Good morning ~
Somehow back in my old habit of writing this at the absolute last minute. But how are you?
I just added a bunch of merch table email signups from tour with Sinai Vessel and shows at my house - hello to you all, welcome, I send a track like the one up above and a bunch of writing every Thursday, hope you enjoy.
The music this week is a big stack of acoustic guitars recorded during some freezing rain. In fact it’s all various acoustic guitars, even the high pitched swirls that fade in at the beginning and end are processed, flipped, reversed guitar takes. I took the name from something else I wrote this week - a long, nerdy explanation of how I found out that my high school band, Uncle Tupelo, and Johnny Cash have all played the same stage in Santa Ana, CA - and the photo up in the soundcloud embed was taken from the side of the road on the way to a gig in New Jersey, I think.
Got a big 10 days or so coming up - - my friends and collaborators who run Ruination Record Company have put together a second volume of their large and lovely charity compilation called So Many Singing that benefits immigrants, their rights, and those advocating for those rights. 50 tracks by 50 artists! Out on a triple cassette! It’s a big, great thing, and I’m really pleased to have contributed a track (one from this newsletter, actually). They’ve put together a few shows to celebrate the release, and I’m playing and/or hosting each one, including the gig in Chicago. So pre-order the compilation here and peep the various giggles:
Sunday, December 8th - NYC - Baby’s All Right - full band set, also backing up our friend V.V. Lightbody for a tune or two, !!afternoon show!! Info / donation based tickets here.
Friday, December 13th - Chicago - the Hideout - playing a special duo set with Adeline Hotel, probably bringing the harmonium on a plane again. Info & tickets here.
Saturday, December 14th - Tortoise Town / my house - technically a secret show at this point but it’s going to be a very nice hang in my living room, more info on that soon!
Yesterday against my better judgment I posted a photo to Instagram. In the photo I am shirtless, shot from the shoulders up, with one hand crossed against my chest and grabbing the opposite shoulder. I have a large wad of toilet paper stuffed up one of my nostrils that blooms bright white out of my nose. The photo is a selfie, and the in background you can see the weird texture tile of my bathroom as well as the shower door and a towel. I am not smiling in the photo, I am making what I would describe (if I’m being real) as a kind of sexy face. I would describe the photo as kind of sexy, exactly the type of thing I would send my girlfriend in the morning, with something like “woke up with a nose bleed but I kind of think I’m making it work?”
This is not a staged photo. Well, it’s not exactly not a candid photo. I did in fact have a nose bleed yesterday morning - a bad one, I ended up laying on the floor for a while - and I did as an ameliorative measure shove a big wad of toilet paper up my nose. I had no intention of taking a photo, but when I caught a look at myself in the mirror I realized that a photo with my bloody nose might very well fulfill the requirements of an Instagram post.
I say requirements because I felt a pressing need - yes, a need - to make a post outlining the details of a rad series of shows happening in the next couple of weeks. I want people to come to these shows, not only to satisfy my own vanity but because I also feel proud of my work and the work I do with the musicians I play with. What’s more, the shows are part of a large charity effort organized by my friends. I want to raise money an awareness around that cause, I want to feel like we have successfully activated a group of people, I want to feel less helpless politically, I want to honor the work of my friends (who have done so much), I want to help in general. And it feels good when people come to shows. When people come to hear me play it satisfies - at least for a time - the awful gnaw of self-doubt that’s always sort of chomping on my heart.
That gnaw of self-doubt has been particularly strong lately. I have been much, much less interested in running and exercising since the summer and generally in need of comfort. I find comfort in food and take great pleasure in eating all types of things, plus I was recently on tour and naturally I ate decadently over the thanksgiving holiday (a lot of very delicious and very salty, cured country ham, in particular). I have gained back a not-insignificant amount of weight in the last few months. Noticeable to me, probably no one else, but something that’s on my mind, nevertheless. Fluctuations in weight, of course, happen to everyone, particularly in winter. Loved ones I have talked about this with give me a pass, they’re warm and understanding - it’s not a big deal, you’ve been doing so much, of course your heart is still a little broken. And they’re right. I hear their feedback and agree with everything they’re saying. And yet. I am convinced that this my punishment. Because I am bad, because I have slacked off, because I have been indulgent and lazy with my time and uncareful in my consumption. I fail to see how, even now, I’ve still lost a significant amount of weight. I fail to give myself the benefit of the doubt that maybe the weight lifting I’ve been focusing on is bulking me up - they say muscle weighs more than fat. That’s the kind of kindness you can give yourself sometimes, but I fail to fully divorce myself from the thought that how dedicated I am to running six days a week and shedding pounds is a reflection of my worth as a human.
