The Head and The Heart
"I almost didn't go. Fear and self doubt came uninvited. An old destructive friend whom still visits on occasion. Together we left uncomfortably holding hands".
I'm so fortunate to love what I do for a living. Photography is not only my job, but my passion. I have 3 passions in life. Family, photography and music. A quote that I love by an unknown author is "do what you love and be done with all the rest". I live my life by this. These are the things I love and anything else is just pulling me away from happiness.
To say that music is my hobby would be a severe understatement. My sister and I shared a room until I was in the 4th grade. When I moved into my own room I inherited my grandpa’s record\8 track player and it was then that music entered my soul. When that turn table spun it was like a portal pulling me in. I wasn’t just listening and dancing about my room I was living it, I was in the music. It was an amazing feeling!
When I was in the 6th grade we moved to Syracuse NY and my world was turned upside down. We moved again when I was 14 to Buffalo and music was my only happy place. It was then that I was introduced to one of the greatest artists of all time, Janis Joplin. When she sang it grabbed ahold of me. I was swept away. I felt her, her pain, her sorrow, and suddenly I was no longer alone.
If you look at my music collection you’ll see it’s quite small. My husband has a huge collection of CDs, or rather had (I nudged him to downsize a few weeks ago). I’m very choosy about what I listen to. There are a lot of songs that I like and feel good listening to, but even when I was a kid there were only a few artists that I would care to spend my money on the entire album.
I have another confession to make. I don't really enjoy live music as much as I should. I have a hard time sitting still and staying focused (call it what you’d like), but I actually get bored after about 4 songs. Not that the musicians aren't phenomenal. I’ve been to many shows where I’m blown away and in awe of the talent oozing from the stage, but still after the 4th song I start to get ancy. It’s the same for me when I'm reading a book. That book had better engage me to the point that I can't put it down or else I’m fast asleep before I even finish a chapter.
For me there are musicians who are insanely talented with amazing lyrics (which is extremely important to me) who constantly keep me thoroughly entertained and know how to perform, but then there are those musicians who are on a whole nother level. When they sing they are not “performing” they are the music. You can actually see their soul leave their body, entering another plane. Without choice I go there with them and return forever changed. Some who have had this effect on me are Janis (of course) Ani DiFranco, Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michelson, Kate Bush, and Eva Cassidy to name a few. Sadly I will never have the chance to see a few of them live.
I am in an acoustic duo known as Graceful Lily with an absolutely amazing woman, Ryan Stuart. We occasionally play out and like to hit local Open Mic nights. We’ve been talking about going to a certain one for awhile now, but things never seem to work out. We had plans to finally go last night and I was feeling a bit down about my singing ability after we recorded our first demo (there’s nothing like hearing your own voice over and over again where every mistake that may be microscopic to others is amplified for only you to obsess over). I kicked stage fright's ass a couple of years ago, but apparently it decided to return. I was starting to feel really anxious about going to this open mic. I really wanted to back out, but I made a commitment and I wasn’t going to do that. Plus Ryan and I were meeting another musician for the first time who may be interested in playing with us and he’s very talented, so I was absolutely not going to skip out. After all I didn't have to play if I didn't want to. When we got there my anxiety continued to build as Ryan and I added our names to the list. This was crazy!! Why could I not shake this? I love playing out! Things were not looking good for me. I did not like the place my mind was taking me to. I felt bad because I wasn’t really able to connect with Brandon well who we specifically went there to meet. Then that started getting in my head, he’s probably thinking, “this girl is so awkward, what is her problem?” As the performers were crossed off the list and we were inching closer and closer to our names I started feeling like I didn’t know how to play guitar. What if I forget how to form chords (which is ridiculous because I’ve been playing for 15ish years)?
Right in the middle of my internal meltdown, the backdoor opened and in walked a man dressed in black wearing a yellow trucker hat toting a guitar. You know when you see someone and can just tell they are probably going to be really good. This man had that look and for a moment my inner self-doubting monolog was silenced, but the door closed behind him, he found a seat and I got back to the important task of self-destruction.
It was Brandon’s turn to play. He got up there and killed it. He’s really good and I’m about to blow mine and Ryan’s chance to play with him because surely I’m going to trip onto the stage, bump my face into the microphone, blow everyone’s eardrums out with feedback from the amp. A few more musicians took there spot as I pealed at the label of my Yuengling. Then it was Trucker Hat’s turn. I figured he was going to be really good and Ryan and I were probably going to have to go right after him. The MC introduced him as “Just Jon” as he took his seat. Jon did a quick mic check and started singing “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” by Bill Withers. He was good. I mean really good. Oh crap! His next song was an original and that’s when it happened. He morphed right on stage. He was living his song. He was pulling me in. This is what music is all about. This is why I sing. Not because I want to be famous or write songs that everyone loves (my songs are a bit of an acquired taste). Music for me is a place of escape. In my darkest times it has been my light. It takes me to a place where I am safe. Just like that my fear left and I couldn’t wait to get up on that stage. I no longer cared if I was off key, messed up the chords, or heard crickets in the room when my 3 songs were over. I wanted to go where Jon went. As you may have noticed above, musically, it seems I connect with only female artists and as a whole this was true. Was.
When it was finally mine and Ryan’s turn I headed up to the stage passing Jon to my right and said “thank you for that, I’m really excited to play now.” He didn’t have much time to respond, but was very polite with a look of confusion on his face (I seem to have that effect on people). We hit the stage and I was completely at ease and felt like myself again. Everything was back in balance.
As it turns out Jon is in a band called “The Head and the Heart” a pretty popular Indie band with quite the following. Ryan is a huge fan and immediately recognized him. She couldn’t say with 100% certainty that he was who she suspected, but she was pretty damn sure. She had played a song of theirs for me a few months ago saying we should cover it, but that was the extent of my experience with them. We met some other really talented and cool musicians last night. Justin Storer front man for an indie-folk band The Working Effective. You can actually check them out at Capital Ale House on E Main St July 31! Also met an adorable ukulele gal Stephanie Power who is heading off to Ireland soon and another talented female musician Ariel Unser who also recently wrote and directed a short film called “BILL”. Money passes through so many hands and this is a unique perspective on just who may have had it before you.
As we were chatting with our new friends Jon came over to our group and complimented all of us. How cool is that? He approached us with no arrogance although he rightly could have. He was down-to-earth and really supportive of everyone. You would think I would have been intimidated by him, but his aura just wouldn’t allow it.
I went home and couldn’t sleep. Not because I just took a selfie with someone of Jon’s stature, but because I was inspired and on a high that only music can take me to. Seeing as it was 1:30 am which is waaaaay past my bedy bye time, I fought the urge to stay up all night with my guitar. I did have work to do in the morning and Ryan and Brandon were coming over to jam in less than 24 hours (I really don’t do well on no sleep). I decided to look up The Head and The Heart on Instagram instead. Instagram for me is like music. There are only a handful of feeds that can draw me in and The Head and the Heart is one of them. Speaking from a photography stand point their pictures are amazing! With only having heard Jon sing and looking at their feed I felt the entire band’s story. They really now how to bring you along on their journey. I came across a post on their Instagram that is so incredibly true.
I also prowled their Youtube page and was pulled even further into their music world. This was one of my favorites called, "Rivers & Roads" (The Doe Bay Sessions).
I managed to get a quick recording of Jon’s version of Bill Withers before my phone’s storage ran out, but I won't post it without his permission.
What if I had stayed home last night with my old pal Fear? Then I think of all the times I did stay with him and I'll never know what I missed because of it.