in the “vacuum of devotion”

In the spirit of this month’s wild card submission, I recently introduced myself to a stranger at the Annapolis Farmer’s Market. I normally track down my morning coffee and vegetables and then head out of the busy downtown on the weekend, but instead, on this particular Sunday I stuck around.  It was the unusually warm November sunshine and the music of a busker playing the banjo that made me linger.

The young man had a fantastic voice but it was his lyrics that caught my ear. Simple and sweet these banjo tunes were tinged with a bit of sadness and apparently inspired by some sort of epic break up. In between his catchy chord progressions I heard him utter lines like,

“Our love is like a treaty – this pain is like a war” – from Forward Progress

“There’s a woman I remember by the scent of her hair and my heart starts to struggle when my mind it goes there” – from Whole

Although simple, the songs were refreshing in their reflection of the raw emotion that emerges when parting from a relationship.  It seemed a perfect balance to the heavy feminist French philosophy that I have been spending time translating as of late.   There is no translation necessary here, what you hear is what you get from this once broken-hearted banjo player.

When he took a break from playing, I introduced myself and asked if he would be willing to make a recording and do an interview.  I wanted to hear more from this singer/songwriter about his post break up experiences that led him to create and also thought it would be fun to do a banjo recording session on the boat in addition to collecting this stranger’s reflections on love. He graciously agreed and a week later we sat down for an hour’s worth of conversation.

In this post, I mostly just wanted to highlight and share John’s musical talent with you but we had such a great conversation that I thought I would also include a few pieces of his reflections on the topic of interpersonal relationships.   What struck me most about John was his positivity and genuine enjoyment in playing music for others. I was also impressed by his ability to take personal struggles and make them work for him.  Instead of getting stuck in the lows of losing love, he translated his loss into universal songs reflecting the familiar feelings for all of us to experience and enjoy.

Most importantly, he expressed how the loss of love is what ultimately helped him develop his musical and performance abilities “given that vacuum of devotion, that attention, giving love to something – that is where this has all blossomed from.” I love the idea that each of our relationships bring us a great gift, either in their presence or in their absence.

Please note: I am NOT a musical recording engineer and apologize for the non professional recording and editing done here.  After all it was my first musical recording session on the lovable but creeky and echoey sailboat that I call my home. OH and take note on the “Beautiful Stars” recording – this musical file was sent to me from an earlier recording that John did with his sister Kelly Eaton who sings harmony on this track. Enjoy!

John describes his relationship to music: In that vacuum of devotion 

John’s newest song “Whole”:

“Weary Heart”:

“Forward Progress”:

When asked about a relationship that impacted him or changed the path of his life, John talks about his sister Kelly (who sings harmony on this song) “Beautiful Stars”:

If you are interested in hearing more of John Eaton’s music please contact me on the Living Chapters Facebook page and I will put you in contact with him.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

4 thoughts on “in the “vacuum of devotion”

  1. Brian Twenter

    You were not kidding about music playing a large part this month. I am very much into music, festivals, etc. and thought you would love the band Elephant Revival: . I am listening to their free downloadable song “Birds and Stars” from their new album _The Changing Stars_ as I type this reply. I really love this band, they are friends, great people, and the lead singer, Bonnie Paine, plays the electric washboard and stomp box (How can you not love that?!?!)

      1. Brian Twenter

        Not so much dangerous, as freakin’ awesome. Bonnie was given a big hat box full of her grandmother’s gloves and she sews banjo picks onto each finger and thumb and strums away on her washboard. Check it out:
        Sad to see you’re taking a break, not that I don’t think you need one for reflection, but I’ll miss reading the blog. Happy Break!

        1. Beth Barbush Post author

          Thanks Brian! No break in blogging just break in following chapter directives… there is much to be shared in December. Thanks for the great musical suggestions keep em coming!

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