Soon enough, a magic moment occurred: it became easier. My muscle memory on the instrument grew stronger, as did my ear, and I could close my eyes while comfortably moving harmony downward with the pre-chorus melody as I sang the words: “Who needs money, when you’re funny?” I can only wonder if Randy Newman was as unemployed as I am now when he wrote those down.
Saved by a song, but what else is new?
Ultimately that’s why I miss performing so much, because I hope to provide that same safety and solace for others. I shouldn’t overthink it: The song makes me happy when Randy plays it, and it made me happy to spend so much time learning it. I was happy screwing it up over and over again, and sharpening the muscle memory on feeling happiness is never a bad thing.
Yet what I miss the most about performing is the risk, the chance taken by exposing an essential part of my being to an audience, praying they accept it but knowing that if all else fails I’ve got my band to share the weight. The risk pairs perfectly with the joy that comes from trying something new, something scary, something exhausting.
As a band we experiment, we adventure, and when we do, I am whole. I can’t handle letting my risk muscles go soft, so I must thank Randy Newman for guiding me through these dark days, for gently shoving me as I embark on the daily risk of failure with each attempt at his song. Because one year later, I still truly can’t play “Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear” very well. The finish line is movable, I suppose, and I don’t mind kicking it ahead. But maybe in the future I can play it for you, and you tell me which parts I messed up.
Adam Schatz is a musician, writer and record producer. His band, Landlady, has three records out and another will be released on March 19.
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