Sideways in Reverse

An objective we strive for on this blog is honesty and transparency; to share how we walk through our lives, what feelings and thoughts accompany us along the way, and which approaches we choose to embrace. For that to work, Heidi and I need to always be doing the same with each other.

When we first started Junkyard Heartstrings, we agreed that if it ever began to feel like work or we weren’t enjoying it as much that we needed to be able to admit that to each other and do something about it. Don’t worry, we’re not stopping our journey in music but we’ve conceded that we have reached a point that requires us to take a step back and move in other directions. This means fewer gigs. We had a desire to play as much as we could. Given that July consisted of 17 gigs (which would have been 18 if not for a scheduling change), we’ve proven to ourselves that we can play as much as we want. This is both good and bad; it makes it hard to say no. A night off quickly becomes a night we could have booked. In starting to think this way about our time, we believe we need to keep performing only to weekends while leaving an occasional Friday and Saturday free for relaxation. Our music schedule is beginning to encroach on so much of our time and energy that it’s turned our focus away from other parts of playing music that we enjoy: learning new songs and figuring out ways to share them.

Keeping things fresh by challenging ourselves is one of the reasons we’re together. We’re both people who aren’t hesitant to try something new. Playing the amount of gigs that we are, we haven’t felt the urge to practice in order to add new tracks into our sets. We see this as a problem for how we conceive of ourselves as performers, needing to be invigorated.

We’re also realizing the possibilities of utilizing social media avenues as a path to reach a wider audience than a live music presentation affords. We’ve discussed doing more YouTube videos, sharing additional recordings on SoundCloud, and finding new audiences that also might appreciate what we do. Transcending the constraints of time and space to reach more people (how philosophical I made that sound) is appealing to us.

There were other things we wanted to try that we haven’t yet managed to incorporate into our music. I hoped to employ my pedal board to see where certain effects, such as looping, might lead and how it might give our sound more character. I also thought I should be doing more background vocals and participating in the occasional duet. While these are all still possibilities, our inability to carve out time to rehearse prevents this from happening.

I’m also not sure if integrating these elements would affect what I’ve come to believe defines us: a duo that explores the limits and possibilities of a single acoustic guitar and a lone vocal dedicated to perfecting the articulation of our instruments. We play a lot of tracks most people don’t expect with a fidelity to the original that, somehow, we simultaneously manage to make our own. Songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run,” David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?,” and Led Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” aren’t tracks you’d expect to hear from an early 30’s female vocalist and guitarist as we manage to consolidate multiple instruments into an acoustic arrangement. Have you heard my mimic of the keyboard and Heidi’s vocalization of the sax solo to accompany INXS’s “Never Tear Us Apart“?

We’re proud of what we’ve done and we don’t get to share all of our songs in every bar and restaurant as we’re also entertainers, responsible for delivering an enjoyable experience to an audience that primarily wants to hear material with which they’re familiar. Striking that balance between self-indulgence and audience satisfaction is difficult for us sometimes. I do congratulate us for not compromising and doing songs for their sheer popularity; we’ve never learned a song we haven’t wanted to play. I’m happy that we’ve managed to find a mutually alluring set for the audience and ourselves. With that said, there are songs that don’t get the play we feel they deserve in the format they should be heard. For example, a loud bar probably wants to hear Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” over our delicate rendition of The Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No.”

I’d like time to document all of our music with recordings and videos. I want to acknowledge our infrequently performed songs and promote them on social media. I think there are a lot of people across the globe that would be interested to hear some of the tracks we’ve worked hard on getting right. It will also help us better grasp where we’ve been and we’re we’d like to head in the future. There’s a difference between performing a song and being able to see it and hear it played back in a widely accessible format.

While I feel slightly foolish for lecturing about our artistic ability and integrity doing cover songs, the gigs have also kept us from applying what we’ve learned about songwriting, chords, structure, etc. into our own expressions. As a couple that enjoys creative writing, I’m curious to hear what an original musical composition from us would sound like. How would we write it? What challenges and debates would we have about it? Would lyrics prove more difficult? There are a lot of questions that I’d love to know the answers to.

While all of this has been in the context of performing, there are also the missed social engagements by playing this many dates. There have been parties, weddings, and gatherings we’ve forgone because of our musical commitments. It’s even become difficult for us to see our earliest supporters at the weekly open mic nights at The Stomping Ground, where we got our start.

When factoring in all of these points, our decision to reduce the number of our live performances makes the most sense, allowing us time to engage in a multitude of related activities and find a more appropriate balance with other obligations. You’ll still find us out and about playing but maybe now you’ll have the opportunity to watch your favorite song from your laptop or tablet. Perhaps you’ll even see us out on a date or hanging out with friends. I’ve previously shared about how finding balance is important and I think especially when it’s an endeavor that you partake in with your partner, and present to supportive family, friends, and others, that it becomes even more essential to maintain that passion.

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