Aaron

A Book I Recommend

At least once a year I read a book by my favorite author Jon Hassler. I’m always trying to write songs like Jon Hassler wrote books. Seemingly ordinary, small-town characters living in northern Minnesota. But once you get to know them, they tug at your heart and stick with you.

Though he’s written a lot, my favorite is Staggerford.

I hope you like it.

Love,
Aaron

How My Taco Bell Coworker Helped Me Deal with Stress

Jim was my coworker. He and I worked together at Taco Bell.

I was in high school. He was probably in his early 40s, a single dad of three kids. Serving late night burritos was just one of many jobs he had.

Jim was always whistling. Not particularly well. And no tunes I ever recognized. I think they were made up. I could never tell if he was whistling because he was happy, part bird, or because it helped him get through the day. Because let’s face it, if you’re in your 40s working at Taco Bell, no one would blame you for not being in a good mood, and certainly not for whistle abstention. So I sort of psychoanalyzed that Jim whistled to prevent himself from punching customers.

Later on in life I’d find myself in similar circumstances. No, nothing as difficult as Jim’s. But just doing jobs I didn’t love. Trying to get through a hard day. I’d remember my old coworker, though, and so I’d start whistling or humming to myself. The strange thing is, it really helped.

Whether Jim knew it or not, there’s a bunch of science behind all this. Mood can follow action instead of the other way around. I know some of you already know this, and some of you are saying, Well, duh, but maybe some of you don’t, and you need an extra tool in your belt.

So this is for you. Go ahead, give it a try. Try being mad and whistling at the same time. Try holding onto bitterness while you hum a little made up tune.

Love,
Aaron

P.S. Right before I go onstage I’m as scared and nervous as I ever am. You’d think performing over and over would help, but it doesn’t. You know what does help, though? Yep, humming.

[Video] “Beyond the Sun”

I don’t often post videos of me performing because I don’t really love seeing myself on camera. I’ve got issues, ok? I know. But for the sake of leaning into my fears, here’s a video of me performing “Beyond the Sun.” 

Love,
Aaron

 

 

LYRICS:

BEYOND THE SUN 
CLAIRE GUERRESO/AARON ESPE

I WONDER WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE ON CLOUD 9 
WHERE EVERYTHING’S FINE ALL OF THE TIME
I WONDER HOW IT FEELS TO BE UNAFRAID
DAY AFTER DAY AFTER IT RAINS

SOMEDAY SOMEHOW 
BEFORE TOO LONG 
I’LL SAY GOODBYE TO MY BURDENS 
I’LL FLY BEYOND THE SUN 

I WONDER WHAT IT’S LIKE IN THE SHADE OF A TREE
SHOOTING THE BREEZE BEING CAREFREE
I WONDER WHAT I’D CHOOSE IF GIVEN THE CHOICE
BETWEEN SILENCE AND NOISE
WORDS OR A VOICE

SOMEDAY SOMEHOW 
BEFORE TOO LONG 
I’LL SAY GOODBYE TO MY BURDENS 
I’LL FLY BEYOND THE SUN

FLY, FLY BEYOND THE SUN 

I’LL FLY BEYOND THE SUN 

Nail Guns

Imagine you work construction, framing houses. But what you really want to do is play guitar and sing songs for people. You’ve just recorded your first album and are releasing it in two months. Of course you know your fingers are important, so you’re as careful as you can be around dangerous tools like, um, nail guns. 

One summer afternoon you’re building a window header when the framing gun double fires. The second nail goes through your left-hand middle finger, and pins it to the wood as easily as a needle going through butter. You have literally fastened yourself to a 2×6. 

So many thoughts run through your head…  

Congratulations, you’ve just done the worst thing a guitar player could possibly do.

Looks like that whole singer-songwriter dream is done. 

Ouch, this really hurts. 

Apart from gory details and some permanent nerve damage, your blessed middle finger makes a full recovery. Without question it is immediately entered into your body parts hall of fame and obviously gets that year’s sportsmanship award.

But the point of the story has to do with what Doctor Bob says to you while bandaging your hand. And by the way, Doctor Bob is also your friend, believes in your music, and knows you’ve just recorded your first CD. 

“Listen.” He says. “I’ve met a lot of 9-fingered carpenters, but not many 9-fingered guitar players.” 

That’s pretty much all he says. 

But you know he’s saying it would be wise to think about what you really want to be doing in life. Are the things you’re doing now lining up with that? And are you protecting what matters most? 

As you drive home you think about this a lot. And your future self thanks you for making changes. 

***

Anyway, it’s just a story.

Love, 

Aaron

Homeless Singer Moves Me to Tears

I’m sitting in the living room watching TV when my phone starts buzzing.

It’s YouTube notifications, comments on a video I had posted more than a year ago. Almost all are from viewers in Sweden who have just watched a Swedish TV documentary featuring a homeless singer.

*** 15 months earlier ***

December. The air is brisk. I walk out of a Goodwill thrift store on Charlotte Avenue and get into my car. I begin to turn the ignition when I hear singing.

It’s Nashville, so that’s not uncommon, but this is different. The man’s voice is like nothing I’ve heard before. Somewhere between Hank Williams and a character out of a John Steinbeck novel. So much mystery and loneliness and complexity that I just sit and listen not knowing what to do next.

I decide to get out of my car and walk toward the voice.

The singing comes from an older man sitting on the sidewalk, leaned against the brick exterior store wall. He is strumming a black guitar. I stand listening and looking around. It’s just me except for a Goodwill employee in the distance on a smoke break.

He finishes the song, and I’m star struck, but muster the courage to ask his name.

“Doug Seegers,” he says and offers his hand to shake.

Then I do something out of character. I ask if I can record him singing another song.

Fumbling through my iPhone apps, I finally get the video rolling while he begins a song about going down to the river to wash his soul again. It is utterly gut wrenching.

Afterwards I realize I have no cash to drop in his guitar case. I’m embarrassed. I offer a ride and a bite to eat. But he says he’s already eaten at the Mission on Charlotte Avenue. He says he’s happy sitting there in the warm sun.

So we say goodbye and I speed home to show my wife the video. Later that night I post it on YouTube.

*** Back to YouTube notifications 15 months later ***

Names like Björn, Normark, Turgidson and Olsson keep showing up in my inbox. The comments describe the same feeling I had when hearing Doug for the first time.

“I heard his voice on the tv I just got tears in my eyes! It is so good!”

“I heard it too, my family heard it… and I as well got tears in my eyes. His voice has a sound of pain…I want to say a lot more but I am speechless.”

“Oh sweet lord what a story, voice and song…”

***

The obvious question is, So what happened between when I saw him and now? I’ll leave you to figure that out. It’s well documented (you can google “Doug Seegers” or start here).

For the sake of this blog post, I’m sharing this with you because, one, it’s such a strange thing that happened to me.

But two, I hope that in the future you trust the things that move you inside. I struggle with this a lot. Knowing what to do when something different is happening in my chest. Whether it’s an idea, relationship, or a homeless singer’s voice. But let’s you and I make a promise to each other to at least pay attention. On behalf of Doug Seegers.

Love,
Aaron

P.S. If you’re someone who enjoys reading the novel before the movie, listen to the audio I recorded of Doug, then watch the video.