By Aaron Kayce

I've got this one friend who really knows me. He understands how my mind works and how I operate. Instead of asking me, "How are you bro?" he says, "What are you listening to?"

He understands that "How are you?" is probably the most meaningless question on the planet - no one cares how you are, it's just a translucent greeting. He also realizes that by asking me what's coming through my headphones, he's really asking me, "What is the state of your being?" For people like me, this buddy of mine, and probably you too, music is much more than just something that you listen to or dance with. It's also more than just the crutch we use as life pulls us down (which it definitely is). Music is the barometer to gauge one's soul. It is the true answer to "How are you?" You want to know how I am? Just plug into my music, it will tell you all you ever need to know.

Today I'm listening to Ray LaMontagne's "Empty" on repeat.

Well I looked my demons in the eye
Laid bare my chest said do your best destroy me
See I've been to hell and back so many times
I must admit you kinda bore me
Will I always feel this way?
So empty, so estranged

That's heavy. Real. Right down to the bone, and it's almost choking me it's so good. There are songs that capture a time in your life. They say everything you feel and will always be tied to an event, or a place, or a moment. "Empty" is one of those songs that will forever define a painful stretch I'm still struggling to pass. Unfortunately the weight I carry today will one day shift to you, or maybe it's already been on your shoulders; perhaps you know the pain I currently fight every moment of every day. "Empty" is the song that has been filling my speakers since I found out my mother died a few weeks ago. The day I got back to work (I was in Africa when I got word) someone gave me a pre-copy of LaMontagne's Till The Sun Turns Black. "Empty" is the second track, and it's one of the most powerful songs I've ever heard.

That one line:

I've been to hell and back so many times I must admit you kinda bore me.

It cuts through me every time. It's the use of "bore" that really drives it home - the idea that while you are in the deepest, darkest, most personally fucked-up space imaginable, you still have the capacity for boredom. It's really one of the most easily accessible emotions we have. When you are crawling through your own sprawling hell, there are well-meaning folks who will try to comfort you. They will "be there" for you. They will have the gall to tell you that they "know just how you feel."

You're boring me.

When it's dark, you are alone. That's just the way it is. If it weren't a solitary struggle, it wouldn't be so cold, gray, full of shadows and fears. But this is where the deepest, most acute sensations of pain and sorrow exist - in the hard, dark corridors of the mind. There are those who help in their own way, mostly just by being present and physically next to you. Yet while you can't seem to get through another sleepless evening, or through another work day, or even a simple lunch, the world just keeps turning and you can't seem to understand why. How can it be that nothing has changed, yet every-thing is different? It's enough to confound the mind and drain the soul. And at some point, all that meaningless bullshit that happens everyday, it will bore you to the point of exhaustion.

It's hardest at night. Sleep won't come, day won't break, and the night goes on forever. I can hear my love lying beside me, dreaming, sleeping, breathing, being. It's a peaceful, painful, deterioration, and it's slowly eating at my soul. So I rise, praying for reprieve, for hope, for the early morning glow of the sun to shine on me, and I put My Morning Jacket's At Dawn on my headphones. Instantly the walls begin to close in and it gets hot. I can no longer feel my own breath against my hand. I start to wonder if I'm giving in... maybe it's time... time to just let go.

I don't wanna feel a thing.
When your hands close tight around my neck,
And force the air that I breathe.
I don't wanna feel a thing.
Yes she was a young girl.
'Bout the age of 23.
But somehow the lord never smiled down upon her,
So she flew out on a breeze.
Said: "I don't wanna feel a thing, I don't want to feel a thing."
Sure he was a good kid. But his phone it'd never ring.
He got tired of walkin' a tightrope,
Needin' too much to drink.
So he got on a knee.
"I don't want to feel a thing"
but I know there's someone that loves up above
And wants to fix you a dream.
He wants to sit down and think.
He wants to pour you a drink.
And you won't feel a thing. You won't feel a thing.

