Letter from the Artist: Josh Urban asks, “Will you be my friend?”

Remember being a little kid, asking “will you be my friend?” Remember? Before all the rejection, the scams, the lousy deals, the catches. If the memory is hazy, put on a song. And my guess is if you’re reading this, you’re probably already listening to one.

Hello, I’m Josh Urban. I’m a musician, and I just got back from a tour, video shoot, and social experiment. I’ve noticed that music builds bridges to common ground even over the deepest divides, and I wanted to see if that could be scaled up.  I made a broom into a one-string electric guitar, hopped on a train, and set out to shoot a music video with the world. I traveled along the east coast, playing in places like New York, Philadelphia, DC, Charlotte, and others with a question: What if the world was a band? And what if we had a planetary jam?

I am very hopeful about the future. Here’s the result of the project. Most of the people shown are complete strangers.

Will you be my friend?

Out there on the street, people are hungry for connection, but we don’t know how to approach each other. We walk around with our little walls up. I watch them go by as I stand there with my guitar. “Please don’t take my wallet, let me get to my train, and man, I’m lonely.” These thoughts seem to form a cloud over the heads of the crowd as it shuffles by, blinding them to everything by the waiting door of the subway. Blame the muggers, creepy old guys, and Superman in Times Square, for they’re the few instigating contact. Generally, if someone says something to you on the street, it’s not good. Put on a ninja turtle shirt and start playing the broom guitar, though, and things change a bit. I guess my mom was right. As much as I’d like to be intimidating, I’m just not.

I’d stand there yelling Elmore James songs as I rocked out the broom. “Wellll I woke up this morning…said I believe I’ll dust my broom.” They stopped and watched this strange sight. Curiosity melted the ice, and they’d wander on over, eventually trying out the instrument. People even asked about it on the New York subway, not typically a place for casual conversations. “Excuse me, what is that?” Notice the bewildered laugh common to many of the faces in the video. “I can’t believe I’m playing a broom” they seem to say. Hey buddy, neither can I…and it’s so much fun! There we were, a species that built a sparkling city, yet rarely talking to each other in daily life, connecting through something as silly as a broom that plays a song.

Our Job

So, out there sweating and laughing on the streets, watching the magic unfold, an extra job description to the“musician” occupation occurred to me: Connector. We offer a place for people to say hello without expectation, and a reason to share and connect. Our recordings build rooms for not only us to untangle our feelings, but also our listeners to do the same. Our entertainment offers an excuse for people to stop and talk, or just watch and listen. I guess this isn’t just limited to musicians. So – maybe we should summon the courage to ask that question that little kids do all the time: Will you be my friend? If they say no…write a song about it. It’ll be a place for other people to relate – and become friends. But they might say yes. Reach out, dance out, sing out…and break that ice. It’s thinner than you think, and it’s freezing all of us. Start today in your own sort of way. After all…we’re connectors. That’s what we do.

 

Josh Urban is a musician living near Washington, DC. Will you be his friend? www.JoshUrban.com,

See the music video  that the world made on The Planetary Jam, and join The Kindness Exchange Tour, launching 11/20/14 to bring a light to the darkness.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Sam Carts

2 Comments

  1. Breanna Perry

    October 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Love this approach! Can’t wait to see how the project evolves.

  2. Josh Urban

    October 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks a bunch, Breanna! It sure was fun, and the collaboration is quite eye-opening. Stay “tuned” (bad music pun), and hope to see you around the interwebs. 🙂

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