Here I sit, in a McDonald’s in Florence, KY, enjoying an iced coffee with hazelnut and anticipating my drive to Nashville tomorrow morning. It promises to be an adventure, one that began last Thursday when I finished clearing out the last of my belongings from my Louisville studio apartment I had occupied since last May. Throwing them into my newly acquired 1996 GMC van (yes, it is white, and yes, it is scary), along with everything else I own in the world, I slammed the side door noisily and hoisted myself behind the wheel, veering onto the ol’ I-71 North interstate, praying that the old powerhouse would bear me up to Cincinnati and then down to Nashville safely.
Well, it got me up to Cincinnati, so I am that much more at ease. At the Penguin Piano Bar, I’ve been working this weekend with CD Thomas, an entertainer with his own distinct piano style and a ruthless taste for jagermeister, and Jay Jones, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer from Indianapolis. One more night, and then off to my new home.
The Nashville place is promising. Located just around the corner from Five Points, it sits in a safe neighborhood with off-road parking and a garage. The landlord, a musician himself, there is a practice space in the basement room, as well as a large amount of vintage ’80s recording equipment that he no longer uses. The other roommates are a traveling musician, like myself, a student at Vanderbilt, and a friendly photographer by the name of Iver Karabatkovic (he’s from Ohio). Also really looking forward to playing a lot with two friends, Cameron Monzon and Warren Lively, a drummer and a bassist who also recently moved from Louisville to Nashville in pursuit of their dreams.
I wanted to write a few words about the idea of Focus… I think that Focus is primarily one of the most important assets a musician can have in his or her career. Or any artist, for that matter. The idea of Focus can also be described as “loving the process,” and for anyone who practices meditation, Focus is a natural biproduct of any dedicated, consistent action. I see it as reducing everything in my life down to a single moment, the Now. To be completely engrossed in whatever is directly in front of me. A simple “fuck everything in the world except this One Thing” mentality. Except it’s not simple. It’s actually quite difficult, for me. Although, I seem to be understanding it better, simply by getting kicked in the past by letting myself be distracted by other thoughts, tasks, or anything, really. In fact, looking back, I can see that virtually every major blunder I’ve made in my life has been the result of not being completely in the moment, being distracted, thinking too much about everything other than what I was faced with in the moment. Conversely, every victory has been the consequence of being completely absorbed in the task at hand, conquering it fully before moving onto the next one.
Two days later… I had to go to work and so the following part is about to be written from a coffee shop in East Nashville…
Come to think of it, Focus is really a biproduct of something even deeper, and that is Presence. When we’re Present, we really can’t help but focus on what is directly in front of us, and then life begins to show us what we need to do, and Clarity happens. Because when we’re focusing on something, all other options fade into background noise, leaving a clear path in front of us. It’s not like I’m an expert on this, but I know from minimal experience that this is what happens. And then once we have the clear path, we have no choice but to walk it.
Right now as I write this, there is a Very Annoying Man next to me speaking loudly and distractedly ordering ice cream. He is clearly annoying the girl at the counter and does not seem to have the slightest concern for his obtrusive behavior. He shifts undecidedly from one flavor of ice cream to the next, while announcing that he will be spending all of his money here. Of course, he is a poster child of someone who is avoiding the present moment at all costs… and I, naturally, continue to write my blog entry and exercise Focus to the best of my ability in the midst of his distracting slurred speech.
And this is all we can do. Carry on, in the midst of distraction, in a world dominated by television, advertisements, and social media. More specifically, in the case of musicians: music demands such an extreme focus that we have no choice but to address this idea of Presence, because that’s where the best music is made. And at this point I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir.
I thought I would have quite a bit more to write on this topic, and I’m sure I will, but for now I have a van half full of personal belongings and a sunny East Nashville day to enjoy… until next time!