Overthinking and Writing.

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I write. That’s (obviously) how I get my stuff out, right? Does that make me a writer or someone who writes? When I was on my trip, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. That it was part of what I wanted to do with my life. It was an empowering feeling to finally say it, and to mean it. As I slip back into reality, (seriously it all feels like some wonderful dream within a dream. Did I get all Inception on my own self?) I can feel the urge or dream (or whatever you want to call it) slip away a bit. I can feel it start to turn around, like it’s getting ready to yell at me that it’s a stupid dream and I have snowballs chance in hell of it happening. I know it’s possible, but when you’ve got a war going on up there, it makes it hard sometimes to decipher between those lies and the truth. Truth is, it would be difficult, and I’d have to deal with a good amount of rejection.

 

The lies are the same as always,

the not good enough

why the hell do you bother? – no one reads it anyways.

you can’t even write for yourself – isn’t that the whole point?

and the ever snobby, you have a horrible grasp on grammar, you don’t edit your writing, and you have to spellcheck in your dictionary. You can’t remember how to spell words. Where do you get off thinking you could be a writer?

 

Those blend in with the depression down talk. No one will EVER love you. You are NOT good enough. You hate yourself most of the time, why shouldn’t other people do the same? Sure you’re polite most of the time, but you’re so detached from people. They don’t care. NO ONE CARES.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I’m damned to having that on replay forever. The horrid thoughts and lies I feed myself. I feed myself almost literal garbage, not because I know it’s truth, but because it’s SAFE. That little bit of the universe I have for myself is filled with garbage and depression. Sometimes it’s so dark, I can’t even see my hand in front of my face. And in the midst of all of that, I wonder why I chose the title ‘Writer’ I’m hardly able to be honest with myself sometimes. How can I expect anyone to read my ramblings? Half the time I just zone out when I write and whatever comes out is what goes up. I don’t like re-reading my own writing. I don’t know if it’s being lazy (probably) or if it’s some demented protection thing I have built up over the years, where if I get it out and acknowledge it, but don’t re-read it, then maybe I get it out and don’t have to re-live those long dark nights of the soul.

 

I’ve been writing since roughly the same time I started therapy. Maybe a little before, and I didn’t start writing anything personal until about 6 months ago.I wrote my poems, that I thought were therapy in a way when I was a teenager, and I wrote my stories, where I’m sure some of my stuff slipped in between the lines. I know those characters have some of my stuff, it’s hard to not let it slip in. Especially when you just day dream and write it down. I was 11 or 12 and wrote, wait for the kicker here, ‘pop songs’. God are they awful. I don’t have it in me to be a songwriter. I need page after page to ramble on, I don’t know if I could condense it down to a catchy hook and 3 minutes. I thought they were good, and obviously that was just the stepping stone to writing dark angry poetry. Even reading some of that now scares me. It literally scares me. Because you almost forget how far in you are, or were, and to see the tangible proof of that moment existing is a reminder that yes, it did happen and yes, you were there. I still have my journal from residential treatment, and I have kept myself from looking at it a lot, because it scares me to know how far I fell and how I still have the capacity to fall in that deep. At one point, during that 8 months, I wanted to be numb, I wanted to be walking skeleton of a person. I thought that would be easier to navigate through life if I didn’t eat, and didn’t feel. I wanted to doom myself to a half life, where ironically I have kind of been anyways since then.

 

I haven’t been participating in my own life. I checked out the day I got my depression diagnosis. Everything after that feels like trying to piece a drunken night together the next morning. I have snippets of it, and can mostly guess what happened, but the feeling is usually one of embarrassment and of guilt. Because maybe I said something that let people see inside a little too far, and maybe I wrote something that was too personal. The personal stuff scares me, and I think that’s why I’m so keen to try to keep going. The stuff before may have been personal, but if it was, it wasn’t completely honest. I always thought I was omitting parts of the truth, rather than flat out lying. Even then, I didn’t think people would like me if I was honest about what I am. That’s been a hard one to shake.

 

Even on my retreat, where I knew I was surrounded by women who were nothing but giving and loving, I still had my moments where I knew I shouldn’t talk, and maybe I was a little too quiet. But my hamster wheel starts going, and then I start telling myself that none of them like me, let alone care what I’ve been through. They’re here to connect and be vulnerable and to be open. How can I do that when I can’t be honest with myself? I skew my version of the truth so that I see that I’m not worth someone taking the time to get to know me and to connect, because I don’t feel like I have anything to offer in return. I felt empty down there, and I knew I wasn’t. I knew there was too much in there for me to be feeling like I have nothing to offer. I made myself feel like I don’t belong, and it was an easy road to go down because I know it so well, and given that I was the youngest one there. That didn’t do much to help me fight off my own stupid thoughts. My brain starts going, and sometimes I feel like it will implode in my skull. The overthinking is something I know too well, and there are days where I am able to stop it, like I did down there, and I did realize how melodramatic I was being over something I invented.

 

Even with the writing I did down there, the second half it was tapping into something I didn’t know I had. I was able to be positive and not feel like a fraud. I could write it down, and actually feel it. I left on such a high, and it has been the best I have ever felt in my life. Because I knew that those things I wanted so badly I could almost taste them, were real, and they were possible. But then I get back into my life and the high wears off. I’m back into my fortress of solitude hating myself routine, but I can feel those embers still burning. I know that I don’t have to fall back into that comfortable darkness. I have to fight it, but I would have to fight to stay in the dark. Somewhere in there, I hope I can get it into my head, that my writing is something I have to do. It keeps me going, even if no one else reads it. I feel better after getting it out onto the page, even if I have to spellcheck my words. I don’t think I chose to write, the writing chose me.

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Masks and Re-sh*t-ry.

