THE HELPERS …

I’m about to begin a string of summer house concerts. I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I’m not all that excited about anything on either side of the show itself. Traveling isn’t the adventure it used to be. Hanging out after a show is getting more and more difficult. I usually just want to go to bed …and sleep.

Over the last few years I’ve gone through a metamorphosis in how approach my entire career. From writing to producing to performing, I find myself in a servant’s frame of mind more than anything.

A few weeks ago I played the Nashville Unplugged show, in Vegas, with my Ghost Town Troubadour comrades and Rita Wilson. Before the show, Travis Howard and I had a conversation about greatness. Great songs. Great lyrics. Great artists. The conversation was honestly awkward for me because I suppose I haven’t thought about that subject in some time. And as I age, I almost feel like a “musical monk” of sorts. I don’t know any other way to explain it. The veneer of accolades and applause and the ability to “wow” a group of people doesn’t hold the same attraction that it once did.

That particular night went something like this:

Although I’ve never been nervous on stage, RIGHT before my first note I think to myself, “they’re going to hate me.” So I play a little harder and sing a little louder. I’m just trying to catch everyone off guard long enough to get through the first song and get my confidence together.

By ten minutes into the set I start the inner dialogue: “What have I been doing my whole life? I should have become an investment banker. What is it I’m doing up here that these people like? DO they like it? Why do people seem to need this? DO they need it? Are they just being nice? They’re just being nice. I should’ve taken lessons. They can’t see what a musical fraud I am. There’s a thing I want to do with my left hand that I haven’t practiced. Crap. Did they hear that wrong note? That girl in the back looks lonely. I’m gonna sing to her. Oh …she isn’t lonely. She was just waiting on her drink and her date. Never mind. The woman to my left is crying. I wonder why. Play to the back of the room. Breathe. Someone on stage just made a comment I can make funny …find the funny. Make them laugh. You need a laugh right here. I suck. I’m awesome. I’m sure I look weird on this note. Can’t help it. This note is hard to hit …focus. I’m quitting tomorrow and getting a real job. I’m never quitting.”

These are the thoughts constantly running through my mind during a show. And I’ve been doing this for decades. I’m sure similar thoughts are running through the head of anyone, on any stage, at any given time.

Because that’s what performing is. And even if you’re famous, the act of performing is courageous every time you do it. You’re leading people somewhere. YOU are in charge of what they are thinking. YOU are taking them into rooms and corridors and spaces of YOUR choosing. And that forces the art of performance into a place of responsibility.

I left that particular night feeling a little depressed. Before the show, a man came up to me and asked me to do one of my CCM songs from twenty years ago. I didn’t do it …but I should have. I don’t even know if I would have even remembered all the words …or ANY of the words. It probably wouldn’t have played well in a club in Vegas. But I should’ve done it for him just the same. And it bothers me that I didn’t …even now.

Because at the end of every show – after I’ve done battle with myself in my head and heart for two hours – I find myself asking, “did I help these people?” I don’t know if other performers think that but it has become my standing question as it pertains to art. Have I helped?

When people tell me they are listening to my music or reading a blog or enjoying something I’ve created, my default question is always, “has it helped you?” I don’t know why I’ve settled on that question. But it seems to be appropriate.

Trends die. Styles change. Crazes evolve. And I find myself less and less interested in popularity and more and more interested in connection. Was I honest? Could you relate? Did it move you?

Art makes us think and cry and laugh and pray and dance and fight and love. Movies and music and literature and art are all here to move us forward and …well …help. If we do our art well, we help. And that seems to be what I aspire to more and more.

I want you to leave my show thinking to yourself, “I feel more love than I did when I came here. I feel some release and connection to something bigger. He helped me think about something I’ve needed to think about. He helped me laugh at something I didn’t realize was funny. He helped me cry about something I’ve been needing to address. It helped.”

I’m looking forward to the upcoming series of house concerts on the “Pass The Hat” tour. I’ll be posting where the shows will be and maybe I’ll see you at one of them. And if I do, I hope it helps you in some way.

I’m an artist.

And artists are the helpers.

 

R

7 thoughts on “THE HELPERS …

  1. i always enjoy your stories. Sometimes to solidify how I already felt, but many times to look a things in just a little different light, to a WHOLE different light. It has always been an interesting lift to any day that I get to read one.
    Thanks so much for what you do. I don’t know much about your music, but I would love to come an hear you, because I do not doubt there would be much more to learn that just the music itself. Keep up the great work.
    Marv Fritz

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  2. Regie, I sure do wish you would do a Home by Dark performance here in Milton, Georgia. James Casto is the man behind the show (and IN the show, too). We’ve been to many of their shows and have enjoyed every single performance. So, see if you can get on that rotation, because I’d love to see you perform, and HbD shows are so much fun, for the audience and for the performers! And if you need a place to stay while you’re here, you’re welcome at our house; we have a guest room with a private bath and we’re about 15 minutes from the venue.

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  3. Such an interesting perspective. I think about this exactly the same way. “Is this a pearl? Or a clump of sand?” I imagine, tho my blog has crickets and cobwebs (why? I dunno, too much happening to harness the emotions) that every artist does their work first, to practice their craft, second, to send a message, third to share ourselves, and fourth, to leave ourselves with them. And really, because in the end we have no choice, and nothing’s worse than dying wth it all caught up inside us.

    When people take the time to read, see the show, hear the CD, you want to leave something that makes them say, “He gets me. She gets me. I’m not alone in my humor, pain, sorrow, joy… I think I’ll come back again.”

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  4. Reggie!
    You connected with people that night! The friends we were with have heard Nashville Unplugged several times and always love it… but after that show they told Steve and I … Reggie was so great they were inspired by you and your story and music! They would have bought your book had it been available 😊

    Blessings to you and keep the music coming!

    Janie Lautenschlager

    Sent from my iPad

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  5. Thanks Regie. I love your blog and your music. You give me the reassurance I sometimes need that I’m not the only one who sees what’s going on in the world from what seems like my “unique” perspective. You obviously take great care with your choice of thoughts and words to share. Thank you for helping me from time to time.

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  6. Oh Regie, I am happy to tell you how you have helped me…..
    Where do I begin? It all started the eve of November 8th, 2016, you know what I mean. Despair, hair pulling, simply…..unbelievable….at least for me.
    Then, a month or two later, a friend shared one of your blogs, “Why Trump Is Not Like Hitler” ….I thought to myself, oh no, another right winger, but I sucked it up and read……ahhhhh it felt like a cool ocean breeze. Smart, humorous, truthful, and soul revealing. And the icing on the cake, you’re an artist! Like me!
    Since then, I have shared your blogs with many, and they LOVE your perspective. It gives us something to think about, and you know how us artists LOVE to think. You bring humor, intellect and personal aspects into your writing….you open your life and give us a glimpse. That’s what artists do.
    Here is what I know, when I see your current blog has arrived in my email, I make sure to set aside a moment, sit, relax and read. simply, thank you.
    Susy Ardesch
    ArtByArdesch

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  7. Regie, I had no idea who you were before the election & only stumbled upon your blog through a friend who is a (legitimate — old school, as in let’s look at the facts) reporter. I don’t know you as a musician but I do know you are an artful writer who has helped me realize on more than a dozen occasions that I (and likely many others) am not alone in my thinking. You have a knack for being able to express (write about) it (life as we know it) quite well! You are my definition of common sense, the practice of which is becoming a lost art in my opinion. Here’s to being cautiously optimistic and of sound mind! Good luck on your tour!

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