The roar won’t stop. Neither will the humming. It starts with my fingers, running all the way through my body, to the amplifiers and out into the sea of faces before me. The air was electric; everybody says that, but unless you’ve been on a stage, you don’t really know what that expression means.
It’s the cheering. The cheering. It never stopped, that happy roar like the approving screams of a hundred-headed god.
Even if the cheering wasn’t for me specifically, it didn’t matter. It was for something that I was a part of. We all believe in the primacy of the individual, but there is no feeling like connecting with hundreds of others through the only force at humanity’s disposal to do so.
The lights, the movement, the energy, the synergy, it’s more powerful than any drug. The best part about it is that it’s free and it’s legal. It builds you up and it doesn’t break you down. But it doesn’t make it any less addictive.
The thing about adulation and attention, is that the feeling it gives you cannot be found anywhere else. And when you have that taken from you, either through the your own actions or those of somebody else, you’ll do whatever you can to reclaim it.
Or so you’d think.
The comedown is harsh, the stink of failure obliterating the memories from that time machine we all carry inside of our heads, one moment of pain obscuring all of those interminable days of magic. But that’s human beings for you: we fixate on the negatives as if the positives never happened.
I still remember those city nights. They’ve never left me. Scrounging enough money to get a bite to eat after the show. Handing out flyers, sacrificing all my other relationships for this one cause. I was young. I was hot. I was hungry. And I thought there was no way to go but up.
What I did not understand was business.
Business and mindset. Business and the need for self-improvement. Business and resilience. Everything is a business, even the arts. If your goal is to go from town to town, city to city, making the art of your choosing and share it with the world, you damn well better know how to run that shit.
Learn your art, and learn business. We don’t live in a world of government grants for every little thing you think matters. You have to force the world to listen, and to give you money. In order to do that, you need to be good.
I thought I was good. And I was. But I stopped improving myself. I stopped paying attention. I didn’t stay paranoid. I stopped seeking feedback, and none was given; a sure-fire recipe for a swollen head.
You need to be your own harshest critic.
When the decision was made by forces outside of my control, the project that I had help shepherd to the edge of success decided I was no longer a good fit. Bye-bye.
It was a business decision.
It didn’t matter. I fell. Hard. But I did not bounce. I stayed there with my cheeks pressed down against the streets that I used to consider my playground. I couldn’t see out of the darkness. This was supposed to be my hope, my way out, the only thing I knew I wanted to do with the rest of my life since the time I knew what an electric guitar was it what it sounded like.
But in the depths of despondency, all of the hard work that had gone into practice, study, composition, voice training, ear training, was defenestrated from the highest floor, never to return.
Pure garbage. That doesn’t exist.
Art and commerce have always been intertwined. Bach was paid by the church. Frank Zappa ran his entire operation from his house. Nowadays, do P. Diddy and Jay Z even make music anymore?
It doesn’t matter. They’re playing the long game.
I didn’t bounce back and I sure as hell didn’t dust myself off and get back up. The very first thing I should’ve done after my unceremonious excision from the project I thought would take me to the next level should have been to call all of my musician friends–the drummers, the guitarists, the piano players, the singers–and create something new. There. That day. Instead, I almost didn’t even get my gear from the old practice space.
Why? Because I was depressed that the world didn’t care.
Since then, the most liberating thing I have learned is that the world doesn’t care until you make it. And even then, it’s a long-shot. So stop caring what others think and plow ahead.
Now, I’m in a place where I can see people I know succeed and feel happy for them. But it took me almost ten years to get here.
Don’t wait ten years. Start adjusting your mind today, find what you were born to do, and ride that horse until it takes you somewhere good. You might fail along the way, but build on those failures and you’ll end up somewhere great. I know it.
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