Are you feeling lonely? You’re not alone.
Wow, that’s gallows humour.
I was about to do anything within my power to stop myself from writing this article as I figured it would be career self-harm to advertise potentially stigma-laden, conversationally icky, street-cred sapping factoids such as the inconvenient truth about my present emotional state – but then I remembered I’ve already released the song “ I’m So Lonely ” as The Bedroom Philosopher. Well, when I say released I mean left a CD sitting on a bus shelter in Canberra and slowly tip-toed away with fingers crossed behind my back assuming there would be some miraculous, inevitable groundswell in exponential interest for my niche style of pseudo-earnest comedic folk-rock after some local ANU tastemaker pocketed the diffident second album and rushed home to burn copies for her mates.
In any event, the song pertains to themes of loneliness and doesn’t shy away from naming names and kicking concepts into high gears of truth and revelation – as much as any largely pun-based alt-country song not played to a click-track can.
I think it does an okay job. A fan once wrote it was her favourite as it had “clever lyrics.”
It’s true. It does.
The other memory from the release of this 2008 era song is an unfortunate incident in my sharehouse kitchen. My best mate was crouched down, looking for some plastic bottles for the homebrew ginger beer we were ensconced with. I nudged upon the subject of some of my edgier new material for the forthcoming album Brown & Orange. He did something he was prone to doing every now and then. He ‘called me out’ on my more self-indulgent artistic tendencies. He told it how it was, eye of the tiger / final countdown style, ensuring all terms would be free from any skerrick of uncertainty for the remainder of our days.
“No one cares that you’re lonely.”
To be fair, to my friend’s credit, I’ll now muster every ounce of generosity that my twelve-odd years of distance can afford and extrapolate some context to give you an idea of what he meant by that. I’m compelled to include a sudden thought that he may have actually worded it as “we don’t care that you’re lonely” which isn’t exactly any less harsh.
To him, like several other serious kinda snooty male art friends – The Bedroom Philosopher project was executed by a comedian who happened to play music. To me, it was the other way around. I was a songwriter who took advantage of the fact I could be lyrically amusing, to compensate for any shortcomings in skill while drawing as much attention towards my craft and arming myself with a tractor beam of charisma to win over live audiences in slumped universities and dodgy bar situations.
To me, I’m So Lonely was a perfectly good song that did have a bunch of jokes in it already (especially compared to What About Me.) I suppose what threw those closest to me was the eroding line between my in-song persona being serious and (wink-wink) funny. Jeepers, from certain angles a dude could construe I might be l i t e r a l l y trying to convey something quite heavy to the audience – or worse, revealing something deep and personal, trudging along the broken cobbles of thousands of troubadours before me. In this instance it seems I could be interpreted as being in some kind of genuine emotional (*vom*) anguish – the kind that couldn’t possibly be expressed, except via the economical goldrush of three-chords-and-the-troof.
Thing is, it was true. I was doing this. I was writing a song no other musical comedian would go near. Because, well, I wasn’t like any other musical comedians. I wasn’t (in this instance) parodying earnest folk musicians crying woebegotten tales (that would have made more sense and been a bit more above the belt) – no – I was – (for some reason) – genuinely delivering a serious statement, albeit wrapped up in more glib, darkly comic wordplays than I knew what to do with.
The results were, well, at best commendable, on average, confusing and at worst….according to my best friend and comedy partner in crime since we’d bonded at university….kind of…(as far as my interpretation of what his vibe was at the time)…pitiful. Srsly chocoblock with PIT.
Jus’, Mate. What are ya doing?
“No one cares that you’re lonely.”
By that I’m quite certain he meant: “People only like The Bedroom Philosopher because he’s funny and we come to listen to the jokes and that is what you need to give the people and while it seems that you are trying to circumvent this transactional relationship with an offering of deeply personal, authentic sentiment, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that as a currency it doesn’t really have any value whatsoever compared to the skyrocketing arrow of your predetermined hilarity.”
Gee thanks. I could have gotten that advice from my Nan. How surreal when it comes from those closest to you; fellow edge-meisters and taste balloons with your favourite face drawn on.
This wasn’t the first time we had softly butted heads over my creative philosophy. When my promo photo came out the year before featuring me in a cardigan, western shirt and tie doing a smouldering pout to camera (which I dubbed ‘my best Sarah Blasko impression’) my friend was quietly appalled. ‘How are people going to know you’re a comedy act?’
You might say my friend was in a conservative place when it came to what my act was. It was funny or it was nothing.
Meanwhile, I was in a psychedelic, experimental, warcraft of wildness, trying to make art that was nothing like my last offering. I wanted my next album to be an over-the-top magical mystery tour. Lots of emotions – angst – self-reflection – trumpets and, well, you know…sitar.
