Stories and tales from a guitar-picking writer, theologian, speaker, blogger and entertainer. From small town quirks to the bizarre realities of family, whacky church life and slightly damaged kinfolk, insights from a reluctant son of the South takes you along. Never know where it’ll end up but it’s sure to be worth the trip.
I have a modest guitar collection if you compare to some. Each instrument I have and play, though, is as unique as a child. Each has its own “voice,” and no two instruments are exactly alike, even if they are identical models. Each piece of wood sounds a little different from all the others. You learn this if you are a serious player.
Instruments have their oddities, too. Sometimes, tuning is not precisely right on every fret, or the “feel” of the instrument varies. Some applies to guitars, violins, banjos, mandolins, any instrument of wood and wire. This eccentricity, like that of human voices, is a source of delight, not frustration. The reason I generally hate a lot of electronically created music is the sameness of it.
Human voices are like that. I like gravely voices, deep voices, angelically soft voices, and raspy voices. Each voice expresses who that human being is, at least in part.
My very first guitar of my own was a Yamaha FG-230 Twelve String guitar. My parents got if for me for Christmas of 1971, I think. I had started playing music with two great friends who were musicians.
Both would go on to professional music careers, one still in it. My friend Woody had a Hoffner bass like Paul McCartney played in the early Beatles’ music, but that year got a Fender Jazz bass. Paul, who already played a Fender Telecaster like a pro by age 17, got a Yamaha six string the same Christmas. We both loved old country music and bluegrass. Paul introduced me to everything else in the world–he liked all kinds of things, from Grand Funk Railroad to Dillard and Clark to the Incredible String Band.
“…there is a playful randomness about what we find and read. Or rather, what finds us”
When I first rekindled my interest in songwriting and music again, sixteen or seventeen years ago, I began hanging out in music stores, playing the guitar again and digging out songs from my memory and on faded notebook paper from years ago. One day, a worker in the store I frequent most, Fretted Instruments of Birminghm, said, “Are you just starting to explore the discography?” I had just said that “I was getting into bluegrass music” and that was his reply.
I began to delve into just that—listening, going to shows, scooting to Nashville now and then. I bought a collection of Bill Monroe’s music. Over the coming years, I heard a lot of music live—Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs, Nickel Creek, J. D. Crowe, Earl Scruggs, Vince Gill, as well as a lot of lesser-known but excellent players and singers coming through the Station Inn in Nashville or here in Birmingham, Continue reading Exploring the Discography of Life
There is a time for the Artist and a time for the Editor
The Editor worries about the audience, sales and attracting attention to the finished product
The Artist tries to listen to the deep, deep truth within, unfiltered and unfettered
The Editor wants it to be the best it can be and to have a chance to be heard.
The Artist wants the work to be true to what it was the first time she heard it
The Editor is outside the Artists heart and mind and often doesn’t “get” the artist’s vision
The Artist cannot leave himself and struggles to know how it will connect to others and sometimes what makes sense to the Artist doesn’t make sense to anyone else
The Editor is finally responsible to the publisher and the audience
The Artist is finally responsible to his Judge and Maker and himself and his art
The Editor respects the artist, may even be one herself, so it is not about bad and good.
The Artist respects the Editor, and understands that it is not just about money or pleasing others. It is also about belonging to the community and the world and being heard
Sometimes they clash and tears are shed.
The Artist’s matters of conscience can turn into stubbornness and pride
The Editor’s insistence on practicality, marketability and being liked by large numbers of people can mask a desire to please and the willingness to sacrifice integrity for success. They both labor with the burden of ego and control.
They always have to talk and pray about it and listen to each other for the best thing to happen, even when the Editor and the author live inside one person.
It’s become a cliche only because it is so powerful and pervasive. Your “voice,” I once heard songwriter Pat Terry say, is what makes people say, “That’s a Gary Furr song” or “that’s a (your name here) story.’ I have thought about this for thirty years, focused when I once, during a five day solitary retreat started to say a short prayer I had been using to center myself and blurted out, “Father, help me to be myself.”
If that sounds so very self-centered in our culture already so “you-can-be-whatever-you-want-to-be,” permit me to observe that despite our coaching of selves and self-focus I sure meet a lot of broken ones out there in life. People wounded and held back by a voice in their head: “you’ll never amount to anything,” and somettimes not even traumatic voices–just ones we imbibe from our world. “So many people are better than you. What do you have to offer? What’s the point?” Continue reading Finding Your Voice
1. Perfectionists cannot stand it when something is not completed. For example, when a person…
2. There is a rigidity about things always having to be a certain way or else they become very upset. Things cannot be out of order, altered from their usual place, etc.
4. If you’re going to do your best, you can’t always worry about pleasing everyone else (“You know you shouldn’t be writing this blog. I told you to major in something else in college. You’re an idiot. Nobody cares what you think.) Pay no attention to that voice in my head…
3. Practice makes prefect. Practifect makes perfice. Aw, you know what I mean.
5. If you are a Christian, be happy all the time and when you are mad, talk more piously.
6. Almost perfect is never good enough. Perfection is so hard to reach, you often don’t try. This is so frustrating that I’m not going to list the last four. It’s too overwhelming.
I forgot the other four.
In an article by Elizabeth Scott at About.com, I came across this statement.
High achievers tend to be pulled toward their goals by a desire to achieve them, and are happy with any steps made in the right direction. Perfectionists, on the other hand, tend to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them, and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure.
That rings true. Sometimes our goals are so lofty with a song, recording, preparing a presentation, aspiring to a project, or writing, that we are immobilized. My friend, the late John Claypool, used to say that there’s a difference between wanting to do something and wanting to BE somebody. The first group accomplishes a lot. The second group tends to make themselves and everyone around them miserable. It’s all about “how you look.” Faggetaboutit!
In this culture so shaped by the visual dimension of life, are we so oriented to expectations that come from without us that we cannot find the “push” from within?
So, here is my advice to perfectionists. Lose yourself in the task once in a while. Don’t worry too much about how to sign your autographs just yet. Just write good songs. Sing your best. All that obsession with fame, stuff, adoration and making a million is too much about being PUSHED. Let yourself be pulled by something that offers so much joy you just HAVE to find it!
Accept the process and enjoy the ride. The journey of healing will not be automatic and instant. Taking something in, getting somewhere, growing, all involve time, faith, hope and love.
Strive for reality, not perfection. A friend of mine was struggling with some people whose behavior disappointed him in his church. He expressed his disappointment and I replied, “You have to learn to lower your expectations.” He asked, “How do you do it?” I answered, “From reading the Bible.” Have you ever noticed what a sorry lot of people are in the Bible–Jesus being the exception, of course? If you want to feel good, read a Bible story. But it ought to encourage you. God works with the available material.
Try on a new self-assessment based on reality, not what you have experienced, come to mistakenly believe, or adapted to as a reaction to life. Work on those voices inside your head. Turn off the editor when you want to be creative. Let it flow. You’ll be surprised what comes forth when you aren’t worried about what someone will say about it.
Finally, lie down and sleep when you run out of ideas. You’d be amazed what the acceptance of our limits can do to unleash creative power. Turn the world back over to God every night. It’s liable to still be there when you open your eyes in the morning.