My Musical Life, Jon Gardner Voice-Overs

Kansas: Carry on Wayward Son

This is the second of a series of blog posts about songs which mark milestones in my life and influence my current voiceover career in some way. The first track was I Still Believe, by The Call, which has become a sort of anthem for me. Life may knock me down, throw me in the trunk of a car, drive me out to the middle of nowhere, break my kneecaps, stuff sand in my mouth and leave me in the desert to die, but I will find a way to get up and find my way back. I refuse to give up my hope or faith.

Background

One thing that might be good to know about me is that I am a singer. I have sang as long as I could talk, much to the annoyance of everyone around me. Even when very young, if I was given the chance to choose what to play with my friends, I would always choose to play “music”. We would take our places on stage under a neighbor’s carport, and I would belt out Puppy Love (Donnie Osmond), Ben (Michael Jackson), One Tin Soldier (The Original Caste), Seasons in The Sun (Terry Jacks) or Wildfire (Michael Martin Murphy). I always did the lead vocals. My friends had the job of standing there and playing their air instruments in support of my fantasies. I have no idea why they put up with me.

When I say I am a singer, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. I am a singer because I can’t help but sing. The language that my soul speaks is mostly musical. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean I am any good.

I’ve got the music in me

Music is deeply connected to my memories and my sense of self. The songs I am sharing with you are just a tiny sampling of the library inside me. They are merely the ones I could point to as having a bearing on how I approach voice-over.

I was a huge fan of the band Kansas. There were three main things I was attracted to. The first was that they were a hard rock, guitar driven band that used complicated, multi-layered arrangements which drew their inspiration from orchestral music. I guess you would call it prog rock now, but at the time, we didn’t use that term. Nobody else was doing anything like that at the time, I imagine at least partly because it wasn’t considered marketable. The motivation in Kansas was never cutting singles to make a bundle of money; it was the music itself.

Complexity and Depth

Second, their use of Robbie Steinhardt’s violin. Again, something you never heard anywhere else in rock music at the time. Well, let me correct that. The Electric Light Orchestra was using a violin and cellos to fabulous effect with a different style of music at about the same time. I was a great fan of theirs also.

Third, Kerry Livgren’s songwriting. As the primary songwriter and guitarist for Kansas, it really was his genius with each which made the band what it was. Kerry was also a searcher, and his music synched with my own grappling with finding meaning in life. In his lyrics and his music you can feel the passion of a young man who craves understanding. He wants the world to make sense and struggles with everything he sees which doesn’t. I was in a very similar space in my teenage years when Carry On Wayward Son became a huge hit, which was my first introduction to the band.

Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man
It surely means that I don’t know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about, I’m like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say
Carry on my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more, no

Angst

What can I say? I was a teenager steeped in self doubt and imposter syndrome who fed off this emotional declaration. I needed a small bit of hope that not everything would always be a struggle and that there might be at least peace at the end of my life. When I listen to the song again today, I am not the same person with the same needs, but it still speaks to me.

Certain music helps me touch base with who I am emotionally and grounds me in what I believe. I am momentarily brought out of the fog generated by everyday life and pulled into mental and emotional clarity. Isn’t it odd how a song can do that? These are difficult things to put into words; I hope I am making sense to you.

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you
Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry, don’t you cry no more

The meaning of this song has evolved for me over time. Now when I hear it, I take it as an affirmation to recall all of the storms I have successfully weathered in my life. It reminds me to keep pushing forward because experience has taught me that with the help of God and my family and friends, I can handle whatever comes. What used to be a mere wish for hope has become faith that I will continue to improve as a person and an artist, and in the end the pain and grief of life will fade away and there will be a glorious rest.

The connection

Specifically for voice-over, I sing this song out loud, proclaiming to the cosmos that I will carry on and that I believe the fruit of my labors will come in due time. This may sound like a little thing, but when I need a lift or an extra kick of energy, the right song at the right time can make a difference. Do you have songs which energize you and keep you going? Share in the comments!

Carry on, my friends.

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-Jon

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5 Responses

  1. I too communicate in song… often to my husband and children’s dismay 😉 I make it a point to try and answer questions with song lyrics, I belt out show tunes whilst dropping my son off at school (he secretly loves it) and like Charlie Puth, I hear the chorus and melody of songs in everyday objects that make noise… like when the credit card readers starts beeping and it is quite literally the beginning of Jingle Bells! Great read. Thanks Jon

    • Thanks, Jen! I knew you and I were kindred, although I would never be able to post myself singing like you do… plus, I am an experienced DIY’r too!

  2. I love that you sing, my friend! I do too. Remember, I even mentioned you in my blog about “Love You With My Life” – right? And I do. I love you with my life too. I love that you draw upon that and you not only receive and practice the lyrics, but you understand the emotion and angst and passion behind all of the songs. That translates well to voiceovers and the passionate performance thereof.

    There. Now I can cross today’s goal off my list:

    26. Use the word “thereof” in the comments of any singer/voiceover artist’s blog.

    Victory!

    • Thanks, Josh! Incidentally, Love You With My Life (Bryan Duncan) is one of my all-time favorite songs!

      I feel utterly fulfilled that I could help you with your list today. Now I can go back to bed!

  3. You have great taste in music my friend!!

    “Time” by Pink Floyd has been on my mind a lot lately. I just turned 40, and have been reflecting on accomplishments thus far along with goals I still have.

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