51. Never Don’t Meet Your Heroes / by Allie Farris

Oh, hello there. It’s around 10am and I’m feeling productive. At 8:30 our weekly grocery essentials delivery arrived from Coop, which is like Kroger in Switzerland. Never saw beef tartare or beetroot kimchi available for takeaway lunch at my local Kroger in Nashville, but it’s the closest comparison I can think of. After putting the toilet paper and autumnal vegetables in their respective places, I settled on the couch to make a plan for today like a successful person, and to write to you. 

They say to never meet your heroes, but so far I’ve had a decent track record with people I’ve admired, and later met. Chiefly among them being an artist named Gabe Dixon, with whom I’ve written several songs; and I’m not exaggerating when I say he’s one of the nicest artists I’ve ever met. It’s almost laughable how normal of a guy he still is after the career he’s experienced (namely, touring with Paul McCartney and being a CURRENT MEMBER of the band Supertramp). I listened to Gabe’s music with my dad all through high school, after a chance hearing of his song “All Will Be Well” playing as the theme song of a short-lived cable courtroom drama. From there, I found a Gabe Dixon Band live album that turned my life on its head, and along with the influence of Ben Folds Five, it was clear that my humble garage band would be following in the deep footprints of the seriously rocking, piano-led power trios that came before us. Five years later, I would happen to see Gabe performing at a burger joint in Nashville on a Sunday afternoon, with just me and his parents in attendance. A born and bred Nashville native, it was the perfect instance of being a stranger in your own hometown.

     We met for coffee the next week, and by the time we sat down, drinks steaming before us, he’d let me know which of my songs he liked best off my latest release. Gabe Dixon had actually listened to MY music. I could’ve been nudged awake from my dream right about then.

     “I’ve gotta tell you Gabe, honestly, that it’s been my goal since I was a kid to make music that the musicians I admire respect me for.”

     “Well,” he said, “I don’t want to presume that you admire me, but I respect you.”

     I’ve been indebted to him ever since.

     Then there was the time I met Barry Gibb, which was already documented in Reason #8 of this blog. A BeeGee, the man that sang to me through the riotous intro of Grease; each time I heard that tune I was immediately sucked helplessly into Rydell High and the world of Danny Zuko. And the man that sang all those high notes, who can still sing all those high notes, and who changed the face of pop music forever; gets stage fright just like me and wrote down his home address after speaking to me for two minutes.

     It’s true, there have been times I’ve met music A-Listers and been disappointed. Obviously I’m not going to name names, but allegedly there was a middle-aged, highly respected folk singer who thought I was an over-eager twit of a 23-year-old, and told me so to my face. Also, maybe I’d gone backstage once at a festival (at which I was also performing, but on a different day) only to run into another famous female songwriter who literally turned her nose up at me, as if I smelled bad, and refused to acknowledge me further, in spite of a compliment or two I tossed her way.

Then there were the young guns. The bros. The guys on the top of the world (at least for that moment), whom I was absolutely beside myself with excitement for the attention they showed me. In my head I thought, naively: WOW, how lucky am I? They must really recognize something special in me. Maybe they think I could really be someone. 

     It turns out all they saw was a big smile, doe eyes, and an unsullied view of the music business. I learned quickly, unfortunately, that no one gets famous so easily. Not that easily, at least. And If anyone advertises a cure-all, they’re a singing snake-oil salesman with a winning smile and you should probably get back on your horse and ride far, far away.

     Now that I’m here in Switzerland, on what feels like an island in the sky, obscured by clouds, I feel comfortably separated from my past. I’m insulated from any harshness that came before me, and the wolves that prowl behind the stages, beneath the red glow of the exit signs. But it may be false safety, and someday soon I may run into wolves or cursing witches who now just speak French.

     This week, however, started with a new, unexpected kindness from a woman whom I’ve admired for a few years now. Her name is Ashley, and she runs the wine subscription service that changed my views on how fun and illuminating wine could be. She also has her own new restaurant in L.A., and has been written up in magazines, which is where I first heard of her. I’d been meaning to email her since moving here, but finally pulled the trigger on Sunday night. In the email, I told her about some of the parties, wine girl nights, and myriad special experiences I’d had with the wines she sent me. I also asked, since through her blog and email newsletters I know she’s a frequent traveler to Europe, if she recommends any places I could go, any people to meet, or any general advice on how to live my new life to the fullest. Within two hours, she answered my email personally, seemingly between appointments yet still taking the time to peck out a heartfelt email to a complete stranger on her smartphone. She told me a much longer message would follow, but for now I should make plans to go see a friend of hers (who speaks English) next Wednesday night at a wine tasting event in Lausanne. Like that, I had that same pinch-me moment I remembered from that first meeting with Gabe long ago. It gave me the hint of an exciting new path, and the sense that I may just be on the right track after all. 

     My hope is that someday, if I’m able to rise to a level that makes me an icon for some other person, that I’ll have the decency and forethought to tell them that I respect them; or stay open and generous to them; or to connect them with people who might make the world feel a little less scary. Even if I don’t have any reason to be, I hope I’m the kind of hero that someone deems to be worthy of meeting.