Aaron Kayce with his mother Julieanne :: 6/18/06
The last evening they spent together :: Kayce's Wedding
And just when it appears to be too much to bear, light finally breaks through the curtains, burning my eyes, and somehow I find the strength to rise, to push on, to live. With nothing inside and only the acidic taste of last night's pain on my tongue, I go right for it again. Nothing sounds right, so I go back for more of LaMontagne's "Empty" – yes, "Empty" once again. When someone captures the emotions you have no words for, something happens. You begin to understand that you are not alone; others have experienced pain on the same level you are currently feeling. No, I'm not alone. I'm just desperately lonely. When a child loses his mother (and has already lost his father), the anchor, the safety net, the knowledge that someone will always be there leaves, and you are left to float alone in the intimidating, dark, deep blue sea of life. As I struggle to swim back to shore, searching for balance, for meaning, for something to hold tight and keep me warm, I find it in music.

Will I always feel this way
So empty, so estranged?

No, but it's nice to know that as life just keeps going on-on-ever-on, there's a song that has captured a moment that needs to be remembered. For the happy times, this is obvious, but for the sad ones, it's just as important. I need to be with my pain right now. I need to feel it, and I need to let it run its course. But as it starts to wane ever so slightly, it's nice to know I can find it again. It's important to realize that no, I won't always feel this empty, but it's also important for me to be able to put on "Empty" or "Strangulation" and go back when I need to.

In loving memory of my mother, Julieanne T. Kayce - 04/17/46 – 07/03/06. May her love shine forever as inspiration for all. The greatest blessing I have ever known has been calling her Mom for thirty years.

Music is more than just artists and songs, concerts and albums; it's a window into our existence. Each month I'll be back to talk more about life and about how it's really all in the music. Consider it Ruminations with Kayceman.

Let us know what you think. Got some thoughts worth sharing? Use the Comments Section below.

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[Published on: 9/7/06]

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shainhouse starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 12:45PM
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This one must have been difficult to write, but your subtle, emotive tone really shines as a tribute to your mom. Beautifully well written and achingly embracing as well. This is a wonderful piece, and you're an even more wonderful friend. RIP Julianne.

jasonthehead starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:02PM
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Aaron, you're a talented writer with a kind, wise and understanding spirit that always comes through in your work. This piece is another shining example of that. I have no doubt your mom had a great impact on you as a person and as a writer, so all those who know you and/or read your work are touched by her spirit in some way. What a touching tribute to her life memory. May her spirit shine on...

Tan starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:03PM
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Ray Lamontastic. Kayce - with you always buddy. I like when music is broken down like this. Make me realize how much I love certain aspects of it too.

mbh1013 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:06PM
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God Bless you for sharing! This is a great read, and wonderful insight in to the life of a great member of our society, Kayceman. Wonderful rememberance of someone very special to you, and I'm sure that it wasn't easy. Thanks you-

jasonthehead starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:08PM
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From Dave Schools' blog on Widespread Panic's MySpace page:

"It was also an important show because a good friend's mother had recently passed away and I had convinced him to come down to try and get his mind off of it for a few hours. I really wanted the show to transport him, and every time I eyeballed him in the crowd he seemed to be smiling and having a blast. That meant a lot to's one of the things that makes playing music such a meaningful experience. If you are reading this (you know who you are) I hope you are making some peace with this tragedy...I'm thinking about you at this trying time."

All Loving Liberal White Guy starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:34PM
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All Loving Liberal White Guy

What a heartfelt piece. God bless you and your mother Aaron. I really do feel honored to be writng for Jambase for an editor who truly understands that music is not only a method of healing when a person is going through a hard time but aslo as an essential element of the yin and yang realm of life and death. I know firsthand that times like this are rough but keep your head up brother. I'm sure your mother is looking down and proud of all that you've done.


hatfieldsbro starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 01:37PM
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dude theres not many things that move me,but this article really hit home gave me chills i feel for u man and i hope everyhing works out for u keep writing its definitely ur calling

