“Beats spreading gravel for a living” is a famous quote of the late Elliott Smith when asked his take on being a musician. It’s refreshing actually, that this was one of his thoughts on the subject. Why? Well for starters everything in this life comes with it’s pros and cons. Of course being a musician definitely beats spreading gravel, because in all reality who really wants to do physical labor like that for only the result of spread gravel. Being known for your music is awesome, however I’m sure it comes with it’s own stress factors especially being in the constant spotlight. A friend of mine that has worked non stop over the years to build his business, take care of his family and be able to do the things he enjoys on the weekends recently just reminded me of this quote. Jim, is an avid boat lover and has been a good friend of mine for many years. He has bought and sold his share of boats during our friendship but there is one that he will always keep and re vamps it every now and again with a new paint job. This time around however, Jim decided to vinyl wrap his boat! The cool thing about it is he worked with a boat wrapping company that customizes his wrap and in doing so added these words of Elliott Smith to the side of his boat. Jim’s take is being out on the water sure beats spreading gravel, or heck doing anything else for that matter. At first I thought he was kinda crazy and wasn’t sure what his prized boat was going to look like
As you may have gathered from my previous posts, that usually are based around a quote from this inspiring musician, Elliott Smith was a man with depth. Not only did he live his life with purpose and meaning, these characteristics carried over into his music. His lyrics no matter the song depicted emotion, and most definitely exposed his raw self. Although he battled depression and fought his own personal struggles he left a legacy of words with meaning. Take a second and actually digest these lyrics
“ She took the oldsmobile out past Condor Avenue/Cops running around the scene looking for some kind of clue/They never get uptight when a moth gets crushed/Unless the light bulb really loved him that much”-(Lyrics from the song “Condor Avenue”)
When I first read these lyrics I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was being said to be honest. I had to stop and really absorb these words to understand. That’s the beautiful thing with music however, people perceive things, thoughts, words, in their own ways. The meaning they find shifts with an individual’s perspective.That’s what makes good music so appealing though isn’t it? The fact that no matter the person when you listen to a song you may feel it actually speaks to you. For me the meaning of these words came to me in a sudden realization. What i perceived was unless you are in the spotlight or a person deemed as important you are insignificant. That when it comes down to it you only matter if you are actually “Somebody”. How defeating is that if we actually feel and believe that? How true of a statement is it especially in today’s society. The Kardashians are famous for being famous. They don’t necessarily have any special skills, or talents let alone have accomplished anything greater than most of us. But everyone wants to know what is going on with them, when they suffer from something it is of greater importance than those who the light bulb doesn’t love. It is not fair, it’s defeating, and it’s basically just the way it is.
Elliott as a person saw things for what they were. He understood that even if we didn’t want things to be a certain way they just were. Perhaps that is why he battled depression and his inner demons. Perhaps that is not, actually, it undoubtedly is why he was such a great musician. He wasn’t singing and writing these songs for the fame and for that light bulb to love him. He wrote and sang to express his feelings. To get set his own thoughts and emotions out. To represent those crushed moths that otherwise seemed insignificant.
Today I feel that a lot of our societies foundation is built upon the image of things and not what is really important. What really matters. Elliott said it best, most music is just words written to a beat that sounds good. Songs are meant to express meaning however. Maybe that is why I have heard so many people say that music isn’t what it used to be. That most musicians become famous these days because of their image. We miss the days when songs spoke to us and we felt the music instead of just hearing it. Afterall if you don’t feel something does it really have meaning? Just a thought….because do we really need the lightbulb to love us to actually feel or be important???
Trying is what matters…at least by my interpretation. That’s what Elliott Smith did, right? He got out there. Imperfect action, continual practices equates to the “sounds we make”.
How do you come to know what you can do, if you never try. Even if your not good, does that matter? It’s the practice the develops the play. Not all artists wake up and play or perform flawlessly…even if they do, without development and practice, someone else delivers.
We can take this quote and apply it to more than just music, to all that we do in our lives. Each one of us play our own life tunes. More often than not, people don’t even attempt to develop their’s. Whether from fear, overwhelming feelings of life, or a combination of both, humans refrain from finding their tune.
