If one thing should be apparent from reading my last few blog entries it is this – I have the potential to succeed in this endeavour; but if I am to do so then there are some serious things I need to change about my life, both external and internal. The biggest threat to the project is the temptation to give it all up the minute something doesn’t go as I planned. And trust me, things will not go according to plan! If the last fourteen years have taught me anything its that you have to prepare for the unexpected and unwanted to happen, as they inevitably will.
Of the four main bands I have been in; the killing blow has always been boredom coupled with a lack of confidence in the project. The process is always the same – find likeminded musicians/friends, write songs, get some local gigs, beat ourselves up when the gigs are full of mistakes or a lack of audience, record a demo, hate the demo, change musical direction, disband, rinse and repeat.
Of The Day’s single ‘Mirrorblack’. My first time in a proper studio. And boy, can you tell!
My first band Of The Day was fantastic fun – we were pretty shit, but it was all fresh and exciting. We packed out the Louisiana (one of Bristol’s best loved live venues) for our first and only gig and had an amazing time. We recorded a couple of demos that we liked. Listening back now it wasn’t great, although far from a disaster for a first ever band. We were more a bunch of friends than actual musicians though; so I knew I had to move on to take music seriously as a career choice.
My next two bands Zero Chance and Gaslamp Quarter (pretty much the same band, just with a change of name and complete change of music) were fraught with negativity, criticism, self-doubt, in-fighting and over analysing of everything. If mistakes were made during a gig there would be an angsty post-mortem in a dark corner for the next hour. We’d constantly change the songs and direction, easily getting bored and losing confidence in the material. There were lots of arguments. At gigs we’d be standoffish snobs to other bands we played with if we didn’t like their music. After a handful of gigs, both bands evaporated.
Zero Chance in 2004. There was a big lack of confidence in the material, and eventually each other.
With Red Dust Road my plan was simple – to create something the total opposite of what I’d done before. I wrote all the songs myself; largely upbeat acoustic-based american style rock songs in the vein of Counting Crows, Matchbox 20 etc. I advertised on Gumtree for musicians and found three talented guys who had all been in a band together before. Things were largely relaxed – we smiled onstage, had fun, made the upbeat, happy music video you can see in my second blog post. We recorded a six track EP that I still think sounds pretty great.
And then we signed a deal with a local, independent ‘record label’. They were actually an advertising and marketing firm that thought they would try branching into music, and they didn’t have a clue what they were doing. They started asking us for money, and it all went south. It was a bit depressing but we soldiered on for a while. Then our guitarist started behaving very erratically and eventually we lost contact with him. Rather than just find a replacement I called time on the band. In hindsight it was a stupid decision – We were getting pretty tight as a band, had an EP to promote and people seemed to be enjoying our gigs.
Red Dust Road live at the Fleece, one of Bristol’s best venues.
The lesson to take from the story is this – any time the going has got tough I have thrown in the towel. Sometimes the decision has been out of my hands, sometimes not. But I need to completely change my mindset and try to find the positivity in what I do. I need to believe that I am good enough. That I deserve to share my music with the world and believe that people will enjoy it. I’ve also learnt that being a snobby elitist prick gets you nowhere in life. Everyone has a right to create, and have people respect the time and hard work they have put in, regardless of genre or ability. I vow from this moment on to engage with all the artists I meet, to actively seek them out and say hi at gigs, to buy their music and give it a chance. Everyone started somewhere and learnt along the way, and it takes a lot to bare your soul for public scrutiny. It does no one any favours when four or five acts turn up to a gig and drift to separate corners of the room, ignoring each other only to the play their set and leave without watching the rest. Its rude and disrespectful.
Most of the time people are perfectly happy to engage with you, they just find it hard to make the first move. I find it hard myself. But I am going to overcome that and be the person that brings people together. And that goes for the rest of life in general too. I want to talk to people, make new friends, find out what makes them tick. Treat them with kindness, respect and an open heart. I’m tired of cynicism, jealousy, self doubt, and saying no to new experiences.
I also vow to attend way more original music events, be they open mic nights, showcase gigs, album launches, festivals, whatever. I have been so caught up in the wedding band and covers scene for the last few years that all this amazing music is passing me by. Case in point – a gent by the name of Michael Dennis who runs an open mic in Bristol had his album launch party on Friday night. He’s a true original – a rapping violinist who uses a loop pedal. I almost didn’t go, but in the end I had an absolute blast. The place was packed out with people cheering and dancing all evening, and all for an unsigned artist playing totally original music. It felt good for the soul. I went up to him afterwards, told him how much I enjoyed it and bought his CD. There’s nothing more rewarding for an artist than for people to validate what they do. I’m going to want people to treat me the same way.
As you can see, I’ve linked his music above. Its something else I shall be doing with this blog; when I gig with people or attend other artist’s shows I will let you know about them. I truly do believe that you reap what you sow; and I want to foster a sense of community with the people I admire and enjoy. Its all part of making the conscious effort to be happy and to try to make others happy. A personal revolution of the mind. If I’ve learnt anything at all its that negativity only breeds negativity. Everybody needs a helping hand, everyone has doubts about their work, and more often than not if you help them along the way they will be there for you when you really need it. So let’s do this. I can’t wait.