The Chronicles of the Unsuccessful Musician (part 1)

Since we moved to Nashville, I’ve started spending more time keeping tabs on what other musicians are up to. It probably borders slightly on stalking at times, but in this golden age of tweets and blogs and all those other technological things that I don’t really understand (foursquare? Rss feeds?) we have strangely easy access to the personal lives of other artists.

I’m always struck by how awesome their lives apparently are. They don’t seem to work at all, they travel all over the world, they play shows to huge crowds (which to me is a group larger than 20 people), they are always presented with “amazing opportunities”, they casually drop the names of their famous friends, so on and so forth.

I don’t write this because I’m jealous.

OK, so maybe I’m a little bit jealous.

My life is nothing like that.

But I love my life.

For example, sometimes I get to sit in a giant field of tulips. At least I’ve got that going for me.

So I give you Part One of an on-going series: The Chronicles of the Unsuccessful Musician.

—Tomorrow is my day off from my day job, i.e. my day to devote completely to musical endeavors. However, my to-do list for tomorrow reads like this: clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, get groceries, make dinner, return three or four phone calls, try to talk a few venues into letting me play (it’s always a great conversation that goes something like this: “I really want to come and play for you guys. My music is awesome. You’ll just have to trust me on that one”), update my website with this post, research cheap video cameras so I can post more videos online, brain-storm some ideas for getting some new pictures taken, type up some chord charts for band practice. Do you see any actual music-making on that list? Me either.

The definition of “independent musician” in 2011 should read something along the lines of “marketer, graphic designer, web editor, writer, videographer, photographer, accountant, secretary, booking agent, auto mechanic, salesman, public relations director, publicist, and every-once-in-a-great-while-maker-of-musical-sounds.”

Just a few of the boxes of unsold CDs that I'll be leaving to my enemies in my will.

—My day job is washing dishes at a restaurant in East Nashville. It’s not exactly the sort of job that people are proud to tell their friends about, but I like it and I don’t want to be ashamed of it. Yesterday I worked a double-shift and washed (by hand, mind you) every single dish that came through the restaurant for the entire day on one of the busiest days they’ve ever had. I usually have to wash my hands two or three times with heavily scented soap at the end of the night to get rid of the nasty dishwater smell.

—Every time I consider booking a show in Nashville, two facts wage war in my mind: (1) I need to play more shows around town because no one knows who I am, (2) the fact that no one knows who I am means that venues are going to hate me for booking a show and bringing out 4 people. I’m now recalling a phrase from 8th grade logic class about being trapped on the horns of a dilemma. I’m also recalling the book Catch 22 and how incredibly funny and depressing it is. How appropriate.

That should wrap it up for the first installment of “The Chronicles of the Unsuccessful Musician.” Some days I catch myself thinking that I’m simply biding my time until my life is more like the lives of the people I wrote about at the start of this post, that eventually I’ll reach some imaginary point or accomplishment where I’ll feel that my life has begun in earnest.

That’s messed up.

On my better days, I remember that my value is not calculated with the measuring sticks of this town.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote “You don’t have to play by their rules if you don’t require their rewards.”

This is my life, the life of the unsuccessful musician. I’m incredibly glad to have it.