I recently spoke with an artist that went through a 12 week program to discover her inner artist. She engaged in this 12 week deal, not knowing all that would unfold, the reality of her unconscious, and how it withheld her from so many things. What she told me really made sense. She said it is true, what you can’t get better at things you never learn to play”, but why is it that you don’t learn to play them? An answer may immediately enter your mind, but unraveling layers of past experiences- cultural, and that inner voice that says you aren’t good enough (even though you may think he/she is not there), or you need to be better, may lead you closer to that answer.
In theory we know we must try things, practice things to better ourselves and grow stronger, or smarter on a subject, or better at a job, but it’s the practice end that may fall short. Your “practice” is subjective to you unconscious mind.
Play on those what you’ve read. May how you play be in silence, in thought, in action, or a combination.
I dedicate this quote from Elliott Smith to continual practice of life’s instruments.
I love meeting other Elliott Smith fans, or people who genuinely just enjoy his music. It’s really cool because it seems as though everyone has their own specific thing they like about Elliott. Some like him for his quiet and to-himself-style, where as others like him for his deep and meaningful lyrics.
I often ask people who I meet, that I end up talking to about Elliott, what they like most about him. Recently I asked a team member at a local vehicle wrap shop, what specifically he likes about Elliott, as our mutual interest in Elliott’s music came up during me getting services. He was such a knowledgable guy, and we talked about musicians in general for almost an hour, and said one thing that really stuck with me.
you know what I like so much about Elliott’s music, is the fact that he cares about what he writes about, and cares deeply. He is not unattached to his words like so many other musicians these days.
So I figured this quote that I am sharing today is very fitting considering my conversation this past weekend, and the great conversation I had. From my consensus this gentlemen and people in general fall in love with him because of his music, and the deep consideration he puts into every song.
It’s funny what we tell ourselves about ourselves. We seem to create an ongoing narrative of who we are in our mind, and what kind of person we are. It’s as if we create an image of ourself that we are constantly trying to defend and uphold.
I’m a nice, well intended person who wants the best for everyone.
By creating these ideas of ourselves we may be blinded by how things really are. Perhaps our cheery idea of ourselves blocks out the realization that we are sometimes selfish and inconsiderate of others. Even if our actions might suggest these traits, our overarching perception of ourselves does not allow us to acknowledge them, but rather brushes them off, by telling ourselves that’s not how we meant it. But how long can we deny certain behaviors about ourselves, until it affects us and others.
Can you truly see you?
It’s easy to assume things about people. It’s easy to assume how they will act, behave, and even think. It’s easy to assume if they are nice or a mean, or make assumptions about other personality traits of theirs. It’s easy to assume how they are when you are not around, or what types of things they like or find interest in. And often this is all done by just looking at them briefly.
Often times these assumptions are not that positive. You think you know someone will drop the ball, or will not live up to expectations. Or you think someone is a jerk before you ever exchange words. Why is that?
Perhaps it’s our own self worth coming out and reflecting on others. Our own internal frustrations and judgements about ourselves reflecting back at us. Though we may think it is someone else creating it, it may be our own perception of qualities of ourselves, masking themselves as the qualities of others.
It doesn’t really matter what it is, and if any of what I just said holds any water. The important thing, is that assuming things about others shortchanges everybody. It short changes the abilities of someone else, and it shortchanges potential relationships you can have with people that you too quickly make assumptions about.
Just as Elliott says, people have a way of putting others into boxes. Essentially putting people into categories that they have created in their mind, to create identities for people they do not know.
Maybe it’s our way of dealing with the unknown. When you don’t know something you try and explain it as a means of dealing with it.
If you have never seen a person signing in the middle of the street, and suddenly someone is singing in the middle of a busy street, you might make assumptions about them. Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t know why someone would do such a thing, so you categorize them as crazy. Even though there is nothing to support that, except for your unfamiliarity with his or her current actions.
