Evan Nachimson, Uncle Bob, and Shelter (part 3)
Evan moved to New York City almost immediately after graduating from Berklee. He dreamed of writing and performing for a living.
“I wanted to be doing exactly what I was doing at Berklee, which was sitting around and writing music.” The glass thuds onto the table between us. “So I wanted to do that and I had no idea how that works in the real world.”
He spent his first weeks in New York going to open mics and exploring the parts of the city where his heroes had performed. In particular, he grew attached to The Village and spent hours walking with a list of places he’d compiled while reading Bob Dylan’s autobiography, tracing his hero’s steps.
Though it began with a great deal of promise his move to New York was a rocky one. He hit the ground running in the city, working as a babysitter and saving up money to self-fund an album. He began looking for representation for his music and, when he got a great deal of feedback, became hopeful that he would be able to play showcases, line up publishing, and get signed to a label.
“I thought ‘they’ll find me a producer. They’ll do all the work for me - even though I secretly don’t believe in myself - just because they think I’m good.’” He says as he stares at me from the other side of the table.
Shortly thereafter, however, Evan’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. Though Evan wanted more than anything to be with her, she made him stay in New York and continue working on his music. It was then that issues he’d struggled with through college became overwhelming.
“I have clinical depression but I never really had a word for it.” The fries rustle as he skewers a few with his fork and continues talking about his first year in the city. “I was isolating myself from all my friends - forcing myself to write everyday. I was so hard on myself and nothing I did was ever good enough.”
As he continued working and forcing himself into greater isolation, his depression grew worse and he began to feel as though he was striking his bottom.
“Depression completely stripped joy from the things that I love.” He stares across the table calmly, temporarily forgetting the food on his fork. “Everything was just difficult. Music was difficult. It was difficult to write. I despised it.”
At the darkest point in his struggle, Evan began to realize that he need to make a change.
“It forced me to realize that I needed to get help and needed to help myself and ever since I did it’s been a slope up.” His eyes remain serious but he smiles slightly as he speaks. “Coming out of it with perspective has made me the person who, when I was depressed, I had in my head that I wanted to be.” He scratches his head and looks at the table as his smile widens, barely. “For the first time in my life I feel like I’m confident and I can say that I believe in myself and in my music.”
One of the overhead lights is turned off. The other is dim; two of its three lightbulbs have burned out. The night settles over the room like a blanket. Unopened boxes pile to my right and expired boxes of cereal and loaves of bread rest on the table in front. My elbows rest on the gritty, poorly cleaned wood of the table. Though my bare feet are cold, the apartment is warm in a comfortable, cluttered, haphazard sort of way. My computer is open and a glass of water sits beside it. The familiar scratching of pick against guitar swells from under the keyboard. Heat from a fire. The refrigerator turns on but the gravelly voice, much younger again, drowns it out. Sharp with wit and sarcasm, soft with sensitivity. Midnight passes and I ready for bed.
And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured. I’ll always do my best for her, on that I give my word. In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm. “Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
The waiter steps up to the table to refill Evan’s water. He clears the basket of fries from in front of us and makes small talk in the din of the high-ceilinged tavern. As the waiter leaves, Evan begins to speak again. For most of the evening, I’ve prompted him to speak with questions and comments. But now I sip from my glass and look across the table. Evan’s eyes are bright as he speaks. It’s obvious he’s hit his stride. He’s serious but he’s the man from the basement. Holding court again. His words are deliberate and purposeful but come in a steady, uninterrupted stream.
“If there’s anything I want people to know - to be written - it’s about that. Struggling. Struggling through, not just depression but feeling like a complete nothing. I felt like a blob - a waste of space. That’s totally not true. I feel like always the - a lot of the most energetic performers and stuff – they have to do it. I have to do it because I know. I think I’m conscious of how I make people feel, and how words can make people feel. I’m very cautious and prudent about not wanting to make people feel invisible. So acting very excited all the time was a way to combat that feeling for other people and make you feel a little bit better, but still leaves you at the end of the night alone and feeling like - who’s going to listen to me? And that’s where I feel like music is very powerful. That’s what all my heroes - like when I got into Bob Dylan I felt like he was a parent. Same with Bruce Springsteen and all those great songwriters. They teach you how to live and I don’t think there’s a lot of artists that do that. Not nowadays but in all time periods, there aren’t a lot of artists that do that. And that’s what I think is my role. That’s what I want to do with my music. And I feel really good about that now. I think I have something valuable to say to people and to share with kids who are alone in their bedrooms and need to hear that somebody is expressing things that they don’t have the words to express or that they don’t feel like they can express or are ashamed of expressing. I feel like I can do that. I feel like I am doing that. And … it’s awesome.”
The glasses and murmur of other tables recede again as Evan finishes speaking and takes a sip of his water. I stand in the back and the basement again and the room dims before him. He laughs and cajoles the front row of the audience as he fiddles with the tuning machines on his guitar. Musicians fiddle behind him with the keyboard and a bass amplifier, their shadows watery in the flickering candles. STONE HEART!!! – someone shouts in the back. The orange light dances in his eyes and casts a glow onto his sly smile. He stops tuning and strums, sending big brassy powerful chords rattling about amongst the conversations. He raises his hand to his lips as the musicians stand at attention.
“Three, two, one, shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”