The Cottonwood Shivers

You can only do something for so long. I recently re-read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. There is a section where he talks about how everything is always in constant motion. It’s something I like to think about. It is the truth of our world. The atoms that we are made of are constantly vibrating, which gives them their illusory sense of solidness. Sameness, staticness, they don’t really exist, except in our heads. It reminds me that change is natural, movement is natural. That is the nature of material life. The stillness, the everlasting, only ever exists as the backdrop to all the movement. And in that way, it doesn’t exist. We were listening to Neutral Milk Hotel’s album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea today, which I had mostly never listened to. There’s a line in there: “how strange it is to be anything at all”. That’s what the stillness would say.
Stillness… Hmmm… What’s the opposite of stillness? How about Making The Cut, the new reality TV show on Amazon. Good heavens that show. It’s just a mess. The designers have three days, two days, sometimes one gosh darn day to make a “collection”, which is then judged by a rolling ensemble of ultra-discerning fashion hustlers. I think it’s permanently affected my health. It does raise interesting questions of creativity, though. The primary driver behind the show is Amazon Fashion. Some of the designers are real artists, and seeing them come face to face with the biggest commercial force in the world is... painful? Well, perhaps. But also eye-opening. Every person who makes art has to deal at some point with trying to sell it and make money and appeal to people. I’ve just never seen it illustrated with such clarity before.
Speaking of artistry, I’ve been writing more songs recently and increasingly using presence to guide me. It’s all coming out very honest. Last week I was trying to tell someone whom I had just met what my style of music was. I fumbled with words like “alternative” and “have you heard of Jeff Buckley?”, before reaching the more solid ground of “it’s very emotional”. You might not be able to get an idea from me saying “I play mostly electric guitar, I sing, I write songs”, but if I tell you that I love emotional music, honest music, I think that paints a clearer picture. I’m hoping to do some recordings soon, and perhaps get some things ready to put up online under the name The Cottonwood Shivers. I think I mentioned that before once? Apparently I did not. Well, I want to use that name for a new project. It came to me over the last year, when staring in awe at one of the giant cottonwood trees that grow here. The songs I’ve been writing for it are, as I said, honest. They seem to be coming from a deep place. They’ve been mostly very easy to write. Al introduced me to a visual artist, W Tucker, at some point. I really love his work. He is very present with his practice, and he has a phrase “all tricks aside” which he uses as a pointer for pretencelessness. It comes back to me from time and has helped me shed some cleverness. Maybe it’ll help you, too.