The most vivid artwork I’ve ever seen was a series of blank frames.
The first time I walked into the Dutch Room at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I was gobsmacked. This room was the site of the most notorious art heist in history, where thirty-three years ago, two thieves disguised as police officers broke into the museum and stole half a billion dollars worth of masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Degas. I’ve never witnessed such a visceral display of the absence of art.
Reading the stories on this website is a humbling experience, seeing that every person has been through so many things — both good and bad — and it only goes to show the evils of ignorance and presumptions, which may just rid one of many a great encounter. At the same time, acknowledging the scope of everybody’s inner world can become a maddening experience. When stuck in traffic or when boarding a bus, the realization that everyone there has a family to go home to (or not), with their own individual problems and pockets of happiness, who are having children, each with their own proper names and lives, etc., etc. can drive one crazy.
Did you know that there is a word for this? Sonder, or “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” I am afraid some people never have this feeling, which is unfortunate for themselves and everyone around them. But I am also convinced that an artist cannot live without it. The artist manages to internalize other people’s stories and turn them into art: in doing it, the artist makes the ocean’s vastness intelligible, drop by drop. In keeping with this analogy, we find that some stories are constantly and haphazardly pumped from the water’s surface, whereas others must be sought for at the depth of the Mariana trench.
I fear that my story belongs to the latter category, but don’t pity me because I’ve already come to terms with obscurity. Now let this be the introduction to my own little story about how a Dutch bloke decided to write an album based on the first publication by America’s greatest author.
Mrs. Penny was one of those teachers you remember – she encouraged me, enjoyed my stories, and often read them to the class. She told me to study sciences for a better-paid job, and off down that road I skipped studying engineering. But as Iggy Pop once quipped, if you’re creative, there’s something inside you, and it needs to get out…
Million Pebble Beach is my chosen “Nom de Guerre” – a nod to a local artist and the area (Pete Codling’s One Million Pebbles project in Portsmouth).
Two years ago, at 17 years old, I would be exposed to crucial elements that would rock my understanding of myself and my place in this world.
I was first introduced to Erik, my best friend and co-founder of Tiki Bar, through mutuals at a house party. At that point, we didn’t have many similarities: He was the embodiment of a modern-day hippie, and, unbeknownst to me, I was still searching for a purpose to assign me individuality.
If there is one aspect of music that is underrated, it is the storytelling and imagination it inspires. I have been infatuated by those qualities since I was four years old, and I have never stopped telling stories through music.
I grew up in a small town in Minnesota called Elbow Lake. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in the “sticks” of MN, so I found love in rock ‘n’ roll at an early age through my older brother’s music collection. He moved out when I was young, joined the Air Force and was stationed in England when I was in middle school, so our family took a trip overseas to see him. When I got there, he showed me his electric guitar. I picked it up, and he showed me a couple of licks. I played that damn thing the rest of the time I was there. My parents heard me playing it the whole weekend and later that year, for Xmas, I got my first guitar. I was obsessed. I quit all sports and just focused on that.
Narth said that one day the machine asked him a question: “why do you trust anything I tell you?” He said that at first he was pretty taken aback, I think I would have been too. As he went about his day, he said that the question was always there, in the back of his mind, a distant orbit. Eventually, he returned to the machine, to try and understand why it had asked him that question.
Glamour? Stardom? Fame? Money? Is this it? That what you’re in for? Then you’re missing out on the real thing. On the hardship to inspire you. On the failure that’ll make you stronger. On the losses that’ll teach you there is more to it than things. On all of what’ll make you put your soul into your songs. Believe me, they will understand. They will know by the way you sing them. And they’ll laugh and cry and weep and smile. Once you’ve seen this, you’re on the right track.
As a songwriter, I like to go back and study the songs that have left the biggest mark on me. When I was finishing my recent album Bad Poems For Good People, no song was stronger in my mind than The River by Bruce Springsteen.