Life As A Musician

I’ve been thinking about what I would write for this post for a while now. I’m not sure exactly how to explain this. I feel like most people just think of musicians as melodramatic, self-absorbed, egotistical bums. And in many ways that’s exactly what a musician is. But there’s more to it than that.

Its difficult to try and paint a picture for you of what exactly happens inside the mind of a musician. Just learning to play music automatically means your brain becomes more active. They actually have done studies and found that when a musician plays music, they’re actually using the majority of their brain to be able to accomplish the task. Add in singing and it’s even more activity. This fact is pretty cool by itself and sets the art of being a musician apart from all other artists. But there are a bunch of burdens to bear as a musician as well.

1. Nothing is ever enough

This can make musicians sound a bit like whiney brats I think, but it’s a real struggle. I think this has to do more with the creative part of us that is always reaching for more and is never settled with what is because of what could be. Now, don’t misunderstand me. There is certainly a great temptation to fall into a discontentment with everything, and this is very unhealthy. But musicians are also prone to be generally unhealthy emotionally and mentally. It’s what makes good songs, right? But its this default unhealthy living that causes musicians to feel the stress of being something in this world, and that weight can be very heavy. It’s why the stereotype exists that musicians are flakey, non-commital, and typically doesn’t stay in relationships very long either. We can’t just seem to get ourselves together long enough to realize that embracing something isn’t so bad after all.

2. We torment ourselves with perfectionism

I am speaking purely from my own perspective here. But I’m sure other musicians and creative types struggle with this just as much in their own way as well. Nothing I ever do is good enough for me. I am an extreme perfectionist to a fault. When I sit down to write a song, Its a pretty painful and sometimes frustrating process. I’ve recently tried adapting new processes of writing that forces me to see an idea through, regardless of what I think of it half way through, simply to try and stop me from throwing out every single idea that comes through my brain. I began doing this simply because I was tired of hating everything I did. The problem is musicians often apply this same perfectionistic filter to other areas or people in their life, which can obviously be a pretty big problem.

3. We find it difficult to adapt to a normal job

This one also sounds a bit like whining, but let me speak from personal experience here. I will do whatever I have to do to pay bills and provide for my family. I don’t think I am above any job, or think I am better than people who work any particular job. Having said that, I find that it is extremely difficult to be able to be ok with doing anything that isn’t music for a living. It’s like knowing what you are supposed to do in life, but doing something else. In fact, that’s exactly what it is! I used to think I was crazy or just being a spoiled brat for not being ok with working any job I could to make money. But then I started realizing I wasn’t the only musician that felt this way. In fact, it seems most musicians are wired this way. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that our brain works a bit differently when performing or creating music, and it becomes the way our brain prefers to operate, thus causing us to be restless, bored, or anxious doing anything else.

4. We are more critical of ourselves than you know

This isn’t limited to just musical ability either. Sure, musical ability is where it starts, or maybe it is what fuels the fire of criticism. But it doesn’t stop there. Musicians are some of the most critical people you will ever know. We struggle with self-worth, acceptance issues, and intense doubt in his/her self. I think musicians get a bad rap about this a lot. The stereotype of musicians being egotistical and completely arrogant about themselves and/or their music is somewhat misunderstood I think. I would say 9 times out of 10 you show me a musician who is an arrogant, egoistical jerk, and I’d bet he is just terribly over-compensating for never measuring up to his own standards of himself. It’s certainly not the best way to go about it by any means, but he is still part of a much truer stereotype underneath.

5. There’s no such thing as “growing out of it”

I know somewhere in the world right now there are parents telling each other “he’ll grow out of this whole rockstar dream. It’s just a phase.” But the thing is, for some of us it isn’t a phase. It’s who we are in the truest sense! You discouraging your kid to chase his dreams now will only cause him to try and pursue other careers in the hope that he can live up to your expectations, while starting down a path of never being able to live up to his own. He will begin a pattern of constantly feeling as though he isn’t being himself and not being content with anything in his life, while also trying to seek your approval, which will lead to seeking everyone else’s approval. All the while he has no idea who he is.

Now don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying he’s the best musician in the world and he will definitely make it in life doing music. He might be awful. But you have to let him figure out on his own that music might be better kept in his home than on a stage in front of people. Besides, there’s no telling where your child might be successful in the music industry later on in life. Most people never even hear good songwriters. They just hear someone singing that songwriter’s songs. There are plenty of amazingly talented producers who can’t sing. So don’t let your child sell his/her self short just because they may not be very good or because you think they should be doing something else. That’s the beauty of life is that everyone is responsible for their own choices. What they choose to do with that life is going to be theirs and theirs alone one day. So support them now while you can and be there for them when they fail. But be careful not to push your own agenda on their life. That never works out in the end.

So there you have it! Some of my thoughts on life as a musician. Check out next week’s blog post! I’ll be exploring the other side of the conversation of “Living With A Musician.” I think this is an equally engaging and interesting conversation to have.

Are you a musician? Do you know a musician? Do you agree or disagree with my points? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!  Until next week…

– Cody

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