Today I’m unveiling track #22 and for it I decided to revisit arguably my favourite song of the entire Jimmy Eat World catalogue – “Polaris”.
Listen to Jimmy Eat World’s original recording here:
Before I ask you to check it out, it might be fun to revisit the first cover of “Polaris” I attempted back in 2020. You can watch that one here:
I’ve talked about why I chose to try that one back then a few times so I wont repeat it here, but wasn’t that fun?!
I was still very much just getting my singing-legs back then and boy does it ever show.
And to think that back then I considered that cover a massive step up to my previous attempts at doing this kind of thing.
But I did have fun. So I kept trying.
Yesterday morning we had some nice weather here and it was my day off of work so I was able to put together this video concept I came up with randomly one day for “Polaris” … which is a little silly – it’s inspiration is a combination of Bart Simpson writing out sentences on the blackboard after being reprimanded for his poor behaviour and someone tallying out the days to get out of their prison sentence using… whatever you have available in your cell. In my case, these tools were just some chalk, stencils and a ladder.
In any case I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out given how simple it is.
I call the whole piece “A Thousand Nights Or More“, and you can check it out along with my acoustic cover of “Polaris” here:
“Polaris” is a really special song to me and it’s one that seems to only continue to become more and more important the older I get, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it resurfaces a few times throughout this project.
In some ways it really encapsulates why we’re here doing any of this at all.
I mean think about it. It’s insane how many hours I’m putting in to not just learning and performing these songs, but recording them, mixing them, and then developing graphics and videos to accompany their releases all while trying to properly frame their significance to me and my life in a way that you, the reader and listener, can gain a better understanding of why.
Ultimately of course I do all of this for myself, my personal satisfaction and enjoyment and that’s why it’s not particularly challenging to come back to it week after week, but, there is something to take away from all of it and that’s what I’m really hoping translates to other musicians or artists who might be struggling with the “why”.
When I was 13 and I first started to play guitar, I didn’t really have a reason for wanting to learn it beyond, “well I REALLY like these bands and THEY play guitars. I wanna play in a band and I like the look and sound of guitars!”
My first creative passion was writing and doodling, but music took hold pretty hard when it finally came through.
When I got my guitar, I had read a lot about how the world’s best musicians are incredibly dedicated to practicing – that’s how they got so good! 10,000 hours!
So I found myself at 13 suddenly deciding to skip the bus ride in to school in favour of my bicycle because riding my bike to school meant I could dart home at lunch and spend 20 minutes playing guitar before having to cycle back to school. And then when I got home I’d want to play another 20 minutes before I’d have to do something else – homework or sports took up a good chunk of time back then for me – and video games, which are wildly addictive.
What I figured out pretty early was that it’s really challenging to want to just sit and practice. Even when I’m really, really interested in something and want to get better at it, my mind has a funny way of saying, “you have time later, just pick it up later. 10 minutes is enough, come back to it later,” and later doesn’t always come, of course.
And learning to play guitar was hard. I took to chords well enough when I got going but I found even some of the basic stuff tricky. Barre chords and for lack of better way of describing, “jazzier chords”, suck when you have small hands. And I wanted to be a great lead player but getting to the speed level of my favourites seemed an utterly daunting task – THAT requires some practice.
Man, practicing is awful.
And I loved writing, so of course I’d started writing songs pretty early. I actually wrote songs before I ever had a guitar, and now I had the fun challenge of figuring out how to give those words a melody and then to play that melody and… shit, do I have to sing this and play guitar at the same time?
Singing and playing at the same time is hard, too.
But my favourite bands made it look SO easy and SO fun. How were they doing that?!
I need a band.
So I put together a band as soon as I got to high school – or tried to, anyway.
Putting together a band is hard.
It requires dedication and practice and now suddenly it’s not just you that needs to do those things but the 2-3 other people you’ve somehow managed to convince this is a good idea – and you all need to agree on things like times and schedules and where to meet and what to play and how to play it and … gigs?! Are we ready for gigs?! But I have a math test tomorrow!
High school is rough on emerging bands.
Needless to say when I found myself fumbling through songs with my first bandmates, unsure of absolutely every single part I was doing…
“What key are we in?”
“The fuck is a key, Josh?”
… what I thought I was doing was practicing.
But I don’t think that’s really what I was doing, honestly. Looking back, I was just.. I was just doing. There was no clear goal or plan or… anything.
And it was baffling that it wasn’t working to get me to where I wanted to be.
Because this is exactly what all my favourite bands had described to me about how it all worked.
“We just got together and started playing and then we got a record deal”.
Where’s my record deal? I’m not getting any younger, said 17 year old me.
Things carried on this way for a while – and I’m going to skip a few years here and bring us back to 2020 when I was learning “Polaris”.
Sometimes the best gift you can give yourself is the time and space you need to just try something.
There were so many things that held me back from really every putting a solid effort into playing, performing, singing… so many things it would warrant its own blog post. But in 2020 I had a house to myself and no one around to listen.
And so for the first time in my life I think, I really practiced.
It’s really difficult enough to get the courage to try any sort of creative medium that has an element of performance attached to it. And that’s one of the things I was always most attracted to as a kid – performing. Putting on some sort of show that people could watch/listen/hear and enjoy in some way. Even when I was by myself in that King City living room, there was a lot of internal chatter going on.
This is really shitty Jaimee, don’t share this one. Wow, you still can’t reach that chord, huh? How many years have you been playing this thing?
Your own mind can often be the biggest deterrent in these situations, so you have to fight it and remember why it’s important to you to keep trying… almost every single day.
Ultimately when I think back to why it’s so important for me to do this thing – to write, to sing, to play, to perform – it’s because… shit, I just want to.
I’m here, I’m alive, I have things to say and this is how I want to say them.
And of course I want people to listen but even if they didn’t, I’d still be here, I’d still have these thoughts, these feelings, these things to say and this is still the way I’d want to say them.
So every day I make the decision to cover a song or write an original one, it’s really just to satisfy that need – to release that energy.
Which is all pretty selfish when you really think about it, but anyways.
This is about “Polaris”, Jaimee.
That thing I’m talking about just above where your mind likes to deter you from doing these things? That’s the fear talking.
I’ve spent much of my life afraid to really make a solid effort in this department – in many things that I do, it’s not necessarily specific to this, although this is where I find myself most frustrated for myself when I let the fear win.
I think if you feel that sense of fear whenever you’re doing something like this, it’s a good thing. It means you’re on the right track to figuring out whatever your reason or purpose for being here is, to finding that internal fulfillment that we all strive for.
For some of us it takes longer than others to make those necessary leaps to get where we want to be, but if there’s something that you find yourself continually coming back to, even if you’re still not sure why, I think it’s really important to listen to your instincts and chase after it.
Even if it takes a thousand nights. Even if it takes more.
And eventually, you’ll reach a point where you don’t absolutely hate every little thing you do.
One day you wont be such a shitty singer or shitty player, you’ll be mediocore. And mediocore is awesome, because at least it’s not shitty.
Mediocrity is important because it shows you that you can improve. And then you know, one day you could even be good. You could be good at this.
But first you have to try.
I hope you enjoyed my acoustic version of “Polaris”. There’ll be a full-band version of it eventually of course but, I really like the way this one turned out.