Get knocked down enough, and one of two things will happen: you'll either get stronger, or end up with full on concussion.
For me, the making of Hungry Ghost was a little bit of both.
When Kevin and I decided to make the record we had a plan, and hypothetically, a way to fund it. I still had a huge wave of obstacles to get past. There was the monumental cost. To produce the kind of record we wanted, I’d need to raise at least $20,000 to cover our expenses. Then there were endless logistics: prepping the crowdfunding campaign, reaching out to hundreds of people, prepping the artwork and release shows. Never mind the task of actually MAKING the damn thing.
I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull it off, but I believed it was worth trying.
And so, like a horse with blinders on, I got to work. I met with Kevin in his old apartment on Ludlow Street, and on an old parlour guitar, thumbed through the songs I’d hoarded for three years. I introduced half of them haphazardly, often saying something along the lines of “I don't know if this is going to work, buuuuut…”
This is pretty much how I took on every step along the way: “Print vinyl in Germany? Could be a massive failure! Mechanical beats? Well, you only live once! Ask my boss to advance me 7K and slowly work it off over the next year?! Fuck it, what could possibly go wrong!”
But on that dusty afternoon in Kevin’s apartment, something in me bloomed. I’d finish a song, and he would jump in, brimming with ideas for production. Some were great, like,“Hey! Let’s layer in strings at the chorus.” Others...not so much: “HEY! Try that one again, but this time pretend you're Miley Cyrus!”
The point is, he was invested. He believed in the project. That gave me enough hope to trudge through my discomfort.
Recording in Woodstock felt like a dream. I sat in my little vocal booth at Applehead Studios, perched on a stool, guitar in my lap, brimming with joy. I remember Kevin apologizing before asking me to play a song for like the seventh take and me thinking “I could do this 100 more times.”
After three full days of recording, I drove back to Brooklyn, exhausted and happy. What I remember most is calling my mom from the interstate, and crying. Relieved. I still had a lot to figure out, but for the first time in years, I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I wish I could say I’ve sustained that feeling since, but the truth is, I still struggle. I sometimes go weeks without writing a song I’m proud of. I have days where I get yet another rejection letter and feel like all I do is bang my head against the oh-my-god-i-hate-the-music-business wall.
It reminds me of a little anecdote the Buddhist teacher Trungpa Rinpoche once told:
“It’s a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over,” he said. “And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and start to keep walking out to sea.”
“The waves keep coming,” he said. “And you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humor to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward.”
I’ve realized that there is no arriving. No finish line. I’m not going to wake up one day and magically be cured of my insecurities. I believe my insecurities show me the way. Incidentally, it seems that the things that bring me the most joy are often the things that scare me the most.
Trungpa continued on, “After a while, it will begin to seem to you that the waves are getting smaller. And they won’t knock you over anymore.”
My job is to get up every morning and walk towards those waves.
With so much love love,
P.S. After the record was finished, we raised enough money to do a live, acoustic recording of the album. The goal was to make a version of Hungry Ghost with the same feel as my solo show. I'm so happy to be able to share it with you now. Get your copy of Hungry Ghost (acoustic), available only on Bandcamp now.