My pursuit of a musical life has led to years of striving to strike that elusive balance between necessity and passion.
I can say that this balancing act has not been easy nor do I feel very adept at it most of the time. Often, I find myself swept up in the busy-ness of my day job, exhausted and distracted by details and stressed by interpersonal challenges. There are times when this riptide carries me far away from my art, and it takes great effort and clever maneuvering to get myself back to writing and creating. One factor that has shifted over the years is that my day job has become more intellectually complex and emotionally taxing. I am getting better at it…years of practice I guess. What is that Malcolm Gladwell says? It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a virtuoso at something…Well, I think I’ve logged those 10,000 hours in the balancing act for sure.
Early on in my music career, I saw the necessity of having a day job that offered some flexibility and stability. All around me, I saw musicians who struggled to eat, dress themselves, support their families, and make their music. I figured if I had a steady income coming in from another source that I could support myself, my family and my music at the same time on my own terms. I often wondered if I was selling out by taking this path. On a number of occasions, music journalists who wrote about the band I was in questioned my resolve and commitment. I always thought it was too easy to cast judgement on a life you weren’t living. It’s also easy and all too common to romanticize the life of the struggling artist. I saw many musicians who signed record deals that tied them to a suffocating financial relationship with a corporation (unless it was an artist-centric indie deal), then got married, had kids, took on mortgages. They had to stick with the deliverables laid out by the record companies to maintain their lifestyles. They had to write music and produce albums that spoke to the corporation’s bottom line. They were insiders though and the music press loved to write about these success stories.
Why would my art be any less valid if I went to work the morning of a gig, ate 3 square meals the day of a performance, didn’t have to sleep in my guitar case while on the road, and didn’t have to answer to the man?
Success…I think it’s about how success is defined. In the music industry, it seems very much about the formula and the corporation. Of course, there are lots of examples of independent musicians who have turned this model on it’s head (Ani DiFranco, Jane Siberry, Radiohead, NIN, Amanda Palmer to name a few). So, the definition of success is very personal and varied. For me, at this point in my life, it’s about working and creating within a music community, not an industry. Within that community I can give and receive support, contribute to other’s projects, and hear about others’ pursuits of that elusive balance between necessity and passion.