Unlike many of your friends and family, if you’re on the road to becoming a professional musician, the 9-5, clear cut route, is uncharted territory. Much like a scientist testing formulas that may never amount to anything, the entrepreneur whose ideas & inventions seem to crumble in the wake of competition or a mathematician racking their brain with thousands of equations that never seem to add up - the musician’s passage is a series of trials and tribulations, as random, unstable and uncontrollable as they come.
Speaking from experience, no matter how hard you’re trying, often times those in your environment will question why you haven’t gotten further, faster. In every sense of the word, the musician must “tune” themselves to the frequency of this lifestyle. They must find the balance where they can exist in such a foggy state of space.
Then, there will be the hours, days, years of investment. The time taken to practice technique and sharpen skill can seem futile for those around you, they may not understand that you can write 480 questionably terrible songs, when that 481 is the one that birthed a gorgeous little ear worm that will put your name in history books to come. They may not understand how a thirty second chorus that seemed to be written from the ethers, can put you on the map.
In terms of it being a lifestyle, one must want this all of the time. Expect that there will be moments when you feel dull and un-inspired, but these will pass. Expect that your professional life will bleed into your personal, which is why it’s important that No. 1: You really want it and No 2: You are choosing the genre/instrument/subdivision of the industry that you truly feel connected to. If you love it from the bottom of your heart, it will be that much more do-able. You might even enjoy the lessons along the way.
Although we are not saying that the 9-5 schedule is an easy one, it does provide a sense of security that is relatively unknown when exploring a profession that is akin to feeling around in the dark for something solid to grasp on. You’ll have to test out many creative and business partnerships, simply because some just gel better with others.
The facts say it all. The creative will typically be forced to work meaningless jobs, just to pay the rent and keep their creative habit a float. They will usually have to move to the big cities (Nashville, New York, Los Angeles) where they know not one fellow soul. They will have to learn the hard way, the difference between who to trust, who to take at face value and how to politely bow out of situations that are much like dangling a carrot on a string in front of a “starving artist”. A myth that has a few doses of truth within it.
A Robert Frost quote comes to mind, where he discusses the path that is the unclear, less obvious, route. Despite it being more convoluted and treacherous, the poem ends with the writer having that much greater of an outcome at the end of his journey.
Despite the fact that we are only beginning our creative journey as well - we have put in enough time to see the incredible outcome of what can happen when you risk it all and leave your fate up to chance. There will be nights where you will have to choose ramen over steak, where you’ll have to show up to your day job on three hours of sleep because your gig ran late the night prior. But, it will be made up for when you can trade that safety for moments of meeting your idols, moments when creativity strikes and a beautiful melody comes from your very own hands.
Pull yourself back up from the pitfalls that you can certainly expect. Have friends and family that you can rely on for positive reinforcement, reality checks when needed and someone in every city who you can count on for a good hug. You will need it. Dust yourself off and march on to your own beat. You’re ninety-year-old self is in the future, cheering you on - thanking you for taking the road less traveled. For squeezing every drop of adventure out of life.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Play On.
K. O'Neil, PitStop Musicians