I have been quiet for some time now. Though I made plenty of noise in high school, playing guitar and bass in a couple different bands and singing loudly (but not necessarily well), during the winter of my senior year I developed a problem in my wrists and collarbone that effectively sidelined me, off and on, for two or three years. Not until this last year have I really begun to play my guitar with any sort of enthusiasm, and not until this last summer have I taken up writing songs again, and not until now have I felt confident enough in both music and voice to consider doing anything with either of them.
Musicians are curious folk, and for the first time in a long while, I’m starting to feel like I might fit in with those curious folk quite nicely. The other night I found myself listening in on a conversation between my friend Sarah and a fellow we met, and ended up playing a game or two of pool with, at the Nightlight. They discussed his job (he was a welder), and when that topic petered out, he said, casually, “…but my real passion is music.”
This is a trigger, a test, designed to perk up the ears of any musicians in the room. To mention that word, “music”, at a party, in a bar, will bring a whole flock of newly-interested strangers your way in a matter of seconds.
I couldn’t help myself. In a conditioned response, I asked, “What do you play?”, and the conversation was off welding for good. I’m not sure it returned to anything non-musical for the rest of the evening.
Music is an odd little community, and if you can answer that question, “What do you play?”, you’re effectively in. The trouble with my hands ended my short but passionate career as a bassist, and though I often miss the fit of thick bass strings beneath my fingers, so sturdy, so substantial, I am growing accustomed to life as a guitarist–an acoustic guitarist, no less (I began on the electric, picked up acoustic as a last resort). The thinner, more delicate strings of my trusty Yamaha begin more and more to feel familiar, as I learn to treat my acoustic guitar as its own instrument, rather than as a different-sounding electric guitar–I learn to strum lightly, to pick out individual strings with my fingertips, to let my voice carry, unamplified, over the chords.
My friend Shawnee plays a mean guitar, she writes beautiful songs, and I envy her her pretty strum patterns, her lyrics, her lovely voice. Today, we spent the morning cross-legged on my living room floor, taking turns playing our own songs for each other, and it was strangely refreshing to notice that, though I was nervous, my voice didn’t freeze up, my fingers didn’t falter when it was my turn to play. We talked about doing some open mics together–each of us playing solo, but providing moral support for the other–or about putting on some small acoustic shows around town.
I would love to do that. Though my hands aren’t entirely healed (in fact, they’re aching now), neither are they holding me back, and so I feel brave, but humble, as these last few years of timid re-entrance into musicianship have made me re-think why it is that I write, and play, and sing, and for once I feel as though I have a good answer: because I like to. That’s all.