I heard this story I keep thinking about.
Jacob Dylan, lead singer of The Wallflowers, told it. He said one night he was in a restaurant Prince happened to be in. A server came over and said Prince had asked to meet him.
Jacob joined Prince at a table, and Prince’s friend and bodyguard stood behind him scanning the room.
Prince seemed sad to Jacob. At some point in the conversation, Jacob said that he thought the Purple Rain album is a masterpiece. In what seemed like a moment of insecurity, Prince said, “You really think so?” The bodyguard behind him locked eyes with Jacob and mouthed “Say yes!”
Jacob did just that.
Prince said “Thank you” and became The Artist Formerly Bummed Out.
The album they were discussing has sold 21 million copies. It seems ridiculous that Prince would need another confirmation it was valid. That’s why I love the story: because it says something about the power of encouragement.
It says we all need it. Even Prince.
That story took me back to a day this past fall. I’d gotten up early and was riding a back road to my brother’s house. Chris Stapleton’s new album had just come out, and I was giving it the first listen.
“Starting Over” was so good. Good enough to make people like me, who had just released my own album, think about hanging it up because we’ll never be that good.
I played the honkytonk, “woe is me” game as I turned onto the last road to my brother’s. I said all the classic panicked artist-with-imposter-syndrome things. “Stapleton’s songwriting is better than I’ll ever write.” “The melodies fit the material perfectly.” “Anybody would want to hear that. Nobody wants to hear mine.”
In the middle of my self-inflicted self-deflation, my phone went off. I opened it to see a message from my friend Charlie in Gulf Shores. It was a picture of my album playing on the big screen in their living room and a message that said, “Our Saturday morning playlist.”
At the moment I told myself no one would listen to me, someone 389 miles away was, and the ties that bind us told him I needed to know it.
We all have those moments of needing to be told who we are and what we’re capable of. There have been many times in my life when I ran on nothing but one person saying, “You can do this.”
One person can get you where you’re going just by believing you can.
I could, Prince could, and I believe you can.
Stults is a performing songwriter from Russellville. To reach him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.