Thursday, May 15, 2014

It Don't Come Easy~The Art of Grunge Storytelling~ Turning Your Grungy Memories into Great Stories

As I somewhat grappled about what to publish this month, I came across a quote I had forgotten about. It became famous by TV's beloved children's show host and creator Mr. Rogers.  He used to carry a quote he got from a social worker that said, " There's no one you couldn't learn to love once you've heard their story." I always thought that was a great and beautiful quote.

Let's start by looking at an important question. Would Layne Staley, Kurt Cobain, Andrew Wood, Mike Starr and the other fallen musicians of Seattle want their stories told? And what stories would they want shared? Who would want the good times only shared and who would say, "I want stories to be told that will help young addicts make better choices?"

You gotta pay the dues if you wana sing the blues
And you know it dont' come easy 

Ringo Starr

Stories define us. And there is somewhat of a formula for storytelling. Aristotle described this formula over a thousand years ago. It's very simple. There are three words: Pity. Fear. And Catharsis. People naturally empathize with the subject of the story that they can relate to and are then invested in the outcome.

It's said that Beethoven's preference for a happy ending was not accidental. He wrote music in this formula knowing that people naturally respond to a story told within the music. It's an organic reflection of each of our own lives. Suffering struggle, and overcoming -- It's what we do.

In an age of violent transparency in film, TV, and music, of course it's important to also be genuine and entertaining. A gifted writer can show long-term intention,  sharing their memories while still being true to their own philosophy and belief systems and even while still being comedian!

One of my favorite musicians who tells stories through his music is Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes.  A good songwriter can tell a story through lyrics that so closely resonate with the listener, one might think the song was written for them.

Are you wanting inspiration? 
You spill your secrets on me
Then you tell me with a whisper 
of things that'll never be
Do you hear me breathin'? 
Does it make you want to scream? 
Is it ever like a bad dream? 
Sometimes, life is obscene

Chris Robinson~The Black Crowes

Think of yourself, and a story that someone would tell about you.  Do you think abstractly enough to realize your story is being lived out at this very moment? 

Also, when you think about technology and the access to information, it makes you realize the importance in storytelling vs facts. Our poor kids are in school every day learning facts they don't need to know, because it's at the tip of their fingers now on a computer. Of course there's a real value in the act of studying; being "a student" teaches patience and listening and hopefully, social skills. But it has never been more useless to be "smart" about information. Information vs. time and experience sets storytellers at a real advantage. The fact is that genuine storytelling will always win. 

Lori Anderson's daughter Lilly... Lovechild 2.0 

Take the story of the girl in this photo, cleverly re-named "Lovechild 2.0" by her mom, a friend who knew and loved Andy Wood, the original "Lovechild" of Seattle. The kid is full of energy and a regular pre-teen in every way -- she's rambunctious as all hell,  but completely serious about it when she says she talks to Andy's ghost, and will occasionally send me messages from him with little stories woven in, usually about a disappointing Dallas Cowboy's game. Is it important that her stories are true? Of course not.  It's completely charming and extraordinary because it's organically grown in her imagination. It's pure magic -- childlike innocence at its finest moment -- she recognizes that I need to believe Andy's "around" and she delivers, wanting nothing in return, just to give a little love, so essentially he is speaking through her. As I read it, I can easily picture Andy and Tom Landry discussing football tactics and laughing about great past game conquests.  Recognize these silky moments, my friends. Get them on paper. If you're an artist, get them on canvas. Whatever medium you choose, your imagination will give you access to those other magical worlds and, in turn, allow you to express it to others. You will become a story teller. 

This is a fantastic time for local music in Seattle. The creative juices are flowing thick, trickling down, literally feeding the souls of everyone that's responsive to art and music. As I was writing this, I remembered another time, when Seattle had this kind of energy. It seems like just yesterday I was sitting on the wood floors of our apartment painting stars on Andy's jeans while we listened to a cassette of songs Chris Cornell wrote and gave to us to check out. Probably at the exact same moment Chris was driving to Lake Washington with Bill the Dog, and listening to songs of Andy's! They were cute like that.  I can just see Chris now... mustache-less, shirtless, and with his torn up Levi's on, driving that green LTD or whatever it was. I can remember seeing Owen, Nick, and Ivan from My Sister's Machine at Lake Washington with Layne.  No one put Layne in a good mood like those guys. They re-invented the word shenanigans. If Jerry was there he'd have his cassette of new Alice songs and force everyone to listen to it ha ha!  Everyone happily listened to each others' music. It made painting stars on jeans and making hats easy... The fountain of inspiration was right never far away.

Landrew the Lovechild-My own personal 
Man of Golden Words 

I strongly encourage each person reading this to turn their memories in stories. If you threw Scott Weilend down a flight of stairs -- we want to hear about it! Oh wait, that was me! Your struggles and adversity are welcome here. If you got through a hard time and a certain Blind Melon album got you through it -- we want to know! This is your safe place to be vulnerable. Your undeserved misfortune doesn't scare us away! I fully believe that the magical alchemy of writing transports one to another world and can bring closure to the past. It don't come easy, my almost famous-medium gorgeous special monkeys, but when it does, bring it on home to Xanaland.

For Ivan