I woke up this morning feeling like a fucking fraud. I could feel my mask back on. That’s how I like to refer to hiding my depression, wearing a mask. I don’t honestly know if I’ve been depressed my entire life. There are days where it’s easy to believe that I was since I spent a lot of time alone as a kid and even now I still love to be alone. I love it to a very unhealthy degree, like to the point that I have horrible nights and some days, where I would be willing to cut the cord with everyone in the world and just sit in my room and fester and wallow in my crap. Because that is where I feel like myself? I’m not even sure if that’s true. I say or write these things and I feel so true when I say them, but when I go back I wonder “Am I lying? This is even a fraction of the truth?” Some days I don’t even know. I don’t know what my truth is. I don’t know anything other than the comfort of my depression, and the overwhelming sensations of it, where I don’t have to think. I just feel sad, and hate myself.

 

Brain goes off, and depression slips in.

 

It’s not healthy, and I know this. I’ve been in therapy for half my life. I’ve been on anti depressants 5 or 6 times since then, some working and some failing. I wonder if I kept them from working. Like my brain chemistry morphed around it, so that I could still take the pills and continue to be so fucking depressed. I didn’t take my doses everyday, and didn’t give half of those times the proper chance to take. When I did, the depression dulled to a point where I could be somewhat functional, but I couldn’t really feel much other than a slight indifference to the world. I never liked taking them, but I don’t think that’s the point, you’re not supposed to enjoy taking them. They’re not Viagra where you get something fun out of the deal. We get functional, to a point. I suppose you could label that as fun if you really wanted to, but I can’t understand why you would. I’ve taken sleeping pills on and off since I was a teenager. I’ve been on Xanax or Klonopin everyday since I was 19, and the panic attacks came barreling in and only crippled any functioning part of me. I keep myself drowned in the depression and those panic attacks. I know that the depression has made my jaw tense up to the point where I have TMJ, (although my doctors were insistent that it was due to having both jaws cut and moved. My fucking bionic jaw.) but I know that part of it is my tensing up. I get worked up and will literally feel myself tense up to the point where I’m almost scared I would stay that way. Like I made a stupid face at my siblings and then my face stuck that way. I feel like I’m walking around with that stupid face. So I wear the mask to cover it up.

 

It’s not that I’m disingenuous, that I’m not interested in other people or care about them. But my brain tells me to cover up my crazy, to hide that broken person I am from other people because they will run away screaming from the monster that lives inside me. It just seemed to be the answer to not be readable. To hide the stuff inside because then I don’t have to worry about being labeled depressed. There is a lot of stigma attached to it, even in this day and age where people are so quick to think they have it because they have a bad day. And maybe they do. People don’t talk about it openly. From my experience it’s still pretty taboo, which I can see from the looks I get from people when I tell them part of my story. Ranging from the looks of pity to the looks of disgust. I’ve had a few of those. The “Oh that’s what you really are.” I never saw those people again. I give myself that look enough times. Most of the time, I hate looking in the mirror, because then I know I can’t really hide behind that mask. I know what lies beneath, and there have been moments where it’s absolutely terrifying, because I know that if I let my guard down for a minute, it could overtake everything and I fear that I would never return.

 

See even that, I know there is some truth to it, but I think I stumble around in the dark for ways to explain how I feel. I feel like  like such a fraud sitting here and writing about my experiences, not because they aren’t happening, or because they aren’t real, but because I still don’t think that I deserve to be heard. I’ll share my writing with people, and they’ll like it and tell me how they can relate to it and in that moment it’s great. It’s an amazing feeling to be told that what you think you’re shit it, someone else thinks you’re great at. That external reassurance can be a good thing sometimes, to get a boost from someone who sees you so differently than you see yourself. Often times what you see and what they see are day and night, the truth is somewhere in between. But that reassurance is an addicting thing. I find myself scouring my Facebook page and my blog, checking the stats and seeing who’s commented on it, and I realize how stupid I’m being. It’s an addiction I have. I want to see that people see me. That they read my words and they hear my voice. Because sometimes then I can say to myself that you do exist. That you are a real person that can survive outside of your depression cocoon. But that thought relies almost solely on what others say, which is something I need to realize can feed you for a moment, but it’s not a way to sustain yourself. You have to be able to sustain yourself. I think that requires self-love and confidence. Two of the many things I don’t feel competent in. I feel like I missed those lectures.

 

I sit here and feel so narcissistic writing about my issues. I worry that the Narcissism that runs through my family is coming out in me, and again look for others to tell me that it’s not. Just like I worry that I could fall into the bottle like my family. Those cycles that could very easily continue, and I want so badly to not be that. But I worry that I’m not as strong as I feel sometimes, that I’m really too weak, that I’ll cave and be just like my dad. I’ve heard directly from his mouth, that I’m “just like him.” Which made me want to vomit. He is a complex man, and we have a complex relationship. I’m currently the only child of his three that talks to him on a regular basis and I feel like I’m doing it because I’m too weak to walk away. Because he’s my dad. I have plenty of reasons to walk away, and to tell him to go fuck himself. He has been some semblance of kind to me, then crueler than anyone else I’ve ever met, and so dishonest and disinterested, that again it makes me want to vomit. I have spent my life looking over my shoulder for what he couldn’t give. He couldn’t love me, at least not in anyway that I could use. He can love himself just fine. I think his idea of showing love is financial. Which is fucked up. Buying me books doesn’t fix anything. It doesn’t fix the abandonment I feel, or the fact that I don’t believe anyone can love me. Nor does it fix the idea that I am nothing more than my depression in a human form. I used to think that we’d be able to sit down and talk about all of this stuff, and that we could apologize and have it all be recognized. I realize now that it will never happen. He’s too far gone to realize what has been done, and I think I was expecting something that doesn’t exist. Like a unicorn farting out rainbows. It doesn’t exist.

 

I’ve made some peace with my mom, and at least she’s willing to be open with me. I think there are things we will never tell the other, and that’s fine. We don’t have to be completely honest with each other. There is stuff that neither of us will let go. I wonder about that especially since people have told me to just let it go. I wonder if I am capable of letting stuff go. If it is possible for anyone to fully let something go like a balloon into the wind. At this point in my life, I don’t think we do. I think it gets talked about and felt enough that we can dull it to a point where it’s not front and center, but it will ebb and flow with a trigger to bring it back. But we learn how to adapt and how to fight those ebbs and flows back into our lives.