Falcor starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 02:01PM
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Thank you for this piece. It was a week ago yesterday that my Mom died, and the only solice I have found as of yet is in the music that transcends me to that place. You have been such a good friend to me over the last three years since you opened the doors to this life I now live. Without your words of encouragement and lead of example, I doubt that I would still be here, chugging along chasing down my dream and running my own company. Throughout the last three years, every time we have spoken, you have asked me first and foremost; "how is your Mom" the fact that you not only thought about it, but struggled through your own Mother's molds a sense of support and care that is hard to manufacture or fake. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being real. The best writers of the world are the ones that sacrifice their own ego's and expose the pain from within. It was your writing that mustered the courage to leave everything behind and move to San Francisco three years ago, as well as look past the pain and sadness I feel for losing my Mother and focusing more on how lucky I am to be able to say that I was her son. You and your wife, as well as your extended family are and will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.


STEG187 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 03:00PM
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This is some gut-wrenching, profound stuff. I welled up reading it. Thanx for some much needed perspective around here.

May peace be upon you. You serve as inspiration to many.


gabrielle starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 03:14PM
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Ray Lamontaigne, I've been listening to the same song, same line for the last three weeks, wondering how it's possible for someone I've never met to describe how i feel exactly. Thank you for getting it... Keep it coming, your so good.

toestothenose starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 05:08PM
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In the few years I've known you you've influenced my life and my work immensely. I can only imagine I had your mom to thank for passing down so much talent and focused emotion. Your words carry so much weight I am moved to tears. Like the artists we listen too daily your writing has helped many minds grasp concepts and feelings in ways music cannot.

my sincerest thoughts

jamcamdvd starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 05:14PM
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Thanks, Aaron. I've dozens of songs that remind me of my dad (gone some 17 years now) and funny thing is, he never heard a one of them. Music is indeed a powerful thing, my friend. You done good, Mrs. Kayce...

alfrescoesquire starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 07:19PM
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Its a new day I hope the sun is shining bright
Darkness surrounds me but I keep walking toward the light
Things dont seem the same since the moment you were gone
My is time spent wondering, listening, trying to hold on
Many emotions consume my soul the brightest is the Love
A smile sneaks onto my face, your watching me from above
I just cant seem to comprehend the fact that you are gone
I seek answers in the music, listening, trying to hold on
Im gonna make it thru and fell the light shine on my face
May the music set me free and deliver me to this place
Ill never forget your smile even if you are but gone
I see the light your shining, its saying to hold on

I dont know you but after reading this I wanted to share some of my own words because yours moved me so much. I hope mine will provide some inspiration for you and your family. Keep your head up Brother and Hold On, things will get brighter they always do. Peace and Love.


SF Funkanaut starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/6/2006 07:36PM
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SF Funkanaut

Always share your wonderful memories and each trait that your mother has taught you along the way. The progression of life must continue, so take all of your knowledge and spread it to the right ones. Begin with your beautiful new bride, hold tight and never let go.
May your song always play....
-Alex Katselis (SF Funkanaut)

Andrew W. Thu 9/7/2006 12:15PM
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Andrew W.

Much love Kayce...

delete_me165 starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/7/2006 01:47PM
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Kayceman-you are a calming voice in what can be hysteria in this little world we've all chosen to inhabit. Thanks for all that you've done for us. Heard this tune today and thought of what you are going through….You Will Return

Mule-I Shall Return

As this wheel goes 'round and I search to find my way
Struggle just to hold on through an ordinary day
I do believe I'm slipping away

But I shall return though I'm losing myself
I shall return
I shall return from the depths of my own hell
I shall return

Fate should not have blinded me
For your beauty steals my eyes
and what good is my wisdom
when there are no words to say
How I feel everyday

But I shall return though I'm losing myself
I shall return
I shall return from the depths of my own hell
I shall return

Daylight finds me sleeping dreaming of my youth
But darkness calls my name out loud
And I answer to the truth

But I shall return though I'm losing myself
I shall return
I shall return from the depths of my own
I shall return

