Alot Going On

There is way too much happening lately. I feel like I'm being completely run over by life. Not that everything is bad, there's just so much going on, it's hard to keep up.

I finally "finished" my latest recording project. That's a long story that needs not be repeated. We'll just say I learned alot, and I'm glad it's over. You can probably find it somewhere in the near future. Myspace, or something. I honestly don't care. And I hate that this is my attitude about it all. But, I find that "I don't care" is much easier than continuing to be upset over circumstances. I've got better things to think about lately.

This week has been crazy busy. The absolute highlight of my week was Thursday night, when I saw Bethany for maybe 3 hours. It's getting harder and harder to be apart from her. I wasn't expecting that. It might be because our times together have gotten shorter and shorter, and have recently included other people (we're really fond of time spent between just the two of us). Maybe I'm realizing I need her more than I knew before. I'm a guy, so I'm not supposed to be open about that, am I? I need her, though. It's becoming that much more frustrating, though, that she's not here with me. I could write for another three hours on how I feel about that, but I won't. I have less than two weeks to survive before she can be with me. And the first thing we're doing once we're together is going on a long vacation ... I can't complain about that.

Beyond seeing her a few hours this week, I feel like I've played every ounce of musical creativity I can muster. Literally, within one week, I played with a salsa band, a jazz band, a country band, a worship band, an acousti-folk artist, and a church orchestra. I'm spent, but there's one more gig tonight. Then I get to move into our new apartment tomorrow, assuming the power company will provide an account number before then, so we can prove we bought power and can move in.

It was quite a pain this week, trying to get everything the power company needed from me. They needed stuff faxed to them, or scanned and emailed, and I couldn't do either of those from home, so I had to fit in everything in between teaching lessons at Second Baptist. Oh yeah, and my car was broken into Monday, so there's been that to deal with this week. They stole a ton of stuff, most of it critical to my work, so I've been trying to figure out how to replace it. Bethany's jewelry (ALL of it) was stolen, so I've been trying to buy her stuff here and there so she's got something to wear on our honeymoon.

I'm tired of the attacks. I'm tired of the Enemy trying to sabotage our wedding and marriage. Maybe that's too pentecostal of me to point to demonic attack for stuff ... but I can't figure out what else it could be. Why else would cell phones all of a sudden stop sounding clear, and never have signal when bethany and I needed to talk? It's the one form of communication we have, and it frustrates us more than allows us to talk. Why else would my car get broken into the week before my busiest gigging weekend in a while, and three weeks before our wedding? Why else would her jewelry have been left in my car that one time? Why is there something new wrong with my car every time i walk outside to drive it? There's other things. ... There's TONS of other things. Too many list, and too personal to talk about.

I dunno, maybe every guy goes through this when they're so close to marriage, and can't see their fiancee more than a few hours a week, if that. Almost there. My next post will either be more depressing or post-wedding. See ya


What I'm Learning

I could probably title this: "What's really frustrating me right now" ... but I'm choosing to remain positive. It's true that the harder you work out, the stronger you become; I'm learning the same is true in life when it comes to character.

It feels like, lately, every aspect of my life is being tested and stretched. In my work, my abilities and creative output have been questioned, and at times, rendered useless. In love, my patience and perseverence have been stretched, and my true nature has been laid bare before me. In my personal life, I feel run down, overwhelmed, and stressed out, almost to the point where I can't see relief coming, which is scary.

I don't really see the need to run down the details of all of these problems, just share what conclusions I've made, and am continuing to make.

The opinions of others don't (or, at least shouldn't) decide who I am as a musician, and what is considered "good" or "bad." I have the bittersweet opportunity, currently, to find myself in very diverse musical situations from day to day. The hardest thing for me is to remember that what is "cool" in one circle is most likely not cool in another. This means everything from dress to relating to others to actual notes played. It's very hard for me, then, to find any identity in those things. That might be the biggest benefit of it all. I can't tell people "I'm a worship musician" or "I'm a jazz musician" because I'm only those things one night a week. I guess what I'm learning through this is that you have to know your audience. I get SO frustrated (or, if you know me well enough, you know it's more anger than frustration) when something that I'm proud of, musically, gets rejected or ridiculed by another person. Recently I was producing a CD, and I had written an interlude for an artist's song. I had been given freedom to create a mood and mold this song. After several recording sessions, and hours of work writing, recording, and editing this music, the artist told me they "hated" what i wrote, and we had to cut it out. It was the wrong "vibe" for the song. What ticked me off was that it was my favorite part of the song, as it was everyone else who had heard it to that point. But, as a producer, I'm to be submissive to the artist, and the music was cut out. There was so much I wanted to say, and I could've defended my 8 bars for hours, but I wasn't paying for it, so my opinion was useless. That's a hard place to be in. I'm still trying to figure out how to balance my thoughts when I'm hired to do a job based on my abilities, and then because I'm "hired," my abilities are at the mercy of whoever likes or doesn't like my work. Here's a tip for anyone that has someone else write music for them: Your opinions are welcome, usually, but use tact. To say you "hate" what someone has spent time and creativity and experience to write screams loudly "I'm not as good as you and I'm going to use what little power I have to make myself feel better than you." ... and it hurts.

