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