An Open Love Letter to Doug Martsch:
Oh, lovely, bearded Doug Martsch, oft the object of my affection for more than a decade now – so many times I’ve delighted in the beauty of your creations. I was first introduced to you when my cousin bought me Keep It Like A Secret
as a present for my high school graduation. It was this same cousin who convinced me to purchase There’s Nothing Wrong With Love
only a few months later in route to my first Built To Spill concert. These moments are etched in time, clear today as they were years ago. Over time, I feel as though I’ve come to know you as a person. There was that time we shared a brief moment in Spokane, do you remember? I’m sure you don’t. After all, it was a fleeting exchange, but I remember it very clearly. You were relaxing in the theater balcony, watching your long-time openers The Delusions prior to your set. I was doing the same. I caught sight of you and worked up the nerve to say “How’s it going Doug?” while passing you in an attempt at being cool and collected. Remember Doug? You turned and uttered a sheepish “hey” in that unmistakable quasi-effeminate voice of yours. If memory serves, you even gave me a bit of a knowing wink. Then there was that time in Missoula where you were taking requests and I screamed out “CLEO!” at the top of my lungs. And you played it Doug. You played it and for a few short minutes I floated blissfully amongst those comets stars and moons you’re so fond of. These are but a few of the moments we have shared, and I recognize them as transient non-events in your life. They are all reasons to me Doug. Reasons to be in love with your music and reason to see you live each and every chance I get. And that Guitar! What strange sorcery could grant such prowess?
I often marvel at your emotive guitar-playing Doug. More than mere notes and chords, you channel the stirrings of your gentle, poetic soul, crafting glorious waves of amber and electric azure swells. Jangly, twinkling, and uncertain, your guitar brings to life what I feel deep within. How wonderful the way you frame your creations; simple in their elegance, yet finely ornate in decoration. Sometimes fragile as a porcelain doll, your songs have a mystical way of gradually transforming into sprawling, layered juggernauts of sound. How many wiggly days and wiggly nights have I spent listening to you slowly bend and swirl your otherworldly notes, crafting soundscapes that seem to set my imagination and the very sky on fire? Sometimes it feels like the sound goes straight through my spine, a three-dimensional sound filling the space around me like you are gently strumming the very strings of my heart. It feels like home, and it makes me smile.
I admire you Mr. Martsch. I admire the simple truth you manage to impart in your lyrics. I hear you sing about a man who believes an Albertson’s stir-fry dinner will make his apartment a home and I think that there has never been a more perfect statement on mankind’s need to impart some meaning onto our mundane but strangely beautiful existence. You whisk me back to my own childhood every single time I hear “Big Dipper” or “Twin Falls”. I can smell the chalky dust in the air Doug. I can see snotty noses and mischievous grins of those trying to conceal their spying eyes while playing seven-up. I can feel a wonder and exuberance that I haven’t felt in my waking life for years. It may just be a made-up dream, but it feels real. It feels like we share a memory and an experience, the kind of experience that no one truly knows unless they have lived it. Of course, some people think that idea is dumb, and other people not. I choose to believe in an unspoken connection to you Mr. Martsch. This miraculous connection gave me a chance to take apart the world and figure out how it works (at least in my younger years). That was long before the world broke this boy down and saw to it that his untamed yearning for adventure was to be neutered and replaced with “normality” and cynicism. Long before most of my days felt half-right, there was an innocence that allowed me bask in the strangeness of my own ability to dream, to let go of worry, confident that if my mind was uncertain my body would decide what path to follow. That feels so long ago now.
We’ve been doing this for a long time Doug, and I fear the sun is setting on our time together. The stars seldom align for us these days. You don’t come my way nearly as much as you used to. New material also comes along less frequently. We both have less time and desire to travel away from those we keep most close, and that’s good, really. Family should always be a priority over music. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think about those old days from time to time, and yearn to relive them. I suppose such is life Doug. It goes on…and on and on and on and on, as you yourself know so well. While my own personal path continues to unfold, I have no doubt that Built to Spill music will continue to provide a lush backdrop to the movies of my dreams. For that, and for everything, I thank you.