Saturday, August 31, 2013

August 31, 2013: The Crystal Stair

A lot of my studying has taken the shape of an almost meditative quality. I'm kind of a fidgeter for those of you that don't know me personally. It's very tough for me to sit thru a full movie. So I've been working so hard at my ability to focus as well as my ability to sustain this high level of focus for hours.

And, in a phrase that I will probably repeat a million times to myself and to blog readers, I have been working on using the bass as a way to show and feel the transient nature of life

One of the beautiful truths of this world is that we can see every experience or every thing as a journey. Every single person has a unique journey they are on, whether its personal, professional, or all of it at once.

On a micro level, we go on a million journeys every day. Even bacteria takes epic quests. On a macro level, we are all on one BIG journey. 

On Steve Perry's level, that journey is a bit different.  

My journey has been blessed. I have had an amazing family and truly supportive friends. I have had colleagues who have taken me under their wing to show me a better path than the aimless ones I tend to embark upon. I am currently working as a professional musician with bands that I really like playing music that really matters. How freaking cool is that?!

But to paraphrase my favorite poet ever Langston Hughes, my journey hasn't been a crystal stair. 

Sometimes I get splinters
Sometimes I stub my toes on the torn up boards
Sometimes I have to go in the dark

There have been myriad setbacks in my musical career. I've been robbed a few times; across the street from P'Cheen here in Atlanta, out of a dressing room in Richmond, VA. I've had relationships fall apart because of what I do, the fabric of love violently torn asunder while I am hundreds of miles away, trying not to cry into my All-Cheese-Everything-Menu at a Denny's in Easton, Maryland. I've had terrible coworkers, using me like they own a Tyson Chicken Plant and I'm just a piece of meat, pumped full of hormones with a non-working beak. 

I've asked myself more times than I would like to admit; is it worth it? Am I cut out for this? Do I love the bass? My path has not been a crystal stair. 

I remember distinctly the morning after I was robbed for the first time. They broke into the backseat of my 94 Volvo Station Wagon (was so much easier to find dates with that thing) and took EVERYTHING. Basses/amps/ipods. It was a mess.

The cops didn't show up (of course not. BAD COP. NO DONUT), so I went home and was too derailed to process what happened. But that morning, I remember distinctly waking up and saying that it had to be a bad dream. That feeling of sickness in my throat with no cause; the utter defeat of not feeling any victory you've ever had. It had to be a dream. 

It wasn't. I had never felt so destroyed in my life. 

I travelled with a group who withheld deserved money that was, quite literally, my meal ticket. So I had to borrow money. To suck up the courage to ask someone to loan you money, especially when you want this person to respect you; it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. 

I wanted to quit playing bass. But it was a useless endeavor; I kept coming back to those 4 strings and infinite possibilities. 

I kept climbing.

It's what we all do. No one takes an elevator to any place worth going; escalators don't really reach your destination either. You have to keep climbing. 

Sometimes we'll get splinters
Sometimes we'll stub our toes on the torn up boards
Sometimes we will have to climb in the darkness 

But no matter what happens, we can't turn back. Life isn't going to be a crystal stair for any of us.

We must keep climbing. 

Be someone's bannister today,
Benjamin Ryan Williams

Friday, August 30, 2013

August 30th, 2013: Don't Understate The Epic Nature Of Your Life. It Is All You've Got. Forever.

I've been gigging! Playing shows with some of my favorite musicians gigging out there right now. Let's do a quick recap.

Indigo Girls:
                  We have been crushing it with the new band. It feels awesome up there; its the most comfortable and fun I've felt with a group in a long time. I really feel like I'm expressing myself, and I'm having fun playing music. It is the most amazing experience getting to learn from ATLien legends Emily&Amy, and I wish I could personally thank everyone who supports the band and has for years. But for now this will have to do. THANK YOU!!!

Here is a pretty cool video of us playing one of the harder rocking songs we've been doing called "This Train Revised" off of IG's "Swamp Ophelia." Yeah, that is the homie Jaron Pearlman killing it on drums as well as the too-great-for-adjectives Lyris Hung on violin.

Hannah Thomas: 
                  Hannah has been absolutely crushing it! The band, featuring Cooper Carter on guitar and Jaron Pearlman on drums, has really hit a good stride. The shows are sounding tighter and are definitely becoming more fun to play. I'm really starting to experience that transient state when you are pushing yourself musically but really trying to say something within you. It doesn't happen at every gig, so I'm always enchanted and thankful when it comes. I'm really excited for the future of this group.

New March  is a song Hannah just did that I played on. Hopefully its a sign of things to come, because I have a lot of fun with this group. We just filmed a music video too; how could you not enjoy this?

I've also played some shows with the MOST talented and CHILLEST dude Conner Youngblood as well as perennial BFFs Jonny & Shim. I'm happy to be play with so many people who's music I like and who appreciate what I bring to the table. It's a far cry from situations I've been in and situations that so many other musicians find, and will find themselves in, in the future.

My to-be-taken-casually advice; work hard and be a good person who stands up for things and falls for nothing.

I've been working hard! Learning a lot of songs ("Ratchet" by Bloc Party is my favorite to jam right now) and trying to branch out a bit. Doing a lot of ear training which is kicking my tush but that which doesn't kill you as a bassist makes you stronger (this might kill me though). But I've been really focusing diligently on the mental aspect of playing music. Or, in an even broader sense, I have been trying to work on being more sensitive to every aspect of my life. I really want my brain to work better, so I am actively pursuing any way to fire up my musical, creative, and disciplined mind.

The main thing I have been working on is not trying to reduce my role in this universe to that of "just another guy." It's true, I am one of several billion, of countless people alive throughout humanity. Even in a grander scale, I am just atoms, of bajillions cagillions (I barely passed college math).

But, in my life, from my perspective, I am really damned important!

Because of that, I'm trying to take care of myself thru exercise and eating correctly. But I'm not just doing boring drudgery like that. I've also bought this MASSIVE hour glass to track my practice time.

Sure, it's silly, but it also somehow makes the experience feel a bit more powerful, special, and fun! I'd recommend that any place that becomes a center of your life, be it social, goal-oriented; any location where you wish to grow and be in the moment, it helps to have physical reminders of what it means to you. Try to work towards making the place more fun to be around; make it inspire you. And get creative. There is no reason and there is no excuse to be "just another girl/guy/robot."

And that isn't silly at all. That's more important than college math.

So go out and realize how epic your life is. You can be the hero, or the villain, but no matter what, you are certainly the protagonist.

I listened to Glen Campbell the whole time I wrote this; his music makes me want to Cowboy Cry,
Benjamin Ryan Williams