Changing All My Strings


You take your wisdom wherever you can find it. These days, I’ve been getting knowledge from the song lyrics of a 25-year old Omaha Nebraska phenom Conor Oberst – also known as the man behind Bright Eyes.

This morning, as I headed out to my last day of work here at Iceland Review, I sang along to my favourite new toe-tapper: “I’m changing all my strings I’m gonna write another travelling song,” with the wisdom coming in lines like “I guess the best that I can do now is pretend that I done nothing wrong” and with a refrain “I’m not surprised but I never feel quite prepared.”

Okay, maybe like Dylan lyrics, these songs keep their poignancy best when screamed from a rattling Citroen in subzero weather driving on ocean-front highways.

But for me, leaving a job that has allowed me to explore Iceland and develop my trade (and feed myself) is a difficult thing, even if I know I’m off to greener pastures. It is nice to know my unease and enthusiasm are shared.

Just as Bright Eyes gives me some good theme music for my departure, he also hints at the biggest reason. I was reintroduced to Bright Eyes a couple months ago during a phone interview with the Minnesota songwriter Mason Jennings. As the conversation was winding down, I complimented a song Jennings had written about New York, composed with the unbridled enthusiasm of an artist visiting the city from the heart of the Midwest. Jennings jumped in with a thanks and then “You have to hear what Bright Eyes wrote about New York. It’s unbelievable. That kid is really taking music where it should go.”

Jennings went on to talk about the other songwriters that astounded him, how good music was right now, how great the Midwest was, etc. A struggling road musician for the last seven years, he talked like someone who was now on a roll and who was surrounded by good company. (Or people who were also on their way up.) And here’s a fantastically ageist comment – most of the people he mentioned were 28 or younger.

I respect my elders: it has been key to maintaining steady income. In writing to elders, I try just to be honest and humble. In working for my elders, I go by the old Midwest standby “Yes, Sir.”

But they don’t call it a generation gap for nothing. I’m off to take a job for the first time in my life where “Yes, Sir” won’t even enter my mind. BC [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.