GRATITUDE JOURNAL – DAY 8 – Ability to Forgive

 

I learned the value of forgiveness from my family.  Mostly from my mom who has had to be very forgiving of nearly all the men in her life.

 

Recently, a friend asked me why we should forgive. Why not just write the offending party off?  I had to think on this and read up on it a lot. I guess the best reason to forgive, in my opinion, is to also be forgiven. We all make mistakes. We all say things we don’t mean. We all cross a line once in awhile. We can all be selfish, careless, out of control, short-sighted, scared. If you can forgive others, I believe you can forgive yourself and hopefully be forgiven by others. When we truly forgive, anger and stress can be freed from our minds and allowed to move along.

 

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold people accountable. How many times can you forgive someone for the same thing? Depends on how really offensive and hurtful the thing is and that is completely relative to each person.

 

My mom has endured some pretty intense hurt. I admire how tough she’s had to be to get through. Amazingly, she’s stayed positive through it all and continues to be resilient. Her faith helps but I think that it takes someone with real self-confidence to push forward through trials rather than just bailing when stuff gets hard.

 

In the past, I’ve allowed negativity and pessimism to permeate my efforts, attitude and life and yet I persevered. I think this is largely because I’ve been able to forgive myself, even if silently, and just keep going. Sometimes it’s felt good to just say, “this sucks and I don’t know what I’m doing nor do I deserve to succeed!!” in the  most negative way while continuing through the fog. I don’t know why. But it has given me the opportunity for self-forgiveness over and over.

 

And as a result, I’ve become much more accepting of others’ mistakes. I may get angry, but I can almost always forgive. This has preserved and even strengthened me and others and I’m grateful for their patience.

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – Day 7 – Deep Connections

I watched this video of Simon Sinek recently in which he talks about millennials in the workplace and how they’ve been dealt a “bad hand.” One of the problems he sees for this younger generation is a lack of deep connections which he links to overuse of social media. (I tend to agree with this assessment.)

Listening to him, I wondered, “How could anyone go through their life without deep connections?” I guess people do.

I don’t.

In fact, I go through life with LOTS of connections I find to be deep and enriching. These are people who come running when I’m in crisis and vice versa. They support me and what I’m doing. They humble me because I often think they’re better to me than I am to them. These are people with whom I share my deepest thoughts, my darkest fears. I will admit, I can lean in to the territory of over-sharing. I like connecting with others. However, I think it takes courage, vulnerability and willingness on the part of both parties to really connect  deeply and I know I have that.

It takes quality people.

I suppose “quality people” is a subjective term. For me, quality people choose the high road even when things get tough. They genuinely care about others and themselves. They to maintain their values and ideals even when tested or questioned but are also flexible enough to consider other points of view. The best among them are not only confident enough to be honest with themselves and their friends but kind enough to use tact and compassion. They share their innermost selves and accept others’. They understand the value of interdependence over independence and practice it.

Some of my deep connections are family but the vast majority these are friends simply because of sheer numbers. I’ve been going through the hardest period of my life this spring/summer and I will be forever grateful for the outpouring of support and love I’ve been given by my closest and even some of my not-as-close friends and family.

I love all of you. I may never be able to repay you in the same way that you’ve honored me with your support. Frankly, I hope you’ll never need it. If you ever do, I’ll be there.

Thank you.

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – DAY 6 – Little Grammy (and Grandparents in General)

I’m very lucky to have known all four of my grandparents. I’ve also known 3 of my great grandparents! Being first born of two first born young parents helped. My two still-living grandparents are only only about 45 years older than me.

 

My mother’s parents divorced when she was 9. I thought my first step-grandfather, George Lewis, was my grandfather for most of my childhood. I think I was about 11 or 12 when I met my biological grandfather. He was a real piece of work. I met him at his mother’s (my great grandmother’s) house in Lawton, OK one summer. I didn’t like him or his obnoxious dog or the disgusting long brown cigarettes he smoked that stunk up my great grandmother’s house. His wife was an eastern-European woman the same age as my mom (his daughter.) I remember feeling a sense of gratitude then that this was not someone I’d known up til this point nor would I have to ever see again. I did see him again one other time… I think. Obviously I didn’t care much. I couldn’t believe my grandmother had married this wretched man who had been run out of Florida by the mafia and involved in the ultra-seedy 80s pornography business.

