Step Into the Light
Journal Entry 17 – January 5, 2023
By Steven Maisenbacher
I wasn’t really sure what I was going to write about this week until this week. I had a wonderful New Year weekend. On Sunday I was blessed and honored by an old friend and his wife. As most of you already know I enjoy making music, singing and writing lyrics. Well, many years ago I met a very gifted young man named Butch Reno and we discovered we were both into music. Now Butch really doesn’t think it, but he is a very gifted guitarist and probably the only person in my entire musical career life that I’ve been able to just sit down with and the music we write together just happens. It’s amazing neither he or I really have much purpose or intent, much of a road map, we just sit down and it happens.
About 24 years ago, probably the last time Butch and I were together, I remember us sitting on the living room floor, Butch with his acoustic guitar and me with this stupid little tape recorder. In moments the music just happened. The words I sang, Who Am I, were a raw, emotional cry for help. When we finished I gave the tape to Butch and said, “Here Buddy, this is yours.”
Fast forward – God, I wish it had been a fast forward – after all those next years I spent in prison, I reached out to Butch again, just to touch base, let him know I’m home and see if maybe we could get together to reacquaint ourselves and catch up on what life has given or taken from us. Looking at Butch’s Facebook page and talking with him, I learned that he had married his beautiful wife Angie a few years ago and that they had lost their infant son at birth. I can’t even imagine the pain of that. I can’t imagine how he and Angie got through it other than sharing their grief and the help of friends and family. In time they managed to move on, not forgetting, not for one second, but continued to live.
So Butch and I talked several times and we decided that I would send some voice clips of vocal tracks over this phone thing, and he would try and put some music to it. We would try once again to rekindle the creative juices that just erupted anytime he and I were in a room together. Well it kind of worked and it kind of didn’t. I fired off several sets of lyrics to him; he fires off several guitar pieces to me, but we didn’t build anything. It wasn’t quite the same; something was missing.
Then when I was finally allowed to go out on Sunday visits, I asked Butch if he and Angie could pick me up so we could go have a cup of coffee or something. So Butch and Angie graciously came and took me to their home for a visit and some magic. Butch handed me a tablet with a few lines of a verse he had written and a sketch of what he wanted the bridge chorus to be. He said the song was about looking out the window after his son died, feeling completely lost and trying to find himself. Just the simple fact that Butch shared this with me, opening up all his vulnerabilities as a man in his grief and the pain in the words he wrote, however brief, showed me they were incredibly important and I knew this had to happen.
So I suggested he go get his guitar and show me what he’s got in mind; he did and the result is magical. We managed to get two verses and two choruses in before I had to leave. This song is important and needs more verses to adequately tell of the heartache, the anguish and the confusion Butch felt in those moments and his journey back to himself. I’ve got a couple more verses and choruses in mind to add next time we meet.
Few have ever felt pain so blinding in your soul and in your heart that nothing can make it better. All you can do is cry out your anguish and feel your pain, for the only place you can find any comfort is in your own pain and suffering. Being asked to write this song with Butch and given free lyrical license to write what I think needs to be written is surely one of the most humbling and highest honors I’ve ever received. The feelings come from the heart of a man who has suffered as I have suffered. Though the causes were totally different they were both devastating and life changing in their emotional impact.
Angie and I had never met, but Butch had spoken of me often and she had heard the original tape of who am I that we recorded 24 years ago and I’m sure she’d heard the story of how we just sat down and unlike anything that’s ever happened with any other artist that either of us has worked with, magic happened and it happened again that last Sunday. Finally I was free, I was able to create and sing and smile again. The smiles came from my heart and from the gifts given to us by the Creator, the talent to maybe hold a note, or to be able to play that note on a guitar, or to be able to think about that note and then play it or sing it, to create lyrics that mean something, that heal, that help ease the pain and share our burdens.
Butch and Angie, I owe you both a debt of gratitude and I’m humbled by your friendship, kindness and trust with something as important as this particular song. I hope to go back real soon so that we can finish. Like Butch I’m just grateful to have a good woman by my side. That in itself is a gift. We’ve talked and are in agreement that we both want to work on writing more original songs. We’re not looking to go out there and play a bunch of clubs and bars and all that crap with bands. I know I’m over all that.
What I’m not over and what I do want to do is write twelve or fourteen songs with Butch, polish them up and then just go into little places that normally would not have entertainment and just sit down and do an acoustic set for free for the folks there. In this way we can enjoy performing and share what we both know are gifts from the Creator.
Long Road Home by Steven Maisenbacher