In the music business, you’re only as good as your last great song, concert or album. Some form of this adage is true in all creative businesses and probably in every other endeavor as well. I think society in general promotes this unfair expectation, but as artists, we self-inflict this particular brand of stress. That “never good enough” sense of perfection is what drives us to new creative and career heights, but it has a cost. Those costs can be so serious that they deserve their own blog post at some future date.
Ironically I think the only people that don’t look at our music and our band through the prism of “what have you done for me lately” are our fans. I know its cliché and more than a little self-serving to say, “We have the greatest fans in the world,” but hey – it’s true. It never fails that on nights when we think we have let ourselves and the audience down with a mediocre performance, we get feedback that this particular song or that particular song spoke to them in ways that matter. They will say that despite the hardships in their life, “tonight’s show lifted me up and made me smile.” It is a reminder of how powerful music can be and that our job in the end is not to connect through perfection, but though emotion. It always works out that the one song we happen to screw up the lyrics to, the music or harmony to (cringe-worthy in our estimation) ends up being the song that people come up and say, “that song moved me tonight.” I’ve often thought to myself, “Wow are you deaf? We totally hosed that one.” The moment I question a listener’s connection and passion for a particular song or of a live-show moment, I have already missed the point! They’re not listening with their ears. If you truly do your job right, they are listening with their hearts.
It can’t be denied that the single-minded need to succeed in music most often comes from an over-sized ego. You can’t get into the music business without that fragile inflation. There are so many people and circumstances that tear at your confidence, that if you don’t go into the arts with more that your share of unbridled belief in your talent, you won’t have enough left over for the long haul. We are a lucky band. We are lucky because we are old and of little interest to the mainstream music machine. We have been through that ringer a thousand times or more. We have all fought with and fought through major deals of one kind or another. We have built ourselves up to be torn down, to be built back up again. We are no longer in need of an inflated ego. We are doing this for ourselves first. We love making music on our own terms; writing and singing songs that move us; performing shows that we like and turning down shows that we don’t. We have found that onstage, in the studio and even off stage with our fans, when we make music on our own terms, it moves the people that want to be moved.
So if it’s not for ego and it’s not for getting rich, why do we still work deliriously hard to write, sing and perform? I’m sure that all three of us have our own answers, but I think as a group we ache to have our music heard. We constantly jones for the impact that a concert moment makes. We are addicted to the feedback that we hear about our record. We want to know why people listen to it and what it means to them. Not out of self-importance, but out of a seemingly desperate need to be remembered. A calling to be a part of another person’s joys and sorrows. That may well be the most enduring bridge between the arts and humanity in general. We all crave to carve our place in the world. Some find their place as parents, some find it as civil servants, doctors, nurses, police officer, soldiers, peacemakers and everything in between. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask of life. The desire to make a difference; to impact an individual and even society as a whole just doesn’t seem like too much to ask. It is however, a monumental and never-ending quest.
“Can you hear my song in the midnight hour
On the AM band of your radio
I don’t believe you ever think of me
Tell me I’m wrong, if you can hear my song.”
Mark Elliott – Runaway Home
“It’s the Music that Makes Us Smile”