Whit and I love playing music. And listening to it. And talking about it. And watching it. But mostly playing it.
There’s always more to a song or to a band or to an artist than the notes on the page. There are stories. There’s the image. And the mystique.
The other day we got to sit down with Gary Clarke Jr after he opened for Eric Clapton at Madison Square Garden. It was sort of a fluke that it happened, in so far as any of the myriad of incredible things that happen when you’re with Joe Blake are flukes. I was surprised at how down to earth he was. Not sure why; I guess because when I listen to him play he’s so freaking talented, and he has an image like a young Jimi, and he’s red hot… How could he a regular guy in any manner or way. But in important, human ways he was and is. I appreciated that.
This got me to thinking about image. Rock and roll bands and artists have certain reputations and expectations. In the marketing world they call these personas. Think about Jim Morrison. Or Ozzy. Or Hendrix or Dylan. How about Keith Richards? Does any of it have to do with the music? Drugs. Girls. Alcohol. Wrecking hotel rooms. Nasty personalities. Superiority complexes. Tortured souls. Deep, artistic angst.
When they packaged up Kurt and Nirvana, did it change what we thought about the music? Did it change what he wrote or the way he played?
I tend to like the artists who seem to me to be more authentic. Like Neil Young. Or Chris Robinson. Phish. Grateful Dead. Early Zeppelin and Stones. I feel like they play (or played) because they love to make music. Entertaining was secondary. Is Clapton like that? I don’t know… could you play Layla that many times and still be true to yourself?
Then again, maybe that’s why I have a day job.
Our manager has asked us to take headshots today. We need an image. I get it: Nobody knows us and we want to play for people so we can share our enthusiasm and maybe makes their day a little better. Got to be done. Whit and I spend a lot of time on the road. Today, we’re meeting up in DC. We have a friend there who we hope (without reason) has a good eye for capturing our essence. His main credentials are free time and a camera. He’s also an accomplished lawyer; whether that helps or hurts remains t be seen.
I can guarantee, though, the headshot will be us and it will be real. It may not be our essence, or even the image we want to cultivate. It will be us, but it may not be our soul. We’ll call it “staged authenticity.”
Today I’m listening to three artists: Chopin, Taking Heads, and The Steve Miller Band.