We showed a clip on Sunday morning from the old Saturday Night Live sketch “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.” Smalley, “a member of several twelve-step programs though not a licensed therapist,” is a spoof on self-help and positive thinking.

Later that afternoon I played at a Habitat for Humanity benefit concert. Whoever put the schedule of musicians together must have felt I needed some humbling, because I was placed directly after Eric Loy, a guitar virtuoso famous in some music circles and known pretty well throughout southwestern Ohio.

That morning when I mentioned to a couple guys what the lineup was, one of them asked if I wanted to take my keyboard instead of a guitar. Uh … I don’t think you want to follow him. Maybe you should play piano instead—you know, something you’re good at. (I may not be quoting verbatim.) I would have conceded, except I’ve gotten used to not having to lug a 75-pound keyboard (not including the case) and amp and stand and all that goes with it. Nah, I’ll bring along my feather-weight Martin and some picks.

Like the Boy from August Rush

I was entranced with Eric Loy’s playing. He is absolutely fantastic, doing things on the guitar I wouldn’t have known were possible had I not seen August Rush. Disrupting my spell was the reminder that I had to play after him. I began talking myself up: “I don’t have to be the best guitarist. I don’t have to play all the notes correctly. I just have to be the best Matt I can be. Because I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggoneit, people like me. … Oh, and I’m younger and better looking.” (Sometimes you have to bring others down to feel better about yourself.)

To add to the humility—I mean, humbling—the M.C., who had just presented Eric Loy as “an amazing guitarist whom you all know,” said in introducing me, “Matt Owens. I actually haven’t heard him, but he came highly recommended.” With the audience I played off the whole humbling thing, mentioning that I was highly intimidated, that I’m not even worthy to tie the laces on Eric Loy’s Chuck Taylors.

Thankfully, Eric Loy isn’t a vocalist; at least he didn’t sing then. So I had that going for me. I sang a few current worship songs from Chris Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster and eventually got comfortable enough to play around with the cool minor chord barreing on Aaron Shust’s “Matchless.” At least I wasn’t cheating by using a capo and playing all my songs in open ‘G’ chords like I used to. Nope, no capo for me. Had I engaged one, Eric Loy would have laughed me out of the building, I’m sure.

My Arkansas Grandma Would Be Proud

I felt good about the concert. I did what I do, and Eric Loy did what he does. Later, I joined Zion Mountain Boys on a few bluegrass hymns, playing Phil’s twelve-string, not quite as many strings as Eric Loy’s harp guitar, but still an instrument I’d never played prior to Sunday. Actually, I was honored to play, since it was usually what Dave played—Dave, a beloved leader in the church who recently died at too young an age. (All the ZMB songs were in ‘G’.)

I might be focusing on myself a tad, considering this was a benefit concert to help build a home for a family. I may not be Eric Loy, but playing music to raise some money might be a better contribution for Habitat than anything I could do with a hammer.

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