Why You Shouldn't Quit Your Day Job: Confessions of a Starving Musician
I say I don’t get nervous…but I really do. Right before I sit at the piano or go stand in front of the microphone—in that moment backstage before the audience sees me—there is always a little self-doubt. But that’s the good part. It’s the excitement.
Can I bring "it" again just like I did last time? Will people tell me that it’s “only a matter of time” before I get my big break? Will they like the music?
Questions. Questions. Questions. Focus. What are the words to the song again? You wrote it…you should know. Okay, run it again in your head.
“Hey, how are you? Good to see you, too! Thanks so much for coming out. Yeah, it should be fun…I hope you enjoy the show!”
Okay. What are the words again? Okay, storytime. The story starts off with the baby voice. Then on the next part you have to mention something about being a football player. Second string. No, bench warmer—that’s funnier. You got this. Self-deprecating humor always works. Especially when it involves a girl. Okay, let’s go!
A hundred thoughts go through my head, and then I usually just throw them out. What happens will happen. I can’t think of the last solo show where I didn’t mess something up. But I live in that moment. I live on that stage. And I love it.
Once I get on stage, the nerves disappear and I go to work. The performance is the easy part. Before the show is harder, and after the show is the hardest.
Before the show is when all the work goes in. Hours and hours of practicing, writing, and creating. Memorizing words, playing chords over and over so that I don’t mess them up while I sing. Refining songs that I wrote. Sometimes spending an hour trying to decide if I like one chord versus another. It’s like writing. The okay chord is, well, okay. But the perfect chord makes me tremble. And I like to tremble.
But after the show comes the hardest part. Not directly after the show. That’s when I’m still at the top of the world: smiling, thanking people, hanging out at the bar. Everybody is around me, and I feel great.
But later that night, after all the fanfare ceases, it’s back to just me. By myself, on the train at midnight, 1:00 am, or even later. Sometimes with my amp and keyboard. And that’s when I start thinking to myself: Is this it? Will I play again? Will it ever be enough? How much money do I have?
In my moments of loneliness after one of my solo shows, I usually border on depression. It’s usually hard for me to get up the next morning. I measured this past year in extreme ups and extreme downs. When it was great, it was amazing. But when it was low, I often found myself questioning my self worth.
I don’t know if other musicians’ moods were as polarized as mine were, but I would hope that their moments of joy and passion were at least as strong as mine were. Those are the moments that I lived for in the past year. If their lows were as deep as mine were, then I hope they wereable to dig themselves out in the way that I did. How did I do it? Well, I usually was not alone even when I felt as such.
My advice: find a few good friends who you know have your back. My closest friends made me feel as if I had worth when I felt worthless. Don’t get caught up in the moments of praise. Rather, take them as testimony that the struggle is worth continuing.
Like many other career paths, it’s a tough one. And you have to keep pushing through the hard times because for some reason,whatever your personal one is, you feel like it’s all worth it.
And when you no longer feel like it’s worth it, move on.