It’s not about you

I was at Jake’s in Northampton this morning having a quiet breakfast alone before work, and a young local musician (who doesn’t know me) was sitting there, eating, reading, and drinking a hard cider. A woman he knew at the end of the counter was leaving and they got to talking. He’s opening for someone this weekend, and when his friend asked about the other artist, he said, “But I’m making this about ME — MY debut.”

This is not how to be a good opening act. It’s not about you. Sure, you may have some family, friends, even fans come see you open for someone. But your job is to warm up the room for the other person. Be respectful, play your role. Trust me: when I somehow opened two shows for Frank Black of the Pixies, I was under no illusion that people were even going to pay attention. My job was to start their ears hearing music, and get them ready to listen to one of the greats. It’s not about you, kid. Play your heart out, yes. But know the audience’s hearts are really with the main artist.

Epilogue: The kid also said to his friend, who mentioned feeling stressed, “You know how to not be stressed? Don’t work.” Entitlement isn’t a good look, kid. I have a feeling you’ll see that on Saturday night.

Some *What?*

My favorite song might be “The Obvious Child,” from Paul Simon’s album The Rhythm of the Saints. Especially this part:

Sonny sits by his window and thinks to himself
How it’s strange that some rooms are like cages

Sonny’s yearbook from high school
Is down on the shelf
And he idly thumbs through the pages
Some have died
Some have fled from themselves
Or struggled from here to get there

Sonny wanders beyond his interior walls
Runs his hands through his thinning brown hair

I just looked up the lyrics for the first time, and am surprised: I’ve always thought it was “some wounds are like cages.” And honestly, I like what I hear more. What’s more, apparently Simon’s own website lists it as “roots are like cages.”

So what’s correct? I say it’s whatever we hear. Whatever we take from the song, however it hits us and speaks to us, is correct. Driving north to Vermont a few years ago, single and needing the beautiful isolation of good mountain, I had a wound that felt like a cage, and I was going to break out.

I’ve written plenty of songs with abstract lyrics, and I can only hope you’ll make them your own. Rooms, roots, or wounds: have at it.