Monday, February 08, 2010

Wishing My Life Away

There's an old saying in my family: "don't wish your life away." My great-great-aunt told my mom this every time she would say "I wish it was tomorrow" as a little girl. So, I received the same reprimand growing up; whenever I wanted something in the future now, I heard "don't wish your life away."

This is an inconvenient maxim for an impatient kid. Or impatient adult. Or any singer/songwriter.

I'm constantly wishing my life away. It's not that I don't agree with the idea behind it (I do). It's that wishing my life away is part of my job. I live in six month intervals, and part of each interval consists of planning the next. In many ways, I'm constantly spending the present thinking about the future. It's not impatience, or obsession (although I've got both in spades); it's simply part of the gig.

For example, I just spent three hours looking at a map and a calendar. I'm going to tour a little in the spring, and a lot in the summer. Touring (well) demands advance planning. Venues book at least 2 months ahead, and the further in advance you plan, the better your chances are. Additionally, you need to keep competing interests in mind:
--When are the big festivals (SXSW, Coachella, Bonaroo, Newport, etc.)?
--What other tours are passing through what parts of the country, and when (Warped, Lolapalooza, Lilith Fair, etc.)?
--When do college kids leave town?
--When do college kids get back?
--When are folks most likely to vacation?
--When can I start/wrap/spend my time best on the road?
--If I meet up with Lilith Fair what are the chances I can successfully follow Emmylou Harris for a week?

You get the picture. There are a million things to consider, and they're all way down the road. I'm not complaining: this is a part of the gig that I really enjoy. It plays into my OCD tendencies, my hyper-organizational habits, and my characteristic impatience. I love the future--it always sounds good to me--so I enjoy trying to shape it.

That's the upshot of wishing your life away as a musician: if you're Type A, there's always something else to plan (after the summer tour, when can I get in the studio for another album, would that interfere with CMJ, what would be an ideal time for another release, etc.). It's a wonderland of organizational exercises.

The downside is that time goes fast. Really fast. Before you know it, it's February 1st and you've charted out your year through Thanksgiving. When you're booking tours four months in advance and planning for another album as you're currently releasing one, two years can melt together in a hurry. So much of being a singer/songwriter is solitary (writing, traveling, rehearsing, map-staring, etc.); days can pass slowly. But the months--and years--go fast. Too fast.

Meanwhile, I'm still staring at this map and calendar, wishing my life away, and wondering where to go.

Where should I go?

I could go anywhere. When a tour is set, booked, and actually happening, it's obviously fun: there's nothing like being in a new city and new venue every night and sharing music with a fresh crowd. Running on empty, running behind, racing to venues, getting lost, taking highways, talking to locals, eating bad food--every day is its own uniquely memorable experience because it has to be. There's no way to spend a month on the road and not leave a part of yourself out there, and not bring a piece of everything else back home. That's the beauty of touring: you're always moving, and always moving somewhere else. If you're prone to looking ahead (as I am), it's perfect; you can be thrilled in the moment while anticipating the next one.

But the underrated joy is the one that comes now: staring at a blank map, a blank calendar, and knowing it could be anything. There is no logistical stress , no car trouble, no indigestion--just a perfect plan on paper, spread out before me like a road with no end. If the Dad from Calvin and Hobbes taught me anything (other than "being cold builds character" and "the sun sets in Flagstaff"), it's that the anticipation of something can be as good as the thing itself. That's the point: looking at a map and realizing you can go anywhere. It can be anything.

So, where should I go?

Where should I go?

If you've got a favorite venue in your town, let me know. If you know of any radio shows or podcasts or music blogs in your city, pass them along! Help me fill the calendar and write the perfect plan on paper. Help me live four months out. Help me wish my life away.

And if my great-great-aunt complains, tell her it's my job.


Michael said...

Where should you go?


Chris Milam said...

Any place that invented the wing is must-see.

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