 

That grandmother was born Carol Wade and came to be called “Little Grammy” by my cousins who lived near her and so I’ve adopted that name, too. It doesn’t seem right to call her by any of the last names of the three awful men she was married to in her life. She was a sweet woman very into the Mormon faith. After her divorce from my grandfather while stationed in Germany, she returned to the States and lived the life of a divorced woman in the 60s. She didn’t let that stigma stop her.  She had already graduated college with a nursing degree and was able to raise her kids on her own the way she thought was right. She married George Lewis but they lived in separate houses at one point. Weird. George died and a few years later she married George Wilson who became the butt of all jokes with the rest of the family. George proved to be a real jerk and kind of an imbecile. When Little Grammy died of cancer (which she’d fought for decades), he blamed my mother. Not cool.

 

Little Grammy had an awesome condo in Fruit Heights, Utah. Many of my dreams are set in its basement and I have memories of watching The Muppet Show and the ollllllld live action Spider-Man TV show down there. But the real gem was her old console style stereo. My sister and I would play the records that Mom and our uncle had listened to as kids. It was cool in the summer and always safe in that basement.

 

Side note: I first became aware of Frank Zappa at Little Grammy’s condo. I was watching TV in the upstairs bedroom and saw what I now know to be a clip from FZ on Saturday Night Live.

 

Though it’s not very happy, her story has stood as an example of strength in my life. She lived a tough life that I didn’t appreciate until after she’d already died. She made it work. She lived her life and she loved her family and her job and those around her. She stuck to her values and people around her loved her.

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – DAY 5 – Dedication

I’ve written about this one before. Rick Redman taught me this valuable lesson without knowing it. When I started the band that became the Invincible Czars, Rick was the first to join me way back in 2002. After months practicing with just his trumpet, my guitar and the Roland R8 drum machine, I started feeling discouraged.

 

One day Rick called before we were supposed to get together and I couldn’t bear to come over and run through the songs again for what seemed like no reason.  Rick seemed baffled and just came to my place anyway for “some run-throughs.”  I’d never had someone simply come over in spite one of my bouts of negativity.  

 

He did come over.  We did some run-throughs and I felt better. Rick kept the faith that we’d one day have a whole band. It took months but we eventually did and Rick set a goal to play at Emo’s*. I laughed. It’d be a long time.

 

Then a few months later we’d done it. I stopped laughing at Rick’s goals.

 

In 2004, Rick ***hated*** the idea of us doing the Nutcracker music that December. He did it anyway. He didn’t always smile but he did it. There were moments during the lead up to that first holiday show that I lost faith in what I was doing. Just wished the date would come and go and be done with. But I didn’t quit because the band now had a history of not quitting thanks a lot to Rick.

 

I finished the arrangements just in time for the show. That night, it sold out. And then suddenly a bunch of people knew who we were and we had gigs booked for the next year and we were in The Austin Chronicle and The Austin American-Statesman and even some newspapers out of town. 10 years later we’d played nearly every notable holiday event in the state.

 

This was another snowball sent down a mountain.15 years later, I no longer think of myself as a quitter and I don’t think many other people who know me do either. Thank you, Rick, for dropping that snowball and teaching me the value of powering through.

 

*This was the old Emo’s location, not the huge event space it is today.

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – Day 4 – USA

The current political climate in our nation is pretty appalling. But I’m still proud to be an American.

I’m not the most traveled person. I’ve been to India a couple times, parts of Mexico, Germany, Belize and Vancouver, BC. It’s been enough to see beauty and filth in all of them and recognize the same in my own country.

After seeing the bad sides of places like India, Mexico and Belize I could only feel grateful and lucky for having been born where I was – and glad that some of those places aren’t in the driver’s seat of the world! Things like comfort, leisure, orderly conduct, education, helping each other, etc. are hard to find in these desperate places. Worse, many places don’t have clean water, (enough) nutritious food nor do they seem to have much of any healthcare other than aid organizations from other nations. Lots of the world deals with overcrowding, diseases I’ll never be exposed to, starvation, regular terrorism, etc.

Now I know that the US government does some pretty bad stuff. I’m not proud of drone strikes or some of these other acts that we wouldn’t condone by other nations. But the system of democracy set up here in the US seems to have spread over the last 241 years and from where I sit, it mostly seems to have been good; even England, the nation that colonized the US with white people, has adopted our system.

