Looking Back and Starting Over

This week, we'll be starting the book of Deuteronomy, the final book of the world's longest running rerun known as the Torah. This is the part where the Israelites are camped on the edge of the Promised Land and Moses reflects on everything that's happened so far. 

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It's a reminder that after any journey, you gotta stop and look back, take stock of where you started and where you ended, and then prepare yourself to take the first step of the next journey. Releasing Restless Heart back in March felt like the end of a journey, but really it was just the high point along the way. Like the moment of revelation at Mt Sinai, it was a hugely important and defining moment, but it wasn’t anywhere near the end. The album came out, and then came the release concert, promotions, looking for gigs, and tracking listener data. All of which were critical tasks to get done, carried on the momentum of putting a part of my soul out into the world and onto the air waves. (Or, you know, Spotify.)

And now that we’re mostly done with that phase, it’s time to reflect. I learned a lot in the last year, sometimes shattering assumptions I’d made and sometimes reminding me of lessons I’d thought I learned:

      • I thought releasing In Pursuit was the beginning of my recording career, but actually that was just the first dipping of my toe in the water. Looking back, I was basically flailing around in the dark, knowing very little about how I wanted to record or what I wanted to do with the music once it was done. Now that Restless Heart is out, I feel like I’ve actually gotten into the water.

      • The most important skill to have in the studio is to be able to articulate your vision — and then refuse to settle for less. Sometimes that's hard because you’re on a tight budget, or you know what you want in theory but don’t have the words for it. But you gotta try!

      • There are a million decisions to be made in any endeavor. Surround yourself with people who are committed to your vision, who love and respect the work you do, and aren't afraid to tell you when they think you're wrong. And then listen to them!

      • Patience. Patience patience patience patience patience patience patience patience.

When we reach the end of Deuteronomy in a few months, we’re gonna rewind the whole thing and start over from the beginning. But it’s not exactly starting over — we’ve changed in the year since we last “started over.” We've grown, we’ve fought, we’ve lost, we’ve triumphed. We go into the new year a little more self-aware, a little wiser, knowing down to our bones that we’ve got more to learn but having more sense of the journey ahead of us. And then we take the first step

Neckties are the Key to Happiness

I think we can all agree that neckties are some of the most absurd pieces of clothing that anyone wears today. It’s made all the more absurd because it’s a standard part of a “traditional” men’s outfit, so we don’t even question it. It’s just expected. But why we take a strangely shaped piece of fabric and wrap it around our necks, letting it dangle loosely along our torso… I’ll never really understand. 

I own a lot of blue neckties. But not this one.

I own a lot of blue neckties. But not this one.

At the same time, I really like neckties. I like wearing them (and wore them at ages when they were both singularly uncool and utterly unnecessary) and I like shopping for them. Someone recently complimented me on my tie and commented that my wife must have picked it out for me. I gently but firmly corrected them; I pick out my own clothing, thank you very much. 

But what the rest of the world thinks about neckties, or my relationship with neckties, is utterly unimportant to me. I wish I could be so blasé about the world’s opinion on lots of other things, but with ties I can safely say that I don’t care. It brings me happiness to shop for, buy, and wear neckties and the rest of the world can deal. This is the key to happiness right here: figure out what you like and go with it; search for those moments of joy no matter how plebeian or unpopular, and revel in it. We have so little time in this world — don’t let others’ opinions drive you crazy. 

It’s an attitude I’ve cultivated around my music writing and composition too. Long before I had the confidence or experience to write a decent rock song, I craved Jewish music that rocked as hard as Pearl Jam, Guns ’n’ Roses, or Green Day. This is who I am — a guy who loves music that’s guitar-driven, rhythmic, and loud. And I love Judaism too. How great would it be, I thought, to bring those two parts of my heart and soul together? 

As I slowly started working on creating my own Jewish rock, I constantly wondered if anyone else out there could possibly be interested in such a niche interest. But I didn’t let that question determine my own feelings or dissuade me from following my heart. Even in the depths of self-doubt — and as a songwriter there was plenty — I always returned to the basic fact that this was something I loved the idea of. 

Not every source of joy will be practical. Not everyone is lucky enough to have money available to spend on their interests. But as long as you’re into it, as long as you can say to yourself, “This makes me happy and has no bearing on what anyone else thinks or does with their life,” then I say go with it.