I was talking with a musician friend who is helping me record some songs for a project yesterday, in between recording tracks. He told me the best advice he got, ever, was to not give up.
The musician was lamenting the fact that he and his band were about to put out a 7” LP when his car got stolen, two of his band mates got evicted, one got fired and he lost a bunch of shifts at work due to lack of car, setting them back a few months on their project.
“Sometimes the universe really fucks with musicians,” I said. “It’s like it doesn’t want us to succeed. Everything falls apart all at once.”
“It tests us to see if we’re really committed,” he said, and I nodded. Then he told me he had learned to never give up, because if you give up, you’ve already lost, and most people do give up. If you don’t give up, you’re already farther along than all of the people who do. I told him I’d had a similar sentiment recently, where I recommitted to myself to never give up. If four musicians don’t work out, try 100. I have to be that determined.
Every step of this process I’ve been in for the past two years, which is simply working to record a good demo of my songs, something I would want to listen to, so that I can show it to other musicians and collaborate on forming a band, I’ve learned something. There’s no good or bad in the bands I’ve tried out for that didn’t work out, the friends I’ve worked with on projects I’ve put on hold because I had other ideas, the musicians I’ve met up and jammed with (and it’s been a slew) in the past year who ended up drifting off due to me or them not feeling it.
I used to take that shit so personally, when things didn’t work out, but now I think about it and go, “There will be other different opportunities.”
The universe watches out for us, and it hell of tests us to make sure we are willing to go to any lengths to achieve our goals. It was so easy for me when I was twenty to just give up and decide no one GOT me, oh, I’m so sad and it’s just tragic and I’m going to play guitar in my closet from now on.
This time, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Sure, I’ve had my times of wanting to give up, and I’ve been jealous, comparing myself to others, but usually I’m comparing skills I haven’t even worked on.
It’s not right for me to be jealous of someone who has practiced piano their whole life and is amazing at it (like my father) when I’ve not practiced piano consistently for years. We all can’t be good at EVERYTHING, and you have to prioritize what really matters to you. To me, I have a killer voice, and I love to sing and write lyrics and play rhythm guitar, so that is what I have focused on for the past number of years.
I always beat myself up for not being an amazing lead guitarist, drummer and pianist as well as a rhythm guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist, but then I realize that a lot of people can’t even play guitar and sing at the same time. We take for granted our gifts, always comparing, always looking at other people’s highlight reels when they’re got a million behind-the-scenes failures and challenges we will never learn about because they don’t really want to remember it.
I met the musician dude I’m working on some songs with right now randomly one day when I was bummed a potential collaboration didn’t work out. I was sitting outside my friend’s house talking about wanting to give up on music, it’s too hard, waah. Then I heard this amazing doom metal music coming out of a house across the street.
“Who is that?” I asked her.
“Oh, that’s my neighbor! He records bands in his house. Want to meet him?” She introduced me and I asked if he would help me record some songs and he said yes and here were are. I had a great day working on songs, he played drums for me and got some good, dark, dissonant rough recordings down. And then the doom metal musicians, all guys in their early twenties, came in to rehearse and complimented my vocals as I complimented their drumming, guitar playing and shredding styles, and I realized, “Wow. I’m in a room full of talented musicians.”
It made me feel grateful.
Universe is trippy. While I’m over here searching for what I think is best and craving the people who I want to pick from the limited pool of people and experiences I’m aware of, the universe is over there procuring an even better scenario, probably laughing at me a bit for tripping out so much that the people and ideas I want to work with aren’t working out, chuckling to itself as I get all emo and sullen trying to fit myself into a doorway that is too small, dunking myself in a tiny kiddie pool when there’s an entire ocean of possibility out there.
It’s all about trust, and it’s hard to trust a force you don’t know personally but can feel sometimes when the stars and planets align or whatever random thing controls where destiny meets hard work. But when you’re tapped in, BOOM. If you pay attention—and paying attention is the key–all of a sudden people and things come into your life you never could have imagined for yourself. All your best laid plans and desires didn’t even compare. Usually, for whatever reason, this only happens after a long test of patience, some darkness and many failed attempts.