In the studio all day today. Working on lead vocal tracks. Six songs almost completed. Just need sweetening. On Monday we start pre-production on the six more that will make the new CD. I played the guys a lot of new and old songs before these last six were chosen. It was interesting to watch how the process works, choosing the songs for the record. I made a list of about forty or so songs I wanted to put on the album. The first six were easy to choose. We just went for the songs that we were dying to lay down. But trying to narrow it down from there was getting to be a struggle. So every night I would sit in the studio by myself and just play a bunch of tunes, new and old, some of them ten or more years old, just to hear them again, see if the sparks were still flying, trying to feel which ones meant the most to me. I had it down to about ten to twelve. I would play them for the guys and sometimes when I was done singing them they would just stand there staring off into space or reading like I didn’t even play a song, and then other times they just flat out refused to consider other ones. And then I would play one and as I was playing it they would start to play along and then we would play it again and then again and we all would kind of agree, ‘O.K. that one can stay in.’
The process feels very much like sacrificing babies. You kill three to save one. You just keep telling yourself, ‘I’ll live long enough to record them, don’t worry. It’ll happen.’ So many songs and just so little time and money to get to all of them. That is the worst part about it. It’s not the lack of money or fame or the struggle. It’s not the old clothes or the beat up car that barely drives or the missing teeth, although none of those things are very much fun and certainly add to the general malaise that is being a struggling musician. But the evil, the real killer, is the constant nagging thought that you may never get to record the majority of your life’s work. That’s where the pain comes in. That’s the pills and the booze and the bad attitude and the chip on your shoulder… can you imagine writing non-stop all your life, every waking hour when you aren’t working at something else is spent writing songs, twenty to fifty songs a year, maybe more, as most songwriters do, and only being able to record a handful of them in your lifetime. It is the fucking horror. Only hearing a small minority make it to the finished state you hear in your mind. That’s the fucking curse.
Some chick told me last week over dinner when she heard that I wrote songs all the time, you know, that it wasn’t that big a deal to me, that it was just part of my life or whatever, she had this look of excitement on her face, like wow, you can’t take that for granted. I just looked at her. I didn’t answer her, played it off. I mean what was I going to tell her? Start telling her how I’ve sold everything I’ve owned and started over five times over to record albums and tour, to try to honor the fucking ‘gift,’ and how many relationships I’ve lost because after a while a girl can only take so much of the struggling and starving artist lifestyle. Maybe the songwriting singer musician thing is a gift. Maybe it is a great thing. But it is just as much a curse. When you are an artist you are in constant pain. And sometimes it is important to shift out of the artist mindset to remember how the other half lives, just to keep your sanity.
But it’s always there in the back of your mind, waiting to come back with a vengeance. I will never forget the day that Cleo told me over the phone that one of the reasons, from her perspective, that we were breaking up is because she couldn’t take the artist lifestyle anymore. The pain that ran through my body. I had heard that enough already in my life. And I had worked harder at that relationship than anything before. I was also working just as hard on my music career at the time. Working all night, coming home when she was already asleep. Sleeping till noon everyday. Spending all of our money on my music. I knew where she was coming from. But I am an artist. I mean I felt so cheated in that moment because I can’t do anything about it. I can’t just wake up one day and say “O.K. now I’m not going to be an artist anymore. Honey, I’ve decided I’m no longer an artist. I’m going to cut my hair off and sell all of my gear. I’ll be back in an hour.” Guys do that, but I would guess they were never really artists, more just musicians. And there is a difference.
I mean, you can’t just stop it. Being an artist is like being addicted to a drug, or having children. If you’re good anyway. It steals all of your time attention and money. It is something you are obsessed with. You wake up everyday and fall asleep every night thinking about it. About the mission. About the new boundaries you will cross or the new frontiers you will explore. You live for that passion and romance and joy that only comes from being a creator. Girls always think when they see you from the outside that it is such a great thing. And they can’t wait to be with you. I mean that’s half the lure of it when you’re young, because chicks do dig singers, but they just have no idea what it’s like once they are on the inside. An artist, if he is worth a shit, sleeps eats and breathe’s his art. His life’s work is his life. Everything else comes second. It’s not that we don’t care about the other stuff, the house the car the eventual family the friends the parties etc. We do. It’s just that there is a much bigger picture there, and that’s the art.
Man is the master of his destiny always, but an artist is a slave to his art. So far I have found that most girls can take about five years of it tops. After that they start to lose it. The last relationship I was in lasted about four months. Pretty soon she started to feel like the studio time, the photo shoots, the guitar always around my neck, the gigs, the traveling, and the laptop were getting between us. And I know she absolutely loves me. All of them did, still do. And I love them, but I think it kind of makes them crazy. She said, ‘it’s like you can never just relax and have fun, because you are always attached to that guitar or running to your laptop to write something down. It’s like you are obsessed. But I want you to be obsessed with meeeee. I need someone who values meeeee more.’ I looked at her and couldn’t say anything. It felt like she was talking to me and to God at the same time. It was like God came in the room for a moment and held my hand during that moment and it was like we both smiled at each other because we had heard that so many times before in my life and it hurt, and he knew it, and it sucked, and it made me mad and sad, and frustrated, but I just sat there not saying anything because as much as I wanted to try to work it out I knew it was a bigger picture thing going on.
I mean I’m not an asshole. I’m not going to pretend or lie or act like everything is going to change and one day we will be able to have this normal life together. I have a lot of respect for her and the kind of life she wants to have and I don’t want to take good time away from any girl when she could be finding her Mr. Right. So I let her go. After Cleo and I broke up, she went out and found some attorney in less than six months and now she’s married to him. I mean girls just reach this point. Your big dream is this conquering the world, writing the next Moonlight Sonata, or creating some small revolution or movement, and their big dream is, well you know… marriage and a house and babies. These girls, they don’t realize how much you do value them. How they are everything to you. They are the inspiration for a lot of the art in the world. I would do anything for the girls I have been with. Without love and romance I would dry up. I just think that most girls would rather appreciate their art from the outside rather than be so close to the artists. They can turn it on and off if it’s on the stereo or hanging on the wall.
A lot of girls resent when every word they say to you could end up in a song or a story. I just keep looking towards the future and to one day meeting a girl who is as busy and motivated and passionate as I am with her own life’s work and the two of us perhaps can have this deep passionate undying love and respect for each other as people and for each others work. But not necessarily need to be together every waking hour. That way we both can stay focused on our life’s work and not feel like we are compromising anything. But still hold the safe warm loving space for each other as a couple. Still have kids and big beautiful homes and all that, but keep it in perspective. A super-hero-girl. You know, that’s the dream.
Last Movie: Man of the Century. Twenties type thing set in modern-day Manhattan. Cool flick. Dug it.
Current Spin: Anthony Robbins, “Get The Edge.”