Sunday Jitters

Who knew? Stage fright…

I was reading a review of Nora Jones’ new CD recently. Say what you will about her, and many of us have said plenty…there is no denying she is a good musician who has written some powerful songs. And, not knowing her personally, I can’t help but feel she is an authentic human being with integrity and passion for what she does. I’m a natural cynic and no huge fan of pop music but even the cynic in me must admit: I like Nora Jones.

A few weeks ago she played an unannounced show of her new material at The Living Room, a NYC, Lower East Side venue that I visit often when I’m in the City (it’s usually free). Obviously she has no problem filling the place…even when it’s “unannounced” and word of mouth promotion…what Nora had to say about the show and  performing new material live really got me to thinking.

Nora Jones is hardly an unknown artist. She has sold millions of records and has played 100’s of shows…but she was quoted in the review, relating just how hard it was to perform her new, unknown material in front of what could only be described as die hard Nora Jones fans. This puzzled me. What’s so hard about playing new songs to people who already love your music? Nice people, like Nora, right? What are they going to do? Boo her? I mean it’s not like she’s  Slayer or some teenaged angst metal band…whose fans might actually do them physical bodily harm if they didn’t like the new material…or if they strayed from the metal formula…witness the Metalica/Lou Reed record…

The more I started thinking about Ms. Jones being apprehensive and worried about whether her fans would like her new music, a big star like Nora Jones!…the more I started thinking about how hard it is for an unknown musician to get up and play their new music in front of strangers, strangers who have no idea who they might be…strangers who in most likelihood popped in to the club or bar just for a drink or to see the headliner, only to come face to face with some unknown singer songwriter! The horror! I have been that stranger! I know you all have been that stranger…you walk into a music joint and bam! some singer songwriter you never heard of  is on stage whining about someone who left them, or the sunset reflecting off the cherry red lips of their first true love…

And singer songwriter? What’s that mean? Anyone can call them self a singer songwriter…never much liked that label…Troubadour…New Troubadour…asshole with a guitar…annoying asshole with a guitar…getting off track here but I do have a point…

I play guitar and write songs. But, I was in a band for so many years I never had to call myself a singer songwriter. I was always  “in a band”, I was the “singer in a band”…I was able to avoid the singer songwriter cliche and now…now…I don’t have a band. I’m a…singer songwriter. I have  a CD coming out next month, and you will hear a drummer, and bass player, and another guitar player…and some really cool cowbell and percussion, and a really cool Hammond B3 sound percolating here and there… listening to the CD you would think I have a band, but I don’t. I am just a bandless, singer songwriter.

A solo, balding, bandless, singer songwriter…If Nora is apprehensive, nervous, or guarded about showcasing her new material, the thought of me playing live, showcasing my new material is suddenly leaving me absolutely terrified! Panic mode. Before reading the Nora Jones article, I would have never thought twice about performing new stuff live, in a club, living room or public place…sure… a bit of the nerves, butterflies, but I’ve spent a lot of hours playing live…with a band, in front of people…now? I have a giant case of what can only be called stage fright.

Stage fright…who knew? As this last year and 1/2 of writing, recording…shamelessly self promoting myself on Face Book, won’t you be my friend?, Twitter @rayosomusic , this Blog!  My Personal Mess, my website, as this last year of  excitement and passion and dreams winds down….I’m left with just one last task….I have to actually play the songs, live, in front of people, solo…I have to perform…I have to deliver the goods…and I have stage fright.

So there you have it…Sunday jitters on a glorious day…I will practice my set list, memorize lyrics, let my fingers walk up and down the fretboard, become one with the music, slip in and out at of that place I go when I’m playing guitar…and await the judgement of friends, acquaintances, and people I will never know…and why? Well, why not? I’m a singer songwriter…

and remember…if you don’t like the music, go out and make some of your own…

see you all soon!



Sunday Mess With Options

“Ive always been a liar, never been a cheat, stole the time from many of ya but I never been a thief”  RV.

