Marcus Brown

Songwriter, podcast host, and avid blogger, Marcus Brown sure is a "swell guy." His new record GO LET GO is already "making waves like the ocean crashing against the beach," says local random guy speaking to no one in general. His podcast Make My Day is "Incredible," according to one Wikipedia coauthor. You're sure to "love" Marcus, says TV commercial announcer guy...

...In bed...

I'm sick. Can't remember the last time I went down and couldn't get back up. The last time I almost came down with something, I pulled myself together and played a show later that night. After I left the stage, the cold that was threatening only hours before now seemed content to leave me alone. I'm glad I pushed myself out the door to play the show that night; I ended up making a friend. 

But pushing through doesn't always reap rewards. Sometimes you have to listen to that other voice, you know, the one that says "Marcus, you need to rest..."  

Im taking this as an opportunity to reevaluate my status, my plans, my health, my choices. I'm lying here in bed, writing you. For some reason, both of my knees really hurt and my lower back is sore. To make matters slightly less pleasant, all that remains of my 32oz bag of Trader Joe's white corn tortilla chips are paltry crumbs. Too small to dip in salsa. Why am I even eating chips and salsa in bed? I'll add this question to my holistic life evaluation that's currently taking place between melancholy episodes of Transparent. I'm threatening to switch to something more cheerful. 

There was a man named Norman Cousins who, apparently, healed himself of some crippling illness by checking into a hotel and watching Candid Camera mixed with Marx Brothers moves. That's the power of laughter, they say. 

I read yesterday that children laugh around 300 times a day. Adults average a more austere 5 chuckles.  

Why don't we laugh more? Each one of us, undeniably, has experience pulling ourselves out of a funk. We know that on some level we have a say in our mood. Maybe not entirely, and I'm not saying one should become delusional and block out their feelings, but we have a say. We know this.  

Yet, often, we don't. We forget. Over and over. We seem somewhat incapable of injecting more levity and ease into our lives.

Instead, we're oddly comfortable with what we've created for ourselves. Our life's routine. The daily whatever that somehow only slightly ever changes, save for the big "oh shit" shit that happens every so often.

I really admire people who can shake things up within their lives, experiment and commit to changes. Without any sort of scientific studies to back this up, I'd say that a vast majority of us human folk live each day with an eerie similarity to the one that came before.

Even our escapes are somewhat unadventurous. Go to a bar, maybe see a show, talk to people, don't get too too close. Or stay in, watch a movie with comforting food and drink, holding someone hopefully.  No problem, I don't blame you. I do the same. The comfort of the beaten path. Oh, I can't tell you how many times I go to the same places, walk the same routes, eat the same breakfast, have the same doubts, utilize the same escapes, feel the same guilt. 

Lately, I try not to feel guilty about it. I don't beat myself up like I have in the past. I know that I want more out of my life. And I know that an unwillingness to face the unknown keeps me from the very life I want to live. It's so strange, that I want what makes me scared.

I want to leave old excuses and patterns behind, and that makes me scared. I want a loving and committed romantic relationship, and that makes me scared. I want to play music in front of thousands of people,  and that makes me very scared. Like, shakey...

The disconnect in regards to my dreams and my reality, I've realized, has been in the process of bringing about their convergence. I've always viewed this future version of myself as being in a place where I could finally be happy, be at ease, if only I could get there. This creates some intermittent action here and there that stems out of desperation, but has never been sustainable. To connect the dots between where I am and where I'd like to be, I have to start by accepting myself as who I am and guiding myself into who I'd like to become. No shaming, not through desperation. 

Where I have to make a shift, psychologically, is in understanding that I am that line that connects the dots. But really, fuck those dots, cuz I'm the line. And and who says this line needs to have a consistent slope or that it needs to be predictable or rational. 

Life is an odd cocktail, mixing self acceptance with a desire to squeeze out more. If you squeeze too hard, you'll get too much citrus, and that shit'll taste sour...

I'm gonna go make some tea, because I'm sick. 

mb

Randomings

I have a new friend. His name is Marcus. We met at The Evergreen, the bar closest to my house. It's pretty easy to remember someone's name when you share the same one.

He runs a little Jamaican jerk chicken spot a bit south of me. I made a point to visit today. As I walked in he yelled over 5 or so customers, "Markie! You made it!"

After half a moment, he ushered me over to the side and handed me two pounds of chicken, plantains, veggies , and some mac and cheese. A few minutes later he found me at my table and handed me another plate.  This time, fried fish, potatoes and some pickles vegetables. He sat down with me and rolled a blunt. A man in a poncho walked by and yelled, "mota time!"

I don't really smoke weed anymore, I find it too disconnecting, but I stood outside and smoked a cigarette alongside him. During those few minutes close to ten people walked by, stopping to say hello to Marcus.

He makes really good food. I ate it all up.  More than that, though, he's a good man with a big heart. He seems to take care of a lot of people. Doesn't hold grudges, tries to make things right. He understands that what you put out there comes right back. A few guys the other night were casually fantasizing about Donald Trump's death, and Marcus interjected, "that shit comes back to you, don't wish harm," as he glanced downward shaking his head.

After my cigarette, I said goodbye and tried to catch the train in time for a show at UCB in Manhattan. Like a rookie, I sat and waited for the train for almost ten minutes on the wrong side of the track. Once I realized my mistake, I bolted toward the stairs, catching myself as I tripped on the steps that were wet from the rain.

