THE REAL GIG: There’s no overnight success, so prepare for the miles between the moments
I met with a band a few years back about doing a record. They were asking me for advice about getting out there, how to “make it” and all that. I suggested they get out and play live, maybe go to a few open mics, meet some people, make a recording, then another recording, etc. A “build it one fan at a time” philosophy.
Grassroots shit. Boots on the ground.
They put their heads down and said, “Yeah, we want to skip all that.” Needless to say, I never did their record.
I guess that makes me too old school. Oh well.
So, that story brings me to this week’s topic…
I love rock and roll stories. One of my favorites was told to me by an old friend. We are both lifelong fans of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip, so this story is about them.
The Tragically Hip are huge in Canada. Like Coldplay huge. But in the United States, they are lesser known, so instead of arenas, they play a lot of clubs here.
Several years back, my buddy went to one of their shows in southern Pennsylvania. Not surprisingly, the club had a decent number of Canadians in the audience. One of the fans held up a sign that read, “We drove 15 hours to get here.”
The singer, Gordie, looked at the sign and stepped up to the microphone…..
He said, simply, “We drove 15 years to get here.”
If anyone ever deems my career interesting enough to let me give a speech about it, I’m going to steal that quote. Except I’ll add another decade or two.
But, in all fairness, I’m far from unique. So many of my friends have logged a million miles in the quest to master their instruments. Or their songwriting. Or their performing skills.
Finding your “voice” takes years… and a lot of highway. But, for most, it is a labor of love.
It takes time, practice, and wisdom. You can see it. Some guys are just real. And you can’t fool guys like that with bravado… or a trust fund.
I read a story about a chief of a Native American tribe who traveled several days to meet with another chief about a treaty. Upon arrival, the two chiefs looked at each other and didn’t say a word. Then they left. End of meeting. No need for words. One look and they knew the other could be trusted.
With pretty good accuracy, I can tell if I am going to like a drummer’s playing just by watching him set up. Many of the musicians I play with would agree with that, I know.
Our lives are defined by moments. Careers are defined by moments. Everybody wants to get right to the moments. I think, therefore I am. Act as if. Dress for success.
I say bullshit.
Moments are important, but it is the miles between the moments that make the man.
You have to believe in yourself and in what you are doing. Without that, you are sunk. But if you are in a hurry, I say stay home. The Police of Cause and Effect will find you and kick your ass eventually, I promise.
A well-known singer/songwriter friend of mine once told me, “I didn’t become Bob Dylan or James Taylor, but I’m in the club.”
The older I get, the wiser that sounds. I can deal with success, failure, obscurity, praise, and ridicule along the way. Those things are just changes in the weather. They come and go.
But, damn, I want to be in that club.
“For he had learned some of the things that every man must find out for himself, and he had found out about them as one has to find out – through error and through trial, through fantasy and illusion, through falsehood and his own damn foolishness, through being mistaken and wrong and an idiot and egotistical and aspiring and hopeful and believing and confused… Each thing he learned was so simple and obvious, once he grasped it, that he wondered why he had not always known it. All together, they wove into a kind of leading thread, trailing backward through his past and out into the future. And he thought that now, perhaps, he could begin to shape his life to mastery, for he felt a new sense of direction deep within him.”
So get out there, fill the calendar, and log the miles. I’ll see you out there. Let the moments fall where they may.