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May 2009 archive

Musician 2.0 – Redefining Your Self-Identity

This is a rambling account of how I came to redefine what it means to me to be a musician and so become Musician 2.0. To do this I had to redefine what success means to me. I spent many years fluffing about in the “wilderness” instead of getting on with it and that’s ok, it all added plenty of character! Regardless here some suggestions for how you can avoid the same “mistakes” (if that’s what they are).

When I started out in music I had some pretty simple goals, make awesome music, get wildly popular, have a blast. That was about it and pretty soon I had accomplished this to a big enough extent that I suddenly found myself feeling empty inside and aimless. I then succumbed fast to all of the usual cliches of the young popular rock musician: drugs, booze, cheap sex.

Which was fun to an extent but was also dissatisfying.

Well fast forward 15 years and it seems I have really only now, as a musician, finally found my way out of the darkness and back into the light (to put it in a cheesy way).

I don’t mean I haven’t made any great music or enjoyed playing any great gigs, but I certainly do mean that my non-career as a musician since my early successes has been a direct result of first a misguided sense of entitlement, then a despondency that waking up to the falsehood of the former brought about.

By the time I was in my late 20s I started to believe that I was too old and had missed the boat. I felt bad inside about my self-worth and my music career chances in general.

It was a weird thing, because inside my heart I have never stopped being a musician (and have always continued to compulsively write songs and play gigs). And neither have I ever stopped (privately) nurturing the dream of becoming a professional working muso, but this dream has for years been held at bay by other factors, namely:

  • lack of focus and work ethic
  • lack of self-worth (due to a faulty self-identity model)

Lack of Focus

When I publicly started out in music, at the tender age of 18, I was very focused and there was little to distract me. I barely drank at all, I didn’t smoke weed, didn’t do harder drugs at all, and I was content with my steady girlfriend. I could also live off a very low income quite easily, due to life being cheaper then plus just being young and easy to please (i.e. wasn’t as soft as I am now, could sleep on a filthy old mattress on the floor in a damp and drafty old house and eat beans on toast and not mind a bit).

This keen focus brought me a lot of initial success but then as I said above, the lack of a deeper meaning in my life left me with an empty feeling that I tried to fill with drugs, drink and one night stands. Predictably the band and my relationship with my girlfriend fell apart and my life descended into a very feral stage. I was having lots of fun and adventure on the surface but underneath it lay a shallow sense of despondency.

Yet despite this lack of focus on the work I should have been doing, being a musician (who was focused) I still thought that my early success was all the proof I needed that all I had to do was get up on stage and sing here and there and I would eventually “be discovered” and rocket to true success and glory.

Sounds naive now … and indeed, it was.

Eventually, around the age of 27, I found a deeper meaning in my life. At this point I might have gotten things back on track, but no sooner had I pulled my head out of one pit did I promptly plunge into a different hole in the ground.

Lack of Self-Worth

I used to have a very strong sense of self-worth, but then as I pushed thirty and still hadn’t “made it” as a musician (read: Rock Star) my sense of self-worth as a musician deteriorated rapidly.

Why? Well, because my paradigm was all wrong. The model I had based my self-worth on (sad as it may sound) was the young-rock-star-in-the-making model.

I have always enjoyed the first part of the rock star (movie star, entrepreneur, etc) biography where the young star-to-be had to struggle and fight and hope and pray that one day their talent would get noticed and they would make it to Easy Street. And this is how I saw myself, as the young star in the making, who could happily look forward to hitting thirty as a well known and wealthy musician. Sounds stupid I know, but this fantasy kept me going and made me feel secure. It was in fact my whole self-identity.

So when I left my twenties behind and this fantasy hadn’t materialized (due to point above about lack of focus and work ethic, duh) I found myself at the wrong end of a defunct self-identity model and I quietly stopped telling everybody that I was destined for musical greatness. Even though a little voice inside me still claimed it was possible if I would just readjust my parameters, a louder voice inside me pointed out the fact that I had missed the rock n’ roll boat. This fearful voice said I should shut up about it and try to find other ways to make some good money.

Then five years went by very quickly. Fine years, happy years on many levels, but not on a career level.

Then one and a half years ago almost to the day, I was holding my brand new baby daughter in my arms, marveling at the miracle of Life, when a voice – a higher aspect of my own voice – spoke to me quietly (in my mind).

