Most Nobody Cares

Lyrics:

I got caught in the rain, fell in the creek
I wasn’t reborn
Instead I got sick like a dog and ran off to war
You laid your hands on my face
It wasn’t enough

They took me home, I kissed the ground.
Got dirt in my teeth. I spit it out.
I looked to God. No one looked back at me.
I show devotion down on my knees
When do I get to stand up?

I hit the bars, they reciprocated, and laid me out good.
I saw stars. The universe waited, and let me in on the truth:
“What you think you deserve is just one man’s opinion, and most nobody cares.”

I felt the pain, never saw the wound
But I can still touch the scar
If something hurts you over and over again, well then, that’s who you are.
I look for reasons and explanations but nothing is there

The countryside burned, so I took some wine
And went to see the sunrise
It came like hot blood through the trees
And then the beating heart died
I pray for resurrection, I pray for rain
Then I say good night

I don’t play this song live very often, mainly because it’s so reliant on instrumentation and I don’t have a band. So revisiting it to write about has been a nice surprise. The lyrics are better than I remember, my voice sounds really good, and the guitar lines are sparkling. At the time I wrote it, I thought the opening lines were the finest poetry I had ever written, ever. I was pretty high on myself. What can I say, you get caught up in a moment, ya know? 

I have a 30-year old acoustic that is my daily driver, and more often than not it’s in drop-D tuning with a capo on or about the 3rd fret. It’s an Ovation Celebrity 12-string that I had permanently fixed up with 6 tuning locks, so I never use the full 12. As such, the neck is a little bit wider than a standard 6-string, which works for my hands. The action on it has always been miraculous. It’s a cracked, buzzy, old, worn, and loyal companion, and a thing of beauty.

Stapled to the corner of this song is a fond memory of a summer night in the waning days of Covid, sitting on the back steps watching the kids in the yard doing their thing, making their noises and bird calls and what have yous while I’m finger-picking out little nothings on the guitar, and recording everything in my iphone’s voice memos app. The riff for this song came out of that noodling, and I probably have a million variations of it from that night, recorded in my iPhone, of which I hope to revisit .01% before I die.  

So out of all the variations, this one jumped out from the pack. I no doubt will say this quite often, but when you have something good, you kinda just know it? There’s a tremor. Somethin’ in ya moves, and you kinda stop the presses for a second.

This was an early stage in my friction-filled re-entry into the airspace of “the practice,” and the giddiness of finding something good was an ancient, vestigial memory, from before not just the pandemic, but the cataclysm itself, when tribes wandered the desert, when men hunted mastodon. It rocked my world. I used to work like this all the time, but when it happened in these months as Covid wound down, I cradled any creative “something” like the frangible egg of a vanishing species. 

Equally important, however: whatever kind of radar or extrasensory perception it is, it seems to always activate on the condition that I wade through a bunch of duller, not necessarily bad —  although it is sometimes horrid — but lesser, stuff. As Steven Pressfield says in the War of Art, you beckon to “The Muse,” but she is judicious and patient and she does not come immediately. She wants to see that you’re working first. You earn her presence.  

Looking back from this vantage, with a few more songs under my belt now, I see it as just another part of the process. You hack your way through the weeds and you find the swan’s egg. It’s special, but also, nothing special. Do the work, yield a result. 

I have also learned that when you find a good riff, or the colors start to work on your canvas, or shit finally starts to gel in whatever it is you’re doing, it is a crucial moment. Resistance will try to fool you that by just finding the egg, your work is done, go have a hot wing or a tofu dog; the pressure is off. Resistance will tell you all kinds of shit to get you away from your work. 

Case in point, my little swan’s egg: I was so happy with it, I took my forty-second iPhone voice memo of my back-porch lightning strike and played it during my commute, over and over again. How giddy was I. After all, by repeatedly listening to this little snippet, I could let it sink in, and I’d come up with new ideas, inspiration, and be able to make use of my time commuting. I was “working!” How sweet the smell of bullshit can be. “Working” like this, I didn’t make any progress for two weeks. See how Resistance does its thing? 

The real shit happens at my desk, I know it, we all know it; Resistance knows it, and that’s why it wants me in the car listening instead of working. 

