Monday, August 30, 2010

attack of the WTFs

I think it's time to admit something to you, friends and listeners-of-my-music. While it's true that I have a generally sunny disposition, I, too, am occasionally laid low by a sudden attack of the WTFs. They creep in at night, usually when I'm "hangry" (that familiar hybrid of 'hungry' and 'angry', articulated to me by the formidable Regan Kelly), and ask me, snarlingly, WTF I'm doing with my life.

I believe that everyone has a purpose. It's the thing you do best, and that best expresses who you are. It's not always what you feel like doing, or what most needs doing, it's what you feel compelled, or "called" to do, from somewhere deep inside.

Though I am guilty of a superficial ambition for fame and fortune, my actual purpose in is something deeper and lovelier. When I moved to Philadelphia in 2006 to make music full-time, after a soul-clarifying summer in San Francisco, I brought with me the following statement, written on a little green note card:

My purpose as a musician is to write and perform bravely, passionately, playfully, and honestly. By doing so, I intend to move people and open hearts.

In other words, I want to help people experience what Joseph Campbell calls "the rapture of being alive". This is my purpose in life, not just in music, but making music is an excellent way to get the job done (partly because music has always been the most reliable way for ME to experience said rapture). After four years and about 400 shows, that's still what I mean to do, every time I get on stage.

When I get an attack of the WTFs, they usually start with a superficial question. For instance: "Why didn't you play better, just now?" or, "Why aren't YOU headlining at that venue?" The question behind the question is this: "Are you really serving your purpose?" And the answer is, I don't know. My purpose is not something measurable, or even visible. It's about small changes that happen in people's hearts. I can't possibly know, unless you tell me.

So, I'm writing this post, with great reluctance and biting of nails, to ask for your help. If my music has moved you, I would like to hear about it. Your responses will not be published anywhere, and I don't need the details, unless you want to share them. Just send me an email, and tell me that you're there, you hear me, and it's working.


  1. WOW, thank you for all the amazing responses! They are going in my brand new "WTF counter-attack" folder. Will definitely come in handy.

  2. Dear Carsie: You might be the only singer-songwriter I know that cites Joseph Campbell. If that does not encourage yourself enough, just learn from previous failures and older people (like myself) who still keep fighting against the WTF's with a smile on their faces.

    "We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

  3. It excited me that you cited Joseph Campbell too! The "wtf's" get me late at night's part of the creative process I suppose. So glad you keep on singing anyway!

  4. regarding WTF moments: Everyone has a special talent, and clearly you have found several (musician, singer, songwriter) where you excel and entertain and lift the hopes of others. My hope for you is that later in your career you find a cause worthy enough to use your talents for the betterment of that cause.

    For example, I think of Alfonse Mucha, and the way, after he was rich and famous, the way he turned his great artistic talent to painting the series of very large scale paintings known as "The Slav Epic" to tell the story of the Slavic people.

    So, for now, you are doing exactly what you should be doing so that 40 years from now, you will take up a great cause and lend your talents to it in a way that will matter.

    That's the "what" in your WTF moments.


  5. I heard you on Mountain Stage this morning. I only got to hear a portion of your gambling song. I was intrigued by your phrasing and I wanted to hear more. Keep it up because you. I'd say you've hit the mark with me.