I kept looking at google maps, knowing that I would surely be late for the show. A lot of theaters don't let you in if you aren't interested in being on time. But when I arrived, I was allowed in without a problem.

The show was strange. A project of almost 40 cast members, attempting to immerse you in discomfort. Brief sketches interjected with an open house of sorts, where the audience walked around experiencing a multitude of expressionless mask wearing members, an over zealous sports-social club, a raving activist, a distraught pregnant woman and other characters attempting to make you uneasy.

Having been on the train for forty minutes, I sought out the restroom only to be greeted by some my-age women who sat me down in a dark room, blindfolded me, and starting whispering and moaning in my ears.

I actually kinda liked that.

The rest of the show felt overly theatrical. I stared into one of the expressionless creatures' eyes for what must have been five minutes. Partially to disarm them of their aim, and partially because I found it nice to look into someone's eyes for a while.

The humor was ok. I remember laughing a lot more at Cold Towne, back in Austin, but I'm sure there were some funny people up there on stage. I think, as a whole, it felt sort of thrown together and something that large has difficulty congealing without massive effort and preparation. That being said, I had a good time. 

As I was escorted out of the show by cast members screaming at me to "get out of my house," I ran into someone I'd met through my good friend Sarah.

Michael was walking to meet his girlfriend at UCB for the next performance. We got to chat for a while an grabbed a beer down down the street.

I love chance encounters. I really love for them. And when you consider that there's a good chance you could befriend most anyone on the streets in this town, let alone any city, it's a shame to consider how closed off we really are. It's not hard to be lonely in a city of 8 million people. All you have to do is focus on yourself and your pain, be skeptical and judgmental of others, all while being in too much of a hurry to enjoy anything.

I think I might make some music for Michael's upcoming short that he's producing with his girlfriend.

And now I sit here, writing you at a bar called Cake Shop where I had my chance encounter with Hikes last year on almost this exact same date.

I'm looking to find a way to flow with life more, it just feels better that way.

Hope you're well, I'm gonna grab a beer before the next band starts.

mb

Bodega Food

        Being new here, I'm learning a thing or two about life in Brooklyn. You might not have known this, but all five boroughs of NYC run on Boar's Head deli meat. There's no contest, let alone another option. Half the trucks you see driving through the neighborhoods, with the emblematic hog logo emblazoned on their boxy flank are actually part of a "charcuterie task force" that violently enforces the Boar's Head meat monopoly. 

It's all but impossible to find an alternative, and at first this was somewhat unsettling. Not because I had any doubts about our benevolent meat overlords, simply that I had no other choice. But as my pearly chompers penetrated my first official hero as a New Yorker, my concerns were quickly abated and I started walking at a brisk pace for no reason, avoiding eye contact with everyone. 

What followed was a blissful bodega induced blur. Sandwich after sandwich. Roast beef, turkey, ham, eggs, chef's choice*. Roll, hero, roll, hero. I was in heaven when I was gobbling up one of these ubiquitous Boar's Head sandwiches, and when I wasn't I was obsessing over them. Counting the hours until it could be considered socially acceptable to consume another.  It was an incredible period in my life. Those, indeed, were the days.

It's fitting, though. The apple in the pig's mouth. That you see adorn many a table, in your mind's eye. On a platter served to you and your guests. At first glance you're in awe of the feast, antsy to begin devouring what's in front of you. Until you lift the veil. You begin to see a different picture. The Big Apple, the city itself, clenched tightly in the teeth of a vicious beast. The insidious global cartel known to the public only as Boar's Head.

Upon waking up to the grave nature of the situation I frantically scavenged the streets in search of a deli that served alternative meats. After searching what could be objectively considered a "long time," a promising and clean-seeming shop called "24 HR Deli: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Condoms, Razors, Blunt-wraps and More!" emerged. 

I stumbled through the doors, haggard and unshaven after my seemingly endless search. I made my way to the counter and used the secret phrase as to inquire about their potential use of third party protein. "You guys got a copy of Univeral Picture's feature film, "Babe" starring the Academy Award nominated actor James Cromwell?" 

The man behind the counter suddenly became shifty and agitated. "What the fuck are you talking about. Get out of here! Get Out!" 

"Hold on, hold on," I pleaded. I searched my mind for another way to make known I was an ally, and not a pig. I blurted out "SQUEALS THE DEAL!!" suddenly remembering another key-phrase I'd heard a comrade speak aloud only hours earlier in a subway bathroom stall next to me, between his other more disturbing noises. 

The face of the owner suddenly calmed. He motioned me over to the glass case. "What can I do for you my brother?"

"I gotta get away from the "hog," man." I said shaking. "Gimme a hero of your best turkey slammwich. Slide some mayo on that with some onions, lil bit of oil and vinegar, some lettuce, tomatoes, salt, pe... "

"Woah, hold up there big boy. You got quite an appetite, don't you? Okay, alright... I've got you..." 

For a few minutes, the man disappears into the back. I was starting to get anxious. "Maybe I shouldn't be here," I thought. I stood in the store, hunched over with stomach pains from hunger. I hadn't eaten in, what must have been, 2 hours.