Oh, I shall return though I'm losing myself
I shall return
I shall return from the depths of my own hell
I shall return

treyisyoda starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/7/2006 02:57PM
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KAYCE- As Jim James' falasetto haunts in the background, I write back to you with reverence, mutual hope and a shared love for all that the music from our favorite artists have provided over the years; especially during the seemingly impossible times.
Hopefully, someone will give a heads-up to both Ray and MMJ for their help in balancing your boat as it navigates rough seas. The two tunes that you have absorbed spiritually have hit home with me as well. My brother is in the midst of a serious health problem compounded by his alcoholism. We all feel as if " his phone never rang" and we will lose this remarkable person and spirit. MMJ's Strangulation exemplifies the angst my brother must feel and offers insight as to what struugle is like. All of must realize that in jambase we are all united through struggle backed with the two most powerful elixers, the written word and soul soothing music.
Ride on Red Hot Mamma Girl and Aaron thanks for all of the great articles over the years,
Peace- JB

treyisyoda Thu 9/7/2006 03:09PM
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p.s. their is an amazing downloadable version of Strangulation! if you pre-order MMJ's live cd from Japan.

treyisyoda Thu 9/7/2006 03:09PM
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p.s. their is an amazing downloadable version of Strangulation! if you pre-order MMJ's live cd from Japan.

kandymann starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/7/2006 07:09PM
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Gorgeous Kayce. Grippin and vivid. although I'm sure this comment will bore you, time heals all wounds....

glo3 Fri 9/8/2006 06:22AM
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Kayce, I'm so sorry for your loss and the pain of losing a Mother. I don't even know you but I've felt the pain you are feeling as we speak. I lost my Mother many many years ago and it helps me to know that she is in a better place and suffering no more. Kudos to snafunk for the reference to Mule's "I Shall Return"! As someone else mentioned, this might bore you but It does get easier & better with time.......

sbegonia Fri 9/8/2006 11:17AM
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All my love your way my friend. I am thinking of you and Grace always and I will say it again; Thanks Julianne you did one fine job! the passion and strength in your writing never ceases to amaze me!



TK starstarstarstarstar Fri 9/8/2006 11:57AM
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Big Man, you are one of a kind, an inspiration to more folks than you've ever even met. You live with an open heart, abiding by the truth in music, and it makes you the mess I'd wear with pride. As Dee says, you cannot have the bright lights without the darkk darkness, and my last memories of Julie are of the brightest day of the year. Yours are deeper and more painful, but time heals all wounds, even if you need to be with the pain in the present. Exist in the space where your heart needs to, but use every positivity to pull yourself out of the darkness, for a new chapter has begun, what with your beautiful wife and new space to dwell. If we are lost, it's only for a little while.

A tree for all these problems
they can find you for the moment
Then for all past efforts
they're buried deep beneath
your heart and somewhere in your stomach

And hey, transform all others
when awful people they surround you
Hey, they just like monsters
they come to feed on me
giant little animals to feed

though to say we got much hope
if i am lost it's only for a little while

SassySabby starstarstarstarstar Fri 9/8/2006 05:22PM
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Although I've only met you a few times, I've felt nothing but positive vibes. Your writing, your knowledge, and your spirit are an inspiration to all. You and your family are in my thoughts.

Deepest love,

Jarhead333 starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/9/2006 05:15AM
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Thanks, I needed that. Aaron, your timing of scripted thoughts has help me face challenges I am dealing with today, and will be for the rest of my life. You have reassured my mind that music can, and will fill that void.

7th Member of Panic starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/10/2006 09:04PM
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7th Member of Panic

As the stage lights turn blue on the Panic stage and the smooth beat slowly flows into a beautiful ballad; I am reminded by John Bell that "I'm not alone, I'm just blue." Music is the only thing that keeps my gears turning. I am sorry for your loss and "may you live long and lucky." Jayce in Louisiana

aaronbenor starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 09:44AM
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Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky -
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
this is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Walk out of any doorway
feel your way, feel your way
like the day before
Maybe you'll find direction
around some corner
where it's been waiting to meet you -
What do you want me to do,
to watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well please don't be surprised
when you find me dreaming too

