Remember the famous sociology study where academics studied trends on the East Coast of America and noticed that statistically eating ice-cream was a high predictor of getting shark attacked? The statistics were accurate. But the conclusion missed the point. The unidentified factor was the heat. On hot days people get ice cream. They also get in the water, making it more likely that they get shark-attacked. If people ate ice cream on cold days, the statistical connection would vanish.
I’m in the process of building a new resource for musicians who are ambitious, creative, and passionate, but who recognize that their best musical contributions are contingent on developing a healthy, balanced, responsible approach to their music career. In other words, musicians make good music when they stay alive, and when they stay musicians. So, I want to work together with other musicians to keep more of us alive and making music.
I’m going to share with you guys a major pet-peeve of mine in the songwriting world. Here is the basic structure of the annoyance: Roger Rockstar begins a music career. Roger posts all over social media and proves that he is an ambitious “in-it-to-win-it super serious musician”. Mr. Rockstar talks about chasing his dreams, craves international fame and glory. Roger achieves a small corner of that goal, gets picked up by a good management company or label, and gets sent on tour. The following year Roger Rockstar releases a new record, and it is chalked full of songs of him whining and complaining about how hard it is on the road and how much he misses home.
It would be easy to just assume that my career should follow the path template that is provided by the apparent successful in my industry. But I think that blind following of another person’s path is what leads some of us to achieve all of the markers of success, only to find ourselves depressed and empty inside.
Imagine for a moment that you are the owner of a lucrative retail business and you are hiring a new CFO to manage the financial accounting of your company for the next decade or beyond. You invite a new young gentleman into your office and sit him in front of your desk. You have heard hype about this new business climber from many of your gazillionaire colleagues. You hear he has great personality and he really knows how to dress right. You pull this new prospect’s resume’ and give it a glance. You notice that he credits himself with three Chapter Eleven Bankruptcies for past companies that he has managed. Do you look him in the eye and say to him, “Man, you must really know your stuff with all of these failures on your business record! And you certainly have the image we are looking for. When can you start? We would really like to give you a chance at taking our company to the next level!” Would you respond in that way?
Despite all of this, I used to love being on social media, and I spent countless hours building myself up on Facebook and Twitter. Circumstances caused me to move away from Smart Phones into more basic stuff. And as I’ve done that, I’ve honestly enjoyed the direction of my life. When I go to restaurants, airports, or peruse the sidewalks of my small town, I become grateful that I’m not one of the Walking Dead who are buried in their Instagram feed. I enjoy the fact that, when I go to see some beautiful morsel of creation, that I don’t get distracted by snapping a quick selfie and seeing how fast I get to 50 likes on my post. I can be in the moment. I like that.
When tempted with the fast-track of Texas Country success, I remind myself that the slow trudge of building a true grassroots following might be the way of keeping a long, sincere, heart-felt music career in my life. I have no clue whether you will ever see me on the mainstage at LJT. But I guarantee you I’d love to see you at my show this next weekend sitting on that little patio and listening to my songs. I hope you introduce yourself. I hope you ask where I’m performing next. I hope you keep in touch. These are the things I hope for.
It was very surreal performing in front of the crowd at the 2017 4th on the River celebration in Kerrville with Robert Earl Keen. Up to that point it had by far been our largest sound stage, and put us in the same backstage with a couple of my songwriting heroes. And then it was over.
Jerry Jeff Walker was the beginning of the ruin of the Texas music scene
It’s virtually impossible to succeed in the music scene of Texas currently