November 25, 2010

Week 10 - What's the Point?

What’s The Point?

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So, I was talking to a friend about this series and he offered a topic… and it seemed that it would be a nice one to throw out during Thanksgiving Week… so here goes.

If you’re not enjoying yourself, quit.

If you are playing music, it’s because the music bug bit you a long time ago. At least at one point in your life, it was really something you enjoyed doing. You practiced, sought people who played a similar style, connected and formed a group to express your art.

If you find yourself in a band that is no longer making you happy, it’s time for a change. What’s the point? You are an entertainer. That’s your job. On stage you are in charge of a room of people who came to be moved with the emotion you create. If your heart isn’t in it, what are you doing it for?

To quote Edwin McCain:
“It ain’t about the money, it ain’t about the time
It ain’t about the love you lost or the things you think you left behind
It ain’t about your losing streak, makes you feel like you’re falling apart
What matters is the heart.”
- What Matters

So, I beg you. I don’t care how big your band is, how close you think you are to a record deal, or how many fans you think you’ll disappoint. If you’re not happy, make a change. If you don’t, you’ll end up bitter and that is going to show in your performance, your writing, and your personal life. And THAT is not properly representing you as an artist.

Plus, if you aren’t enjoying it, what makes you think that if you DO become huge, you’ll be happy? If you don’t like playing music with this group now… think about living with these folks on tour, during interviews, photo shoots, before shows, after shows, during shows, sharing hotel rooms. It’s not going to get better. Something will give… you will either pay with friendships, sobriety, family, or complete loss of self.

My friend who suggested this topic has been in several local bands in the last 5 years that I’ve known him. He told me that, while he enjoyed all the others, the current project he’s playing in is just amazing. He’s having more fun with this group than he ever has in the past. The members all click together, they took the ego out of the group, and are just playing fun rock and roll music.

Now, previous bands he’s played in have played big showcases, headlined and done well at larger clubs, got great media attention and even graced the cover of an entertainment magazine. But, none of that is important if you’re not in the moment enough to enjoy it.
Consider Metallica. These guys are perhaps the most famous metal band out there. Those guys are a major brand – Their faces and logo appear on CDs, posters, shirts, koozies, Christmas ornaments… you name it. And one of the things they’re most ribbed about is the thing I admire the most about them. They've been incredibly transparent about fame. They have worked HARD to keep it together and they decided to show their hand and have it videotaped for the world to see. Twice. (1992’s A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and 2004’s Some Kind of Monster) Even though Lars Ulrich said they shouldn’t have released Some Kind of Monster, in Rolling Stone earlier this year, it should be required viewing for any band that is striving to play music at any level higher than local clubs some day. It really shows how living your life as part of a major brand can tear you apart if you aren’t careful.

And it also shows you how a single member can leave a band and the unit can still survive if they remain to be driven in the same way.

Sure... that’s a drastic example… but think about it. Sit down with yourself and figure out what you want. If you want to go out and be a part of a band that sells 1,000,000 records, are your band mates the ones you want to do it with? If you’re just in it to have a little fun and blow off some steam… that’s fine. Are these the guys you want to do that with? Think about it now, before it becomes a bigger issue. Because, I assure you, it will at some point.

The point is, do what’s best for you. Make sure you are happy with the music you are playing and the people whom you choose to play it with. If you play your music with heart… it doesn’t matter who’s in the crowd listening. You win.

Duarte at Triple Crown in 2003
I remember seeing Chris Duarte play The Triple Crown in San Marcos, Texas a few years back. His “landmark Texas Blues Album” Texas Sugar Strat Magic was 9 years old and in that decade he had struggled with all sorts of dependencies and relationship issues along with fleeting fame. At that moment in 2003 he was doing well as a person (Haven’t seen him in a while so I hope he still is). Anyhow… he was playing this small club to about 5 people. The man blew the place up. It was quite possibly the most intense I’ve ever seen a guitarist play in my life. This man was definitely in the moment and enjoying every second of that stage. I’d seen him play to about 500 people a few years before and he was good, but on that night in 2003 he was on fire. I could myself as lucky for seeing it in person.

THAT is what music is. If you’re don’t play with 100% heart when you’re playing to just the bartender… you really need to think twice about your vocation. If you’re a real musician… you can’t help it. And if you can’t help it.. you need to find a band who you can join to make you happy. Get it?

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. For an introduction to his "52 Weeks of DIY Music Advice" visit this link - If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -
FYI: After writing this I looked Chris Duarte up to see what he’s doing these days. He released a CD in October and he’s on tour the next month or so (including playing Austin’s Antone’s on 11/28) in support it. Maybe I’ll get a chance to see him… you should.


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