After a while, he came out from the back with a long cylinder wrapped in white butcher paper. 

"Five dollars," he said.  

I paid up and got out of there. I was all but sprinting to get home so I could eat this thing in privacy.

I sat down at my kitchen table and I took a breath. 

As my teeth sank into this subversive sandwich, I started to weep. I couldn't even taste it. I'd blown out my tastebuds on the Boar's Head stuff. The intense flavor enhancers in their meat has been known to damage the tongues of their consumers, but only in extreme cases of abnormally high consumption. I never thought it would happen to me.

But it did...

Fast forward to today, and you might be surprised to hear that there's a juicy Boar's Head Premium Meats TM sandwich sitting right next to me as I scribe this story. And two more in the fridge.

Yeah, that's right.

Turns out my numb- tongue disorder only flares up when I'm eating lower quality, non-Boar's Head meats.

And you know what, I'm happy. I didn't need so many choices, anyway. I'm taking the blue pill. It just goes down so easily, doesn't it? Besides, high quality and consistency is the Boar's Head promise to us all. For what more can we we ask?

I've seen the err of my ways, I'm repenting and, while I'm at it, I'm heading down to my nearest local deli to get a sandwich made with Boar's Head Premium meats and cheeses TM. 

 

-mb

 

 

 

On The Bus: Laundry

It's pretty amazing how I could fuck up just about every step in the process. My bag's too small, I paid too much, I put detergent in the softener hole, and used twice as much soap as I should have. 

Thankfully Joel was there to rectify my errors. I don't know if I've ever used a laundromat before, I've always done laundry at home. I've been in one, with Bobby Jealousy on that tour years ago. Did I not wash my clothes? I don't remember. I know I skipped a lot of meals. I had to have done some laundry. I probably did some laundry...

I discovered Joel owns the place as I walked past R's Laundromat around 9:40pm. He and a similarly aged woman, whom I assume to be his wife, were getting into a mid 2000s Honda Odyssey after what must have been another 15 hour day based on their 7am start time. I wonder how far away they live. 

One aspect of life in New York that I really love is how many lives are lived here. It's right in front of your face; all the other faces. On any given day you're interacting with thousands of people, each experiencing their own day through own their lens. 

Sometimes people smile. I've seen a few people cry. Some people yell at no one in general, fighting their demons in public. A lot of people try not to make eye contact, but sometimes you catch them off guard with a smile and they respond in kind. Some people don't wanna smile. That's ok too.  

Sometimes it's not appropriate to smile. The range of emotions experienced in this city is incredible. I was speaking to my friend Jon about this. It's wonderful to be happy and I do believe everyone to be ultimately responsible for their long range emotional experience, but at the same time the immediate emotional landscape requires navigation. Someone experiencing emotional depths such as despair would be so far away from the emotional state that produces a smile, you'd be almost insensitive to throw one their way. You've gotta meet people where they are. 

I'm still navigating this territory. You want to help but you're afraid of losing your own ground when you meet on another's. It seems, however, that as soon as you begin to worry about yourself, you lose anyway.   

Alright, this is my stop. Talk soon. 

 

-mb

 

 

Most eyes gravitate to the floor... 

Most eyes gravitate to the floor... 

Pictured above is an example of a floor with people feet on said floor.  

More Coffee: Routine

Sitting here at a coffee shop in my neighborhood, I'm forced to come to terms with how new everything is for me. The shop is named "Routine," something that I've yet to establish for myself in my new home.  

As of right now, I'm sleeping in the living room with my bags and guitars strewn about the place. I unpacked my bath towel this morning to take a shower, and when I was dry, I negotiated a small unclaimed section of the shower door on which to hang it. 

Im wearing these pants that are sort of challenging. They're loose and baggy. Not my style traditionally, but I know that they're cool. At the same time I just about cannot handle wearing them. I feel as though I'm aiming to be someone else. I've always believed, somewhat subconsciously, that humans must change in a rational progression observable phases occurring. 

If I'm going to start wearing giant baggy pants, I must first wear a series of slightly looser pants until I finally reach this ultimate stage of baginness. But for whom am I delaying change? Why not be who I want now? Why not be who I am?

mb

Coffee

I'm back at the Morgan stop off the L. This time as a resident. Going to copy some keys at Empire Lock.  

I'm ready to get to work. The last week consisted of driving 25 hours, a wedding, two full days of Rosh Hashanah celebrations, and what might just be a brown recluse bite.  

Im gonna go ahead and spare your eyes the visual evidence.  

For the first time, last night, I was told "Welcome to New York." 

mb

The Earth Moved

In other news, the planet Earth successfully made it around the sun in yet another stunning revolution proving to even its harshest critics that life goes on... 

A little over a year ago I set out to play one of the first stops on my first solo tour. It was at Play Faire Park, the oldest mini golf course in the state of Texas. Now in its 69th season, Play Faire stands as a peculiar safe haven for the weird in Abilene, Texas. 

I remember having booked that gig with the help of Jon Howell, the proprietor of Record Guys. I reached out to him through Facebook, looking for any help I could get. He's continued to be a great help and a great friend to me in the community. 

I was told the show was to last three hours at a time when I had about an hour and a half of material. I gladly accepted with a plan to play a few songs twice, hoping no one would notice. 

