Tonight my friend, Derek Selinger, will be performing his new show for 1,000 people at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, AB. Derek is an illusionist. He can do things with a coin, a ring, or a deck of cards that will make you question everything you know about the laws of physics and remind you of your limitations as a human being.
A few years ago, Derek accompanied me on a road trip to BC to document the making of my 3rd studio album, “Restless”. Derek is also a filmmaker. Like most artists and performers I know, he wears a few hats. It’s pretty rare for an artist to make a living at just one thing for the whole of their career. You have to diversify.
As we drove, we shared stories from both of our careers. Good gigs, not so good gigs, awards, acceptance, partnerships, betrayals, affirmations and rejection. I had known Derek for years as an acquaintance. On that trip, he became a friend. Today, he’s one of my best. I feel like there are a handful of people who understand and can relate to what I do like Derek does.
Long before I was making albums, playing concerts, winning awards, and touring the country, I was an awkward teenager in a basement. Neglecting my homework, playing guitar. I’m sure to everyone else, it was a hobby, a fleeting fascination. Did I show promise? Heavens no! It was a whim, a wish, a dream.
Long before Derek was playing Cruise Ships and Concert Halls, he was a similarly awkward teenager fumbling with coins, and a deck of cards. My first gigs were playing in coffee shops, being “wallpaper” while people visited and tried to tune me out. I got paid in Italian Sodas. Derek’s first gigs were performing in restaurants for tips while people waited for their meals. Hardly glamourous.
But it’s never been about the money, or the attention. The economics will never justify all the unpaid hours sitting on the edge of your bed writing, drawing, mastering a coin trick, practicing your comedic timing. If you want to make money, go to school and invest those hours in learning to be a Computer Programmer or an accountant or building a business. We don’t do it for the money, or even the attention (there are far more efficient ways to do that too) Why do it? The Dream.
At 16 years old, about the time I discovered the guitar, I discovered a living faith in Jesus. I came to believe he had a call on my life. And I particularly remember reading about the calling of Moses when God said to Moses “Take this staff in your hand, with it you will perform miracles.”. Whether it was inspiration or sheer arrogance, I felt in that moment that God was speaking to me and that the “staff” I was to take in hand was my guitar. At the time I questioned it and felt awfully foolish. Looking back, I think of lives that have been changed in both small and significant ways through my singing and songwriting. Maybe it wasn’t such a foolish notion after all.
Don’t be fooled by sentiment about dreams being freeing and uplifting. Dreams are not hot air balloons. Dreams are heavy. They have a weight. And dreams offer no promises. There is no assurance that your dream will pan out. For every artist who’s pushed through to enjoy the accolades and affirmations, there are a hundred who have been crushed under the weight. Musicians who have thrown good money after bad… Well you get the picture.
Dreams are heavy. Sometimes you have supporters who help you bear that weight. Sometimes you bear it alone. Over time, your career will wax and wane without a doubt. You may find that folks who are your biggest supporters in one season may question the whole enterprise in another.
I have been fortunate. “Weight of a Dream” was written for 3 very dear friends who have been my constant companions over the years. All of them dreamers in their own right, they understand this life better than most.
The song itself a bit of a fairy tale. Fans of Paul Simon will spot his influence, both musically and lyrically, a mile away. I listened to Paul Simon’s latest album every day while driving to and from the studio this summer. “Werewolves” is the name of the first track on that album, so I decided to give a little nod in the bridge of the song, along with an overdue nod to my son, Isaac, whom I’ve nicknamed ‘The Moneyman’ (long story).
The song is meant to be an encouragement to dreamers. Not some cotton-candy inspiration, but hopefully a knowing affirmation to keep striving. Somewhere there’s another kid sitting on the edge of her bed, learning chords or coin tricks and dreaming of someday holding an audience captive. Whether in a coffee shop or a concert hall. Being a dreamer isn’t easy, but oh how we need dreamers. Dreamers become the artists and the writers and the illusionists who inspire us and fill our hearts with wonder. Who give us hope. Who give us the courage to keep straining toward that horizon…