Dear Rhett Miller (and the Old 97’s)-
I had this problem over the summer. See, I went to go see y’all when you played in Portland, Maine. I knew Satellite Rides and I knew Too Far to Care and I had The Instigator. I also had some idea what I was in for because I had bought Most Messed Up a couple weeks before and been blown away when I put it in my car and was instantly swept up in the story of Longer Than You’ve Been Alive. But, I went to see you (and your perfect hair) and I was floored. I’ve always suspected I have a touch of Stendhal syndrome and so the show literally took my breath away and I was stunned.
That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that my love for your music was reignited like someone threw a grenade in a furnace and for three weeks I didn’t get into my car without putting on If My Heart Was a Car. I listened to Most Messed Up over and over again. I got swept up in the stories of Salome and Niteclub all over again. I sang Our Love in my house at midnight while I was baking. I keep going to the record store and trying to get my hands on all the material I don’t own. I… Point is, it got out of hand. I’m just that kind of obsessive, all or nothing lady. I once asked a dear friend what it’s like to live without an obsessive personality, but here I am with a haul of new records and a font of new enthusiasm.
With that enthusiasm I’m writing to you to say thanks. I’ve been a fan for a long time, I recently read through some old journals and found teenage me writing out lyrics and talking about how your songs are terrific. Through your music I have found many other musicians, met friends, and my tiny, black heart has felt things. Not to mention, what an amazing live show. You all are professionals and on the one hand it’s work and on the other it’s something you still seem to find fun. What a gift it was to finally see you live and experience exactly what my teenage dreams hoped it would be, despite me now being older and much more cynical.
I’m bothering you now to say, thank you. Over the past decade I’ve been lucky to have your work—Old 97’s music, your music, your writing (that September 11th piece is so cutting), and recently I was fortunate to find your video for suicide prevention lifeline which I have now shown some of my clients (I’m a therapist for kids and teens). I’m moved by music and melody, certainly, but also by lyrics and I find that lyrics reveal new meanings as I change and grow. Language can be as powerful as the ocean and the language you use has killed me, made me giggle, stirred the inside of my stomach, and made me tearful. Thank you for that. Thank you for being earnest. Thank you for letting me see you perform and thank you for the gift of that captivating awe that encapsulated me.
I remember where I was when I first heard Timebomb, the first time I heard Question, the first time I heard Valentine, the first time I heard your cover of Tower of Song, the first time I heard Our Love and Lost Without You. Like I said, I developed a problem after seeing you live because I was completely blasted with the joy of rock music excellence and I kept grasping for all the chances to hang on to it and nurture those beats in my heart. I'm seeing Rhett in Boston tomorrow night and I can’t wait. I want you to know that I’m so glad to have your music so I can love it and I’m so appreciative of the practiced work you have continued to do to my soul.