Why not give up music?
In this episode, we’ll explore giving up on your music dream. You’ll get to hear about why I never gave up and nor should you.
Why I never stopped chasing my dreams – and most likely never will. What you will learn in this episode actually applies to everything you do in life.
I’ll also share some thoughts with you that might help you through your journey – the challenges, and the almost certain, unavoidably tough times. A quick look at episode one will give you an overview of my background.
Why not give up? Why didn’t I give up? Why did I keep writing, releasing and performing music after 30 years?
In the darkest hours of my career, swallowed by crippling depression and darkness, why did I get back up, time and time again and keep moving forward? Why weren’t the successes I had previously enjoyed enough to call it a day?
Big questions indeed, and for the most part, I don’t really have definitive answers.
But I’ll try and dig into this subject so that you can make more sense of what you’re embarking on, and hopefully you’ll have more confidence in making big decisions as they swing by.
Like most things in life, there’ll be a conscience moment or epiphany that occurs that will point your life in a certain direction.
You often hear about this with sport stars and actors for example. For me as a young person, there were a number of things that occurred.
In order to get a better handle on this, let’s quickly look at some of them.
It may have been the family upright piano that stood quietly in our hallway. With both of my parents working most of the time, and older sisters who were never around, as a 10 year old, I would often just sit and play tunes that I taught myself, like Greensleeves and Yellow Brick Road.
I felt a deep emotional connection with that old piano. Its slightly out of tune keyboard complete with broken and missing ivories, it would evoke feelings of escapism and calm.
Nowadays, I often play the piano in my studio as a distant connection to the past. It reminds me of the way it made me feel secure back then.
Perhaps it was seeing AC/DC performing live at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne on their 1981 comeback tour just after Bon Scott had died.
That was quite an overwhelming and visceral experience for me as a teenager.
The band’s dazzling, brutal power, accompanied by the male dominated audience in a frenzied state, and attired in black t-shirts to commemorate the loss of Bon Scott, of course.
It was tribal, like a young man’s rite of passage to rock and roll adulthood. A truly unforgettable experience.
Maybe It might have been the first time I sat on a drum kit at age 13 and played my first basic drum pattern to Boz Scagg’s, Lido Shuffle.
It was such an addictive rush to feel the rhythm emerging from my very own hands and feet. I was totally gobsmacked and immediately feel in love with the drums.
To be honest, all of these events and many more surely pointed my life in a direction of music that I simply had no control over.
I often say that I’ve been having a love affair with music since I was a small child. Sure, we’ve had our disagreements but the love has never waned.
My passion for music always overrode relationships, jobs, and family. I have been unable to really exert much control over it, or had the willpower to be able to stop.
It’s just a part of me, even though at times, it has devastated me emotionally.
Apart from the above, I guess there also had to be some kind of spiritual or internal connection with music that I was born with. Some indefinable genetic predisposition that induced pleasure when listening to music.
If not, why weren’t my sisters affected by music in the way I was? Playing the piano and drums are one thing, but often being moved to tears or experiencing out of body experiences is something else altogether.
So for me, I resigned myself to the greater power over which I had little control.
Can you walk away?
I’ll admit, there have been occasions I have walked away from music (check my ego episode), times when I have been pushed away by what seemed insurmountable barriers.
The torment of rejection and failure, followed by random successes can wear you down and break your spirit.
On each occasion I walked away, but just like a lover’s tiff, I always came back. Like an alcoholic or drug addict, it’s always burning away within you like a lantern that won’t extinguish.
That’s the way it’s been for me at least.
I have always been puzzled by those musicians who came and went throughout my career. Perhaps, I have even been a little envious at times.
I have come across very few people who share the same music affliction as me. If you’re like me, and listening to this, you’ll know who you are.
Most normal folk can turn up, play in a band for a few years and be content. Then they will sell their gear and happily become civil engineers or gardeners. I never really got that.
There are a few of us out there who cannot do that. A few who have accepted their fate and sold their souls – not to the devil, but to the complicated love of music that can be intoxicatingly joyous and devastatingly crushing, all at once.
Driven by failure
Musical failures, in whatever form they take, can also fan the flames of obsession. Once you become deeply entrenched in music, each failure – and there will be many, will only push you further into an obsessive dark abyss.
It has for me, and that’s OK. I’ve accepted that. It’s a lonely existence in many ways, and when you’re battling your own demons without support and competing with others for a small piece of attention, you can go slightly mad.
The last two years of my band, Prettymess, almost pushed me over the edge.
Flirting with huge success and performing continually, directly competing with every band we shared the stage with, brilliant and bad reviews, drummer issues, and alcohol abuse, takes its toll on your. Eventually, it clouds your good judgement.
Add to that, you’re worrying about your song writing, and wondering if can you still do it.
Have you got a song that’s bigger and better than the last, that’s gonna blow everyone away? Everyone in the band is looking directly to you for that one killer song.
When the whole time you’re exhausted and devoid of inspiration. In my bands, I was also concerned about the guys who were putting their own lives on hold for the band, in the hope of some kind of breakthrough.
And you’re always broke and borrowing money. It became psychological torture.
Just to complicate things, You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away [thanks Kenny].
Yep walk away, thst’ not necessarily giving up. This has always been a tough one for me because I tend to fight to the end, which I’ll admit is often the wrong way to go about it.
I never truly understood the concept of cutting your losses when I was young, and I would keep battling away, even though the odds would clearly be against us.
When you recognise there is no rectifying a particular situation, it’s OK to cut your losses and walk away.
