At a recent appointment with my doctor, he observed that my blood pressure is higher than it should be. He proposed some meds for it, but I really didn't like the idea of getting on a medication that I then have to take forever. So I did some internet research, and for the past several months I've been drinking lots of hibiscus tea, eating plenty of kale and arugula, and I've been much more diligent about walking or going to the gym several mornings a week. And as I've been checking my blood pressure on the machine at the grocery store, I can see that it's really making a difference. Turns out, sometimes the threat of something bad can be more effective for changing behavior than the promise of something good.
Back in January, I made some New Year's musical resolutions. And I don't know that it was driven by the threat of something bad - "if I don't do these things, I will stagnate or even regress as a musician" - but I suppose that is true to a certain extent I need to engage in certain regular practices because my musical life depends on it.
I made five resolutions back in January: (1) pick up the guitar every day, (2) open myself to new musical and lyrical ideas, (3) explore new music and new artists, (4) get back to some songwriter events, and (5) book shows in new venues. And I thought it would be good to check in on my progress so far. So how am I doing? 1. Guitar: I have NOT been picking it up every day...but I have been doing it more regularly. We got a decorative wall hanger for the front room so that there's always a guitar right at hand. I also got some new gear, and that's inspired some playing around as well. After one of my shows this past spring, I was aware of having crossed over a kind of invisible mental barrier from being self-conscious in my playing to just simply PLAYING, and that seems significant. Self-Score: 50%
2. New musical and lyrical ideas: I've been paying more attention to those unique experiences and those moments when a line suddenly comes to mind, and I've been taking time to work with them. It's resulted in a couple of new songs that I really like. One of them grew out of a pretty weird conversation I had, and I had to work it for a while to find what it needed to be. The other one developed from a line that came to me during a walk on the beach and it took shape rather quickly; the lyrical style is different for me, reminding me some of Bruce Cockburn. Then there's this other song that I've been working and working on, and frankly it might never be anything more than a really good first line. As an aside, recently I picked up a portable multitrack recorder so I can record some of these new efforts; if the results sound decent, I'll post them here on the site. Self-Score: 75%
3. New music/artists: I haven't been pursuing this one nearly as much as I wanted to, but I think just having it as an intention has made a difference. A couple of resulting discoveries are the Australian band Gang of Youths (found on a list of "underappreciated" 2017 albums) and the Canadian band The Tragically Hip (who's been around for years, but I really got to know and appreciate their music through the documentary "Long Time Running"). Self-Score: 30%
4. Songwriter Events: Well, this one just hasn't happened at all - deadlines, blablabla - except that I did enter a song in the NPR Tiny Desk Contest, which I haven't done before. The performance wasn't great and the video quality was shite, but I'm still glad I did it. Afterward I thought, "OK, next time what I need to do is..." which means some progress. Self-Score: 15%
5. New venues for gigs: I've done really well with this one, if I do say so myself. Having it as an intention meant that I was really looking for new places to play and making a point to talk to the owners/managers there. So far this year I've done at least three shows at venues I hadn't played before, including Public House on High in Maryville (actually performing there again later this month) and the Daily Grind & Wine in Murphy, NC (see photo above - fantastic crowd). I also submitted my name to a nearby summer concert series - I didn't get the gig, but this resolution got me to expand my efforts. Self-Score: 90%
The great thing about having resolutions is that every bit of progress further motivates me, encourages me to go another step further. Having these resolutions has also made me more aware of different aspects of my playing and performing. Like, I always play a few cover songs along with my own tunes in my shows, and recently I thought, "I've been playing the same cover songs for way too long." So I've spent some time lately working on a new batch of interesting covers to season the stew. So I'm excited about the rest of 2018 and I hope you are too. In the meantime, if you come to one of my shows, you'll hear some new songs!