In every workshop I’ve participated in there was a rule we had I hated to no end: “no disclaimers.” Oftentimes I’d be in a class with literary giants and to force them to read my “art” felt like a violation on their constitutional rights. But I understood why we had it. Disclaimers have a way of tainting our view and, therefore, disabling us to judge the piece for what it is.
While it’s true great art should speak for itself, every once in a while it’s the story behind the art that adds to its greatness. Take Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreak.
After reaching a new level of success with Graduation, West loses his mother and calls it off with his long-time fiancée without taking a second away from the limelight to process. The result was his most vulnerable release to date. It was the moment Kanye saw things clearly – maybe for the first time ever. 808s is an existential record that points to the reality that sometimes what makes certain albums meaningful, whether we love them or hate them, is the hell they went through just to exist.
I’m reminded of The Glass Passenger from Jack’s Mannequin. At the ripe age of twenty-two Andrew McMahon wrote his magnum opus, Everything in Transit, and was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia shortly after. The Glass Passenger tells the story of staring death in the face (both musical and actual) and coming out on top – albeit a bit scathed.
Back in 2008 I graduated high school ready to conquer the scene with my band. I put my solo project on hold and started dreaming of our future only for us to break up in the fall. I spent the year doing some serious self-discovery. The result was the best music I’d ever written. I called it Of Triumph & Glory.
Unfortunately, no one heard it.
I moved to Tampa, found Jesus, and my life completely changed. One of the first things I let go of was my hope of being a world-traveling musician. I stepped away from music, the one thing I loved since childhood, to focus on Him; and on the rare occasion I caught inspiration, I couldn’t silence the voices in my head long enough to make something of it. Two years went by without me writing a complete song. I thought I was done for.
I’ve written eleven songs, five of them belong to a new EP.
It’s not perfect, nor is it my best material (I know: No Disclaimers), but for what it is, I’m proud.
In an interview at the Oxford Union, John Mayer said he released Paradise Valley to stay current with himself. When Born & Raised came out he lost his voice and couldn’t tour in support of the album. By the time he got well again he wasn’t the same person. Paradise Valley was a bonus record fans weren’t allowed to hate because it wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s this EP.
This is my People & Things. This is my Paradise Valley. It’s titled Wounds & Scars and I hope to share it with you one day.