Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I have competing voices in my head. One of them sounds like this: "You can be as successful as you dream with your music. You can and will make a living with your craft; your songs will be played on the radio and in the movies; You're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you." I find having Stuart Smalley as an internal guide is helpful. At least as far as self esteem goes.

The other voice is the counterpoint, and sounds like this: "Music is a nice hobby. You've written some good songs, had a good run, but the odds of you making it are slim to none. You are too old, not a good enough writer, and seeing as how there are some thirteen billion really good singer songwriters on the planet, well, don't quit your day job."

I hear the former voice when I'm centered, feeling clear, eating well, reading something inspirational, or exercising regularly. Or when I've just played a really good show at a nice venue. I hear the other voice when I'm stressed, overwhelmed, tired, hungry, or played another coffeehouse gig for 3 people.

On one hand, it's always easier to give up and give in to the inertia of being sedentary. It's easier to watch TV than to work at writing a song; it's easier to sleep in than to exercise. And it's certainly easier to stop putting energy into booking gigs than it is to hear 8 "No's" for every "Yes."

Yet every time I get rejected by a venue, artist, or booking agent, I try to use it as a gut check, a test to my resolve. It begs the questions, "How serious am I about attaining my goals, and how much am I willing to endure to get there?"

Because on the other hand, to give up on what I think about and dream about the most propels me into an alternate universe that feels very disconcerting.

When I find myself listening to the internalized "small" voice, the one that begs me to give it up, I remember those who have gone before: Sly Stallone was rejected 1,500 times before Rocky was picked up. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Babe Ruth also led the league in strikeouts.

And I trudge on, preparing to book more shows, make more albums, write more songs, and hear many more "No's" along the way.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Making It Happen

I was told that by the time the record label finally said yes to Smoky Robinson's "Tears of a Clown," he had been rejected the prior 68 times. Similarly many sports teams and literary publishers took passes on Tom Brady, Julia Child and J.K. Rowling, all of whom have gone on to not only succeed but in many ways define their generation in their chosen field. I think of them when I get yet another "thanks but no thanks" from promoters, booking agents, talent buyers, bands, managers, contest judges and others who seem to hold the keys to the music industry kingdom.

I recently opened for the Paperboys at Seattle's wonderful Triple Door, and with our combined draw we sold out the show. I have been asked a number of times how I was able to get my foot in the door with this great band and stellar venue. Quite simply it boils down to persistence. Through sheer diligence I had gotten to the point where the talent buyer at the Triple Door was willing to consider me as an opener (after I had given him my sales pitch as an artist with a Seattle-area fanbase) if the right gig came along. Yet as I have reached this stage a number of times with similar venues, it often happens that by the time I see the name of a band appear on the calendar, the evening's lineup is already set. I am still learning about how to involve myself in these earlier discussions. But this time, I went straight to the Paperboys (nearly every band has contact info on their website, and some will even respond), gave them my sales pitch, and we made it happen.

I remain convicted that writing songs, playing the guitar, singing, and performing are among the things I do best in the world. As a result, I strive to remain clear that my pursuit of life as a professional musician is a key component to my life's larger purpose. With that in mind, receiving another "thanks but no thanks" can be viewed as yet another test, encouraging me to look within and ponder, "How badly to I really want this? What am I willing to give to make it happen?"

I believe in dreaming, in writing down goals, in manifesting what I wish to create in the world. Every day I take at least a few steps in this direction, with this aim. And I am doggedly making it happen.