The Creative Process is a form of prayer for me…and prayer is a way of becoming “whole.” ~ bill mallonee c.2018
“These are observations, not accusations,” I once heard an old priest say.
So are these…a bit of a “My Year in Review.”
For me, much of 2018 has been a year of graces un-imaginable.
Graces lavished on an unworthy fellow.
I’ve been the recipient of more goodwill & good wishes than you can (as they say in the South) “shake a stick at.”
And for those graces, I am “lump-in-the-throat” thankful.
Nothing like a “brush with mortality” to help one put things in perspective.
Inventory? Hard not to take.
I’m an artist; a songwriter to be exact; one with lots to say. New songs (a triple album’s worth) surfaced this year, I chased as many as I could and recorded them.
I’ve “been at this” for over 25 years now as a professional recording & touring artist with 80plus albums under my belt. Honest.
Not for lack of trying but “Flavor-of-the-month” scenes were never all that kind to me, nor the gatekeepers of the so-called music “biz.”
Sometimes you just do what you were meant to do without anyone else’s permission.
And that’s a lonely place to be, but a necessary one.
Everyone wants to be loved and appreciated;
But when it comes to art? well, perhaps Love & Appreciation are over-rated
I’m lucky. I have a few fans who “get it.” Get the life, the fragile-ness of it, the broken-ness of it…and the joy beyond words of it, too.
Moved out to the Great American west (and I mean rural west) almost 10 years ago.
Most creative time in of my life. That “relocation” to New Mexico has yielded lots of songs, lots of albums.
I’ve noticed a few things that never change, though.
One? My name is rarely, if ever, included among the “shakers & movers” and usual suspects of the Americana scene; Seems like it’s always been that way since my first band appeared on the national scene. That was 80 albums ago.
I began to create and render my work completely outside the superstructure in 2000;
It’s still that way.
Honestly? I have no idea why I’m still able to hang on;
I know it’s that way for a good many good Americans these days;
I do know that something inside of me will die, and likely me along with it, if I stop.
Externally? The “locust years” have been unrelenting;
’18 was no exception.
Again, just to keep it focused, friends: “These are observations, not accusations,”
The gains? My prayer life has grown by leaps and bounds. I think my faith in miracles has, too. That’s the only thing that could explain many things that keep my world relatively sane and me alive.
Songs, concepts and ideas keep coming, unabated;
The guitar and the making of songs has become something of a portal for me
I love it.
The “creative process?”
Call it a form of prayer…and prayer is a way of becoming “whole.” No getting around it. Something strange & wonderful happens to me whenever I pick up a guitar & there’s a blank empty page in front of me to be filled.
I grin a lot in the process.
Best not to unpack or scrutinize that gift too much, I suppose.
Sometimes movements of the heart fuse with chord progression, fuse with a melodic solo and there’s that damn lump in the throat;
and yeah, sometimes I’m in tears.
Added a few new instruments to my “vocabulary.”
Lap Steel, bass, baritone guitar, to mention a few.
Guitar playing much improved since being out here in the West;
“Here’s the wind up and…”
I’m still here…still pitching.
A year of swinging for the fences with burgeoning new ideas and songs.
>New recordings (Forest Full of Wolves, Orphan Songs);
>A year of writing & recording over 40 new songs for a new album due up early next year, “Lead On, Kindly Light;”
>A year that saw an old VoL album, Killing Floor released on double vinyl;
That’s not all:
>2018 was a year of producing 8 song/video & guitar tutorials
> and the introduction of the “52 New Songs in 52 weeks” series started 4 months ago, a series that’s rendered a new song/video for 20 weeks.
Not many takers this year…
Where are any of these observations going?
I have hoped for years that what I think is good art would somehow, if even in a paltry way, pay the bills…but it never does. Debt is stratospheric and there really seems to be no reversal of the trajectory. I forget how to smile.
But again, I ‘m lucky i have a remedy.
I get to look at the same mountain peaks that naturalist, writer and lover of the planet John Muir gazed upon and was smitten by and feel a lot better
Locust years do make for some harsh, sad epiphanies.
When I was on the road some 20plus years, we saw so many folks in this country just barely hanging on.
Of course, I can tell you, it’s been that way for artists for hundred’s of years, as well.
Perhaps I’m in “good company.”
Ah, c’est la Vie!
“What the heck do we “take away” from your ramblings, Mr. Mallonee?”
Well, for what it’s worth, I try to address all that’s grim, sad & hopeless in my work. I don’t really do this for you, as much as i have to do it for me.
It helps me stare it all down.
Simply this: If I’ve done my job well, then I’ve excavated something like “truth” and given it a proper “nomenclature.” Meaning it’ll resonate with a few, perhaps many folks.
No artist does this perfectly but, in my opinion, there are some who get closer than others.
If writing is a form of prayer then perhaps it is also a type of prayer in which we cry for help. Who knows what pen & ink, instrument & electricity will awake within?
I hold these songs, these “prayers,” up to the Light.
Because, Light has been known to obliterate the shadows & the darkness…at least for a little while.
Hopefully, what I’ve rendered across these many albums over many years will, in the end, be valued as an honest testimonial; one suffused with a consistent wrestling with the issues of faith & hope…and why I think Love has the last word; Hundreds of songs that manifests a realism, excavated from our human heart’s deeper yearnings…
Because, as I’ve said frequently: We are all living in the same skin…
Let’s make that bond of our soul-ish commonality our strength this coming year.
Carrying on. Be the change,