This post is part of a group blog event organized by MusicianWages.com. The topic is: “If you could go back to 1999 and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”
Dear 1999 Wayne,
You won’t be expecting to read this and even if you do I know damn well it’ll make not a jot of difference, but never mind that. I’m here to tell you what you need to be doing so as not to make 2009 Wayne sad. Yeah, this is a letter from the future. Deal with it. Roll another jazz woodbine and read on. You’re an obstinate bastard just like me, so I know you’ll ignore every word, but still. This is more for me than for you. Recommended soundtrack: LTJ Bukem, Earth Volume Two. Oh, is that on already? Same here. Heh.
First off, you are allowed to take your music seriously.
In fact, the sooner you do so - and allow yourself to do so - the better everything will be. Forget what your friend’s dad told you when you were a kid. You know, that guy. The embittered ex-session guy who mentored his son’s semi-pro covers band you joined at 13. The guy who simultaneously encouraged you all and helped you out while constantly warning you not to even bother trying to write original tunes or to try and make a living from music. His encouragement and his practical on-gig advice was his real teaching. You will be forever grateful to him for that. He gave you a leg up like no other music teacher you have ever had. His warnings? Not so much. You always ignored the warning about writing because you are writing for yourself and no-one else and because you have to. The longer you listen to his other warning the harder it will be when you finally grok that you are utterly unemployable in any other field because music will always take over. Block that shit out. Go for it. Allow yourself to go for it. The only one holding yourself back is you.
Secondly, in a month or so, you are going to get a job offer. It’s a really good straight non-music job, well paid, with a world-famous organisation that no-one could reasonably object to working for. Don’t take it, though I know you will.
You’ll even enjoy it for the first few years, while you simultaneously pursue serious music projects. But then you’ll stop enjoying it. The music will suffer too. You’ll be drained. Then there’ll be a girl - it’ll end badly and suddenly. At this point you’ll have a complete breakdown. You’ll lose the job, your flat, everything. Everything except the instruments, pretty much. You’re a lucky sod, so your family will be wonderful and will help you pick up the pieces, but it’ll be hell for everyone near you for a long while, particularly you. Eventually you’ll finally start focussing on doing music full time. Do me and all those close to you a favour. Turn the job down and go for the music now.
Ach, why do I waste my breath.
Remember that band you left when you went to uni back in 1990? Some time around 2008 you’ll listen back to those tapes and realise what a mistake that was. You were in a shit-hot arse-kicking band at 18, full of youth and energy and strong original material. You still think you did the right thing then by turning the band down but you so didn’t. And what difference does it make, to realise this in 1999? Well, you aren’t thirty yet. You can still allow yourself to go for it. Because nothing else will really come right until you do.
Thirdly, I want to talk to you about practice. Sure you have talent and all, and manage somehow to pull shit out of a hat without really working at it, but that just isn’t good enough. That shitload of Robert Anton Wilson books you’re always reading and rereading? You know how you have a strong sense that there is some seriously deep wisdom in there that you need to learn? Remember that bit about the basic magic formula to everything being ‘Do It Every Day’? Yeah you do. ‘It Becomes Who You Are’. You haven’t got it yet. I know you haven’t. But here’s a clue.
That is the meaning of practice.
And you can start now. Every day. You’re not thick, for all your other faults.You know you’re pretty ok on the bass even without practice, though your piano and guitar skills need serious work along with your singing, to say nothing of your theory. How about you do that work, fill in those gaps, starting now, and see what happens. Do it every day. Start now. The sooner the better. Because Every Day is the most powerful magic formula there is. It really works. Try it. Don’t leave it another five years. Try it now.
Fourthly - and I know this will sound insane to you - but start playing the saxophone. I don’t care how you do it. Find a way. (There’s a clue in your aunt’s attic). And start now. As soon as you do, the rest of your music skills will improve. I don’t know why. It’s just like that. The thing is enchanted or something. Or maybe you really need to learn a monophonic wind instrument in order to help you understand all the other polyphonic ones. I don’t know. All I know is, the longer you leave it, the older you’ll be when that magic starts to happen. Even if you never get any good at sax, at least you’ll have a glimmer of understanding of what the horn players in your band are up to when you tell them to work their magic and they do. Plus it might encourage you to give up smoking sooner. That vow of yours to give up at thirty? You’ll need an incentive. Blowing a lot - physically - might be part of that. I’m just saying.
Finally, and I know I’ve been on your case here for a while, but I want to thank you for something. Even through all the mistakes you have made, are making, and will continue to make, you never gave up and you never allowed yourself to even think about giving up. Irrational though it seemed sometimes. More than anything else, this is what is carrying you through ten years later.
So, yeah. That’s all. I now return you to your largely self-inflicted misery.
By the way, that girl who just left you was not the love of your life, so get over it. Write the songs and then forget her. You haven’t met the love of your life yet. Again, I’m just saying.