Being creative and putting things out into the world is risky business. On the one hand you can connect with people, get reviews and nice things said about you that truly can sustain you through long periods of nothing. They inspire you to be creative and better than you were previously. And on the other hand you are making yourself vulnerable to rejection, criticism and even sometimes anonymous online trolling and even rarer, threats.
I have been blessed with all of these things from time to time and the Mark Twain quote “I can live for two months on a good compliment” definitely holds true. I have received some not good reviews, it only stands to reason that I won't be everyone's cup of tea. I can take that. The personal attacks are harder to swallow and their words find a place to nest in your brain and position themselves to reappear when you least expect them.
I don't like sharing or hell, even reading bad reviews but they do serve as a form of motivation. I create music that I would want to listen to first and foremost but at times you get a little bit of that "I'll show them" fire burning which isn't a bad thing at all. I got a review this past week that wasn't even entirely bad; it was just bland. Bland in the sense that they didn't like it enough to say anything good and didn't dislike it enough to say anything bad. And that is almost worse. To top it off they misspelled my last name in both the headline and in my website link - so no one could even find it if they went looking. (not a challenge)
But what it brings up in the memory isn't good either. I am far from being a celebrity but I am also very visible, easy to find online and outspoken about world events. I have received my fair share of private messages telling me to "shut the fuck up and stick to music." I've been told to get out of this country, threatened with bodily harm, I've been told that I could have more "American" fans if I embraced more "republican" country fans and stopped being a "Libtard musician." I've also had anonymous people post online attacks on both Tracy and me as well as say that listening to my new album was what killed my grandmother. That last one was creepy because it was obviously posted by someone that follows or knows me well enough because it was posted the week after my grandmother died and referenced someplace I had been. The crack about my grandmother was years ago but I still remember it word for word. That shit doesn't go away, that kind of meanness for the sake of being mean still penetrates whatever armor you have built up.
I mention all of this today because I'm bracing myself for some backlash over our new release and song "Good Trouble." It is more outspoken than I have ever been and it's way overdue. I am motivated by other songwriters that sought to bring their truth to a larger audience whether it was Woody Guthrie singing about how this land was made for everyone or Joe Strummer wanting white people to join up with black people in their struggle in "white riot."
White Privilege is defined as "inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice." I know the term "white privilege" triggers many people who may think it's taking away from what they have accomplished or struggled through. A younger version of me would've made the argument that I try to treat everyone the same and not see color but see people, but that is missing the point. I don't need to acknowledge my privilege for it to exist; I was born with it. It doesn't take away from any of the struggles me or my family has made, it just means that being born white wasn't an additional struggle in our society.
With "Good Trouble" I was very aware that I was paraphrasing and sometimes outright quoting things that the late Rep John Lewis had said. While I know I wrote the song it already doesn't feel like mine. I knew that I could not profit off of John's words and ideas, that is why I reached out to the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation about donating the money raised from this song to them. They loved the song and welcomed the support. I'm very proud that our fans have stepped up and purchased the song from our website and made donations through the Facebook link - in less than a week we have raised over $400 for the foundation. From their website: "The mission of the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation, Inc. is to promote nonviolence, voting rights, civic engagement, social justice, democracy, international peace, human rights and civil liberties and to preserve and study African American history and culture and the history of the civil rights movement in the United States." That's a worthy cause.
As a white male in his 40's I'm very aware of my place in the world, for most of history I've been the center of everything. I am also aware that civil and equal rights are fights for all of us - there are voices that are still not being heard. Where I fit in at the moment is writing a song and giving the money from that song so others may amplify their voices.
It may be a small thing, a song that is, but it is what we do and if what we do can help to empower others then that too is a worthy thing.
And like John said: get in good trouble.
Video premiere tonight at 5:45 pm - HERE.