In Another Life

2006 -- Photo by Ashley Shearer

2006 -- Photo by Ashley Shearer

In another life I wrote songs and performed them. It was kind of wonderful and scary and deeply frustrating at the same time (songwriting never came easily. Neither did performing -- I never could get over the nerves.) Even so, for many, many years, writing and performing was my dream. But by the time I hit 40 I realized that music apparently wasn't meant to be my primary mode of storytelling.  Since then I've mostly orphaned my musical endeavors and have moved on to what I love most -- the written word. I'm also still very interested in visual storytelling (photography), which I hope to do more of soon, since for the time being I'm not doing it for a living anymore. That definitely frees up some space on my creative hard drive.

But last night I realized that even though I'm not doing much music anymore, and even though I'm not pursuing it at all, I still like some of the stuff I've written over the years. I've never been a very good guitarist (I'm mostly self-taught) and have always been a little timid about playing in front of people because I know I'm kind of faking it. But I got to thinking: why do we only offer up the parts of ourselves that are polished? If I were to die tomorrow, would I want to leave these little tunes as evidence that I was here? Yes. They're a part of who I am, flaws and all. And so I decided to add a few songs to my website, if for no other reason than to give my eclectic body of work a place to call home.

I recorded these three songs in 2004 (there are others, but these three are probably my favorites.) My friend Steve hauled his recording equipment to a church and we recorded these raw demos live (just me with my guitar) over the course of a few of hours. The only exception was the background vocals, which were tracked that night and added later. Two of my three daughters sang on the recordings with me. Amy, then a college undergrad, drove from Austin to Huntsville and back -- in one night -- so she could lend me her angelic voice. And Anna, a sophomore in high school, graciously helped hammer out the harmonies and then added her velvet pipes. Even though they're pretty rudimentary, I'm grateful to have these-- especially since I no longer have callouses on my fingers and am way out of practice.

Maybe someday I'll play again. I hope to take guitar lessons again soon, just for my own enjoyment. But even though I'm not doing any songwriting or performing, the music lives on in my kids. Here's a video of the three of them singing a John Prine cover at my dad's memorial service at ACL Live, Moody Theater on April 17, 2015.  Thank God my cousin caught it on her iPhone.

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