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Updates and stuff

48101_565859566758127_60620845_nLots going on. Finally have a moment to take a deep breath. They’ve been in short supply lately.

I’ve been pushing two records. “Teen Angst and the Green Flannel” with my band The Shillelaghs. And my solo acoustic record that I recorded at home called “Love and Streets”. I’m proud of both. One is loud and one is quiet. Other than that, it’s still me and a guitar and pen (or, increasingly, a piano that I can’t really play but love to tinker on). Music remains my lifeline. Over these last few months I’ve lived on a rotating diet of sounds as diverse as The Who, Steve Earle, Brendan Benson, Lunasa, The Gourds, and various Andrew McMahon bands. And that was just yesterday. My Ipod, one of the industrial strength jobs they don’t make anymore, is currently half filled. With 20,000 songs. Losing it would send me searching for drugs that haven’t been invented yet.

I don’t do this full time. I wish I did but…..well…..bills are a bitch and seem to arrive no matter how many songs I write. I was thrown into turmoil at the end of 2012. A single phone call. From my place of employment. Seems my services were no longer required. After 12 years. Cold blooded really. Four days before Xmas. The presents were already purchased. I’m almost ashamed to say that some of them were returned. So that was that. Suddenly, in one day….that was that. I could sleep in the next day. And the next. And the next. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. I threw myself at the mercy of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, fired up the web browser, and hit the job boards, typing with my fingers crossed. What I found was not promising. Out of work 46 year olds are not in great demand. At the end of the first day we had cancelled our cable and regular phones, got rid of luxuries like Netflix and Rolling Stone and Time Magazine subscriptions, and talked ourselves into calling a visit to Pizza Hut a “night out”.

I was scared. For a while I retreated. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. And I didn’t want anybody talking to me. I looked forward to washing and folding clothes. Making the beds. I spent long nights buried in books. And there was always the music. But it was the music of others. I couldn’t write a note. You have this romantic notion that, if suddenly you had all this time on your hands, you could sit down and write the great American novel, or Nebraska II. I’d sit at the kitchen table late at night with my lyric notebook open to a blank page. And….nothing. When I’d finally slink off to bed, it was still blank. My guitar was still in its case. I’d always been able to write my way through (or at least around) something that was bugging me. Now the pen was dry and the strings were getting rusty. The lid on the piano remained closed.

I had to do something. I don’t know many people. I’m not very outgoing, so it was uncomfortable to say the least. But I reached out to the one group of folks I felt comfortable with. Musicians and those who support them. Without going into details I’ll just say that guys like John Quinn, Thomas Tell, Vinnie Archer, Wiggy Wegleski, Eddie Appnel, Don Surace, Jackson V, Aaron Condida, Shawn Z, Kris Kehr….when I called they called me back. And they offered support…sometimes just lending a late night ear. And I’ll never forget it. There’s something about communities like this. You don’t need to beg or plead. You don’t need to pass any sort of cool test. It reminds me of the code of Mariners. No matter what….if somebody on the water is in trouble, you reverse course and stream towards them. Guitar players are kinda the same way. And even better, they sometimes bring beer with them.

These days my head is clearing. I’ve managed to find a new day job (thanks to a “leap of faith” from a good friend). To quote Springsteen, “it ain’t gonna make me rich”, but it’s a job and I’m lucky to work with some good folks. Someday I may even figure out what I’m doing and earn my nickels. Until then I can only hope they put up with the old guy with the Ipod who still can’t find his way around the building.

The music is trickier. It’s still not coming. I lay awake at night and the ideas are there. They’re percolating. But I’m having trouble focusing. Maybe it’s nerves. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe my last two records emptied the tank. I wouldn’t mind being known as the guy who wrote those songs, but I still feel the urge to write better ones. Nobody ever sits down and thinks “I’m gonna write some songs that are almost as good as the ones I wrote last year”. Last night I sat down at the piano and picked out a tune. It sounded nice. But I didn’t follow it. There were too many roads and I was afraid I was gonna pick the wrong one. Nothing good is gonna come out of feeling that way.

But I know soon I’m gonna choose. And that fills me with some sort of hope. And maybe a bit of wonder….which is the one thing good music has always filled me with.

I see what’s going on around me. Fear is everywhere. It backs folks into a corner…..and all they can do then is lash out. We look for people and things to blame….and usually get it wrong. We’re bombarded with so much propaganda sometimes it’s the truth that manages to sound absurd. We trip and fall and look for the person who stuck their leg out. Sometimes we can stumble all on our own. Sometimes we can only find the problem by looking in the fucking mirror.

I don’t want somebody to catch me when I fall. I just want somebody who’ll grab my hand and help me get back up. And if you want that, the best advice I can give you is to learn to play the guitar.

In a bit…


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. John Quinn
    April 14, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Tom, you have a great and natural talent combined with the Love of music. Your not afraid of opening up and expressing your feelings. You play for the moment and when its there, it is a satisfying experience for both self and listener. Rock on my brother.

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