45. The Sound of Dust
9:30am, on a Monday morning. The last Monday here in Lausanne, before heading back to Nashville for the month to tie up loose ends, and rock it FM style.
A shipment of clothes and furniture, our last remnants of life lived in the U.S., arrived via the largest domecile-moving truck available in Europe, roughly the size of a Nissan Armada or a Chevy Suburban. It pulled up backwards, filling the small alleyway between our apartment complex, and the one across from us that houses the black and white cat that greets me every day when I come home from the gym.
Boxes and boxes of everything left: wine glasses, the rest of my clothes (thank goodness), desks, and the mattress and box spring for our guest room, to name a few things. My day was spent finding places for as many things as I could, mostly in the kitchen and guest room, while listening to The Disaster Artist on audiobook issuing loudly from the speakers of my iPad. As I unpacked, and vacuumed, and reassembled—envisioning what would become of this new room with stuff now added to it, I had occasion to look back at the previous five weeks spent here, and unfortunately realize, to my dismay, that I hadn’t accomplished very much at all.
I got here at the end of August, wide-eyed and terrified of this new place and all of the unknowns that lie ahead. I heard the unfamiliar sounds, and minute by minute I thought of all those I’d left back in Nashville. It took me a week to work up the nerve to officially close my business, staring at all I had worked for and yet, if I’m being honest with you, despite it providing me with a life lived comfortably, I was never truly jazzed about. With so much conflict in my head and my heart, I deleted things, erased listings, and emailed clients all to inform them that the person who once begged for their business has now…what? Given up on it? But what choice did I have.
I remember other aspects of touring that made me feel the same way: when I would drive so far—ten, twelve hours in a single day—slapping myself in the face to stay awake and living off each McDonald’s coffee cast down my gullet in the parking lot outside of Macon, Georgia or Muskogee, Oklahoma. That, of course, was not something I could be passionate about. The creation of music, and its performance, is all I’ve ever really loved. I dream of the studio, and of Wembley Stadium. I dream of moments of discovery: a spark of life hidden inside the chorus of a song, like a zap of pure adrenaline embedded in a sound wave; or to look around a grand room filled with people, all singing and feeling the same thing, and to know, deep down, that you’re not so different after all.
In between these little moments of discovery will always be something that makes you appreciate that next big high. In my last job as a piano tuner, it was the actual tuning part. That’s how I know it wasn’t for me: the actual doing-of-the-job was the hardest part of being a piano tuner. I would live for the drive to a client’s house, each minute closer an opportunity for them to call and reschedule. The moment I completed my task and was paid, I would return to my car and flip on the seat warmer, easing my growling lower back into lumbar-land. In my touring days, the touring part that was obviously a slog, but it wasn’t all bad. Sometimes the drive would be beautiful; sometimes I’d be in a contemplative mood. Sometimes I’d find a good book on CD or a good CD on iTunes.
The worst part about touring came in the dead of night, climbing into a bed that wasn’t mine after locking a lock on a foreign door, and staring up at a new ceiling for one, maybe two nights before never, ever seeing it again. The worst part about touring was how long it took to get from show to show.
For over a month now, for all intents and purposes, I’ve been 100% unemployed. I planned to release five new videos, and start work on learning how to promote my musical endeavors online effectively, just like the trial and error that it took to hone in my piano tuning brand. Now, in these final five days, I’ve promised C I’ll release one video, and three songs I wrote with a co-writer earlier this year. Despite the crushing feeling I keep getting—my guess is the fear of failure—every time I think about posting something, I still don’t believe that these are the toughest bits to the new career. The internet can be a fun, crazy place sometimes, and I just so happen to like data entry when the occasion calls for it. No, I think it’s taken me five weeks to realize that the hardest thing about being the kind of artist I wish to be now, will be the quiet moments that reside between each decision that I make, alone.
A deafening pseudo-silence fills the room: maybe the windows are cracked and a car whizzes by down below, or my neighbor has the day off and runs the vacuum, or nothing is making noise except the high-pitched, crackly sound of dust hanging in the air, dancing around me. A voice inside me says, Okay, Allie, what are we doing next?, and all there is left to do is trust myself. Trust myself with deciding what to make for dinner this week (will I be able to navigate the grocery store well enough to find lean ground beef?); trust myself that hanging my mugs like this will not mean a crashing catastrophe in the future. Trust that I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life by hedging my bets on the music I create out of thin air being better than the sounds already playing.
I sit, cross legged on my studio room floor, finding places to stash my cables, music books, and the many journals I’ve kept since I was ten years old. Currently, the one that sits on my desk is made out of an old leather punching bag my dad once used. He had it made for my birthday last year. Once I sat, and I wrote whatever came to mind. Numerous volumes of all shapes and sizes fill my shelves, in chronological order, as well as the voice memos and finished tunes relaxing on my hard drive; some were performed and released, and others (probably more than there should be), gather dust like the binding of the tattered, pink, fuzzy diary at the earliest end of the shelf. The hardest part of this job will be deciding what I will do from day to day; and if I fail—if people don’t like what I do or are mean to me, if I don’t make it as far as I planned—it’s all my fault. You wanted to be CEO, Allie—now here’s your chance. So take it.
I imagine what C’s workplace must be like: conversations being held in large conference rooms, people stumbling from desk to desk, spilling a hint of coffee on the expensive hem of a starched collared shirt, and all manner of specialities and expertises, making decisions individually to steer the ship towards the right direction together.
And then, there’s me. Here, in an east facing room, staring at an open, blank ProTools session, trusting that this next note might make for a song that somebody, somewhere might find singable.