It’s 1:13 am Thursday January 15th, just a few hours after performing with a band for my record release. All I want to do is go to sleep. Well, watch one episode of The Office, then go to sleep. But tomorrow I won’t be basking in whatever glow (or cloud) that is the experience of having just played for a live audience. If I reflect back on tonight’s live show tomorrow, then it will be more like a schedule of how the day went down, the circumstances, what happened and with whom. The rawness will be missing. Right now it is raw. And to do this essay series ANY justice, I must write now.

Honestly, I’m numb. I’m not giddy, I’m not anxious, I’m not overly happy, or utterly disappointed. There’s a slight hint of satisfaction, of feeling accomplished. But only slight. I knew I could pull it off. This wasn’t a surprise. I meant, I’ve coordinated full-band tours hopping trains through Germany and Switzerland to get to sound checks on the sides of mountains. I wrote and rehearsed a vocal string piece for my own wedding that involved 8 strings, 7 singers and a conductor. A fourth record release show? This, I could do.

Ukulele Song

Photo by Ace Patricks

With pleasantly surprised, excited, recharged, mellow, happy, and sad off the table, I’m lying in bed thinking: what am I feeling?

And why the heck do I care so much?

Perhaps it’s because I wanted to feel something bigger when the first guitar chords swelled in and the bass slid into place in between the kick drum and my right hand’s piano part. I was waiting for it. I was watching myself. I knew I was going to write this essay and I wanted to be accurate. Maybe I wasn’t being present with all the watching.

In the sound check, I was noticing myself feeling more gentle with my voice than I had in past years. I often found myself fighting the band or just the mix. Today, I was able to share my single “obnoxiously artistic request”: let the songs breathe, this is not about rocking out. Drummer Shawn Pelton was particularly musical today, and while this didn’t come as a surprise, since he is one of the most musical drummers I’ve ever had the honor to play with, rocking out is pretty much his middle name. So when he took my “it feels a little bombastic” comment to heart, it meant something for me.

I knew the show was going to go well as soon as I started singing during the sound check. It was a “good” vocal day. The musicians were on time. Everyone was prepared. I knew my struggle would be in the hour between sound check and when the show started. Putting makeup on in the dark bathroom, getting simultaneously claustrophobic and anxious, waiting, wondering if people were showing up. Even though three days before the show I declared “I no longer care about ticket sales!”, I did. It’s an old habit and it dies hard.

So I wonder if the numbness just comes down to not hitting my ticket sale goal. And that I’ve trained myself to be disappointed. To let the numbers and promotional time I spent carry greater value than it should.

I took times to look out at the audience. The room wasn’t packed, but it was full. They laughed at my banter, they sang along during my silly ukulele song.

They were silent.

Okay, as I wrote that last sentence, I realized what the biggest feeling I am feeling is… grateful. It’s not numbness. When I am truly and singularly grateful, I am present, I am at peace, I am content and wordless. As much as I would like to say I am grateful all the time around my career, I am not. I am always looking at what’s next. What could be better. I’m worrying. I have many words. I am not at peace or present.

From a farBeing grateful with a musical experience is new for me. And I’m going to let myself sit in this moment for a few quiet, uncomplicated and strategy-free days.

Update: I’m now in the process of mixing the live show audio and putting it to video, so check back here for the link. Also, check out a very well-written and detailed (And positive!) review of the live show on Punchland!