Tag Archives: musician

It Sucks When Your Favorite Songwriter is Your Ex.

I never thought that I would write about Tommy, but here we are.  I’m not going to talk about our relationship.  Too much happened and didn’t happen to tell that tale coherently.  Maybe one day, if I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I’ll open a bottle of whiskey and that Pandora’s box, but this is not that day.  Today, what I will talk about is that Tommy Simms was the best singer/songwriter that I have ever known.

Tommy turns his Alvarez into his bitch.  I am a junkie for a heartfelt melody, and he was my supplier.  That may have been one of the reasons why I stuck in that relationship for longer than I should have.  For a time, I think I may have been his muse, so that’s probably one of the reasons why he stuck with me for longer than he should have.  I am addicted to stripped down songwriting and  I’ve never seen someone do what he can do with an acoustic guitar.  He can make it sound like there are two guitars playing, while simultaneously setting your soul aflame with his vulnerable voice and charismatic ways that seems to pull at everyones heart strings.

I always knew how special his music was, and the fact that I still thought so, even after being heartbroken, confirms that I wasn’t just a fan because he was my boyfriend.  I was his number one fan because I saw him at his best.  Tommy alone with an acoustic guitar is where the magic happens.  I’m one of the lucky ones who got to witness the behind the scenes footage of him sitting on a dilapidated couch with heavy eyes that always had some secret behind them, strumming through minor chords and humming new melodies under the pale moonlight.  And those songs would fill the room and find their way into your bloodstream.

I don’t think he ever liked his songs as much as I did.  He always seemed pretty nonchalant about his talent, and never used it as much as I felt that he should have.  Years later, and I think only now do I kind of understand that it wasn’t so much that he was apathetic, but maybe he was just tired.  I knew him after he had already put everything he had into music.  I’m not sure, but I think that he had got his ass kicked by trying to “make it” and that tends to deteriorate your soul.  It happened to me.  It’s like a cancer.  It spreads.  In less than a year, I went from 100% identifying as being an artist, to 0% thinking like an artist.  I once saw artistic inspiration in everything, and in a matter of months, I lost it all.  When your dreams keep getting shut down by the rat race, it’s very discouraging, and I think that may have been where Tommy was at while I knew him.  However, even without his whole heart in it, Tommy had more talent in an EP, than I probably do in my complete portfolio.

One of the reasons I say that is because he can write a song for every style.  If you ask Tommy to write you a pop song, a rap beat, a doo-wap, a country tune… he will do it in a few minutes.  That was always one of the more impressive things about him.  So it’s a real shame that he never quite figured out how to wholly utilize his natural abilities.  Society is just not conducive to artists.

Tommy’s recordings are fine, but they absolutely do not do him justice.  He is best live because half of the experience is him.  He’s got this allure on stage and it’s like a sudden spell that cloaks the room.  No one knows exactly why they’re suddenly entranced, but they are.  However, he only has half of the qualities required to be known.  He has the talent and the charisma, which is the recipe for greatness.  Unfortunately though, he’s lacking in work ethic and has a tendency to burn bridges.  That may be the main reason why he’s not in a recording studio with Steve Albini at this very moment.

What inspired this random musing, is a video I just watched of him.  I have been cleaning out and organizing my digital closet over the last few days, and I came across this old video that I had forgotten about.  I recorded this years ago when he was playing a small show in Savannah, Georgia.  We were living together at the time and I remember that he hadn’t done a show in a while.  Please read the written guide I have provided below as you watch.  It’s all worth seeing and hearing.

The first song is called New Accents and it was always one of his most popular.  I believe that he wrote this one with Josh Greenburg and I’m pretty sure he wrote quite a few of his songs with Josh, so I want to make sure I give credit where credit is due.  Josh is probably the best musician I know and I suspect that he has perfect pitch, but I’ve never asked.

He was surrounded by close friends, so in the beginning, you can tell that he is kind of nervous.  But at minute marker 1:15, you can hear those nerves dissipate and he becomes more comfortable.  This is why I believe that live music is the most powerful form of art.  It’s a direct interpretation of someone’s soul in real time.

 

I never asked him about song lyrics.  As long as I live, I will never ask a songwriter the meaning behind the lyrics they write.  I think it’s far too personal.  Yes, he was my boyfriend, but there are still privacy lines that shouldn’t be treaded through.  I can guess what some of the lyrics are about, but I never confirmed any of these speculations.  I know that mingled within these songs that he wrote while I was around, are words that other girls would know the meaning to, and that’s where being in a relationship with a musician gets ugly.  I was similar though, so I’m sure it wasn’t easy being with someone like me either.

 

10:49- Tin Lizzy is possibly the best song he has ever written.  No idea what it’s about and never asked.

14:30- Timmer!  The boy who is in that shot, I have very fond memories of.  One of my favorite times with Tommy was the winter of 2009.  I think it was 2009 anyway.  He was living with me in Savannah, Georgia and most of our friends went home for the holidays but me, Tommy and Tim stuck around.  It’s one of those slices of life where everyone involved probably remembers it differently.  Tommy and Tim’s memories of that time are most likely different from how I remember it.  When I think about it, I feel this odd little temporary family built between three early twenty-something year-olds.  Tim never left his house, so Tommy and I would walk down the road to his place and we would all drink NOS energy drinks together in the morning, then switch over to beer at night, and talk and laugh and dream up ideas that we knew deep down we would never create.  In hindsight, it felt like our own little secret world.  None of us really keep in touch anymore, but we had December of 2009 together and it was something to be cherished.

20:34- He starts with that build up and you can feel it.  From here until the end, this is the epitome of Tommy in his element.

