If you are delusional enough to not just play music for fun, but to make it your living and have it pay every bill you encounter as you grow up and get older, then let me help you right now.
Quit the dream.
Just play music for fun.
Keep playing in that indie band and just ‘put out’ EPs on iTunes. It’s pretty damn easy these days.
But if you’re a massively stubborn individual, and you don’t care what anybody says, and you’re willing to starve for years, and willing to work shitty jobs on the side, for years, and willing to forgo health, friends, and a social life, well, then, maybe you’ve got the mindset and are obsessed enough to give it a shot. Cause that’s what it takes. It takes a committed, obsessed person. I’m sure you’ve heard from countless people that you might need a ‘backup plan.’ Forget the backup plan. That’s half-assing it before you even get started. I never believed in that. Maybe you can. But I’m ADD so I have to focus 100% on one thing at a time or it gets convoluted and the original plan suffers. There are some things you need, however.
This is one thing you need (out of many) and you will need it as you go on your journey to becoming the next big, meaningful, globe trotting, philanthropic, rock star with a heart but who still keeps his indie cred:
TIP: Find a friend who believes in your band more than you do.
McG was that guy for us. If you don’t know who he is, he’s the big Hollywood movie director now, and Mark’s best friend. Back then, McG was just a dude who had a lot of ambition, and he was a friend of the band. I do remember a time when he thought we sucked, and we probably did, but he came around to love us and become one of the biggest reasons for success in Sugar Ray. McG told us that we were the greatest band in the world. And he believed it. We were a mindless garage band, bashing out original songs, and he’s constantly shouting that we are the best rock band in the world. You don’t buy it at first, just because the gap of that reality is so wide, but month after month, and year after year, it sinks in.
I remember very clearly he used to tell me, “You guys are better than Skid Row!”
Now this may not seem like such a stretch now, but at the time, it was complete lunacy. We had 5 sloppy covers and 4 tongue-in-cheek metal originals, practiced in Mark’s moms living room, we had recorded a terrible sounding demo, had only a few crazy parties under our belt, and Skid Row at the time toured the world and sold millions of records and were, for a short time, one of the biggest rock bands around.
But you need a guy like that around your band. You need him. Because guess what? He was right in some way. To the many fans around the world that we met on tour, or who bought our music and love Sugar Ray songs, we were better than them. We just didn’t write the songs yet. You need that completely unbalanced and on-the-edge-of-reality friend telling you you are the greatest band that ever lived. You don’t need to believe it at first. It doesn’t even matter if you ever believe it. It’s just good to have that kind of positive energy around all the time. There’s nothing more murderous to the creative spirit than negativity. McG was the opposite of that. He was a bright, shining powerful force of happy energy for us.
McG was our father figure, our Svengali, our Rick Ruben, our George Martin, our Brian Epstein and our Ahmet Ertegun. He was our father figure because he told us we were great. He was our Svengali because he had a clear vision of what was cool and how he thought we should be. He was our Rick Ruben because he wanted to produce us and had a sound in his head that we should sound like. He was our Brian Epstein because he was our first manager, and he was Ahmet Ertegun because he rolled out the dough to give us our first, well, second investment to go make recordings.
They come in many different forms. The only requirement is that they care and believe in you more than you do.
If you’re lucky enough to have one around, cherish them and don’t take them for granted.
You’re gonna need them.