Monday, October 17, 2011

Important Gigs?

I Don't Have Any.

When it comes to my music, I'm not consciously pushing, building or climbing anything. I don’t really have goals other than following my muse and meeting whatever comes next. So for me there are no “important” gigs anymore, just pleasurable or less pleasurable ones. My pleasure is based first on whether I liked my playing, secondly on whether anyone else did.

I'm not planning or strategizing or headed anywhere special. I practice, I make my sound, I keep showing up, and I see what happens. I've been doing it for many years and I'll keep on doing it as long as I can, regardless of whether the shows are large or small, bars or stages, packed or empty. It's not my career, it's my life. As they say in Hollywood action movies: It's what I do.

People who like what I do seem to have a hard time adjusting to or believing or getting where I'm coming from with my music. They seem to apply their own standards, usually linked to the way it was when they were coming of age musically.

I think my latest and most satisfying attitude towards music probably started as a defense mechanism that I grew into and then began to sincerely experience. With the world increasingly music-saturated, and me getting older and more and more musically "irrelevant", at least as far as the music business was concerned, and me getting sick of where that business was going anyway, it was pretty draining riding the roller coaster of good gigs and bad gigs, high hopes and disappointments, and the never ending dithering about whether and why I should even bother. It was a real relief to jettison all those concerns and just focus on what was the most pleasurable, which was the writing, recording and performing, the work itself. I just focused on that and not so much on how it was received or what I was getting back. Then I hit on the idea of going even further and giving my music away free on my site and seeing what freely came back, via my digital tip jar, good comments, youtube subscribers, etc.

What started as trying to find a way to improve the quality of my time, ended up freeing a lot of energy previously bound up in status hunger. Freeing up this energy allowed me to put it into my creative life. That life began to grow and become a greater and greater pleasure and finally I really didn't care so much about my status or success level, I just wanted to do what I enjoyed doing and see if anyone else liked it too. I stopped feeling entitled to anyone's attention and just played to play. Oddly enough, when I started doing this, I started getting more attention. But it's still a secondary concern. I honestly feel as though my musical "career" is over. And since I'm retired, I'm doing whatever the Hell I want. If I want to do 6 albums in one year that's what I do. I'm a true amateur, in the sense that I am guided much more by love than money.

I think there is a natural tendency to project one's own feelings and priorities on others. But people are not the same and do not experience life the same way. Some artists need a stage, some don't. Some are attached to fame and fortune, some are not. Some need to be worshipped, some do not. I think that generalities generally express more about the generalizer than about what is being generalized about.

My original statement here was not a concept or opinion or philosophy, about me or anyone else. What I wrote is just the way it is for me: I don't experience gigs as being "important" because I'm not building anything or climbing anything, I'm not "going anywhere". If I was, gigs would either help that climb or hinder that climb and would therefore be important or not. All gigs are of about the same importance for me. My goal is to make my sound and play well and see what comes back freely when I do that. I've lived over 54 years with precious little fame and fortune. If it was important to me, I would have quit or become pretty damn bitter by now, but neither has happened.

I really like living this way. I get to focus on my work. I don't have the feeling that I'm pushing or forcing anything. Naturally, some of what I get back is more pleasurable and some less so. But I spend much less time hoping and despairing than I used to, I think because I’m not pinning so much on the outcome of any particular show or opportunity. Sometimes I’m a bit more encouraged or discouraged by a particular show but I don’t linger on the ups or the downs very much. I go right back to work either way.


  1. I'm interested in that idea and the experience of starting out with a pose and growing into it. "If thou wouldst put on virtue, but have it not -- pretend!" WS

    I suspect that it isn't as simple as you make it above, although I think it is pretty close. In other words, you're still, I think, in a bit of denial about your joy in a person's intense response to your music. That matters to you, I think. Maybe the next step would be to admit it and see where that takes you.

    Perhaps a bit pretentious of me to say it, but there it is, you can take it.


  2. In general, I am not at all in favor of "Fake it 'til you make it." What happened in this case is that what felt right to do, or to head towards, was not fully realized yet, but I headed there anyway and found that I grew into it and then totally owned it. It felt right from the start though and that's why I did it.

    I'm not sure why you say the other part. I don't make any secret that I love to be heard and listened to. I do. It's just that I don't expect it and I'm very OK with the opposite, which is mostly what I get. I write above that gigs are more or less pleasurable, not more or less important. If I was climbing, gigs would be important to the extent that they helped or hindered that climb.

    I love to be heard, listened to and being liked is great too. It's just not my primary motivation to do music. I do it to do it. I have to do it to feel like myself. If people like it, so much the better. But my primary pleasures, my primary impulses as a child and young person as well, were to first put the truth as I experienced it into words, then to put those words to music, then to sing them and have them be heard, and then to have them liked, and even further down the list, to make money at it. In my insecurity as a young man, those last two became much more important and contributed to my being bitter and pretty unhappy doing music. When I returned to my folk roots and also to my core impulses, music became a pleasure again and I ended up making more money and being more liked. But I'm still staying close to those roots which have never done me wrong. ;~)