“out into the cool of the evening strolls the pretender” – jackson browne


PART I in a series: The Art of Listening

I started listening to Jackson Browne somewhere right in the knee of the curve as they say. He had some killer albums from 1972 (“Saturate Before Using”) through 1977 (“Running on Empty”) that caught me at just the right time in life to listen to a poetic troubadour with many of the same killer musicians backing him as other favorite singer-songwriters of mine at the time like JT, Warren Zevon, Karla Bonoff, Arlo Guthrie, Willis Alan Ramsey,….

So Jackson Browne often rode on my turntable all night (with automatic replay! what a feature!!) for quite a few teenage years including the first years I started performing acoustic in front of audiences which were mostly college crowds but also dinner crowds.

I was talking to someone today about technology and realized as I was saying it that none of us know what we know without having listened to others pretty carefully at whatever times of our lives we were learning. That is, you can’t learn everything you know without listening. But at certain points, some of us or maybe most of us no longer feel like we have to listen to what others are saying very much if ever. It is a point of defiance that says, to quote another famous troubadour “All right, I’ve had enough, what else can you show me?”. I take that rhetorical question as one of irony and defiance where the answer is (obviously) “nothing”.

So if we have nothing left to learn, we have nothing left to listen to.

I hope I don’t get to that point.

To me the point is that I will have to remind myself more and more of this risk of turning off my inner-listener as more and more years go by. I hope that I can just recall spinning things like “For Everyman” and “Late for the Sky” and “The Pretender” on my dusty turntable between maybe the hours of midnight and 5am and just letting it play over and over while I was sleeping but still listening and carrying it around with me the whole next day in whatever background landscape it wanted to become and change as I changed with the weather and the world around me but always finding a place in my ear to tell me something I needed to learn.

“Doctor eyes have seen the years
And the slow parade of fears without crying
You must help me understand
I have done all that I could
To see the evil and the good without hiding
You must help me if you can”

– JB “Doctor My Eyes”

[photo of my flatbed truck stage, naung mai thai kitchen, hilo, courtesy of rebecca lucy marie]


  1. wondered, how do you see yourself now, after playing the part ‘ as everyman’ – have you changed? if so, would you share with me in what way? is listening- or rather hearing with understanding a big part of you too because of the play?

    1. good question kathleen – i think one part of everyman is in fact the pretender. we are all searching and hopefully willing to learn. to me the pretender lives there as does everyman. listening to nature or the sound of a drum or one’s inner stillness are examples to me of how we can refine the art. in a rush-to-occupy world we all have created there is very little attention paid to the gaps. but as i’ve been talking about with another musician lately, the gaps in a music performance or recording are where the music actually is. the rest is ok too but much more transition than arrival. so i don’t know if i’ve changed exactly but do feel as if i am still arriving. aloha

      1. thought about your response. I live between wdc and TN, so on my 10 hour drive I pondered what you had to say. Pretending is an interesting behavior. I think we move into a faux self, when we’re not in like with what’s in our environment. And perhaps, it has a lot to do with our maturity and life lived. I can surely say, at 53, I’m very confident in my mind and truth of abilities.
        I like what you said about the silence of hearing, that we experience more form those moments. But – interestingly enough, many do not seek or know the brilliance of rich learning. So what is that about? or am I wrong about that?
        Is music in your everyday, has it always been a part of you from early childhood?
        I’ve found that music helps me to remember and learn knowledge, particularly complicated stuff. Also, music for me always can take me to a memory vividly. I don’t play any instruments. And I’m not very aware of the robust talent of music out there. But, there seems to be a mystery to it, for instance, yesterday, a news talk show, mentioned how scientists, slowed the hummingbird communication of males trying to attract females, and it was beautiful and very intentional singing. So as humans we are immersed in our own noise or brains, but clearly, a world of other active intelligence is busy at work, yet everyday, the humming birds dart from flower to flower and I watch, but I don’t hear a thing.
        Do you watch nature- do you hear nature? just curious- I’ve never wondered that before about other people. I just figured, most are unaware, and don’t know.

      2. Kathleen – Thanks… I’ll start at the bottom of your last post and say yes I watch and listen to nature often and always have. It is one of my favorite meditations. I’ve also taken photos of nature for as long as I’ve played guitar as a young boy. If you’d like to see my photos and music combined, I have a video channel at http://youtube.com/davideliasvideo
        I often think of music as parts of memory and dreams combined. I don’t plan what I write in advance in any way. I wrote a song about my totem the hummingbird quite a few years ago. Here’s a link to download it if you like from a live show with the CasualTees at San Gregorio General Store on the Calif. coast south of San Francisco.
        [audio src="https://www.dropbox.com/s/i2qvwb40m8pymiv/10%20-%20Hummingbird%20mix%204.1%20Entire%20Mix%20%2853%29.mp3" /]
        If you have trouble with the link email me at david at davidelias.com
        Music has always been an important part of my life, listening as much as playing and writing/recording/performing. I got introduced to hi-res recordings in DSD in 1999 and found an expanded universe for listening to music I thought I knew but hadn’t heard completely. I was then able to start recording my songs in this articulate format. I’ve been able to introduce music lovers including many musicians, audiophiles and just informal listeners to DSD with the same response over and over again…Wow! It only gets better from there with what I think of as the unblocking of one’s ears after decades of compressed sound in recordings.
        As far as nature in our lives, the simplest answer I have for myself that I’d like to share is what a good friend of mine likes to say: Get Outside…

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