The first set was comprised of songs from All The Ghosts Are Gone, my first full length record. It was, by far, the most rehearsed material at the time. Those songs, now five or six years old, seem as though they were written lifetimes ago. 

My second set was filled with unpolished ideas. These songs represented a future I didn't realize I was currently manifesting. Their content, for whatever unconscious reasons, predated and accurately predicted a breakup that was just around the corner. 

At the time of this set's conception, I was struggling slightly with inspiration. My life was filled with mundane problems and dull pain, occasionally accompanied by moderate happiness. 

Faced with a dearth of drama, I began to manufacture problems. I conceived countless songs about hypothetical heartbreak. I forced these songs out of me. I imagined what people would want to hear, and I'd try to put myself through it.

While many of the ideas bore fruit, I cringe listening to a good amount of the voice memos from this time period. I can hear Lucy speak sometimes in the background. "Marcus, I have to go to bed now," or "Please stop screaming, I'm trying to read." Though, to be fair, there's evidence of her singing along on multiple occasions.

Sometimes I wonder if her hearing that material as it was being constructed had a not so subtle effect on what was to come. I know if I was the one dating a songwriter, I'd have listened to every word as if it was a sentencing of a future incarceration. 

Briefly, I'd like to address what you might possibly be pondering. "Marcus, why must you continue blabbering on about her over a year after it ended?" Well, gee. Thanks for being insensitive. I'd hope you take solace in the fact that she doesn't read any of this or consume anything I make at this time due to whatever reasons, most likely prudence. 

Regardless, I'm not the type to move on without getting something out of it. In this case, I think I was wise to let it sink in. Even if it cut too deep. 

About a week after that show, when I was in a writing session in LA, a seemingly routine "love you" call turned into the culmination of a four year romantic relationship. 

It was a blessing and a curse to be on the road at the time. The blessing came later.  

How do you cope when you're all alone, crying your eyes dry through the deserts of Arizona, playing shows in open air malls for no one but a few caring souls that noticed? 

Occasionally I'd stray from the subject, but for the most part I'd always written songs concerning love. Many asking for forgiveness and understanding while explaining why I had to move on. I'd yet to have been moved on from.  

When I got home, and as the months passed, music poured out of me. So many spiteful songs, written with words I didn't know I could utter until I realized I couldn't keep them to myself. Finally, I was speaking my truth. I was sharing my experience. I was being honest.

This new material was different. There was life carved into each song. Real pain. Confusion, doubt, heartbreak, because I'd never lost something that I cared so much about. This new material became my third set. 

Two weeks ago, when I returned to Play Faire Park, I had a different energy. This wasn't an emancipatory excursion, like my last visit. Playing shows out of Austin has become a more regular happening for me. I'll book a few shows here and there just to get out of town. 

I started with the old set, All The Ghosts Are Gone. To be honest, I'd chosen this order to allow me to have my first cigarette of the day at the intermission, as those old tunes are more challenging to sing. They're filled with this youthful falsetto that I generally struggle to perform adequately at this point.  

I trudged through those first eleven songs. Partially because they're the least rehearsed. Partially because I'm not the same person I was at the time of their conception. 

By the end of it, I was left wondering what the hell I've been doing with my life. My performance was so mediocre and uninspired that as a casual listener I wouldn't have cared less. As a songwriter and performer I was concerned at how far off the mark I'd seemed to be. 

I took a break and had that cigarette I'd scheduled. As someone who performs regularly I was familiar with this form of doubt and insecurity, so I did my best to move on and prepare for the next two hours.

One song into the rest of the night and I'd found my home again. My purpose was restored. The doubts were gone because I was singing words that I believe in. I kept playing and I kept going deeper. The performance came to me without thought, without improper struggle. Just the right type. The struggle that I'd spent the last year coping with. The struggle that's helped shape me into an infinitely more human human being. 

As I finished my set, I spent the remainder of the evening talking to new supporters who'd shown up at the last minute because of a video taken of me during the night's performance that was posted to Facebook. 

I was a budding songwriter and creative with nothing to talk about and nothing to really share until Lucy destroyed every piece of me that I thought was mine. For that, I'll never be able to express to her the gratitude she deserves. Thank God for her honesty in knowing what's best for her. 

I'm not sure if you've ever had your heart broken into disrepair, but I'd highly recommend it. 

 

VELO Tour Recap PART 1

At first thought, being crammed into a car full of musical equipment, unrefrigerated Odwalla smoothies, and sick bandmates doesn't sound like the most appealing venture. Turns out that, in practice, it's quite pleasant.

My bandmates in VELO (Ofer, Waldo, and Travis) arrived to pick me up on the first day of tour in a large, black Ford Expedition. Being the last to pack into the car, some of my essentials became superfluous. Things like my pedal board and a cooler I had been asked to borrow from my roommate (which would have been particularly helpful in storing those Odwallas I'd mentioned earlier).  

As I entered the car with my newly lightened load, Travis and Waldo mention that they had just recently come down with some cold symptoms. A fair amount of sniffling, coughing, and misery was to ensue over the next several days.

Our first stop was a bar called TrueLove in Waco, Texas. 

An omen of good luck occurred as I stepped on stage before the show to set my things straight; I snapped off one of my tuning pegs. Now, most musicians are familiar with just how positive this happening can be, often times leading to lavish record deals, falling in love after a show, and even otherworldly performances. While none of those things happened, per se, it did seemingly ensure that we would have fulfilling time on the road together.

