Thursday, April 4, 2013

Embracing the Mystery, Letting Go of Control

So let me take you by the hand and lead you on this dance
‘Cause what I’ve got is because I took a chance
I don't wanna rule the world,  just wanna run my life
So make your life a little easier, when you get the chance, just take
(from "Control" by Janet Jackson)
Oh, you're working, building a mystery
Holding on and holding it in
Yeah, you're working, building a mystery
And choosing so carefully
(from "Building a Mystery" by Sarah McLachlan)

It's interesting to me that in the lyrics above, Janet Jackson uses control to mean - if I understand her correctly - taking care of yourself, standing up for yourself, and paying attention to what you truly want out of life, instead of what you perceive other people want for you.  It's a positive thing for her, to take control of her life and her true, individual destiny.

Sarah McLachlan employs the word mystery, in her lyrics above, as something the character in the song constructs inside himself with great care.  I get the sense the narrator in this song admires this on the one hand, but regrets on the other that he doesn't share the mystery with others outside himself, at least not yet, anyway.

I suppose I can relate to this in some ways with creating my songs...they are mostly things which are born and grow inside my heart and mind for a time, before they spill out on to the page, the guitar strings, and the microphone.

But I also know sometimes I have a fear of sharing certain things that are bubbling up within me, a fear of how others might react once the mystery spills out of me, a fear that they will not like what they hear and they will let me know.  If I block that process of the mystery pouring out of me, I now believe that is my ego and self-will reacting out of my fears to control it instead.  So instead of taking control as Ms. Jackson suggests, in these types of instances I find I have to let go of control in order to let the mystery flow as it needs to.

These two words are coming up a lot for me right now, as I play and practice at home almost every day, and play live every other night or so, at one of the many open mics here in San Diego.

I suppose in one sense I have employed Janet Jackson's sense of control more at this time in my life than in any other previous, and a great many mysteries are spilling forward from this great shift.  But on the flipside, I am noticing more and more the places where my ego and self-will want to disguise themselves in the cloak of creative mystery, and sneakily urge me to control those things which I actually cannot control as one lone human being.

I am well aware now, that all facets of the creative process - not just songwriting, but all the things that come, after I share my songs through performance in whatever form - have a large element of mystery.  I do not know what will happen.  I do not know who will be in the audience, what other performers I will share the stage with, how people will react to my songs, how I will connect with other people.  It is all a big mystery, that just continues to unfold through surprising moment after surprising moment.

Last night I played the open mic at the 710 Beach Club in the Pacific Beach part of San Diego.  I could write about 10-20 pages about all the surprising little moments from when I arrived around 8:20PM PT to after I got done playing and left around midnight or so.  One thing was very clear.  My relatively-new song "Pretty Blade Trickster" is connecting with people in a big way, everywhere I go.  Now every time I play, at least one person and usually more mentions it.  Last night I again could feel it, even beginning with the introduction: almost everyone in the bar turned their eyes toward the stage, and those eyes stayed fixed on me and my guitar until the final note.

I loved this song the moment I finished writing it.  I had hoped it would connect with people.  But I honestly did not expect this one song to have such an impact.  One more part of the mystery unfolding.  

To my surprise and delight - I find I am using those other two words a lot lately - of the many other performers that I caught last night, the ones I was most drawn to wanted to talk to me when my set was over.  The brothers Ken and Keith Conway, of the group Dojo Masters, sent shockwaves through the audience with their incredible four-piece band that banged out some awesome blues, funk and R&B tunes.  I was captivated by all three of their songs.  Ken is a phenomenal keyboard player and Keith is equally expert on bass.  

My favorite number of theirs last night, however, was their cover of Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious."  They called the Emcee of the open mic, Pete, up on stage to sing the vocals, and he did a fantastic job.  Channelling Stevie Wonder instrumentally AND vocally is no light task.  But the most effective covers I have hear live are the ones where the musicians so involve themselves in their own love for the song, that their unique take on it shines through, and I forget or nearly forget the original artist.  Such was the case with Ken and Keith and their band.

I suppose my own insecurities, which I continue to work on daily, and which are slowly ebbing away in their influence, led to me to assume that out of the very large crowd in the bar, they would be the last two people who would want to talk to me about my set.  My thought was probably something like, "They are such incredibly talented, gifted and skilled musicians, why would they wanna talk to lil ol' me?"  Of course that whole line of thinking is just false, stupid and a waste of time, but there it was, for a few moments, anyway.

But they were the first two to grab me after I got off stage, and were highly complimentary and supportive of my set, especially "Pretty Blade Trickster."  They are also the second and third audience members of mine who I have had to correct, explaining that it is an original of mine, not a cover.  I'm hoping this means more good things about this song - some people seem to like it so much, that they quickly assume it must be a major hit they've heard before!  But who knows.  My crazy thinking can sometimes go in both directions, both positive and negative.

I want to thank both Ken and Keith for their own great performance, and for afterwards taking the time to talk to me about my music.  I really enjoyed meeting and talking with them both.  I was unable to video them last night, but I have posted a video of them playing the 710 Beach Club back in 2011 below, to check them out if you're interested.  Just understand that in my opinion, they've gotten even better than that!

I would also like to thank Mikey, a very friendly young chap, currently visiting our fair city from London, England.  He's a musician himself, who was vying to play later in the evening, and who also shared some kind words on my set with me afterwards.  I wish him all the best, for a great stay in San Diego and with his own music.

And finally, thank YOU for visiting my blog and reading.  I'm a bit stunned by the recent increase in views I've been seeing here.  So thank you, thank you, thank you!

Share |