There is not enough time to meet and speak with everyone on this earth, so I think we naturally want to make assumptions about people simply by the way they look, and perhaps by what comes out of their mouth. In the flash of a few seconds we make overarching assumptions about peoples intelligence, background, occupation, income and more. I don’t think everyone does this, but I think more people do this than they are willing to admit, I’m guilty.
Maybe our fear of what others think of us is constantly creating this judgmental dialogue in our mind that quickly pushes people in boxes based on our own insecurities. Smart..dumb…friendly…jerk and so on.
Perhaps it’s human nature, but I don’t believe so. I think there are people you are absent from these assumptions and judgements, and simply acknowledge things for what they are, and nothing more. They observe, but they do not think. They may see someone fall of their bicycle, and just observe it for what it is. Not quickly create thoughts like this person is unskilled, clumsy, or a loser. They simply notice the event and possibly see if they can help.
Situations come up all day that invite our thoughts, assumptions, and judgements, and it’s easy to humor those inclinations. But I ask you to not give in, not take the easy road, and assume you know everyone so well, because you don’t. Many of us have been surprised by people that we assumed certain things about, and they acted or reacted totally different than we would have assumed. So take the high road, and don’t put people in these boxes that they don’t want to be in.
A good friend of mine who is a huge Elliott Smith fan recently turned me onto this quote by Elliott. My interpretation of this quote is that essentially some bridges may get burnt on the way to solitude and self discovery.
Although my friend who shared this with me has a plumbing company in mesa az, and has a demanding life with all of his work, he is someone that appreciates solitude and alone time.
However, we have discussed on many occasions that seeking solitude often means burning bridges. Not necessarily intentionally, but because people are so demanding of others.
Many people expect you to accompany them to dinner, the movies, and on their emotional roller coasters with them. Most people are often unaware of how demanding they can actually be on others. Which leaves them offended when you choose not to accompany them occasionally.
Many people depend on companionship and do not seek solitude like others do. So they do not understand when someone refuses an invitation and will mistake it as rejection. Even though the person who turned down the offer simply did it to have some alone time.
Many times you can lose friends over this, and may possibly burn bridges.
I know from experience that my quest for solitude and self discovery resulted in many ill from those I was always close to. However as the quote states, it allowed me to get lost and focus on myself.
Sometimes you have to sequester yourself and get lost in order to find yourself. Because normally your identity can get clouded amongst the thoughts and actions of others. It is when you are alone that your true feelings and expressions emerge, unaffected by those around you.
Solitude is not easy for everyone though. For some, the thoughts and feelings that emerge are uncomfortable, and perhaps unenjoyable to be around. And when you are by yourself they are not easily ignored by the commotion of others.
In this solitude you learn so much about yourself, and sometimes things that you possibly don’t like. However nobody is perfect, and when you learn to accept these things, and don’t continue to try and mask them you free yourself. You free yourself from the energy it takes to try and mask them, and the energy you spend worrying about them.
Life becomes effortless when you accept it for what it is. Although there are many things you can change in life, somethings are there to be accepted for what they are. Trying to constantly change everything will constantly leave you feeling unfulfilled and seeking more.
When you just accept what it is, you accept that you are complete, and there is not something that needs to fixed or changed, and you can simply enjoy life.
You can’t hide in solitude forever.
At some point you will have to re-emerge into society and reconnect with the world. And perhaps the feelings and judgements of others might begin to cloud your thoughts, and your own identity of yourself. So it takes constant reflection and effort in order to maintain your inner peace and sometimes some more retreat.
However remember that life is about balance and the constant evolution of your understanding of yourself, and your relationship with the world and people around you.
Live and let go.
What the hell is the general public?
So often you hear the media, or figures of authority say the general public. Like it is some large body of humans swimming around somewhere that all think and act the same. They think things in category A are bad, and things in category B are good.
But who makes up the general public anyway? Individuals right?
But some overarching opinion of a large group of people can’t possibly represent the thoughts and opinions of everyone in the group. What a skewed perception you can create by saying that the majority believes this one thing about a subject. Like, this type of music is good music, and this type of music is bad. Casting votes does not capture the individuality of those involved, it simply draws narrow conclusions that take little into account about the individuals.
