Anthony Norman White Writer

I Don’t Know what the Hell I’m Doing

I sold everything to move to the Pacific Northwest. Well, almost everything. But the things that left on LetGo and Craigslist burned. There were several guitars, mics, cables, pedals, amps, stands, a keyboard and a band’s worth of cords, cables, and connectors. They all left out of door as happy hands handed me cash for “like new” equipment.

I was happy to let it all go, honestly. I wanted everything gone and not just to raise enough money to move my family across the entire country during a pandemic. I was done. Tired of jumping from project to project, several things moving at the same time, and wishing I was working on something else while working on something else. I constantly confused myself and was diluting the things I was putting out because I was buried in constant chaos.

Anthony Norman White Writer
Anthony Norman White Writer

I can be insane. I want to do everything, play everything, write everything, read everything all the time. But I know that’s not possible so I decided to make a new me when I moved from New York to Washington State. Get rid of music, focus on writing and reading, fishing for sport and relaxation, and get into camping. For the first few weeks it went really well. But my friend Kevin let me borrow a guitar.

I had gone over a few times and every time ended up with one of his guitars in my hands. He told me to take an acoustic for a week or so. Just brush up on some skills. That was on a Saturday. By Sunday morning I’d already recorded several riffs and had come up with a new plan; an album of songs that I write, record, and produce while using mostly other musicians that I know. Why?

Because I’m crazy and I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I got into discussion with a few musician friends of mine. I realized that I can’t NOT create. I have to. It comes out of me. I can’t stop it. It will find a way to come out and I need to realize that and just let it bleed. The cut is wide open and taking instruments away isn’t going to close it.

I don’t know what this new music project is going to be exactly, but I know it’s going to happen whether I like it or not.

Anthony Norman White - Freelance Writer

The Insufferable Writer

I change my mind constantly. One second I’m writing the outline of a new novel, the next I’m querying about a completed one, the next I’m retying terminal tackle to chase after steelheads, and the next minute I find myself setting up a closet as a makeshift studio to record an album I haven’t even written yet.

I haven’t played much guitar the last two years. I had a failed attempt at writing a bunch of songs two years ago. I had a month or so where I really wanted my old band, Pat Buchanan’s Hearse, to get back together. But it just wasn’t going to be possible. I hadn’t written hardly anything since my son was born. So I sat down to write a new PBH song and what came out was Once Surround. I made a demo of it to show the band, hoping that they would like it so much that they’d want to take it up and at least give it a shot at recording for real. It never happened.

Here’s what I had started. (I put the video together quickly so no judgement on it.)

 

I’m not sure of most of the lyrics. I lost the sheet I wrote them on. But the chorus sticks in my mind “Convoluted and confounded I was once surrounded”. At the time I wasn’t sure why I felt this way, but it’s unmistakable. I felt trapped, held back, and like “a dog in a pound”. But what’s interesting about these lyrics is that they’re in the past. “I was once surrounded” as if I was no longer. The song has a hopeful underdog feeling to it and the lyrics corroborate. It took a few years to put it together but I suddenly recognize why. This song, out of the hundreds that I’ve written and forgotten, has become extremely meaningful to me.

Right before my son was born I took a corporate job that had me on the road. It was a good job with great benefits and a pension. I couldn’t have asked for anything better at the time. I mostly traveled in the north east from DC to New Hampshire. I was home every weekend but usually pretty beat and didn’t feel like doing much. My wife went to work on the weekends waiting tables in a restaurant. Our lives were separate. I barely knew her or my my own son.

I missed his first laugh, first steps, first words, and other firsts that’s really¬† hard to think about now. It was difficult but this was life. I was frustrated and wasn’t sure how to express that. I fought with my wife. I withdrew from friends. I argued with my parents. In general, I was unhappy. But I thought there was something more to it. I thought that I was just unhappy being a father and another cog in the wheel of capitalism. I wanted out.

I went to a therapist and told her what I was feeling. She asked me a dozen questions and listened intently to my answers. I was waiting for her to come back with the fact that she had no clue what was wrong with me, that I needed years of therapy, probably massive drugs, electroshock therapy, and most likely a complete lobotomy. Instead she giggled.

“You mean to tell me you’re stuck doing a job you don’t like, missing out on engaging family time, and not creating, writing, or playing music? No wonder you’re miserable!”

I hadn’t realized that I hadn’t written or created much during this time. She convinced me that I needed to. “You’re an artist at heart,” she said and I swear at that moment¬† something changed in me forever. I had never considered that before. I had never even thought about really. I just thought I was a little kid having a hard time becoming an adult, playing in rock bands and reading poetry in dumpy coffee houses. Turns out, in a way, I am. But it’s not that I haven’t grown up, that’s how I cope with the stresses of everyday life, including becoming an adult, a dad, and a working professional.

So I was determined to get the old band back together. I made some desperate phone calls. No one wanted to listen. I thought if I just wrote a classic PBH track they’d have to come back! We’re were a good little punk rock outfit. They’d need to try it back on. I never felt so liberated as to play some rock and sweat it all out and feel better and get drunk and laugh and yell and scream and…have fun.

So I wrote Once Surround after a conversation with my friend Mike Leon. I pieced it together with a few riffs I had floating around and then once the melody hit me I penned the lyrics in a few minutes. I never really stopped to think about what I was writing. It just fit the mood of the song and my spot in life. I recorded the demo a few days later and then it got stored on an external hard drive and that was that. Until a few days ago when I found it.

I was once surround.