Saturday, July 27, 2013
It didn’t take much more than the initial crack of the sliding glass door to wake me. One of the perks of being a light sleeper I suppose. “It’s 7am, Monday morning boys” He said with a smirk, hands clasped in front of his face like one of those praying hand tattoos with the rosary beads. “Where are my songs?”
A strange request at a quiet hour on a peaceful island off the coast of cape cod. My roommate and I caught eyes across the room with a subtle amount of panic. Mondays were the day our writing assignments were do. I had started a song the night before but it wasn’t quite done, in fact that particular song wouldn’t truly be finished until years later. But we jumped out of bed in a frenzy throwing jeans on and grabbing hoodies to brave the cold morning air.
“Boys”, he said, “Relax I’m just messing with you. Chris, why don’t we take a walk.” “J, stop by the house around 3 and show me what you’re working on.”
Chris had been struggling with depression for most of the semester and Will would often meet up in the morning to get Chris out of bed, listen to his struggle and simply be a friend.
Will was our song writing coach, he was always pushing us to dig deeper, feel stronger, think harder, be more articulate or less poetic or more hooky. He was an honest mix of firm and gracious. It was a strange season living on that island, I’ve lost touch with most of the other students from that semester. It’s funny you always think you’ll be friends forever when you go through such a unique experience with people. Five months living communally on a tiny New England treasure with 30 strangers that become family and unfortunately become strangers once again.
I did stop by Wills cabin around 3 that day. He was there with his wife Angie. She brought some fresh fruit and cookies if memory serves me correct. “So what’s this song?” When I showed up for the program I was a musical mess. I had no idea who I was or what I sounded like. Most of my songs were knock offs of whatever artist I was listening to the most that week. I asked Will if he had a keyboard or piano. He looked a bit puzzled, you see I’m not much of a piano player. But he pointed upstairs to a small piano in the loft that overlooked the living room. “May I use it?”
I climbed the stairs a bit nervously, this song was the most honest I’d been lyrically all semester. It was about a girl who was also a student. A girl I had all but fallen in love with.
I finished the song and came back down stairs for my evaluation. Will leaned forward with that same smile I had seen earlier that day and said, “What’s that song called?
“Lockdown I said”
“J. Morris has found his sound!” “That’s you man that’s what I’ve been waiting for.”
Maybe it was luck or magic or heartache that brought that song to me I’m not sure. For an artist finding your sound is like coming of age. Honestly I’ve struggled for 7 years to find that same magic and only in the last 10 months do I feel like I’ve honestly been able to truly uncover it.
I’ve seen Will a handful of times since we all left that place. Once in LA and a few times here in Nashville. We catch up and talk about music and faith and food. Sometimes the line between friend and mentor would be blurrier than others. I liked those times. A few months ago I was in LA and sent will a message, hoping to connect. His response, “Hey thanks for reaching out! We have to play everything by ear because of my sickness but please message us when you are here”
I didn’t realize it at the time but Will was very sick. Today my mentor, my friend Will Gray is no longer suffering. His battle with cancer is over. For this I am grateful. With hands clasped and eyes upward I ask God to comfort the grieving loved ones that carry on here without him. I among many many others will miss you dearly Mr. Gray.