Chandler Bing was by far my favorite character on the sitcom “Friends”. I had already been a huge fan of Matthew Perry from some of his earlier shows, and he’s the reason that I even decided to watch “Friends” when it hit the airwaves in 1994. Well, not the only reason, because I had seen Courteney Cox in a few other things at that point and was a little obsessed with her. But together they were for sure a win for me – funny quippery from a familiar face and an absurdly beautiful woman I could watch? Sign me up. It premiered when I was in college. September of 1994 – so it was my second year living up in the dorms. Friends became an event back in these pre-widespread-internet days. Groups of coeds would gather in the TV lounges every Thursday night for this bit of “Must-See TV”. At this point in my life, most of my friends were young women, so of course I was going to be roped in for the Thursday night festivities even if I hadn’t been a Matt Perry and Courteney Cox fan. I thought the show was a little ridiculous, but I really loved their wisecracking ways, and aside from Ross, who was a whiny bitch, and Rachel, who embodied pretty much everything that could go wrong with a woman to me, I really enjoyed the show. It was so thoroughly white-person-90s that it seemed targeted directly to the Gen-X temporary denizens my very small, very white college town. And every time you hear someone say, “I was SO not happy” or something to that effect (the emphasized negative), you have “Friends”, specifically Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, to thank for that.
So how does it all relate to music or me being the Musical Schizo? Well, there was another character on the show, Phoebe Buffay, who was an aspiring singer-songwriter and would play her hilariously bad songs at “Central Perk”, the coffee house where all the Friends hung out (and one of them worked). Around that time, perhaps a year later, a coffee house opened up in my very small, very white college town called the Java Hut. There were plenty of Phoebe Buffays that played that place. One of them was actually not terribly bad, and he was the roommate of a friend of mine. This singer-songwriter would enlist my help because I was the only person he knew who owned a PA system. I’d cart my rig (Peavey XR600B and two 10″-12″-horn column speakers) down to the Java Hut and get it all set up so he could play his music for the caffeinated clientele. He wrote songs about all kinds of things – life, love, Star Wars – he just wrote endlessly. His notebook of songs was ENORMOUS. At this point, I think I had written about 20 songs, and they were all pretty terrible blues songs or things forced into some neat riff or chord progression that I had come up with that didn’t really have a story or any sort of decent melody. After meeting this person, I was inspired to write more – and better – and to figure out what it was that I really wanted to say. I went through a five- or six-year period where I wrote a lot of songs, most of them still terrible, but more and more they started to represent things on my mind, or stories about characters in my life or characters in my head. Then I got married, had children, got full-time work, and life started to distract and intervene.
They say major life events like getting married or divorced and having children can really inspire creativity, but weirdly my most creative periods have come when I’ve had nothing going on. When life is really boring and I have nothing else to do. Periods where I’ve gotten over the initial grief or joy of some big life event and psychologically feel “okay”. My most recent big tough life event was probably my divorce in 2013, and to date I’ve gotten basically zero songs out of it. I did meet a wonderful woman and she’s inspired a song or two, but my writing output has been utter shit for the past 10 years. When I have the time I don’t have the energy, when I have the energy I don’t have the time. I’m sure many creative people have the same issues. It doesn’t help that I generally assemble my song demos in the same digital audio workstation software I use for my day job. When I come home from staring at that for eight hours, I’m not exactly inspired to stare at it any longer just to get song ideas down. I’ve thought about using other media to write stuff, and every time I have something vaguely inspiring I make a note of it on my phone’s built-in recorder. Thus far, that’s resulted in one new song. The song inspired by my fiancee but not directly about her necessarily. It’s been through a couple of demos and I’m not fully satisfied with it just yet, but it is quite a stylistic departure for me:
But moving on, I have in my head that I really want to be more creative. I feel like I want to write new and better songs again. I have a studio space where this is possible. But it’s not happening because I can’t decide exactly how I want to focus my creative musical energy. I don’t know if I want to write new songs or improve myself as a musician in general, by working on my relative pitch and understanding of theory, so that when I do write, I can connect things more easily. So my life with music has been one of pleasant distractions for the past few years, since my songwriting output went down the tubes. I’m not sure if the pleasant distractions are WHY my songwriting output is in the toilet, but they have been very pleasant – my long and satisfying (if up and down) run with Roman Holiday, my abbreviated tenure with Nudge, my many fill-in gigs with Texas Players and Mark Chandler, my even-more-abbreviated time with Flext, my false start that was The Dangerfields, and all of my wonderful solo gig experiences. Which brings us back to my current pleasant distraction, Chandler and The Bings.
I detailed in my last post that they have managed to soften the hard candy shell that represents my “musical perfectionish” tendencies (not “-ist” because that’s unrealistic). We come up with clever reworked versions of songs and that’s pretty inspiring – to hold on to the essence of the song and make it relatable but put a new spin on it that better fits our personality as an ensemble. It’s the same bit that I found endlessly inspiring working things out with Roman Holiday, creating rock band versions of 80s synth-pop tunes. Our wonderful shows with engaged and happy audiences have made me understand more and more that if you just have fun, they’ll have fun with you. I want to carry that fun back into my creative endeavors, so I think my next plan is a fundamental lifestyle shift. Taking a little bit of time every day to just create something, good or bad. Just to remind myself that it’s fun and that I love creating things. Because I DO! So, much like realizing that I need to have some physical exercise every day, and committing to that, I’m going to make the commitment to have a little creativity exercise every day, too. This blog post is the first example of that. Musing about life in the mid-90s, my love for “Friends” and how inspiring it can be to just love creating music, art, whatever. I AM A CREATIVE. It’s time to start behaving like one again. A creative that doesn’t create is nothing. I’m tired of being nothing.
Related unrelated comment: I once wrote an episode of Friends in college with my wonderful roommate Mary because we had a TV Writing and Criticism class together. It was great. Well, we thought it was great. But it was certainly great fun to create!
Expect new stuff from me soon, because I’m going to document my creations here on the blog.
Thank you for reading, and peace be the journey!
P.S. Come see a Chandler and The Bings show – it may not be perfect, but it sure is FUN!