The first thing people often say when I tell them I’m a musician is. “But what’s your real job?”, and when I tell them that that being a singer/songwriter is my really real job, they then inquire how I can possibly make a living. This is not limited to the Italian experience, I get it everywhere I travel and have laughed about it frequently with musician friends from all over the world.
While it’s true that being a lowly musician ( I mean, listen- I know if questions such as these are posed, if the person with whom the musician is speaking has never heard said musician’s name they are, for them, by definition lowly ) is not for everyone; it suits me down to the bone.
By the standards of the conventional definitions of success; I’m a failure. I don’t own any property, haven’t got much in the bank and my face isn’t on MTV, yet I’m as happy as the human condition allows me to be- I cannot imagine doing anything else.
This lifestyle is simultaneously exhilarating and maddening. Sharing a moment with an engaged audience is pure energy- and the experience strikes me as being healing for all involved and meaningful. The feeling obtained when writing a song, or performing is nothing short of magical, when in commune with oneself and the intangible the feeling is inexplicable, it’s something like meditation I think. The utter beauty of creating something where once there was nothing… At the same time, the attempt to create something of profound value, to speak truth with originality. The constant work on improving technique, on pushing oneself forever further. Disheartening and entrancing. Frustrating and joyous. Yin and yang.
What I mean to say is, I know, I know… I may get old with no security, never be able to retire and end up singing on some beach somewhere if they’ll have me, or trying to peddle my writing; but that is so much less frightening to me than never having allowed myself to connect, to create, to live would be.
I saw Judd Apatow's film “May it Last Forever” on the Avett Brothers and their band this week and it really moved me. Speaking of artistic authenticity, isn’t Judd such a light? At any rate, I felt a strong sense of kinship with those brothers although their musical direction is very different from what I’m usually drawn to. The authenticity, the lovingness that the band exudes is resplendent. Their song “No Hard Feelings” has been my earworm since the watching- I'm driving Marco crazy by sitting at our piano and playing it again and again and over again. What greater feeling is there than when you fall in love with a song? When it reaches inside, takes your heart and squeezes?? There is something exquisite about feeling the truth of someone’s art and the sense of connection that that awakens.
I cannot count the number of times people have also a sorta wistful longing in their voice as they say instead, “Ah, lucky you. You’re living the life.” I always reply that “You can too!” There are always, always excuses as to why not, most often monetary- Poverty is not an impediment to artistry, social convention is. You just have to decide that the accumulation of wealth is not your priority. It’s a choice- a choice to let go of what your family or society is telling you is acceptable and following your authentic self - wherever it may lead.