We spent several days in Ft. Worth which, I learned from native Fort Worthian Travis, is actually not Dallas. Travis' parents have a home in said city and happened to be out of town at a time that coincided with the entirety of our stay in "Not Dallas." 

After a few days of eating Tex Mex, intense jump rope workout routines, and doing nothing, we decided to leave the great state of Texas.

Nashville, Tennessee was our next stop. We played an interesting little 20 minute showcase at The Basement. The owner was thrilled with us and proceeded to buy the band drinks. Travis and I were the only two drinking that evening, mainly because Ofer just recently contracted the very same cold symptoms that Travis had that day been relieved of moments prior. Coincidence or conspiracy?

Waldo's friend John put us up for the evening. This guy is an incredible writer and performer. He played us his new record in the background as we talked about Austin, Nashville, the state of the industry and the reasons why we do this whole thing. For whatever is lacking in today's music, the world certainly is not bereft of talent.

We headed forward to Asheville the next day. Waldo described, as we walked the streets together, this haunting feeling of familiarity the place held; a feeling he once had about Austin before his residence there. That evening we played at a house maintained and recently purchased by some wonderfully raucous and respectful college students. Tucked away below a long driveway on a hill lay the house, surrounded by luscious greenery and the emerging dusk that was soon to set in.

The bands before us reminded me of the renewable energy that youth imbues into music. I remember, and I witness each year, new bands playing new music without the jaded attitudes that almost inevitably seep into the songs of more veteran bards. No one starts playing music because they believe its the most likely path to financial abundance, but as the years go by and your passion intensifies you begin to believe that maybe you could make a pittance. Maybe you could do better than a pittance, maybe you could do well for yourself. Perhaps if we tinker with song structure, lyrical content, maybe even the branding needs to be rethought. Who's keeping up with our social media? Why did we just spend $10 on a Facebook advertisement to garner just a few more likes from our friends. Maybe I should start thinking about a different career path.

Not the young, they don't think this way just yet. The music seemed fresh and pure, something so oddly to experience that I remember thinking, "I haven't exactly heard this before."

Once our set began, the energy in the room was as charged as our ungrounded microphones, shocking our lips as we attempted harmony. In fact, I started to wear out after about three or four songs, taking a mental note that I couldn't go as hard as the crowd.

We ended the night singing on the porch together; the band was starting to resonate on a higher frequency.

Sam, one of the owners of the home and the brother of our friend Gus here in Austin, took us to a biscuit restaurant the next morning that served free donuts with just about every meal. I'll admit that we all wished to stay longer than we actually did.

Part 2 coming soonish...

Be patient. There's an exciting reveal... I'm building suspense...

 

 

 

 

Pushing Forward

I admit I've taken my foot off the gas. Maybe I'd even say I've put my foot on the brake. But I won't go as far as to say that I've shifted into reverse...

Slowly, my newsletter went from weekly, to a trickle and into a drought. 

Make My Day episodes sat on my desk in Ableton longer than they should have. 

Videos of myself singing something or other slowed as I came up with excuses.

And my blog has just been too much to keep going. 

I can't even trace it back to a decision to slow down. It was some time around the new year, but it was so gradual that I can't put my finger on one particular instance.

But somehow my fire dimmed. My hope diminished. My resolve dissolved.

I think the initial momentum from my "tragic, heart wrenching, poopy, terrible, unfun," breakup motivated me to create even more vigorously. A bright light that shone in the darkness, guiding the way. If only I pushed and followed the glare I'd end up in some promised land. I'd be filled with love and life to share with the world. Energy that would renew me, If I could really leave the past behind.

But I slowed. I didn't get "there." My efforts didn't take me to another place. I wasn't experiencing the expansion I'd pined for. I realized, I was doing this work to escape from the pain of my reality. There was stuff I had yet to face. That I put preconditions on happiness. That I blamed others for not considering my feelings. Did I really even want to "make" anymore?

Suddenly, I found there were diminishing routes to what I'd considered happiness in my life. Sleeping in, watching television, and partying were all escapes. But they led to undesirable destinations. Not long term fulfillment. 

Over the past few days, after months of really questioning my desires, I've begun to realize that my approach to art was unsustainable. 

I built expectations that the art would serve me. My music would be a vehicle that would take me away from this place, and when I arrived where ever it was, I'd be happy. Success in music would provide me with a career path, the opportunity to travel the world, and the freedom I've been seeking.

But as I've strained and clenched my entire body and soul, eking out lyrics and melody, I started to realize that I need to be patient. I need to inject flow into my life. Guess what Marcus, there's a decent chance that you're not going to "grow up" to be a giant rockstar, and thats OK. And don't you think that sustainable happiness, health, and finding a nurturing community are worthy goals which, by the way, are within your grasp?

Let me be clear, I'm not going to stop making music. On the contrary, I'm inspired to redouble my efforts. But I am going to stop considering my art a failure if it doesn't reach thousands of people.

Why am I writing, why am I podcasting, why do I play music?

Not to escape.

To be. To live. To breathe. 

Because my happiness depends on it.

As I've looked back on what I created over the last several months (and even the years before), I look upon it with pride. I'm happy with what I've made and I'm excited to make more. So that I can share with you.

