LIFESTYLE

LIFESTYLE

There’s no substitute for cash.

But over the course of my work I’m paid in lifestyle as much as anything.
Being able to spend my years doing what I love
And experiencing all I see out traveling —
These are luxuries never to be taken lightly.

Yes, there are rough times.
I don’t have the stability (and bank accounts)
That some of my friends have — the ones with regular jobs.
My children grow up without the proverbial big-screen TV
But I don’t think they’re unduly scarred.
It’s a sacrifice worth making.

And I would do it again.

From “The Habit of Noticing: Using Creativity to Make a Life (and a Living)” on Irie Books
Text and Image © 2018 Darden Smith

NO PLAN B

NO PLAN B

My first wife and I get engaged when I’m 22
And her father sends me the letter.
He’s very concerned about my career choice
And wonders if I would consider a trade school;
Something to fall back on.

After I calm down, I write him a letter.
I tell him that my father always told me to never have a Plan B.
If you have it, you’ll use it.

I also say that when I get to be 30, if there’s absolutely zero chance
Of making a living at music,
Then I’ll think about some other line of work.
But until then, no.

The marriage doesn’t work out,
But the plan does.

(By the way, I grew to love this guy, and he became a big fan. Word has it that when I got my first press in Chicago, he carried a copy of the story around to show his friends.)

ADVENTURE

ADVENTURE
Summer, 1994

I’m the opening act on Stevie Nick’s summer tour.
For the three months that we cross the country
I know that a two-year odyssey
Recording, travel, promotion and shows
Is coming to a close
And I’m worried.
I don’t have songs for a new record.
Not sure if I have anything to say.

Backstage at some amphitheater out west,
Maybe in San Francisco, or San Jose,
The drummer in Stevie’s band, Russ Kunkel,
Tells me I should go on an adventure,
Drive across the country,
Do anything to shake the trees.

What he’s saying is I need to
Get out of my mind.
See something new.
Go find the songs.

Shortly after that tour I go completely off the rails
With a divorce-money-career collapse
And I start to question who I am
As a man, a father, an artist.
But instead of running from the chaos, I dive down into it.
Writing, always writing.
And from those upside-down days
I find a whole new bag of songs,
A new vein to explore.

Over the next few years
I come to see that
The real adventure is inside the walls of my own house,
My own soul.
I stop hiding in my songs,
And start telling the truth.

Russ is right.
Sometimes we need to take an adventure,
Blow the carbon off the spark plugs,
Trick ourselves into seeing what’s really there.

 

 

 

Wake Up, Show Up

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The songwriter Billy Kirsch and I were talking about our work a couple of months ago. What we came to was that in order to do our jobs well, to really be in the song we’re writing, recording or performing, we have to be present, alive, and paying attention.

For artists, job #1 is to wake up. In order to write a song, I first have to see the world. Only then do I have something to pull from, something to say. It’s not so different from other jobs. Whatever you do, being awake and bringing your whole self to the task is the route to your best work.

When I sit down to write a song, I pull inspiration from anywhere I can find it. Something seen while traveling, bits of conversation overheard in a coffee shop, the latest article or book I’ve read, a movie, anything, it’s all fair game. Basically, I throw a lasso around my life and use it in the song.

I bring myself to work.

I used to put up a wall between my work and my family. I kept the guitars in the studio, rarely played music in the house. I was afraid that I would overwhelm those around me, take all the oxygen out of the room. At some point, I did a U-turn, and started hanging guitars on the walls, kept one in every room in the house, put a piano in the kitchen. I let my kids see me working on songs, played guitar while they got ready for school in the morning. The result was that they began to know me, and I saw them differently as well. They would come sit in the living room while I played piano and do their homework. When I showed up, it opened doors for my family to do the same.

I brought myself home.

At work, at home, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, bring your whole self.

Show up.