I didn’t want to play commercial music. Like actual songs for commercials. It’s not what I got into music for. – I got sick of being in bands with flakes. You work your ass off on rehearsing a band and then someone quits or just stops showing up. – All of the drama around working with other people. – The work of getting a band on stage is exhausting. Even when it’s going well, you still have to get up in the morning and go to work. – And right now I can tell you, I hate this entry. There’s so much I love about music, but my actual pursuit of music has made me feel terrible about myself. Some of my internal chatter around musical pursuits is almost debilitating. Why did I spend all of that money on music school? I’m not that good. What a waste of time! I am not consistent enough to actually put together a real effort. I’m not good or could be better at promoting myself.
And really with what I am doing right now, it would be easy to say to myself that I was just pursuing the wrong thing. I seem to be doing the right thing by writing about music rather than playing music. And it certainly would put a nice bookend on a lot of creative suffering. “Ohhhh… I was a writer. Not a musician.”
But let me tell you, I have been here before. I have written so much on so many different subjects with different styles and different voices. I have written poetry, tried freelance journalism, short fiction, essays and political commentary. Some of it was pretty good. Some of my music is pretty good. I love creating. I love moving people. I love knowing that I have touched people in some way. And you don’t have to be a prodigy to reach people with music or writing. There is some kind of spiritual synergy around breathing life into art that can’t be taught. And when you hit it, you know you’ve hit it.
“Put your hands together and we’ll pray.”
And I have written and performed music, when I wasn’t very good at singing or playing the guitar, that moved people. Just before moving to Boston, I played regularly at Downtown Grounds in Houston. We played there the night it opened. A lot of the time I was playing there just to fill time. The owner often didn’t have anyone to play. Sometimes bands would cancel. I always had my guitar with me. Sometimes we would just start playing if no one else was. There were a couple songs that people started requesting. Sometimes people would call me when there was no one playing and request a set.
“Memories coiled tight to spring.”
There is a mythology in our culture around music. That somehow you put together a band and develop a following, and then a major label notices you. Then you are a rock star. And perhaps that translates into many different forms of art. Visual, writing, music, drama… We have merely to have some talent and ‘go get em’ bravado to get on our path to the stars. This mythology is so strong that if you work your ass off and fail, most people will believe it is something about you that is the cause of your failure. No one will believe this more strongly than you.
“And make you sing.”
But I think perhaps that this a mythology that is everywhere in our culture. You went to school for what? Why aren’t you doing that? Oh you must just be lazy. You are a musician? Oh why aren’t you famous? You aren’t happy? Well you know maybe you should just decide to be happy. There’s not very many people I know that are satisfied with where they ended up personally or professionally. That’s why a song like this speaks to me.
“Such a simple sickly thought of mine.”
There’s a vision of the world that’s encouraged when we are children, and the reality of even the simplest childhood dream is so far removed from the fantasy that’s encouraged. If we aren’t supposed to reach for these larger than life realities, then why do they exist as ideals? And I mean the simple child like ideals. You want to be an architect? I can see you building great buildings. We conjure images of I.M. Pei and the seeds of the mythology of greatness are planted. Of course, the alternative is ghastly. I don’t think it would be a good idea to limit our children’s expectations by telling them about the realities of CAD drafting electrical conduits.
“I’ll always be a loser but in time.”
The Sleepover Disaster has been doing what they do for a long time. They are really good at it. I am always impressed when a band has been together for so long. But I love the whole idea and the giant sound of the guitars, the plodding beat and the patience with the arrangement. The emotional impact is timed well throughout. I obviously feel deeply about the message. There are a lot of disappointments in life. But it’s a really great accomplishment to be able to move people. What else do we have to live for? Our connections to each other and our world, our universe should be emphasized more in our daily life. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to reach you. I want to reach myself. I want to reach a group of musicians like The Sleepover Disaster who have been working their asses off for longer than I was able to handle it to let them know – I heard you! We heard you!
“I’ll make you sing!”
We didn’t expect to become adults just so our passion for life could be killed. We didn’t dream about what we would do with our lives just to grow up to be disappointed with ourselves. I didn’t spend thousands of hours alone honing my craft to have someone off-handedly tell me that I needed to be able to promote myself better. That I needed a more corporate sound in my music. A more marketable message with my writing. We have become a culture of critics in the worst sense. We all have an opinion about the apparent failure of some peers and a ready excuse for the dizzying success of others.
I’m not saying that we should all be rock stars. I’m not saying that anything should change. And some of my failures, and the failures of others, have everything to do with a half ass effort. But I think we would all be better served to spend a lot more time consuming the creativity of those around us. We are all Indie artists. And there’s no reason to try to break each other down because we are at the bottom of the ladder. Can you make me sing? Are you afraid to try? Are you afraid of failing over and over again? I know I am.
“You’ll learn to love yourself if you just kill your pride.”
Hell yeah! In idolizing the fantastically successful. In putting aside the creativity to focus on the impossible puzzle of self-promotion, I forget why I wrote anything to begin with. I forget why I love music so much. Music made me want to live when there was no other reason for me to live. It’s the connection to creativity. The connection we have with life. The connection we have to our children’s passion for living and growing up with hope. For learning and teaching. For being able to articulate what is going on with us in such a way that…
“I’ll make you sing.”
That I make you sing.