The best kind of remedy
This is the first post of what will hopefully be many more to come.
Life as a musician isn't always easy.
There are days like today when, for whatever reason, the folks who normally would listen to you don't, and you don't know what else you could've done to hold their attention or earn their sale. There are times when your voice doesn't cooperate or perhaps your guitar string(s) break and you can't seem to get in a good "zone" while you perform. There are times when you don't even get the chance to perform, be it due to last-minute clients who cancel or freak north Texas ice-pocalypses in mid-March.
This month has seen all of those for me. It's been a tough one.
I spent much of 2014 planning, writing, fundraising for and recording "Lost Again." Over 60 songs were written in anticipation of the project and a final 10 were chosen from that list of being the most worthy, in both my mind and my producer's. While the fundraising process via Kickstarter was exhausting (more on that in a future post), the recording process was when I felt the most alive in my role as a performing songwriter. I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it was a fruitful time in general for me. In January the recording wrapped up and I set a release date of February 17th. A Tuesday... because for some reason in America, movies come out Friday and new albums on Tuesday.
I imagined that the release would usher in another period of great inner peace and provide extra financial security. Unfortunately I was wrong.
Don't get me wrong: "Lost Again" has been extremely well received by both my Kickstarter backers and everyone else I know of who has bought the record (you can get a copy here if you want). That said, money has been a bit tighter than usual due to a number of factors, including annual taxes, dental checkups, insurance payments of all sorts, and random large expenses related to Katrina's upcoming graduation from PA school. Adding to the stress is that my usual daytime gig, at Potbelly, has been stingier to my wallet than it generally has over the past few years. For some reason, folks just aren't coming in to the stores I play in as much as they used to, and the ones who do are often in and out again before they've even noticed my presence. All of this plus the typical day-to-day stresses have brought me down quite a bit from the heights I was at just a few weeks and months ago. Often when I get into phases like this, it's due to some process in my mind that distorts my perception of reality, and leads me into a sort of "woe-is-me" mindset.
The best remedy for a situation like this, in my mind, is to reflect on the things I am thankful for and to question again why I do what I do.
The honest truth is that I am a very fortunate and blessed man. Though I don't have many dollars, relatively, in the bank account at this time, I consider myself very rich... both because this map says I am, and because of the many things I have been given in life. I am thankful that each day of the year is somewhat different than the day before. I wouldn't thrive in a 9-5, office setting. I am thankful that there are people who support my musical endeavors not only because they're friends of mine, but because they're legitimate fans of my work. I never thought that I would ever have any true fans just 5 years ago. I am thankful that these fans empower me both emotionally and financially to do what I love, every single day.
Why do I do this? Why am I content to try to make a living writing songs and performing?
At the end of the day it boils down to relationships. I have always been an extremely outgoing person who loves to entertain and encourage (Myers-Briggs type: ESFP), and so at a surface level, being a musician fits well. On a deeper level, I have always believed, even from a young age, that music has an uncanny ability to bring strangers together, and I have experienced that in many ways, from feeling the crowd's energy at a good concert I'm attending, to worshipping in church with other families to singing fight songs at TCU football games, to seeing how a certain song can inspire hope/peace/forgiveness/love between two people. Music moves people and is still quite mysterious to me.
At the end of the day, I want to be a songwriter whose work moves others in some way. Making money is nice, and winning over new fans is neat, but, in all honesty, I feel like the gifts I've been given and the skills I've honed would be wasted if they weren't used to inspire action... hopefully for good. I write love songs because I've been loved well in my life and I want to pour out those feelings of peace and security to others.
Going forward, I need to remember that my day/life isn't valued in terms of how many dollars I bring in, or by how many people join my mailing list. Instead, I need to ask myself, "Did I take the steps necessary to build relationships and inspire or encourage others?"