Dear Switchback friends,
I recently saw a video in which David Letterman, the well-loved and long-time host of Late Night, was having an exchange with Al Franken, the comedian-turned-Minnesota senator. Having come to fame in the entertainment industry, both were used to being in front of a lot of people. And both decided at some point to turn away from the limelight to concentrate on other things. For Franken, it was the desire to serve his country. For Letterman, the desire to serve his family, namely his young son.
So, when Franken mentioned that Letterman had a lot of fans, Letterman corrected him. They were not fans, said Letterman, and he pointed out that Johnny Carson was a celebrity with fans. Letterman then went on to point out that he specifically asked that his show be called “Late Night with David Letterman” to emphasize that he was not a celebrity, but rather someone who hosted a show that had celebrities on it.
It was a great example of Midwestern modesty, I thought, and of course it made me think about the WayGood World. I have always struggled with the word "fan," as it meant something that did not truly fit in to what I considered the WayGood World.
According to Wikipedia, a fan, or fanatic, sometimes also termed aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody, such as a band, a sports team, a genre, a book, a movie, or an entertainer. Collectively, the fans of a particular object or person constitute its fan base or fandom. They may show their enthusiasm in a variety of ways, such as by promoting the object of their interest, being members of a fan club, holding or participating in fan conventions, or writing fan mail. They may also engage in creative activities ("fan labor") such as creating fanzines, writing fan fiction, making memes, or drawing fan art.
Over the years, Brian and I have met fans of Switchback. I remember meeting one person who took the harp from the artwork of Bolinree and made it into tattoo on her arm. Other people have taken lyrics as tattoos. There are people on Facebook whom we have never met following our music. They would be considered fans. But there is something very limited in the scope of having fans.
I think the WayGood World has been an unconscious decision on the part of Brian and myself to foster a world of friends, brought together by the music of Switchback. What I mean by unconscious is that Brian and I didn’t sit down and say “Hey, let’s make a bunch of friends.” Rather, we played our music and met people who liked our music and because of that, came the friendships.
Merriam Webster defines "friend" as
1a: one attached to another by affection or esteem She's my best friend.
2a: one that is not hostile Is he a friend or an enemy?
b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group showbiz friends
3: one that favors or promotes something (such as a charity) The friends of the library will host a fund-raiser.
To me, it seems that the value of friendship far outweighs the value of fanship. Perhaps having fans is the luxury that comes with being a big celebrity. Taylor Swift can afford to have fans perhaps, but Switchback needs its friends.
We have been blessed over the years to have people offer time, treasure and their homes to us as we have traveled around the world. Our tours and past group gatherings (such as the Rondy and the Cave Concerts) have been the attempt to solidify that friendship, not only between Switchback and friends, but through the joy of seeing people meet each other and create friendships. To make joyful meaning of the time we are here together on Earth. There have been couples married, babies born, and friends we have lost through the WayGood World. I wonder if Garth would take a fan's ashes and scatter them in Ireland. But when our friend Wanda passed, it made sense to honor her family’s wish to bring her to where she always wanted to go with us.
Perhaps the biggest blessing is that Brian and I did not “make it” in the sense of being a commercial success, like Garth Brooks or U2. We did not become “objects of interest.” Our path has been a path thus far of forging ties of affection. Our friends have helped us secure shows, be our agents, contributed money for recordings, created concerts in backyards, and introduced their friends to our music, all to make the WayGood World “a vast and ever expanding empire,” as I like to tell Brian. And like real friendships, we have had fallings out and challenges with our friends over the years. People who have decided that we shouldn’t be friends. If a fan leaves, an entertainer might shrug his or her shoulders and look for the next one in line. But the loss of friendships -- well, that hurts. And for those who we may have hurt over the years, I am sorry. Because friendships do matter and the loss of friends for whatever reason is sad.
The WayGood World is built on affection and esteem, as Mr. Webster might say, delicately tiptoeing around the word "love." And it takes a village of friends to raise up a band as we have found out. So thank you, friends, for continuing to create and expand the WayGood World. For helping Switchback make music and bring joy to a lot of people. Thank you for helping us touch souls and allowing our own souls to be touched in return.
American Roots & Celtic Soul