I’ve never had a problem talking to people, or talking in general…I probably talk too much. I’m also prone to exaggerate. Some…many, might say I’m boastful. I don’t think I’m what you would call a liar but I have to admit I can tell some whoppers! I’m good at it. Always have been. Truth be dammed, a good story is a good story… I don’t really believe everything I say, some small consolation I guess…is it wrong to mix fantasy with reality if you know you are doing it? When you honestly don’t expect anyone within listening distance to really take you seriously anyway or believe what you say…is it wrong? I mean, isn’t that what our culture teaches us? Disbelief and hyperbole, seems a natural marriage in our Western culture right? I mean, other than a having a great ass and nice teeth, doesn’t this perfectly describe our love affair with Kim Kardashian? Do we really believe that that ass and those teeth are real? Not an exaggeration?

I mention Kim Kardashian because of an incident that recently happened to a friend and colleague of mine. And this is a true story…believe me. My friend was in a small town in an Eastern state that will remain nameless…this state has a very large urban center surrounded by miles and miles of rural and suburban towns…it was in one of these small towns that the following occurred.

My friend and her soon to be famous boyfriend were visiting this particular town for business.  They were on their way to a fancy function and stopped by a Walmart to pick something up…razor blades or something. My friend was dressed to the nines for this business function they were about to attend…dressed down she’s a natural knockout but dressed up?…hot…no other way to describe her.

It happened like this. She and her boyfriend enter the Walmart and within a minute or two she sees a women across the store, with a child, gesticulating wildly, looking and pointing in her direction. At first she thinks it’s because she is so dressed up and shopping at Walmart…if you’ve seen the way most people dress to go shopping at Walmart you can understand her coming to this conclusion but no! The women and child descend upon my friend and her boyfriend, wide eyed,  incredulous, shouting Kim! Kim! Mother to child, ” look! Its Kim Kardashian!” Mother to my friend, ” My son just loves you Miss Kardashian.” The child is shaking, visibly shaking, awe struck…star struck…sobbing…Mother to child,  “Look, Miss Kardashian came all this way from New York to visit us, here!” Mother to my friend, ” My son just loves you so much Miss Kardashian.” My friend’s boyfriend at this point is of no help, in fact he encourages the Mom by suggesting that Kim should give her son an autograph…Mother grabs a celebrity mag off  a rack with a picture of Kim on the cover and offers it to my friend to sign, which she obligingly does…I mean what else could she do?

When my friend, Kim, asks the little boy what his name is, the little boy responds in a manner that at once indicates he has a cognitive impairment, what professionals now label, “Intellectual Disability”.  When my friend introduces her boyfriend, “this is my boyfriend Charlie”, the little boy shouts, “Charlie Sheen?”  No nudge nudge, or wink wink passed between my friend and the parent of the child…no indication from the parent that she knew what was going on. At this point Kim isn’t quite sure if the Mother knows she is not really Kim Kardashian, is just playing along because the child believes it, or if the Mother actually thinks she is talking with the real star…Who wanted to believe the fantasy more, the Mother, or the child? And what does it matter? Where’s the harm? It will remain a mystery…

So ask yourself this.  What is more important in this instance. The truth? The perpetuation of an obvious lie – untruth? Think about it…anyone get hurt here? If not, does that make it ok?

I don’t have an answer to this…thinking about truthy-ness and music…when I’m in the studio, dropping in a chorus, replacing a blown line or wrong lyric, redoing a guitar part, fixing this or that…am I being untrue to the music? Does being true mean one take, no fixes? no overdubs? Live with what you get first time around?  Maybe. In the studio, am I that child in Walmart so eager to believe in what I think I see, think I hear, think I experience…that we all could see the world through that child’s eyes…like I always say: a good story is a good story, truth be damned!

and that’s all I have to say about that…get out and believe!


