Last night a guy asked me how long I’ve been in Nashville. I told him fifteen years. “Chasing the dream?” he mildly snickered. “Living the dream,” I announced. He didn’t know how to respond, blurting out some kind of inquisitive affirmation like, “Whoa!? Really?! “Yep, sure am.” My mind flashed back through all the years of desperate longing, waiting to be living my actual dream.”
I saw moments that looked exactly like my dream — me doing the amazing things I always wanted to do. And, in the same brilliant flash, I also saw the many times I felt so angry at God for giving up on me and my dreams. The camera pulls back to show the whole scenery. I’m revealed to myself at least. I’ve been living on a strange roller-coaster of unrequited desire and exuberant fulfillment. And wondering why the middle ground feels so empty.
How many people do you know who are actually “living the dream”? The phrase “chasing the dream” makes me think about the greyhounds on the racetrack, chasing after the fake bunny on a stick that always runs faster than the dogs can. Is my dream running faster than am I? Is it something to catch, to capture and devour, as those dogs might be thinking they’d do if ever they caught the dang thing?
I believe I moved to Nashville propelled by a dream — something out there, something beyond where I was living. It was a desire to make something out of my life. I didn’t want to just settle for being, for just living. I wanted to strive and reach for what I was optimistically certain was out there. And honestly, it boils down to this: I desired to have a life of influence. And to have that, I thought I needed to have some sort of platform, some kind of audience who would allow themselves to be influenced by my remarkableness. My amazingness. My influencity (that sounds too much like influenza!).
Fortunately, in retrospect, I can see that I had missed the mark. I thought: PLATFORM=INFLUENCE=SIGNIFICANCE. That isn’t completely wrong. It’s just that I thought PLATFORM would look like a big stage somewhere with a lot of people paying to come see me sing — that’s when I’d truly be significant. So I kept trying, and waiting, and hoping, and praying, and crying, and screaming, and wondering when I’d ever get that dang platform I thought I needed in order to live the life I was supposed to be living.
Then I woke up. And realized I had a platform.
It’s called My Life.
It was like I had been sleeping for a crazy long time and finally woke up. Rip Van Smebywinkle. More accurately, I had been so distracted by my longing for my platform to look like someone else’s…you know, someone superfamous…that I couldn’t see how my platform was actually supposed to be my own — incredibly unique, designed specifically for me and my gifts and abilities — and I had been standing in the middle of it for quite a while. I woke up and found myself on the platform of my dreams.
I’m a little embarrassed writing all this, because I think I sound so stupid and immature. But it’s been such a profound awakening for me, I can’t help but think talking about this might help some other distracted, sleeping person wake up and see the incredible place they are in right now.
I am living the dream. I have been for quite a while. And I almost slept right through it.
Shooting the music video for “Precious Memories” was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve seen so many music videos in my lifetime (at least since the early 80s), and always wondered what it would be like to get to make a video of my own. It’s funny, how when something is your creation, it’s easy to discount it as not being good enough, or subpar. Some of those thoughts are justified by a lack of budget, of course. But truthfully, when most people make their music videos there’s no way of knowing for certain whether anyone will actually see it, much less like it.
The first thing we did after they made me up to look like an actual person who would do a music video, was shoot the clips of me singing while leaning against the big outside wall frame, wearing the black jacket. It was super hot—I was sweating big time. We used a tiny boombox to play my song so I had something to sing-along with. There was a smattering of people standing around watching, probably less then ten people, but more than five. Enough to make me feel nervous. Nervous? Not nervous…more dorky. I felt a bit dorky. No, I was actually afraid of looking dorky. I’ve never done this before, so I didn’t know exactly how to be the cool guy in the video. So I just sang. The best part for me was when I finished singing the first pass, the song ended, and the director yelled “Cut!”, and then all the people started cheering! It was just what I needed. To me, their cheers said, “We don’t think you’re dorky!!” I was probably overly paranoid.
I’m grateful my friend Marc Acton was there to be my objective eyes. He told me not to make the “poopy face” when I was singing. That would definitely be dorky. He also encouraged me, and stood by me when everyone else seemed so busy making their music video. It can feel very strange singing into a camera, trying to express something very personal, while there’s so many people standing around working, or others who are just watching you try to do it, wondering if they’re supposed to know who you are.
So after all the thousands of music videos that have influenced my life through the years, from artists like Michael Jackson to Ray Boltz…here’s mine. My very first music video. I’m so thrilled with how it turned out. I’m grateful to Jefferson (the mean guy at the beginning) who wrote, directed and starred in this movie. He was the guy who liked my song enough to use it in his film. And then for him to invest in (and put up with me through all the edits) doing this video is priceless to me. It was so great to hang out with the rest of the crew and the actors from the cast who came to help out as well, especially the lovely Miss Christina. Thank you to all of them! And to you, please tell all your friends about “Clancy” — Let’s make it a huge hit when it is released!
Here’s a clip from an amazing experience I had up in Minneapolis back in April. It was a tribute event to my former music pastor, the amazing Ken Parker. He wrote this song for a Christmas musical “Child of Love” back in the early 90s, and entrusted me with it to sing it on the record we made, and during a few live performances we did of the whole musical.
