I had that dream again last night. I was back in the And band and we were going to gig. There was nothing but confusion. We had some kind of crew but nobody knew where anything was. It was like, a half-hour before the show. I hadn’t played in so long I didn’t know if I had any strings. I fumbled around and found three and I knew my guitar strings needed changing, but now there was no time. I couldn’t find anything to put on; I may have been shirtless or had pajamas on or something. Worst of all, no one was there. “How are we going to get people to come?” I asked in my dream.
Once I dreamed I had to go onstage but I was naked. I went on anyway hoping no one would notice. You’ve had that dream if you’re a performer. It’s called fear.
Once I dreamed I was asked to join Blue Oyster Cult because I was just so good. We went on to a stadium crowd and then I realized I didn’t know any of the songs. Everyone was looking at me. Where the hell did that come from?
One thing that happens as you get older is that you start to let go of dreams. It’s not a bad thing; it’s reality. It can be a really shitty reality to suddenly realize you’ve been holding on to a dream that has no chance of coming true. It suddenly occurs that you’ve prevented yourself from latching on to other dreams while you’ve been fixated on the one you were sure was the most important.
The trick, seems to me, is to keep dreaming and that it’s okay to let go of the one you were certain you would realize with the right amount of perseverance.
Finding the right dream means finding a suitable purpose in life. That means knowing who you are. This takes more work than anything. If you thought practicing the modal scales in every fretboard position was time consuming, try self-examination. This is a lifelong pursuit.
Music performance is not for everyone. True, you can be creative, write music, record and produce it in your own home these days. That wasn’t always true – I know – somewhat of a shocker to Millennials, but at one time recording anything meant either having a sugar daddy, a Brian Epstein who could find you one, or lucking out and actually getting a deal. The who-you-know theory often prevailed over the talent theory and luck changed with the fads. You had to be in the right place at the right time. But performance – that implies career in many cases or at least giving it a shot, perhaps having your experiences and then moving on to something that actually makes a living for you.
There is the artist and then there is the star. Artists can be stars but not all stars are artists. Remember artist has the word art in it. Art equals life. Your art will be as good as your life. Or sad. Or bad. It’s art if it’s your life. The single-minded dedication of purpose is to your life. You practice your craft, whatever that is, and you meld it to your life. This produces art. If you’re busy hanging posters and calling promoters you’re losing time for art. We all know that’s the Catch-22. Get a manager and focus on your art. You’ll need to learn a few things: The Art of Listening, The Art of Absorption, The Art of Application. It’s not science; it’s magic when art happens.
For a long time I focused on art in my life. I stumbled into a business career when someone had to start keeping track of things. Funny how “Plan B”s turn into “Plan A”s. There was a time when I thought I could never turn off the faucet of assimilation; having to process every moment, every glance, every movement into fodder that could be used to create something. I wrote a lot more words than I ever did music. They were songs that I thought I would put music to. I have reams of them and it’s really illuminating to look back on them now. What a tragic figure I made myself out to be!
I caught the production bug pretty early on but refused to let go of the star dream. I could have been a successful producer I’ll bet. Eventually, though I had to let go of that star dream and when the faucet turned off it was a huge relief.
I am thankful for what music has brought me in my life. I sometimes feel that I would not have gotten by without it. It gave me purpose, added meaning to a world often appears upside-down. Yet I also feel if I had realized my star dream I likely would not have survived it. My goal with music was always to instill that gift to someone else as it was instilled to me. At first it was on a mass scale, then it became about one person. If I could sing a song or touch just one person, make their life a little more meaningful, add some purpose to it, then my job as an artist was complete. I’ve had that one person tell me I made a difference in their time of need. That is the reward. I am lucky and very thankful for that. I’m lucky to be able to carry that on now; doing what I can. People need each other. Never forget that no matter how bleak the picture looks. There is a simple kernel of truth at the core.
Have a happy Thanksgiving. Forget about the Pilgrim part. Examine your life.