I want to make a record and I’m fucking terrified.
This is hard for me to write about. Usually I need months, sometimes years of space after feeling something before I am far enough away from it to commit it to words. If I feel too much I can’t write. This is why I don’t argue with people. I can’t make the words come. All of the residual Goddamned Feelings from one too many years of drama school beat each other down in their quest for dominance, smothering my point in the process. Usually I find the words the next day and whisper them into my mirror as though my opponent were still in the room. I’m a little concerned that my roommate can hear me. I comfort myself with the thought that even if he can hear me, he probably can’t make out actual words. Right?
Suffice it to say, writing about what I feel right here, right now, this second is a challenge for me. Right here, right now, this second I am sick with worry over this. The cost of making music is ridiculous. I don’t think I can make enough with a crowd funding campaign. I know I don’t make enough on my own. I sincerely don’t know where this money is going to come from. Even if I find the money, I’m looking to spend thousands of dollars on something that only a few hundred people will ever hear. Why should I bother?
I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids in 2010, and I finished it on the day I released my first album. More specifically, I finished it as I was getting my hair done. I realize now how ridiculous it was for me to be reading a book with so much struggle and tragedy in a downtown salon chair, but there you have it. I used to love reading show business biographies. They made me think that even if I couldn’t see it yet, every tiny detail of my life would someday fuse together and form a trajectory so obvious I could option the film rights. A humble beginning, a harrowing middle, and a glorious end.
This week, in the midst of an unearned existential crisis, I am reading Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon. I can only read one chapter at a time, because it makes me sad to think about my younger self, who had enough hope and confidence to be inspired by the great achievements of others. It doesn’t help that most of their achievements took place in the city where I live. New York always seems to be the secret ingredient in these stories, it’s the place where paths cross at wild parties and novels are written in bars and lofts and guitars are purchased from thrift stores. That’s what the books promised.
Kim goes off on a pretty good rant about New York. Not her New York, or Patti’s, dirty and pulsing and thriving and scraping along like a living creature. She goes off on my New York. It’s the only New York i’ve ever known, shining and fake and safe and swarming with Millennials who romanticize her struggles on the L train to and from brunch but would never dream of living such a life. This is the very worst quality of my generation: we expect to succeed without sacrifice.
I think my desire to live comfortably is holding me back. That may be true of many artists these days; we don’t make art because it needs to be made, but rather because it’s the Next Step in our Careers. We live in a culture that encourages people to follow their dreams, but with the possibility of commercial artistic success comes a pressure to make something that other people might want. That’s not what our predecessors did. They weren’t thinking about record labels or TV placements or merch sales. They were getting through the fucking day, because that was one more day that they could spend making something beautiful.
There’s no way I’m not going to make this record. I’m currently considering an all oatmeal diet for the next few months. My hope is that I can move forward with this project not because it’s the next logical chapter in a show business fairy tale, but because I want this album to exist in the world. If I can escape the narrative I wanted for myself I can create something with no stakes and no expectations.
Still fucking terrified, though.