 

This is a depression day. I woke up and depression took over. There will be days like this, and I’m not going to lie and say that I’m okay with it. Because I hate my depression. I hate that it still has the power to take over. I’m sitting here wondering if I should take my mom’s suggestion for intensive therapy and go back on medication. That maybe the writing I’m trying to do isn’t working and it’s just a waste of time. It did help, but I wonder if I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew and I feel like I’m kicking anyone who’s trying to help or support in the face. Because I get into that kick of I don’t need people. They don’t need me, so why the hell would I need them?

 

My trip to Costa Rica and the vulnerability and openness of it now feels like a dream. My re-shit-try (thought that was a great word for it) has been well shitty. I’m sitting in a house I don’t feel is a home anymore, I’m not feeling capable of reconnecting with the life I have here, but I also don’t have the gumption to seek out anything new. Because I’m in my safe place. I’m in that place where I don’t have to if I don’t want to. I could isolate myself away from life forever if I really dedicated myself to it. But I know that I can’t do it anymore. I’m exhausted. Utterly exhausted in every way I could be. I’m in my weird sleeping schedule again and I’m being curt when talking to people. I try to reach out, and again feel like a fraud because I don’t know why. The whole I’m not good enough thing?

All I know at this moment is that I’m in my depression, and I feel like I’m in the Ether. That I’m here, but I’m not really here. That my brain is hazy today because I’m stuck in my brain versus being in the real world. I’m in those comfortable shoes that I know so well, walking the path I know like the back of my hand. I’ve got my mask on, and I hate it.

Digging.

Digging.

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“Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests; snug as a gun….”

 

I have never really been very into poetry. I’ve had my phases where I’ve found solace in the words poets. Robert Frost when I was at the ripe old age of 13, and I had my fleeting love affair, like most angsty teenagers, with Charles Bukowski. But I never understood it. I could relate to some of the passages and with bits of them, but as a whole, it was completely outside my realm of comprehension. Then I discovered this man from the green hills of Northern Ireland. Where even to this day, I would swear part of my heart lies, even though I have never stepped foot onto it’s soil. (I was close, but there was too much snow and I was too tired from parading around Europe alone for two months.)

 

I have always, and I mean always, been obsessed with the United Kingdom and Ireland. Anglophile didn’t seem like a strong enough term for how much I loved it. Even now, I still yearn for this probably very heavily romanticized version I carry around in my head and my heart. Of drinking Guinness in the local pub and watching football on the telly. I have gobbled up music, books, films and everything about it I can get my hands on. From the obsession with the Tudors (I hate that TV show) to the obsession with the Sex Pistols, John Peel and Good Vibrations to imagining living a quiet life with grandchildren in the country many years from now. You name it I’m sure I’ve envisioned that life and wanted to live in that city. It probably seems silly, but that daydream life was something that helped though those dark times. I knew that it would probably never come to fruition, as I was born and breed in the Midwest, but  you can’t blame a girl for dreaming. I’ve never felt my heart truly belonged here. Maybe in the beaches of California. Maybe in the mountains of Montana. Or maybe in those green hills were that man came from.

 

I always landed in those green hills. I think Seamus Heaney was the reason I landed there. I believed for a while that finding him was a sign for me to live there. So I had my heart set on Belfast and Queen’s University where he attended and graduated with his degree in English. I was going to do music rather than write. I have tried many different things in my life. I attempted art school, which lasted for a whole 6 weeks, and then off to music production, then music business. Which definitely could have worked if I had the gumption to push myself to do it. But no matter how hard I tried, it didn’t really fit. I found myself getting disillusioned with the industry, seeing only the bad aspects of it, and realizing that there was a very real possibility of losing my main outlet. Music is, and hopefully will continue to be, my therapy. That’s my solace in those dark times and my rejoicing during the good. I end up with music, and with writing. I never thought I had the ability or the talent to be a writer for a career, but I kept doing it. Because I found that I have an easier time articulating my feelings and thoughts through it. Even though I write fiction and attempted, very badly, to write poetry, I still found a way out of my head. I have only recently begun to write those personal things. Those things that live and fester in the dark corners of my mind. I have begun to shed light on those demons that for so long seemed like they would overtake everything I hold dear. I have been in traditional therapy for so long, and while it did help, I think giving myself a voice and reaching out to others to realize that yes, I feel alone and unworthy, but seeing in bright bold neon letters YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS. That others have similar demons haunting them, has been such an eye opening experience.

 

I went on a Manifestation Retreat with the utterly amazing (there are no real words for how amazing she is) Jennifer Pastiloff in Costa Rica. I got home a handful of days ago, and I can feel myself flip flopping between the old and the new, who I was and who I will be. I have been so blissful and felt the best I have ever felt in my life. Then I have been so agitated and felt so suffocated. I can feel the old trying to choke the new blossoming ways out of my mind and my body. I can feel them fighting for my soul. I don’t entirely know what happened while I was down there. But apart from being so open with the most amazing, loving, giving and supportive group of women I have been blessed to meet in my life, something major shifted. That dark matter that resided in my belly was dug out, and the fire in my belly began to spark again in ways I have never felt. She holds the space for us to do this, to be open and so vulnerable that it could break your heart, but it doesn’t. Our hearts mend together to create this space for us to bring out our darkness and to confront it and say, “I rule this body, this mind and this soul! You don’t own me. I do!”

