I took a gap year in college. Because I was destined to start a rock ’n’ roll band. Destined. It was going to be a loose, rhythmic incarnation of The Band, Little Feat, and The Allman Brothers. We called it “Local Talent.” Witty. Irreverent. I mean, you could just feel the genius bleeding from the 12-minute medley of “Walk on the Wild Side” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
“Local Talent” sounded nothing like its grand vision. In fact, we sucked. But there was one little three-week period of our lives where we started to write our own songs. And they sucked. But it was a very important minute in my life, and everyone’s lives that were in that band.
The moment of creativity is an essential spark, regardless of the result. Regardless of the quality. Now, when the creator decides to show that result to someone else, I’m going to argue that it is one of the most emotionally risky things we do as sentient beings. You’re actually going to take something from the core of your being that you’re not really sure of, and you’re going to show it to someone that will have a reaction that will validate or devastate the product and your process. For a very short period of time, for most aspiring artists of any kind, the early reactions form the ambition or lack thereof to creating more, more, and better things.
The writers and poets contained here are beyond that nascent phase where the ill-timed criticism will devastate or validate. They’ve suffered and enjoyed that part of the process. There’s a point at which you decide that writing, or singing, or acting, or playing an instrument is what you do regardless of what people think. You have to do it. It does not mitigate the courage and the risk of creating and presenting. There’s a lot of courage in this issue of Coastal Connecticut.
And there’s a lot more courage on the shoreline than you see on a daily basis. The writer’s workshops that meet every week from Branford to Stonington. That band you saw at Donohue’s last week. That poet you saw at a reading at the Guilford Arts Center. The actor at the Garde. The guitarist at The Kate. On any night they can deliver magic and that delivery came at a personal cost and emotional risk. Believe that.
Keith Richards once said that “the beauty of rock ’n’ roll is that on any given night, any bar band can be the best rock ’n’ roll band in the world.” I’d stretch that. I’d say on any given night anyone who takes a risk of showing you their creative paragraph in this whole epic has a chance to be the best at what they do. It is expression at its purest. The thing itself.
Two examples for you. At a recent fundraiser in Madison, I was seated at dinner way too close to the performers. I was thinking of moving when Madison’s Erin Christine sat down at the piano and did a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” It made my ribs tense. Arrested me like the best things Sinead O’Connor has ever done because it was so bare and soulful.
Two: A few weeks ago I was in downtown Madison, middle of the day, and I saw this kid who could not have been 20 unpacking his guitar case. He set up a little music stand for his lyrics. Opened up the case and propped up a handwritten piece of corrugated cardboard that said “Going to Nashville.”
I don’t know if he went. I do know that no matter how his journey plays out it will be a story full of hope, heartbreak, and risk. I only had $4 on me. I threw it in his case.