But why does Resistance want me in the car instead of at my desk? Why do I (and I think, most artists) have this potential for self-sabotage? Because we also have an internal engine that, for lack of a better term, we can call the ego. That ego likes things the way they are, wants things to be predictable, wants to maintain control and does not like to give up the reins. It likes things easy and self-serving. And it manifests in all kinds of ways, whether it’s finding excuses to not go to the gym, rationalizing that late night ice cream raid, the third glass of wine, etc. It makes us believe we have earned “down time.” And so on.

When you write, draw, dance, learn a new language, etc., you are entering the realm of the unknown, with the chance for growth, yes, but also all the associated potential for frustration, discomfort, and failure. Your ego doesn’t go for that. It’s a basic, elemental, pre-Cambrian part of every human brain — or mind, more specifically —  that doesn’t like change. It’s neither conscious nor the mark of weak morals, it just comes with the software. 

I should make clear that none of this is scientific and none of it is my own original thought: Steven Pressfield talks about this in his book the War of Art and all I can say is that is makes a helluva lotta sense to me. I can’t recommend that book highly enough for anyone who tries to do anything creative. 

OK, so, eventually I sat down and started working on the lyrics. I have a little tiny obsession with the novel Gravity’s Rainbow, the one in Knives Out that Benoit Blanc says no one has read. I’ve read it three times, once with the aid of a companion book and a book club podcast, and I also read critical analyses, and less-critical analyses of analyses, and I think it’s a masterpiece and one of the greatest works of art ever attempted. Lots of people think it’s overrated and unreadable and I can’t say I blame them. If you’re looking for a satisfying linear novel where everything is tied with a bow, avoid this one. And like male authors of various eras, Pynchon has a pubescent fantasy thing going on with his female characters in which their legitimacy is determined on their sexual potency. If you can get past all that, there is amazing prose experimentation, crazy-ass inventiveness, and a vast structure of themes and motifs that is mind-boggling.  

So, there was one analysis of the book that went into how often the ostensible protagonist came in contact with water. As the novel progresses and makes less and less sense, the protagonist changes identities, and goes out in the rain, falls off a boat, and other experiences which are supposedly symbolic of birth and rebirth and so forth. 

Rain and bathtubs are fairly common birth and rebirth vehicles in movies, tv, etc., so like, whatever? I’ve been caught in the rain a few times and it served only to make me feel like a dope. So that got the ball rolling with the opening lines. I still think they’re good but man at the time I thought I was writing Shakespeare or something. I guess that temporary delusion is healthy in that it gets most of my shit off the ground. 

Anyhow, I don’t think it was a conscious thing but looking back I can see myself working out some issues: 1) what is the lived experience vs the grand existence we are “supposed” to have; and 2) what I think may be my life’s mission, articulating the impartiality and indifference of the universe. 

As for the title of this song, initially it was a placeholder. I was meh about it; it didn’t have that “whatever” I felt a title should have, and it was on the list of things to change. But as time went on, it endured. The line it concludes is one of the better lyrics I’ve written, and for some reason its banality and lack of poetry just works for me. 

A bit more on the title, and maybe, well, everything: the world does not give a shit about me or you. Most of us will die without making a mark on it. Most of us also live in ignorance and perhaps delusion about how monstrous history has been to nearly all of the people who have existed. I guess we differ from animals in that we try to build civilization, language, ethics, etc., and rise above the callous disregard of nature, try to make some kind of “arc” in the universe toward justice or progress, but then we go and do horrible shit to each other. I’m sure it’s been a net gain over an animal existence but I’m also pretty fucking sure we are capable of better. Regardless, looking at a historical record of evidence, the world as we know it, collectively, is far more apathetic than sympathetic to the human experience. I think Covid broke a lot of people’s brains because it showed that regardless of money, faith, or one’s own image of self-worth, we are all just numbers on nature’s roulette wheel. A lot of people pretended that wasn’t the case, and they had to assert themselves in tragically comic ways, but I won’t get into that; we were all there. 

