“Do great work and people will find you,” is what I used to tell myself. It was actually a lie. And I believed it for so long it created a weird muscle memory that has left me with a professional limp. Earning money in the arts has never been about doing “great work.” It has always been about something else. I constantly forget that.
Don’t get me wrong. A lot of great work gets done by the popular kids. And some things are truly undeniable. Adele is popular AND great. There’s a list of great/populars too long to mention. This isn’t sour grapes. But I guess what I’m saying is you can be great without being popular and you can be popular without being great. The two don’t always go hand-in-hand. Whenever I see Mac McAnally playing guitar as a side man behind Jimmy Buffett, I always think to myself, “one of these guys is a genuine, American poet …and the other one is Jimmy Buffett.”
Again, I love Jimmy. But he makes millions of dollars a year for essentially one reason: he became the guy we drink margaritas to. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not about “the work” per se. It’s about something else.
We all want to believe our work is like Girl Scout Cookies …it’ll just sell itself. But that’s not always true. In fact, it’s mostly not true. And that’s the toughest part of making a living in the arts.
I’ve never made any bones about my mixed emotions when it comes to the entertainment industry. Being in the music business is like being married to a bi-polar, nymphomaniac, massage therapist, super model, who is a world-class chef, compulsive liar, who cheats on you while you’re at work, then cuddles with you naked …while pointing a loaded gun at your head. So many reasons to stay …so many reasons to leave …so many reasons for therapy.
One of the main things I’ve always hated about the music profession is “settle up” time. That’s the time when I have to charge someone for what I do. And I’ve never been great at it. I’ve never really known how to value any of it. And I’ve overcharged as much as I’ve undercharged. If you’re a recording artist, the hope is you’ll become so popular and have so many hits you won’t ever have to deal with that part of it. Springsteen never has to talk money with anyone. He pays people to do that for him. That way he gets to just be “The Boss” and act like it’s all for the love and the passion and the blue collar folk. The seven-figure-a-night price tag will be left to the suits to discuss. But rest assured, he won’t be on a last chance power drive at the end of the night. He’ll be quietly resting in a G-6, flying him back to his New Jersey mansion.
For those of us who didn’t strike enough three-chord truths in the hearts of the masses, the work entails wearing a lot of different hats. That means whenever I have an idea for something; a new record, a new book, a new whatever, I have to go out and find the funding for it. The good news is there are some really cool mechanisms out there to raise money for things. And I’ve taken advantage of them a few times. Now is no different. It’s that time again.
I’ve had a Christmas book written for a couple of years, now. I’ve also been chipping away at a Christmas CD for many years as well. I record a little bit here and a little bit there, whenever I have a few extra bucks to throw at a hobby. But as both unfolded, I started to realize they were both pieces of the same project. And so a Christmas experience was born: One Silent Night.
One Silent Night follows a washed up piano player, Ben Chastain, through a Christmas Eve odyssey that will change his whole perspective on his life, his music, his losses, his memories, and most of all …Christmas itself. Throughout the story, Ben plays and sings ten Christmas songs. I am essentially Ben’s fingers and his voice, throughout the story. So whenever the text calls for him to play a song …it’s me playing and singing.
I’ve had several TV networks express interest in this piece. I’ve had a lot of people hear certain parts of the record or read the book and cheer me on and say, “Awesome, man! Yes! Love it!” But I have yet to find anyone, anywhere who has offered to fund the project. So …here I go again into the world of “crowd funding.”
There’s a video attached to this piece that tells what I’m doing, why I need your help to get it done, and how you can easily be a part of it. And trust me …I wish I didn’t need your help. I prefer our relationship to be free of financial entanglements. But, alas …we can’t all be Jimmy Buffett or Bruce Springsteen.
So, if you feel so inclined, throw some support toward this story and record. I think you’ll be glad you helped it get out of my head and into the world. At least I hope you will. And if you decide not to help, that’s okay too. I get it.
Either way, thank you all in advance, and an early …Merry Christmas!