When I was an editor at the East Coast Rocker/Aquarian Weekly roughly a quarter-century ago, I worked with and encountered musicians on a regular basis. They could easily be divided into two groups: those who talked about their bands all the time, and those that only talked about their bands when asked. I could scarcely tolerate the first group; to me, their constant, shameless self-promotion evoked a deep-seated insecurity about their music that most likely was warranted. They elicited a lot of eye-rolling and sighing within seconds of entering any room.
At the time, I placed myself in the latter category, especially since at the start of my time at ECR/AW, I wasn’t in a band or even playing much music in public.
Then a new guy named John started at the paper. He was in a band called The Goatmen, and he talked about them a lot, but he was fearless when it came to sharing their music, and gol’ dangit if they weren’t really good — refreshingly different and funny, but with creativity and chops.
After a while, I decided to share with John some of the demos I was working on. He enjoyed them, and with the Goatmen about to go on an extended hiatus, he and I decided to start a band together, which ultimately became Every Damn Day.
We rehearsed, played out, cut a couple of tracks in the same little garage/studio John had used for The Goatmen. We were excited about it all. We started to express our enthusiasm to anyone who would listen. And more often than not, we were greeted with eye-rolling and sighing.
Fortunately we were undeterred. And enough people started to pay the right kind of attention that we had a nice little run of about 15 years. The best part was when people who had only known me from school, or my day job, or as my then-girlfriend’s boyfriend, would listen to one of our CDs or see us live and say: “Wow, you’re really good! I’m shocked!”
What happened after 15 years, as so often happens with otherwise talented people who can’t make a living at their art, is that life gets in the way. People became husbands and fathers with mortgages and car payments, moved from decent day jobs to better ones. The kids were enrolled in dance classes or sports programs after school and on the weekends. All of that leaves little time for a band.
And so that thing happens again: In the eyes of those around you, you become what you do for a living and/or what you do most in your spare time. Few people know you’re a musician, and even if they did, they figure that since you aren’t doing it full-time, you can’t be any good at it.
But the way I see it is this: That other stuff is what I do. What I am is a musician.
As you’ve probably noticed from my social-media feeds, I’ve been doing as much music-related stuff lately as real life allows. Some of my friends and acquaintances have responded with enthusiasm; others haven’t responded at all, which is the online equivalent of the kind of eye-rolling and sighing which, while more benign than the old face-to-face kind, is still an indicator of not being taken seriously.
Here’s what I want to say to the eye-rolling sighers among my friends/followers: If you encounter one of my posts about my music, take 5-15 minutes to explore it rather than scrolling past it, or worse yet, hiding me from your feed. At worst, you’ll confirm what you already assumed and can get back to whatever you were doing. But my hope is that you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and you’ll start to think of me as what I am, first and foremost: A musician.
And maybe, you’ll even think of me as someone whose music deserves to be on your digital player of choice. That would be the greatest acknowledgement of all.