Quite a few people have been requesting expanded versions of the stories that I tell about songs at shows – as blog posts… so here we go… from the beginning.
Here's a YouTube video of the song this post is about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh_r9H3G5N4
Sometime in the winter of 2002.
I was 17 and the absurdity of High School and the unsure beginnings of a jaded “real life” were starting to merge in my consciousness. I had been sitting in my Mom’s home-office for hours staring into the blue light of a monitor, attached to the slowest computer I can ever remember using for anything other than terrible 2d games in the early nineties.
My mind was distracted and muddy, my legs felt like jello from a long run, I had a headache, and I should have paid attention to the intensity with which my body was begging me to get my ass in bed, but I couldn’t…because my ears were fully engaged by just about the only thing that had ever been able to keep me still for longer than a few seconds: great music.
As I sat there in what would soon feel more like pre-dawn than late night, I felt both inspired by the music I was listening to, and crushed by circumstance.
I was thinking about how very small my life felt… confined to the sterile and mind-numbing halls of my school, the institution that was supposed to someday lead me to the American dream… which – in my mind at the time – meant something very close to death.
The way I saw it, I was there in HS for a couple more years and I had to do well… then college… then grad school… then fight, race, claw my way into the “real world” in pursuit of an arbitrarily chosen “career.” I’d make my parents and peers proud and finally have enough money to pay for a life I’d built around the means of paying for it.
At least I would be self sufficient right? Hopefully it would compensate me enough to allow me to keep my dignity and semi-satiate my appetite for status. I would eventually make enough to take out a 30 year mortgage on a nice house in the burbs, have 2.5 kids, and throw a weekly Sunday barbecue.
“Hey,” I thought, trying to muster some optimism. “Maybe I’ll find enough depth and purpose in my family to make up for the fact that I spend most of every day doing something I hate and really didn’t put much thought into choosing.”
It’s funny to think back on it now, because I actually see a family and a house in a rad neighborhood in my future at some point. There’s nothing wrong with a lot of what I just mentioned. But as a 17 year old with big dreams, I couldn’t have imagined anything worse…
“I’m getting ahead of myself” I thought, “I’ll be alright… I have my music.”
Or did I?
I had really stopped believing that music, outside of being an inspiration and a joy, could be of any value to my life. I had given up on a dream that I had been too young to understand in the first place, and I was still playing the role, as if pretending I wanted it bad enough would make me feel a little bit better about the fact that I would never have it.
So as I listened to song after song with dawn rapidly approaching, ideas started to form in my head. I don’t exactly remember when it happened or what led up to it, but I do remember that it came to me in an instant and without any warning:
Suddenly I understood the root of the heaviness of my whole life, and I knew exactly how to fix it. I would NEVER be happy with anything but music, and knowing that with certainty made all the difference.
Music had to be what my life was about or it would remain terrifying and dull, and the cognitive dissonance that ruled my life would follow me far beyond the reaches of high school.
“There are no complicated answers. Music is it. Music is what I’m here for… I absolutely have got to do this – starting NOW.”
I had lost precious time doubting myself and procrastination seemed obsolete in the face of this new clarity. I picked up my guitar and wrote Sing Along. To this day, it reminds me of how much I need this… these songs, this profession, the magic that is music… it’s what keeps me alive… and
certain that there’s a place in the world for my heart and what it has to offer.
And I can tell you right now – when you get right down to the reason I wrote this song, and the conclusion it leads to – not a damn thing has changed since that night.
Here's the video again – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh_r9H3G5N4