It was early fall of 2003. I still lived in my hometown of Gary, Indiana. I had just wrapped up my last classes at Columbia College Chicago and was at a crossroads. I had spent the last 4 years studying graphic design but really wanted to pursue a career in music. I absolutely loved playing the bass guitar but had no clue how to make a living doing it.
At home in Gary, the vibrant music scene that once nurtured people like Michael Jackson and Deniece Williams had long dried up. There was no shortage of talent in town but opportunities were far and few between.
By early 2004 I found myself living in Indianapolis, going to pretty much any and every place I thought musicians would be playing. I eventually started hanging out at The Jazz Kitchen every Wednesday. There was a trio that played there made up of musicians who to me were each 10 feet tall and could effortlessly play everything I wished I knew how to play.
After several weeks of hanging out I mustered up the courage to actually go up and speak to the drummer. We talked a bit and he asked what instrument I played and invited me to sit in with the band the next week. These guys had all worked with some pretty big names in music and they were going to allow me to play with them. I was stoked but I kept my excitement to myself and just made sure I was there the following week. From that point I began sitting in every week and soon people started hiring me for various gigs around the city.
I had made it behind the curtain of the local music scene and I soaked it all up. I was no longer just a guy who could play bass but I knew what it was to haul gear, hang out back stage and hear guys who I thought could do know wrong musically cuss about their mistakes and how they needed to keep practicing. I loved everything about it.
It’s over a decade later and after hundreds of shows, dozens of recording sessions, meeting a lot of my musical heroes and even playing bass in a movie with Don Cheadle it’s still that feeling from those earlier years that I crave when I think about music. Not to sell the creative process short but these days nearly anyone can simply make music.
But when it comes to BEING a musician, it’s that muscle memory, It’ the familiar weight of your instrument in your hands. it’s hearing your phone ring with a new opportunity on the other end, it’s the smell of stale beer and cleaning products that hits you when you show up at a club in the middle of the afternoon for soundcheck. It’s the taste of Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy that’s essential for making it to the next city when you’re on the road. It’s the camaraderie you feel with everyone you’ve ever shared the stage with and millions of other small things that defines what it means to be a musician. Experiencing these things first hand are what make me a veteran and makes it all worth while.
But more importantly It’s YOU the listener that makes it all matter. One of my close friends always says we musicians can play all day at home but without an audience it doesn’t mean much.
I’m looking forward to many more sometimes rough but always worthwhile experiences along my musical journey and I hope that you’re a part of it.
If you’d like to hear the most recent milestone of that journey please take a look at this video of me playing music from my current EP, Undeniable, a project I created with my band Native Sun. Peace.