The Road Back Home
“in the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade / and he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down, or, cut him till he cried out, in his anger and his shame, “I am leaving, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains.”
In the early summer of 1997 Jim Ryser and I were standing outside the recording studio where he had just finished vocals on my song, ‘Speed of Light’ and he made a remark that has stayed with me.
“You’re doing it the right way” Ryser commented.
“How’s that”? I asked.
“You waited until you were older, had a family and now you’re getting into music. That’s the way it should be done”.
I had a son, my pride and joy, when I was the ripe young age of 20, and eighteen years later I was recording my first full album, that some expected back in the seventies.
It was 1995 when a friend asked me to play some music at his establishment in Nashville. Typically, for a musician, you wouldn’t think that this was anything out of the ordinary.
But it had been, roughly, twelve – fifteen years since I had ‘performed’, or, played somewhere.
I had spent a few years in the eighties leading songs in a small church. However, leading church songs and playing music / performing are two completely different things.
So, for a friend, I pulled out the twelve-string and practiced for a couple of days before going to play.
That evening, after hours of playing music, I realized how much I enjoyed playing again. Maybe it was time to get back to it, I thought.
One thing led to another and in the summer of 1997 I started recording a CD called, ‘Speed of Light’.
It got the attention of some radio stations and throughout Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky the title track was being played on full rotation.
As time passed, my performing ended when it was time to focus on the family, again.
This was to be my second entrance into fatherhood as we had a little boy, my pride and joy and I felt blessed.
But shortly after my son turned one, his mother passed away and we were faced with starting a new life, with new priorities, and viewing the world through a different set of eyes.
I had only recently started an antiquarian bookstore, but, after much deliberation and by what I felt was direction from God, I decided to walk away from it and spend my time raising my son. Looking back, there are no regrets. It was the best decision.
After a few years, I had married again and my wife joyfully accepted the new responsibility of, not only being a wife, but also being a mother.
I then spent several years leading worship in many churches. Leading worship was a good position as it not only allowed me to use a gift that some believed was from God, but, it also allowed me to still remain at home to continue raising our young one.
By 2013, I had led worship at just about every denomination and non-denominational church that ever existed. But my times serving as worship leader was getting lean and those positions became difficult to find, locally. So I took on a position at a school, which allowed me to work our son’s school hours.
Every once in a while, someone would approach me and say, “Speed of Light” – And usually I would just nod and say, ‘yes, that was me’. But after a while I found that if you don’t stay in the eyes of the public, the public will forget you. And the summer of 1997 seemed like it was a world away. A different time - a different place - and a different Dale Sechrest.
Just as Paul Simon’s ‘Boxer’ seemingly comes to his end and cries out, ‘I am leaving! I am leaving!’ the fighter in him still remains – I believe that the fighter in him is saying, ‘No, there is no leaving. You can try, but you can never leave - You do what you do, because IT - IS – WHAT – YOU – DO’. Even when you don’t think you can do it anymore.
So, it’s 2015 and a dear friend calls me and asks if I would give a concert at his place.
Seems they have a church with a coffee-shop area and he would like me to be the first person to play music there. Not worship – rather, Dale Sechrest in Concert.
It had been 12 – 15 years since I had given a concert.
And my thoughts went back to 1995 and the invitation to play.
And much like what happened then, happened again.
Although, this time, I needed a full four weeks of rehearsing, and just as before, once it was over, I re-discovered the joy in playing and performing. Before I knew it, I was writing again, picking up the guitar late at night to strum a few chords and quietly play a few tunes.
And just as the invitation in ’95, led to the recording of a CD, I am again looking at the prospect of recording another CD. 18 years since the last recording - Only this time, working with a producer.
The road back to music has been hard.
I won’t say that I missed playing, because my life has been filled with other joys that music can never touch. But I’m looking forward to getting back to playing.
And as I look ahead, wondering where the road of music will lead me this time, I see that it’s foggier than before and the steps to take require longer strides and elements of stronger faith, just for the small things. Everything regarding music is different now than it was in the 90’s. So I have new things to learn.
Ryser’s words come back to me from time to time, about raising a family first – He makes a valid point. There are things that are more important and family is one of them. As my family is getting older, I think I will always be needed and I hope so too. But I’m also ready to start walking toward the road that leads to more music, more performing. It’s a place where I feel comfortable. A feeling that some would call ‘that feeling of home – a place where you belong’.
You can go back home.
Sometimes, it just looks different than it did when you left.
I’m anticipating nothing but good to come from recording again, if given that opportunity, and I expect great things in the connection with Michael Clark, the producer who says that I write like Dan Fogelberg and The Eagles.
And though I’m not planning on any major hit songs, I am planning on getting a couple of minutes of radio play, like before and I hope to find a couple of places where I can sit with my guitar and reveal my soul to whoever may be listening.