“What are you going to teach her? That it’s ok to just give up? Or that dreams can come true for those who persist?”

Well, I knew the answer straight away and recommitted myself to achieving success. BUT I had to go back and construct an entirely new model of success because the old one (young David Bowie style rock star) was completely out of date.

So I was thinking about this, soon after the baby holding incident, and was thinking about the age thing and suddenly, sitting in the sun one day eating my lunch, I suddenly thought “What if my goals took me another fifteen years to materialize? What if it took me another 30 years? Would this be so bad?” and the answer was “No – not as long as I enjoy the process.

And I do enjoy the process, and you are never too old to be a successful musician, and success is something that you get to define your own way anyway.

Analyze what’s going on inside your mind and see if you are holding yourself back with your own lack of focus or with limiting self beliefs.

And here I am one and half years later, well into a protracted, inspiring process that has brought me nothing but deep satisfaction. I am not the musician I once was, I am a new model, Musician 2.0!

Hope this helps somebody out there!

Cheers,

Seamus

One Billion Gigs Later…

WHOOPS! There goes another busy month!

Just got back from an ace gig and not at all sleepy, so – please – allow me to ramble on….

Saturday April 4th 4 – 6pm – Empress – with Dirtbird

I originally intended to make this gig a multi-act line up. More specifically I wanted it to be a half-half music and comedy gig. I was going to call it “Laughing Vs. Singing” with 5 minute comedy spots between 15 minute singer/songwriter spots.

Unfortunately this idea fell flat (mainly due to my failings) and I really had to confront myself and face the fact that it is in my best interests NOT to add the hat of “promoter” to my fashion range but just to focus on being a “performer” – which is all I truly care about anyway.

Turned out just fine. My mate T K Bollinger (who is one of the finest, most original – and challenging – acts I have witnessed of late) recommended his mates “Dirtbird” to me. Or vice versa – Dave from Dirtbird got in touch with me and asked about doing a gig with me in Melbourne.

Turns out Mr Dave lives in Castlemaine which is a goldfields town in rural Victoria. I said sure but I want to swap for a gig in Castlemaine. OK said Dave.

I wanted this odd time-slot (4 – 6pm) because, frankly, since I started gigging in earnest again I have become painfully aware that my mates have all gone soft (due to children in some cases but NO excuses afforded to the childless). Basically bugger all of them had been rocking up to support me so I figured that a nice easy Sunday arvo gig would entice them out (turns out I was only partially right).

OK, look – long story short – it was an ok gig, not a bad turn out – lots of children. Bit of a crèche really. And let me tell you nothing weirder ever than opening your mouth to deliver the next barrage of four letter words into the mic only to look down and see one’s 18 month old daughter staring up at one from the edge of the stage!

Turns out Dave, who I picked from the get-go as having been around the block once or twice, was in a band who were pretty darn popular (especially in Adelaide from whence one hails) once upon a time, called the Bedridden. I kinda missed them (too busy being lame out in the suburbs) but later ended up being pretty good mates with the late-Baterz who was also in the Bedridden. (We used to do gigs together at the Crown and Anchor Hotel in Adelaide back in the late ’90s.)

Dave, you still owe me a goldfields gig. (I resemble an elephant in more ways than just girth!)

Tuesday, April 14, Ruby’s Lounge

I live in Belgrave and I am really fucking grateful that, hick town that it proudly is (why I moved there), it actually has a music scene – and of course Ruby’s is pretty much the apex of said scene.

Whenever I do gigs in the city I always mention Ruby’s and it never fails to get a cheer, such is the fame and popularity of the joint as pretty much the only out of town joint (That I, in my ignorance, know of) that gets decent touring acts and also has some style.

Anyway, I am by no means (yet) a star of the Ruby’s thang but this year I have managed to get myself a regular gig there (ok, not actually that hard).

This night wasn’t my finest. At least not for the first set. BUT it was important for me because I was really learning some tough lessons about the idiosyncratic nature of my “comedy meets edgy-folk-poet” act.

