I try to go through life and stay grateful, even when things aren’t great. When I was younger I had a bad habit of trying to affix blame on someone or something when things weren’t perfect. And when I say stay grateful, I mean grateful for every beautiful thing I’m able to experience and not have it lost to being jaded or cynical. Last night was one of those times.
So, during my teens and early twenties I played in a band. We recorded a couple records and toured the US a couple of times. I also had a small record label and put out several releases in the 80’s and early 90’s. Best time of my life until having kids. For some reason I always knew I would never hack it as a professional musician, at least in the “earning an income” part. Frankly, I saw very early what kind of carnage the music business leaves behind and it hit me really hard. I know that sounds melodramatic to anyone who might think music isn’t real work, but trust me…There are times where you just can’t understand why people do it.
I am lucky enough to have some embarrassingly talented friends. Musicians, artists, singers, actors, entrepreneurs, developers, teachers…you name it. Grateful to have these people among my friends. As a friend and I both agreed last night…sometimes it’s both inspiring and depressing. We were lucky enough to be invited to a very small gathering and performance by Tony Furtado, who was an acquaintence of mine in high school. He was a banjo picker and I was a Flying-V-playing-metal-head, but even then I knew he was a guy destined for an interesting path in life. I mean…who in their right mind picks the banjo as a bay area kid growing up in the 70’s and 80’s? He took a lot of crap for it (and I probably contributed to it), but I admired the dude for staying on the path and making a life of it. If you’ve never heard of Tony, you really need to check out some of his music and see him live. I dare you to find a squeaky note. As a musician, one of the things you lose over time (if you’re not careful) is the ability to hear music on the whole. If you’re a guitar player you REALLY hear guitar, for example. Your selective listening becomes heightened for both the good and bad. It’s even worse as a recording engineer. It used to be that the tone of a kick drum could ruin an entire record for me. Being opinionated and passionate is exactly what makes musicians the kind of people they are and it’s what we love about them.
Anyway, on to the gratitude, and eventually my point 🙂
As I sat in a room (literally, a bedroom) with 25 or so other people watching Tony and his amazing bass player Sam Howard, it hit me really hard. This guy has been pouring his entire life into his craft for 30 years and for 20 bucks I got to sit a free-throw away from him while he played two astounding sets of ultra-personal music from his repertoire. He sang a very personal song about the death of his father, from his mothers’ perspective. His mom was sitting not 5 feet away from me. There was another one about his little boy learning the word “star” and how he should never lose his star. Talk about your intimate settings…
Stop and think about this for a minute. If somebody were to see the immediate output of your life’s work on such an excruciatingly personal level, what would they say about it?
To me, it’s criminal that Tony Furtado isn’t a household name. I’ve seen artists earn a silly amount of money with only a tenth the talent this dude has in his picking hand. However, that is exactly the point of my little diatribe. The guy has dedicated his life to his craft and I’m grateful I get to enjoy the output of it. I’m quite sure he would love to get that “one big break” I keep hearing about, but I think many of us want that for him more than he wants it for himself. Again, gratitude. I just wish people could get the same level of amazement and appreciation I get from such an awesome artisan.