I remember an inkling of a faint dream I had last night. One of my favorite moments from the live show of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis tour is during the performance of the song, “Thrift Shop,” where a huge mass of metallic golden confetti is blown into the air during a climatic part before the bridge. The magical part happens right after this, though: the golden confetti floats and lingers in the air for the next 2-3 songs like golden spinning fireflies. Glittering and strangely meditative. It is always a mystical period of time during the set. This memory is what I wake up to this morning, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Touring is such a dreamlike state we drift along in. I’ve been on the road for 34 days and played 19 shows for the US leg of the 2013 World Tour. I feel more at home on stage (with the relatively same set list, familiar faces, set changes, etc.), than I do out in the real world. The band has become my surrogate siblings, our production/management crew has become my surrogate parents, and the staging crew my extended family. We are now a full-fledged family, drifting along in this stream together.
After the Midwest dates, we travelled further east into Detroit, Chicago, Syracuse, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, Boston, NYC, Washington DC, and Raleigh. I’ve never driven straight through the continental United States before, and now I can cross that off my bucket-list.
About two weeks ago, we reached the east coast when we hit Boston, Massachusetts. Boston was one of the first moments I felt empowered as an individual artist again since the beginning of the tour. Unfortunately on such a large-scale tour as M&RL, you sometimes feel lost in the shuffle with all of the other moving parts. Cameras, security, interviews, record label execs, etc. etc. You are a part of the blessed machine. However, when I played the TD Garden in Boston with M&RL, I was blessed with knowing that my own group, the Passenger String Quartet, was also playing with the amazing songwriter David Bazan back in my hometown Seattle (sans me), but playing a collection of original pieces I wrote specifically for that performance. Just knowing that my own work – my own voice in music – was being played on the exact opposite coast, felt amazing. It was the first time in a while that I had something, which I could completely call my own.
Not to say that my work with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is unrewarding or not amazing – quite the exact opposite. However, ALL artists need those moments of individuality and significance. Art gives us a purpose, but it is also a storyline that we have to share for ourselves and with everyone else. Finding a voice is key to creative growth. Honestly, I feel like it has been a long trek for me to reach a moment of confidence where I can fully stand behind something of my own, and one which is genuinely my own.
Once the tour reached New York City, we had a week in the city, and my girlfriend Susy joined up with us. New York was a mixed blessing: it gave me time to regain some sort of stability with my girl there and being in a single place for more than 24 hours, but it also gave me time to overly dwell on my upcoming life as a musician in 2014. Also, my father was hospitalized for a period of time. There were a lot of reality checks to deal with in a short span of time. It was difficult, but a necessary break from the dreamlike state I had been in for the past couple of months. Because of all that, I got a chance to truly reflect on my life at this present moment.
One thing that I reflected on was that New York is an incredible place. There is such a level of excellence that the city has in so many different professions: music, theater, dance, business, law, etc. You cannot be lazy in NYC – you will be eaten alive and simply not survive long. As such, you are driven to innovate, work hard, and excel. Finding a voice is truly a journey, and always changing. I feel like NYC embodies this principle. You have to find your own voice or you simply will fade into obscurity in the thriving masses. It challenges you to be an even greater artist.
My dad once pointed out that both the words ‘voice’ and vocation’ are sourced from the Latin word, ‘vocare,’ which means “to call, or invoke”. I just find this relationship fascinating: that from within our work there is an intrinsic link to our passion and our inner being – that which we pull/invoke from within. I truly believe that aligning the two (passion and work) is incredibly important to creative power. It is what helps make anyone a greater, more self empowered, confident, artist. One that will thrive, and ultimately be happy with their art.
So now we are in Atlanta. I feel that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have both found their voices in this past year, after years of hard work and challenging themselves to excel. As Ben points out in his song, “10,000 Hours”:
“I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat him, celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I’m actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot”
Well I’ve definitely been working hard, and been putting in my time as a composer, arranger and violinist for years now. Now it’s time for me to fully realize my own voice. The passion and the work have been there for a long time.