Something happened to me on stage at the Showbox Market in Seattle on April 6th, 2010. Something that I don't want to ever happen again.
I wrote most of the of the lyrics to our album Vagabonds in 2009, which was a positive year for me. It was the year that I let go of my desires to have more - more respect, money, recognition, fame, etc... essentially what every guy in a band wants.
Lots of the dynamics of our band and our musical careers were changing, and I simply decided to give up stressing out about it. It was freeing, and a lot of the lyrics on Vagabonds were written out of that sense of freedom.
But something happened on stage in April 2010, the night our CD was released. I knew going into the show that our band wasn't fully practiced and on the same page with the new songs, but generally speaking that never stopped us from performing well before. We could always fall back on the emotional energy of our live show, lock in with each other and pull it together.
The new songs relied less on the wall-of-sound-energy that many of our older songs did, and relied on more of a joyful, whimsical energy - one that's hard to fake. No matter how happy you are, you can always direct any residual stress, anxiety, or emotional anguish into a song that tackles big savory issues like the meaning of life... but it's really, really hard to fake happy songs when you're not happy.
As a band, it was clear that we were not happy. We weren't together, unified, invested in the music, and how could we be? The writing process for the record resembled at best a lack of unified enthusiasm. To put it simply: we got jaded. I remember looking around at my bandmates on stage and feeling contempt. Not for them per say, because they were feeling the exact same thing I was, but I felt disgusted by our lack of energy. It was like we lacked the integrity to believe in the words of the songs we played. We were just going through the motions. I'd felt like this a few times in performances leading up to this show, but this was a home show, where our crowd was the most supportive. It was our CD Release Show and we couldn't even pull it together for them.
I felt sick. I hated every word to every song. I didn't want to be in a band that made me feel like this. I couldn't talk to anyone after the show. I couldn't go out and celebrate the release of our record afterwards. I went straight to bed.
Then we went on tour, and it got worse. Whatever happened on stage that night kickstarted a long, grinding period of hopelessness, and you may remember some pretty depressing blog posts I wrote from the road that year. Sorry for that... sometimes life sucks.
A couple weeks ago we were able to fully redeem ourselves on stage at The Showbox Market. We played old and new songs and we embraced them all, diving headfirst into the energy that inspired them to be written in the first place. Time apparently had set us straight, and I honestly believe we played our best show in years, to one of our smallest crowds in years (at the Showbox), that Friday night on July 29th, 2011.
It inspired me because I think I learned to accept where we've been and embrace where we are going. I can't deny the past and I can't force the future. My focus on our next record will be to capture the energy that comes from not only loving, but living the music we create. Music made and played with integrity is good music. I'm in a mental state now where I can play A Perfect Voice, Vagabonds, and Four Chords and mean them again, and they feel and sound better when we play them with the same positive energy that wrote them.
I can see the new record start to take shape, and I can see already a huge progress in our collaborative effort. We're writing together more, and enjoying the songs we're playing. There are stressful moments, but no good album was ever made without them.
I can say that I never want to feel contempt for my music or my band again. I don't want to half-ass the calling we have. I don't want to give less energy to it than it requires. I don't want to hate what I create. I do this because I love it, and if I some day I stop loving it, well, I'll spare you the disappointment and hang up my tour boots. I won't cry. I'll just wave goodbye and say thanks.
But for now LP4 is in the slow-cooker, and I think it's going to taste great.