Do you ever imagine that if you just learned to play a certain instrument, you’d meet all your favorite musicians and become friends with them and get invited on tour with them and be permanently added to their band?
(I know. Doesn’t everyone?)
In my daydream, by the magic that is all musicians somehow knowing each other, the Avett Brothers make me an Avett Sister. Mumford and Sons change their name to Mumford and Sons and Daughter. Trampled by Turtles becomes Trampled by Turtles & Stepped On by This Girl Over Here. And so on. You get the idea.
Obviously, this dream has some logistical flaws. I can’t join every band I like and go on tour with all of them, because what happens when two or more are touring at one time? Then I’d have to leave someone high and dry, and I’d get a reputation as unreliable. What about when two of them play the SAME show, like a music festival? God, the pressure. Marcus Mumford would say, “Get up here and rock that axe, you American songstress, you,” but then Scott Avett would call out from the other stage, “No, we need you over here. We CANNOT do this without you. Think of the fans. THE FANS.” Seth would nod grimly. Dammit, he’s right. The fans. So I would get ulcers on my tongue from the stress of not pleasing everyone. But that’s why you can’t analyze a daydream too hard. Just go with the spirit of it.
Anyway, I had this daydream long enough that I finally did something about it and acquired a guitar. When I was ready to do more than just imagine myself playing it, I walked into the guitar store, set my case on the floor and pointed to it, and said, “I need a teacher, and I don’t even know how to hold this thing.” That’s how I found Eddie.
Eddie works in the guitar store, drives a motorcycle, and is… well, I really have no idea how old he is. He could be anywhere between 40 and 60, depending on how much is age and how much is just hard livin’. The first piece of a song he taught me to play was Rock You Like a Hurricane.
(Note: Readers, I know many of you have never seen me before, but trust me on this: I don’t rock anything like a hurricane. I can’t wrangle a supersized roll of paper towels without hurting myself. You know why I picked guitar? Because I really, really wanted to learn the cello, but I was afraid if the cello fell over, it would crush me and I’d die. So, high school English students, this is an example of irony: little scrappy me, a mild tropical depression at most, playing Rock You Like a Hurricane.)
There was so much I wanted to know right off the bat, such as: How long until I’m able to play the guitar while also playing a harmonica that I’m wearing on my face with that headgear thing? Eddie said it just depended on how much I practiced.
So I practice.
When I practice, I imagine that in my musical circle of friends, I would probably meet Brandi Carlile, and as you would expect, we’d hit it off immediately, such that she’d decide we should be a traveling folk-rocker-chick duo and I’d start wearing a red bandana around my bicep just like she does, and we’d be gritty yet angelic and everyone would love us and wonder why we didn’t pair up sooner. And we’d be like, “Hey, it’s like we were climbing two sides of the same mountain and we just met at the top,” and everyone would think that explanation was so deep, just like the lyrics we co-write, and Brandi would tell audiences how, while my guitar skills are indeed excellent, what really makes this whole thing click is how I’ve helped her grow as a storyteller. And I’d be like, “Oh, please. It’s nothing.” Everyone would chuckle and be enthralled. Rock on.
(Again, if you look too closely, the whole thing is fraught with obstacles – not the least of which is that I don’t have biceps, and the bandana would surely just slide right off. But when you’re suspending disbelief, it’s best to just go all out.)
At my third lesson, this conversation happened:
Eddie: Sit up straight, and look UP. You gotta learn to play without looking down at your left hand all the time.
Eddie: Well, for one thing, it won’t look good in photos of you onstage.
Me: [giggling fit… and snort]
I’m really loving how bought into my delusion he is. That right there – somebody who tells you to get it together so you can look good onstage – is somebody who believes in your daydream. Surround yourself with believers.
Unfortunately, I laughed so hard I damn near dropped my guitar, and that pretty much derailed the lesson for that day.
But I keep going back, and I am trying to behave. When Eddie corrects my posture, I listen. I try not to laugh at the fact that someone has the lunacy to take my daydream seriously. And I’m working on improving my stage presence. So one day, Brandi and I can jam the shazam out of Rock You Like a Hurricane. *
(* Or I can just sit on my front steps and have a beer and make up songs about the neighbors as they walk past.)