 

I went down there to dig. That word “digging” has never been far from my mind (I even want to get it tattooed on my arm), even as the years pass from the first time I read “Digging.” I never fully realized what he meant by any of it. How by saying he “had no spade to follow men like that.” he wasn’t meant to follow in the footsteps of the men before him. That he was to carve out his own path. That he was to dig with his pen. That he was to dig this way through himself and through the world with his words. It was amazing to me to find out that he was all of 27 when he wrote that. That he had his moment of this is what I am meant to do at an age not much older than my 25. That he didn’t have it all figured out until then. That was a calming moment for me. I have scrambled through life believing that I have to know my path NOW. Not years from now, I have to know everything right this second. Truth is, I know a few things. I have a few things that I would absolutely love to have happen, but they may not. I went through my digging in Costa Rica with the wish for a family and some peace, maybe a smidge of self-love thrown in there for good measure. But I fixated on family. The calm and ever loving family that I didn’t have, and still don’t really have now. The family that I could do better and be better in. The family where we aren’t passive aggressive and let things fester over the years, where anger and depression and all other feelings run rampant and rule over the possibly of an unconditional non-judgmental ever lasting love. The family that I would daydream about in the country of Ireland (Either North or South. I’m not picky). The one with the mass amounts of children and grandchildren running around, playing the mud, and howling laughter. With my husband and I sitting and just feeling calm love for each and every one of them. Where I could finally have those demons under some kind of control and not over-think myself into a mess that doesn’t exist. When I slip into that bliss from the trip, that future doesn’t feel so far away. It feels possible in some way. I can feel that peace of mind. I can get my brain to shut up for a while. I can get the words flowing again. That is the truest form of bliss I have been granted in my short life. Getting that hamster wheel of brain to stop running in circles that go nowhere but drive me insane, to halt to allow those words of Mr. Heaney to enter. To use that pen snug as gun between my fingers to dig. To really dig to the point where I can almost feel those words as earth between my fingers. Where I can visualize my words being pulled out of the hole in the ground where I lived for so long, and allowing these things to see the light of day so that I can thank them and realize them. I am trying so hard to release them to best of my ability, as I know remnants will always exist, but to dig the majority of it out and let it be gone. So I can stand guard over it, and decide what I will allow back in. I will never completely control it, and there will be days in which the old stuff slips back in, but if I can be at a point where I can deal with it, and not shy away from my tough stuff I will be good.

 

 

I went to Costa Rica to dig. And dig I did.

 

 

“Between my thumb and my finger

The squat pen rests.

I’ll dig with it.”

 

 

May there be many more years of digging ahead of me.

 

 

Thank you for your words, Mr. Heaney. Even his last words, “Noli Timere” (Latin for Don’t Be Afraid) are a source of comfort. A beacon of light in those dark times.

You are enough.

“Enough” 

adjective

1.

adequate for the want or need; sufficient for the purpose or to satisfy desire: enough water; noise enough to wake the dead.

pronoun

2.

an adequate quantity or number; sufficiency.

adverb

3.

in a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.

4.

fully or quite: ready enough.

interjection

5.

(used to express impatience or exasperation): Enough! I heard you the first time.

 

 

 

I have it in my head that I will never be enough. That who I am is not enough. That what I give is not enough. That what I give is never enough. I never do or say enough. That I will never ever EVER love enough. That never was, is, or will be GOOD enough. There is a war in my mind raging on both sides of this. That yes you are enough and you are GOOD enough. That no you are not enough, you are BAD. I sometimes feel like each side is almost a different brain that both fight for dominance over my head. That this is a bitter war that will never end, that each battle will just suck more and more out of me. I can feel it going on while I write this. That the not side is telling me to not even bother writing because I don’t deserve to be heard, because I am just a worthless, broken pile pretending to be a functioning human. Then there is the other side that is telling me to write it because I need to write for myself. That I need to make this tangible. That I deserve to be heard because I have a voice. I showed up, and I will always be worth something because I exist. Purely because I was born and I live each day. I breathe the air and I am here. 

 

There was a little bit from The King’s Speech that I always remember when I’m having days like this. Where I am struggling with these opposing sides. Where King George VI is talking to Lionel Logue, his speech therapist about how England will stuck with a voiceless King during a War in which everything is at stake, and they need the strength and voice of a King. King George VI is visibly irritated with how he feels betrayed and disappointed with how Lionel Logue has presented himself and how he is blaming Lionel for “saddling England with a voiceless king.” Lionel pushes King George to remember that he is so much more capable than he believes he is. King George is struggling with believing in himself, he allows himself to fall into those dark thoughts that so many of us struggle with. That I am struggling with today. 

 

“Listen to you? By what right?”

“By divine right if you must.”

“Divine right? You told me yourself you don’t want it. Why should I waste my time listening to you?”

“Because I have a right to be heard. BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE!”

“Yes, you do.”

 

If only we all could have that moment with someone, to have someone push us to remember that we do indeed have a voice and that we deserve to be heard. Many times we will seek that reassurance from people, to have others validate that for us. I know I do this, and it is a tricky thing, because while we do possibly require some of that from others, the important one is for us to validate it ourselves. We need to tell ourselves that we deserve to be heard. That we have a voice. I’m working on this part myself. It’s easy for me to say I am trying to do it. There’s more to it than trying, you have to do it. Even when you feel like you can’t, and you don’t want to. This is a moment where I have to kick myself in the butt and say, “You do it because you have to. Because what I have to say is important.”

 

I have a voice that deserves to be heard. Not because I’m original or because I’m always interesting, but because I exist. We are born and we live. That is enough to deserve to be heard. 

 

Here’s my manta for those moments, and I will take it directly from that scene. “BECAUSE I HAVE A VOICE!”

 

 

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Interview with Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player (Part 2)

 

