Lip service

For too long there has been a part of me that has been more concerned about being perceived as something rather than actually being that thing. I don’t want to be too hard on myself, nor do I want this to turn into some sort of confession, but I think it’s true. In the past I’ve wanted to play every instrument and be involved in every aspect of the creative process. But while I was busy trying to do everything, I didn’t grasp the idea that to do but one of these could be a life’s work in it’s own right. In so many areas, I was happy to be seen to be capable of doing many things rather than being excellent at a couple of things.

There was a time not so long ago where I thought just being a guitarist was primitive, not enough. I hate to write these words, but I might have felt it was beneath me as an artist. I wanted to ‘move up the stack’, you see, and that meant producing, mixing, more instruments, more genres, anything I could get my hands on. I became OK at some of those things, and I’m probably better and broader for those experiences, but it seems like arrogance now. Talking to other people about production or playing drums sounded impressive at the time, but it was dishonest. They were things I could do but they were not what I was.

In preparation for recording guitar parts for a new project I’m working on, I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I recorded myself playing through a guitar amp, you know, with a actual microphone. I’ve been playing since I was maybe eleven years old and I’ve only ever really used modeling pedals and software. Sad. Throwing down some parts as a sound test, I went to do some double tracks and found myself struggling to get it to sound as tight as I wanted. My playing wasn’t accurate enough! I needed to be more disciplined, to put in the effort and time to get it sounding better. It was humbling. I made significant improvements in the half an hour I was mucking around, but the whole thing has been rattling around in my head for a couple of days now.

It seems strange to talk this way about something inanimate like an instrument, but the guitar owes me nothing. To it, I am utterly insignificant; it is me who is indebted to it. It has been a platform for my creativity and an emotional outlet for the majority of my life. If I was never to touch a guitar again, I would be less than I am today.

I still have a lot to learn. There are many ways I can improve. In the process of doing this recording, I will learn a lot about where I’m really at. One thing I know: I’m not going to take any of this for granted any more.