Somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that I’d have to go it alone.
I grew up thinking that to be an ARTIST, I had to be a solitary, introspective loner.
I’m still un-learning a lot of that junk, but lately, I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve been thinking about specific moments in my life where I needed to be taught and no one was there to teach me. I’ll admit that the absence of a mentor/teacher/encourager was 100% my fault. But seeing and sensing and remembering those absences and their negative effects is forcing me to make sure I’m encouraging those that would have me.
For me, it’s good practice to journal these memories in the hope they’ll spur me to be more of an encourager:
I was 19-years old. I had written and entire album of songs and recorded them. I was feverishly writing songs for a yet-unscheduled second CD project. I was writing a ton – pushing myself to try different styles and songwriting approaches. None of it was very good, but it was pure. I had no desire to be a pop star. I just wanted to write solid, original songs that touched folks for the Kingdom.
I got booked on a roster gig – an outdoor event after a big youth rally. The premise was that four or five bands would all play two or three songs and the students milled around in the parking lot. I didn’t have a “band.” My band for that night was me and my friend Zane Schroeder on a couple of acoustic guitars.
A lot of stuff went wrong that night. First off, I agreed to be the last artist on the bill. Not cool in an outdoor gig. Folks are long gone by the last band. Secondly, it rained and the sound guy who was hired to do the event packed up his gear and left. A couple of the bands hastily put together a mediocre sound system so that the show could go on.
A few bands did their turn and then the band before me got up. They were huge: they had loads of gear and they looked great. These guys had come to rock. And they did.
The did “Sister” by the Nixons and then launched into “Jesus Freak.” I knew both of those songs, and while the band certainly didn’t do them perfectly, it was a solid performance.
The crowd loved it.
I did not.
I had to follow “Jesus Freak” with a 2-acoustic set. Not the most ideal circumstance…but I got up and I did my thing. Did my two or three songs, got some pity applause and then drove home. Zane was as new to this gigging thing as I was, so he wasn’t able to offer me any encouragement or teaching.
I’ve learned lots of lessons from gigs like that, and I’m grateful for them, but on that one night, I wish somebody would have been there.
I wish somebody would have told me to have some perspective. I wish somebody had reminded that I was upset about a 10pm gig in Nacogdoches, TX to a group of about 50 kids. This was not my one shot at the big league. This was one of hundreds of small, petty, pay-your-dues type of gigs that I was destined to play.
I wish somebody had talked about priorities. I wish somebody had told me that writing your own, original works and playing them in front of people was far more courageous than learning stuff already written and proven. That dedication to offer original content as opposed to parroting other bands with proven success held a great artistic and creative value that cover bands don’t even get the chance to explore.
I wish somebody had talked about grace. I wish somebody had reminded me that this music thing was much more than impressing a crowd. In fact, it’s often more about the way you treat people and handle yourself than whether or not people want to buy your CD. I wish somebody had acknowledged that grace in me and encouraged it to bloom.
I learned all of those things: perspective, priority and grace. God is faithful to teach us if we’ll listen. But it took me a long time to learn those qualities with regard to music. I don’t have regrets, but I can now see that having experienced, kind, faithful people around me would have more fully impressed those ideas into my head. I think I missed out of some of the joy in the journey – going it alone is noble, I guess, but I’m not sure it’s healthy.