Success is all about expectations, and everyone has their own definition of success. But is it possible that many people have currently, or previously achieved a major success in their life, but simply fail to recognize that success because it wasn’t what they expected?
My wife and I were sitting around yesterday talking about a great cover rock band that we used to go see frequently in the 90s, when we lived in New England. Most of the guys in this band worked day jobs and primarily played on the weekends. They were a fun, energetic, talented party band that played classic and modern rock. Over time, they built a large following, eventually packing every venue they played and getting paid well to do so. Every show they played was an event, with people showing up early, dancing and partying all night, and at the end of the night nobody wanted to leave. These guys were doing well enough to hire a production company that not only set up and ran a PA, they actually carted around and set up the band’s personal gear, allowing them to show up minutes before downbeat, making a rock star entrance every time. They even had girls falling all over themselves to make their acquaintances.
While they never wrote a song, made a recording, or even ventured outside of their region, they were the kings of the New England night club circuit for over 10 years. During that same time, I played in a rival band on the same circuit. Although we didn’t have quite as large a success, we also did okay. Looking back, none of the bands that played on this circuit, mine included, really viewed themselves as achieving a high level of success, everybody was still trying to “make it”. Flash forward another decade to Nashville Tennessee, and I’ve now played on concert stages in front of tens of thousands of people, in every state in the country. I’ve played in Canada, France, Switzerland, and on the Grand Ole’ Opry. By everybody’s definition back home, I have “made it”. While the numbers might be bigger, the concept is still the same. I’m still just playing music with a good band, to receptive audiences, and getting paid to do it. But now that it’s a “career”, while there are still some high points, there is also more pressure, and less stability. In reality, there is no real difference, it’s all just music and life. Now when I look back to my nightclubbing days in New England, it is with fondness and pride. I had already made it long before I moved to Nashville. Have you already made it, but just don’t know it yet?
It’s been one year, almost to the day, since I embarked on my first book writing project, The Nashville Musician’s Survival Manual. And while there is an end in sight, there is still a huge amount of work to be done. I have never attempted to write a book before this, and it has been a massive learning process. One from which I have learned even more about the music business, the literary process, and myself. It takes a lot of hours to write a book, and one of the biggest challenges has been staying focused on such a detail oriented project over a long period of time. Being a working musician at this point in Nashville requires one to wear a lot of hats, and the hats I have been wearing have been that of a working guitar player, tour manager, and studio owner, while also working as a marketing director and content writer for a website company (not to mention my new role as a startup author).
It’s such a paradox, all throughout the book, I make references to the necessity for musicians to wear a lot of hats for survival. I am now finding myself wearing more hats than ever, and while I’m okay with this, the very nature of this kind of fragmented existence doesn’t always allow me to put my efforts where I really want or need to.
I just finished transcribing and editing an extensive interview for the book with world-class recording engineer Bob Bullock. Bob talks about this issue of wearing a lot of hats for survival and how this new age is forcing many of us to do so. He also said that while he now has to wear a lot of hats, he still works at being exceptional at one thing, which in his case, is that of a mixing engineer, and why it’s important to have at least one specialty to give you a competitive edge. In my case, my specialty is guitar playing, but I have found that guitar playing alone won’t pay all of my bills. I love playing guitar, I love the feeling I get when I’m playing with a live band, or recording in the studio. Through the process of researching and writing this book, interviewing musicians, and recalling some of my prior musical experiences, I have found a new appreciation for the musician in me. I just wish I had a little more time to wear my musician hat. Meanwhile, I can at least write about it.