Herein lies the lesson: If you have a nice fat crowd to perform too, and they are listening, you can ramble on and crack jokes and (if you have any talent) they will dig it

BUT

If you are just some schmo in the corner of a cavernous pub and there aren’t many people there and those that are in the venue fucking are NOT there to see you, better just sing your songs and leave it at that. Music seems to cut through and win people over (or at least *cough* mine) but comedy on the other hand needs an attentive audience. It is a very, very different dynamic.

Thank fuck I have the music is all I can say.

Three more points worth mentioning about this gig:

1. First is that I road tested my new song (mentioned in my last post) about The Scarab Bar (which is across the road from Ruby’s Bar in Belgrave). Not surprisingly this seemed to go across a treat with those blessed yokals who were paying attention. The song itself is called “An Interesting Life”.
2. A certain Mr Jeff Springfield, Belgrave’s music scene Godfather, the very man who produced my CD and is also the sound guy at Ruby’s of an evening, was in attendance which is in itself not unusual but the lovely thing is that he was just so totally positive about my music and attendant ambitions that it made my pathetic narcissistic heart truly sing. Look forward to catching up with you next time bro, upon which occasion I will be sure to pucker up and kiss thine holy and no doubt fragrant arse.
3. I did a terrible set to start with, and it was meant to be my only set so I was massively depressed that it just sucked so fiercely. But then while I was sitting with a dreadlocked guy who made guitars, watching his mate (extremely talented guy  – I think he had dreadlocks – whose name MIGHT have been shane or shaun  – oops!)- I found out that the band had failed to show so I got up and did a 2nd set. Ok no big deal BUT in the meantime I had eaten some humble pie and realised that you can’t force a scripted show on a pub crowd and the 2nd set went much better and since then I have truly embraced a loosely scripted framework (of between song banter) let go wild with improvisation and it is surely the way.

(Note to self: Round gigs up one by one … this is FAR TOO EPIC!)

Friday 24th April, Vibe On Smith, Songwriters in the Round 8pm with Shane Walters and Kerrin and the Nips

OK for the record SITR are fantastic wonderful beautiful gigs. I LOVE these gigs. They make me cum. It had nothing to do with Kerryn’s lesbo jokes or Shane’s crackling lead, although these were extra highlights for sure. I could go into massive detail but A) who’s going to read it all and B) I am fucked – it’s 2am! Suffice to say: wet dream of a gig.

Oh yeah – and “The Nips” are actually Kerryn’s tits, as it happens…

Saturday 25th April, 5:30 at the Brunswick Hotel

Meh. Frankly this is a great venue that needs a crowd (and I wasn’t the guy to attract one). Lovely sound though.

Sun 25th April, 4 – 6pm at the Empress with Brooke

Brooke (whose surname I am completely ignorant of) turned out to be a talented and sassy young thang fresh back from the ubiquitous European sojourn and thank God she brought her friends and I really loved the gig, although again having my little girl hanging her cute 18 month arse off the front of the stage frankly put me off my hard core shit. Great gig though, loved it. Nice crowd too.

(Just like to point out that I can barely type anymore … this is simply too much … )

Friday 5th May “Songwriters in the Round” with the insanely beautiful and talented Siobhan and Brad who is both talented and beautiful as well (to be fair).

Full house.

I repeat:

F.U.L.L.  H.O.U.S.E.

I got called in last minute. Everyone there bar two were there to see the other two performers.

Lucky me 🙂

Personally, after 15 years gigging, I feel confident in saying that I was in top form. Truly you do all the shit or half-good gigs to prepare you for the night that the room is full.

I can’t write anymore tonight but I would like to close by thanking God and you, should you be weird enough to have read this far. (My advice to you now, faced with the vortex that the cessation of my dribble will surely leave is:

* Male?

Are you kidding? Beer. Porn. Weed. Sport. The choices aren’t exactly endless but they’re pretty fucking good.

* Female?

Sorry … no fucking idea…

P.S. Tonight I debuted “Gimmee A Frontal Lobotomy (and a Glass of Wine). It went ok but had trouble with subtley and the microphone tonight, just couldn’t get good responsiveness from the microphone, but I knowthe song is a winner…. and may I say, kudos to Aaron the sound guy cos this is the first time I have had any complaints at this gig and the room was chokkas which changes the acoustics and I am talking a pro level subtlety – and also there are actually no foldback monitors at this gig due to the “in round” format… … … Goodnight.