SPOTLIGHT: Langhorne Slim on Not Letting Words Get in the Way
Langhorne Slim (photo by Harvey Robinson)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Langhorne Slim is No Depression‘s Spotlight artist for January 2021. Read more about him and his new album, Strawberry Mansion (out Jan. 29) in our feature story, and look for more about Langhorne Slim all month long.
“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” — Miles Davis
Amen, Miles. That quote has always hit me like a warm breeze. A cosmic wink. It’s all already there, kid, if ya just keep lookin’. Warmer days ahead. Sundresses too. Some wise words from a guy who’s been through some shit. Where else would they come from anyway?
I’ve heard some wise words in my day. Read ’em in poems and in stories my grandfathers would tell. I’ve even come across some on the internet, like the Miles quote above. Heard a ton of ’em in all kinds of songs of course and in conversations with folks on the street too. Particularly the folks that most don’t conversate with. Those folks tend to really have a way with words. For all the pleasure and inspiration words have brought me, they’ve only ever brought me so far.
This last year, over here in Nashville, I’ve been sitting still a lot more than I have in a long time. I guess most of us have. I’ve also found a lot more quietness in my days. So many less words. To be honest it’s been utterly terrifying at times, but it’s also provided that sweet warm breeze feeling too. Somewhere along the line I started to realize how often words get in my way. Keep me from action, from myself, and it’s far more often than I ever knew.
Words don’t mean shit without feeling. Everyone knows it, but man oh man do we live in our heads. I know I do, and that’s what I’ve been exploring over here in these last pandemic months. Get out of yer head and into yer heart. Breathe man, breathe. I’ve gotta remind myself over and over again. Baby steps ain’t always easy when yer the baby, but I’ve heard it said that the art of patience takes time and I believe that to be so. I have faith.
Here’s a little story that blew my mind. I heard an interview on the radio once with a man from an Indigenous tribe somewhere. I wish I could remember where, but it doesn’t really matter at the moment. What matters is that in the interview it was revealed that this particular tribe has no word for “love.” The interviewer was astounded by that fact and asked how it could be possible. “How do your children and wife know you love them if you can’t tell them you do?” The man paused briefly and replied that it was real simple. “I show them I love them every day.” The interviewer went quiet. When a mic drops that hard, it’s difficult to find a clever follow-up question.
So, in keeping with this new practice of less words and more action, I leave you with this … a whole lot of words to say I’m trying not to hide behind words as much as I have in the past. To dismantle as many masks as I’ve constructed, if that’s possible. I’ve attempted to sound like myself through words, booze, drugs, romance, hats, songs, and on and on. I’m fairly sure it’s even worked a few times, but it’s been fleeting and it ain’t the pure shit I’m after. It’s hard for me to be quiet and to sit still. Always has been, just ask my mom.
In the end, I’d rather be curious than certain. More in the mind of the spirit than the mind of the brain. I’d rather show you my love than tell you about it. In my perpetual quest of ups, downs, and in-betweens, I’ve come to believe that finding yer own voice is much more than finding the right words, it’s finding the true raw feeling within. Sometimes ya gotta shut up to hear — note to self.
The great band The Oblivians sang, “You’ve gotta live the life you sing about in your song.” I think I’ll go put that one on nice and loud. Then I’m gonna go pet my cat and try to be quiet for a while.
Yours in curiosity and confusion,