Sunday, December 14, 2014

Do you have no insecurities about your work (or anything else?)

Hi Elvis,

The other night Dan and I watched “Lost Songs: The New Basement Tapes Continued,” the documentary about the making of the New Basement Tapes album (for which T-Bone Burnett assembled a supergroup to set music to a recently discovered trove of Bob Dylan lyrics). Aside from liking Marcus Mumford way more than we expected to, and pretty much crapping our pants at the beauty of that one Taylor Goldsmith song, our main takeaway was that being Elvis Costello looks really, really fun. 
Is it?

Everyone else in the group was clearly nervous. Even superstar Mumford; even general badass and giver-of-zero-fucks Jim James. They were trying to enjoy this awesome experience, but finishing a Bob Dylan song is a weighty challenge -- especially while being observed by a giant camera and “Elvis fucking Costello" (Mumford's words).

Elvis fucking Costello, of course, was not nervous. You were just genuinely jazzed by the task at hand, and stoked to see what the other musicians were doing. You strummed your guitar as they toiled, your hat perfectly crooked and your winter scarf permanently in place, even though it was indoors and LA. (Did they keep it cool for you, like they do for Letterman?)

While writing what turned out to be a pretty good song, Mumford went into a confidence spiral that I found extremely relatable. (It happens midway through every project I undertake, when I decide I have no talent, and no business even attempting to make something original). But you seemed completely baffled by his meltdown, as if the entire idea of insecurity had never even occurred to you.

Is this possible? And if so, my god, what is that like? It seems more liberating than anything I could imagine. Are decades of praise and adoration necessary to achieve this state, or is there maybe some kind of shortcut I could take?



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