I suppose I have been informed by many previous experiences, but I’ve got much better at this later in life. You need to, but I would have loved the younger me to have had some grasp of this concept.
Take it from me, try your best to understand when there’s a problem and act where appropriate.
Throughout this madness you need to stay true and remember that music is at the epicentre of your happiness.
You didn’t chose this – it likely chose you, and for that reason you must do your best and stay on track so you can feel fulfilled as a person.
And above all remember, your music brings joy to other people’s lives too.
This is the overarching mindset you must have at all times. When a fan approaches you to show gratitude for the music you’ve created that have in some way touched them, everything seems validated.
All the shit aside, our job is to reach other human beings and evoke emotions. If you’ve done that, you’ve done your job. Am I rambling? Probably.
I have given normal life a go on plenty of occasions. For those who know me, they’ll attest that it’s been a battle for me.
Whatever normal is, I don’t do it very well. That doesn’t mean I’m some kind of songwriting genius or god gifted musician. Far from it.
It’s just that I’ve always run my own race and somehow feel that I’ve never had a say in any of it. Life happens, and happens quickly. You simply get to make the best of what you’ve got and have a go.
I will say though, finding peace and balance in life has been the real long-term achievement. Balance would imply compromise of course, and now that’s fine by me. My musical vocation has made life difficult for those around me.
Now, trying to become a better person to those who love and support me is my goal. I’m pretty sure my musical preoccupation will never leave me, so finding some sort of balance between music and family is the only answer.
As you can see, giving up was never a choice for me. Never. Making a decision to giving up was never on the cards. I don’t care if I’m living on the streets with a guitar or living like a king in a palace, music will never leave my soul.
I admit though, many times I wish it had as it would have made life easier.
Is music part of you?
Is the grass greener?
Prettymess was doing a Tasmanian tour in early 2005 for the Greyscale Broadcast album, and we’d just stepped off the smoky stage at the Republic Bar covered in sweat.
I walked through the crowd with my head down and walked directly into an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. There was a weird moment of silence and shock, followed by laughter.
After some small talk, we both looked at each other and just like Gweneth Paltrow’s character in the movie Sliding Doors he said, “I am so envious of you and the life you’ve lived. You’ve been playing music for a living and touring the country and I’ve been stuck in the same job for 20 years.
I always wanted to play guitar in a band. I made the wrong decision”.
I then said, “Well, I’m envious of you living a respectable and stable life with a top job, wife and children, and a massive retirement fund. You are now free do whatever you want.” Yes, the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence!
You know, there are others like me out there. Some are hugely successful making real money as a muso and living the high life – never overnight successes by the way, and others working part-time in call centres living out their lives on the broken dream of what if?
Maybe you’ll understand why I never gave up and perhaps you won’t either. There never is an end to this story.
Remember though, if you do make the commitment of giving music a go, give it your all. No half measures, no nights off, no sitting at home watching TV. You must leave your comfort zone and that might even mean relocating to another city.
You’ll need to tackle it like there’s no tomorrow. Otherwise, you’ll end up living in regret.
What about you? What stage are you at with your career? How many times have you contemplated giving up? Let’s look at some final thoughts for you to consider.
Have you looked at my success formula episode?
1. Staying the distance – the long game
You know by now, it’s going to get tough and you know at times you’ll be tantalised by the lure of a safe and normal life and the security of a regular income.
This could quite possibly be the hardest thing for you to face, particularly when your family and friends are making money and establishing their careers.
Meanwhile, you’re writing music, playing in shithole dives and living on two-minute noodles.
Hold on and look at the long game.
2. How will you look back on your life?
Regret is a type of poison. Don’t ever convince yourself that is doesn’t matter, because it does matter. Greatly.
Whatever your personal quest, it matters enormously and if you deny yourself the opportunity to give it a shot, you’ll be regretful forever.
I know countless, miserable people who never chased their dreams, and they ended up later in life trying to make amends with catastrophic outcomes.
These are people we all know. They have regular crises throughout their lives because they were afraid to have a go and take a risk when they could.
Once you grasp how short life really is and that you may only have a few chances to live a brilliant life, you gotta give it all you’ve got.
Don’t look back in regret.
3. Have faith in your abilities
Believe in yourself. Put your defiance helmet on and reject the naysayers. Confidence and self-belief could be just the things that get you over the line in the end.
It is essential. It is imperative to recognise and understand that you have an ability to play an instrument, write a song, join a band, produce an act, or whatever it is you decide to do.
You have to have faith, and you have to wholeheartedly believe you can do it because when you do, nothing will stop you, and you will never give up!
4. There is no right or wrong!
That’s 100% correct. There is no wrong or right with any of this. This is fundamentally just my view about your actions and decisions in your very special life.
It’s OK to be great in your job and live a secure and happy life. It’s also OK to be a great musician and touch others’ lives.
It doesn’t matter which road you take but you do need to make a decision, commit, and give it a go, whichever way you swing.
Remember though, whatever you decide will be the RIGHT decision.
It sounds corny, but in summary I’d like to remind you that there is always light after dark; sunshine after rain.
In other words, when the going gets tough and you’re questioning your life decisions and feeling like a failure – and that can be in any vocation you choose, everything always seems to magically turn around at some point.
You’ll come out fighting and move ahead. Just like breathing in and out, there is an ebb and flow in the passage of life that you need to ride out.
Take it from someone who’s been through it all. I wish you the best of luck, and don’t give up.
How many times have you considered throwing in the towel? Have you ever reached the point where you think you cannot continue? I’d love to hear your stories of survival.
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Not to be missed.
I’ll catch you soon.