15 Years: Why I'm Still Here
I started writing for The Daily Vault in October of 1997, nine months after site founder Christopher Thelen opened the doors. (For roughly the 734th time: thanks, Chris.) Since then I’ve authored more than 550 reviews for the Vault, not to mention a few dozen interviews and essays, and a thousand or so blog, Facebook and Twitter posts. I’ve been the editor since January 2003, nine years now, three-fifths of the site’s lifespan.
So, why am I still here? I think that’s not just a fair but a necessary question to ask from time to time. You should never do something just because you’re always done it. That is a recipe for stagnation, and we all know what stagnation smells like. I thought about that a little this week, and came up with not just one, but eight reasons why I’m still sitting in this seat, updating the site every night. Because I’m here, I get to:
- Interact with (and occasionally interview) artists I admire. The average listener does not get to do that, and I do. That is a privilege and something I never take for granted.
- Be part of a community of writers. I’ve always appreciated this aspect, but never moreso than when I recently published my first novel, Believe in Me. Imagine doing something slightly scary, but that you’ve always wanted to do, and realizing as you’re doing it that you have a built-in cheering section of people who AREN’T EVEN RELATED TO YOU. Pretty special stuff.
- Discover new music. Absent my involvement with the Vault, I might never have discovered some of my favorite artists of the past 15 years: Arms Of Kismet, Big Big Train, Chris Cubeta & The Liars Club, Last Charge Of The Light Horse, Amy Lennard, Jon Troast, Mike Zito. Just last week I gave a rave review to Stephie Coplan & The Pedestrians, a terrific piano-rock trio out of New York that—barring them conquering the world sometime soon, which feels like a genuine possibility—I might never have heard of if not for the Vault.
- Promote new music. The corollary to the previous entry. The gift that our audience gives us is the opportunity to share our discoveries and hopefully help fledging artists catch the breaks they need to advance their cause. Passion begets passion, and we’ll always try to pay it forward.
- Indulge in a hobby. Everybody needs one. No, seriously. We’re all passionate about something, and if you never follow that passion, no matter how trivial it may seem at times, are you really living life to its fullest? I don’t think so.
- Relive great musical memories. I thought about doing a list of 15 of these—those musical moments that make the hair on the back of my neck stand at attention, that live on in memory long after the song has faded out—and the only hard part of it would have been keeping it to 15. Moments like when the drums come thundering in at 3:40 of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” Or when the Edge’s force-of-nature circular guitar riff infiltrates, then obliterates the synth wash during the opening sequence of “Where The Streets Have No Name.” Or when Moon’s hair-on-fire drum fills, Daltrey’s banshee scream and Townsend’s Armageddon guitar crash headlong into the closing verse of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The immortal opening chords of “Limelight” and the brilliant closing solo of “Oye Como Va.” The slinky electric piano and bee-sting guitar that fuel Tom Petty’s “Breakdown”; the majestic church organ Rick Wakeman uses to blast “Awaken” into the stratosphere; Peter Buck’s mandolin residing at the very heart of “Losing My Religion”; the little waver of emotion that sneaks into Mary Chapin Carpenter’s voice on the verses of “Come On Come On.” The furious precision of Mick Fleetwood’s drumming driving “Go Your Own Way,” or the brilliant bridge of Fountains Of Wayne’s “All Kinds Of Time,” the best song about football in the history of the game. The furious thrash of “American Idiot”; the uplifting drive of “Stars”; the understated anguish of “Fire And Rain.” I could go on and on (obviously). These moments are the tapestry of my musical life, and in this place I am reminded of them again and again.
- Fulfill my OCD destiny. Thirty-one Yes reviews? If that isn’t obsession, I don’t know what is.
- Show off my rock trivia knowledge in the only forum where it’s conceivably of any value or interest. And yes, I really did try out for Rock & Roll Jeopardy (damn you, Probst!).
While I was finishing (and rewriting) Believe in Me, my eventual publisher Mark Doyon and I talked often about writing. Of the many insightful comments Mark laid on me during those months, the one that stuck the most in the end was perhaps the simplest: “Persistence is the whole ball of wax.” In other words, passion is great—wonderful, inspirational, and absolutely necessary—but passion ebbs and flows. You have to persist—to somehow, somewhere find the fuel within you every single day to keep going. Fifteen years on, this road still looks from here like it goes on forever.