RB: When and how did you first become interested in music? How long have you been playing music?
TS: I was drawn to music at a very early age due to my Mothers record collection. Loads of 45′s and LP’s which I would hover around and play over and over. Seeing my interest, she purchase me a guitar when I was 6. I took lessons for a couple years in grade school from a hippie type teacher who taught me Bob Dylan and Beatles songs but I am mostly self taught. I immediately started writing my own songs, obviously not brilliant, but it was something I loved to do. I would spend hours in my room (still do) putting simple chords, melodies and lyrics together.
RB: What are your musical influences?
TS: My Mother took my sister and myself to see Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash Family with Sammy Davis Jr. opening the show when I was 6 or 7, this was my first ever concert experience. I still remember vividly, the theatre going completely dark then a big, deep voice saying, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash”. That show and music had a major impact on my life for sure. Other early influences, also due to the records I was exposed to at home, were Burt Bacharach, Elton John, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Neil Diamond and John Denver.
RB: What musicians do you admire, and why?
TS: Elton John for his great piano playing, song writing and use of instruments which brought a country flavor to a lot of his earlier work. Jeff Lynne of ELO for his use of organic strings with the combination of rock and Tom Petty because of his simplistic approach to writing and lyrical story telling. These are just a few of my favorites.
RB: What instruments do you play?
TS: My main instruments are guitar and piano but I also play drums, bass and whatever else I can get a noise out of.
RB: How did you get your start as a musician?
TS: At 14 years of age I was living in a very conservative, religious and depressed part of the country. My family was part of a extreme evangelistic church, this is also where I went to high school. There were a total of 35 kids in the high school and 7 in my graduation class. We were very limited in options or activities through school but music was something that was free and always available, all you needed was an instrument, so that is what I focused on. I had started playing drums at this point and put a band together with a friend who played guitar. We would play together every chance we had, writing rock songs and doing the guitar/drum duo thing. Eventually a whole band was formed, writing, rehearsing and playing shows was my entire existence.
RB: What made you decide to make music your career? How did you make your transition to making music a full time gig?
TS: By the age of 16 I new that making music my career was what I wanted to do. At this point it was something that I had to do because it was what I did day in and day out. Music was what made me happy and still does.
After high school, I hung out playing in bands for a couple years then one day I decided I was going to focus on playing guitar full time so I traded my drums for a guitar, an old 60′s Orange Matamp and matching 4×12 cabs (which I still have), put them in the back of my truck and drove 2,000 miles to the west coast. I played in bands around San Francisco for a couple years then headed to Los Angeles. I played in bands up and down the sunset strip and worked really bad temp jobs. One of my roommates at the time was a sound engineer and had just picked up a gig touring with a band across the U.S. He told me they were looking for a guitar tech for the tour and asked if I would be interested. I didn’t even know what a guitar tech was and after it being explained to me I thought, what…I can get paid for doing that? I did the tour and it turned out that I was pretty good at it (with help from some very cool veterans on the tour who took me under there wings and showed me the ropes). After that tour the phone just kept ringing with offers from other bands. I would tour as a tech, save money then come back to L.A. and play in bands. I always let it be know that I was not just a tech but also a player, eventually I was playing in bands I was touring with. I was then able to work as a tech as well as a session player. It’s been a strange and long path but everyones path is different.
RB: How did The Windsor Player start?
TS: The Windsor Player started while on Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns” tour. I was sitting in a hotel room with Marc Carolan who was Snow Patrol’s F.O.H. engineer for the tour. We were playing music and I played a few of my demo’s for him, he loved the song “Big Texas Sky”. Marc had a studio in Dublin and we were going to have a couple days off there so he asked if I wanted to come in and record the track. Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian was on that tour playing percussion with Snow Patrol so I asked him if he would be up for playing drums on the session, he said yes, Marc rang a friend of his who played bass, we recorded the song and that is what kicked it all off.
RB: Where did the band name come from?
TS: The Windsor Player name came from a Windsor Player piano which is in Gregg Williams studio, ‘The Trench’, in Portland, Oregon where we recorded the rest of the record. It is a player piano which has been in Gregg’s family since the early 1900′s. His grandparents ordered it out of a catalogue from a company in Chicago and it showed up from the train station in Eastern Oregon to their farm via wagon. We used this piano on almost every track of the record, it is a beautiful instrument and the center piece of the studio and the record. As Gregg and myself were trying to think of a name for the band, Gregg told me the story and history behind the piano, it’s journey west felt somewhat synonymous with mine….destiny?
RB: How did all the members come together for the project?
TS: The members for The Windsor Player came together via a “Build it and they will come” mentality. I was extremely fortunate and blessed with all the musicians who gave their talents and time for this record. Years of touring, meeting musicians, making friends and just asking all came together at the right time.
RB: What was the writing and recording process like?
TS: All the writing for the record was done by myself. Half of the record are songs I picked from over the years and the other half were written while recording. As the recording process developed, I would be more and more inspired. I would leave a 10 hour session, go home and write a new song inspired from the previous session.
None of the musicians were allowed to hear any of the songs before doing a session, except for Jote Osahn who was flying over from London for 10 days to record. Jote, who plays for Elbow, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and played violin, viola and cello as well. She obviously needed the songs prior to the sessions but everyone else came into the sessions blind. No two musicians played together at one time during the recording process, I wanted to tap into every musicians natural playing and instinct. Everyone had only about 3 passes for their parts on every song and Gregg Williams and myself would comp and edit each session. I think this approach gave the songs a feel that it was a live band playing together.
RB: Where did you find the inspiration for the record?
TS: The main inspiration to actually record The Windsor Player came from recording the first Tired Pony record, ‘The Place We Ran From’. We only had 8 days to make that record and Jacknife Lee’s approach was very eye opening and inspiring. It showed me first hand that catching musicians natural instinct is very important. Musically and lyrically, inspiration for The Windsor Player was pulled from musical styles I love, lyrics based on my life story and more selfishly, making a record that I would want to listen to.
RB: How would you describe the sound of the band?
TS: I would describe The Windsor Player sound as American, Alt Country and Rock.
RB: What pulled you to the Americana/Country inspired genre?