Regardless of politics, I feel lucky to be from a place with so many opportunities. We have the best entertainment… or at least the most beloved worldwide. I hear we have the best postal system and sewers. I guess that’s valuable but big innovations like cars, planes, TVs, smartphones the internet and going to the moon all happened here first. Those affected the whole world, for better or worse.

Americans help each other. Even with our currently polarized politics. We pass down the idea of helping each other with ideas like public education, building credit, and volunteer service organizations. Even if those things are too liberal sounding, even conservative leaners find value in things like helping the poor, service to others and building a strong community.

All of those things are American values. They’re not just American values but they seem to be pretty hard-wired in most places here. Some people thought Obama would ruin America. He didn’t. Now Trump seems poised to do the same. He won’t. The next one probably won’t either.

I don’t mean to be overly optimistic about the USA. We have problems.  But most other places are just as bad if not worse in all the same ways and more.

I feel lucky to have been born here, to have lived here, to not have been forced into military service, exposed to diseases and to have been educated in ways that have kept me healthier and safer than most people in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

GRATITUDE JOURNAL – Day 3 – Siblings

 

I think only-children are missing out!

 

My siblings were really my closest social group until I moved out of my parents’ house. Our little society of 3 (and later 4) required us to learn how to live with different personality types – how to keep from killing each other but also how to work together and face crises.  Our house was pretty dynamic.

 

I’m the the Peter Pan of the bunch – a big dreamer but also a tease. Sage is a born competitor and that served her well as the only girl. Sean was/is the biggest but also the most mellow. He loved video games and computers. Tucker’s the baby – so much younger than me he was almost more like my child than my brother. He was very friendly with irresistible blond curls that everyone wanted to touch.

 

Our order made a difference in our experience with our parents. I was terrified of adults and took everything my parents said to heart. Sage was more rebellious and less fearful. She’s a survivor and saw how to make things work to her advantage. She learned to speak at an early age and would just tell my parents whatever the hell she wanted. Mom says Sage acted like she was the mother. It took me reaching adulthood to see the value of Sage’s ways and finally adopt some of them.

 

Sean had a very different experience with my parents. By the time he showed up, they’d softened their stances on lots of stuff. Sean actually laughed (he laughed!) when spanked. This was inspiring to Sage and me and I think it actually helped us – we saw that there could be a different response to some of the scary things that happened. Sean was very young during my family’s darkest years. Sage and I were older and more aware. We saw some pretty scary stuff and were old enough to be confused by our relatively young parents’ sometimes opposing standards and behavior. Stuff was volatile. We adjusted and prepared emotionally, mentally. I know I woke up daily wondering if the family was going to collapse.

 

But Sean thought everything was fine!  Everything was water off a duck’s back for the kid who laughed while being spanked! Sean also enjoyed the luxury of being bigger than everyone his age and he dominated in athletics and really everything. Nothing seemed to scare him. I thought he might grow up to be a bully but instead he just continued mellowing. I often refer to him as a silent aggressive.  Not passive aggressive just quietly dominating. Play a game with him and you’ll think you’re doing fine until he gracefully eradicates your hopes in a single maneuver without you even noticing and then asks if you want to play again in the least gloating way possible. I learned from that example.

 

 

Tucker had his own journey that must’ve been extremely difficult. He’s possibly the smartest of the four and he was so much younger than the rest of us that his late childhood years were practically spent as an only child. He grew up super quick, though, when a few events beyond his control thrust him into some very difficult situations as a young teenager.  That experience has made him wise beyond his years. Tucker can be totally quiet or super fun and boisterous.

 

Writing this has made me realize, I need to stay in better touch with my sister and brothers.

 

Thank you, Sage, Sean and Tucker for loving me, never forgetting me and helping me, your older and more turbulent brother who hopefully didn’t damage your early views of the world with pretzels sticks up the nostrils, permanent marker tattoos of your initials across your entire back or just barely not touching you at breakfast. I’m so grateful that we had the opportunity to live all under one roof for our formative years I hope I enriched your lives as much as you did mine.

 

And I’m sorry for the pretzel sticks in the nostrils while you were sleeping, Sage.

 

 

 

Gratitude Journal – Day 2 – Health

They say if you don’t have your health you haven’t got anything. I’m not sure who/what to thank for my fortune in this department. My ancestors? Evolution? God? Fate? Luck?

Regardless of who I can thank – thank you! I’ve been blessed with an athletic physique, higher metabolism and strong bones. The only things I seem to have been born with that weren’t so great are really bad vision, crooked teeth and otosclerosis – which has finally come to bear in the last 3 years and affected my hearing greatly.  (just today I felt it worsen. My left ear essentially hears as well plugged as unplugged.)

