Chasing the Dream, 3 Years Later

In my song, “The Other Side of Nowhere,” the mentor criticizes the student for “doing what you should, not what you want.”

I did what I should for 40 years.  I’ve been doing what I want for the past 3 1/2 years.

The plan was hatched around the time I wrote “The Other Side of Nowhere” in 2009.  I cut expenses and began saving my money.  I had no illusions that I’d be able to make a living at music, although, I confess, I did have that hope– or dream.  But I knew it was a longshot.  I just wanted to see how much I could accomplish with music if I didn’t have to spend 8 or more hours a day working for a corporation.

I left my IT job in March, 2014 and have been studying, writing, composing, recording and performing music full-time since then.

What surprised me was the praise I got from so many people.  “You’re chasing the dream!” they said.  One friend said she was living her life vicariously through me.  When I ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 for my Total Flower Chaos recording project, support for “chasing the dream” was cited by many people as a reason for their contribution.

I didn’t expect that.  If anything, I expected the opposite.  “I have to work.  Why should you be happy?” was more the reaction I expected.  I’m still trying to understand this.  I think it says something about our society, when people admire a person just for doing what they want to do.

But all good things come to an end.  My savings is about gone, so I have to take a day job again.  It was a good run.  So what did I accomplish?  Was it worth it?

In the last 3 1/2 years, I did the following:

  • I wrote several new songs, started dozens more, and recorded several home demos of the new songs.  Although I wrote some in the acoustic singer-songwriter style, I focused on writing rock music.  This was important to me, because I love rock music, but I hadn’t really figured out how to write in that style.  I feel like I’m starting to get it now.
  • I released a 3-song spoken word over rock music EP, “Word.”  This was also a radical departure from my previous acoustic singer-songwriter-oriented recordings.
  • I released a 5-song instrumental rock CD called “Roses,” under the band name of Total Flower Chaos.  I really went out on a limb here.  At the time the project began, I had never written even one instrumental rock piece.  I had never even composed a melody on guitar.  I was conscious at the time that I might fall flat on my face with this, but I did it anyway.  I grew as a composer and musician as a result.
  • I went back to school for 2 years to study music theory, piano and composition.  I learned how to put circles and lines on paper and make them sing.  But I learned much more.  I learned what professional musicians go through;  the sacrifices and hard work it takes to become a professional musician.  I can speak their language now.  I learned how to practice.  I learned discipline.  You don’t feel like practicing tonight?  Tired?  Too bad, you have a test tomorrow.  Get your ass on the piano and practice.
  • I continued to perform live in my acoustic singer-songwriter group, Scupanon.  Despite my commitments to rock music and classical music theory, I still love to play folk music.

But all good things must end.  My savings is running out, so I am going to have to take a day job soon.  I hope that’s not too big a disappointment to those of you who have been living vicariously through me.  It doesn’t mean I failed.  Making a living at music was never an expectation, only a dream.

So one chapter of my life is coming to a close and a new one begins.  I will once again sell my labor power to a corporation for money to live on.  I will still create, record and perform music, although I will have much less time for it.  What’s the plan?  That’s the subject of my next blog.

–Rob Roper, September 12, 2017

 

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