Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Do you really want to hurt me?

I got together with a bunch of musicians the other day. Most of them are good friends of mine. And then there were a couple of acquaintances with whom I've never played or even talked much. I was excited to jam. It's been a long time since we've had an all out hootinany. Plus, we're working on putting a show together--all of us playing on each others' songs and collaborating in small groups. Good stuff.

Also, I've been reworking an old song called Ohio and I was excited to unveil the updated version. I wrote it amost four years ago. It was the first song I wrote that I thought well enough of to want to play it for people. Someone asked me to play it last week and I did and I wanted to stop half way through because I was so bored with it. My friend Todd is alwasy reworking his old stuff and he challenged me to breath new life into that bad boy.

I've been working hard. I changed the tuning from standard to DAGAD. Instead of the simple strumming pattern I had, I now travis pick, playing the melody as an intro and between verses. I put in a bridge. I have vocal parts for two other voices--and not just straight one third up harmonies--but, in my own small way, vocal arrangements. I'm rather proud of how it's turning out and proud of myself for taking the challenge and running with it. I was pumped.

And then I was dissappointed.

I sat there trying in vain to put my finger on how I was feeling while everyone was playing. On the way home I wanted to cry, but held back. Finally when Paul asked me how it was, the tears came. And it took a surprisingly long time for me to come up with a label for what it was: my feelings were hurt.

The whole thing is just wierd to me. On one hand I think how silly to have hurt feelings. On the other hand I think why is having hurt feelings alien to me? Am I a wuss or a stone wall? I don't know. Maybe I'm not used to hurt feelings in this field. It's all bizarre. I feel very out of touch with my emotions.

I played my song (much anticipated in my mind) and everyone nodded their heads like, "yeah, good one." Then someone else played another midtempo song and the comment was made "if we keep playing songs like those we'll put our audiene to sleep." He had a point. Two downers in a row. But, it was dissappointing to be told the song I was so excited about was boring.

Then everyone played songs and jammed. They are all excellent musicians. We had four guitars, a mandolin, a bass, a banjo, and a snare drum (the fiddler couldn't make it). Those instruments got passed around with various people playing at different times (I can't play any of them but guitar). Arrangements were fleshed out with parts loosely assigned--"yeah, you play lead there" (I couldn't play lead guitar to save my life unless it was a memorized riff or solo that I had practiced dilligently) "and here, let's figure out a harmony part for you" (I can sing harmony, but there are others in the group who are much faster at picking it up and are known for singing backup). So I sat and listened and realized I really had nothing to contribute to the group. There was nothing I could be called on to do that at least three people couldn't do better.

Now, I don't mean to throw a pitty part. And I don't want you fill in the comments telling me that, no really, I'm great (though you are all very kind and I thank you anyway). I feel okay saying my talents lie in songwriting and performing. Those talents serve me well. Playing shows is fun. Writing songs is fun. Both are great outlets for me. But, I was excited to be a part of something new and something bigger than myself and my own songs and it was sad to find out that my skillset really really limits how much I can participate and enjoy it.

I felt sad for myself.

So, I'm determined to make the songs I, myself, put forward for this show are killer. I keep telling myself I have nothing to prove, but I kind of feel like I do. Maybe my challenge isn't a musical one but a psychological/emotional one. Maybe the challenge is figuring out my place in this group and how to play to my strengths within it. Maybe the challenge is taking a backseat--I have plenty of opportunities to share my music--and letting other dogs have their day. I don't know. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Ha. Plays out.

4 comments:

Hope said...

Oh Emily, I read this post yesterday but didn't know how to respond. There's so much to say because the experience is so real and humbling. I've been there before. I don't like to pride myself on anything, but I'd say I'm a pretty good renaissance lady who can get by in most areas. The scene you're describing is like me being in a conversation that switches from politics (I can talk that, kinda) to calculus and all of a sudden the confidence slowly leaves me and I feel like I've nothing to contribute. Of course, that's not exactly the same because musically you have gobs to contribute. Just remember that those guys might be great in tweaking other people's material, but they may not have the unique gift of creating the original composition to begin with. They needed you for your song, then they ran with it. You need both skills to create the final product...and we love you and think you're great.

emdunbar said...

thank you, hopi.

(i think of you as a renaissance lady, too...especially at thanksgiving with that turkey leg. no wait, that was more renaissance fair.)

Carey Gardiner said...

Well dang, Emily. I just really resonate with what you've written. I, personally, am much better at growing intellectually, or learning a new skill, than I am at growing emotionally, and sometimes, when I'm really honest, spiritually. But it's always worth it. You are not a wuss or callous. You are just real. You took a risk and it didn't work out like you expected. And maybe people were even harsh. It's okay to keep learning how to deal. That's what I think, anyway. That's what people that I love and trust tell me when I come home and cry, anyway. Or cry in my car. (Not that it makes it fun-ner). And I, like Hope, think that you are great and I am glad that you are sharing your gifts in a million ways. And that Oliver wore rain boots. And that Phoebe knew how to have really really cool hair. Which reminded me of the story of Beezus getting her hair cut, and saving her money to do so, and it not working out. But that was because she was a slave to a horrible fashion magazine, rather than her authentic self -- that's what I think anyway.

emdunbar said...

Thanks, Carey.

I must say, I feel much better now. Todd came over last night and said that he felt very much the same way--a bit superfluous. That was comforting. He also had many nice things to say about my song. When we get together this weekend I don't think anything will have changed except maybe my attitude. We'll see.