“80% of success is showing up” — Woody Allen
I’ve said before that I’ve become like the Terminator. You cannot keep me down. Every since I made a commitment to a lifelong journey of realizing my music and writing, I am not easily swayed to give up.
Sure, I get just as discouraged as the rest with my lack of limelight and the fact that I am aging contrary to my wishes, that I won’t be able to stake a career on my sex appeal and people in their twenties are way ahead of me in the game than I ever was.
But my journey is personal, and so is yours.
To tell you the truth, I’m much more excited about becoming a person that is confident in my self and my abilities enough to be able to inspire and help others in theirs. I really feel like my mission here is not unlike what I do here on this blog.
I write pep talks on this blog that I need to hear and cannot find out there for the life of me.
Success in my opinion is defined as just not stopping. Ever.
I’ve watched my peers do it successfully and I am now doing it with ever increasing amounts of success. There was a time where I didn’t even have a band, but I showed up to a practice space I was renting BY MYSELF because, if you build it, they will come. I learned this hidden rule from my more noteworthy peers: They kept doing the work and a byproduct was that other people started paying attention and they got more work.
The trick is to go out there and be messy. Make mistakes. Play shows, meet people, go to shows, meet people, shake hands, meet people, tell them what you do, don’t pause or stutter or flinch, just say it: I am a Musician, or I am a Writer, or I am an Artist. You believe it first. The others will jump on board when they realize you’re not backing down and pretty soon your staunchest naysayers are your collaborating allies, believe me.
I’ve always been ballsy, a trick I learned from my mom. You want to be like someone, reach out to them and meet them or fake it until you make it. I met my first major collaborator by sending him an email saying I loved his music and telling him about my own. I handed him a shitty cassette tape of my songs I’d hand-recorded on a double-tape deck karaoke machine. Months later, I was singing backup vocals on one of his songs (and we were dating, but that wasn’t the goal).
I got involved in a local lit circuit by sending an email to a writer I admired and saying, “Hey, I’m a writer too.” He then asked me to submit to a reading series I’ve read at many times since, and in the process met others who asked me to read as well, even doing a reading of beatnik poet Lenore Kandel’s work at Litquake last year. In the process, I made a ton of writer friends who I now see everywhere around town at reading events.
The projects I was in this summer, which ended up with me having my name and credit on two albums came about when I got a lead to a contact and sent him my crappy home-made youtube videos and some songs recorded in a practice space with my bandmates (because that’s all I had). He was looking for a keyboardist, but I told him honestly that keyboard isn’t my strong point, and even though he wanted a keyboardist, he should look more at my other assets as a singer and lyricist first if considering giving me a shot. He asked me to come try out.
Because I shot high in spite of not being exactly what that musician was looking for, I spent the summer recording with professional musicians who have spent decades in the business and are still going strong, cobbling together lives for themselves, people I aim to be like. I learned a shit ton that has made me even more confident and able to come at my own projects with vigor. After that experience, more people started asking me to play shows with them and be in their projects.
Recently, I played a punk venue in Oakland using my first name on the bill, paired with a doom metal band, a cave-wave gothic band and a post-punk band–a bill that didn’t make a lot of sense from the outside but ended up being absolutely perfect due to the similar visceral energy of all of our bands. I saw that the guy who ran the venue needed shows because a bunch of people had bailed on the bill, so I got my ass in there and offered to headline a show with three other local bands.The majorly unimpressed-in-general guy who worked the door with the tattooed face told me as he handed me the cash at the end of the show: “It’s been a long time since we had a name band here. You guys were alright.” At the end of the night the manager said, “Please, let’s do this again. Everyone who came was so happy.”
I’m not sharing these things to toot my own horn. Only to tell you that you have to just fucking go out and do things or you won’t get anywhere. I sat on my ass throughout most of my twenties, complaining, working day jobs I hated and doubting my own abilities and now as a result I’m fighting to establish myself in the local scene at an age when it’s much more exhausting to do so. That being said, I have many peers who are making names for themselves and touring circuits in their mid-thirties and not blinking an eye. You gotta work at it, show up and put yourself out there or people won’t see you. You may suck but you gotta keep sucking until you stop sucking and that measure of judgement is highly personal.
You can’t complain about it. Do it. Show up. Throw your messy projects at the world and keep doing it. They’ll never be perfect, you’ll never be THERE, but you’ll keep building momentum and booking shows and finding peers to collaborate with and you’ll be happy because you know you’re doing your damndest and you haven’t given up. <3