It was in March 2002 that I first stumbled onto John Mayer on mp3.com, rather randomly. I was struck by his music, his words, and what they said about him as a person. See, some artists you know through their music - and these have always been my favorites. The way you can feel Don McLean's rage and a sadness so deep it made him sick in "American Pie," his bittersweet sorrow in "Vincent," the frenetic energy of "Dreidel"...Jim Croce's tongue-tied affection in "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song," his hope in "Hey Tomorrow," his cynical frustration with hypocrisy in "Which Way"....Willie Nelson's love of all things Cowboy in more songs than I can count. That's what a good songwriter is all about - letting you see the person behind the persona. It's not just about being a peerless musician, it's about giving people a glimpse of your heart, letting them see that under all the stuff we all hide behind, there's something human and vulnerable - something like we all have inside of us.
It's not limited to music, either. One of the most profound experiences of my life was seeing the Van Gogh / Gaugain exhibit when it was in town. To see the paintings I've admired in prints for most of my life...to be in the same room with them....you got the same glimpse inside the shell the world makes us all wear. You saw his passion for everything, his love of life and the world and his frustration at seeing all this beauty and not being able to capture it or even find anyone else to understand that he saw it. You could feel his loneliness, his sadness. That's what makes his art great, is the fact that it moves you. The fact that a painting of two sunflowers doesn't take your breath away because it's two exquisitely painted sunflowers, but rather because those sunflowers mean something, communicate something about friendship and love and courage and fear.
If you ask me, that's the purpose of art, the point of being an artist. To be that universal communicator, to say the things people can't say, without saying them. To go beyond language to someplace eternal and primeval and common, where we all understand in silence. It doesn't matter how you do it, just that you do it.
There are a lot of people chasing that pipe dream, wanting to be the Next Big Thing, the one who finds the right words/colorsshapes/sounds to bring people to that place of connectedness and wholeness. Some of them have a shot. Some of them don't. Some get caught up in the technicalities, and lose track of the larger goal - they spend so much time focussing on perfecting this or that technique, trying to fit into a mold they think means success...that they never find success itself. And I don't mean the kind of success that gets you Grammy nominations and platinum records. I mean the kind that makes you stay up late and get up early because if you're asleep you're missing too much of your wonderful life.
I don't necessarily think that I'm one of those people who can tap into the universal and connect with people....I think I'm learning more and more every day about who I am and what I want and the things that being me entails, the things I have to do to be true to myself and my talents and gifts. I think, regardless of whether I ever reach any level of quantifiable success, that getting to my true self is the key to my success, the key to happiness. Part of that is making music, which I'd be doing even if I sucked, even if people hated my work. Luckily, they don't seem to hate it, and I seem to have a bit of talent, so things might just work out.
This is what I'm about, why I do what I do, why I feel how I feel. Nothing anyone can do or say will change that. It doesn't rely on anyone else, and so it's affected by no one but me. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.
You know who else uses that line? John Mayer.
The difference is, he's cute and marketable and famous and touring the world....and I'm.....uh.....not. Well, and also, he's a better guitar player than I could ever dream of being. But I think we share the same view of what it means to be true to yourself, to do what you do not because you want to do it, but because you have to.
So there you go. March 2002 I discover a musical inspiration. December 2003 I discover that nothing but the music matters, and I'll be making it regardless of whatever else is going on in my life. Even if I'm singing my songs to my cat and my TV, I'll still be singing them. Period.
Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.