Allowing people to make narrow conclusions, and overarching statements, even though it’s not necessarily true, is deceitful and should be considered propaganda. Especially when it is used in a way to create people to act a certain way, such as saying the general public thinks guns are not safe. It’s simply political in nature to say such a thing, and should be called out for what it is.
It’s not like their method of collecting data is even that accurate. For example, after the election when they say the general public wanted a particular candidate as president, that’s not necessarily true. For one, people might choose to vote differently if there were more than two options. Similarly, many people don’t vote, so it’s not really representative of the majority anyway.
So why do people wield the thoughts and opinions of some mythical group, and say the general public believes this and that, as though it represents the thoughts and values of mankind.
To extinguish individuality of course.
As humans we yearn for companionship and acceptance by our fellow human beings, and totally dislike any feelings associated with not being accepted by our peers. So to say the general public thinks this about an issue or acts this way on a subject is a conniving way of trying to steer people in a direction, out of fear of being unapproved by their peers.
It’s tough to stand out against a crowd, and if they contrive that the general public (the crowd) thinks one way about something, many will feel powerless to stand against that thought.
Don’t be fooled by the general public. Stand up for what you believe.
For many of us, it is scary to stand out and be in the spotlight, because amongst the spotlight is ample opportunity to fail. However where ever there is opportunity to fail, there is equal opportunity to succeed. The two potentialities are present together in every situation. You always have the chance to do the most opportune thing, but equally have the opportunity to fail miserably.
Ever said something to someone and thought to yourself, “I couldn’t have said that any better.” Or perhaps on occasion, “that was the worst possible thing I could have said, anything else would have been better.”
I’m sure you have, because we all have at some point or another.
The funny thing is though that both of these possible outcomes are present at any given moment, as well as everything in between. You may either knock it out of the park or totally strike out.
Perhaps the contrast of both outcomes is what makes us appreciate the more favorable outcome so much, and helps to build the value of having things go in our favor.
Although this reality may be daunting to some, and cause them to be reluctant in certain situations to even try, however this uncertainty is this part of the beauty of the world. It is unknown and unpredictable. This unknown nature of the world makes it that much more exciting, and what creates such great highs, but it is equally what creates such hard lows.
Not knowing the outcome of a sporting event is the whole reason people tune in to watch it. If it is predicted to be a landslide in favor of one team, then you can bet there will be far less people in attendance.
Same with life, we all showed up to observe and participate in the outcome. It is not a series of determined events, but rather an obscene amount of randomness strung together by the actions of all of us. Even the largest events that seem rooted in history and unchangeable, even if we were to relive the past a thousand times, are not absolute, they could have happened differently according to the choices of the participants, and have be written differently in the history books.
If analyzed too acutely, one can become paralyzed by the monumental effect each and every action plays in their life. The choice to choose one group of friends over another, or to play sports or play the guitar all change the course of your life, whether in subtle or wildly dramatic ways.
However what Elliott Smith is saying in this quote is that not matter what you choose, choose it boldly and full heartedly.
There is nothing worse than going 3/4 of the way.
So many talented people hold back from giving it 100% because once you are all in and give it your full effort you are vulnerable. The excuse that you did not give it your all is no longer available. It is apparent to your observers that you have given it everything you have and now up to their discretion whether it was good enough or not. Or at least that is how it feels.
However it is this fear of others opinions that holds so many of us back. Very few people want to be the person that tries their hardest and fails, and has no excuse as to why they did not succeed. At least if you only gave it three quarters of your effort you can say that you didn’t really try.
Your biggest dreams exist on the other side of your biggest fears.
Every successful person that others admire has went head on with their biggest fears at some point or another, and often is why so many of us admire them. Because at some level we recognize that they have faced their fears, and we admire that about them, and wish it for ourselves.
They attacked something that they did not have a guaranteed outcome, but they went full steam none-the-less.
Now in this present moment they get to stand in disbelief at what their life has become, since the unknown masked the potential outcome that was to unfold from their actions in the face of fear.
