I sense a new phase coming.

As with all life-changing phases, it began with a profound malaise. After a weekend of giddiness listening to a few rough mixes for the new record -- they sound fresh and smashing to my ears -- I crashed badly. I kept thinking how I'm going to be going in for another round of dogged persistence, trying to get gigs where no one wants to book me, or a review from a rag that keeps saying yes yes yes and never comes through.

So be it. It's like old the tradeoff that love brings pain. You know it's going to hurt, but you must go ahead with it.

Pushing music made by your little ole self is exhausting, humiliating, and expensive. It's also the closest I'll ever come to having true freedom. I can make the songs say whatever I want, sound however I want. I also got the best boys around to help make the music come into flower, and that's something.

Many of you reading this are artists; you know what I'm talking about. It might be the only taste of glory we feel in our lifetime.

Coincidentally, when I got home last night a little alt-music rag was waiting in my mailbox. For the past few months I've been throwing the mags on the pile without reading them. I'm simply too jealous to read about so-and-so playing the Beeswax festival and what a great time it was. I want to play the Beeswax festival, but the queen bee never returned my calls.

Yet I opened up this issue of the mag. And bingo: first I got bugged. Tell me: In times like these, why do articles, presskits, and the like describe someone who 'deserves' a wider audience? About half the people they're talking about already get Christmas calls from Sir Elton, and the other half are sixth cousins of a Wainwright. Who 'deserves' more than they have? Or less? Do I 'deserve' to get hit in the head and killed by a falling flowerpot, or do I 'deserve' a hit single? If I profess that my pet has been kidnapped, and then 'discover' that she was at home sleeping under a blanky the whole time, do I 'deserve' a full page of publicity in the Post?

So I had my requisite snit. Then, however, I actually started to enjoy reading. Fuck if I've forgotten there's a new Wilco record out. And a new Tift Merritt coming! She's so good, goddamn her, I love her.

So I was getting happy and excited. I started wanting to make music (and not minding having to make obnoxious phone calls).

And a new record is coming.


Nitey nite.


Anonymous said...

music has never meant as a means to an end. its major payback is how it makes you feel. it's a spiritual experience that can't be quantified. when you expect it to reimburse you monetarily for all that you've invested into it, you're playing it for the wrong reasons. you are the only critic you need to worry about. too many people are trying to play music for monetary gain or attention. if you happen to make some money, that's just the gravy. you talk about how it gives you such freedom. if you really wanted to make money at it, you would be forced to sacrifice some of that freedom. it's a trade-off. and a lot of "success" in this business requires appealing to the lowest common denominator. just because it's popular doesn't mean it's great.

velvet lane said...

Erica, I'm relieved to know I'm not the only person who breaks out in mental hives whenever I read a music magazine. I really had to stop buying them, not just cuz it was aggravating, but because...well, it can get boring, too. Oh, another new band! Yawn!

And yeah, "deserving" is a loaded term, eh?

As for the comment preceding mine: wanting to play to a wide audience has little to do with making money--it's the natural inclination of an artist/shaman to connect with the tribe. Any serious musician who tells you that she really doesn't care if anyone hears her music is lying, at least to herself. Of course we need to be happy just playing, but playing to a widening circle of new fans is much more challenging and delightful than sitting in a club and playing to the same 5 people month after month. (Not implying Erica has an audience of 5, I know it's a way bigger number with more more digits!)

Erica said...

Thanks, anonymous. Thanks, velvet lane.

Anonymous: I share your feelings about how music is a spiritual experience. It's really the utmost as far as I'm concerned! I feel so happy that I can have that depth of feeling while listening to or making music. Music, love, and animals are my 'big 3' -- the things that make life good for me.

Yet I think it's natural when you make music, and especially when you cobble together some kind of organized effort such as a record, to want to see and feel fruits of your labor. Imagine working at a job every day and never getting promoted. Or not getting a paycheck. That would suck, right?

To get personal: I think music really is my job in life. It's the only thing I'm good at that really touches people. And even the best and most well-known folks don't get much money from it. (Ask Tom Waits: if not for Cheetos, he'd be busking right now.)

So money really isn't the issue for me. I've been hemorrhaging money for years now, but I chose to do so. For me, music 'success' means support and help. Playing gigs, and more gigs, and more better gigs. Getting a review. And I think wating to succeed is a good, natural thing.

Alternately, I was thinking I could try to cut to the chase regarding publicity for the next record. Instead of hiring a publicist proper and knocking on all the right doors, like I did last time, I should just make a video of myself fellating some B list rocker and post it to the Internet. Any suggestions?