My friend David Wilcox came to town. David is a singer/songwriter extraordinaire. He is a master at his craft. David’s combination of language, melody, and meaning put him in the thin air of creativity.
When he comes to Austin and when our mutually bizarre schedules mesh, he stays with Laura and I. This time of shared space is precious to me. It’s like stumbling on a diamond mine. The conversations are as unique and beautiful as a snowflake. David is as deep as the sea and I’m a shallow pond in our exchanges. I’m not the best at bare your soul conversations and I don’t think David’s spirit has ever been shielded, it’s fearlessly unfurled.
David and I have known each other for the better part of two decades. His music is some of the most impactful I have ever heard and his ability to continue to produce new pieces of insight and emotional significance stop me dead in my creative tracks.
David is intense, a focused listener and weights his words like they were gold bullion. We talk about meaning, yeah, MEANING. We visit around the value of the creative spirit. I am challenged in how I see things. I discover little treasures around the corners of our conversations.
David loves his craft. It’s precious and needs constant tending. Ideas become lyrics. Hummed melodies become open-tuned guitar journeys worthy of your time, even absent of lyrics.
During his visit, he broke out his guitar and asked he could play some new songs. Songs that had just germinated. Songs that had not yet worked their way into the familiarity of memory. He had to look at his phone just to get through them.
Now, some people might ask you what you think just to create polite conversation. Not David. He sincerely and genuinely wants to know what you think. The intensity with which he listens is so rare that I am pushed back into an unfamiliar place – How in the hell am I worthy of commenting on a song that made tears run down my face. Though I have a firm understanding of music and have actually played the guitar since high school (after listening to David, saying I can play the guitar is like saying I could hit a 100 MPH fastball ) I’m at a loss to describe the songs. I stumble through phrases like:
- That was f*&%ing amazing.
- That’s one of your best ever.
- Holy s*%t that was fantastic.
I’m a hyperbole machine gun. I’m so deep.
That, of course, isn’t necessarily what David was looking for. He wanted to know if the song arrived at its emotional goal. Should I change the perspective from his to hers? Is it OK to use the word “stardust”? Should I pause more at the chorus? Can I sing it again with a different emotional hook? It was a very private, personal experience. His topics reside close to the heart. They engage in a purposeful experience. Not a single word is randomly chosen. It makes me feel like my writing skills are infantile.
I am both exhausted and elated by this time.
Then it’s off to another sold-out show. We’ve invited friends unfamiliar with David’s music.
He comes out with such energy and takes the risk of playing three of his most popular songs as the opening foray into the night’s concert. One of these is usually the encore. He puts himself in show time jeopardy. No Rusty Old American Dream or Eye Of The Hurricane for a final rousing close. The place explodes into applause and David rides the energy to give him the courage to play many of the brand new songs, songs hardly anyone has heard. It is a show time risk. Everyone wants “The Hotel California” songs they love, but the new songs take hold. They elevate the listeners. Both of our friends have tear-filled eyes (me too). Everything was working and as a seasoned troubadour, David recognizes it. Putting something new into the universe is every creative’s greatest risk. It often pays off and did so tonight.
Laura and I waited up until he returned from the show. He walked in, looked at us and said; “What did you think?” Are you kidding me?! No, he wasn’t, he genuinely wanted to know. Reaching into my now nearly empty quiver of superlatives, I said simply said; THANKS.
Like all road warrior performers, he was up early the next day, had his morning smoothie and was off to Houston, Dallas and Tulsa for his next shows.
It’s not an easy life. The music business has changed into something that early performers cannot even recognize. It takes gig after gig to monetize his art. I can relate to the road life.
Yeah, this is a fan letter and that’s a good thing because I am a David Wilcox fan!
At the edge of where it’s turning
Going faster as it spins
There’s a view into the darkness
Where emptiness begins
A tiny little planetDavid Wilcox
A backyard with a hedge
We were safe there in the middle
But the view is from the edge