Meanwhile, one of my brothers had detached retinas at the age of 26! My other brother  had to have a colonoscopy at the age of 25 to figure out why he was pooping blood! My sister’s hips are all messed up and require very invasive, painful operations to fix (bright side – she’ll never need a hip replacement.) Several of my friends over 40 are dealing with cholesterol issues. My friend and band mate Bill Petersen even died from a heart attack at 49 due to a congenital heart problem.

I’m super lucky. (it also helps that my mom made it her mission to keep us all off drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. Thanks, mom!)

However, I can point to one defining period of time where I stopped being lucky and actually chose to start making healthy choices for myself. I was a freshman at the University of North Texas in 1994 and in those days, most degree plans required a PE credit.

It seemed laughable but that PE course kicked my ass and woke me up.

There were physical requirements to pass the course. You could not pass without being able to do x number of pushups without resting on the floor. I don’t remember what x was but it was more pushups than I’d done before or have done since. The hardest of these was locking fingers behind our backs with one elbow above our heads and one pushed up against our backs. We had to be able to do this both ways – right arm up, left arm down and vice versa. If you couldn’t do this by the end of the semester, you would not pass the course no matter how well you did on anything else.

At first  I thought this was all no problem. That’s when 2 years of no PE or athletics other than skateboarding caught up to me. I remember playing basketball and feeling seriously winded after just a couple runs up and down the court. The coach even noticed and commented.

Of course, I whipped back into shape and let the experience be a wake up call — since then I’ve struggled on and off to exercise regularly but I’ve never stopped exercising for more than a week or two at most.

The bigger part of this course, though, was the lab portion of the class.  That’s right, PE had a lab.  It was the same as what we called “Health” in high school.  That lab was possibly the most helpful and useful college course I’ve ever taken — and this is coming from someone who almost earned an associates degree!

This was way before the low carb diet trends or the efforts to get kids to drink less sodas. The biggest impressions made upon me were to stop eating anything with the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredients list and to walk at least a mile a day.  Second to that was consuming less sugar and white flour. These became my benchmarks.

But again – most of my good health is simply luck. I did nothing to deserve or make it happen. I can thank my mom and a few others for their tips but it’s taken 30+ years for me to understand how truly lucky I am. As a younger adult, I suffered from the illusion that anyone could be healthy if they just made better choices. Experience has taught me that it’s not so black n white. Some people are just born with health issues. Some are born deaf or blind. Some are born with diseases that cut their lives short. Some are screwed from the get go by bad parenting and physical realities – like once you’ve been made obese by bad nutrition from your parents, it’s really easy to be obese again and really hard to keep the extra weight off. Some just aren’t born to run, jump, stretch, throw, kick, bounce, lift, curl, swim, thrust, pump, sit up, sit down, push, pull, heave, ho or even dance.

I am incredibly lucky that I can do all those things on the list and more with no real pain or hinderance.

Gratitude Journal – DAY 1 – Responsibility

Henry Q Vines suggested I start a gratitude journal.  So I did. Feeling gratitude is great but when I ended my first entry, I realized that the part about “brightening others lives” is really important to me. Much of my gratitude is for the actions of others. I think it’s important that they know I’m grateful. I’ve been going through hell this year. I’m sure I’m not alone. I hope this effort can help others and help the people to/for whom I’m grateful.  Thank you for reading it.

RESPONSIBILITY

I’m grateful that my parents taught me to be responsible. When I say they taught me, I mean that they not only gave me verbal guidance and encouragement but also gave me opportunities to BE responsible. They always let me make my own decisions and accept the consequences – good or bad.  This meant giving me opportunities to mess up- especially when I was young.

 

Sometimes I felt like a baby bird learning to fly by simply being pushed over the edge of the nest.  “Flap hard! Good luck!” But those early lessons were extremely effective. When I had a check bounce at the age of 17, the experience of being charged a fee by both the bank and the payee and STILL having actually pay for whatever it was I (thought I had) bought was visceral. I saw quickly the wormhole of fees that society has laid out for us. It’s actually frightful. It’s one reason that the poor stay poor – they find themselves in a cycle of compounding fees often turning to even-worse payday loans and other forms of usury.

