Category Archives: Belonging
He had one theater and one audience. The people cherished his art, the artist cherished their attention, and together they made something magical.
That’s something I always wanted for myself. A homebase. A platform where I could hone my voice, grow my network and build my story. A place where I commune with my neighbors and lock into the historical, societal and institutional frameworks of my creative world. The word that come to mind was fixture, meaning someone firmly set in place that has been present for a long time and will continue to be so in years to come.
However, I knew that nobody was going to just give that to me. There was no sanctioning body desperately searching for a local songwriter to take residency.
And so, I decided to hire myself. To create my own platform out of whole cloth. I took my guitar to the park and started busking under the historic arch. Same place, same time, every week. Even in the winter.
And people started taking notice.
Soon, through a consistent presence and constant word of mouth, my name started to become associated with that place. And after about a year of singing songs under that arch, I had become a permanent fixture in the neighborhood. I had officially incorporated myself into the community, creating an expectation and a mythology and a ritual around my performances.
Hence, this documentary.
Proving, that you don’t need to wait for permission to create your own opportunity, build your own leverage and grow your own momentum.
Just hire yourself. Stick around and continue to do what you do, and eventually the right people will find you.
What stage could you commandeer and convert into a home for your creativity?
What a perfect sentiment to summarize the experience of busking. Because when you perform in public, you learn that not everybody will like your art. In fact, not everybody will even acknowledge the fact that you’re there. Most will just walk by as if you weren’t standing there naked, breaking yourself open and pouring yourself out.
And it’s painful. It makes you feel invisible. It insults your soul.
But you can’t let it phase you. You can’t allow the uncompromising forces of reality to crush your dream. Because job number one is not to please everybody who walks by, job number one is to create an exhibition of love through your art. To find the best that is within you and let her rip.
The ones who don’t get joke and can’t hear the music, they’re not your people. So just keep playing. Whether you’re performing on the streets for change or producing on the internet to create change, just keep playing. Stick around long enough and continue to be yourself until the right people find you. And when the world is finally ready for you, all you have to do is say yes.
What’s the one thing, if practiced consistently, would make the biggest impact on your life?
My foolish pride and suburban ego simply wouldn’t allow me to accept tips from strangers.
But after a few weeks of playing, I realized a few things. First of all, it’s not about making money, it’s about making a connection. Because every interaction is a relationship. Regardless of how long it lasts, I’m still relating to the other person. And so, every time a stranger drops change into my case, it’s like they’re saying, I like you. That makes me feel seen. And whether people give a dollar or a dime, no amount of money is insignificant. I’m learning to find joy from whatever people have to offer.
The other thing is, tips are totems of an abundance mentality. They’re reminders than money matters to me, that money is always flowing into my life from all directions and that I should train myself to spot money whenever it presents itself.
In fact, since I’m streaming my documentary for free on my website, I decided to recreate the open guitar case online. I created a donation page, almost like a digital tip jar. And if people find joy and value and inspiration in the movie, they can show their appreciation by dropping a dollar.
Ultimately, it’s been a transformative experience. A reminder that there is no prosperity without the willingness to receive. Because the answer to every question you don’t ask is no.
What is blocking your ability to receive?
When we find something that has existential resonance for us, the essential next step is sharing that discovery with another person.
It makes it more real.
Otherwise we’re just living inside our own heads, winking in the dark, playing basketball without a backboard.
I remember the first time I played music in the tunnel under the arch by my house. I came back home a changed man.
And I told everybody.
Because when you finally find the physical conditions that elicit your best work, you want to shout it from the rooftops.
How often are you sharing what really matters to you?
For the first twenty years of my songwriting life, I treated music as an escape. As a way to hide from the world.
Until one day, I read an interview with one of my songwriting heroes, who famously said, you have to get out of the basement and go out and play for people.
That sentence changed my inner geography. Something very real inside of me shifted that day, and I haven’t been the same since.
And so, now I perform every week. I’ve come out of music hibernation, hungry and active for nourishment.
Because I don’t need to hide from the world anymore. Music let me share another part of my heart. Playing and singing songs in real time, in front of real people, about real emotions, is fulfilling on a level that is hard to express.
Will you let the craving for togetherness trump the seductiveness of isolation?