Right now I am working through a significant transformation in my life. I am turning a corner. My music career is changing in a natural evolution and a big next step.
What is happening? I am changing things.
Why is this happening? Let me explain.
I’m so ready. Life change has taken too long to come. I have waited for a lightening bolt to strike for as long as I can remember. Hoped for anything to happen to break the framework that has kept me locked into a particular way of thinking.
The transformation I speak of is not just about music and creativity. The change in me represents much more; it is a death and a birth.
I asked for help
The long-awaited bolt of lightening struck last month when I paid a visit to the Austin Music Foundation (AMF). I was stuck. Searching for a breakthrough, I made an appointment to attend an Artist Career Guidance Workshop, which is a prerequisite to scheduling a personal one-on-one Artist Consultation with one of the AMF members.
Einar Pederson is the current artist in residence at AMF, and tasked with one-on-one artist consultations. The purpose of the initial workshop is to prepare musicians for a one-on-one. AMF serves Austin musicians by providing thorough and honest critiques, discussing career guidance and artist-to-artist mentorship.
You may be thinking, “Wow, dude! You’re changing your name to Decoyote? That must have been one earth-shattering one-on-one consultation…” — and you would be wrong, too, because I haven’t even made it that far yet.
Austin Music Foundation can help
In terms of meeting AMF’s requirements to move on to the next step, I met the criteria. But as Einar presented some simple, practical things an artist should do to reach their goals, a deeper realization occurred:
I have not been true to myself.
As a songwriter, I have expressed over and again the pervasive sentiment of being lost in the crowd. Countless songs are written on the subject. Today we remember the life of Tom Petty who penned, “A Face In The Crowd”.
The frustration I feel associated with that sentiment has taken on many forms in my life, and over the years has become a monster.
Seeing the light…
“I spent my afternoon with this brilliant chap. He has no idea how helpful he has been already”, I commented.
“If by brilliant you are referring to the glow of neon light bouncing off my shiny dome of a noggin, then you are correct, sir. Big thanks for the kind words though. If any psychotic ramblings from my pie hole got you fired up, I did my job”, Einar replied.
Einar, you did your job.
Before all of this ever went down
A much younger man in search of meaning and purpose in his life, I remember clearly the day I learned about the etymology of words, with specific reference to names. I also remember the wave of disappointment crashing over as I read for the first time the peculiar meaning of my first name.
My given name is James Randall Jean. My father is largely responsible. His name is Buford Randall Jean, but he never went by Buford. He went by Randall because he shared Buford with my paternal grandfather.
He could have given me either of his names, but I suspect my dad felt like he was passing a particular essence to me when he chose to make my middle name Randall. My mother wanted my first name to be Jason, or Sarah were I born a girl.
At the time I began to pay close attention to the meaning of words, I was being a typical teenager seeking out my identity. I identified with being my father’s son for the longest time.
The essence of my father’s namesake is a defining characteristic of my being I was proud and willing to accept. My father is, after all, a celebrated mind, a scholar, a professor of electrical engineering, a holder of patents, and inventor, and a budding entrepreneur. He was and is greatly respected in a number of circles.
Dr. Buford Randall Jean, PhD is a Senior Research Fellow at Viziv Technologies. If you ever drive to Dallas on I-35 East, beyond the split at Hillsboro, keep your eyes peeled for the giant Tesla coil tower erected in a field on the west side of the road, just beyond Carl’s Corner. My father is responsible for providing the technical expertise it takes to send electricity from that tower to another location in Panama.
I shit you not.
What does it mean?
Names are interesting; we don’t give them to ourselves. They are given. And whether we choose to believe they come from God, from the Universe, or from the mind of the human being responsible for bearing our existence into the world, labels we are given are carry the road map to our lives.
Oh… you don’t believe that? What is your name? Do you know what it means? Ask your mama. Ask your dad. Explore it, examine it, and then tell me that your life does not bear some semblance of your label.
James means “supplanter.” I remember when I read it. I thought, “What does that mean? Why can’t I have a name that means brave warrior or something more important?”
Get a dictionary
I understand now. Supplanter is loaded. Turns out that my name means the very thing that I had wished for it to mean when I was a kid.
A supplanter is one who supplants (of course) or displaces. The word “displace” is a transitive verb which means to move, shift or force from the usual place or position. Displace also means to force to leave a place of residence.
Force. That word sounds powerful, especially if I am an effective supplanter.
The definition of supplant is “to take the place of, or substitute for (another), to replace. It also means to usurp the place of, especially through intrigue or underhanded tactics; to trip up, as the heels.
Inexplicably, I fell in love with Decoyote the moment it came to me. I did not consider the origin of the individual components. I only know I resonated with the sum of its parts.
Decoyote is an amalgamation of two words: decoy and coyote.
Decoy represents the supplanter part of me. A decoy is usually a person, device, or event meant as a distraction, to hide what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.
Coyote represents the part of me who recognizes that, for better or worse, I am not always the most loved by human beings. The coyote is a prominent character in Native American folklore, mainly in Aridoamerica (an ecological region spanning Mexico and the Southwest United States), usually depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man.
As with other trickster figures, the coyote uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions. The animal was especially respected in Mesoamerican cosmology as a symbol of military might.
After the European colonization of the Americas, it was reviled in Anglo-American culture as a cowardly and untrustworthy animal. Unlike wolves, which have undergone an improvement of their public image, attitudes towards the coyote remain largely negative.
Poor, poor coyote. I feel you, dude
I don’t mean to suggest that one can change how people will perceive me by simply changing my label to Decoyote. Actions speak louder than words. The manner in which we walk out our lives is the honest-to-goodness proof that something is different.
I am different inside. My label needs to change. The old one doesn’t work anymore, and maybe for the first time in my life I can be true to myself.
Time will tell. Help me out.
In the spirit of Ray Prim — this is why you need to come to my first Decoyote show with Lauren Diamond at The Townsend Listening Room on Thursday, October 10, from 7-10pm.
Hope to see you soon.