Deep down, perhaps I always knew. And I knew that, possibly, other people knew as well. Obviously, people who saw me manifesting tendencies knew I had some inkling that way. But they never mentioned it to me, and I never discussed it with them.
It really is your own private business. There are things in life that are just implied. Euphemisms cover the embarrassing area. But people rarely call other people out on who they are. It’s just obvious to someone with red hair that they have red hair – why would you mention it?
Except in the case of my ‘hair’ I wasn’t particularly aware that I was a Red. I wasn’t sure. Wasn’t committed. I was prepared to accept aspects of my identity, but didn't want this particular part to be self-defining.
I hid it for years. Only participated in it when the opportunity presented itself. Never sought it out. Watched from a distance, sometimes. Always afraid that if I let this particular rabbit out of the bag, it would run forever, and I would never control it again.
'That's How I got to Memphis' is the story of how we all end up in places we never thought we would - driven by love, money or desire. This is how I got to my own particular Memphis - fighting with myself constantly on the way. While also heading inexorably to my mythical Memphis of self-realization and harmony.
Did there come a point when I stopped fighting it? Yes, that's a good story to save for later. But for now I want to share a story about my old friend and colleague Eamon Doyle - who taught me to accept some home truths.
At that time, I was playing with Eamon in McLoughlin's Bar in Dun Laoghaire. One night, I introduced a new song, and when I was done I said to him: "Sorry that wasn't the greatest, but I am, after all, just an amateur".
He thought about that for a while and then he said: "Do you think I'm a musician? Do you think I am worthy of that title?"
"Yes, of course," I said. "You're one of the best musicians I know."
"And you are playing with me. Do you think, as a musician, I waste time playing with people who think of themselves as amateurs? If you are not defining yourself as a musician, you are wasting my time. And insulting me by only making an 'amateur' effort. You need to define yourself as a musician, define yourself by the standards of a musician, before you can be one. And you owe it to me to do that, if you want to sit beside me. So don't ever tell me again you're an amateur, or use that as an excuse. You're a musician. Be one"
It's pretty good advice. Eamon was a hard man to deal with at times, but by the time I met him, he had forgotten more things about music than most people will ever know. I knew him, and he knew me, and I think he knew this thing about me. He knew who I was inside, and the life which I longed to live.
Music - and its etiquette, its people, its dizzying highs and shivering lows, its passion and romance, its complications, negotiations, its compromises, its smoky nights in small sheebeens. Music, classical, traditional, regional, temporal - what would life be? Without music?