Sunday Phlegm Has Left The Building

I never really understood Easter. I even watched The Ten Commandments on TV last night hoping to find a clue ( I preferred Spartacus). Watching the classic film only reinforced in painful scene after painful scene what a truly bad actor Charlton Heston was. But, the scene of the baby in the basket floating down the river was hysterical…high camp aside however, I was on a mission: find the meaning of Easter. But wait! Exodus isn’t Easter? So why did I sit through 3 hours of…Ok, let’s see if I have this right. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, real, lifting of heavy stones, building pyramids, manual labor slavery, and Jesus led us? out of spiritual slavery from sin? So Jesus is the spiritual version of Moses? The new Moses? And this relates to Easter how?

Never having attended mosque, church, synagog, or other, I was raised pretty much 100% free of religion. Thank god…As a kid, the holy holidays meant just one thing to me, no school, gifts, food, candy, and relatives I didn’t know commenting on how I had grown. Today, when the HH’s roll around I barely take notice. I like to cook, but I cook just about everyday so roasting a leg of lamb or hunk of meat, inviting friends over to eat and celebrate is pretty routine, nothing overtly religious or connected in any way to anyone’s personal god or historical reference or point of view.

So here is my understanding of Easter by way of Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Moses, Hollywood style, that really has no relation to Easter except that somehow it does?  A Hebrew woman, and Israelite, named Jochebed, had a baby. In order to save the child from Hebrew killing Egyptians who were concerned that too many Hebrews were taking over (some things never change)…she sends the babe down the river in a basket to be found and adopted by a royal Egyptian family. That baby is named Moses. The name Moses means to draw out, as in drawn out of the water. Moses grows up, discovers he’s Hebrew, kills an Egyptian slave master and flees across the Red Sea, runs in to god in the form of a bush on fire, the bush tells him to go back and rescue the Israelites, he does, then leads the Israelites across the Red Sea. They then camp out at the foot of Mt Sinai where, Moses receives the 10 Commandants, roll credits….

Moses 1390 BC/BCD ish? Enter Jesus, 7 BC/BCD ish? Young Jesus starts preaching 27 -29 ish AD/CE…then what? Easter is linked to Passover, Exodus from Egypt, the Old Testament, the Last Supper, and, Crucifixion. It’s the crucifixion part everyone seems obsessed with now a days.  Confession time. All the above I have to admit I purloined from Wikipedia. Really. So you know it’s true. Like I said, I never attended any type of religious house, except as a tourist, may have lit a candle or two but it’s only because I like fire.  From here on out the story of Easter is all my own interpretation.

The Story of Easter – Jesus was killed by Jews because they thought he was a false prophet. He was nailed to a cross and left to die, for our sins, right? Some one, or some group of followers took him down from the cross and, depending on what story you choose to believe, he was put in a cave or buried.  A few days pass and it is discovered that the body is gone. The only logical conclusion was that the dead Jesus must have been resurrected. Jesus must have been the son of a powerful God for this to happen. Thus, this almighty God has given all of us the hope of a new birth through the resurrection of his only son, another birth, another chance, another Hollywood epic…

This is what I discovered. Exodus, Passover, Easter, they all make for great storytelling. Stories, cultural myths, our collective histories, are just that, stories. Some parts of these stories we may share, hold in common, other parts we may not. Some of us might even view it all as farce and hypocrisy. Example: how is Crucifixion as described in these collective stories different then the capitol punishment we practice today. If we have been given another chance so that we may walk in a new way of life ( Wikipedia) why do continue to travel the same roads?

I digress…this is a music blog after all. My blog…my digression. When we explore another view, perspective, we may not like what we uncover. Too bad. Do we hang on to a system of beliefs that resign us to ignorance, violence and hate? All in the name of forgiveness? In the name of  what? I won’t.

A quick aside: I throw these blogs together once a week and really have no idea where they are headed or where they will go. A step into the abyss for which I have no apologies.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!