Here’s the lowdown on my latest band happenings: we had a practice last night with our fill-in guitarist for our upcoming gig. It was pretty satisfying; we got a lot of work done and are starting to sound pretty sweet. We’re even incorporating some between-songs ideas and crazy outros, to link the setlist together. Should be a fun gig. Our fill-in guitarist, Andy, who is also an extremely talented sound engineer, did a quick/rough live recording of one of the songs for reference. Listening back was pretty disappointing, though – I thought we sounded good in the room, but on the recording it was like a bunch of sick camels! (I’m stealing Andy’s turn of phrase there) However, it was a really new song (that’s why we recorded it – to remember where all the parts were) and I seem to be having a ‘bad voice week’. So with practice we will improve. We still have a month until the gig, so there’s time. I think it’s good to do live recordings now and then, to monitor your progress.
In other music news, today I rang an audiologist to inquire about getting specialist earplugs made. I’m concerned about protecting my ears at practices/gigs, and also really want to be able to hear myself better. Sometimes I veer off key, and I think it’s because I’m pushing myself to sing loud enough to be heard over all the instruments. And also, sometimes can’t hear the notes very well. It all becomes disorienting. I play bass guitar & sing, and these two sound ranges seem to become most easily become inaudible at practice. The earplugs are going to cost $260 (!!! Are they freaking made of gold?!). But I think it will be a worthwile investment. They last for 5 years and come in 3 different decibel attenuations, so you can match them to your sound needs. They are also molded exactly to your ear shape so they will be comfy and not fall out. I’m gonna get me a pair of those babies before the gig. Really looking forward to being able to hear, and therefore sing, better!
Aaaanyway, the topic of my blog today is ‘how to deal when others don’t support your passion’. Ross posted this horrific video on my Facebook today, chronicalling a mother who doesn’t support her son’s interest in music. Check it out below:
It’s so sad that some people don’t understand how music contributes positively to the world. I mean…it’s the soundtrack to life! Maybe some people aren’t big music lovers, but that doesn’t mean music doesn’t help countless people and can even effect social change (or, uh, be used as a tool in torture…but let’s focus on the positive here). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been really upset, only to be cheered up – or at least feel like someone out there understands – by listening to a great song or piece of music. It has a huge effect on me, and so many others. Some songs even wind up soundtracks for an entire generation (I’m thinking of really exceptional acts like The Beatles, Elvis, Nirvana, et. al).
My mother and father have usually been pretty supportive of my music career. I had an incident a couple months ago with my mother, though, that really upset me. I showed her some (not very good) live recordings of what my band is doing so far in rehearsal. The recordings were not the best, but not that bad. (It just goes to show; do not present a work-in-progress to someone who isn’t a musician. They just won’t get it!) She got pretty upset with me, and told me that she had always supported me, but thought I was wasting my time and money with this band, and that she didn’t see how I was going to make a living off of it. This deeply hurt me. I love & care about my mum, and usually value her opinion. It was a bit scary to know she felt differently from me, and that I would be taking even more of a risk by being the only one who believed in myself. I mean, I am an adult, and she has no actual control over my life these days, lol. But it still hurt. I can only imagine how much it could deter someone from having faith in themself as a musician, especially if parents begin saying this sort of thing during childhood or adolescence.
My mum and I have since talked it out, though. According to her, she was just surprised, because (1) she didn’t realise that the genre was really different from my previous (ultra-pop) band, (2) the recordings weren’t the best, so we all sounded a bit muddy, especially my vocals, and (3) she didn’t realise that I wasn’t singing as much in this band. She has always seen me mostly as a singer (that’s all I did in the previous band), so I don’t think she ‘got’ that in this band, the music is just as important as the vocals.
She has retracted what she said, especially after I showed her some other demos where you can actually hear what is going on better. She liked those. She is also rather narrow in her definition of good music (her favourite group is ABBA!), and tends to favour easily digestible song structures and a more upbeat, poppy sound. So I can see why she didn’t ‘get’ our occasionally gloomy 80s/90s/ indie rock/shoegaze influenced sound. However, in those few days of stony silence following our initial fight, I had an inkling of what it felt like to have people close to you speak ill about your musical path. It was really upsetting, and even made me question whether I believed in the music myself. I do, but I really had to search my soul to make sure I felt I was still doing the right thing.
Here’s the thing. You have to do what you feel is right for you. No one can know and feel your life’s purpose like you can. I love this quote from Barbra Streisand:
“I learned you have to trust yourself, be what you are, and do what you ought to do the way you should do it. You have got to discover you, what you do, and trust it.”
And, as Confucius says:
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”
(I got these quotes from a blog I follow called The Daily Love (http://thedailylove.com). I subsribe to it and, every day, I get an inspiring blog read that inspires me to have an awesome day and keep reaching for my dreams.)
So, basically, don’t let people who are living their nightmare stop you from living your dreams.
It’s not that people mean to be rude or hurtful when telling you that being a musician is a stupid life choice. They may even think that they are being helpful, or “realistic”, in encouraging you to get a “real job” and be a grown up. The thing is, is it really more “realistic” to choose a job as a banker over being a musician? Why is it more ‘mature’ to choose a vocation you have no passion for, and basically choose material goods over happiness? I think it sounds a bit insane, to be honest. Yes, the risks are high in the music business. But so are the rewards. And if no one ever ‘made it’, we wouldn’t have any successful musicians. In this day and age of internet promotions, cheaper and more easily accessible music software, and amazing tools such as YouTube, Facebook, bandcamp.com, etc, there are so many avenues available for musicians to get themselves out there. There are a million and one niches to be filled. How high you want to reach is up to you. But if you love it, find a way to do it. And don’t look back.
Here are some concrete tips on reaching your goals that I intend to put into practice myself, starting today: (I’ll blog about how I’m doing with them as I go!)
– Do something towards your goal every day. Especially practice, practice, practice! And write, write, write songs! You may have a busy day planned, but you can even try something as simple as making a list of what further equipment you need, planning out the next band rehearsal, or getting in contact with someone to design CD art, etc. You need momentum to get somewhere, and momentum is created by continuous action.
– Have a day job. It helps you afford to do music, lol. Not everyone feels the need to do this, but I feel it helps me feel OK knowing some income is coming in. If you’re like me and can’t stand working any longer than you haaaave to, do the minimum hours you need to get by, so you have more time for music.
– Don’t have a fallback career. Haha, maybe I’m just including this to make myself feel better. I just feel like having a fallback means I don’t really believe in myself and my goals. Like I’m saying “I am afraid I won’t make it, so here’s my backup.” I love music, and I WILL GET WHERE I WANT TO GO. End of story!
– Go easy on yourself. Previous step being said, there have been times in the past when I’ve burned myself out. I’ve flogged myself so much with music that I didn’t have any time to have fun. You can’t practice for hours and write a song and organise band jams everyday. Keep up the momentum, but do things at a manageable pace. Let yourself enjoy life, go out and socialise, have relationships, do other creative pursuits. Otherwise, you will be stressed if you are super-focused on only one thing. (Plus have no life to write about!) And sometimes desperation can push things away. Remember that you love music, and love is eternal and kind and patient. Don’t come onto music like the desperate drunk dude who hasn’t gotten laid in over a year. Seduce music with your confident, caring, chilled out vibe.
– Have a plan. Know what steps you need to take to get where you need. You know the drill – write down your goals. Break down those goals into smaller goals. Break down the smaller goals into a list of actions you need to take to achieve them. And voila! Things will look more achievable by the second!
Over and out now…it’s time to go work on more of those pesky lyrics…
Thanks for reading!