Pinky & Control

If you talk to them long enough, my bandmates might tell you I’ve had issues about being a control freak.  On tour, this has often manifested around issues such as audio technology (specifically our in-ear monitor system).  It’s been a strain over the years, and in the last few months, things have begun to change.

I suppose a lot of it has to do with Doris’s diagnosis last fall.  After the initial immediate threats to her health and safety appeared to subside, I started going through a personal transformation.  It felt like Rip Van Winkle – like I’d woken up and found myself living a life I didn’t remember wanting to live.  One issue that kept coming up was control.


Our tour last month on the west coast was wonderful in so many ways – being able to play and sing with Doris (after fearing we might never again), bonding with our musical soulmates, Coyote Grace.  In many ways, it was my favorite tour ever, yet I spent half of it in what might be described as personal agony.  Our in-ear monitor system (which allows us to hear ourselves clearly onstage) is contained in a wheeled, 100+ lb road case that takes two strong people to lift.  We affectionately call the system “Pinky”.  Pinky is a custom job – no one manufactures a system that does everything we need, so five years ago, I put it together myself with various components.  I love that I was able to create something that hadn’t existed before, but the downside has been that I’m the only one who knows how it works.  When something goes wrong, I’m the one who has to fix it.

Last month on tour, Pinky started falling apart.  First there was a bad cable inside and we couldn’t hear the banjo.  Then a splitter died.  Then the hard drive we were using to record (and sell) some of the shows started going on the fritz.  Then, poignantly, one of Pinky’s four wheels broke off as we were wheeling her to the van.  Ty suggested that Pinky was mirroring my internal ambivalence about being solely in charge of it.  She was right –  the ambivalence was there.  As the tour progressed I tried to let go.  I did the bare minimum work to keep Pinky running so we could hear ourselves and record the remaining shows on the tour.  And I would still find myself sprawled out on stage with a soldering gun, swearing at God, Pinky, and my bandmates.

At the end of the tour, both JJ and our sound tech Ary came and asked me to show them how Pinky works, so that the work doesn’t always fall on me.  I’ve been in this band so long that it’s like a family – with love, but also with patterns of behavior that were once fine, but are now dysfunctional.  When we first started using in-ear monitors in 2006, neither JJ nor Ary were with us.  It felt fine for me to do that work then.  But something in me has changed – particularly since Doris’s diagnosis – and life isn’t letting me be a control freak about it without extreme discomfort.

So now, as we’re beginning a tour here in Colorado, I’m trying to be present and believe that I can change how I am on tour.  On the plane yesterday, Ty suggested that if I have too many stressful associations with the word “tour,” I could come up with a new name for it.  She suggested “Herbert.”

So here I am, once again with my best friends, excited to get back on Herbert.

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7 Responses to Pinky & Control

  1. Eric Tomassi Random says:

    Hi Nate ~

    For a control freak maintaining control may be more important than maintaining sanity ~ I speak from experience. The letting go means you have room for so much more that’s new and alive. Savor it. Let your best friends shepherd Pinky for awhile. Crank up the creative volume. The world will be a far, far better place for all the incredible music that will flow from your heart when your head’s not in the way. I can’t wait to hear it !

    ~ Eric

  2. Greg Brisendine says:

    Just so you know notes like this don’t fall into a black hole, I’ve been a fan of Girlyman for several years and when I read things like this I like each of you and the band even more. Separately, I had the chance to befriend Joe and Ingrid from Coyote Grace years ago in Seattle (and got to be a storyteller on stage with them last month), so the evolution of Girlyman’s and Coyote Grace’s soul-mate-ness makes me like all of you even MORE!

    Short version: thanks for sharing your process of growth, Nate.


  3. doris muramatsu says:

    I’m glad you are starting to recognize when an old way isn’t tolerable anymore, it seems like that’s been my life since November. It’s a good sign, and new paths will be forged. It’s a slow process, and sometimes I find myself on the same old trails I’ve walked on for 37 years. But sometimes my heart is brave enough to veer off into the wilderness of the unrecognizable and start walking where I’ve not walked before. But if I walk it enough, it will start turning into something recognizable, a new well-worn path of deliberate creation.
    I support you, Nate, with my deepest and fullest heart.
    – doris

  4. Angie Flynn-McIver says:

    Wow, little did I know when I fell in love with Girlyman’s harmonies and lyrics a couple of years ago that I would also get to be privy to your amazing personal growth. I am so appreciative of your willingness to share your challenges and insights. Thank you.

  5. I feel your pain Nate. On the other hand, I never cease to be amazed by how much you’re capable of and willing to take on. That comes at a cost, but also with some great rewards, right? Speaking of which, did you make the new Girlyman website? If so, great work! If not, pass on my compliments to the chef.

    And speaking of Herbert (not Don Herbert aka Mr. Wizard), there’s a song I used to listen to in my early youth, narrated by Herbert the Snail:

    “When Herbert was much younger
    He often got in trouble
    Forgetting that he was a snail
    He did things on the double
    He’d crash through every spider web
    With crickets he’d collide
    Till one day Herbert’s father took
    His speeding son aside
    ‘Have patience, have patience
    Don’t be in such a hurry
    When you get impatient
    You only start to worry'”

    Hope to see you when Herbert brings you up this way.

    So much love, Brian

  6. Laura says:

    Herbert!! That is brilliant and funny. Jesse and I have been calling our baby-to-be herbert for months since we refuse to tell everyone the real name.

  7. Patty McMenamin says:

    Nate – Can’t believe it took me so long to find this! I just commented on Ty’s recent post, thanking her for her honesty and being willing to share it. My same sentiments go out to you! It was wonderful to finally get to meet you both in Santa Fe, but a little strange, too, because it felt like, after knowing and loving JJ her whole life, I was just now getting to meet the rest of her family!

    At some point in the life of everyone who has a heart and a conscience (!), I think we look at ourselves and do some retrospective viewing of our past, hold it up against our present lives and ask if our thoughts, words and actions are truly reflective of the person we really are deep inside and the person we want to evolve into. To do this in private can be painful enough, but to put it out into the Universe for everyone to read is an act of bravery! Thank you! By doing that, it gives us all fewer excuses to keep these things to ourselves, especially in light of the responses you’ve gotten from people you’ve impacted. How great would it be if other public personalities could be just so open, vulnerable and trusting? You have my deepest admiration! xoxo

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