Matt’s ( – oh yeah – there’s his name – and chill out everyone concerned he’s not even the only problematic friend called Matt I had at the time) comment was presented as a piece of constructive criticism about my art. The problem was that as an only child who took most things deeply personally – he had (surely, purposefully, on a subconscious level if not conscious) managed to assemble a verbal fuselage that made it impossible for me to localise it purely as feedback on my songwriting and/or relationship with my audience and not as a general attack on my personality at a most fundamental level that would almost certainly reverberate through several semesters of forthcoming counsellor subroutines.
A shrapnel bomb, delivered like a packed lunch.
There were the ego injuries sustained at the initial point of impact, but, more insidious, was the cryptic, below the radar spread of nano-damage as the loaded sentence slashed its way through the protective shell of my cocoon and nestled its needles amongst the membrane of my supple, unformed wings.
Well, I did what anyone else would in that situation. I took it to heart and quietly stewed for ten years.
I’m kidding – as if for a hyper second I could entertain the notion that any element of this is even remotely transferable. Gadzooks, it seems I had shimmied, crab-walked, tip-toed and side-swiped my way into an absolute evolutionary cross-roads for the artistic and personal development of myself as a whole.
I was 28. I was Saturn returns.
I was 20 years overdue counselling. I was heavily in debt.
I was unstable. I was growing darker by the month. I was drifting as an artist. I was wobbling as a boyfriend. Crucially, most emasculatingly, it appeared that in the petty court of sharehouse kitchens, I was now tanking as a bloke. Alienating my fellow Aussie larrikins with my sheer-bloody-minded outlook, deference and resolve.
I went on to record I’m So Lonely. (Part of the I’m So quadrilogy: post modern, over girls & hungover). Look it up. Borrow it from Blockbuster on laser disc.
I’m So Lonely gained positive comment among some serious music journalists. It felt like a comforting addition to my newfound repositioning from comedy rooms to music venues. But how the song was received by industry isn’t really the point, is it reader?
The point is…sharp.
A needle – not of the knitting variety.
HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLP HELLO HELLPO HELKLO HELLP HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLP HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLPO HELLO HELL HELLP HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLPO HELLO HELLPO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLP HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELOO HELLOH HLELOP HELOPP HELPO HELOK HELLOO HELOOLE HLOE HELLO HELO HLEOO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO HHELLO
I know loneliness. I feel it in the ashes of my past lives.
I can be lonely in a crowd – I can by lonely on my own.
I can be lonely in a relationship.
Now I sound like a cancelled Dr Seuss.
Loneliness doesn’t discriminate based on how well you are doing or how talented you are. Amazingly, neither is it particularly concerned with how many people you have around. (Or is that melancholy? I get them mixed up.)
It’s just, well, there. Along with oxygen and water and sun and reality tv and biscuits and time-stretched songs on youtube. Loneliness isn’t a special occasion. It’s not a pamphlet in the doctors waiting room. It isn’t a capital ‘L.’ word. It isn’t any word. Not one in our language. Loneliness doesn’t get said aloud. It isn’t part of conversation. Loneliness is a secret. One you don’t even know you’re keeping
you’ve been keeping it so long.
So whateth the deal?
I’m lo*ely. So wha? ( l o v e l y )
I was lonely then. I’m lovely now. Most of the time it’s comfortable, enough. An itch you scratch with a kind, furious thought. A beautiful familiar longing, as your child self gazes out to sea – transmitting a conversation with the clouds only an ocean can answer.
Is there a crime being committed? Have I trespassed upon any of your personal freedoms? Will my frank admission contribute to shortcomings in your day?
Have I enormously fucked everything up by not only experiencing this foible but also having the deranged audacity to share it with my social peers? Surely I am not already aware that such unsavoury, ungainly, corrupt and corrupting truth-sabre-rattling should be done only under the close supervision of professionals in a secluded setting.
I n c o n c l u s i o n
Loneliness isn’t a world that gets shared often (enough).
It’s a fantastic, desolate, magical mixed bag of thought coma and silent dance.
It’s not a house built with a door. Only an escape slide and a half-roof to park the occasional rocket ship. But it’s there and it’s real and it’s yours to warm your spine on if you wish to nestle for a second in the curvature of my beanbag.
There’s a loneliness epidemic, you know. It’s interesting to see it on the public agenda along with depression and anxiety. It’s like watching your favourite punk bands sign with major labels and have chart-topping hits. I’m not sure if it’s liberating or alienating. Isn’t it ironic? ZOMBIE ZOMBIE ZOMBIE
FURTHERMORE, NOTWITHSTANDING AND YEAH NAH
Brown & Orange is out now in 2009.
shoutout to ratcat