I promised myself I’d be short-winded with this post and I’ll try really hard to stick to that.
So let me say this right out of the gate: A couple of days ago I got a HUGE new tattoo and it’s a Shawn Colvin lyric with some headphones. It was done by the enormously talented artist Cyndi Lou at Tsunami Tattoo in Portland, Maine.
I’ve been planning this for several years. It finally happened on February 24 and I absolutely LOVE IT.
I have long wanted a tattoo that would truly capture the importance of music in my life. Can the emotional response that I have to music be explained? Can it really be captured? Are there even words? During this multi-year thought process I kept coming back to the same thing: a line from a song. The line is simple but it says everything that needs to be said, at least for me.
In the fall of 1992 singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin released the album “Fat City.” At the time I was living in Keene, NH where I attended Keene State College. Pretty much every track from it I played one time or another on my WKNH radio show during that time. Since then my love for Colvin continues to grow and I’ve seen seen her several times live starting in the mid 90s. In fact, I just saw her a few weeks ago in Mexico at Brandi Carlile’s Girls Just Wanna Weekend festival. Shawn Colvin’s one of the great ones. Now then…where was I?
The time of Fat City’s release was also a time in my life that I was in the midst of trying to extract myself from a relationship (my first one at that) with an alcoholic who I was surely enabling but too afraid to walk away from. I was so very young, so very insecure and so very clueless.
Mercifully, she left and I mean really left by moving to California. We parted on good terms and a massive weight was lifted from my tattered and torn shoulders.
“Fat City” was a soundtrack to much of this and I don’t mean it in a depressing way. I just mean it was a key album in my life during those years in New Hampshire, which included as many happy times as rough ones. God I love that album. Every damn song. All 11 of them. Mad, unfettered love. And I still do. For me, it’s a perfect album. Guests on it include Richard Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Chris Whitley, Bruce Hornsby, Bela Fleck and even Joni Mitchell who played a little percussion, among many others.
Whoops. I’m rambling. So yeah. THE TATTOO.
“Fat City” closes with the Colvin-penned balled “I Don’t Know Why” and the song has been killing me now for 27 years. There are times I can’t listen to it without crying. The song is as beautiful as a song can be about love; something I knew absolutely nothing about back in 1992.
There’s one line that is repeated twice during the song that has resonated with me in a hugely significant way since the first time I heard it all those lifetimes ago.
And so it’s that line I got forever inked on my left arm. I came up with the idea of adding the headphones because it speaks to the fact that probably half of my life has been spent wearing them as both a music lover and music journalist.
Oh and speaking of music writing, most of the interviews I’ve done with artists have been via telephone. That’s standard practice as the stories I’ve written are often previewing upcoming shows. There was one time in the mid 90s that I interviewed Ani DiFranco in person in a locker room and it was, as you can imagine, effing awesome. But there was a more recent in-person interview that happened. This one took place in 2015 at a venue in Rockport, Massachusetts. It was with Shawn Colvin.
My tattoo is only a few days old so it’s very much in healing mode. It will look a little different in a few weeks and perhaps I’ll pop back in here and add a “finished” photo. But I couldn’t wait to share with you what it looks like now because looking at it makes me so happy.
I’d love to know some of the ways you’ve expressed your own love for music so please feel free to comment below.