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
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.)
Paul Williams is sitting next to me at a dinner in LA.
His stories are hilarious.
He tells me how much fun he’s having of late,
That after not writing songs for many years
He’s only recently getting back into it.
I say, “Well, we should get together and write something.”
He turns to me and says, “Really? What are you doing tomorrow?”
So here I am, spending an afternoon
Writing with Mr. Paul Williams,
And though our song is awful, completely forgettable,
The day is amazing.
As we work, he talks about his early days in Los Angeles, writing for everyone
From Three Dog Night and the Carpenters to the Osmonds,
Being on movie sets with Barbara Streisand,
The alcohol and drugs, the entire years lost and
How he eventually flames out,
Only to get sober and
Devote his time to helping others do the same.
“And now,” he says, “I’m writing again. I’m so lucky.”
At one point, while we’re in the middle of figuring out the bridge, Paul jumps up and says, “God, I love writing songs. Don’t you?”
I leave the session with something better than a song.
Paul Williams gives me a master class on life,
A map of where I want to wind up.
He doesn’t really teach me anything about songwriting
But he shows me what it’s like
To be truly excited
About the process.
How to disconnect,
Re-engage, and ignite again
After watching it all
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.