Hi - I have a record coming out TOMORROW called CICADA WAVES.
Until then I’m using this space to share the video for each song and different written takes on aspects of the album ~ hope you enjoy.
This video is a compilation of Georgia flora shot by the documentarian Hal Jacobs and cut on the piano chords by me. We met in Rabun Gap and he very kindly invited me to his family’s barbecue, then he very kindly gave me this footage:
When I spent a few months going to anonymous support group meetings in the less-often-utilized spaces of churches across New York City one phrase I would often hear is "I am doing the work." When we would go around the circle and introduce ourselves - first names only - this was often something people would say. Hi, I'm me, today was tough but I am doing the work. It was an absolving fact, an absolution - no matter how fucked up the circumstances had gotten for us or how deep we were in whatever we were working through or how far off the twelve steps we had wandered that week we could assert our worthiness to the other recovering codependents. The work made us okay, acceptable, and speaking the work aloud allowed us to be embraced by strangers and invited out for coffee. It let us be seen and heard when we were otherwise a ghost.
Starting from when I was 14 or so until July of last year I have held with very few interruptions some form of a job. My first was doing data entry and online research for a company that made ivy league college branded athletic wear - a weird thing to be doing with my free time on the family computer at that tender age but a high school adviser of mine set me up with the job when he figured out that maybe we could use some extra cash when my family was in a prolonged transitional moment.
I worked a brief stint at the supersized Target down the street from my Mom's condo when we finally got our own place - I quit when I realized that the dyed-blonde menacing night manager set the break room clock fast to dissuade you from taking your 15 minutes.
That summer I worked as telemarketer at my friend's grandma's slightly-less-than-legal direct marketing operation in a business park in Costa Mesa - we didn't give away the cruises directly, but we patched the suckers on through to the timeshare company that maybe eventually gave them a three day pass if they attended a PowerPoint.
Then I got a job a couple nights a week at the hardware store local to my high school. That was a great job - I'd pipe A Tribe Called Quest or the Clash into my required earpiece and sort nuts and bolts for five hours or mix paint. I smelled like house key shavings at the end of my shifts and I'd steal the night manager's cigarettes, unsure of how to smoke them on the hood of my busted Saturn.
In college I worked at the campus grocery store (a great way to meet people), then I started doing tours for the admissions office, which in hindsight is cool of them because I had a pink mohawk and nose ring at the time. I enjoyed dissuading people from applying. That was my gig for a long time.
After college I had two internships in NYC - the first was for a flute and electronics duo who paid me in subway fare and leftovers, the other was for a rapper who owned a painting dog (I won't elaborate here). I briefly worked as a telemarketer for the Metropolitan Opera - awful job, maybe the worst - then I got a gig working at a fancy movie theater, which I loved for about five years and hated for about three years after that. Somewhere in there I worked for a famous composer and her famous turtle. I also was briefly a life drawing model for an artist with a warehouse in a part of Queens I've never been back to.
Then in 2017 at age 29 I got my first ever full-time job which, at the time, was a welcome change - a little stability, a little money, a predictable schedule. It was exciting for maybe 3 months and then bearable and occasionally rewarding for a long time after. But then it went remote all of a sudden and an acceptably bad job became worse and worse. There were terrible vibes online and I had to move out of Brooklyn and then all of a sudden the gig was gone and I was dayjobless in Illium, squinting at the river in my new, weird town.
It wasn't necessarily a good feeling. In fact I felt scared, not unlike a bird whose cage door swings open. Not knowing what's outside the cage it continues to perch and sing, safe.
This music is the first thing I put my name to after I cut myself loose. I was unyoked and financeless sitting at the piano, more often than not merely breathing. And, quite unlike some other music I've made, it is completely unbelabored. There is ease, acceptance, no editing or automation whatsoever. Other cliched words like peaceful, serene, unhurried, tranquil - things I hardly ever felt but especially not at or having a day job. And this music is valuable precisely because of its lack of sweat, its windows-open effortlessness.
And since I came out of those riotous woods I have often felt worthless and unworthy, unskilled, freeloaderish. I feel a deep, syrupy guilt when I am lazy and a high-pitched shame when I demand too much attention. I feel unproductive in spite of the objective and observable list of things I do each week (like this newsletter, or the enormous effort of making videos for each and every track on this record). And that is because deep in my al-anon attending, formerly god-forgiveness-asking psyche there is the baked-in belief that I simply must be doing the work. The work must be done and if it is not I am simply a Bad Person, or more precisely I *am* a Bad Person and if I do not do the work people will know that I am Bad. Part of me really believes this.
I love the phrase "doing the work." I find it coming out of me often - so encouraging, an acknowledgment that one's interior metropolis is never free from scaffolding. Maybe a better and more generous-to-ourselves phrase, though, is the one from my beloved high school english teacher's lapel pin: "I am doing my stuff." Hello church basement circle, I'm me, and I am doing my stuff. And while I will never dissuade somebody from working their program or hustling their little buns off, there is a grand profundity both for me in this moment and for when I was playing this beautiful, creaking piano: the real work is fucking chilling.
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good morning ~
I hope you allow yourself some intrinsic self-worth today.
This piano and insect record comes out TOMORROW (Friday, the 30th).
I’ll send another email reminder about it but thank you for being here for it - thanks for listening, watching, reading, buying a copy, sharing it, sending me videos of you rollerblading to it, all of it wonderful.
Also: there are still a few spaces open for the secret release show I’m doing in Western Mass on Saturday. Message me if you’re interested in attending.
More to come including another video, another essay about the record, and an insanely hot merch drop next week, haha.
But what about you? What work are you doing? Or is the work doing you? Are you fucking chilling?