Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Playing Make-Believe

I remember the day I decided I wanted to sing. I had become enamored with the idea of writing songs and singing them for people. I remember envisioning my name on a CD... or, rather, cassette tape... full of my own music. I only told one person. It was my sister, Amy. I told her in confidence, and she, being probably 4 or 5 didn't quite understand what that meant. As my biggest fan (back then, and, I suspect, still today), she promptly made it her mission to announce to everyone what my life goals were.

I remember being terrified as she told Dad what I was planning to do. Right in front of me, she proudly declared, in her trademark squeaky voice, "Matthew is going to be a singer when he grows up!" It wasn't so much that I was ashamed of my dream; it was more that I was afraid it might never happen. And if Dad even so much as smiled the wrong way at this news, my hope for one day writing and recording my own music could be exposed as a vain, unachieveable whim. Just a dream that passes in the night.

Last weekend, my good friend Amanda came down from LA to record some backing vocals on the album I've been working on with Thomas Gray for the past several months. Tonight, I was able to closely listen to the new mix, with her smooth additions, for the first time. After hearing how much her haunting harmonies changed the mood of "Don't Let Go," I had to remind myself to breathe. Something changed in me as I heard that song for what felt like the first time, though I first wrote it over five years ago.

You see, up until now I feel like I've been playing make-believe. In Reno, I recorded an album with one of my best friends Rob Woods. We didn't get as far as we had hoped, but we got several decent tracks out of the process. But something in me has kept them silent. With the exception of posting a couple of the better ones on my myspace page, I have done little to expose those songs to the light of day. It's as though I have always believed that my dream would pass, that it was vain and fleeting and a waste of time pursuing with any seriousness, and the best I could ever hope for was to go with the flow when it carried me into occassional periods of exploring the art of songwriting and recording.

People, good friends and strangers alike, consistently tell me they believe I have something to offer in my songs. I always struggle with how to accept those encouraging words, because I always feel like it's just make-believe, that these people are unwitting guests at some tea party where everyone is supposed to be polite and courteous and be sure that we each feel valued and special. But tonight when I heard those words, that melody layered with Amanda's gentle, sombre tones, I realized that something has happened that I didn't expect. Somehow, somewhere along the way, my dream has begun to materialize.

What once were the far-off wishes of a 7 year old boy have now become the reality of a man who never envisioned something this good ever happening. What once were the solitary, silent hopes of a teenager scribbling phrases in a 3 ring notebook have now become the combined effort of friends I've made along the way, people who truly believe in these songs - so much so that some of them have devoted several months of their own time, energy, and talent to create something I never could have done on my own. Friends from college who spent hours teaching me guitar or writing with me; Rob, who stayed up with me countless nights into the early hours of the morning in order to get my songs out of my head and onto a disc; Amanda, who shared microphones with me on a worship team in Reno, taking time off of work and school to travel to San Diego to lend her talents to this project; Thomas, who has carefully overseen the recording, mixing, producing, and playing of nearly every instrument that wasn't my guitar on these songs; the litany of friends and family, near and far, who constantly remind me that they appreciate my songs and hope to hear more... There is (not-so)suddenly a community of people surrounding me who have spurred these dreams into something of substance and promise.

I don't know quite what it is that I'm getting at here. I think that tonight I've had a very unexpected realization that sometimes, a dream is put in us for a reason. Sometimes, no matter how much trouble we have believing it could come to be, we find ourselves in circumstances that enable us to live out that dream. Sometimes you have a little sister who thinks you can do anything, and friends who want to help you along the way. Sometimes... ok, I'll stop short of saying 'dreams really do come true' and spare us all the Disney moment...

But I think you get the picture. How grateful I am tonight.