I've been living in New York City for almost two months and what the hell have I even been doing, right?!
Here's an update on my progress or lack thereof as a musician who moved to New York to watch the world burn, erm, I mean, blow minds one song at a time, erm, I mean, seek fulfillment and grow as an artist...
Sometimes I think this dog chemist has more of a clue than I do. I mean, he has the foresight to wear safety goggles.
THE NUTS & BOLTS PLANS I AM AN OPTIMISTIC WORK HORSE ROBOT
1. Jake and I found a drummer! His name is Ross and he is awesome, and he is actually from Madison as well and moved to Brooklyn about 8 months ago. We connected with him and have regular rehearsals at a place called Smash Studios in Midtown. It has a full backline and runs $22-33/hour.
2. We are re-branding our band to be called REVEL. We love it. The name is not being used by any other bands like us who are serious, and it is available to trademark. We will be trademarking the name once our logo and titling is complete, which will be soon. Revel will play songs from my catalog/The Bones and I Saw the Creature, and we will have new material soon enough. Once we have the logo, there is work to be done to update our online presence before we can book shows.
3. We have been going to shows and doing copious research on venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. We are trying to stay organized making lists of venues, bands we like, management and booking agencies, etc. Go go Google spreadsheets.
4. I am producing the musical Kelly Maxwell and I wrote (Held) for the New York Fringe Festival in August. I found a director and I have been staying up to date on all happenings and learning about press and marketing. I made this snazzy website: www.heldmusical.com
5. I will *not* be music directing Alice in Madison which goes up at The Bartell in October, so I need to make the score for that. What a novel concept that a composer would have to write out music, right? I have a new very fast computer that is being shipped to me that I am excited to install ProTools (recording software) and Sibelius (notation software) on so my scoring work can be professional and efficient. Getting my own new workflow down for this kind of work is a cool challenge. I'm basically setting up my own studio in our apartment, similar to some of the capabilities at Clutch Sound (the studio I inhabited in Madison).
6. We are successfully running an (illegal) AirBnb out of our apartment, which makes us some additional money. Apparently it is against NYC law but everyone does it anyway and just tries not to get caught. I do love that sense of wild west about this city, which is ironic AF. The wild wild east perhaps...
Illegal AirBnb is so popular because the rent is indeed too damn high.
7. Jake is learning how to cook and we are learning to eat at home. I feel very privileged to have had a life of habit where I mostly went out to eat since college. I was blessed with a well-paying job right out of school that required me to travel and never be home, and Madison restaurants are so healthy and cheap the habit never died. In NYC you won't get away with less than $40 for two people if you eat out, so we have finally learned to grocery shop and cook. Well, Jake has and I'm grateful for that. He is really good at it and also enjoys it. Bonus!
Jake is like the Chuck Norris of cooking now.
THE FIERY CONTEMPLATIVE SHIT THAT REALLY GOES ON IN MY BRAIN & HEART
I am constantly reconfiguring my senses and plans. When we first moved in, every 5 days or so I would have a bit of a breakdown. Feeling overwhelmed and low confidence. I'd be useless for the whole day, and then fine again. Recently this feeling comes every 5 hours. But I'm only useless for an hour and then fine again. I think this process is growth. I am reconciling the two feelings of feeling excited about the possibilities here, and seeing how directionless it can seem playing in this new game with new rules and new players, missing the familiarity of the Madison game and players I know and love so well.
In an attempt to explain how this feels, here is a stream of consciousness rant:
Make a list of all the venues in the city. Go see bands at those venues. Make a list of bands that you want to connect with. How do you find the bands. Research blogs that rank bands. Listen to all the bands. Find out when the bands are playing. Make a list of those shows. Go see the shows. Go spend too much money at the shows on drinks. Realize you need to buy a flask. Get too sad at the shows because you're not playing the show. Realize maybe just don't drink at shows, this isn't Wisconsin. I need a bass player. How do I meet a bass player who is free. Post a craigslist ad. Meet the people who respond. Decide you don't like them. Wonder if it's just because you miss the people who played with in Madison. Have a breakdown. Ask friends and contacts out here if they known anyone. They know people who aren't doing the kind of music you're doing like jazz players. Realize there's a lot of jazz here. Too much jazz.
Hipster cat listens to Jazz, I should probably listen to Jazz, right? Wrong. Stop going to see jazz, Meg. Wrong scene, Meg.