 

But I also saw the other side of the coin.  Money and time can compound IN YOUR FAVOR that same Wormhole. The best example I can think of is home-ownership. In a mortgage, your early payments are almost nothing but interest. In a breakdown of my first year of payments on my first home, my $1100/month was only paying about $100 of principle. By the end of the year, we owned $1200 of a $138K home. Not inspiring.

 

However, when we sold the house and I got $17K five years later I realized that if I’d been renting, that number would’ve been $0. You have to live somewhere so why not buy into your own life by building equity for yourself instead renting someone else’s?

 

I’ve had relatively very little debt in my life thanks to my parents’ early teachings. Other than homes, education, cars and the occasional business investment, I’ve hardly ever carried a credit card balance from month to month. I have the best credit score of just about anyone I know (who’s shared). I learned this from my parents.

This carried over into personal matters. I learned early on that my actions and decisions affected those around me. Sometimes the hard way. Our family had/has its fair share of turmoil and dysfunction but we have learned to power through and stick together even when we’re not getting along because we see that each of us contributes to the problems we face and the solutions to those problems.

In my young adult years, this translated into the idea that saying yes to something often meant saying no to something else.  I knew that finishing a degree and getting a “real job” was counter-intuitive to my goals of being a touring musician. The cost and responsibility of doing that wouldn’t allow me much freedom to be broke and fulfilled. (On the other hand, being a musician hasn’t allowed me much of the freedom/convenience money can buy. I think I chose best, though.) It took a long time for my parents to buy into my dream but after 20+ years, I think they’ve figured out it’s not just a phase.

Saying yes/no came to head for me as musician when I moved to Austin in 1999. It’s easy to over-commit. Every year or so, I’d find myself saying “no” to things I cared about in order to please others who wanted my time – often for activities and projects that I knew would never go anywhere. Opportunities turned to obligations quickly. I can remember spending a Sunday afternoon going between three rehearsals — after having a show the night before! It took a long time to get past that but these days I’ve been focusing on the things I care about most – especially my relationships with family and friends. I’ve tried to brighten others’ lives even when I’ve not felt particularly bright. Maybe even when they’re actively trying to darken mine.

 

And that’s ultimately the best lesson I’ve ever learned. We are responsible for our own happiness – only you can make you happy and you can always choose your response. You can choose to be happy. It’s not always easy. In fact it almost never is.

 

My parents are not perfect but they rolled snowball down the mountain of my life when they put my name on their credit card account in my high school years. It just gets bigger as it slowly works its way down. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

 

Rock Solid Licks: Lessons From Another Stage

by guest blogger David Wyatt.

DavidWyatt_SolidGold40

The year was 1994. I was 21, heartbroken, and was lucky enough to meet a couple of other super-talented—also heartbroken musicians by the name of David Craig and Jasper Benson. We started like most of the musicians we knew: with a Tascam 4-track in someone’s living room and a handful of mediocre songs with a couple of promising gems. In those early days, there was no hint of what was to come.

 

After several months, we named ourselves “Solid Gold 40” and got a full band together. To me, this was nothing short of extraordinary because I really had no musical background other than listening to it. Never played in bands. Never took music lessons. And I had only really been seeing live music actively for 3-4 years maybe. But we just so happened to meet up in Austin, Texas where there were plenty of clubs and gigs and people had an appetite to play and listen. So for a few years, we just wrote songs and managed to get on some bills and earn our stripes.

 

At one point, when we were playing in coffee shops (no kidding, we had a puppet show open for us like on This Is Spinal Tap) we realized that our bassist didn’t own a bass or know the songs… so we were just as well off calling someone up from the audience. So we cleaned out the rhythm section and started looking for a new line-up. One day when auditioning bassists, one guy stopped and packed up after an hour of playing and said, “I’m just not ready to lead a band.” At the time, we thought that was hilarious and pretty ridiculous, but looking back I can recognize that we didn’t exactly have our act together.

 

Just about every band has one person that does most of the other stuff: booking, making posters, getting merch, ordering CDs, etc. As we started figuring out the things you were supposed to do to get people to know about your band, I became that guy. It wasn’t a conscious choice so much as I got something out of it and seemed to be motivated to see that it happened. But at the time, I didn’t consider myself the “leader” of the band. I was the guitarist (not even the good one) and I wrote songs. I certainly wasn’t in charge. I remember one time on tour when I brought up the idea that if we ever got signed, would I get a bigger cut or something, and a couple of bandmates were incredulous. To me, it made sense, but I guess they didn’t see it that way. In hindsight, I realize that they neither asked me to do all that stuff nor did they probably realize what  it involved. That was my issue. Still, it was about that time that I started to resent my role a little.

