A couple years ago I was in New York and went to Little, Brown & Co. to meet, for the first time, my editor for the book of “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”. I came into her office and she said “Where’s your guitar?” A bit surprised, I said that I don’t always carry one with me. She said “When Dan Zanes comes in, he always brings an instrument, and gets the whole office singing songs.” Wow, that is SO cool. I sure wish I could be like that.
But music for me is more private. I’m a bit shy. Oh, sure, put me on a stage and I lose all inhibitions. A stage is a place of ultimate freedom for me, where my shyness does not interfere. But without a stage I don’t know what to do with myself.
Also, I don’t remember songs very well, so when someone asks me to sing a song, I truly don’t remember them, even the ones I wrote. I have to practice them to have them at hand.
At a concert I gave at the Cafe du Nord in San Francisco some years back, someone in the audience requested a song of mine. I replied that I didn’t remember it. They said “But you wrote it!” I replied, “Yeah, well Steinbeck wrote Grapes of Wrath, but it’s not like he could just recite it from memory.”
The line got a laugh, but I don’t think the person believed the truth of it, that I really don’t remember songs I’ve written. Perhaps it’s why I don’t get tired of my own music! Really, I love so many of my songs, and maybe it’s cause they’re always a little new to me.
As for just getting up and singing at the drop of a hat, I need some encouragement to perform. Not a lot, but a little nudge from outside of myself. I heard Glen Hansard, from the movie “Once”, interviewed on the radio. He just picked up his guitar one day and started busking on the streets of Dublin. His faith in himself allowed him to just go for it. I’ve got a lot of faith in myself, and I’m grateful for every ounce of it, but I can’t do what Glen did. I admire that. Perhaps I’ll have that ability in my next life. If I come back as a snail, be on the lookout for a singing snail on a street corner near you.