For the past several years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with music. Since I was five, I’ve given it my heart. I’ve poured my soul into writing narrative story songs for 20 years, winning several awards and producing two CDs, but with little else to show for it. In 2019, I was finally getting a little traction, with bookings for 2020.
Then the COVID tsunami struck, turning joy to torment as it swept away all my bookings in its wake. Discouraged, I came to hate the way music abused me and how demanding songwriting had become, making me twist around rhyme structures, hooks, choruses, all to try to tell a tale. With COVID, music became the lover that casually tosses aside your affections and laughs at your pain.
I still enjoyed playing my guitar but had to pass through a minefield of resentment and anger just to get myself to pick it up. Those lockdown hours not spent glued to the TV for news, were spent in my studio with my notepad and instruments mocking me from where they sat.
Feeling rejected, I took up with another lover. Some time back, I’d started a novel based on a vivid dream I’d had – just on a whim. Spurning my instruments in my COVID-imposed solitude, I opened the novel and began to read. Soon I was lost in its world. I began applying my songwriter skills to expand it, edit it, tighten it and strip away the chaff. I was having fun again. I worked with a developmental editor to tighten it further, starting a second book in the series and another novel in a whole different genre. I became a COVID vampire, writing until four of five in the morning, sleeping until noon then starting again.
I began writing short essays about the long, strange life I’ve had in music, starting with the first band I played in when I was sixteen, sharing them with fans and on Facebook, passing the COVID year lost in the sheer joy of creative writing.
Lately, my instruments have been peeking around the corners of the gobos in my studio, like prodigal lovers asking to be taken back. Maybe I will, but it won’t be on the same terms. And maybe, I’ll be able to take the frustrations that are inherent in our business with a bit more salt in 2021, knowing I can always turn to my “backdoor lover,” any time I like.
~ Gary Paul
Author, essayist, three-time New Mexico Music Award winner and eight-time nominee, Gary Paul is a compelling storyteller/performer/songwriter, presenting his view of the American landscape and life on the road through a New Mexican lens, arcing from blues, folk/Celtic to bebop/gospel. His latest CD, “American Road” (rel. 3/2/18), debuted 38th on the Folk Charts.
In an attempt to keep us connected as we continue to find our way through these often stressful times, some in our extended community have been sharing their experiences, lessons learned and hope as they’ve dealt with Covid, lockdown, boredom, lack of inspiration, etc. We are all looking for ways to make lemonade out of the many lemons! This column will continue on a weekly basis and postings will be released at 10 AM Pacific every Monday, so watch for them! For guidelines and submission details, please contact Julie Zipperer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marlynn Block at email@example.com. Submissions will be posted based on approval from the Lockdown Lemonade Committee.