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe Tommy and I just aligned in some fucked up telepathic, artistic way.  I always said that if Tommy and I used the same medium, we would create the same art.  My true art was dance.  Dance and choreography was the only thing that I was ever really good at.  If he was a dancer, I think he would choreograph like me.  I choreographed movement and he choreographed notes.  And if I was a songwriter, I think that I would write like him.

The climax of his studio recordings was “Homeboys.”  He nailed it with the recording of that song and I was very proud of him.  I have it, but I am not sure that he ever formally released it, so I don’t want to throw it online.  Here is a fucking beautiful live performance of it however that I just found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TI8at4JgS0I

Tommy, I always thought that How It Feels would be great solo live if you can figure out how to make it work.

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Never Date a Musician

Never date a musician.  He’ll write songs about you and songs that are dedicated to you, and songs that make you to forget that all they are, are some vowels that sound pretty when strung together, and some ‘a’ minor chords that make anyone’s heart break no matter what order they’re put in.  He’ll sing you to sleep and he’ll kiss your eyelids when you cry, and he’ll even figure out the chords to “Puff the Magic Dragon,” because you told him one time that it was your childhood lullaby.  He’ll be able to feel your pain from a mile away because he is so intuitive that it is almost like having a sixth sense.  While he’s cradling your face with his beautifully calloused finger tips, and kissing your forehead, using his manufactured words to make you believe that everything will be okay, he’ll never forgive you for your feelings, because he is so terrified of his own.

Never date a musician because he’ll inspire you.  He’ll bring out the artist within you and you’ll become an addict of passion.  The athlete you’ll date later on will be gorgeous, and he may even impress you with his wisdom and knowledge of current world affairs, but he won’t remind you of what it feels like to feel, and you won’t become addicted to him because he doesn’t make you want to explore the attic of that haunted venue in Milwaukee with him, and he doesn’t give you ideas for the new screenplay that you’ve been writing.  The tattoo artist that you thought you could fall in love with will be the perfect balance of passion, stability and kindness, but while you’re making love in his squeaky bed, he won’t do that thing where he stops for a moment, smiling, and tells you that you look beautiful under the pale moonlight that is shining through the open window.  The boy with the blond hair will make you laugh.  He’ll make you laugh so hard that he’ll wash away all of your doubts with his sweet smile and the way he can keep you up all night, entertained simply by watching bad television together and eating jellybeans.  But they’ll come back.  The doubts will come back when the blond boy can’t find the perfect lyrical analogy, or he can’t silently grab your attention from the other side of a crowded room, and they’ll come back when he doesn’t cause you to bite your bottom lip in lust, because only a musician can do that.

Never date a musician because that is not his heart on his sleeve.  When he’s on stage, setting your soul aflame with his Alvarez that hypnotizes you, his eyes that shyly stay looking down and his vulnerable voice that makes the audience fall in love with him because they believe that they can see what he his feeling.  They can’t.  That is not his heart on his sleeve you silly little victim, it’s just his ego on display.

Never date a musician because he’ll always try to recreate that one night when everything was perfect.  The night that the two of you went to the bridge and splashed rocks into the water so that you could see the bioluminescence.  Then you ran through a park, in the dark, and played tag together and climbed up a tree until you both made it home and sat on the kitchen floor listening to Cat Power and eating left over beans and rice that you cooked together the night before.  You’ll wake up with rashes on your knees from making out all night on the scratchy rug that the two of you keep meaning to replace, but you both hate IKEA so the rug remained.  He’ll always try to recreate that night, never accepting the evolution of relationships because he’s a musician, and they never have to grow up.  When he can’t recreate that night, he’ll hate himself and resent you, and then just write a song about it instead.

Never date a musician because he’ll lie.  He’ll lie about everything.  He’ll lie about his father being an alcoholic, just because it sounds dramatic and captivating.  He’ll lie about the origin of his name and the time that he saved this little girl from drowning.  He’ll even lie about a tragic drug problem he supposedly had just because he wants to pretend that he can relate to Neil Young’s, “A Needle and the Damage Done.”  He’ll lie about these things because they sound romantic.  He has learned from the best… Jim James singing about death and bigotry and Jeff Mangum writing about the only girl he ever loved who got buried alive one day in 1945.  These lyrics will make him believe that he needs to experience the worst of the worst, and somehow that means that he has lived large and with integrity, but it doesn’t.  You’ll realize later that the song you used to play by Carisa’s Wierd that says, “saying sad things that don’t make sense, can just make you look like a liar” didn’t make him squirm because an ex-boyfriend of yours introduced the song to you.  Now you know he hates that song because it hit too close to home.

Never fall in love with a musician because he’ll make you feel like you’re crazy.  When you wake up crying for what you think is no reason, in hindsight you’ll realize that it was because deep down you knew that he was on the other side of town waking up with Adelina, or Calico or Berlin… or some other girl with an exotic name.  She probably has multi-colored hair, and her lips are probably fuller than yours, and she’ll pretend to know all about Wilco just to impress him.  You’ll plead with him on the corner of 3rd and 5th, as strangers are walking by and tears are spilling onto your blue shirt that you’ll never wear again, to tell you the truth about the girl with the Kurt Vonnegut tattoo, but he won’t.  He won’t because telling the truth would mark the end, and all musicians are terrified of a conclusion that cannot be depicted with a few “la-la-la-la’s” and a gentle fade-out.

There will be a tombstone marked “Muse” where you will lie dead.  The day will come when he’ll bring that Alvarez, and sit on top of this grave, and sing to you sweet lullabies, trying to resurrect a time, a place and a you that has long since passed.  Do not fall for this though my friend, because he’ll never love you completely, because completion would mean The End.

Also see, Never Date a Writer.

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