Sabbradical Vibe Check #1
Why hello there! I’m over three weeks into my 3-month sabbatical. Or Sabbradical as several people have pointed out (which, holy shit why didn’t I think of that!).
Imagine waking up in the morning and saying “I wonder what I’m going to do today?” That’s the high I’m chasing, and largely accomplishing. It’s utterly glorious to be able to go wherever my energy takes me for the day, rather than going wherever my calendar Jenga takes me.
My daughter has been heading to an all-day summer camp, which means that I have these big stretches of time between when we get her out the door in the morning and pick her up in the mid afternoon.
So what have I been up to? The headlines of Sabbradical so far are working on my house and immersing myself in music.
Music has been a lifelong passion of mine, and I’ve found a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm around playing music. I never stopped playing music, but it was relegated to jamming and noodling rather than anything more formal or ambitious.
Heading back to concerts once COVID receded enough reminded me of just how powerful, jubilant, transcendent, and communal live music is. It’s such an amazing experience to have a group of musicians take you on a journey: rising and falling, stopping and starting, getting loud then getting quiet, going from happy then going to sad, singing as a giant group, and so on. It’s been through these concert experiences that I’ve remembered “OH YEAH I KNOW HOW TO DO THAT TOO!”
With my sabbatical, I’ve been able to immerse myself in music, and it’s been fantastic. I’ve got millions of ideas and it’s been fun to start implementing some of them.
My mom lives 5 minutes up the road from me, and as luck would have it her next-door neighbor is Todd Gummerman, the keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist for Twenty One Pilots and Mutemath. Which is pretty wild considering we live in a sleepy neighborhood north of Pittsburgh. He teaches lessons, so I’ve been taking keyboard lessons from him since the start of my sabbatical. It’s been fantastic to talk shop with someone so knowledgable and experienced about all things music, and lessons have proven to be a great, disciplined way for me to make musical progress.
I’ve been playing music with Melissa and Ian fairly regularly, and have been trying to line up some music nights with my musical cousins. Melissa and I have recorded some sketches along the way:
And I’ve also been recording a bunch of things myself:
I’m also scheming up a big thing (which I’ll hopefully announce soon), which has me reverse engineering a bunch of songs that could be really fun potential cover songs. It’s been a phenomenal way to learn my recently-acquired Nord Stage 3 keyboard. So I get to learn songs like this:
So, all to say, I’ve been having an absolute blast tinkering around and playing a bunch of music.
I’ve also been seeing some live shows, which is made a lot easier by the fact we live directly across the street from an amphitheater that hosts a free summer concert series. So I’ve been taking Ella across the street to hear legends like Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives and WAR. WAR!!!! Like, Lowrider WAR. The mandatory bass line any bass player learns as soon as they can maneuver the instrument. Playing right across the street from my house. Ella and the neighbor kids eat snow cones and dance around. Life is good.
In addition to the free show across the street, I saw Altin Gün with Rogê at Thunderbird Music Hall, which was an absolutely amazing show. I’m hoping to get out to some more shows while on break since I don’t have to content with the post-concert workday slump.
I’ve been listening to a lot of great stuff lately, though a lot of my more casual listening has taken a backseat to potential cover songs I’ve been scheming. That scheming has been a ton of fun as I’ve been listening with a different set of ears, which has led to a new appreciation for some classic songs.
Perhaps even more than music, I’ve felt a strong drive to work on my house. At first I attributed that compulsion to my genetically-encoded kinetic energy, but as I thought more about it I realized there’s something more meaningful at play.
As many people know, we had our home — both the physical structure as well as the crucial feeling — abruptly torn away from us 3 summers ago. We’ve been in our new house for over two years, but a large swath of that time has been mired in crisis.
So working on my house is a critical exercise in re-establishing a sturdy, safe, and stable foundation for my family. It’s been such a good feeling to build, tear down, tweak, and optimize to make our house truly feel like our home.
So I’ve been busy! Here’s a few things I’ve been up to:
- I built a book nook for my daughter, replacing a boring-ass bi-fold closet door in her bedroom with something that will hopefully serve as an important space for her to dream and learn and imagine and think. She helped paint and build with me, which makes it even more special.
- We just finished building a big-ass deck, so have been installing string lights, wiring up weatherproof speakers, buying furniture, etc. Holy shit it’s an amazing space that I’m looking forward to enjoying for…the rest of my life?
- Patched some holes, spot painted some areas, and cleaned up the back of our house since we’ll be looking at it a lot more now that the deck is complete.
- Tore down a wall to make a combination mudroom/laundry room.
- Replaced our rickety bannister with a solid iron one with a funky geometric pattern on it.
- Installed light fixtures
- Installed baseboards and trim
- Did some light drywall work around some other project areas
- Installed a sturdy old countertop from the laundry room in my garage.
- Built shelves in my garage.
- Cleaned and organized my garage several times over.
- Built a funky A-frame firewood storage holder, which I still need to put finishing touches on.
- Assembled an array of shelves for our spare-bedroom art room, which has been a huge mess since we’ve moved in.
- Organized and tidied up all the things around the house.
- Organized and tidied my basement recording studio space.
- Got a new living room couch.
So yeah, I’ve been keeping busy. It’s not really in my nature to sit still, so this doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve been light on reading and non-music listening, but I think that’s ok. But I did read Ways of Being, Beyond Human Intelligence by James Bridle, which is an absolutely phenomenal book that covers a range of topics. At it’s core, it’s a plea for us to shed our narrow, human-centric view of “intelligence” and recognize that the more-than-human world is chock full of many different types of intelligence. This is real Save The World and Do Better shit, and I’m totally here for it.
TV and movies have also been light, but that’s ok. Muscles and Mayhem has been really entertaining, and I’ve been watching a few live concert films like Under the Great White Northern Lights, Sign O’ the Times, and the T.A.M.I. Show for inspiration.
More to come
I’ve largely been staying home so far, but am hoping to venture out and see people a bit more. We have our annual Outer Banks trip on the horizon, so I’m looking forward to that. I’ll have a few weeks in August before a conference at the end of August, so I’m hoping to get into more fun sabbatical stuff. I’ll report back!