This is something I've wanted to do this year, but never found the time. It's nearly Thanksgiving and I finally found the time (or motivation or courage) to sit down and write an update on the happenings in my life. I started this year in New York at the APAP convention (Association of Performing Arts Professionals) waiting on the band members of Runa to meet up and rehearse 10 years worth of songs in an afternoon. I was nervous and I really had no idea how I ended up sitting on the steps of a Manhattan apartment with a bunch of charts for Irish songs in my case. That first real meeting was the start of a scary, challenging year that blossomed into a beautiful period of reflection and self awareness.
I found myself all over the country (and beyond) for the rest of the year. I met a lot of interesting people, collaborated with a bunch of musicians, and discovered a whole new way of looking at the world.
I've never been a big fan of myself, so the process of literally listening to myself night after night was grueling at times. I've played a lot of shows in the last five or six years but almost every single one of them was something I was incredibly comfortable with. I can sing bluegrass tenor in my sleep and going from that to singing a capella Irish Gaelic at one of the more prestigious acoustic music venues was probably the most frightening thing I've ever done. On top of that, I was wearing an arm brace for some pain in my left arm due to overplaying and lack of warming up (do your stretches, kids!). I was mentally really hard on myself and would work myself up to the point of blowing through the tunes that I really knew and even suggested we play . It was embarrassing.
Fast forward to the end of Runa's winter tour and I found myself with mandolin/fiddle great, Andy Leftwich for a long weekend. I was super happy to be playing with him and we found a lot in common. One night, after a performance, I walked into the green room grumbling about something I had messed up after Andy had congratulated me on a job well done. He said,
"Man, you have to cut that out. The show's over, you played beautifully, and now you're pouting in your pride."
He was totally right.
I have been so preoccupied with looking or sounding a certain way that I think, for a moment, I forgot why I was on stage at all. Nashville is a hard town to live in and the couple of bluegrass cliques that exist are even harder to break into if you're not very outgoing. I think I was bitter for not feeling like I had a place in the bluegrass or mandolin community, but I wasn't even allowing a place for myself in my own mind.
I pretty much made up mind to keep my head down, do my best, make every performance genuine, and always be nice. Surely something will come of that, right? It pretty much all came to a point over a week in Goderich, Ontario. I was trying really hard to be comfortable with "being myself" and feeling like that was enough, but I found myself doubting a lot of that. That week turned out to be on the most encouraging, enlightening, and musically rewarding tours I've ever been on. What a blast.
I'm happy to say that after I really made an effort to love myself and present myself as that, the bluegrass and the mandolin community started to really open its doors to me. I had a really great conversation with Daniel Patrick on his podcast, Mandolins and Beer, as well as the honor of debuting a tune of mine on David Benedict's video series, Mandolin Mondays.
It all works out when you let it. Stay tuned for updates on 2020 as it's going to be the coolest year yet. Peace!
- Caleb Edwards