The universe only wants to give you what it absolutely knows you want, and anything you really want is worth facing some fear and uncomfort for.
Whether it is music or life in general, there must be some contrast so we can appreciate the inverse of that feeling or emotion. It’s a mysterious reality of the world that you come to understand something by relating it to other things. And that things claim their identity and meaning through their relationship to other things.
You can’t know white without knowing black
Elliott states it beautifully that one cannot appreciate the happiness in his music without knowing the sadness. Amongst sadness, happiness shines and has much more meaning than if it were simply by itself and exclusively among other happiness. This is true whether in music or with people in real life.
It is the contrast that brings the upmost meaning to happiness because it stands out starkly against its sad counterpart, exposing all its distinct nooks and crannies.
The rain helps you appreciate the sun
We lose the value with too much of one thing. And it is the changing of seasons in nature and in our own lives that allows us to appreciate things as they cycle through our lives. It’s ironic because the perfect day actually does not exist, it’s only perfect based on it’s contrast to less ideal days. If you were to experience this day continuously day after day, it would be just that, another day. Without anything to relate it to, you would have nothing to compare it by, and no way to classify it is a good day.
Something is nothing, without something to compare it to…
How does it feel to be the center of attention, and the subject of everyones focus in a given moment? Not many of us have felt this kind of spotlight, not even for a moment in our life, and especially not on a regular basis.
One can only imagine the types of feeling and emotions that arise under such attention. For the thoughts of man can often be littered with scrutiny and judgement. Sometimes quietly but, many times vocally, and loudly across many media channels.
This is why tough skin is necessary for anyone taking stage especially in our modern world, especially because people take to social media to say hurtful things. The ability for people to hide behind computer screens and say hateful things makes being in the spotlight in today’s world so tough. A short term memory is required of you, so you can see each day as a new day, and forget what has been said before.
These facts make it increasingly difficult for shy and sensitive artist to stay to take to the stage in fear of the criticism that comes with modern stardom. One can only imagine how many talented people we miss out on, because of the judgement that comes with being on stage.
Reflection of Ourselves
The world is obviously in a sad place since many of us are so critical of people putting themselves out there. People’s own personal insecurities of not being good enough shine through and wage war on anybody who seems to threaten these peoples self worth. They condemn people for simply trying and put everyone in fear of putting themselves out there. At least those who are affected by such low energies.
People who subconsciously think they cannot do something and are attached to that, don’t want it for anyone else. So they scream it cannot be done, or find faults with every attempt.
Without a society of encouragement and support we are left with a small fraction of people who actually try. Everyone else is too fearful of giving it an honest try and falling short, and thus victim to the scrutiny of others.
This doesn’t only diminish the amount of people who are trying to make it music, but also sports, politics and much more. Don’t squash people’s dreams and don’t fuel peoples fears. Don’t judge the world…just observe.
If you have anything personal or special to share or anything that you think captures Elliott Smith’s music, artistry, personality or anything of that nature please share. Everyone s their own individual fan, so we all find different things that are special and meaningful to us individually. In order to share something please drop us an email and we can correspond that way. Thanks
Enjoy Elliot’s Oscar nominated song from Good Will Hunting “Miss Misery.” A piece inspired by his initial screening of the film, and an interpretation that only he could produce.
If you like it, please share it with others.
A tribute to Elliot Smith. An artist that through his soft temperament and quite voice inspired a following of fans around the world. There was obviously a lot to Elliot that he did not share with the world, only giving glimpses of himself to others through his music. That is how some of the most well known artist have always been, a bottle with the top only half open. Enough of themselves open to express their thoughts eloquently into music, but not enough to reveal their identity in its entirety. Perhaps this is what we like about artists like Elliot Smith, their shy and mysterious qualities mask deeper aspects of themselves that they don’t care to share with the world.
This especially now is extremely refreshing for fans who have gotten nauseous from the over abundant exposure of modern musicians. From seeing the inside of their “crib” on tv to constantly getting updates about their life, and wild antics in the media.
The quiet and timid nature of artist like Elliot is endearing, cherished, and all together in our all to social world.