Here is a wonderful post from Sara Hickman, the notable Texas Musician, on her career and perhaps her final shows. Please see her Facebook page for more.
It’s messy, this figuring out what I’m doing with my music. Choosing songs to perform at final shows is hard. I suppose I could do 4 hour shows, like I did when I first started playing Poor David’s Pub and Club Dada in 1988-89. I was shameless, or perhaps, fearless. I’d play every cover song I’d ever learned, throw in some of my originals, and wear myself out until my fingers bled, my mind was mush and the last 4 guys were drunk, raspily whispering, “Just one more…” One time, I played so long at Poor David’s I actually laid down on the stage, bending the mic stand at an angle so I could sing UP in the mic, probably making up songs by that point. If any one in the audience stayed, I stayed. Even if they hadn’t paid a cover. Even if I was only walking out with $27.13. It wasn’t about the money. It was about risk, and HAVING A MIC IN MY FACE!!! If you’ve ever gotten to sing or speak over a mic, good for you! You got to be loud, you got to draw people in. For a moment, what you share has importance: you are EF Hutton, capturing people’s full attention with that whisper of a joke, a story, an observation, a song. Oh, Music! You intoxicating muse, bossing me around my entire life, dragging me out to God knows where in odd little towns I’ll never see again, shining the spotlight of hope in my face, strangers’ hands clapping approval.
The thing is…my songs were never big hits because I didn’t write about universal issues, I wrote about the real people, situations and losses I encountered, endured, investigated. Or maybe I didn’t cross over because I suck as a songwriter. Maybe I’ve been coasting along on this starry eyed childhood quest and no one had the cajones to say, “Shut up, already. You suck.” Not that there weren’t detractors, like the unsigned letter that came in the mail telling me I deserved to be squashed because I was an idiot, to put it nicely. Not knowing who wrote that missive made my crushed heart even more paranoid–everyone could see I was a failure, with one person taking the time to write it down, bully style, to make sure I understood I was the WORST MUSICIAN EVER. Thank you anonymous person. You taught me to stand up straighter, to pause and say, “Well…that’s your opinion. If I suck, I’m going to go balls to the wall until I can’t make it anymore!”
So, even with the naysayers, I like to think my lyrics and tunes made a difference. I won’t deny it, I’ve seen what they can do. So, after picking myself up many, many times and licking my wounds, I’ve kept making music, I’ve kept encouraging others to make music, I’ve sat next to someone dying and shared songs until their eyes closed for good. I made my dad cry, I sat on a sofa and held my mom’s hand while she listened to “My Mama’s Hands”, I sang to both my daughters, I sang for the husbands in the dark who had lost their wives, tired army men, girls with no shoes, people behind prison bars. Whether I suck or not didn’t matter—it became more about what I could do in the present moment with the person I was sharing that moment with…it became about loving connection. Connection with real tears, real heart, real real. Real life, real loss, real passing.
Somehow, I got to traverse this big ol’ world, and I am thankful for all the people who have invited me to come sing everywhere. Festivals, private events, birthday parties, kids gatherings, schools, prisons, all the record store conventions, weddings, funerals, parades, churches, synogoges, hot air balloon festivities, airports, airplanes (thanks, Southwest Airlines! that was a blast!), the Gavin and Billboard and FMQB events, for those in ICU, psych wards and on sailboats, ships and cruises.
I met the kings and queens of the road. I fell in love with dark knights and happy pranksters. I broke the rear window out of a rental car to get to the events, birthday parties, kids gatherings, schools, prisons, all the record store conventions, weddings, funerals, parades, churches, synogoges, hot air balloon festivities, airports, airplanes (thanks, Southwest Airlines! that was a blast!), the Gavin and Billboard and FMQB events, for those in ICU, psych wards and on sailboats, ships and cruises.
I met the kings and queens of the road. I fell in love with dark knights and happy pranksters. I broke the rear window out of a rental car to get to the Troubadour in time for a very importatn gig (locked the keys inside, didn’t have time to call for help). I’d wake up in a town and be so exhausted I wouldn’t know where I was. I only drank about 7 times that I can think of— if I had a drink, that meant I was getting loopy: I can NOT hold that liquor because I become the court jester on steriods. So, maybe I, actually, drank more and just don’t remember.
This industry is mean, it’s snarky, it’s glittering, it’s fabulous, it’s exceptionally fast paced, it makes claims and promises that “you’re going to be the next _________(put any famous female musician’s name who plays guitar here)!” I wrote and sang and stood up against the advice of labels, managers, A&R peeps, tv executives, stylists, my own loves, thinking I knew the path. Sometimes I was right, sometimes I’m sure I was an asshole. Sorry about that if I was an asshole to you. It wasn’t intentional just blathering, unhappy, artistic madness talking. I thought having integrity would matter, but no one really knows what all goes down in someone’s life. So, at the end of the day, the end of a life…the integrity is for me.
The part of this industry that’s the most entertaining is that I thought it would always be here, there and everywhere for me. In reality, the only one that’s there for you is yourself, and if you don’t show up, the buzz disappates pretty quickly. Work hard, but no one can control the scene. No one can anticipate the next fad. You just gotta keep on believin’…don’t stop…it’ll soon be here…
As they say, people only remember the last thing you did. In my case, it was the SECOND thing I did—SHORTSTOP. Even one of my relatives recently said it was her favorite record of mine. I’m not complaining, I’m just curious why nothing else has added up since then. People may know my name, they might say, “I love your music!” but I never heard it on the radio after awhile. And that’s a weird conundrum because it takes a heck of a lot of conviction, tenacity and sheer willpower to write, to perform, to record, to travel—expecting for the big pay off (different things to different people) and, then, one day…poof! It’s all become a dream. Did I do THAT? Was I THERE? Whoa. Incredible. Now I’m HERE.
And “here” is sitting at a computer that not so long ago I would not have had the ability to utilize—it would have been ye olde pen and paper. I’m typing out my thoughts, wondering if there will be people at my show Saturday night, if the journey will just fizzle out, or if I can walk away, intact, into the unknown, gratified to be able to say, “I did it!” with the grace of a thousand remembered kisses, smiles, hugs, moments. Because whether you know my name or my music or my face, I had a dream and I lived it 1000% best I could and wow. Isn’t that the fantasy? That we live the best we can until the curtain closes that one last time?