Brian and I were playing colleges all across the country for years before being signed to a record label back in 2000. We would showcase each year for thousands of kids in huge convention centers from Texas to Boston and then do the meet and greet thing up in the exhibition hall under a life sized cut out of Settie. Our agent at the time, Tom Najemy from Squad 16, would then put together our tour schedule from the interest gathered at the showcases. We would then head out on the road for months. The N.A.C.A. circuit was the biggest money maker out there for unsigned acts. Tracy Chapman, Ray Romano and Natalie Cole were some of the other acts in the circuit.
We had backstage riders (food and drink and whatever else we decided we needed before going on stage) waiting for us at every gig. $1200 a gig and sometimes playing 6 times a week we were killing it. Selling 20 plus c.d.'s every night and signing autographs after the shows. It would seem like life was pretty peachy but inside it was slowly killing me.
I was dating Brian for most of this time and the two of us were insecure drunks who knew how to push each others buttons without even knowing we were doing it. He was so talented and I felt like I was riding on his wave (he won the US songwriting competition once for Alternative rock song and Bass Player Magazine once rated him as one of the best players. You get the point) and he felt scared that someone would come take me away and write me great songs like the ones I sang so well but he felt he couldn't write. For example Janis Joplin. Our own secret anxiety for years about losing each other. He once said he was gonna try out for the ZZ top opening and I knew he would get it. Dudes at the recording studios told him he was an in. Then I would be nothing. Someone said I should do a stand up routine and he assumed I would do it. Then he would be nothing. If he looked at a girl with short hair for longer than my definition of a glance then I would chop my hair off. As shown in the short hair picture on the mic.
When we would listen to the radio he would say, "now that's a good voice." I would die. He would get people to come to his studio and record and then tell me how good they were and that they could do gigs together. Head games and we were fucked. So it went on and on like this.
Along with that anxiety I also carried around paranoid anxiety. Turns out I had this way back when I was in my teens. Panic attacks for no good reason. Convinced someone put L.S.D. in the hand soap in the bathroom and I was gonna be tripping in two hours. Or the act before me was tripping and I would use the same mic and then I'd be tripping. I had and have not ever tripped on acid. Can you imagine a whack job like me tripping. Depression and Alcohol and Anxiety and The Music Business DO NOT SLEEP WELL TOGETHER!
So there we were on the road for God knows how many days. Next gig Houston Texas. Outdoors on the roof top nice sunny day. We are playing and I see Brian staring at the girl on the bench. I assume he is cuz I'm so fucking paranoid and insecure and drunk and on stage and tired and tweaked. I start to cry. I'm still singing my ass off. Actually I am singing so fucking good Brian actually hears it and starts really rocking out. Never looking at me. Tears stream down my face under my sunglasses and I am thanking God for this gift I have and I am realizing that I have never sang so well as this very moment. I knew it was because I had nothing to lose. I was going to kill myself as soon as this fucking show was over. I was gonna jump. No one could tell I was crying because they were forced to stand far enough away. Gig ends and the crowd is quickly escorted off the roof. C.d's and autographs would happen inside. Brian leaves for back stage and I head right over to the edge. No one around I shuffle to the right because I would have landed on the overhang of some door or whatever. I find my place and feel light. No real thoughts just empty and calm. The someone taps me on the shoulder and says, "You were really great" in that deaf voice. You know the way deaf people talk it's unmistakable. I am first pissed off cuz I was feeling calm and nothing for the first time in months and then this fucker is deaf and what the fuck could he know. You can't hear asshole I'm thinking. I drop to my knees in a ball and cry. I don't really know what happened next. Brian was standing over me saying,"what the fucks up with you?" In an annoyed way. I tell him my attempt and he goes white. We get the gear in the truck somehow, get paid, no autographs, Settie doesn't feel well, and call his friend Hank Schlinger, on the bag phone from the school parking lot.
We had one of the first mobile phones with phone cord and everything. Hank was a psychologist or something. He told Brain what to do next. I called my dad and told him I just tried to kill myself. Tears. I don't remember much else of the conversation. Hours on the phone with a shrink friend of Hanks. Set up a meeting with the guy for my return. I'm still far away from home. I think we even did some more gigs. Tears streamed down my face uncontrollably for no apparent reason often. A car in front of us hit a bird and I thought to myself, "I wish that were me."
Once home the shrink put me on Wellbutrin for the paranoid anxiety and Prozec for depression and all around tweakness right away. While waiting in the room for my appointment I had to fill out a questionnaire. Have you ever. . .maxed out credit cards, had sex with multiple partners, put yourself in danger for amusement, had fear of being poisoned, had trouble sleeping because of repeating thoughts, drank alcohol to excess and 20 more questions and I answered Yes to all of them. I FELT GOOD. I wasn't the only one who was completely fucked.
Three weeks later I am eating a blueberry muffin sample off some skanks platter at Costco. Life was good. I in turn helped Brian and another good friend of mine get help and medicated. We all healed in our own time. Gigs continued and we were back on track.
I could never in a million years tell you who the deaf kid was that saved my life. Funny how he was deaf. hmmm.
Some years later I received a fan letter addressed to me but sent to the record label. That was how it worked now. I wasn't supposed to get them at home anymore. Freaks I guess. It was from New Britain Ct. A young guy who saw me at his college, bought the c.d. and loved the song, "I know a girl". He said- quote- "That's why your song touched me- you have a way of telling it how it is and exposing your feelings completely which a lot of people (myself included) can seriously know what you're talking about and say hey I'm not weird after all- there are real people who feel the same as I do. I'm just glad I have you as a friend to express my everyday obstacles". It helped him when he was at his lowest and was thinking about dying too. He was gay and it wasn't going over well at his house. His mother was an asshole and his life was shitty. He said he listened to my voice and the words to that song over and over and he felt like he wasn't the only one going through shit.
I immediately got his phone number from his return address and called him. He answered the phone and I asked for Jaime. I said, "Hi, it's Settie". He said something like "yeah right. . . leave me alone" and before he could hang up I said "I got your letter". We wrote back and forth and I still have that one letter today. Obviously if I am quoting him above.
I have always been one to tell everything about myself to anyone and wether that is good or bad I learned that from my dad. Everyone loves him and feels safe around him and they don't know exactly why but I know why. I feel blessed to have touched this kids life and blessed that I have survived my shit too. I don't know where he is today. Lost track, lost touch. Hope you've got your freak flag flying my friend.