TS: The lean into the Americana/Country inspired genre is something that happened very organically, stemming from the natural way I like to write. All of my songs start with acoustic guitar, a melody then lyrics. Just myself and guitar in my room, playing and writing what comes out naturally, what gives me feelings of melancholy, hope or happiness. Another part of the process is the instrumentation which I like hear and use. I’m a huge fan of piano, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and strings, classical and fiddle style violin.
RB: Did you have any idea what the record was going to sound like before you started?
TS: The finished sound of the record was a very big and pleasant surprise. It was much more than I could have envisioned or hoped for. This is due to the brilliant musicians who played on the record, Gregg Williams incredible engineering skills and Dave Friedlander doing an amazing job mixing.
RB: The album is very diverse with sounds on each song, was this something you had planned or did it come from the collaboration with your other band members?
TS: I think the diverse sound of the record comes from my love of many different styles of music and very much from collaborating with the other band members, letting them do what they do. Melting heavier electric guitars with acoustic instruments and using effects and unconventional methods to create and twist the sounds was something we very much embraced. This is something I also learned from Jacknife Lee while working on the recording ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. He taught me that there are no limits when recording, if you can think or come up with it…you can record it!
RB: Where did the inspiration for the songs come from?
TS: As I said before, these songs are based around my life. These are stories, journeys and passed experiences which start with the first track ‘Release’ to finality with ‘Big Texas Sky’. Some literally and others in more of an abstract sense.
RB: What can we expect from the next album?
TS: It’s hard to know what to expect from the next album. There will probably be some of the same styles from this record but there are so many other styles which I would like to explore. It’s fun to go into a studio environment and be surprised by what comes out creatively. This is what I would like The Windsor Player to be, constant surprise.
RB: Are there any plans for more Windsor Player shows? Would you like to take it out on the road?
TS: I would love to put The Windsor Player on the road but nothing in the works now. Being an unsigned act, touring is quite and endeavor and my hat is definitely tipped to the bands that do it. We have played a handful of shows in Portland, which were a great experience, and would love to do more, time will tell.
RB: Do you think collaboration with other musicians is an important thing to do?
TS: Collaboration with other musicians is a very important thing to do. It provides learning of other styles and leads to improvement on your own style of writing or playing.
RB: Would you say that having different bands and different creative outlets is vital for a musician?
TS: Yes, very much so. Expanding ones creative style by playing with different bands and musicians is key to become a good songwriter and musician. As a wise old man once said, “You never stop learning”.
RB: Do you write songs on your own or do you like to write with other musicians? Which do you prefer?
TS: I generally like to write on my own but also enjoy writing with other musicians. While writing with other musicians, I focus on parts for whatever instrument I am playing while letting the key songwriter focus on progressions and arrangements.
RB: What kind of a role do you play in the group songwriting process?
TS: This varies depending on the group I am working with. In Tired Pony, I mainly play piano so I focus on piano parts that will round out the sound of the song and try to create counter melodies that will not step on any of the other instruments or parts. With Little Matador I play electric guitar and work with Dave Magee (guitarist) on creating a fat bed or wall of sound. I also focus on lead and odd noise parts, sometimes from the approach of what might be created if I were playing a synth or keyboard.
RB: Do you think writing and working with the members of your bands has helped you become a better musician? Or songwriter?
TS: Absolutely it has. I am very fortunate and continually humbled from the playing and creative experiences that I have had and continue to be a part of. Once again, you can always learn something new…it’s a perk of the process which is to be embraced and sought after.
RB: What do you enjoy about the process of collaborating?
TS: The biggest thrill I get from collaborating is the excitement when the recorded song is played back through the speakers and the music, melodies and parts all work together in ways you could not have imagined or done on your own. When the emotion is turned into sound, it’s very magical and satisfying.
RB: Do you prefer to be in the creative environment of a studio or touring and playing live shows?
TS: Studio and live are such completely different beasts and I enjoy them both. The searching and experimentation in the studio can also bring a little madness but I very much enjoy it. I also love playing live, rehearsing for hours and obsessing on playing every part perfect as well as with feeing and emotion. Delivering those combinations live is very satisfying.
RB: Do you have any projects you would love to do? Any future goals?
TS: Yes, there are some amazing musicians around Portland I would love to write with. One is Jerry Joseph who is in my opinion one of the most honest songwriters and human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. The only future goal I have is to do my best at living life on my terms, being an artist and to never stop being creative.
RB: Would you ever do a solo project?
TS: It’s wise to never say never but it’s not really something I have thought of.
RB: With all your projects keeping you busy, how do you spend your downtime?
TS: One day at a time.
RB: How do you balance your professional and personal lives?
TS: That’s a very, very, very good question. I believe the jury is still out on that one but if I ever come up with the answer, I will then write a book on the subject.
RB: What music have you been listening to lately? Current favorite artists or albums?
TS: I don’t listen to albums very much, strangely enough, I listen to radio. My favorite artist at the moment and the past many years is a brilliant band out of Portland, Oregon called ‘Blitzen Trapper’. Their records, songwriting and live shows are amazing. They can go anywhere with their music, are always evolving, have worked extremely hard to get where they are at, are good and decent people and I am a huge fan.
RB: How have you seen the industry change since you started?
TS: When I started, the industry was all giant labels, big machines. In my L.A. days, everyone was focused on getting a deal or chasing a scene to get a deal. This was always very disheartening to me and never felt quite right. Not that I didn’t want a record deal, it just seemed that the drive to ‘get a deal’ took precedence over making music because that’s what I loved to do. Over the years I have seen the start up of indie labels and now independent artist able to put out their music on a very large scale though avenues such as CD Baby and others. I think think companies such as CD Baby give musicians the chance to be creative by making the music they want to make and allow the artist to send his or her art out to the world…and let the fan decide what they like.
RB: What have your experiences in music taught you about the industry?
TS: That’s a question with some very dark answers. In lieu of sounding dark, I will say find YOUR way, YOUR path and persevere on the high road.
RB: Where do you see things going for the industry? (Especially with everything being available digitally. Do you think this can be a good thing for musicians?)
TS: If I had a working crystal ball…I would write a second book.
RB: If you had a new artist coming to you for advice, what would you say?
TS: Make music and write songs for the love of making music and writing songs. Discover your own unique style through exploring your favorite artist’s styles. Be true to yourself and your art but most of all…play, play, play and never stop playing.
– See more at: http://news.eshac.com/?p=1319#sthash.Q5Sxh5mR.dpuf