I realize now that this is no escape plan, this is no sprint to get out of here.

This is my life. This is what I do.

New Year, New Who?

I struggle with moving on. I'll get a burst of motivation every once in a while and I'll take steps in the right direction. But generally I want to hold on. I want to reason with myself, and with the great beyond, that this right here in front of me is valuable and still necessary. It's powerful and it deserves another chance. It's not time for its inevitable end.

And as I struggle internally to let go, I look down and I'm holding an old t-shirt with holes in the armpits that I never wear because I think it's unflattering. Or because it reminds me of a version of myself that I've yet to come to terms with. I'd be uncomfortable conversing with Marcus Brown at age 22, for example...

Please come to my house and throw away half of my belongings, or give them to someone else, because when I have to play the executioner my heart bleeds and only one of us is spared.

These artifacts persist, even though I'd like to move on.  And I know, that if forcibly removed, I wouldn't miss their presence. I'd be freed to breathe and bask in the newness and the space created in their absence. 

Am I holding on or are they?

I've come to realize that my struggles to release that which has played out, which has served its purpose, is seemingly systemic. Old loves, old clothes, old ideas, old versions of myself, all of which are ready for release in service of their own futures... and of mine. 

Why won't anything change?

Well, Marcus, because you want things to stay the same...

You're attached to certain themes, to places, to groups of people, to old shirts.

You want more new? You've gotta make room.

 

-mb

 

 

Changes

I check my email frequently. I think partly because I hold out hope that I'll get a message which will completely change my life. Keith used to calls these things, "magic emails."  Out of the blue, an opening. All of a sudden, you're led into a new chapter... My heart races as the phone downloads another batch of mail into my inbox as I sip on my warm caramel coopertino from the local bean water shoppe. 

But...

Usually it's just a bunch of groupons for things I did not yet know I didn't need. You don't accumulate 43,791 unread emails without signing up for a significant amount of spam. I guess it makes me feel less lonely, or maybe I like the attention.  

A few days ago, the usual incessant refreshing of my inbox actually unveiled a message of significance. Our landlord Aaron had applied for a permit to demolish our house. While this doesn't exactly qualify as a "magic email," it does suddenly lead me into a new chapter...  

My brother Michael has lived in what they'd named "Destructor" for something like 9 years. The detached garage in the back, "self-destructor" has functioned as a studio for so much music throughout its history.  I've spent years and years in the garage cultivating my creative muscles and commiserating with the cosmos. 

It's not going to sink in until it's gone. We don't know when that will be. We're month to month, and I doubt we'll get too much notice. I went through a similar process with an East Side house in the summer. When you don't have a lease you don't have long.

As much of a loss as it is, there is some sort of relief provided by its release. The place has housed some of my darkest experiences and most short sighted actions. My earliest explorations with alcohol and drugs. Incomplete associations with substances and satiation, confusing expression with escape.  

Although this house had been in my life for close to ten years, I didn't move in until August. I'd had opportunities before. I just wasn't ready. 

In some ways, my moving in was an attempt to prove to myself how far I'd come. To see if I could handle it. I suppose I've done well. If one were to peak past the walls of Destructor now, they'd see four decent men living somewhat upstanding lives as they continue to contemplate their place in an increasingly vast world. (All three of my roommates are impressive, compassionate young men)

A far cry from the Destructor I remember visiting in years past. A college house, clinging to youthful naivete, has finally grown up. And now it's already time to move on.

What sort of message am I being sent. Large structures in my life, letting go at a record pace.

I was looking around for new places yesterday and I laughed at how much prices had risen, even over the few months since I'd last been on the hunt. 

Now I'm not sure this isn't a sign. I talk all the time about taking myself seriously and putting myself out there. Does that mean living on the road? Maybe for a moment.

I'm still scared of leaving. Austin is so comfortable. Even with the rising prices, I could make it work. I could continue my neurotic Wheatsville impulses. I could stay close to my family. I can be partially recognized as that local guy who always wears that same dirty jacket and has some sort of sound blog thing called "Day Improvement Show." 

But at the same time, I've gotta follow my path. 

I need to think about this. If not now, when? 

---

On a related note, I'd like to implore you all to do your best to make it to Cheer Up Charlie's this Wednesday. Destructorians, Michael, Peter, Erik, and Alan will be playing as Solid State Dream Suite in the last new project to come out of Destructor before it fulfills its destiny. I hope you can make it. Event link is available here: https://www.facebook.com/events/517306935103138/

Stressed

They say that stressed is desserts backwards. This is supposed to provide us with some sort of comic relief, but all I can think of is how easily desserts can make you sick. 

You just finished your double XL Steak Cheeser from your local Flabby Shack, when your burgerista approaches and asks if you've left room for a few Apple Pie Blasters, or their world famous Gelato Frites. You only say yes if you're already in a dark place and you're feeling adventurous. 

I've been trying a lot of new things that are supposed to be good for me, but it's sort of exhausting.  Acroyoga, intermittent celibacy, carpooling. I feel silly for thinking that everything would change for me once I started to be a better human.

I guess my stage of development is sorta like the ride home after choosing to abstain from the incredible dessert menu at Flabby Shack, partially questioning the wisdom of my decision. I'm kept company by my still stuffed stomach and I take solace that I restrained myself from something I knew to be bad.

