About a decade ago, I had the idea to start a cover band and do songs that folks around here never heard before. I didn't know how to start a band, or sell band's act to club owners. I didn't know how to be a "front man" for a band. All I knew were a handful of chords and rough experience from college. When I left college and started working with Caroline Majure, I learned a lot from old musicians in the area. They proved to me I didn't know much. I needed more experience. And so, I learned. Unfortunately, our relationship didn't end well. Caroline brought on a new drummer when Del moved to Tampa, and this guy gave us the, "My way or the highway" talk, told us he was going to change the name of the band, and do all kinds of other things. It was the beginning of the end. And so, I quit.
When I told Caroline I was leaving the band to do my own thing, she got angry and held back my earnings to teach me a lesson. The lesson I was supposed to learn was Caroline determined my value.
In the end, I decided it was better just to fire her. I don't need cheap, dramatic people in my life. While she reached out to me, through our bass player, Terry, to help her with gigs from time to time I rejected the offers. Eventually, she stopped calling. I set out to prove that even if I wasn't as good as a musician, or singer, I was going to do my own thing and succeed.
Starting my own band and doing things with like minded people has been my mission ever since.
Life lesson #1. Stick to your mission. Trying to create a band that did something different in a club circuit isn't easy. Customers like to stick with what they know. But if given the choice between blowing people away with entertainment value rather than doing what's popular, I'd rather be blown away.
Our band, Regular JOE, did a lot of classic cover songs. It was fun, but the chemistry wasn't right. People were conflicted about alcohol intake, and the songs. It was a mess. It was a mess because I didn't fire people who weren't on the same mission. Sometimes, it's hard to do what's right for the group when you just want to hold things together. In music, you have to be an adult and fire people. Stick to the mission. This is why we started regular JOE 2.0.
Life lesson #2: Leadership is getting the most out of your team. If you don't get the most out of them, fire them!
Still, the second iteration of the band, regular JOE 2.0 got much better. Together, at least for while things lasted, we made a dent in Northwest Florida music. Our music was fast, fun and targeted towards Power Pop. Sure we threw in some Ska, and classics, but we moved towards a Gen X crowd. In other words, we had a product, found our people and had the right placement. But we didn't have a great business plan. The band collapsed after a 2.5 year run. In music, you must have a business plan and work as a team towards the same goals.
Life lesson #3: Just because you've got a good product doesn't mean you've got a good business.
The lessons I've learned putting and keeping a band together, are lessons I didn't learn from reading books. That's why there are so many books on leadership. It's hard to nail down. But the lessons you learn in life, from failures and successes, are the ones you'll lean on for the rest of your life. They become part of your operating system. I would never call myself a leader. All I can say is I have a lot of failure behind me, and I trust my education.
That's why I want to be sure there's something to learn with every new enterprise I take on. Education takes many forms, and it is expensive. But good judgement comes from great experience. Great experience comes from bad judgement.
Life is a good teacher. Its education makes you stronger. Failure gives you context and competency. Persistence with education gives you freedom to stop chasing what is popular, and the confidence to do your own thing. Not all education comes in a book, or a class. The best education comes from life. Embrace it.
In school, you learn your lesson and get tested. In real life, you get tested and then learn your lesson. Life is the better teacher.
And that is why I wrote Bait & Switch. That's why I played all the instruments. That's why I wrote every lyric. That's why I sang all vocals. That's why I recorded it, mixed it, mastered it and produced it. I wanted to prove to myself even though I may not have RockStar talent, hard work and persistence are what it really takes for everyone else who isn't. I am not a RockStar, I am a hard worker just like you.
When you buy your next CD, I want you to look at all of the people who write, play, sing, record, produce and distribute the CD. Then, I want you to check out my CD, Bait & Switch and compare. There were only 2 people involved: Phil Thomas Katt, and Russ Maines. Phil was my mentor and held my hand along the way. The heavy lifting was my burden.
Check it out, and let me know what you think. OK? I want to learn from you, too.
Thanks for your help.