I'm almost married. May God hasten the day. I think weddings are beautiful, but I think they're also a tool of the enemy. Don't assume I'm just a guy that doesn't like picking colors and decorations. (I am, just don't assume that's what this is about). I think that the time before the marriage is probably the most important part of courtship. True selves are becoming revealed, comfortability is being found (both good and bad), and lives are very close to changing forever. At the same time, all attention and effort and energy is going into planning an event. A social event. Decor is chosen, details are fought over, and all of our identity is placed into what color or music or food we choose. What better thing to distract a couple that should be learning how to love each other than a huge, life-consuming project that blends dreams and desires and disapointments and deadlines. Not "blends" like a nice combination, but "blends" like the blades that frappe ice and fruit and powders to create nasty protein shakes that dont' taste good but are supposedly good for you. ... I digress. What am I learning? Marriage is not going to make me happy. She can't make me happy. Marriage is a mirror that reveals our filth and selfishness and pride, and somehow can bring us closer to God. She can't complete me, and shouldn't ... that's asking way to much of another human being.

So, those are some of the main things I'm finding out lately. There's tons more, but I've already written enough. Maybe I'll think of some more big ones and continue this later. Oh, one more thing I'm learning: You choose positiveness. It might be in your personality to lean towards negative or positive, but either way, you can choose to think positively and find the best in situations. I don't know how to do this, but I know that it's a choice. Anybody that knows how can tell me. Thanks.


Right now...

I'm always wary about what to write on these blogs. I mean, how much
should I really reveal about myself to whatever random person decides
to read this?

I'm a very private person. I am extremely choosey about who I decide
to open up to. I'm untrusting. I can't tell if that's a good thing or
a bad thing.

I can tell that I'm in an annoyingly loud Starbucks, and I'm
putting in headphones. They are singing the orders in broadway musical
voices, which is just a little too much excitement for my barely awake
mind. Yes, 1:15pm, barely awake.

So, back to my privacy. I struggle between desiring community and
openness and transparency, and my own tendencies to be reserved and
private. I don't like overbearing people all up in my business. I'm
intensely independent, to the point that I'm almost offended if a
suggestion comes at the wrong time from the wrong person. It takes
alot for me to feel comfortable around other people. It takes a strong
confidence that I don't often have.

I guess I don't mind when people suggest things to me, but I think
people might confuse my lack of action or word as a loss for
direction. That's usually not true. I think before I act, and most
likely I'll have a whole situation worked out before I make the first

Maybe it just freaks me out to think that people observe me and take
notice of what I do and say. I usually just want to sneak by
unnoticed. I don't like attention much, I get uncomfortable when I'm
singled out of a group (even family and close friends). I like to
quietly do my thing. I like one-on-one conversations and interactions.

I've been realizing some of the inner struggles of my heart and mind
over the last few years, as I've gotten to know some of the inner
struggles of another heart. It's been scary, it's been frustrating.
I'm sure we all fight with some sort of self-righteousness. I thought
I was humble. Ha! I'm much more selfish than I could have imagined. I
do believe, though, that a close relationship (such as marriage)
should reveal your selfishness or it's not doing its job. I'm
overwhelmed right now with who I am, but I'm confident that God is
working in me, and using Bethany to shape me into the man I'm supposed
to be.

I get overwhelmed when I look at who I wish I was, or who I could be
right now. "If only I'd read my Bible every day in college," "If only
I had a church home for those 6 years I was playing at different
churches each week," "If only I was more spiritual, then I'd be more
apt to get out and serve and less apt to sit around wishing I was more
spiritual and ready to be out serving and making a difference." It's
sad for me to look back and miss how things were in 9th grade.

I've got enough smarts to know, though, that God loves and can use the
man I am right now... this unshowered, unshaved, quiet guy, sitting in
the Starbucks, missing his fiancee, wondering if he's good enough for
her, ashamed at his current heart condition, trying to remember if
he's always been this quiet or if it's a result of too much time spent
alone... that guy. God can use me now. Maybe the forced smile I gave
to the Waffle House waitress today was just what she needed. Maybe the
bottled water I gave the weasely lawn guy that I don't trust was
exactly what he was praying for, if he does pray.

Yes, God can use me for bigger things. Or, God could not use me at
all. Why do I always think God has to use me for huge things? God
doesn't need me. At all. I forget that real life is ministry. I keep
thinking God's about to allow me these huge oppertunities, so I sit at
home waiting for them, and come out sometimes, but don't interact with
people if I can help it, and I treat "small" gigs like nuisances. I'd
probably find more joy if I was a little more involved in life's

I hope that wasn't too revealing. I guess we all have this desire to
be known, just some of us lack the courage and voice to let ourselves
be known. Even more, I think, we have a desire to be known, and loved
in light of it.


Let's Move

I was thinking about this today on a long drive.

Places I Would Want To Live In For a Few Years:
Las Vegas

Places I Would Want To Live In For a Year:
New York

Places I Need To Visit Still:
New England
South America

Favorite Smaller Towns in America:
Jackson, MS
Eugene, OR
Pasadena, CA
Destin, FL
Lake McConaughey, NB

Maybe these lists are not complete. I like alot of places.



Ok, it's a general topic, very wide in its scope. So let's narrow it
down to "what music is."

I was reading some reviews of an album on iTunes today, and I came
across the phrase, "If you don't like this album, you don't understand
what music is." I'll be honest, that made me laugh. Who made
LaterGator the expert on what music is?

It's something I've dealt with for the past few years as I've grown
musically and been put into some very differing musical situations:
What is music?

I play with those who would say that music is art, that it's an
expression, and only the most organic, bare, poetic, honest portrayals
of human life and existence are worth listening to. All it takes is a
way with words, a few chords, and an unpolished, moody voice, and
you've got art. Anyone can do it.

I'll be honest, that approach upsets me. Why did I spend so many hours
of my life so far perfecting skills, researching history and
technique, and ridding myself of the rawness that some people see as

So then, is the only true music the disciplined arts? Is the purest
form of expression found with complete mastery of the medium being
expressed? I love to hear people who are proficient (at least) on
their instruments. There is something inspiring about listening to
someone who has given much of their time and thought into mastering a
skill. It is a truer talent, however, when you can mix that
proficiency with emotion and communication. Those are things that
can't necessarily be taught. They separate good from great.

Can you be proficient and not expressive? Yes. Music can become
mathematical and methodical, as can anything (love, religion, visual
arts). I've heard plenty of concerts that sounded like a reciting of
notes rather than a portrayal of art. You can tell the difference
between good acting and bad acting, right? A high school play going to
be different from a blockbuster movie. Is that because the high school
students don't have something to say? Or is it because the big actors
have spent years training and gaining experience?

But does music have to express something to be good? Does it have to
reveal something profound about life and the human condition? If I may
complain about something, I don't like the word "cheesy." I've known
people that have a self-proclaimed "high cheesy meter." I've never
known any aspect of music to be more subjective than "cheesiness."
What you see as cheesy, I might see as fun. What I see as cheesy, you
might see as cool or modern. I think most rap music is cheesy, but for
some reason it sells, and people listen to it. Everything Fergie has
released is cheesy, but she's always on the top of the iTunes
downloads. I think some of the music I listen to could be considered
cheesy, but I also see the skill of the players, and can't call that
cheesy. Do you think classical music is cheesy? I could give you just
as many reasons why it's genious.

I'm tired of typing now. I never intended to end this with a
conclusion of "this specific music is real music." If you like it,
it's music to you. Just everybody stop saying their music is real
music. As much as I hate to admit it, rap is music. Pointellism is
technically music. Atonality is music, as much as Emo. I guess I am
now the expert, so if I say music is real music, then I'm correct,
right? I'm not afraid of people having differing opinions, I just
don't like those who put down another opinion to lift up their own. I
don't have to like rap or hip hop, but I won't think you're dumb for
liking it. It makes you happy, just like bluegrass or classical makes
me happy, then you should like it. Tha'ts all I have to say today.
Stay cool.

- josh