact songs that you want to listen to. I am so excited about what is awaiting me out there in the near and distant future.  The unknown has never felt so good.  People keep asking when they can hear what I spent the last year on, when it will finally be coming out. That will all get figured out in the next couple months, but right now it is mine to enjoy.  Sorry.

Yesterday we drove up to Sacramento to spend the afternoon in a rehearsal space, to play no songs of my own, just songs that we all love to play.  Though we joked around about crashing the stage at a show that night and totally nailing One Headlight for a Second Saturday bar crowd, there was no ambition in the room.  When I fucked up, the image of us in front of a packed room completely bombing our set never flashed through my head.  We just drank beers and did another run through Hotel Yorba or Whose Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses because it felt good, not because we needed to get it right.  I couldn't think of another time when I had loaded in and out of a practice space when I wasn't preparing for a show or a tour or trying someone out. 

It is such a drag to read that last sentence back.

After three or four hours, when we'd exhausted the songs we'd learned, and my voice was starting to crack on the high notes, we loaded out to the van, and found a bar downtown, talked to some girls, drank a few pitchers, and after closing time tried to find a party that was still happening.  It was that standard late late night, showing up to trashed front porches with a few scattered scene kids sitting on the steps.  The party is always life-changing just an hour before you show up - that's life - but we ended up in a park somewhere, when the night was still and the fluttering and quacking of ducks and geese were echoing off of a pond beyond the trees, and walking through a rose garden, I couldn't help but stopping every few steps, when a fat and billowing yellow rose would appear beside me, and leaning my face down into the cool petals, fresh from the sprinklers, I would take a big whiff and close my eyes and laugh.