July 2012 Reflections - 7/23/2012

Man, we've been busy. I am not complaining. Any time that I find myself even THINKING about complaining or I catch a whiff that maybe one of the other guys in the band is thinking about it, I remind myself and them that there have been times when we were on the other end of the spectrum. This is what we have been working toward all these years. Maybe I am in the glow of the past few months, of touring Europe, of spending a week playing and teaching in the Yukon, of headlining the Ryman and soaking up every minute of it,  of doing shows all over our wonderful -- and it is wonderful -- country, but I am thankful for the work. The work has kept me sane in these past six months since Dad's passing. And though we've never discussed it, I am sure Leigh feels the same way.

I have always considered myself a team player. Maybe it goes back to my baseball days. So when one of our all-time heroes complimented us backstage at Grey Fox by saying, "Your band sounds SO good. It sounds like a BAND. You don't hear that enough anymore," I was dancing on air. That is what we strive for. We don't want to sound like anyone else, and we probably couldn't if we tried. I think the long hours spent together in vans has contributed to the band's tightness on stage. I have heard all-star bands thrown together on-stage at various events. It is fun and cool and historic and all that, but that BAND sound is never there. Mike has been with us for nineteen years, Clayton for eight, and Joe for four (and Leigh and I for 40!). There is something to be said about longevity. We are probably past the point of sneaking up on folks. We have been around so long. But we can keep getting better. I hope this five can stick together for many more years. We have accomplished things as a group I never dreamed of, but, call me greedy, I want to do much more.

At Mayor's Cup in Plattsburgh, NY, last week, I saw my former superintendent at AuSable Valley Central School, John Gratto. I hadn't seen him since 1998, when he granted me my wish for a year's leave of absence from teaching to see if I could make any headway in the music business. He said, "Eric, it looks like you made the right choice." I thanked him for letting me try, but I admitted to him that there were times along the way when I questioned my decision. When that year was up, I kept ploughing ahead. Some of the years between '98 and now were rocky and I told him so. Even so, I had to agree that overall I made the right choice. Music is such a powerful force in my life and I know how blessed I am to be making a living at it. I wished I had had time to tell Mr. Gratto about my father-in-law's response when I told him I was taking a year's leave and might not ever return to teaching. I braced myself as we rode in his pickup in his sugarbush. The silence was probably just a few seconds, but it seemed like much longer. He turned to me and said, "I think you should have done it four years ago." I loved him so much at that moment and still do. I had been teaching for four years, thinking that is what I should do and that that is what everyone wanted me to do, and he gave me his blessing. I'll never forget it. 

This has all been pretty deep, so I will leave you with something a little lighter. I probably need to keep Kelley away from Leigh, because the humor is rubbing off. I broke my nose a few weeks ago playing baseball with my sons. I am fine, and I no longer resemble a raccoon. My voice feels good, too. However, Kelley heard me sing and said, "Dad, you sound about half-nostril right now." I laughed, but Son, hillbillies are supposed to sing straight from the soul and through the nose.