As I muster some strength for the first time in almost a week (my nemesis, severe bronchitis again) and try to repair the damage done, I find myself thinking about my friends and family, and where I’d be without them. The illness took its usual toll—two canceled shows, a week’s worth of income permanently lost. More than that, it reminded me again of the fragile nature of the creative life, a life entirely dependent on the Mercy of the artist’s fellow man.
Music is a frivolity, a leisure activity for most, a foolish passion for a few. Those of us who pursue it full time used to require patrons and benefactors (factors of benefit to the arts) on whose Mercy we relied entirely. Things haven’t changed that much for most of us dreamers and n’er-do-wells. In spite of the jabs from critics and ill-read commentators, we aren’t all comfortable and fat, rolling in our royalties and scoffing at working class society. We are struggling to pay the bills just like everyone else, and in tough times we are often forgotten while the layoffs and plant closures affect larger segments of society. We feel for those who tumble into a life of insecurity in ways others probably don’t unless they’ve been there themselves. It’s unimaginable to many—a life stripped of steady income, no healthcare insurance, no sick pay, no disability protection, no pension… I feel for you, good, decent working folks, I feel deeply. I am with you.
Mercy doesn’t seem like Pity to me, although the words are often used interchangeably. Pity implies something wrenched from the gut and bestowed with some hidden disgust. No one wants it. Mercy, on the other hand, is a gentler thing. It’s the response to a supplication for energy, faith, empowerment, a request for spiritual or physical support, the kindness of kin. Mercy we all need.
Perhaps my biggest regret is my youthful attempt to circumvent Mercy; my thinking I could do this alone. It wasn’t resentment exactly, I just don’t like debts. But one thing a man learns as he gets older: life is full of debts that go unpaid. Mercy is the thing that allows him to go scot free sometimes.
My good friend and brilliant songwriter Nathan Bell goes back to a steady day job soon. Having come from an artistic family and lived for long periods of his life as a creative soul, he knows the job is a blessing he can’t refuse. His wife and children depend on it. My wife and children depend on me, too, so I must depend on the Mercy. I must hope there are those who will, out of kindness or out of a sense of duty to principals, choose to pay for downloading my songs even when they can get them for free on Pirate Bay; who will pay to hear my concert even when they can hear music that’s just as good by staying home and flipping on Austin City Limits; who will reschedule a show when I’m sick and not complain about all the ticket refunds; who will forgive me for all of the insecurity I lay upon their shoulders when they could have so much more in life; who will send me an email just to tell me what a song means to them; who have made, and will continue to make my journey a little easier and a little brighter just by being part of it.
For the merciful measures of each and every one of you, my deepest thanks.