Hey, that's a start. 

Right now I'm the guy who goes to the gym for the first time in ten years, works out really hard, and expects to exude muscularity as he leaves only an hour and a half later. Upon arriving home and after inspecting himself in the mirror, he's disappointed with the lack of progress. Moments later, the sounds of a bottle of beer opening and a cigarette lighting cue the closing credits as the camera pans away from the facade of an old country house, off into the distance.

The Motion Picture Academy lauds the film for its brutal honesty about the human condition. Actor and politco Bill Nye calls it an "unlikely masterpiece." Buzzfeed makes a list, with pictures, about it.

That's what I've always wanted anyway; a biopic about my life so I could have something to watch while I was alone. I'd want Danny Devito to play every character in the movie to give it a surrealist bent.

I'm not sure why I'm complaining anyway. How awesome is it really when you actually have that dessert? If you're being honest with yourself, the regret begins before your fork has even punctured the gelatinous membrane of The Caramel Cruncher Casserole. You turn to your dinner mates to salvage any remaining karma at the table and excrete sentiment about how you ordered it "to share."

At least when you do have the dessert you have something. You have a stomachache, or heartburn, or a few extra pounds that show up a week or so later. You have some sort of lesson you can digest and learn from, so that next time when the burgerista asks you if you'd like to see the dessert menu, you know what to say. 

Until you say it and you start questioning if the restrictions you're placing on yourself are really worth it. Doubt creeps into your mind and speaks in a voice that sounds just like Golem from Peter Jackerson's never ending version of the kids book The Lord of the Rings. A voice so annoying that you'll do anything to make it stop.  

Until you merember

how it feels on the other side of a Flabby Shack bender.... 

I guess what I'm driving at is that even when we know what's best for us, it doesn't make it easy. And every time you allow space for it, doubt creeps in. And if you don't charge ahead unwavering, again you start wondering "is it really worth it?"

 

 

 

I Drive in Austin

In light of the new ridesharing regulations proposed by the Austin City Council, I thought I'd throw in my two cents.

I drive for Lyft and Uber. I'm twenty six years old, I'm a native Austinite and an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin. After and while falling out of love with my field of study, I swooned toward another. I found myself a recent graduate, putting all my heart and all my effort into songwriting.

After cycling through several odd jobs, I found work as a driver at a famous Austin food trailer business and worked tirelessly throughout the week to make ends meet. I was left with hardly any time or energy to put back into my art. This was my window, though. I figured if music didn't "work out" as I hoped, I was still young enough to change course and take a more traditional path. I pushed through in hopes of making more records, playing shows, meeting new friends and getting noticed.

Without realizing it this job had stifled my ambition, and my focus had shifted to just getting by.  At first it seemed misfortunate when told I would be laid off. Of course I was hurt to be under appreciated at a job that took up so much of my time, and my soul. I declined their offer of a lower paying position, headed home and thought of what to do next.

I now consider being let go a blessing. 

Now, I am free. Now, I make a living meeting and conversing with hundreds of people a month. I drive people to work in the morning, and home from the bar at the end of the night. I drive people to the Alamo Drafthouse because they want to avoid driving inebriated, and I drive grandmothers who can no longer get around town safely on their own. I help the blind reclaim their mobility and independence with the push of a button, and students get home safely instead of walking home alone at night.

In exchange, I've been rewarded with an incredible amount of freedom. Freedom in which I began recording and releasing new music again in a record titled Go Let Go. Freedom that allows me to make any rehearsal and play any show, without having to find a coworker to cover for me.  A freedom in which I have developed and, now, regularly produce a podcast called Make My Day. (I actually wrote the theme song in my car.)  Freedom that allows me to leave town to visit family when I need to.

As an artist and an entrepreneur, I cannot imagine a greater gift than to be able to make a living by connecting with human beings on my own schedule. My passengers have enlightened me, made me cry tears of joy, and inspired me with lifetimes of stories, for all of which I am so grateful.

Austin is already struggling with an image of unfriendliness towards its artists, it seems logical that we will choose to help nurture our community rather than stifle it.

 

-mb

If you'd like you can enjoy my music, my podcast, and my blog at marcusbrown.me

Signup for Lyft: https://lyft.com/drivers/marcus1347

Signup for Uber: https://get.uber.com/drive?invite_code=l45u8

Growing Pains

Do we really believe in karma, or is life just unfair? Maybe a better question is whose unfair is more unfair? I feel shitty for feeling shitty. I really have pretty good circumstances. I know how fortunate I am. But I still feel pressure. A lot. All the time actually.

My ex would have said "that's because of capitalism. It makes you feel bad, they've done studies."

I'd do my best not to respond. If I did it would lead to some needless fight in which the only real progress made was toward our breakup.

I am fascinated by the difficulty of just about any endeavor. Are there people out there whose lives are just easy? I've really tried not to write anything too whiny, but I'm wondering if I'm just bottling my angst. If I bottle enough I can sell it for $1.29 at every corner store across the country, and maybe in China too, because of globalization. Which also makes people depressed, apparently.

I was at the gym yesterday and I was almost laughing at how hard it was to get through my workout. It wasn't even really that I was struggling with pace, or weights. It was with the why. Why am I in here 3-4 times a week to bust my ass, each time fighting through the urge to give up?

