One of my goals in music as it is in life is to cultivate a collaborative environment where we not only help and encourage our peers but those coming in behind us.
I heard somewhere that the children are the future and that we should teach them well and let them lead the way…or something like that. 😉
I think back to when I was just a kid, exploring my dad’s record collection and then adopted his guitar. I was always surrounded by musicians, music, poetry, and literature. I bathed myself in it but the one thing I didn’t have was a how-to guide….other than Mel Bay’s Level 1 guitar book.
My father, having seen every angle of what a life in music could be was reluctant to encourage me to pursue it as a vocation. Too many incredibly talented musicians living hand-to-mouth, gifted artists toiling in obscurity, playing for tips in cantinas after their careers floundered…they left him wary of leading his son into that life.
Audiences are fickle, venues and managers are always quick to take advantage of the talent…too many reasons to name really…all had led him to nudge me towards a career in education while continuing my passion in music as a side project instead of attempting to make it a full-time career.
Thus, I never really made an “all-in” attempt at that life. I’ve worked professionally in business since the age of 18 while attending university and fitting music in where I could…always feeling like I was living two lives…never fulling fitting in either.
Today – as I begin kissing the tender age of 40, I often look back, sometimes fondly, sometimes with more than a hint of angst. Time is a son-of-a-bitch and I know so much more about musicianship, about practice, about how to approach songwriting, performance, contracts, venues, booking and marketing, and…most importantly, the incredibly limitless career opportunities there are for musicians.
So this is one of Cathedral Records’ primary goals – to redefine success in music, to pass on information and experience, and to cultivate a collaborative environment where aspiring musicians can fulfill their measure of their creative identities.
Tessa Cole, of Musicians DIY Fight Club, says it best when she recently remarked, “Nobody knows the right questions to ask someone in a band like someone else who plays in a band!!”
Exactly, and the other side of that is that no one has the answers to questions someone has about being in a band like people who have been in bands their whole lives.
With that in mind, I reached out to the Houston music community via Facebook and asked, quite simply, “what would you tell your teenage self?”
What I received was a collection of enthusiastic and reflective responses that I’ll share with you here.
One of the first responses I received was from Catherine Dietrich, CatZilla…also known as the “High Priestess of Music & Shenanigans at Stiletto Broadcasting, an independent online radio station that aims to empower, inform, and entertain the Houston music community with a passion for women in particular. She’s a perfect example of what’s possible if you open your mind and get creative. Her refreshing response was “I’d smack my little face and say ‘NO FEAR!'”
I know for me personally, fear and insecurity were both driving forces in all aspects of my life…and definitely musically. I didn’t have the courage to step out on my own, was afraid to put maximum effort into certain projects because I didn’t believe it would “work out,” whatever that means.
Ronnie Main, a dear friend, incredibly talented guitarist, and general manager of Guitar Center North Houston had a very practical suggestion: “Practice, practice, practice!” AMEN!
I would add to that, practice the “right way.” Be sure what you’re practicing is leading you somewhere and not just aimless noodling that doesn’t push you creatively. I’ve found over the recent years that my most productive practice sessions involve learning songs outside of my normal interests that have different chord voicings or patterns. I find that exploring different directions lead to new ideas and stretch my musical vocabulary.
Sarah Hirsch of Jealous Creatures had a great piece of advice that I would definitely have told myself as well. She said, “start a band earlier.”
Such a simple notion but truly invaluable. So many of us learn in isolation. I spent hours upon hours alone in my room digging through Beatles songs and learning chords, pausing/rewinding the tape player our lifting the needle and replaying passages trying to figure bits and pieces out. I wrote my first batch of songs in a complete vacuum. It wasn’t until after high school that I truly met a great musician about my same age and began collaborating, sharing ideas, and we started a band.
That idea of a bunch of kids who have no idea what they’re doing making a god-awful racket in the garage is the stuff that leads to magic. Never be too humble or scared or intimidated to just start a band.
This leads me to another fantastic answer, this one from Ashley Newman of Ashley Newman photography. “I would say to never sell myself short.” She continued, “We all start somewhere but what I had to offer, and offer now, is worth it.”
Yes it is.
One of the most important things I would say to myself, and to every aspiring musician looking for their path, is this: The possibilities are endless. It’s not just about being a world-famous performer like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty. That’s not the only form of “making it.”
Being a musician does not mean living in squalor or in your parents’ house at the age of 40. There are full-time, financially and artistically rewarding career opportunities for musicians who have the drive, the skill, and the work ethic.
Music is literally everywhere. Our lives are bathed in it. Film, TV, children’s shows, commercials, marketing and public relations, video games…that music is made by professional musicians. Singer-songwriters need instrumentalists to round out their bands. Performers need sound engineers. Musicians, despite the explosion in home recording tools and resources, will always need studios with skilled and experienced engineers and producers. Public and private schools have music departments that need teachers and staff. And so on and so on.
Get rid of the stereotypes and myths about musicians. Say it loud, I’m a musician and I’m proud!
Embrace your future, it’s happening every moment of your life and a life in music is there if you want it…just open your mind to the possibilities and be willing to put in the hard work.
Music is no different than engineering, practicing law, or being a doctor. It takes sacrifice, dedication, and effort. It takes time to master your craft but if you commit yourself to it, you will be rewarded.
In closing, I want to urge my fellow community members – be good stewards, look out for that young group of kids that may be opening for your opening act. Introduce them to the crowd. Get to know them. Ask them to hang out for your set and then talk afterwards.
Community elders serve a vital role and we all have incredible experiences and a wealth of knowledge that should be shared with those following along behind us.
Thanks for reading.
Be well and kind,