 

Being ‘that band member’ is not all posters and buttons. You spend your non practice time prepping song charts and figuring out how you book or promote a tour. Often you put a lot of money into it and a whole lot of steep-learning-curve time. If you are successful at it, then that is rewarding, but often others don’t seem to notice.

 

While we had some great songs, but out a record and a half, toured twice, and put on some epic shows… ultimately, Solid Gold 40 was a legend in our own minds. I say that with all the love and warmth in the world. Our accomplishments were local and personal, but they were big and mattered nonetheless. I still believe we had potential for other places, but it just wasn’t meant to be. We disbanded in 2001.

Solid Gold 40. l-r Jasper Benson, Rebekah Whitehurst, David Craig, Philip White, David Wyatt.

Solid Gold 40. l-r Jasper Benson, Rebekah Whitehurst, David Craig, Philip White, David Wyatt.

 

In the decade and a half since, I’ve played in a few other bands and have found myself at odds with assuming the bandleader role. I don’t know if it is in an effort to get others to do their part or a reluctance to find myself resentful or even vulnerable in that “I went for it” sort of way. That said, even though I’m not a full-time band leader like my one-time bandmate Josh Robins (another band, another story, another time), I learned a lot from that experience—about myself and the way things work. I apply these lessons in my life, in my company, and even in fatherhood. Here are a few of the high points:

 

+ Just ask: A lot of things like booking or media coverage or partnering with bands or odd venues seem out of reach, but what you learn when you are trying to put a show or tour together is “all they can say is no”. When we released our cassette (insert old guy joke here) we had the idea to do a rooftop show like the Beatles and U2. We picked the top of the Barnes & Noble on the drag across from the UT campus and then we just asked if we could do it. They agreed and—while we got shut down by the cops after 6-7 songs—it was a great experience and led to our CD release on a party boat, which may have just been the best show we ever played. Years later, I still use that spirit of ‘why not’ to get things done.

 

+ Fake it until you make it: I’ve never been a great musician. I’m a fair songwriter and a mediocre singer and guitarist. In fact, the driving force behind playing guitar was just to write songs. But then I found myself in a band and called on to do a solo, etc. I’m still a pretty average player, but I learned to do it with gusto and to have confidence. Turns out that can go a long way.

 

+ Give the crowd what they’re screaming for: Early on we had sea shanties and disco songs and noise bits. Those were all a part of the process of finding our best sound, but we discovered that the interest from the audiences and the clubs didn’t come until we got focused. That’s not to say one should sell out to succeed, but I believe there’s a wisdom in doing what’s clearly working for you. In my flower delivery job around the same time, I called it “go where the green lights take you” meaning the marketplace will tell you what it wants—even in art. See also: Louis Blacks’ “Advice for artists, inspired during the whirlwind of SXSW 2005” from The Austin Chronicle.

 

+ When you stand on tables, sometimes you bust your ass: I am a proponent of showmanship vs. shoe-gazing. Over the years, this has evolved from colorful costumes to running around the club antics. On one West coast tour, we ended up at our Oakland destination and they didn’t even seem to remember we were booked. WE had an audience of maybe 8 people, but weren’t going to let that stop us from melting their faces off. So, on the first song, I strapped on my double neck guitar and stepped onto a chair and empty table up front—whereupon it slid away and put me flat on my back like Charlie Brown with the football yanked away. I had the wind knocked out of me but I played my intro any way. It didn’t make it any less great. In fact, it made it moreso.

 

+ Hard work is it’s own reward: As I look back on those Solid Gold 40 days and the bands I’ve played in since, I realize that regardless of my aspirations or the complicated relationships or what come of it all, every bit of it was worth it. Being in Austin and toiling away at venues that don’t give a shit, it is easy to forget sometimes what a privilege it is to make music with talented people for audiences that want to hear your original ideas. Now, I’ve done a lot of crazy things in the name of rock and roll. I’ve played with bad asses I had no business sharing the stage with and a lot of it was pretty spectacular. I am reminded of a great scene from Man on the Moon, the 1999 movie about Dadaist comedian Andy Kaufman. I have no idea if this was based on something he said but when someone said that the fans weren’t going to get it, he replied “it’s not for them.” In the end, what you have is the experience and if you made it matter.

