Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Recently I came across a story about Kevin Michael Connolly. His book Double Take: A Memoir has recently been released in paperback. Kevin was born without legs and has managed to insert himself into an active (understatement) life with, shall we say, gusto. He has travelled the world, was a silver medalist at the 2006 Winter X-Games and rides around on stake and snow boards. With all that what impressed me most is how he turned the lens, so to speak, on everyone who stares at him as if He is the one who is the oddity while accomplishing more, much more, than most of us bi-peds. Here’s the thing, he knows people will gawk, stare, ask questions he’s heard thousands and thousands of times all the while, by his presence alone, saying hey my drive, my creative force, that which is me is not my limbs, or lack thereof. No, he says the spark within me is in my heart and mind and spirit and I’m expressing it, holding up a mirror to the people staring and making assumptions. You can hear his story here http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128107424
I doubt he has a hero complex. Heroes, I think, are people who do something unremarkable every day and never ask for credit or recognition. The moms who raise kids with little sleep, the addict battling every minute with relapse, the immigrant who rides the bus, works every day 14 hours, goes home and teaches themselves to read and does it all over again next day.
As a professional musician that feeling of being on display like Connolly, is something I and other artists experience every day too. With my new album, “Pura Vida – This is Pure Life” about to be released I share some of the same feelings of vulnerability mixed with defiance and then disregard for what others think like Connolly. It isn’t a “Punk” like attitude or an “I don’t give a hell,” instead it’s caring about my music deeply, documenting it (in an album) as best I can then detaching from the response. Thick skin is what people used to call it probably. I don’t know what in the human experience makes others want to criticize, make fun, belittle or dehumanize others—and honestly I don’t spend time thinking about it. You can’t, and be sensitive and honest about what you do. If you spend your time wondering what your virtual and non-virtual friends think about every song, every video or comment you post--you are a slave. I don’t think of myself that way. You have to let it go in every sense of the word. One of the reasons I ignore MySpace is because of the constant emails I’d get saying, “Hey come and check out the music on my profile and tell me what you think.” Ugh.
This weekend I was Busking at our local Grower’s Market for a few hours then played a festival in El Paso Saturday and Sunday at Ysleta Mission Cultural Arts Market. As I took the stage realizing only a handful of people had ever heard me play. I dug in my heals, took a breath and reached deep into everything I am and played that flute like it was my last time to play ever. The sounds of the lower valley Barrio were all around booming from cars and Harleys. I knew I was creating an envelope of sound and peace that would envelope everyone listening. This belief in my music has sustained me financially and my spirit as it has so many other artists from ancient to modern times. Success is self-measured and forward motion is motion. Don’t wait for that perfect flute, microphone, gig or someone to tell you something nice about your playing or CD. Do something towards your dream everyday regardless and try not to spend too much money doing it is the best advice I feel I give to the myriad musicians who email or approach me after shows. Kevin Connolly didn’t wait around for artificial legs, the perfect technology or for people to quit staring. He took the tools he had and dug deep. All you can ask yourself is to do that too—make what you already have your tools and do the best you can now. Life, like success, is incremental and roads are made a brick at a time. Okay, enough of those metaphors before I choke myself on them…haha
The official release date for "Pura Vida - This is Pure Life" is July 15 on Amazon, CDBaby.com, and iTunes a fews weeks following. I will be on the road when it comes out and will have some CD’s shipped to me as I head to INAFA and gigs up north in Wisconsin and Illinois. The best relationships are dances, the ones you ease into. I’m hoping this release will be like that for listeners. I’ve included an mp3 clip from the song “I Am the Mountain Within.” The lyrics pretty much tie in with my own belief that the person is more than the appearance and that heroic acts happen every time you move outside of your comfort zone.