In other news, the planet Earth successfully made it around the sun in yet another stunning revolution proving to even its harshest critics that life goes on...
A little over a year ago I set out to play one of the first stops on my first solo tour. It was at Play Faire Park, the oldest mini golf course in the state of Texas. Now in its 69th season, Play Faire stands as a peculiar safe haven for the weird in Abilene, Texas.
I remember having booked that gig with the help of Jon Howell, the proprietor of Record Guys. I reached out to him through Facebook, looking for any help I could get. He's continued to be a great help and a great friend to me in the community.
I was told the show was to last three hours at a time when I had about an hour and a half of material. I gladly accepted with a plan to play a few songs twice, hoping no one would notice.
The first set was comprised of songs from All The Ghosts Are Gone, my first full length record. It was, by far, the most rehearsed material at the time. Those songs, now five or six years old, seem as though they were written lifetimes ago.
My second set was filled with unpolished ideas. These songs represented a future I didn't realize I was currently manifesting. Their content, for whatever unconscious reasons, predated and accurately predicted a breakup that was just around the corner.
At the time of this set's conception, I was struggling slightly with inspiration. My life was filled with mundane problems and dull pain, occasionally accompanied by moderate happiness.
Faced with a dearth of drama, I began to manufacture problems. I conceived countless songs about hypothetical heartbreak. I forced these songs out of me. I imagined what people would want to hear, and I'd try to put myself through it.
While many of the ideas bore fruit, I cringe listening to a good amount of the voice memos from this time period. I can hear Lucy speak sometimes in the background. "Marcus, I have to go to bed now," or "Please stop screaming, I'm trying to read." Though, to be fair, there's evidence of her singing along on multiple occasions.
Sometimes I wonder if her hearing that material as it was being constructed had a not so subtle effect on what was to come. I know if I was the one dating a songwriter, I'd have listened to every word as if it was a sentencing of a future incarceration.
Briefly, I'd like to address what you might possibly be pondering. "Marcus, why must you continue blabbering on about her over a year after it ended?" Well, gee. Thanks for being insensitive. I'd hope you take solace in the fact that she doesn't read any of this or consume anything I make at this time due to whatever reasons, most likely prudence.
Regardless, I'm not the type to move on without getting something out of it. In this case, I think I was wise to let it sink in. Even if it cut too deep.
About a week after that show, when I was in a writing session in LA, a seemingly routine "love you" call turned into the culmination of a four year romantic relationship.
It was a blessing and a curse to be on the road at the time. The blessing came later.
How do you cope when you're all alone, crying your eyes dry through the deserts of Arizona, playing shows in open air malls for no one but a few caring souls that noticed?
Occasionally I'd stray from the subject, but for the most part I'd always written songs concerning love. Many asking for forgiveness and understanding while explaining why I had to move on. I'd yet to have been moved on from.
When I got home, and as the months passed, music poured out of me. So many spiteful songs, written with words I didn't know I could utter until I realized I couldn't keep them to myself. Finally, I was speaking my truth. I was sharing my experience. I was being honest.
This new material was different. There was life carved into each song. Real pain. Confusion, doubt, heartbreak, because I'd never lost something that I cared so much about. This new material became my third set.
Two weeks ago, when I returned to Play Faire Park, I had a different energy. This wasn't an emancipatory excursion, like my last visit. Playing shows out of Austin has become a more regular happening for me. I'll book a few shows here and there just to get out of town.
I started with the old set, All The Ghosts Are Gone. To be honest, I'd chosen this order to allow me to have my first cigarette of the day at the intermission, as those old tunes are more challenging to sing. They're filled with this youthful falsetto that I generally struggle to perform adequately at this point.
I trudged through those first eleven songs. Partially because they're the least rehearsed. Partially because I'm not the same person I was at the time of their conception.
By the end of it, I was left wondering what the hell I've been doing with my life. My performance was so mediocre and uninspired that as a casual listener I wouldn't have cared less. As a songwriter and performer I was concerned at how far off the mark I'd seemed to be.
I took a break and had that cigarette I'd scheduled. As someone who performs regularly I was familiar with this form of doubt and insecurity, so I did my best to move on and prepare for the next two hours.
One song into the rest of the night and I'd found my home again. My purpose was restored. The doubts were gone because I was singing words that I believe in. I kept playing and I kept going deeper. The performance came to me without thought, without improper struggle. Just the right type. The struggle that I'd spent the last year coping with. The struggle that's helped shape me into an infinitely more human human being.
As I finished my set, I spent the remainder of the evening talking to new supporters who'd shown up at the last minute because of a video taken of me during the night's performance that was posted to Facebook.
I was a budding songwriter and creative with nothing to talk about and nothing to really share until Lucy destroyed every piece of me that I thought was mine. For that, I'll never be able to express to her the gratitude she deserves. Thank God for her honesty in knowing what's best for her.
I'm not sure if you've ever had your heart broken into disrepair, but I'd highly recommend it.