Shortly after the release of our song “Sanctuary,” I started getting letters on tour. 1 page, 3 page, 10 page, anonymous, pencil, pen, in color, in crayon…lots and lots of letters. The more people listening, the more letters, now I get about 10-15 every time we play a show.
It took me a while to understand why people would write letters to a person that they have, in most circumstances, never met, or only met in a very limited context. Even harder to understand was people continuing to write letters even after, at most, I could send a 140 character Twitter response.
Don’t read that wrong – I like reading people’s stories, I’m honored by their willingness to share with me, and I do try my hardest to reply to as many as possible. But I didn’t fully understand why they would choose to write to me, given my….constraints.
I hate being that guy who has to publicly post every time I do something scholarly or motivated, like read a book or go to the gym (I never post about it when I go to the gym) (oops – just told you that I go to the gym?) (I don’t), but I did recently cave to the overwhelming teenage majority and read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” As I should have expected, it was fantastic. It felt to me like a new-age Catcher in the Rye, I was of course enamored by how unfiltered and objective Charlie’s world was, and it opened my eyes to a lot of assumptions that I make about people and things and the way they’re “supposed” to be.
Most importantly, three pages into the book, I started to understand why I get letters, and why someone would write to a listener that they barely know.
The only qualifying trait for the person that Charlie wrote his letters to was that he didn’t sleep with a girl at a party when he could have. My only qualifying trait is that I wrote and sang a few songs. But I think to understand and appreciate a person’s art is to understand and appreciate their values, which is as much as to say, I think the people who get our music, get me.
Charlie felt he could invest himself into a complete stranger because it was a person who saw the world the same way he did. I hope people can say the same about me. And as much as anyone, I understand the therapeutic value of writing. And I know just how important it is to have your story heard. And understood. And appreciated.
So write on, wallflowers and socialites. I like hearing your stories. While I may not always be able to respond, I’ll read until my eyes fall out. And I think that’s the important part.