Went to an open mic in Nashville last night. To keep sharp, to challenge myself, to get out of the apartment.
Was a kick in the pants. I did as instructed and left a message 10 minutes after they allowed calls to the venue to reserve my spot. I show up before it starts last night (8) and the emcee setting up the order has me 29th out of 43. It didn't go unnoticed the emcee's friends played early/middle sweet spots in the night. I hope they all got home okay, they were all in such a rush to get the hell out of the venue after their songs were done. Pretty cold Nashville.
I felt awful for the blonde pop-country wanna be who played in the round before me. I'm nearly nodding off to an almost empty room 3 and a half hours into it and she's sweet enough smiles and introduced herself and let us all know she'd just driven in town the night before from San Diego. You could overhear the Bud Light fridge hum it was so quiet. This young woman has not yet been killed by the music industry, but it was as if that silence carried a dagger with it. You could tell by her quick change of expression she realized this was not a fairy tale land or friendly tv show. She performed well under demoralizing circumstances.
I did "Gold Dust" and "The Storm" and played well and had fun. Definitely was a comfortable stage, I'd like to play there again under a different scenario. Impromptu sing-a-long of Garth Brooks' "The Dance" by the guy playing after me was a fun highlight of the night. They herded the defeated scraps up off the floor for the final round of the night and I stayed and stomached it as long as I could. Couldn't help but overall feel it was a bad night for music. I felt bad for the people playing after me to no one. They must have called to sign up a minute after I did.
The gatekeepers and puppet masters found money to be made in shining bro country turds and packaging Shania Twain clones. So many hobbyists with a delusional dream of being the next needle in the hay picked out of the stack come to this town or come through to play. What are they saying? What could they possibly write a song about that meant anything new or even authentic? When will the pickup truck break up summer dirt road whisky parties drive off the cliff? It's hard taking the time to craft a message, to SAY SOMETHING, when at the end of the day my 3:30 song is equal to camo ball cap bro's 3:30 song. Man if I was miserable at music I'd be so much happier, hahah. I don't think I'm looking for 'success' in the wrong place or going about things the wrong way. There are stunning realizations in this business and I just happened to get in the trenches with some of them last night and they can mow you down even if you're careful. Philosophically I'm all tangled up right now.
I know why people quit music. It's not what people think it is. I get social media messages or comments sometimes from people saying I hope you're enjoying your touring. Earth to everyone: moving to and living in Nashville probably means nothing, certainly doesn't mean I'm magically relentlessly on the road (I wish!). Certainly doesn't mean I'm not still waiting tables (although my job now is the best one I've ever had and I'm grateful!). Sometimes I'll get an email from some college campus or radio person across the country who politely? tells me I surely won't be considered to be brought in to play by their college (which can pay well) but 'there are open mics and coffee shops around here too'. Keep it up. Let me know when me flying myself to an ocean to play a free coffee shop gig on 'nonstop cappuccino bonanza night' makes any music business sense.
It's a very difficult time for music and musicians. Incredibly tough most of the time on a personal level. There's a lot of music financial success (or lack thereof) that can be attached to a person's self-worth. I know that's true of me. And it may be the wrong thing to do to reduce my existence to what I'm producing or what I'm contributing to (or getting back from) the world but then again maybe it's perfectly natural. And maybe it's perfectly natural to feel like I've been a fool. There is a struggle to remain happy tending to land that most of the time produces little to nothing. You can get beaten so much it conditions you, you know. And when I stumble upon some college radio/student activities people (the ones who are supposed to be holding the fertilizer - the future!!!) neglecting so much of the farm makes me consider burning my guitars and slamming my head against the wall till I wake up in a hospital and figure out a different life path.
Should I not care as much as I do? What am I doing wrong? How many more times do you get up off the mat before it's dangerous to get back in there? I just have to keep reassessing my expectations. I know I can't control the machine. The only thing I can control is making amazing music and if I can't be okay with it never getting heard then I have to quit. This business is a fuckin heartbreaker.
I'm obviously in a rainy, dramatic place today (it's raining in Nashville get it ha ha). Should I be re-reading Rilke? What about Steinbeck or Faulkner? What are the good authors out there that basically encourage someone to stick with this madness? Need some encouraging, focus, and purpose. Thanks :)