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Keeping The Flame Alive

I think by now, everyone knows being in the music business has got to be the toughest thing on earth. As hard as it is just to fail in this business, it’s even harder to be a success.

Russ Maines In "Get Russ Laid"

Imagine, if you will, that you’re Reba McEntire. All those people who rely on you to put money in their pockets. If you’re sick, they don’t get paid. If you quit, they’ll never come back. The fun you used to have writing songs now becomes a prison sentence with so many mouths to feed.

Your business isn’t scaleable. There’s no way to make a living if anything happens to you, other than making royalties from radio play…or my nemesis, Spotify. Everyone’s either trying to get a cut out of your earnings, or take something from your down time with your family to make them more money.

So as much as I whine, or dream of being successful in this business, in a way, I’m glad I’m not. I don’t have to be on a tour bus. And I don’t need to play a hundred gigs a year just to make a living.

But I have to tell you, I do enjoy the stage time. I also have to tell you so many successes are so small, you just might miss them. You might not even take time to enjoy them.

What do I mean by that? Well, let me tell you a story.

One night, I was at the Capitol Bar in Socorro. I was taking a break from a class in thermodynamics (I was failing it). I bellied up to the bar and struck up a conversation with Owen Ford. I’d seen him around campus, but didn’t really know much about who he was, or who he hung with.

Anyway, there was this lady blues singer up there at the Cap. And Owen leans over and says, “You know what this place needs? A Punk/New Wave band.” I was like, “Man I love New Wave and nobody does it. You mean like B-52’s?”

Owen then rattled off a list of groups I’d never even heard of. I was like, “Wow!” I never heard of this stuff and I wanted to learn more.

Within a few weeks, Owen had figured we were going to play the Student Union Building, and got us a gig there for 49’s, which is a celebration the school has every October. We had about an hour of stage time and needed to put some songs together, get some costumes and rock the place.

We got Tracy for keyboards (she was so lovely to do it), Timmy Silva for drums, Jess Roth for bass (she was such a good sport) and Owen and me on guitars. I don’t even remember the songs we did. All I remember is I did a song called Homicide from 999. It was very cool.

When the lights came up, I remember we tried to do “Rocket Man” punked out and Timmy was doing something like galloping death metal on the drums. Owen stopped in mid song and we started again from the top. I was just going with what Timmy was throwing down, so I didn't worry that we sounded horrible. I was just glad to be there.

But really, it wasn't good enough. Owen was right. And off we went.

The place was so full with people, I was a nervous wreck. But it was one of those things that got me that much closer to playing out in other venues…vinyl pants and all.

I never would’ve done it if it wasn’t for Owen. And that experience has kept the flame alive for me ever since. From there on out, I was hooked.

I don't know what it is, or how to explain it. It just feels like you can let all that stuff you have bottled up inside go and be part of yourself nobody ever sees. Parts of yourself you're afraid to show in public in any other venue. When you're on stage, if you don't own your pain, your sorrow, your joy or your happiness, you better go home. Nobody wants to see you act or go half way. So you have to be the most honest part of yourself you can be.

So here I am writing this blog to you, my friend.

From here, I don’t know what great success looks like. But if I get to play out again, and have an experience like that again, I’ll be the happiest man alive. And that's why I keep writing. And that's why I keep rocking. And that's why keeping the flame alive is so important to me. It's that connection you get when you remember who you are.

Love & Rockets,


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