There are certain social skills I’ve never quite gotten a handle of. I tend to spew from the mouth all sorts of nonsense often, especially if something has just jarred me. So, when my EX-girlfriend told me I was gonna be a dad at age 20, that lack of forethought before speaking resulted in a rather insensitive response. I did, however, try to correct course fairly quickly. After she hung up on me, I called her back and was a little more receptive and respectful of her immediate needs. I assured her that I’d come pick her up as soon as I got home the very next day.
After a promising week in Los Angeles, showcasing my limited talents to industry heavyweights, I came home with no record deal. I decided that if I was gonna play music, it would be the way my dad had after he had kids: on the weekends to make extra money when he wasn’t at his day job. Where I’m from, if you want to make a lot of money, quickly, the oil field can be a great option. So, I decided I’d get a job on a rig and settle down with Sonya. I was still gonna make a record, but my dad was gonna try to produce it and fund it.
I called Leah a couple of weeks after I got home from L.A. to show my gratitude for everything she’d done and to let her know I was gonna make a record. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s do it!” She then proceeded to tell me she was flying a producer down to Louisiana and she was going to create an indie label just for me! No offense to my dad, but Leah’s offer was the more attractive and just a few weeks later, Marshall Altman flew in from Hollywood and we set about making “Momentary Setback.”
Though the song wasn’t about the child I was expecting at the time, that title may have suggested something deeper about how I came to view my situation. None of those labels out West wanted to sign me? No problem. We figured it out. I was making a real record; that, alone, was going to lead to a proper manager and booking agent. I had a pregnant girlfriend and no job, but I was sure I’d figure that out, too.
The truth turned out to be more complicated. Gavin was born September 1, 2002 at three weeks premature. We had a big release party/concert for “Momentary Setback” six days later. Gavin was still in the NICU.
Prior to his birth, I ignorantly thought some “Wisdom of the Cosmos” would somehow be imbued onto my psyche the moment he popped out. But then I met him and realized that he was just like anybody I’d never met. I’d have to get to KNOW him before I could really know what he needed to feel loved. Sonya was so graceful and natural throughout her entire pregnancy, and I was a sloppy mess. She worked hard at doing everything right; I continued to coast, obliviously, into dissolution.
Needless to say, the first few years of parenthood weren’t my finest moments. That plan to work on a rig got replaced by very real action with my music career. Island/Def Jam signed me late in 2002 and I was on tour with Maroon 5 the following February. I was taking it all in and then going back for more. I’m not sure how I didn’t die drinking some of those nights. I wish I could say I had more stories from that time but it’s all a bit hazy, truthfully.
Sonya and I weren’t together. She had already moved on to a guy that out-classed me by a mile. I remember getting to Toronto one day. We had been on tour for a solid month and I hadn’t seen Gavin for more than 10 days in something like three months. My managers had flown in from New York to get some press done. After a very long day, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed out to the venue for sound check. Something hit me right after load-in and I just started sobbing. My managers tried to console me but I was a mess.
“I just want to hold him,” I said as the tears poured out. “I want to hold my baby boy.”
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I can tell you from experience that it’s true. I had never felt envy and inadequacy as deeply as when I got home and saw that another man—a better man, no less—had supplanted my role in Sonya AND Gavin’s life. I was determined to win her back and re-establish my place in this family. Much to my surprise, my efforts were rewarded.
Sonya and I got a house together and “we” started working as a team. I say “we” because Sonya was really doing all of the heavy lifting. If we went on a date, she found a sitter and made reservations. I was touring non-stop. Sonya enrolled in the local university, but I was so worried about her meeting guys that I asked her to drop out. “We’ll be able to travel together if you’re not in school,” I’d say, knowing I was just scared of losing her to a better, more present and attentive guy.
Why the hell I didn’t just step up my game is still somewhat of a mystery to me. I sure put a lot of energy into making a stink about how jealous I was, but I was also cold about taking Sonya anywhere, especially to my own shows. What Sonya thought was embarrassment of having her around was actually my desire to not have her in the room where I might have some other flings.
Here’s the truth: I was a piece of shit boyfriend. Let’s not sugarcoat it.
Wisely, she dumped me just after Gavin turned two-years-old. It was right before Christmas. A friend of mine told me about a mutual female friend who was in town for the holidays and suggested I reach out. This gal and I were fast friends and spent a couple weeks together before she went back to Southern California. I happened to hit the west coast for tour about two weeks after that so I was looking forward to seeing her again.
Our relationship was so different from what I had with Sonya. It felt more grown up and mutually respectful. In reality, I wasn't crazy about her. She had to ask me why I hadn’t kissed her yet when we got back to her folks house after our third date. I had been kissing girls since I was in kindergarten, so I wasn’t shy about making a move. After all, Sonya and I were full-on making out 10 minutes after our first meeting. I was going through the motions with this new girl because of how attractive the idea of us was. So, when she invited me to dinner with her folks, who just happened to be in town when I was coming through playing shows, I happily accepted.
My phone started ringing right as we were all walking into the restaurant. It was Sonya. I told my girlfriend and her family that I’d only be a moment. Here’s how that call went:
Me: Hey, what’s up?
Sonya: I thought you should know that I’m pregnant again.
Me: Are you sure it’s mine?
Sonya: (Dial tone…)