 

 

David Wyatt is a songwriter, performing musician, business owner, husband, father, and coffee enthusiast. He’s played in bands including Solid Gold 40, Stinky del Negro, Summer Breeze, Magnifico, and The Ron Titter Band. He dedicates this post to his wife Rachel, to Josh, and to his SG40 friends David Craig, Rebekah Whitehurst, Phillip White, and the late great Jasper Benson.

 

Thoughts on the Pro and Artist Mindsets

I had a long and good conversation with a drummer friend and sometimes band mate of mine that got me thinking about the difference between the artist mindset and professional musician mindset.

That’s not say that a pro can’t be an artist or vice versa. It’s also not to say that there’s a hard line between the two mindsets. You can certain have attributes of both. Heck, most of my accidental successes would never have gone anywhere if I hadn’t learned from the pro mindset!

The pro mindset says that we should minimize time (and risk) and maximize dollars earned. It doesn’t necessarily factor in things like personal fulfillment, taste or even quality. Lots of the language like that makes pros laugh. Things like “faith” and “artistic success” don’t pay their bills.

My first real memory of my artistic mindset directly clashing with someone’s pro mindset goes back to 2002. There’s a drummer in Austin who probably would’ve been a great drummer for The Invincible Czars but couldn’t get past the idea that we were willing to play for practically nothing. He was cool and good at his audition but if there was no money, there was no him, period. Not worth the risk.

A young ambitious band just starting out would never have played a first gig if we’d demanded a bunch of money. So we went with someone else.

Plus. I felt like he’d always have us by the balls. We were looking for someone to join the band. To share the risk. Someone who believed in what we were doing. More artsy language.

Three drummers and a year later, I’d changed my tune. I realized that if we wanted to play gigs and no drummer would join, all we had to do was pay someone  $50. Cool!  We’re booking gigs again! So I did that for a while.

That’s the great thing about the pro mindset – if your vision doesn’t seem worthwhile to anyone else, you can always pay them to make it worth their while!

But it’s also a curse.

It’s why you see some of the most skilled drummers in the world playing four-on-the-floor drum beats all night in pop and country bands – groups that play music people instantly love (cover bands are the best example) make more money… and in the case of drummers that music is usually very easy!

As soon as someone else offers that person more money, you either have to pay the higher price or find someone else. Suddenly you’re spending more time managing contract labor than making music.

Additionally, just because someone has a pro mindset doesn’t mean they have pro chops. There are plenty of mediocre bass players and drummers out there that are used to being paid $100 to play music they don’t even need to practice to play masterfully. If you want someone to play actual arrangements, the price goes up.  There’re plenty of much easier gigs out there that pay better than learning a whole set of arrangements. They’re happy to just play Mustang Sally night after night.

To pros, the best gigs earn them the most money per hour spent. Individual prep time, group rehearsals, travel time and actual performance time all  cut the value of the gig in their minds.

It’s hard to argue with that in our capitalist society.  If the pay for this gig will be the same whether we give a C- performance or an A+ performance, why give an A+ effort?

But artist are dreamers. We have to have faith that what we’re doing is good, worthy and worthwhile. We have to have faith that we can get there – wherever there is. We make the kind of stuff that gives the pros their jobs and we love what we do so much, we will give an A effort for C pay (or even F pay).

BUT — Pro mindset people can help us learn when shouldn’t!

That year of paying a drummer $50 a show made me permanently much, much picker about what shows to take and how I use group time.

My biggest successes were riskier and more difficult and the practical pro mindset said, “not worth it”.  The potential for C or F pay was high with both The Invincible Czars’ Nutcracker and silent film soundtracks. Building up an audience outside of Austin was very risky. Doing those things took time and sacrifice from me those who wanted to believe. Thank you to those of you who did and do.

Meanwhile, many of the pro-mindset players that were with me along the way are barely even in the music game anymore. I guess they finally figured out something that now renowned producer John Congleton told me nearly 20 years ago (and probably doesn’t remember) — if you’re in the music business to make money, you’re pretty stupid.

I want to end by saying that both mindsets are useful and if matched properly can keep your act on course both creatively and on the business side.  I’ve had more good than bad experiences with pros. Sometimes I had to learn things the hard way with pros who took advantage or just wanted to belittle me. Thank you to the benevolent pros who’ve been willing to do what they do for fair compensation and who did what any real pro does — help pass the torch by educating and giving opportunities instead of just taking my money and delivering a half-assed performance.