Small Victories and a Solid Night

Making music is vulnerable. Here’s my heart and soul in a song, do you like it? That’s what we’re asking (through misty eyes) when we, as artists, show you our work.

Years ago, I was admitted to a mental hospital for the first time. Got out and was depressed for a solid year. I was suicidal. My stomach was in knots. I wrote a song about the experience a year later. Played it at open mics for 3 years until my fingers bled each time. Got access to a recording studio. Paid two-hundred dollars that I didn’t have to get a decent recording. Put the song on Soundcloud. 10 people heard it. Played it more at open mics over the course of four more years. A total of a hundred people have listened to it.

It’s hard work … but tonight, I felt a little victory.

I haven’t recorded many songs to date, really. I’ve been trying to piece things together and pay for studio time when I have the money or find friends who will work with me for free. Something switched in me, and now I’m trying to get some solid recordings down almost hurriedly. I released a song to Spotify last week and have been showing people and sending it to them.

Tonight, my friend, Caleb and I went to a bar called ‘Three Spirits Tavern’ in Bellevue, Kentucky and grabbed a few drinks. We shot the shit with the bartender and he made us some whiskey mixed drinks. He asked us what we did for work.

I feel nervous when I hear this question because what I’m doing right now isn’t exactly bringing in the cash. Sometimes, I feel like I should lie. And when I do tell the truth, I question if I should call myself a musician – he who doesn’t know all his scales.

“I’m a musician,” I said nervously. He asked what instrument I played and the kind of songs I wrote. “He’s got a song on Spotify,” Caleb said nudging me to speak up.

After some clarification on spelling, my song was playing in this bar over the speakers. We had been listening to solid music from the moment we walked in. Blackstreet, Alanis Morriset, The Verve Pipe all had been playing and when my song came on … it didn’t kill the mood. It kept pace with these great tracks I had grown up with. It was almost as if it belonged.

I was trying to hide my smile when the bartender said, “Play it again,” the moment it ended. I was one Vieux Carre and a beer deep at this point so, I was feeling pretty toasty.

I want to celebrate the victories right along with all the work I’ve put in. I must admit though, it doesn’t feel like work when it’s something I love this much.

Marty

old_martin

I’m gunna string up this old Martin box
Play some slow, steel blues
Wind her up and pick it down
Maybe grab a friend or two

Many a man and mighty gal
Has called ole’ Marty their friend
Made of wood, nice and loud
I’m with her ‘till the end

A boomin’ voice, thick with mud
Though sharp as crystal too
I like to hear her once a night
Tell me, now how bout you?

A pretty shape, a slender neck
She was crafted here in PA
The bluest grass or thundrin’ folk
Is what Marty loves to play

Battered, bruised though plenty tough
She keeps singing through it all
Takes on a man twice her size
Boy that lady’s got some gall!

The sound of hope came tumblin’ down
The mountains to the plains
Ole’ Marty listened to every word
Whispered to the golden grain

Word traveled fast, soon the city heard
A new sweet country sound
They threw their caps, saluted her
Everyone jumpin’ up and down

She’s not much for praise, she’d rather sing
Those freedom songs she heard
Equal pay! And down with hate!
Marty loved every word

Behind every good man, a Martin guitar
Behind every woman too
I play my baby every night
Singin’ bout red, white and blue!

Crushed a 1960s Gibson

I have been doing nothing over the past few days other than filling my head with information about guitars. I’ve been researching what guitar is the best band for your buck. I have looked high and low. Virtually and in the store for my perfect guitar…my baby.

I’ve played $5,000 Gibson Hummingbirds. I’ve played $3,000 Martin D-28s with Indian Rosewood back and sides, sitka spruce tops, and mahogany necks. I’ve played 50 year old instruments with more character than an old, smokey-lady’s face.

I’ve talked to salesman from big chain stores, I’ve talked to techs from small mom and pop shops at great length and learned everything I could from their expertise. I really want to find a guitar that speaks to me and I’m doing my due diligence.

You might look at the guitar pictured above and think that I’ve found the one. But I haven’t. The Martin Streetmaster above is an all-mahogany guitar with a “distressed” finish, which makes it look bad ass in my opinion. I might still pick it up one day, but I haven’t yet and this is why.

I got the idea, as I headed to my 4th guitar shop during my quest, to bring my Yamaha FG-203 along with me to compare its sound with the other guitars in the store. To give you an idea, my Yamaha acoustic is currently selling different places online for about $150. Thats $150 for a basically brand new acoustic.

Well, I got to the shop and set up all these beautiful (and expensive) guitars all around me. I played my Yamaha first and played a simple chord progression rather loud. Then I tuned one of the instruments next to me and played the exact same chord progression and compared. I repeated this process with all the acoustics in the room and it was quite a big room.

You know what I found out? I liked my $150 Yamaha’s sound as much, or in some cases, more than I liked the supposed grander and definitely more expensive guitars. I had a thick wad of cash in my pocket when I entered the store – burning a hole like you might expect. I wanted so badly to throw my money on the table and buy a superior instrument.

But that didn’t happen.

I came downstairs at the shop feeling a little dejected. The guy at the front desk looked at me and said, “Your guitar won didn’t it?” He was right, my little Japanese acoustic beat all those flashy name brands.

I might still get a new guitar, but not right now it seems.

I have so much knowledge in my head about body sizes and wood tones it’s coming out my ears. But it doesn’t matter what experts tell you. It doesn’t matter how much better a guitar is supposed to sound. All that matters is what YOU like. What YOU think sounds the best and fits what you’re trying to play. Don’t let anyone bully you into thinking because its got a name brand and flashy inlays that it’s a better sounding instrument.

I got so caught up in having the Martin name across the headstock of my guitar that I almost made a rash decision.

I’m a person who has never been up on the latest trends, but I remember in school wanting the new black Nikes or a Easton baseball bat with the big barrel or getting older and envying the kid down the street’s BMW M3. I want to pay attention to the bullshit of brand names and remember when my $150 Yamaha crushed a 60s Gibson.