I wrote this article a few years ago for a guest blog post. At the time it got a little bit of traction and even got forwarded a bit. I am by no means implying “viral” status but more people read it than I expected. Recently I was interviewed and that article was referenced by the interviewer. I was a little embarrassed that couldn’t quote it and I wasn’t up to speed with my own work! That night though, I read it again and most of it still rings true with me. So here ya go!
5 Things I learned when I was a Rock Star
“Rock Star? Really? Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him!” or something like that is probably running through your mind and yes I’ve heard it before. I’m not claiming to be Steven Tyler or anything like that, usually I don’t even refer to myself as a “Rock Star” but my band toured extensively in the U.S. had a handful of top 40 songs, appeared on national tv shows like Regis and Kelly and I have a few gold records with my name on them. So I may not be famous, rich or handsome (i guess i could be handsome… my mom thinks I’m handsome) but I have been on the other side of the velvet rope a time or two and I like to think I might have even learned something. To be specific 5 somethings.
Number One: It does not last forever.
It happens. You get some help. Real help. Not your well meaning friends. Actual help. Money, management, a grant, a record deal or whatever it is that you needed at the time and you can’t believe your luck. You’ve been working on your own for so long, doing it all yourself and now you can finally make some serious progress! Unfortunately there is a slight problem…. you don’t know what to do with the help. In my case I was like “Sweet! Someone hit the rich and famous button!” Nobody hits a button. Let me let you in on a little secret: The “Man” don’t like risky bets. Meaning: The reason you got the help is you were doing it right in the first place. The “Man” will recognize that and try to give you the boost you need to move to the next level. The key word is boost. Not carry. The work load is yours and it always will be. When you stop working the “Man” starts looking for the next person to boost. So if you get the help be sure to use it and keep working. It most assuredly will not last forever.
Number Two: Know exactly who you are.
Mixing commerce and art is tricky even under the best of circumstances. Throw in a healthy dash of money and fame and it becomes almost freaking impossible. You start hearing things from your friends like “you seem different” “all you talk about is your new record/video/showing.” It messes with you. You don’t feel different but… maybe you are different. The truth is somewhere in the middle. It is, more than likely, the first time you’ve been in this situation. It’s easy to get lost. Your friends and family will treat you differently. They don’t mean anything by it and don’t realize they’re doing it but they are. In truth they WANT you to act differently. They want to “know someone famous” and tell their friends about it, same as you would have. Stay true to who you are and have some fun and be prepared for things to get wacky for a bit. It’s ok though, you didn’t want just the same old same old, did ya?
Number Three: Be careful what you wish for.
I don’t know if there is a more worn out cliche but damn if it isn’t true. Another way to look at it is “Ask the right questions.” What do you want out of this? Be honest with yourself. If you say you just want to create your art (in my case music) for the sake of creating it, that’s awesome. However, don’t be mad when no one “likes” your music or you can’t make a living at it. If you want to make music that “people” like and that you can make money with then that should be your goal. Don’t make the mistake of pretending to be what you are not. Have a plan and follow through. In my case, I always said “Money isn’t important to me…” and guess what? Yup. No money. Not real money at least. It would have been nice but I just thought it would “happen” so I didn’t worry about it. Know what’s important to you and don’t lose sight of it.
Number Four: Don’t “party like a rock star.”
I don’t want to see like a downer but here is another little secret from your good ole Uncle Buzzard: You are swimming with sharks. The people around you (managers, producers, agents etc.) have been here before and they make their living off of people like you. Don’t make it easy to get taken advantage of. In other words, don’t get wasted every night or make decisions while not in control of all your faculties! A friend of mine who is a very successful artist and producer attributes a large portion of his success to not “partying all night!” He told me he could get projects done much quicker than his competition which in turn got him more jobs. He is also very humble and discounts his talents and work ethic but he does have a point. Don’t get me wrong, have fun. Have lots of fun. Have the absolute most fun of your life. Just remember to work too!
Number Five: Take a picture. It lasts longer!
Document your journey. Whatever you end up doing, good and bad, you’re going to want to remember it. I was told early on that I should keep a gig journal. Nothing extravagant. Even as simple as date, location, venue and crowd. Walk off stage and jot it all down with a few notes about the show. Maybe two or tree sentences max. Did I? No…. I’d LOVE to have those memories back. Trust me: The more you do the harder it is to remember it all.
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You have always been my favorite,