"I can’t lay on a death bed someday somewhere without doing this thing."
Music is something we all love. I mean, does anyone actually claim they don’t enjoy it? Yet for most of us there’s nothing more vulnerable than personally participating in song. I get that there are some people who won’t try anything unless they’re sure they will be perfect at it the first time. But why is it so hard for most of us to overcome our insecurities surrounding performance?
We have started addressing this phenomena around the studio with the phrase “Don’t be afraid to music fail” meaning, don’t be afraid to make musical mistakes in front of each other. It’s even easier to "music fail" than it is to "sing fail” in front of someone. In terms of music, I've never had a more necessary experience than failing at it in front of people. Without some fail moments our confidence would never have an opportunity to grow. We would never dare to suck until we push through to something we're really proud of.
So be vulnerable, sing in front of someone (maybe for the first time). Be willing to sound awful and give yourself some grace even if other people don't. Besides.. Adele didn’t sound like a record the first time she opened her mouth either.
Most of the Great Escapes album was inspired by the great outdoors and the writings of conservationist John Muir. In his journals he wrote:
“It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree.
Every camp of men or beast all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the starry firmament for its roof”
I’ve had a lot of thoughts about perceptions that we have of each other vs what is true. A lot of us feel trapped where we are, unable to uproot and start again. Some of us need other people to rely on but aren’t quite sure how. This music is about all the things that unite us together. There is no “them” only “us” and we’re all living this life together, under a starry roof we call our home.
Sometimes when you read old literature it’s easy to feel detached. I find a lot of it hard to identify with worlds so far removed from modern life. That certainly wasn’t the case as I read the journal entries from 1800’s preservationists John Muir. His love for nature and ability to describe the early national parks through words was unparalleled. As He wrote about the fact that we all dwell under the same night sky as if it were one big house, it really grabbed me as unifying. As a song began to develop out of this idea I started thinking about the most common living thing in the forest, a tree. The importance of one single tree although cemented in place by earth was something I could truly identify with. Most of us are as common as a tree, feeling trapped where we’ve been planted but our ability to stand together is perhaps what makes us unique. We’re all in this together!
“In such places standing alone on the mountaintop it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make — leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone — we all dwell in a house of one room — the world with the firmament for its roof — and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.” – John Muir
In the fall of 2015 some friends at Dreambear Productions collaborated with Italian illustrator Emanuele Kabu to create an animated world behind the music. The song’s meaning was born out of a hope for togetherness with all walks of life and unification with the great outdoors. Here is what they came up with and I’ve never been more excited to share a single piece of artwork.
P.S.- I’m a bear.
Over the past year or so my friends and family have experienced an unlikely wave of death. It hasn’t overlooked old or young, affluent or needy. It has taken people without reason or warning. When you lose people close to you you’re forced to reflect on your own mortality. The unsettling reality is that we can be buried and forgotten by most of the people we’ve known by the end of the week. Life is truly fragile.
There is something crude and fragile about a paper lantern. It doesn’t seem right that a flame could be enclosed by thin paper, yet when lit something beautiful is born. Over centuries they’ve been used to represent weddings, prayers, and other various celebrations of new beginnings. To see one float isn’t something you can just take one glance at and look away. It’s an experience, especially if there are many of them together.
We are not unlike these lanterns, frail beings with a divine spark. We are strange creatures made of dirt but somehow house an other worldly flame. Our art is an illustration of this indecent paradox. We try to make the most of what time we’re given by creating a community obsessed with celebrating the value of each person we meet. We define our greatest achievements only as our neighbors successes. The unsettling reality of mortality is dulled with the fact that we defeat death every day by valuing the life of people around us.
We are Paper Lights; artists, dreamers, friends, life enthusiasts and we’re all in it together.