The Transient Sessions Videos
This song has a special place in my heart. When I was younger, my parents would often play music in the house. As a result, I have always associated specific songs with my parents. One evening, while listening to music with my father, "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel came on. Something in him changed. Up to that moment the music had served as a background, but when this song came on, his face lit up and he seemed to have entered in. It was as if the music expressed something he was feeling inside and spoke for him. You should know that he was not the most expressive man, so when I saw this happening I paid close attention. When he got to the last verse, " In the corner stands a boxer", he was completely in the song and I could tell that verse was special for him. It was at that moment I had thought "on no, I am going to have to sing this song at his funeral one day!" I have never had a thought like that before and it was not a topic I thought about often. But there it was, I had no say about it. It felt like a heavy responsibility and would occasionally come to mind the years following that evening. On May 25th, 2021 I lost my father to a rather quick illness. I was by his side when he passed. In those final hours I simply touched him and sang. This was one of the last songs he had heard . A few days later, accompanied by my two brothers, we sang this song for him at his service. It was a fitting send off for a wonderful man loved by many. When choosing the first video to release for my Transient Sessions, a new project and form of expression for me, "The. Boxer" seemed to be a fitting choice.
Against The Grain is a new song and has yet to be “officially” released. The recorded version for the album is actually a bit different than what I do here. One evening in NYC, I was waiting to take the stage and had no idea what I should start with. It needed to be a song I connected with personally but also upbeat enough to properly meet the listeners where they were at. Typically, an audience is more riled up at the top of a show having just come in from their busy lives. The lead off songs need to meet them and direct them where to go. At the time, I wasn't feeling inspired by any of my upbeat tunes and couldn’t get the lyrics of a new song I was working on out of my head. The problem was that the new song, Against The Grain, had a unique droning tempo that wouldn’t hold up on a solo guitar. It sounds great with a band but when played solo had a little too much slack in the rope. So I began playing the song with this tempo to help cut out the musical fat and showcase the lyrics more. It gave the song a 60s, Dylan-esc protest type vibe. I actually based the strumming pattern off of Dylan’s version of Love Minus Zero / No Limit from his Rolling Thunder Review tour. Waiting to take the stage, I gave the song a facelift and found the tempo treatment served the lyrics really well and injected the energy needed to start the night off. And just like that, an alternative version to a song that had yet to be released and barely played live … was born. Something about the way the chords roll creates a nice bed for the lyrics to lay upon. It feels really good to play. I feel confident and strong in this song. When I set up to record this batch of video sessions I was really struggling with entering into the music. I felt off and rudderless. Just at that moment, I remembered this version of the song and gave it a try. From the very first strum I was recalibrated, comfortable and dialed-in. Sometimes all you need is the right song.
I first encountered this Bob Dylan song when I was 10 years old. I remember instantly losing myself in the song's narrative and feeling a sense of companionship and peace. The dialogue between the two characters, on paper, couldn’t be further away from my lived experience at that time. Despite that reality, I was still able to connect with the song completely and be served by it. I think it has to do with the overall thematic concept. The protagonist loves unconditionally and sacrificially while the antagonist feels and expresses differently. The audience listens as the protagonist pleads and wrestles with this conflict before hardening their heart and closing its door from continued vulnerability and pain. Even though I had never been in love, traveled or understood anything about Spain, I could still feel the weight of losing something you would sacrifice everything for. As I have gotten older my understanding of this song has ripened and become more complex. While traveling in Spain recently, I felt this would be a fitting song to play. When thinking through the lyrical delivery I started reflecting on the context of the dialogue. For the first time in my life the song wasn’t black and white like I heard it as a child. It was a deeply complicated and difficult conversation between two people that care for each other. I could relate to both sides of the story. The person leaving is feeling called, for reasons unknown, to something new and mysterious. I can understand that. We don’t know the backstory or big picture of their relationship and we never will. So rather than deliver the song in favor of the unconditional lover, I wanted to deliver each line from the heart of the individual saying it. I wanted both to be presented as good dignified people in a hard situation. I feel this makes the song more relatable, for us seasoned folk at least. As a child/young adult I didn’t understand the nuance and complexity of mature relationships. I have started to understand this a little, through the only way possible … the hard way. We are constantly wading in the middle of a complex equation: compatibility + circumstance + time = The Real Shit. There was no way to understand this until I was ready too. However, even as a child, in my own subconscious way, I did know one truth that trumps this complex equation like a wild card: Real love is sacrificial and charts its route to glory through death. Needless to say, when push comes to shove, I still side with the protagonist.