I am starting a new phase with music. I, with the help of Shaun Brennan and Splice Records, am now making an effort to promote my music and start touring on a much larger level. This is the first time, either solo or with the Sideshow Tramps, that I have put myself in a place that could bring my music to a wider audience. I’ve been asked, “why now”? The short answer I give at bars and coffee shops is that I realized I could go camping when I tour. For my first blog entry I thought I’d go a bit further, without getting too detailed.
About two years ago I did a couple short tours with the intention of camping the whole time, one with a full band and one alone, one in warm weather and one in near below zero camping in the Ozarks. The idea was to see if I could make camping and touring work. When I saw that I could, it changed my mind about touring and pursuing the music business. There is another thing that changed my mind that I don’t often speak of.
In short, my main concern has been, since the age of fifteen, the development of what is commonly referred to as the “soul.” Everything I do is subsumed under this one all-encompassing goal. When I began this pursuit it was in a fundamentalist Christian church. I pursued the goal in a fundamentalist Christian kind of way, very awkward, ignorant, and annoying. Later, I pursued it as a monk. Later, I pursued it at the University of St. Thomas gaining knowledge in science, psychology, philosophy and socializing. Now I am pursuing it by not pursuing it. If anyone has ever had to go this route, they’ll know the language I’m talking. If not, it will probably sound like nonsense.
When I left the monastery I told my abbot I was leaving to do four specific things, one of which was to form a band. He asked me if it was going to be a Christian band. I said, certainly not. He warned me that this is a difficult road if I was still concerned with spiritual things. He, having been in a successful band in the ’70s, touring with the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin and others, warned me about the nature of that life, sexually aggressive women and people giving you drugs and drinking every night, the whole life of music. I told him it was what I felt like I was supposed to do. There are risks to your soul in the monastery too. Every man and woman on this earth must choose how they will live their life and what their idea of virtue and strength are. Many who read this know me as a musician. This is true. This is one thing that I do. It is important to me. But it is a tool I use in pursuing my one goal. It is just one tool. If this tool begins to hinder instead of help my goal, I will abandon it. I will cut it out as a cancer.
For the longest time I have focused on other aspects of my life, not music. This may seem odd to some who read this because all you really know me as is the musician. In the monastery I had the goal I pursued, as a bee in the hive, hidden from those around me, busy within making honey. My daily life, the way I put food on our table in the monastery, was planting, harvesting and tending to animals. Not a bad life. Today nothing has really changed. I still pursue this same goal except I put food on the table by music. Not a bad life either. To me, from my perspective, it’s not that much different. I am aware enough to realize, however, that my life now appears very different from when I was a monk. So, having said all that, why do I pursue music in a broader way now?
Although there are many, I will share two main reasons.
First, by camping on the road, I can have a larger measure of control over my mind. I dreaded the life of a musician. Which means, traveling from venue to hotel to bus, venue hotel bus, venue hotel bus. Once, I and one of the Tramps took a popular national band out on the town in Houston. At one point one of them asked what Texas looked like outside of Houston. At first I couldn’t understand what they meant. Soon it became clear that, although they had played Dallas and Houston many times, they had never seen anything but the venue, the tour bus, and maybe a couple bars. This is success. This is better, perhaps, than working in the plants in Pasadena. Still, it is not a life to me. So, that is one reason. I want to be in nature; I want to see the land; I want more from touring than a city and a bus.
Second, I realized the more successful I am in the business side of music, the more I can help my friends. I was riding to Austin with a popular Houston musician a couple years ago. At one point he said something about the gig he was about to play and the kind of life he was living. I realized he wasn’t super thrilled about it. Because of my love for this guy, it bothered me. This guy is very grateful and strong and happy to be a musician. But at that moment I realized, it could be better for him. And I realized that if I worked the business side of my music, I could possibly give him more opportunities to play the kinds of shows he wanted to play and perhaps even supply the kind of money that can support a life and family. This was a big change in me. This was when I realized that my music is not about me. I feel foolish that I didn’t see it before.
Many are driven to “success” because of a need to prove their worth to the world and for the all popular pursuit of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Since I, for most of my music “career,” through the Helios era and beyond, was celibate, I didn’t do drugs and I shared the monastic vision of being “hidden from the world,” why would I put in the energy and effort to become a touring musician? If it had been thrown in my lap I would have done it. I was not interested in pursuing it. You may think my goal foolish. You may be right. I really don’t know for sure. But I do know that my focus is different and it will remain so as long as it seems good to me to do so.
In short, the problem, if there is a problem, has not been with music or the music business or even with the road and hotels and sex and drugs or any of those things. The problem was with me. I didn’t realize that I could use my talents to help my friends and bring some joy to fans. I saw everything wrong. Now, I am looking forward to making a go of it and representing Houston with Splice Records and my friends. Music is about community.