Ooooooh New Mexico!

In case you couldn’t tell by the title, I’m a James Taylor fan.

That little tidbit has nothing to do with the rest of this blog though.

This email has more to do with the picture, which was taken on a drive between Los Angeles and New Mexico almost exactly three years ago.

Last week I drove with Bekah, my duo partner in The Middle Annes, to New Mexico for a gig at Jean Cocteau in Santa Fe. 

These drives in between LA and New Mexico were the harbingers of some pretty significant changes in my life…twelve hours of unadulterated thinking time with limited cell reception can do that to you. These drives have solidified and broken loves, changed my artistic directions, brought Bekah and I together musically, and, on one ocassion, was where I wrote my very first song….3 years ago.
Let me start by saying that I’ve been writing snippets of songs for forever--ever since I got my first bikini as a kid and decided that my first “two-piece bathing suit” merited its own theme song. But while these little melodic pieces had floated in and out between my ears for a long time, I had never made the commitment to actually sitting down and writing an entire song. It seemed too daunting. It still does, sometimes. But I did it.
Here’s how it happened: 

I had driven out to New Mexico for Standing ‘O’ Project work and an acting gig and, while driving out, I was solidifying this sort of hare-brained idea I had for a short film involving a love story that took place in a homeless camp where the main characters were both singer/songwriters that I was going to propose working on with my friend Tim (the film never materialized, but it was a fun thought experiment at the time and Tim has gone on to do some awesome film projects).

While visiting Albuquerque, I met up with my friend Steve Hanks, an extraordinarily talented painter who I had worked with for a number of years. Steve had recently told me he was battling cancer so this particular visit held more meaning that usual. It felt rooted in something. Although Steve and I were friends, I always found that there was a sort of distance in our friendship, a mutual unspoken agreement to stay at arm’s length. This time, however, it felt honest. Effortlessly honest. I suppose there isn’t much room for pretense in moments like those. I don’t remember our conversation particularly, I didn’t visit long. I remember we talked about music for most of it. Steve was a big fan, he had an extensive collection of mixed CDs he had burned for long road trips each with their own custom artwork.

On the ride home, back to L.A., I wrote my first song. It was about Steve. And Steve's cancer. (Cheery one, aren’t I?)

I found out, months later, that Steve had passed a few days after that conversation.

About a year and a half later, I got lost on the way back to L.A. from Albuquerque after a wrong turn led me to the truly historic route 66 route through the desert. After about 20 minutes of not seeing another car, I decided it was too rare an opportunity to pass up. I pulled over, got out of my car. It was silent, and warm. And as the cacti shifted from their waning green hue to shadows against a fire of a sunset, I took out my guitar and began to play.

I have Steve to thank for that.

Katie Anne Mitchell