Interview with Troy Stewart of The Windsor Player (Part 1)

This was originally posted on a site geared towards new and unsigned musicians. Eshac has seemed to have gone defunct since this was originally posted in July 2013.

Imagine yourself as a six year old kid, sitting in a theater and suddenly the lights dim. In the darkened room, you can feel the anticipation buzzing, and the electric excitement crackling through the room like bolts lighting shooting from the sky. Without warning you hear a big, deep booming voice echo, “Hello, my name is Johnny Cash.” His voice resonating through the whole room. The spotlight comes on to show Mr. Cash on stage, and the music begins. This was Troy Stewart’s first musical experience, and one he says has vividly stayed with him throughout his life.

After his exposure to Johnny Cash and the Carter Cash family, his interest in music began to grow. Troy’s mom purchased his first guitar, and gave him free rein to rummage through her records. After playing those records over and over, he began to spend hours in his room exploring songwriting, figuring out his own way of putting lyrics, chords, and melodies together like a jigsaw puzz
It wasn’t until he was in his teens that he began to play in bands, that he really got his start in music. He recalled his start at the age of 14, and how he got his start in the Music Industry, “At 14 years of age I was living in a very conservative, religious and depressed part of the country. My family was part of a extreme evangelistic church, this is also where I went to high school. There were a total of 35 kids in the high school and 7 in my graduation class. We were very limited in options or activities through school but music was something that was free and always available, all you needed was an instrument, so that is what I focused on. I had started playing drums at this point and put a band together with a friend who played guitar. We would play together every chance we had, writing rock songs and doing the guitar/drum duo thing. Eventually a whole band was formed, writing, rehearsing and playing shows was my entire existence.
By the age of 16, I knew that making music my career was what I wanted to do. At this point it was something that I had to do because it was what I did day in and day out. Music was what made me happy and still does.
After high school, I hung out playing in bands for a couple years then one day I decided I was going to focus on playing guitar full time so I traded my drums for a guitar, an old 60′s Orange Matamp and matching 4×12 cabs (which I still have), put them in the back of my truck and drove 2,000 miles to the west coast. I played in bands around San Francisco for a couple years then headed to Los Angeles. I played in bands up and down the sunset strip and worked really bad temp jobs. One of my roommates at the time was a sound engineer and had just picked up a gig touring with a band across the U.S. He told me they were looking for a guitar tech for the tour and asked if I would be interested. I didn’t even know what a guitar tech was and after it being explained to me I thought, what…I can get paid for doing that? I did the tour and it turned out that I was pretty good at it (with help from some very cool veterans on the tour who took me under their wings and showed me the ropes). After that tour the phone just kept ringing with offers from other bands. I would tour as a tech, save money then come back to L.A. and play in bands. I always let it be know that I was not just a tech but also a player, eventually I was playing in bands I was touring with. I was then able to work as a tech as well as a session player. It’s been a strange and long path but everyones path is different.”
After being hired as a Guitar Tech for the U.K. based band Snow Patrol, his side project The Windsor Player would begin it’s infancy on the tour in support of their 2008 album “A Hundred Million Suns.” Troy played some of his demos for Snow Patrol’s Front of House Engineer, Marc Carolan. Marc immediately loved them, and asked Troy if he wanted to come and do some recording at his studio in Dublin on a mini break during the tour. The song “Big Texas Sky” would come out of those days. Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian provided his services for drums, since he was playing percussion on the tour, and Marc enlisted the services of a friend on bass. Troy would continue to tour with the band, and write his songs along the way.
In early 2010, Troy joined the collaboration that would end up becoming Tired Pony. Made up of extremely talented musicians and skilled writers, the environment was a creative stronghold that would inspire Troy to create the The Windsor Player. It is made up of members from the Tired Pony sessions, and other musicians who Troy had met and worked with over his years as a Session Player and Guitar Tech. “The members for The Windsor Player came together via a “Build it and they will come” mentality. I was extremely fortunate and blessed with all the musicians who gave their talents and time for this record. Years of touring, meeting musicians, making friends and just asking all came together at the right time.”
The inspiration for his band came from the 8 days of recording for Tired Pony, and seeing how Tired Pony Member and Producer, Garret “Jacknife” Lee, approached his work. That catching the first instinct of a musician is very important. This would come in handy when Troy would begin to flesh out the songs he had written and collected over the years. When it came to recording and collaborating with other musicians he had this to say, “None of the musicians were allowed to hear any of the songs before doing a session, except for Jote Osahn who was flying over from London for 10 days to record. Jote, who plays for Elbow, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and played violin, viola and cello as well. She obviously needed the songs prior to the sessions but everyone else came into the sessions blind. No two musicians played together at one time during the recording process, I wanted to tap into every musicians natural playing and instinct. Everyone had only about 3 passes for their parts on every song and Gregg Williams and myself would comp and edit each session. I think this approach gave the songs a feel that it was a live band playing together.”
As the recording process continued to develop, Troy would find himself more and more inspired. Often leaving long sessions, only to go home and write new songs. He would find inspiration from the sessions, musical styles he loved, his own life, and from a desire to create a record he would want to listen to. He found himself leaning towards a more Americana/Country tinged album, as it was just organically what would stem from his way of writing. The other portion of that is the instrumentation that he likes to hear and then use. He is a huge fan of piano, pedal steel, dobro, mandolin and strings, classical and fiddle style violin. These instruments would help fatten up the Americana tinges on the record. The album plays around with the lines of different genres.
“I think the diverse sound of the record comes from my love of many different styles of music and very much from collaborating with the other band members, letting them do what they do. Melting heavier electric guitars with acoustic instruments and using effects and unconventional methods to create and twist the sounds was something we very much embraced. This is something I also learned from Jacknife Lee while working on the recording ‘A Hundred Million Suns’. He taught me that there are no limits when recording, if you can think or come up with it…you can record it!”
After the recording was finished it came time to mix and master the record. Troy was unsure as of how the record would sound when it was all completed. He had this to say about it, “The finished sound of the record was a very big and pleasant surprise. It was much more than I could have envisioned or hoped for. This is due to the brilliant musicians who played on the record, Gregg Williams incredible engineering skills and Dave Friedlander doing an amazing job mixing.”
– See more at: http://news.eshac.com/?p=1315#sthash.zi7KbuGU.dpuf

Amanda Palmer and the Art of Asking

This was also published on Eshac.

