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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy day musings...

Nursing a hangover from last night's company holiday party while the rain pours down outside.  Getting going on days like this is hard enough.  But here I sit, at my kitchen table staring out the window at the cold rain and typing.  I even skipped my shift at the food co-op.  I'm off work and all that there is on the docket otherwise is a yoga class, picking up groceries maybe, cooking myself some dinner and hitting a friend's party in Bushwick later tonight.  I was thinking about writing a little music, or at least working with my setup or something musical.

I keep telling myself, though, that I should just take this day to do nothing and be useless for a change instead of getting swept up in this frantic need to get something done while I have time to fill (notice I didn't say "time to kill").  A break is in order, yes.  But only because I'm working so much at my day jobs lately.  Not even as some kind of reward for having accomplished something meaningful with voice over or music.  Despite having just seen the screening of "True Love," basking in the attention that the film garnered me, despite feeling more confident in voice over than I have in a long time.

Only when I feel like I've done enough, do I get to days like this and decide to take it easy and not even go to yoga.  But that is rare.  Normally I don't feel like I've done enough.  No, it's hard to feel like I'm doing enough for my career, ever.  And I don't know when you get past that.  Maybe it's even a good thing, it's certainly a motivator.  But then again, maybe it's a form of self-flagellation.  I did all these things.  I moved to New York, got a job, got another few jobs, scored some films, met some incredible people, got a great apartment, started a voice over career, got recognized for all these things, hell, I even made a little money at it.  But I'm still working three jobs to get by and there are all these other things I haven't done, am not doing, that I go from disappointed to straight up mad at myself for not having done.  Live performance of my own music tops out the list.  I have done it but, okay, like once.  So it's a little slow getting going.  I used to call it "rock-out envy" when I'd go see a band play and think, "damn. I should be doing that."  And then every time I'd see some modern concert music, I'd think, "why did I stop writing chamber music?"

But then I remember that a few years ago I started to realize that I can't do every damn thing.  It's clich√© but time actually is money these days.  I had to choose what was most worth my time.  It was  one part "is there a monetary return significant enough to justify the investment of time and energy," one part "do you enjoy doing this," and probably more than one part "is this genuine."

That one is most important and I was motivated to answer that when I realized the other two things.  It came down to, if I have a limited amount of time to work, I need to eat and pay rent, then I'd better make sure of the other two things: am I enjoying this and is it what I would be doing if all things were equal and I had all the time in the world.  I even quit doing a few things that I enjoyed because they were taking up more time than they were worth.  Those decisions were hard and I'm better for them.  There's no doubt that the strides I made in my career were a direct result of reallocating my time.

This all really boils down to, I took those jobs at CNN and truTV and now I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like for live performance.  I have an open offer to book a gig performing live guitar looping and electronic music at a yoga class in Tribeca but I am nowhere near ready.  I've written a few songs, I've got the set up going, it works, but there are too many parts for me to even imagine hauling it 11 stops on the R train to City Hall or even renting a vehicle for that amount of time for a gig that's going to be tips only.  There's no doubt I'm going to enjoy doing it and that the investment is going to be worth it on a personal enrichment level.  I have to try it and see how much fun I have but will something like that be sustainable for me in the long term?  I have musician friends who pick up and tour around the east side or even go to Europe for gigs and I wonder how they do it when I know these gigs don't pay well and they have to sell merch, stay with strangers, and hope people buy their CDs to stay out of the red.

You have to really love it.  That's the obvious answer.  And I love to quote Henry Winkler on this, "Do you need to do this thing that you've found, or does it just sound exciting."  It keeps coming back to that.  I'll be perfectly honest. I was not enjoying spending so much time and energy composing a piece of music for someone or some group to perform it, for it to be heard once (by fewer than 10 people) and there to be absolutely no monetary return on it.

But therein lies the problem.  You obviously have to do this stuff to meager audiences to get started.  And I did enjoy parts of it.  There was enjoyment happening somewhere in the process.  The nights Tania and I stayed up rehearsing, the moments when my electronic equipment worked perfectly, the few moments of applause, being on stage at Galapagos Art Space (a beautiful space if you haven't seen it); all of it moved me to remember why I did all of that.  And I had to not care if anyone enjoyed it, or noticed how groundbreaking or even just f*cking cool it was to mic a piano and sample it live.  And I had to not care that the video didn't come out all that well.  And I had to not care how heavy my equipment was.  And I had to shrug off the time in Harlem when the sound guy didn't even plug my laptop into the house system and I didn't notice until we were in the middle of the piece and nothing was happening.  And I had to forget all the other times that things didn't go as planned.  Because this is what I live for.  Making music and, yes, sometimes performing it or having it performed.  I'm most alive when I'm on stage or when I'm hearing my music being performed live.

And sure there are even other ways to make your money to offset the cost of doing these things.  And no, these things almost never make money.  But that absolutely cannot be the reason you are doing these things or you are seriously deluding yourself.   One thing I can say is that I've never had any delusions (at least not lately) that I could make a lot of money playing music.  I mean, my undergraduate piano professor hammered that point home pretty good (asshole).  All I've ever wanted to do was be able to keep doing it regardless.  Because I almost stopped once.  And I don't ever want to live like that again.


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