I saw the trailer for Inside Llewyn Davis the other day. It has just come out on DVD. As a musician or songwriter/performer, there are certain movies that I cannot watch. The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond, Ray, Almost Famous, and now recently Inside Llewyn Davis are all on my list of no can do movies. The first three I have seen at least a hundred times each and the last I have not seen. I now know what movies about performing do to me on a deeper level, it feels good to watch but it shakes up my soul too much.
When I was a kid The Jazz Singer was one of those films that made me really want to take music serious, to where I needed to do this no matter the cost. When I bought the VHS 15 years ago it would be my 'Go To' flick whenever I was low or feeling that I just couldn't push myself to keep improving and working on my craft. It did its job and I was able to use it to help me. After a while though it became a bad crutch, my inner thoughts speaking to me:
"I'm not doing what I should be doing and rather than address the reasons for no movement lets go to our happy place and long some more about the whole thing"
So when the Llewn Davis movie hit my radar I knew if I watched it, it would most likely have the same effect on me and at this point in the game I just can't afford anymore wasted time or lamenting. The trailer for the movie is very effective for getting inside your being with the acoustic guitar music playing under the scenes and shots of coffee houses and John Goodman as the Albert Grossman type manager and New York City in the Dylan Era complete with snowy night visuals and cab rides… Totally right up my alley.
As a songwriter I don't believe that I have reached the place I want to be. That said, I think I am getting close but I also believe to be a truly successful writer I have to pen that one tune that hits a lot of people at once. Maybe something that could define who I am. An unselfish, unpretentious four minute piece that talks about you and me and the human condition. Perhaps something that Llewyn Davis or someone like his character in real life would write and could perform in public. On Saturday morning I started writing without a guitar, trying to speak true about this very idea. Three kids running around and folding laundry while my better half was at a trade show. By the end of the day I was spent but I had the basic idea completed, and I called it The Disaster.
Its not entirely autobiographical but there are definite personal elements in there. Facebook is a tough place to try to hock your craft if that is the first place you go to let everyone know about something new. Often I feel that people aren't receptive to me, and does anyone give a crap anyway? Which is fine because when you put yourself out there, its not on them, its on you. Thats just the way it is with this profession that I wish to take on, you can't make everyone like you but you hope that some do and this is why you do it.
The Disaster is about that 'Train-wreck' of a guy that everyone sees coming a mile away. He keeps at it and fails drastically at whatever he does, spreading himself so thin he doesn't even know who he really is. People talk about him behind his back and it blows him down. He of course keeps getting back up and maybe he learns something every time from his falls. He really is a good guy but maybe he's just misunderstood. Sounds like a lot of people I know and as well I've been there too. It takes a good amount of inner searching to be able to give of yourself in a way that is a bit self deprecating, but also humble and positive.
About 6 months ago I read an article about Gordon Lightfoot in which he said to try to write about others, put yourself in someone else's shoes. So I took that to heart and it changed what I was doing. There are billions of people in the world and you are but one. There are so many stories out there to write about, the content is infinite. Since then I have written 16 strong tunes, mostly not about myself. Some of the things I've written about include: a fictitious skateboard hero, a guy with one eye, a miner working in the oil sands in Alberta(this one was actually about a friend of mine who really works there), a Canadian immigrant from Africa who came to escape the diamond trade and then one about living on Georgian Bay. Its been a very fulfilling creative period for me. I've been able to perform the songs in public at gigs and the response has been positive.
I have a very important show this Saturday at The Lancaster Junction. I'll be playing an hour of good covers and then my own original tunes. I'm not sure if The Disaster is the song, because in the end it will aways be about the song, but I think its close.
I'll be thinking about Llewyn Davis this week as I prepare for my gig, the Cohen brothers really know how to get under your skin. Maybe next week after everything eases up a bit I'll rent the movie.
Then again, maybe I won't.
Here is a link to my song The Disaster: