The sound touches my ears, and I feel it tremble its way down through my neck and into the space beneath my collarbones, the space that sits empty otherwise. I know only the basics of how this sound comes to be – fingers against strings wrapped in tiny coils of steel – but for the life of me, I could not create the tones, the notes, the voice of these strings. I wouldn’t want to. The pleasure of listening comes, at least partially, because I have no way to do it myself. It’s the joy of being brought into something, not creating it myself.
No sound makes me more happy, more calm, more joyous than the sound of guitar strings, steel strings, except perhaps the silence that lets me wait for more.
My family is musical, so I guess that’s where this love comes from. My mom plays the piano with fingers that were made for the instrument. My brother writes music that garners him comparisons to Stravinsky. My father can sing – off-tune but enthusiastically – better than anyone I know. We listened to music all the time in my childhood home. We listen to it now. Without music, my life would be silent in so many painful ways. With it, the mundanity of my life becomes one of those movies – High Fidelity or Garden State – where the story sings to life because of its score.
Tomorrow night, I get to interview my favorite musician – singer/songwriter Ellis Paul. I can’t tell you how nervous I feel. The nervousness comes mostly comes from my fear that I will sound like the fawning fan that I am. I am nervous because I’m not sure how to talk to a person who seems to capture the spirit of my heart when he doesn’t even know me (and yes, I realize I sound a bit like a teenage girl with a crush here – that’s because I am a bit like a teenage girl with a crush on Ellis Paul). Ellis’s music pulls ideas, melodies, notes together in a way that makes me feel like I’m sitting in the kitchen of a good friend talking through what makes life glorious and painful.
When I hear the first few notes of the piano introduction to “Home,” something within in me settles. “You are my home,” he sings. I know that feeling. People are always more home to me than places.
So tomorrow night, when I sit down with him after his sound check, I hope he brings his guitar. I hope he will strum while we talk. I hope I can express the way he has scored my life through the questions I ask. I hope he can call forth the words for the answers he wants to share. I hope I find a little of home in him, just like I do in his songs.
I hope you are there, too.
“This song will sing you through to better days.” — Ellis Paul