Well, because it's good for me. Because I know the alternative. I've been the alternative for all of my existence, save a for a few athletic years when I was in elementary school which really doesn't count.

I'm not whining. I'm dying. The shitty Marcus is dying that is. The one that reasons with himself to cut work early, to have another cigarette before bed, to drink too much, to spend too much. The guy who loved to pretend that he had no grasp on cause and effect for years and years, hurting everyone he loved.

I guess knowing what's good for you and doing it are completely different things. 

Right now, I'm in the middle. I'm in transition.

Everything I do seems hard. It's crazy and I don't understand. Is it even possible that it's real or is it all imagined? It's like I'm putting pressure on myself so I don't forget to keep growing.

Often, I can't believe how uncomfortable I feel. At the same time, and for the first time in my life, I know how to deal with it. I know how to turn to it and face it down. 

The challenge is in actually taking on the challenge. Not necessarily winning, or what have you, but simply in staying strong enough to say "not this time, I won't give up again."

And as you do that, you're rewarded...

with more challenges.

But at least they're on a new level, because you're on a new level.

Growth is hard. Sometimes we're forced into it by something tragic or painful. A great loss maybe. Or perhaps the repetitious nature of your mistakes become so mundane and humorless and obvious that you consciously choose to change. 

Either way, know this...

the growing pains never stop. 

 

Blocked

Sometimes it all comes out. Gushing honesty, flowing so fast that the editor has no time to interrupt. I'm lucky to have it flow fairly often. When It doesn't I'll just turn away for a while, maybe start something else, and come back to it later.

Last night I sat by myself, opened up my voice memos and played an idea from earlier this month. Really, it was just a chord progression and a line. But I returned with a completely different perspective and a freshness that allowed me to see something new. Almost immediately, ideas flew to me and glued themselves to the song. Moments later, an old verse I wrote in October reemerged and fit right in.

I played the song a few times with a new sense of discovery. Very often, writing a song feels just like listening. Honestly, it's like I'm learning the tune, not writing it. And even though this particular song was pretty damn dark, I had a big smile on my face because I knew I was just given something special.

There are times, though, when it won't come out. It's blocked. It's strange. I can see it, I can hear it, I can read it, but for some reason "It" just isn't ready to emerge.

I've tried forcing ideas before and it can work. I actually recommend this to nascent songwriters as a way to overcome their insecurity. If you don't make anything, you really don't give yourself a chance to improve. Eventually though, forcing creativity is hardly the best condition under which content should emerge. That being said, I believe it's better to force it out than to not do it at all.

I'm working on a piece about the new ridesharing regulations in Austin, and I'm stuck. I've got a good amount written, but I'm doubting every key I strike as I string this together. I know what I want to say, but when I sit down to write it won't come out. I'm uninspired. It's drudgery and it shouldn't be.

I've spoken with at least two people about the piece, and in each of those conversations I was bursting with ideas and confidence. It's a good story, it just doesn't want to come out yet.

Part of me wonders if sharing "undercooked" ideas spoils the final presentation. I've stopped sharing music with friends and family before I've finished it. I try not to share all of my plans with the world, at least until I've made some sort of move in that direction. Otherwise I'm "all hat and no cattle." 

My friend Steve told me about a study that found that sharing your plans, or your "hopes and dreams,"  with others reduces your motivation to actualize those goals. Essentially, your brain is tricked into thinking that you're putting effort in just by talking about it.

I think that's part of it.

I suspect that some blockages are due to expecting one thing and receiving another. When I'm open and happy to accept what comes to me, it is always so wonderful. I'll call it "Constant Miracle Consciousness." TM

However, when I'm waiting for something specific to show up and I get something else, I'm disappointed. I feel blocked because I didn't get what I wanted. And as I'm lamenting my blockage, I don't value what is in front of me. 

I'm imagining a man in the early 1900s, waiting for his unrequited love at a snowy train station. Of course the scene is in black and white... He sits and waits for hours for her to show up. She never does, but in his waiting he meets a woman sitting next to him. Unaware that she's the real soulmate, he continues to sit and wait, missing everything that's actually there.

I can think of so many situations in which I was upset that I didn't get what I wanted, not knowing that what I really wanted was happiness. And that was always there.

We were taught to go get what we want, but are we really happy when we get it? Maybe we just want to get our way, and sometime we do. Usually we don't. It's as if we've set ourselves up for endless disappointment; looking for one outcome in a world of infinite possibilities.

I'm sort of uncovering this idea as I write you, so bare with me. I think this is what happened to me in New York. I think this is what happened last night when I wandered throughout Austin without a plan, all alone, finding love at every turn.

I could have kept trudging through my article about Lyft, here at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on 38th 1/2 St on this incredibly gorgeous day.  But I didn't, and now I'm happy. 

If it's not there, let it go. It's as if our blockages are actually messages, informing us of the huge gifts that await if only we alter our perspective.

Of course this is all an experiment, and I don't know the outcome as of yet. I'm attempting to learn what works and what doesn't. I'm only looking because I've tried what doesn't work for so long. I've felt blocked for years. I don't feel blocked anymore, at least not as much. I'm happier because I'm looking at what's here instead of waiting for what's not.

 

-MB

Perpetual Copyright Marcus Brown forever until MJ buys it out from under me...