"I come from tough southern people who aren't bothered by mosquitoes, divorces, or occasional car wrecks. I remember my parents and grandparents sipping on cans of beer, playing horseshoes in the backyard as the summer heat turned dark. The rosebushes and pine trees, where the fences ended, roared with crickets that sounded like doors creaking in an old haunted house. I would watch from the windows in the back rooms, listening to Prince sing 'Purple Rain' as though his life depended on it. And I played my brother's old tennis racquet like a guitar, emulating that sound that could only come from that little old silver cassette player that weighed me down like an anchor. And even then I performed better alone. Most people do.
The terror that goes along with playing music for people can best be described as what it felt like for the first time you were asked to read a written report in front of the class in grade school. But maybe amplify that by the entire school, to perfect strangers, to people you only passed in the shuffle between bells, to that girl in your homeroom you wanted so desperately to kiss. For some, it's a glorious experience - those certain outgoing people who are well-adjusted and sure. For most, including myself, it's terrifying.
I refer to actually getting onstage as 'the walk'. It's that twenty seconds of disbelief that I am actually going to go out there and actually sing, and my neck becomes stiff, and my posture devloves, and my bones coagulate in some caveman fetal position in efforts to protect myself from pain. But something beautiful happens...not always...but most of the time. Something cosmic like a first kiss or fresh socks. But better."
"Once it turns on, once the music starts, and the band cracks or the guitar rings, I am g-o-n-e. I feel the cool grass when I was young, touching my hand to the dirty earth and feeling my own body relax and give way to the breeze. I feel erotic but not horny. I can see the steps of the house I grew up in, I hear the voices of my dead friends. And when I am comfortable, I feel my heart go, pure and simple, out of my body.
There are the good moments. But I cannot remember them. They are always on the edge of sheer terror, on the edge of this great cliff, waiting to fall and break into a million pieces. And it's so risky and beautiful and so ridiculous that when it is all over, it is all I can do but want to go again, like a kid on some dumb ride at the fair.
There were times when I was touring without that band that I would shiver, my body would quake as though it would not open, and the music and words would not come. Like an old rusted nozzle on a bath. This is when I know my job the best. When it will not come, and I have convulsed in front of many people I do not know to make it come, to wrestle it out of me, because singing a song sometimes is about being a good liar. And good lies are fucking hard sells. And my job is to go there, whether I want to or not. To exercise that muscle inside myself that contracts and refuses because it is tired and has had enough. But when is it enough? Who says when you have given too much of yourself? Especially when your job is to expose your inner badass. Your inner liar cheater fucker lover fuckface and try and cram all that into a little box of sweets. Rock stars are fakers and liars, but they sell the best cars, and the cars get you someplace you weren't already going, so you fucking love them anyway and wave at them when they pass your house.
I do not know how music works. I don't know where it comes from or why I am compelled to embarrass myself over and over again, but I do. I see it like a rite of passage. Maybe like lifting imaginary weights, hoping that I will become stronger and actually know something about myself eventually. I hope I will always play the guitar or the piano, and I will always sing if I can, and maybe one day I will answer this question I am living through every night I perform. One day I will walk the walk, and I will know what the fuck I am doing here. Until then, may there be enough wine for us all."