Have a breakdown because you don't play jazz, what is that the scene here? Did I move somewhere where there's only jazz? Tell yourself it's fine what did you think it would be easy you're fine. Try to get a job at a music venue in order to meet people you might be able to play with or learn from. Drop off a bunch of resumes. Learn the music venues are only hiring bartenders. Research how you could get a bartending job without experience. Realize that would be a class that costs money. Talk to a friend who bartends who said you could lie on your resume and start working at this sports pub he knows to get experience and then you could apply for the venue jobs. Realize you've wasted a bunch of time trying to figure out how to be a bartender and that's not what you want to do, you're a musician. Decide it's better to play as a three piece and just get out there and play shows. Realize since we decided to rename the band we need to rebrand our online presence before we can try to book shows because you need your links to be consistent. Decide that the best way to rebrand is to wait until we have our new logo finished and then update all the sites and links. Realize that takes time. Wait. Go see shows. Go do open mics. Volunteer for rock camp. Meet people but maybe not the right people. Who even are the right people. Who are people. Why do I even like them.
There are so many....people here. Just...they're everywhere. Who even are they.
Decide to stay home and read a book. Books would help me learn. Buy music business books. Get overwhelmed at the information in them and tell yourself you need to trademark your new band name and copyright all of your songs. Spend 4 hours copyrighting your songs because the government website is not user friendly. Talk to your friend in the business who tells you that's a silly thing to do because the industry is changing and copyright doesn't mean anything if you're relatively unknown, which I am. Have a breakdown about that. Meditate to get back to normal. Get invited to an improv show with a friend. Go see the improv show and laugh and feel nice that you are hanging out with a friend. Get home and wonder why you spent your night watching improv instead of going to see a band. Judge yourself harshly. Be impatient. Throw a tantrum at your Jake. Your Jake will help calm you down and stop judging yourself. Try to stop judging yourself. Tell yourself it's only been x weeks. Tell yourself Rome wasn't built in a day. Tell yourself you made the right decision. Get a text from a friend in Madison. Fucking lose it and brain vomit crippling self doubt in your head like WHY DID I DO THIS I LEFT THE ONLY HOME I'VE EVER LOVED I AM A FOOL!!! Throw yourself into bed sobbing and indulging in all of your disgusting woe and self pity and black and white thinking of rom-com Hollywood bullshit stories that wrap character's lives up in digestible sugary organized packages that are impossible in real life and no matter how aware you are of how fine everything actually is, at this time you just *are a puddle*. Wake up the next day and only have the mental energy to be good to your body. Run. Eat well. Write some lyrics. Play through some songs you already have. Try to write something new. Forgive yourself for not liking it. Keep trying to write anyway. Struggle to not judge yourself to think you aren't good enough for this place. Think way too much and wish you could stop thinking. Write some affirmations, look up some inspiring internet shit maybe. Realize you're procrastinating and just fucking around on the internet. Try not to judge yourself for that.
Believing in positive self talk can seem a little crazy if you are struggling to believe it...even if you really are a unicorn. Which I am.
I like to think the bunny slammed that beer and rolled it away with gusto before the pep talk.
To get out of your own head, you need to interact with people. Make friends, get out there. You meet new people. You like people, go talk with them. They have lived here for years. They have a certain disillusionment with this city, a certain realism that creeps in for everyone here, that is depressing to eager rookies. They don't mean to dim your light, they're being honest and trying to help you and help themselves. Spend the rest of the day fighting to hold onto the eager rookie within you. Try to be grateful you met someone new. Feel awesome about yourself for making it to meet your friend on time in a new part of the city you've never been to. Notice how sticky you feel and how much dirt has stuck to you throughout the day. Feel proud that you don't even need your phone to find the right train to get home. See a service change notice that there is no service at this station tonight. Try to be proud anyway. Try to feel good anyway. Cry. Forgive yourself for crying. Feel weak. Forgive yourself for feeling weak. Miss your friends, Madison, your band mates, playing shows so often, the comfort of what your life was a couple months ago. Allow yourself to miss it. Have faith that discomfort is how we grow. Have faith that you will make it to the other side. Keep trying and working. Learn. Work. Through. Repeat.
This is a glimpse into what it is like being here and what I am doing. I bet most people can relate these feels to their life now or at some point in the past. Hey, I'm here! I'm feeling stuff and doing things which means I'm learning. I find myself inside a storm and that is okay. I asked to be here, it's what I want. What a privilege it is to be the one driving yourself to get uncomfortable. The grand paradox of growth is how much it sucks when you first start doing it. But, man, if you aren't growing, then what are you even doing.
My friend Annelies shared this cartoon with me recently. Eloquently sums up my post I think.