A few days ago, the sounds of Frederica was emanating from the rehearsal space in our garage. Walter was demonstrating to our son, Jon, how the chordal skeleton is put together.
Before long I could hear that emotion was blowing life into the song as it streamed towards me through the hallway of our house.
It is a beloved song from the past, pulled out of mental storage, and now added to the set list of the current US tour that starts today.
The wonder of it all hit me then: Just two years ago, we were not sure if Walter was going to survive.
Walter and I were at UCLA frantically trying to hold on, and at home, the kids were attempting to concentrate on school and life. Jon was in Denmark and feared he would never see his father alive again. In desperation, he started connecting to his dad’s music via online searches, hoping against hope that he might get to play with his dad again. And now, here he is getting ready to go on tour with this dad.
For me, hearing Jon and Walter play this song had layers of personal significance that flooded me with memories: I heard Frederica the night I met Walter, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs. He wrote it when he was 17, and it was one of those five minute inspirational dumps that took shape as a mix of an emotional primal scream and lyrical and musical inspiration that seemingly came out of thin air.
Hearing father and son sing and play this particular song together was one of those moments, when past and present merged.
In my mind, I revisited how I felt as a 27-year-old when I stood in the audience and heard Walter sing the song for the first time. I had no clue that my life would change forever that night.
At the same time, I remembered hearing the song on German TV a few years later. I was in a foreign country, alone with a brand new baby while Walter was in Europe on tour. It had only been three weeks since I had given birth to Jon.
Joining the emotional fabric of these memories of the past, the moment was also very much one I savored in the present. I found myself reveling in the sound of my guys adding a vibrational, sonic lift to the air in the house.
I remember far too well, not long ago, when listening to any of Walter’s music was just too painful.
And how I just love his music.
Here we are now, starting yet another year of touring. After our winter break together, my guys are leaving. Jon will be tour managing, as well as making appearances on stage with his dad. Our son, Mike, will likewise join the team. He will be selling merchandise and doing stage set-up and tear-down with Jon. Since I have managed Walter’s career for a couple of decades, we are really becoming quite the family operation.
I am not sure if I can explain what it is like to now also watch our sons work together on many aspects of touring. It is a complex situation.
The boys now help Walter implement and carry out the practical aspects of the planning I have been doing here behind my desk for a year or more in advance of each tour.
Even though the focus is always on Walter and his music, there is a sense that each of us also gets to find ourselves in this work.
I hope that is also the case for the members of the band. In any case, each of us gives our best in a joint effort. We get to combine our talents—for better or worse and travel out into the world connected in a cooperative purpose. And here, on the road, band, family, friends and fans combine to bring on joint experiences that are somehow larger than anyone of us individually.
Don’t get me wrong: Working this closely together as a family is also challenging.
We need to continually work on communication skills and take lots of time to back up and revisit with how we do things. We all have our familial buttons that get pushed: life-long patterns and irritations get stirred up in the process. In fact, I believe that working together as a family is difficult to do – but it can also be gratifying.
I constantly shuffle doubts however with whether this is really the best I/we can do for our boys; it is certainly not the path I envisioned for them.
It does however give us a chance to combine our efforts, buckle down and do the hard work that is life, while joining hearts and minds as a family. It gives us a chance to also interact as members of a working unit with band members, business associates and with the people who come out to the shows. And I think we all need that right now. When Walter was at death’s door, we came so close to losing the touring life that also has been an integral part of our family life. And now we get to dig in, and make each show, each song, and each moment count.
And touring life may not ultimately be the path that our kids choose. Right here and now however, this gives us a chance to celebrate life together.
Standing at the curb a few days ago watching the van and trailer once again leave our housing tract and head out into the unknown was a moment of letting go. I watched my love drive off with two of our three sons. I stood there and waved as long as I could see them, knowing that I have no idea how this will turn out. I love and trust my boys, I love trust my husband, and I love and trust the ability of the band.
And I also know that they all are traveling into the unknown together. But then again, isn’t that what we all do every day?
We live life doing our best, but in reality none of us have a clue about how it will all turn out. The best we can do is to boldly embrace reality and give it our best. I know that I don’t want to turn my back on love. I don’t want to turn my back on trust. And I certainly don’t want to turn my back on work that enables love and trust to go into the world and reach others through music.
I sit here at my desk working on the next year of touring. I write, I work, I live, I love, and I trust. These are my shields when inner axes of doubt chop at my resolve.