Look into any eyes
you find by you, you can see
clear through to another day
I know it's been seen before
through other eyes on other days
while going home --
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
It's all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams
to another land
Maybe you're tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted
with words half spoken
and thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
to do for you to see you through
A a box of rain will ease the pain
and love will see you through

Just a box of rain -
wind and water -
Believe it if you need it,
if you don't just pass it on
Sun and shower -
Wind and rain -
in and out the window
like a moth before a flame

It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
But it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
and a short time to be there

the_brew starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 12:18PM
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Kayce you are one hell of a writer and your words touched me. Thanks for your voice....chris brewer

mofo313 starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 03:03PM
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cbwhite starstarstarstarstar Mon 9/11/2006 11:38PM
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Kayce the goodpeople will lift your spirits so know that we all go through bad times, some harder than others. but pain is pain whoever you are. anyone who reads your message will feel your pain and can in some way relate to it. your chosen words speak louder than anything to me lately. you are one of a kind , i dont know you but would love to meet you. Thank You for sharing your heart. Peace to You and all good people!

rashasha2 starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/12/2006 08:18AM
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I'd have to say that is probably one of the most beautifully honest articles I've ever read. Absolutely beautiful, and so true. When only that one song will do... I sympathize with your loss. Persevere.

treehugginpanicfreak starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/12/2006 08:48AM
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Thank you, Aaron, for sharing with us such a beautifully written expression of your personal pain. You have an amazing ability to express with words your deepest emotions whether it be rapturous joy or intense pain. You are truly a gifted writer. Your talent combined with your in depth, multi-dimensional understanding of music makes me always eager to read anything you write. I am sorry for your loss. I can’t and won’t even begin to say I know how you feel, but I think we can all relate to that loneliness, when your pain is yours alone and you are certain there is no one who can understand or comfort you. That is when music can reach out and touch your wounded soul like not even the closest friend, lover, or family member can do. Thanks for reminding us of that. Continue to let the healing power of the music work its magic, and our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Love and Peace.

sp12ite starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 02:12PM
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Kayce--Ray's "Empty" is one of those songs that is truly timeless. I've also been on that journey "to hell & back" oh so many times, but I picked up the advance of "Till the Sun Turns Black" at a point in life where I'm away from that hell. I wondered how powerful it might be to hear "Empty" during a time of true, deep sorrow--so thank you for revealing your soul & how Ray's music and voice stirs that energy of love and pain inside of you. It's so real--and listen to Be Here Now again...

"Don't let your heart get heavy, child it's only time it will go by--Be Here Now"

rpmills starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 03:00PM
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Thanks for sharing and please keep that mighty pen of yours to the paper Kayce. You're doing more good and inspiring more people to write about the music they love everyday...

From the land of the midnight sun
where ice blue roses grow
'long those roads of gold and silver snow
Howlin' wide or moanin low
So many roads I know
So many roads to ease my soul...

Matthew Jaworski starstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 03:35PM
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Matthew Jaworski

That was a nice piece, brah.

cujo starstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 06:00PM
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Aaron - Thanks for sharing. Your not alone on this one. Chris J.

Mayor Decker starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/13/2006 08:34PM
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Mayor Decker

Your ability to convey your thoughts and feelings into words is truly a gift! Thank you for sharing this with all of us!! Your words not only illustrate the vast array of emotions experienced during a difficult time in life but also are a beacon of light that will help your mothers memory will shine on for many ages to come!

Much love to you my friend!

djdaddydust Sat 9/16/2006 06:14PM
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Thanks Kayce. It's been a while since I've visited here. I'm sorry for your loss. When I was as low as I've ever been after NOLA went down I listened to tunes that helped me through. Everyday.

When you're ready, pop in some Rebirth. It's impossible not to smile. "And it felt good.."

Sheryl starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/21/2006 02:06PM
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WoW! Thank you for sharing something so personal. I just saw Ray live a few days ago and while his music has made such an impact in my life already I will never listen to "Empty" with the same ears (in the same way) again.