I briefly considered posting the digital flyer for the show or a picture of some donkeys I saw in North Carolina instead of a picture of me. I feel unease about my appearance, about how my clothes once again fit differently than they did last month. I didn’t necessarily want to receive algorithmic, numerical feedback on a representation of my appearance yesterday. But there is a vast difference in traction - it is much more effective in general to share a picture of at least a human face - so I swallowed my doubts, turned them inside out, found nothing but faith in nothing, etc.
It took me a moment to find a suitable angle from which to take the picture of myself with the bloody nose. But there was a need to post, to honor my work and the work of my friends, to raise some awareness of a good cause. So I found an acceptable framing, snapped a few shots, and continued getting ready. It’s not wise to post too early or too late to social media accounts - the west coast isn’t awake at 7:45am when I took the photo, for one thing - so I waited until I had a free moment at my office. But it was a busy morning, so I didn’t get a chance to post until 11am, already a bit late, 10:30am is more ideal. I find that people are already in a bitter and burnt out mood by the time 11am rolls around. But I had to post, so I wrote what I hoped was an informative and sincere caption for the photo - one that conveyed both the necessary details of the shows and gave the reader a sense that I earnestly wanted them to come (which is true, but must be conveyed). I included a note at the end that I was “looking forward to these shows and to more making more posts” or something like that because the entire thing felt somewhat frivolous to me and I felt a need to distance myself with a bit of ironic posturing. This lets the savvy reader know that I’m in on the joke, that I recognize how silly it is to take a semi sexy pic of yourself with a bloody nose first thing in the morning. A bit of ironic posturing is something like an insurance policy - it winks to those it needs to wink to while still exploiting the algorithmic benefits of sharing a semi sexy pic.
Almost immediately I felt terrible regret and considered deleting the photo. But I had tagged a number of people in the caption - including two big venues - so I thought better of blowing up their various phones and then ghosting the post. It didn’t immediately take off as I had hoped. In an ironically-postured-but-similarly-true kind of move (I really do look forward to more posts, even if that’s the joke), I asked my very active group thread chat to please comment on the picture of me. I read somewhere once that it’s crucial for engagement that you get and reply to comments within the first 30 minutes of posting, and though I don’t necessarily think that’s gospel I find myself worrying about it every single time I make a post. Two of my three friends in the group chat immediately obliged, they themselves using a somewhat ironic posturing in the content of their comments. I responded immediately in a way that seemed natural and in on the joke.
What followed for the next 12 hours or so is a confusing but familiar state of mind. I spent a good amount of my workday and my work out afterwards wondering “how my post is doing.” I feel a need to “check in” on the post, to make sure it’s “doing okay.” I use quotes because this is the best way I can describe this feeling, which is really more of a compulsion. Looking at the tally doesn’t change anything, so really it would be much more efficient to just take note later on and respond to comments as they come in. But it’s not a logical thing, naturally. I find myself picking up the phone and counting the number of likes in a non-thinking, non-considered, unlanguaged way. I say things to myself like, “well, if it gets 50 likes that’s acceptable.” I say things like, “the group of people liking this are very high quality.” I worried - earnestly and truly, however preposterous the anxieties - that if the post wasn’t good enough, if the photo didn’t garner enough engagement, that I would endanger the entire operation. That my friends’ charity comp would flop, I would have to play a gig to an empty room, that I would be effectively banned from playing music for people, and, ultimately, that people looking at the photo would see through the facade. This is my greatest anxiety, the one that lays beneath all the others. That the viewers of the semi sexy photo will see me as I often see myself - bad and deserving of punishment, fat and getting fatter again, desperate and barely clinging on to a small clifftop footing. I’m unsure if being seen and dismissed is preferable to being ignored and invisible, but I’m scared of either outcome. And I’m also fully aware that what I’m searching for - deep and open love from an aggregate and unkind online - is not available to me, or anyone else. I struggle to offer a deep and open love to myself. And yet. I need to post.
In an effort to undercut or at least understand why I felt so crazy yesterday I began feverishly writing all of this down while on a crowded L train. The following morning I emailed these thoughts to hundreds of people, probably against my better judgment, but I also think it was a helpful exercise.
As of this writing, the photo has 78 likes (for reference, I believe my most liked photo of all time got 250). There were 7 comments, but 2 of those were accidental duplicates by my friend Rose and 2 of those were begged for semi-ironically in my active group chat. One person appears to have shared the post via message, what could they have been saying? No one has saved the post to their favorites.
Bit longer than usual today - - thanks for making it to the bottom. I hate to ask for more, but please listen to the audio up top if you haven’t already, THANKS.
What about you? What magical-thinking-inspired or posting-related thoughts are you experiencing on a regular basis? Is there something that you do unacknowledged each day that prevents your world from falling apart? Is reading this on your cell phone making you anxious, or is it helping? If it’s not helping, how can it?
See you in a week ~ b