Music was my first love, going all the way back to when I was 18 months old, sitting in and watching jam sessions with my uncle’s band, The Sounder, as they blasted loudly through my grandparent’s old Indiana farmhouse.
I wore headphones to protect my ears and would sit on my own chair behind the drummer.
The drummer went out of his way to entertain me, by performing with a pair of those GIANT Pro-Mark drumsticks.
They’re utterly ridiculous and you can’t really play well with them. But to this very day, it’s a piece of drummer humor that keeps it all fun.
I think that one reason why I am SO into drums is because of the drummer in my uncle’s band. I never knew his name, as I was too young, but I am grateful for his inspiration.
Drumming looked fun!! He made it fun.
I do remember what convinced me to pick drums over all other instruments. I saw a video clip of The Beatles on television, and I think it was from one of their movies.
They were running from a mob of crazy girls. We see John, running with a guitar case. Then Paul, running with his bass case. There was George, running with his guitar case. And then, there was Ringo, bringing up the rear, running with nothing but a pair of drum sticks.
The way I saw it, you can get away from crazy girls more easily when you only have to haul drum sticks. Never mind the fact that Ringo was the most in danger in this situation.
Pre-schoolers aren’t known for thinking things through.
ATTEMPTING TO GET INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
Music got me through my childhood, high school, and college. And when I hitchhiked to Los Angeles from Bakersfield in 1986, it was my drumming and musical abilities that got me off the streets and into an apartment, complete with my first-ever NEW drum set.
I did everything that I possibly could in my attempts to get into the music industry. There were a few close calls, but in this regard, I found no success.
On a side note, I don’t really feel badly about it. I see musicians who I consider to be better than me, and they have the same experience.
All the same, I will admit that I had moments where I felt really horrible about not achieving this goal.
Over time, I decided to flip a middle finger to the industry as a whole and do my own thing in the Hollywood underground. That was the most fun that I had in my music pursuits.
A SWITCH GOT FLIPPED
Life presents us with questions. Sometimes, we end up providing ourselves with the answers.
Such was the case on a warm weekend morning, when I was on a fishing boat at Lake Nacimiento in California. It was relatively quiet, as people peacefully launched their boats to venture out and catch some fish.
As we were motoring over to a spot we wanted to try, I noticed a professional fishing boat. It had a platform up front where the fisherman could stand on it.
He was messing around with a fish radar device and working on some other things. I asked the guy driving the boat about what I was seeing, since he had more fishing experience.
He said, “That guy is a pro bass fisherman.”
There was something different about him. He wasn’t happy. There was no joy on his face. He looked very serious, as if he were at work.
This was when I gave myself my own answer to my own question.
“Look at this guy. He took something he loved and turned it into work.”
Indeed, that’s when it hit me: I was trying to turn my musical abilities into work! Right as a pointed a finger at him, I pointed squarely at myself.
LET IT SINK IN
That evening, as I grilled a bass I had caught earlier in the day, I thought more about what I saw, what I said to myself, and how that hit home.
Clearly, with this new information, it was time to adjust my perspective. It no longer made sense for me to be upset about not getting somewhere in the music industry.
It was bad enough that I’d hear horrible things being said, either directly to me, or about people in my position.
Someone generally had said, “If you don’t make at least $10,000 per year in the industry, then you cannot call yourself a musician.” To that, I declare bullshit. Music is about music, emotion, and community, NOT money.
However, the thing someone said to me directly was by far worse; bad enough that it gets its own segment.
AN IDIOT’S OPINION
For me, it’s not really all that hard to imagine a “friend” saying something horrible to me. Lots of people pretended to be my friend and then later showed that they really were not.
What did this person say, TO MY FACE, that was so bad that it warrants its own segment in this entry?
“You must not be a very good musician. If you were, then you would be rich and famous.”
This opinion clearly came from someone who believes the lie of The Meritocracy. This is the idea that you will get somewhere with your skills if you are talented.
There are those who are better musicians than me, and they don’t get anywhere. Then, there are musicians who are worse than me, or who have NO musical talent at all, and they are in the business making money. Many got in thanks to looks and internet popularity.
The hard reality is that simply being good enough at something — anything — does not ensure that you’ll get a job or earn money. I’d go off-topic if I write much more about this issue, so I’ll close this segment out with something more accurate that a homeless musician once told me.
“The music biz is all about who you know, and who you blow.”
This was followed up with a dark comment about how sometimes blowing doesn’t even work. I did not ask him to elaborate.
But it’s TRUE! Dolly Parton is VERY talented, but I’d be willing to bet that she wouldn’t have gotten so far if she were more like a regular, everyday woman.
All of this got me wondering whether I had been chasing my tail for my entire life, by working to get into the music industry.
The answer, more than likely, is yes.
However, if I hadn’t done that, what WOULD I have done instead? It’s really hard to say.
One thing for certain is that I’d not have had the amazing fun experiences that I had along the way. I moved 2,000 miles from home and set out on an adventure to “make something of my life.”
But my life is already something. So is yours.
Because we are.
I got to meet my music heroes, and some of them even became good friends.
I also got to play every big club on the Sunset Strip as a drummer, bassist, guitarist, and keyboard player. It’s one of many personal mini-goals, and reaching those goals made me happy. They didn’t serve a purpose beyond that, and I’m okay with it.
IN THE END
There is no way for me to guess how I would feel about it if what I loved got turned into something that I had to do to earn a living. I might have enjoyed it, I might have gotten burned out by it, or it might have ended up killing me.
It could have very well taken away the one thing I loved.
People do all kinds of things to make money. So far as I am concerned, in most cases the things they do for money do NOT define them as a person. I never let ANY of my day jobs define me as a person, with the exception of MySpace. Even then, my identity was more rooted in music than MySpace.
I know creative people who have horrible jobs where they work to earn money to pay for the privilege of living on the planet. We are the ONLY animal on the planet who pays rent. Think about that.
My point being is that I DO NOT judge any of these creative people by the day jobs that they hold. It does nothing to take away from their creativity, beyond stealing time from them. That’s our society’s crime.
The big question involves what you love to do, and whether or not you are doing that, regardless of whether or not it brings in money.
As of this year, I’ve been in Noodle Muffin for 20 years. During this time, I never made ONE cent off of ANY of my efforts. I don’t know if the band has ever made any money, beyond selling CDs and shirts at the few gigs we did. My guess is a resounding NO.
People might ask why I stuck around. The answer is because I loved the music and the experience.
So for today’s entry, I am closing things out with my favorite song from our June 15, 2002 performance at The Blue Saloon in North Hollywood, CA.
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