 

 

I caught this TedTalk with Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, Evelyn Evelyn, and Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra. I’ll be honest and say she’s always been in my weird box. I remember when The Dresden Dolls released “Coin Operated Boy” when I was in high school, and while it always struck me as an odd song, it was freaking catchy. I had that album on repeat for a few months, then managed to find a new weird band to obsess over. After that, she mostly fell off my radar. So when this link popped up on Facebook entitled “An 8-Foot-Tall Woman is Destroying the Music Industry” naturally I clicked on it. I tend to click on the weird links, they’re usually pretty entertaining. I click, and wait for the video to load. It starts out with her walking out and standing on this box with a top hat on the floor and a flower in her hand. She starts talking about how she was a self employed living statue. She talked about how people would walk by, and if they gave her money she would hand them a flower and have some very intense eye contact.
She talks about those connections she made with people through this job. About how through that intense eye contact, especially with those very lonely people who may go weeks without talking to anyone, they would have these exchanges of moments of “I see you, and you matter and you see me, Thank you.” Those moments without words where you can have a direct connection with people and see each other, to truly connect in a way that we don’t see very often.
She couch-surfs and crowd-surfs when she tours, she puts her trust into her fans, and it is completely returned because of those connections she’s been able to build up with them. Through the invention of Twitter, and its rise, she’s been able to capitalize on that even further. If she needs a piano in New York, an hour later she has one. It’s because of that trust, and those connections that her fans are there for her. She gives them her music and her creative output, and her fans give back completely fully. She has direct connections which is rare in the music industry.
The label she was on, was not happy with their small amount of sales. They sold 25,000 copies, and the label dropped them. She was excited about it. It was 25,000 people who had gone out and bought their music based on that connection. What her fans do is just returning the favor, of what her music has done. For anyone who has had a connection with a song, and felt like that person gets it, they get me. Feeling a connection with someone who you probably never meet is a common thing in the life of music fans. Many of us will wait after shows for autographs, photos and hugs. It’s hard in that moment to fully purge your thankfulness to these people for their songs. For what they have unknowingly done for you. Whether it’s helping you celebrate something momentous or holding your hand through those dark and tough times we all know, we create connections with those people.
I admire Amanda Palmer for what she’s done, for being that direct connection with as many fans as she can be. For giving every single fan who waits for her after shows her time, and for thanking them for their support, and for simply returning the favor. This is really what the industry should be about. The artists not being on a pedestal, but being a human being. Being accessible, and giving fans time like she has. The fans are the reason musicians are able to do what they do in the first place. Without fans, musicians are just people with an obsession or a hobby, fans give it a life outside of them. They breathe into music and give it life. That’s an extremely important thing for a musician of any stature, large or small, to take to heart.
It’s about the fans. If you’re a musician and you’re lucky enough to have fans, give them the time and the energy you can, and be accessible and talk to them. Let them know what their support means to you.

Success and Perseverance

I’m a big fan of Louis C.K. I think he’s a fantastic comedian and great guy. I know he’s not probably everyone’s cup of tea, but I admire him for his honesty, and his great insight. There was a great interview he did recently for The New York Times. The interviewer was asking about how he had coined a great idea by selling all of his tour tickets, merchandise, and both the video and audio of his shows on his website. He completely cut out the middle man and decided to give his work directly to his fans for a reasonable price. I won’t be surprised if more people jump on this bandwagon.
After that, the interviewer mentioned how he now has a platform and the recognition to say what he wants, and have people pay attention. Louis replied with “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?”
The interviewer replied with, “Because you’ve put in the time.”
This is the quote I mentioned earlier, it was his response to the interviewer.

“There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You have all that stuff.” I wasn’t born with it. It was a horrible process to get to this. It took me my whole life. If you’re new at this — and by “new at it,” I mean 15 years in, or even 20 — you’re just starting to get traction. Young musicians believe they should be able to throw a band together and be famous, and anything that’s in their way is unfair and evil. What are you, in your 20s, you picked up a guitar? Give it a minute.”
This response made me stop reading and think about what he said. About how there are so many musicians and bands that get thrust into the spotlight so early on in their careers. Especially in this digital age where we can get anything in an instant, about how we almost expect everything to come to us quickly and how we want instant gratification. I do think this is reasonable to a certain degree, but when it comes to work, and especially creative work, I’m left wondering if it’s good for us to expect it all immediately. Instead of putting in those long, and probably very lean, years where we have failure after failure and question why we do this, and then we bounce back from it, and become better for it. How those years, that seem enormously long and so frustrating from those failures, about how it helps us become better at our craft. About how we go so long without an audience and how we have to become our own biggest support for what we do. About how it hammers perseverance into us, and allows us that lifeline to continue with our passion for our craft, and eventually we start to get an audience that may grow slowly, but when we finally get people to listen that success tastes sweeter than anything we’ve ever tasted before in our lives.
While it may seem horrible, and seem like I’m telling people that they should suffer for their work, I’m not trying to say that by any means. I’m only trying to show how that failure and frustration forces us to evaluate what we do, and how we can become better at it. How we can build it, and change the shape of it through experimentation.
The best thing a musician can do is that. Experiment, and work with different people. Try different recording techniques and different genres. Never getting too comfortable with one way of working. Explore creative outlets, and have more access to that creativity. I am a firm believer that all creativity stems from the same place in everyone. It just comes out in different ways, and sometimes the way we’re used to working with it isn’t the way that we can get people to notice what we have to say.
Sometimes painters become writers, and writers become musicians, and musicians that play rock end up playing around with folk, or synths, or influences that change the way they write harmonies and lyrics. In order to say what we need to say, we need to try as much as we can, and do as much as we can. Sometimes this process does take years, and it’s a matter of us learning that just because this one way doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that another won’t.
We all want a platform and recognition, like Louis has, but we have to know that we have to work hard, educate ourselves, and grow from those bad experiences and failures, and remember that time will eventually make things work out. It always does. It just takes perseverance to do it.
Perseverance to be successful, however you define success, always takes time. It never happens immediately. So remember that you must always persevere through life. In the end, that’s all we can do.
– See more at: http://news.eshac.com/?p=963#sthash.YFOcKxz1.dpuf