I decided to rearrange the 1st verse and chorus, probably because of what I saw the kids do to songs on American Idol. I loved how the ballad-ness allowed me to really honor the lyrics he wrote and bring new life to the song. I was scared to death while I was singing, yet I was having a blast. I was so thrilled to be there and was on the verge of tears most of the time. Ken Parker really believed in me, which gave me permission then, to believe in myself and begin dreaming bigger than what I thought was possible. Thanks Ken!!
There was something so unreal and fantastical about my “Clancy” weekend up in Louisville that I haven’t been able to put my finger on, and honestly, kind of don’t even want to try. Have you ever been to Disneyworld? It’s kind of like that. You come home and people say, “How was the trip?” And you say, “Man, I had a lot of fun.” And then people walk away, or start talking about themselves, and you’re left standing there, holding the particular moments that were especially magical, feeling like you’ll never be able to share them with anyone. That describes the feeling that I’ve frequently had after being blessed with several different spectacular experiences, including my “Clancy” weekend.
I don’t want to sound like I’m whining—I’m simply attempting to express the weirdness of the roller-coaster life I’ve chosen to ride. I remember coming home after my first run on a tour bus with Semi-Big Nashville Artist. I had just had an intense four days trying to sleep in a jostling, coffin-like bunk, waking up in different places in different states that each looked exactly the same. I met a ton of people and liked only some of them. I was treated like I was something special, and I was also treated like I wasn’t anything special at all. People back home were excited for the opportunity they knew I was getting, but had no idea, like me, what I was actually getting into. It turned into something that was more challenging than I had expected, and more rewarding than I could’ve dreamed.
But going back to my Disneyworld example, people just want to know you had a good time. It takes a very special person to care about the nuances of your trip, whether it’s to Orlando, Paris, or Peoria. More about life on the road later.
Last Saturday I drove toward Louisville and stopped at Ft. Knox to meet my good friend Marc who’s doing some work there as a pilot of Apache helicopters. I know, serious stuff. I’m so thankful he was able to accompany through the 24 hours that would follow. Kelly’s Filmworks held a little reception for the “Clancy” cast and crew just prior to the screening, serving little desserty things and soft drinks. After that, we were seated in a special reserved area in the middle rows of the packed theater. I got to sit next to Marc, Stephanie Vickers (a Nashville actress playing Clancy’s mother) and her real-life mother.
I was excited to see the film, but more excited to see what it would feel like to hear me and my song come through the speakers in a dark theater filled with people. I knew the song would appear in a scene in a hospital, so when I saw the story moving in that direction I started to get a bit nervous. I sank a little lower in my seat and clasped my hands together. I probably looked like I was praying. I just wanted to cover my face in case something weird started happening with it. Would I cry? Would I smile? Laugh? Drool? I didn’t know—I had never been there before. When the swirling synth pad of my song’s intro started, I sank a couple inches lower yet. I suddenly felt my pulse start intensifying, as if someone was ringing out my spine like a wet washcloth. My head was pulsating.
Now I’m listening to my song. I’m singing. This is so crazy. Other people are listening as well. But they’re not thinking about me, they’re thinking about the emotions of the lyrics and the feeling in the melody. I can’t believe how the lyrics fit the storyline so perfectly. I sound like a real singer. The song sounds like it’s supposed to be there. I can’t believe it. Stop thinking so much. What a trip.
The song ends after about 80 seconds, and the dialogue starts up again. I can breathe again. Marc elbows me and says something like, “That was awesome!” I try to breathe. Stephanie leans over her mom and touches my arm, mumbling something encouraging. I mumble something back, mostly paralyzed still. The movie keeps rolling. I feel like standing up and cheering. I better not. I imagine people sitting behind me pointing their finger at my back, saying, “He’s the singer. That’s him! Right there!”
I heard the song might be used again, so as the ending approaches, I start to get nervous/excited again. Here’s the final shot. The crane slowly lifts the camera away from the scene, zooming out to reveal the landscape just as the second verse of my song starts up. It’s obviously the end of the film. People are sniffling. I’m singing. The first lines of credits start rolling and the crowd starts clapping. I can’t hear my song. More clapping. They keep clapping. That’s great. I tell myself, It’s okay. They’ll hear it on the DVD. It’s okay. More clapping.
After the screening, there’s a nice Q&A with some of the cast and crew. The little girl who played Clancy gets a huge reception, like she’s the new Anna Paquin or something. The screening concludes with a showing of the alternate ending, one that wouldn’t have used my song again. I’m thankful for the actual ending and my encore.
The room is buzzing as people get up and make their way out of the theater. I got to have a couple cool conversations, one with the guy who scored the film, and another with an actor who reminded me of Nathan Lane. Me, Marc, Stephanie and her mom, Jolene, decide to hit the town and celebrate. After being hit so powerfully by the whole screening experience, it was nice to hit something back.
In my next blog, I’m going to write about the day that followed. The day we shot the music video for “Precious Memories” and how I felt like I was simply pretending to be the person I had always dreamed I’d be.