Friday, March 5, 2010

the power of words

Clem Snide
The band Clem Snide released their 7th album last week. Those are the guys up there in the photo and that's Eef Barzelay on the right. I love this band and this album and you should probably go to itunes and get it right away, but that's not really the point. As I was emptying my head this week I kept coming back to thinking about some things Barzelay has said in interviews lately.
The band has switched out some members over the last 10 years and they've stopped being a band a couple of times. In the last few years Barzelay was forced to release solo albums in an attempt to keep writing songs and getting his music out to listeners. In these recent interviews he's boldly and kindly addressed those frustrations and setbacks and my Lent commitment found me respecting the way he managed to find positive things to say about people and events that most certainly held negative feelings.
But Barzelay proved even more interesting when he opened up about his honest feelings towards following his dreams of being a full time musician. In addition to being a touring musician, he has a wife, two young children and a mortgage. In other words, he has a real life to balance along with following his dream and as we all should know by now, dreams do not pay very well.
To say there's been financial and professional struggle for the band over these 10 years would be to understate things greatly. But when the microphones were turned on the the hard questions were asked, Barzelay did not give the false bravado answers of a wannabe rock star. Instead he flashed his artistry at balancing words and raw emotions in a conversational format.
When asked about the sales of their last album and how he had to think about how he was going to make his house payments he had this to say:
"So I was like "All right, I guess I'm done. I guess it's over for me.
I had to really confront that. I'd always sort of played around with that notion, but never seriously. I'd never done anything about it, or prepared for it. It was like a mid-life crisis. I'm just about to hit 40 and you get to this point in your life when it's just time to take stock and see that something has to change. And I welcome that. I embrace change. I never wanted to be too comfortable. I don't think it's good to be too comfortable in this life. Even though we all sort of strive for that, it's not the way to go. And I think life usually conspires to keep us uncomfortable sometimes, so we don't have to go out of our way to be uncomfortable. But don't be afraid of it. What's the worst thing that could happen? If we had nowhere to live, we'd have to go move into my dad's basement. I think about (stuff) like that. Or what if we had to rent a trailer on a river? It's awful, but it's also kind of thrilling if you think about it."
-from an interview with
Barzelay didn't give up. OK, maybe he enrolled in a Nashville area community college and entertained thoughts of Early Childhood Education careers, but he quickly righted his ship and began to find ways to use his musical talents to support his family. He's written the musical scores for a few films and put together a few tours and right now he's doing alright. And how much of that moderate success comes from the fact that he looked the possibility of failure in the eye and refused to blink?
Of course this resonates with me because I'm also approaching 40 and have the wife, the 2 young children, and the mortgage. At least once a week I ask myself why I'm going to the trouble to make art and yet I can't seem to give it up.
His statement just makes me question how often I've let comfort stand in the way of progress.
Didn't Thoreau say something like, "I have learned this, at least by my experiment; that if a man moves confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."?
A beautiful line, for sure, but it took someone like Barzelay to write, "Punched in the brain, in the gut, in the tear duct too" while exploring the beauty of of the sunrise in a Walmart parking lot.

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