When I was five years old, I stood at the edge of a stage watching my dad and uncles play music in a bar and I thought that was the big time. I remember thinking, "I'm going to get there someday," and I meant it with all of my being. I didn't know, nor did I understand, what all it would take from me to get there. All I knew was that it was my everything.
It felt unreachable and impossible. Every time I'd feel like I had a good idea, it would be shot to hell. I probably could have gotten over it, but when I was about seven, my dad let me get on stage and sing my favorite song at the time. It was What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am by Lee Roy Parnell, and it was the hook that took me in for life.
I didn't even know what obsession was at the time, and no one really saw how much I wanted it. I was always such an introvert that there were even people who wondered if I could talk much less have ambitions to jump on stage and entertain people as a job.
This led to many doubting me later in life when my ambitions became known. I don't blame them. It probably looked like an impulsive want instead of an identifying need. I didn't know how to ask for help and couldn't really get comfortable with the idea of not knowing what to do. I wanted it to be my thing and struggled with the idea of letting people in.
Back in 2004, I got my chance. It's hard to believe that was half my life ago. I guess we really don't get any younger. I found an old system with everything included that was traded for a couple guitars. The music store fixed everything up like new and my dad and I bought it for $1,000. Most 16 year old kids want a car. I just wanted a chance to prove I could do this and find my place in this crazy world they called entertainment.
Now you'd think that would be it. I'd get the PA and go out and prove myself. Well I'm sorry, but this isn't a storybook of ease. I wish it was that simple. I could just say I found my place in the world and was "Discovered." Well I'm sure that's how it works in the imagination. The real world has other plans to shape an artist.
The doubt never left. People still looked at me as that quiet kid and wondered what in the hell I was thinking. The truth is, I was one of them myself, but I didn't know what else to push for. So I kept on keeping on. I was invested deep enough now that I could start to try to figure it out.
Funny thing when you're a kid doing entertainment for adults. Outside of seeing my dads band play, I had no other influences or entertainers that I'd seen. I had to figure it out as I went. I could barely play guitar and made an amateur show using backtracks and a cheap karaoke machine. It's crazy to me to think about how people loved the simplicity of it all.
Of course enough will never be enough. As many people came and went over the years, I always managed to make my way back to being that little boy wondering if he was good enough. My dream wasn't a pieced together show. I wanted to be on that stage like my old man when I was a boy watching him. In 2009 I started that process. I pieced together a band and we got a decent set list put together.
Our first gig was new years eve December 31 2009 on the very stage I stood in front of as a 5 year old boy. To my band-mates, it was just a great first gig. For me, it was what I'd been building for 5 years. They had no way of knowing the mental battle I'd gone through to get over my own insecurities and how I worked endlessly to try to figure out how to even talk to a person none the less an audience. They didn't see me sitting in every place I could just watching how people reacted to different songs or how they didn't like certain things other entertainers did. They just knew we had a show and it went great. They never saw the invested time and energy beyond basic rehearsals. I'd finally done it.
So that's the happy ending right??? Again, this isn't a little happy story book. It was just a chapter. I learned that really quickly afterwards. Maintenance takes a lot of work when you build anything worth while. Relationships mean everything and as humans, we all have our bad sides. Sadly, a divorce never brings out the good in people.
January 10th 2010, only 10 days after my childhood dreams came true, my ex wife and I split up. Later in life we can see these things as a positive, but at the time it had devastating consequences on our ability to keep priorities in line. We get caught up in the ego and blame game of it all. When you build anything on your own shoulders it inevitably becomes weight you have to bear in order to make it run smoothly. When your world crashes around you, the weight easily gets to be too much.
The band didn't survive my personal struggles. Hell, I sometimes wonder how I survived it. My business as a whole took a steep nosedive. Not that I was doing real great beforehand, but it definitely took away any momentum I'd managed to build. I took what was supposed to be a temporary full time job on April 5th 2010 and gave up on being a full time musician. I decided to make it nothing more than a side hustle. That day is burned in my mind forever as the day I gave up hope.
I went dark for about a year. I took on a couple little gigs here and there, but never really pushed again till 2011. I walked into a little bar in Piedmont SD for the first time every on February 10th 2011. A family friend told me they missed seeing me on stage and heard the new owners there really wanted to do some entertainment, so on nothing more than a hunch I walked into that little bar with nothing more than leftover dreams.
I sat down with the owner and talked more about his business than mine. We talked about his goals and ambitions as he made plans to make that old bar amazing. It was the spark in Tracy's eye as he talked about his dreams that made me remember mine. We decided to try to build on Wednesday nights doing a simple Karaoke show.
March 3rd 2011 I did my first night at one of my favorite bars in the world. We had our good nights and our bad nights. Even after they sold the place, I was still there for a couple more years every week. February 23rd 2018 I played my last night there.
I learned the most valuable thing I've ever learned from that little gig. You don't invest in a single goal or dream. You invest in the process of building. I achieved my dream in 2010, yet evolved as an artist with everything that came long after that dream had been checked off my list. Hell I didn't even have the hat back then. I wore a solid white dress shirt and way too much hair gel.
It couldn't end there. The dream just grows and I suspect no matter how big you make it, the feeling is the same. You wonder what's next. You have to invest in the idea of something beyond the dream. Something that will remain true before, during and after the goals are met. You have to invest in the process. Invest in the idea that you can always be and do more.
I wish I could tell you that there was a cookie cutter design to do what I do. There isn't. You have to cut it out yourself and most of the time you're blindfolded and using misshapen razors to try to cut your path. If there's an easier way, I haven't found it, but I don't really worry about it anymore.
I love looking for the answers. I love the journey of it all. I love how every show is different than the last. I know there are many entertainers that could give out blueprints on how to do a lot of what I do, but would it give me the same rush of searching for the song that will make the one girl at the corner table want to at least sway to the music? No it wont. It's a process. It's knowing people and seeing what helps them escape for one evening. It's giving them true freedom for just 3 minutes at a time.
You don't have to have all the answers to start. You just have to love it enough to struggle. You need to have more than just a desire to be known. If you only want fame, people will see right through you. If you're after money, good luck. If you want security, get a real job, but if you love the idea of living on your terms and reaching beyond what everyone thinks is possible even if it's just for a moment at a time, this just might be the job for you. It isn't easy and you will probably never get rich, but after many years, I finally quit that "temporary" full time job. I gave up on security and destroyed my chances of going back for the one thing that truly matters in this short temporary life we live.
Invest in the process of building Happiness.
The World Will Catch Up