“You can’t make old friends,” is the way the saying goes. And it’s true.
The older I get, the more my inner circle of close relationships tightens. In a world that increasingly refuses to look at anything or anyone in context or offer forgiveness for human failing or just simply agree to disagree, it’s more and more important to have people in your life who know what you’re really about; who understand your true motivations; who can see your life as a sum of its years, rather than a snap-shot of one bad (or even good) moment.
I have about five ongoing text threads with some close friends. We’ve all known each other for several decades. We know the embarrassing stories and the truth behind the great successes. We are all more like brothers than friends. And these relationships sustain me in times of heartbreak or anger or fear. These men are my “go-to” for answers. And no matter what kind of trouble I may be in, I know they will not judge me in any way…in the moment. They’ll just use it to make fun of me later. As it should be …
One of these guys was set up to be my nemesis. In our teens, we both played drums. And we were both pretty good at it. I had just won a talent show for our church organization, when some random kid came up to me and said, “You’d better watch your back, man. Devin Pense is coming to take your crown.”
I was confused. I didn’t realize I had a crown. And who was Devin Pense? And what was he going to do to me that required me to watch my back? As much as I didn’t want any part of it, the rivalry was on. And for the entire summer, people speculated on what would happen when the two drumming phenoms in our little organization, finally collided.
Finally, the day came when his family had moved to town. I was hanging out on our college campus when someone told me that he was at the tennis court. “I have to meet this guy!” was my response. And my 18-year-old legs hauled me down the hill, toward the sound of the racquets hitting tennis balls.
There he was, sitting on a bench, watching a game. He looked like a Nordic Prince with his shiny blonde hair and ice blue eyes. Wow – he really WAS the golden boy. I was immediately intimidated. But as I got closer, he seemed to recognize me. He walked up to me and stuck out his hand. “You must be Regie,” he said, smiling.
I quipped back, “And you’re Devin. Do we have to fight or something, now?”
We both laughed and rolled our eyes. And in that moment I realized that he understood the absurdity of it all as much as I did. And that understanding has informed our relationship from that day to this. If you were to read one of our text threads, you wouldn’t understand it. Because it’s all based on our constant calling out of the absurd. It makes us snicker and sometimes belly laugh. But it always keeps us in a place of not taking ourselves too seriously.
As Devin and I aged, we both shot for the moon career wise. And in a lot of ways, we lassoed that baby a few times. He lived in Nashville for several years, where he directed or produced every major music video for pretty much every major music artist. Our stars rose simultaneously and we shared some great times.
But then he saw our family drama unfold with our daughter. He was right there when my career crashed in the desert like some phantom meteor. And when he could, he would overpay me for writing a music bed for a video here or some 30-second fluff piece there.
Then, in 2009, his world fell apart when his marriage ended. He spent most of the summer of 2009 at my house, helping me tinker with my new studio and sleeping in my guest bedroom. I hired him to do the photo shoot for my 2010 CD, Set It On Fire.
We burned a piano in a friend’s field (with no fire supervision whatsoever …that’s how old guys do it), almost killed ourselves trying to get some cool shots, then we hugged and he left for the coast the next day. He’d been hired to build a little TV network for a lady named Oprah Winfrey.
The next time I spoke with Devin, he was at Snoop Dog’s house, talking with Will I AM.
Over the next few years, Devin and I had hundreds of conversations about everything from the meaning of our work to the meaning of fame to the meaning of our childhoods to the meaning of our place in the world, to the meaning of life itself. We often muse about why something works and why something doesn’t. We have both seen the absolute highest highs of our chosen professions and the lowest lows. And the discussions that ensue, about those very things, have been something we have often wished the world could hear.
So, a few months ago, Dev started this pod cast called The Groove, chronicling those type of issues and stories. He had me on as his first guest. And I was cheering him on. But people kept telling us that our chemistry was really good.
Finally, one night, in the middle of one of our wee-hour, whiskey tinged phone conversations, Devin just said, “Dude, why don’t you come on board as my co-host on this thing? We’re better together. We always have been. You drive, I’ll navigate and we’ll rock!”
That was all I needed to hear …
So, we’re sort of “re-launching” the pod cast, The Groove. The upshot is that everyone is here for a reason, but sometimes it takes a long, circuitous path to get to that reason and finally find…you guessed it…the groove. It hearkens back to our beginnings as rival-drummers-turned-lifelong friends, who discovered that we were not as important as the work was; that “the groove” didn’t need us as much as we needed it.
We will be interviewing people from all across the spectrum of human endeavor. We will be talking to musicians and artists as well as film makers and scientists. And it will all point back to that illusive thing we’re all trying to reconcile: why am I here and how am I making a difference?
I’ll be making the links available and I hope you’ll all take the journey with Devin and me. I promise you we will stumble on things you’ve either thought about and couldn’t quite put into words, or maybe even some things you’ve never thought about. Either way, we hope everyone feels that bigger connection to everyone else. We hope it’s a breath of fresh air in a world steeped in cynicism and negativity.
After all, if two teenage boys can set aside their oh-so-important drum rivalry long enough to become friends and brothers, then maybe the rest of the world can find some common purpose ad healing.
Maybe together, we can all find …The Groove.
To subscribe to The Groove podcast, click the link: