I played in my dream space again last month, the Fugard Theatre Studio (more about that here), and it was an epic and beautiful two nights. But once the applause had faded, reality hit me square in the heart, and it hurt a little more to leave my dream space this time around because I so desperately want this to be the constant reality of what I do.
I am all about believing in the dream, and pursuing your passion, but for all my positive ramblings about dreaming bigger and being brave, this dream stuff is intense. It will be 3 years at the end of the month since I took the leap of faith, quit my day job and hit the road, and it’s been incredible, don’t get me wrong. I count myself incredibly lucky to live the life that I do. But for all the epic moments along the way, for the most part it is a constant uphill battle that tests my courage and commitment every step of the way.
I’m still independent. Not for want of trying, there is still no management or agent or record company pulling the strings behind the scenes, it’s still just me, and the constant fight is starting to wear me out. As much as I believe in what I’m doing and the music that I make, nothing I do seems to be enough to get enough of the right shows, to fill the seats regardless of venue, or to get the attention of the right people.
I can’t ignore how far I’ve come and what I have managed to achieve on my own, and I’m very proud of that. I’m also stubborn as hell and believe in this too much to ever give it up, so my head is down and I’m soldiering on as usual. But half way through playing a set in the corner of a noisy bar where no one’s really listening, after knowing what it feels like to live my dream performance for two fleeting nights in a venue like the Fugard Theatre, I cannot ignore that my heart aches. I compromise who I am as an artist more than I would ever admit (perception is everything afterall), and all the justification in the world (and I’ve heard and said it all) doesn’t make those gigs easier to play, whether it’s for exposure or money or that one new fan who might be listening in the shadows. I can justify all kinds of things with words and wax lyrical about dreams and self-belief, courage and passion. You can philosophise and try to explain away almost anything we face as human beings, but this grown up shit is hard as hell and no bumper sticker quotes make it any easier to deal. Knowing that those shows that I compromise myself for still make up the greater portion of my shows in a year, makes it harder to believe that I’m making any progress.
As a fulltime musician, I should surely be playing music most of the time. But I spend most of my days behind a computer planning tours, writing press releases, designing posters, desperately searching for worthwhile venues, submitting to festivals, updating profiles and gig listings, marketing, publishing, accounting, writing proposals and blogs (!), and trying to figure out how to make this all vaguely financially viable… when I should be writing songs and mastering my instruments. Granted, I enjoy a lot of that behind-the-scenes work (even the spreadsheets, ’cause I’m cool like that) and would never relinquish absolute control, but the last time I played the piano more than once in a week aside from during shows was in January.
Between the epic moments and those dream venues like the Fugard, there are so many moments where I catch myself yearning for a dream of the future, which goes against everything I have so vehemently stood for - living for now. But I carry on regardless. Because it’s who I am. Because this is all I want and I believe that it’s possible. And because every once in a while I get to live that dream, and I fall in love with music again, and I remember who I am and why I do this.