I got to attend the Interactive conference at South by Southwest this year and was often reminded of how poor a substitute digital connections are for the real thing and what an epidemic of isolation and loneliness is taking place.
One presenter pointed out what a totally different experience it is when music is shared in the room as opposed to isolated in our headphones.
The best thing I heard at SXSW was a bold keynote from musician/producer T Bone Burnett, who talked about the “growing understanding that the internet has morphed into an insidious surveillance and propaganda machine,” calling for radical accountability for our tech giants and asserting that “the artists are our only hope.”
All of this made me think of my song called Be My TV who’s chorus goes, “I think my TV has been watching me, it cuts up my dreams to sell ads for jeans.”
Along with the release of MANTRAS, I am proud to premiere the video for Not Gonna Try, the last and longest track on the album and certainly my most involved video production to date.
The wisdom I sing about in this song is probably the hardest piece of advice I give to myself: stop trying to change other people and work on yourself. It’s akin to “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and the serenity prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
I take it one step further to actively denying my impulse to change others. It’s a tough extra-step, but one I’ve come to believe as a practical truth, that our influence on others increases along with our own personal integrity and decreases the more we try to get people to be like us (or at least do as we say). It is also totally aspirational. I find my belief that I can change others is a core assumption that I have to actively suppress in order to prevent all sorts of frustration and misery that goes along with trying to get people to be different.
The video features psychedelic backgrounds while I go through many wardrobe changes and time-lapse footage of me slowly going through a speeding world. The changes of clothes are meant to refer to my changing myself. The time-lapse illustrates the idea of going at your own, slower, more methodical pace in an ever faster world.
Lil sprinkled her digital fairy dust on this screenshot from the video.
This shoot began a few years ago when I volunteered as a free subject for a video class. In exchange for spending the day in front of their cameras, I got a bunch of footage. The first half of the shoot was all in a studio in front of a green screen, me changing outfits between lip-syncing to my song. For the second half of the shoot, we went down to town lake and shot footage on the Lamar St. footbridge and Doug Sahm hill. I’m happy to have captured two iconic Austin spots along with the skyline.
Last year I met Grey Gamboa, then a new RTF student at UT, and finally found someone to edit the footage together. Grey did a perfectly trippy job editing and creating pulsing psychedelic colors (using oil and water dyes between curved glass). His visuals nicely complement the dub horns that echo as they take turns soloing (through a delay pedal) for the last half of the song. I’m a big fan of such extended instrumentals, and very pleased with how Grey visually represented the dub jazz that the horn section improvised so beautifully.
I finally applied watercolor a few nights ago. It was harder than I thought to wrangle, but as with every aspect of this endeavor, it was satisfying time well spent away from the faster, digitized world.
Darrel and I joined Gray around the baby grand piano again a few Saturdays ago, which Gray had prepared in some interesting ways, as you will hear in a few of these tunes. I am proud of our patience during this session; it is a generally calm, relaxing meditation.
Here are some videos I shot as we warmed up including Darrel with prepared guitar and Gray playing a Steely Dan song called Pearl of the Quarter.