This is as much for me as it is for you (as usual)…
If you want to do something, anything really, you gotta go for it in whatever ways you can. This isn’t one of those “get out of town or you’ll never make it” posts, or advice about dropping everything else in your life to chase your passions (well maybe a little).
It is, however, a reminder to stay vigilant, to be aware of – and focused on – what you can be doing RIGHT NOW to get closer to where you want to be, wherever that may be.
There’s a big difference between excuses and legitimate reasons. We don’t always get to choose our lot in life. We do, however, get to choose what we do with it…
We can’t all up and move to Nashville or LA to chase a touring gig, or break into the New York jazz scene if only we’d pack our bags and head to the big city…
It’s important that we don’t all go that route. Every city needs musicians, after all – and not all of us are suited for those worlds, despite how idolizing the top dogs might shape our goals.
Maybe that kind of giant move is realistic for you, but maybe it isn’t. It doesn’t really matter, because those are only a few of the potential paths for a musician.
By all means set your goals high, and chase after them with everything you have – but also understand that those goals can look however you want them to.
Whatever you want to do, it’s going to take work (unless, of course, you don’t want to do anything – and if that’s the case, you’re reading the wrong blog).
I can’t really speak on getting the “big gig” or grinding out auditions in a new city. I haven’t done those things, and I’m not entirely sure I want to…
I do know, however, that I love making music. I love drums and beats and funky shit with every fiber of my being. Because of that, I’m going to do what I can right here, right now, to make it a bigger and better part of my life… Wherever it takes me, I’m going to stay after it.
…And I want to empower you to do the same day after day after day.
Whatever your skill level, bank account balance, ability (or disability), or other responsibilities… You can take steps.
It All Counts
With a little bit of diligence, each and every one of us can find a few more minutes in the day to practice, to learn more about the business, to send booking emails, to put together jams.
If you have a band, you can get more involved in writing or booking or promo…
If you can only afford a junky instrument, play it anyway. If you have to beg and borrow yourself into a piecemeal drum kit, so be it!
We’ve got to reframe the way we think about obstacles, and defeat that terrible habit of comparing ourselves to folks much further along in their journey. We need to worry less about what we don’t have, and make the most of what we do.
A basement gig is a gig. A band breaking up or stalling out isn’t the end of the world – start a new band (or another one). If you can’t find people to play with, practice… And keep looking for musical cohorts every single day. It’s not about the gear, the town, the schedule, the other responsibilities, the number of hours in the day…
More than anything, it’s about attitude.
Every open mic, every conversation, every minute you spend on the practice pad… It all adds up over time. Even if it can only be a small part of your life, spending time and energy on music (or really, any activity that gives you some fulfillment) is a choice – and every little bit counts.
Moving forward at a snail’s pace is still moving forward.
And that’s the mindset, the kind of committment, that will propel you forward into the best version of a “music career” that your lot in life will afford.
Not everyone’s the same. You have to make your own decisions about the gigs you’re willing to play, the bands you’re willing to join, pay, distance, whatever.
But underneath all of those choices, at least for me, is a current of “by any means necessary.”
If it means late nights or long drives, so be it. If it’s stressful or a time crunch to pack more than one gig into an evening, awesome – I’ll make it happen if at all possible. If I have to take on booking or finance or social media or whatever to make a band work, then that’s exactly what I’ll do.
By. Any. Means. Necessary.
You’ve got to be responsible, sure, and only you can know exactly what your capacity – or tolerance – is for practice, gigging, rehearsals, travel… But it’s not going to happen, any of it, without some degree of sacfrice.
If you only make music when it’s perfectly convenient, I’m afraid you won’t be making much music at all.
I once heard Nick Ruffini (of the mighty Drummer’s Resource) say something to the effect of: “Until you have the luxury of saying no, the answer should always be yes.”
I’ve come to adopt this as an ongoing philosophy. If a musical opportunity comes my way, large or small, the default answer is a resounding YES!
You could be wishy washy, consider that maybe you’d rather watch the game or get some laundry done… You could hold out for a “better” opportunity when something so-so crosses your path… You could sit and wait for the proverbial phone to ring instead of going out and conjuring up work for yourself…
You could rest on your laurels and consider your current skillset as good enough…
Or you could take a hard look in the mirror, figure out your maximum capacity (not just your comfort zone), and set the bar just a little bit higher. Are you pursuing your passion casually, or relentlessly?
That’s not going to look the same for all of us, but I want you to ask yourself these questions perpetually.
- What can I do today to improve my musical life?
- How am I really spending my time?
- Could I push just a little bit harder?
- What is my actual potential?
- What excuses are holding me back?
- Am I taking an active or passive role in all of this?
I realize that this post has kind of meandered around – and I thought a few times about scrapping, it or trying to make it more cohesive… But ya know what? I think it fits the theme this way.
I had an idea and ran with it, and just worked with what was on my mind at the time – and I think that’s a great parallel to the “every little bit counts” message here… Finishing this is better than making it “perfect.”
So, get after it – whatever “it” may be!
There are so many steps, so many paths, so much variation in what it means to play music – and you get to decide what that looks like for you…
But remember, in the immortal words of Geddy Lee: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”