So anyway, to think otherwise, to think we are entitled to some kind of pass from anonymity and/or history’s brutality because of our sophistication, wealth, faith, or the one awesome whatever one might have done ten to fifteen years ago, well, that’s ego, a little coffee pot engine within us all, eternally putt-putting away, aching for recognition and validation from an incomprehensibly vast and unsympathetic void that has none to give. So we build narratives to distract ourselves from our own vulnerability and insignificance in the appallingly indifferent universe in which we live. Whether it’s faith, wealth, success, etc., we hang on to these things because it’s tough to swallow that we’re not special and no one is paying attention. 

OK so this is fucking bleak, right? Yes and no. Joseph Campbell put it pretty well: the world is a mess; it has been, and will always be so. Our job is not to fix the world but to straighten out our own lives. This sounds selfish, and it is, but without fixing yourself you can’t do much for anybody else. 

So let’s bring this bleak, uncaring universe back to the creative process. If you lose, the world doesn’t care. If you win, the world doesn’t care. It doesn’t even notice. 

And within that structureless, safety-net-less void, resides a vast amount of freedom.

I could go on about morality, ethics, personal philosophy, but let’s stay focused on creativity: most people do not care about your art. Nobody’s watching if you make mistakes, post your projects to the web, embarrass yourself (artistically speaking) on social, or whatever. So do all that, make all the mistakes, and fail as big as possible under the armor of anonymity. The world is not paying attention to your false starts and dead ends; make the most of that. Everyone else is as involved with themselves as you are with yourself, regarding the adventures of others with the same amount of curiosity that you have for theirs, most likely even less. I’m hardly the first to say this, I read a similar train of thought on the writer Austin Kleon’s blog, and I’m sure he was introduced to this idea somewhere else, and so on. 

So the world has given you a gift: tons of space to find your inner artist and shuck off the ego. Make mistakes, rework old ideas nobody noticed to begin with, go where you must in order to produce satisfying work for an audience of one: yourself. If your goal is some kind of fame or glory, I think that’s a hollow motivation but you have plenty of open road to crash and burn before you get there. Whatever your goal is, churning away in anonymity is far more often the rule than the exception if you want to get there. Case in point: a long-winded blog about minor-key dad rock recordings that no one will ever read. 

OK, so. Back to the lyrics. So maybe I started out on a high horse. Well, I definitely started out on a high horse regarding the lyrics. But the funny thing is this song turned out to be about casting off pretentiousness, artifice, whatever, and understanding the real stuff. And it was oddly much easier to write pretentious sounding crap, which gives me the willies when I read it back now. It bears repeating but you just gotta face up to the fact that some of the stuff you produce is shit. It’s OK. It gets you to the good stuff. That’s the process. 

“If something hurts you over and over again, well then, that’s who you are.” I feel like I nailed it with this line. If there is something more true about the human condition, just let me know. 

On the other end of things, I was reading Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan and this set of lines caught me. 

It has been raining here now for two days, and through the trees, the heart stops beating. The trout in those telephone booths were good fellows.

Makes as much sense as anything else in that book, but I liked it. It felt grand, a dramatic visual that could finish things off. Steal a little here and there, put it in your pocket. No shame in it. 

Initially, drums went though the whole song. Because the structure is so repetitive I was very conscious of adding and taking away elements to keep things dynamic. Ages ago I enrolled in a “Brand Writing” course and they gave us a cheat sheet that warned you a good idea is not enough. Once you have it, turn it backwards, upside down, reverse the word order, replace words in the order, change the color, on and on. If it’s good enough, it will stand up to a lot of tinkering and you’ll be better off for it. Songs are the same. Hold something back, add it here, take it away there, turn a sound inside out; there is no formula to a right answer, just keep at it. 

This is where things started. 

At some point I tried working in a bridge or a change. Didn’t take.

Anyhow, drums and the guitar solo were the first things I got done. I knew there was a country-ish kinda twang I wanted and I worked that out first. I am not a soloist so this took forever. But it got to where I wanted it. 

Despite what I consider to be a really good set of lyrics and a really crisp sound, this song nags at me. I got locked into the structure and couldn’t break it. It’s too repetitive. The song needs a bridge, or some kind of break down. I tried at it several times, I failed at it several times, and at some point you gotta move on. The universe does not care, but the muse is tapping its watch. 

“We’re not in forever territory here, kiddo. Keep things moving.” 

Yes, ma’am. Time to go.

 

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.