If you want to do something big and amazing with your life, you completely can and should do that. I’ve talked to thousands of fans over the last few years that unashamedly wanted the job I have. At every meet and greet, at least half of the people that talk to me want to know “How did you make it?”
If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everybody kinda wants to be a rockstar.
I love that! I love seeing their passion, their fierce desire to be up on that stage, influencing the crowd. I love that fans see their heroes in music videos tearing it up and think I want to do that.
I mean, for real, if you’re reading this, you probably at one time in your life wanted to be a rockstar, right?!
("Well, you know," says the defeatist, "We can’t all be the rockstars. Someone has to be in the audience. Someone has to listen to all that music that the rest of us so desperately want to make.")
I think this ingrained desire to be a successful musician isn’t exactly what it looks like. I’m pretty sure it has way more to do with the idea behind being a rockstar more than the actual practicals of the job description.
I think everybody wants to be loved, and admired. Everyone wants to make important work and have people resonate with it. Everyone wants the freedom to be the boldest version of themselves and have people adore them for it and maybe even pay them for it. We all just want to be fascinating.
But, clearly, not everyone wants to do the work that it takes to actually get there. And I don’t mean that in a condescending way, because, really, who would? Not everyone wants to load amps and drum cases into a freezing back alley bar at three in the afternoon and play for 2 kids plus the hungover soundguy-and understandably so. Not everyone wants to deal with the gut-wrenching humiliation and rejection involved in climbing your way up. People generally don’t get excited over the idea of sleeping in a van and living on taco bell for years on end. It’s just not glamorous after the first week.
So people change their mind. They decide to become accountants and truck drivers and secretaries, where they can get health insurance and afford a mortgage, while also maybe playing some guitar with their friends on the side.
That’s totally ok. It is ok to have wanted to be one thing with every shred of your soul, and then later end up wanting a different thing, and living a different life than you had imagined as teenager. It’s ok to stop doing something that’s too hard or makes no money or just isn’t fun anymore. Most of my musician friends have stopped trying to be professional musicians, and have gone on to lead simpler, happier lives. Most of the time, trying to make it is too hard to be worth it.
And really, that’s not even qualified as giving up. That counts as “changing your mind”. I’m all about making a mature, smart decision and changing your mind. Our drummer Adam did that. He was thirty years old, sick of the grind and the poverty, and wanted to be a grown up for once, and have a shot at a normal marriage. He’d lived a decade as a crazy person, and now he was ready to move on. That’s cool. Shawn and I weren’t ready to do that. We still wanted to play our odds and live insane lives in exchange for sharing our music with people. It was still worth it to us, but it wasn’t for Adam. Adam is intense and passionate enough as a person though, that I’m confident he will find something else to pour his soul into that will make him fulfilled and happy.
The director of our latest music video, Jamie Holt, went to one of the fanciest film schools in the world. On the first day of classes her professor made an inspiring speech, which went something like, “Listen guys. If you can see yourself doing anything other than this, I want you to walk out of this classroom immediately and go do that. This industry is awful, you will not make it. You will struggle the whole time and be broke. If you can think of any other profession as even slightly possible for you, please save yourself the trouble and go do that."
The day we met our manager Tim, he opened the conversation with, “This business is designed to ruin your life.”
That’s scary stuff.
For some people, though, it doesn’t really matter. All the speeches in the world can’t talk them out of their dream. Some people are so obsessed with their passion that they do not care how much it all sucks. They can stomach the pain, they welcome the sacrifices, because they are kind of batshit crazy. I think most people that end up making it in really tough industries are like that. Insane.
If you want to be a rockstar like that, then I have complete and total confidence that you will most certainly be one. You will be one of the “lucky” ones that just keeps on going, even when all common sense says it’s probably time to move on. The people who don’t give up are the ones who make it. The people who realize that their passion is ruining their lives and is costing them everything are the ones who don’t make it.
It’s just all about joy for me. Being a musician makes me happy, more happy than a consistent schedule and stable income would. When it stops doing that, I will need to stop too, or at least make adjustments until I’m happy again.
So for you: Don’t give up on your dream. Honor that part of you that wants to be GREAT, that wants to be heard. Whether or not you want to be an actual rockstar is not the point here; the point it that is costs a lot to do something great, and sometimes we just don’t really want it that bad to justify the cost.
But. If you’re reading this and it feels like your heart is on fire, then you probably are one of the crazy ones. Good for you. Go get it babe.