I had one of my best gigs ever last night. I had a really good time, and I think it showed.
I spent the early part of the day doing some practicing – as opposed to playing. It was not a joyful act. I thought I had changed, but there I was on gig day falling back into the same old patterns. I felt pressured to do better than I had in the past, to succeed, to push myself, to perform new songs, to impress; I ended up feeling inadequate and bored.
I decided to take a break and go play in the yard. I noticed a few mulberry trees a little over a foot high around the south side of the house, growing fast and distinguishing themselves from the rest of the weeds. I decided to transplant them along the back fence, where someday they might help to cover up the view of the apartment building behind my house and provide a little more privacy.
As I worked, my mind continued to sing the songs I had been working on. Sometimes the singing in my mind spilled out of my mouth. I had a pleasant time in the ninety-five-degree heat – that’s what singing is for.
I went back inside and puttered around the house. I thought about why I signed up to play at Limerick Junction on a Sunday evening, for free, in the first place. I guess because as a musician, it’s my job to play music for people – whether I want to or not, sometimes. In the past, I’ve always been glad I did it – I meet new people, I get out of my comfort zone, I stay in the game, I try out new songs.
I came back to an idea that’s worked for me in the past: instead of thinking I had to come up with some amazing, epic set, I should just sing a bunch of songs. Songs I happen to feel like singing tonight. Songs I like, some of which I wrote. No pressure, no epic statement: simply transmitting the joy of making music.
So that’s what I did. I went upstairs to the guitar and played this time – refreshing my memory on a few things and tweaking others. And then I got ready to go, and went, and just got up there and did it.
And while I was onstage, I remembered another reason I perform: because the audience makes me able to do things I didn’t know I could do, or didn’t know I would do. I surprise myself. It’s an exciting collaboration.
Feeling at the top of my game, I decided last night that I would wake up early this morning to play. I did it, and I think I’m going to do it again tomorrow. I memorized a Schumann piece, reviewed some Scarlatti, and learned the intro to “Martha My Dear.”
There’s a freshness and ease to my musicanship lately which is showing up in my playing, practicing, performing, and teaching: I am inhabiting the world of songs. It doesn’t matter what instrument it’s on or what era it’s from or whether I wrote it or not – whatever song I am working on, I want to get wrapped up in it. It may seem an insignificant concept, but it took me eight years to get to this point. And this is where I’m going to live from now on.