It was a nostalgic night for me and my band SoulFusion. I couldn’t help but reflect on our 14 years as a band and how we have come from playing the legion in lake of Two Mountains with a bunch of friends to 14 years later standing on a (small) but well known stage – in the legendary House of Blues of Montreal. I guess everyone has certain benchmarks that let them know they are accomplishing something or moving forward in the work that they do, and Jojo’s was really that for me.
Maybe I was naïve but I had no idea that the music scene was so difficult for women to break into until I really made the “big decision” to make creating music my life’s work a few years ago after completing my first job of raising my kids. This is admittedly questionable act of sanity for anyone because we all well know that making a living as a musician is what gave the world the saying “starving artist”.
Musicians come in all different forms; We are housewives and executives, young and old, male and female, and doctors and lawyers. Our reasons for playing all stem from the same place – a musician is not happy unless they are making music.
There are several tiers of entry into the music community the way I see it:
First – you have an obsessive passion for it from childhood. This is a requisite. I have yet to meet someone that says they picked it up at 30 and just really liked music. Nope…musicians are born that way.
The second level is going through your early years and doing everthing else BUT music. Most of our parents were quick to let us know that music could be a avocation that lends itself to pleasant weekend forways into the world of riffs and pedals, but it couldn’t be the thing you do Monday to Friday. Not in the “real world”.
After you stop listening to your parents and If you’re lucky, you hook up with people who have a serious concern for the quality of music. This I believe is the secret to success – the absolute love and determination to make amazing music. I have met other musicians who try and focus on money (ironic since there is so little of it), marketing image, the bookings, the business, the logo,the presentation, the make up – the outside. But what separates the men from the boys (and women from girls :)) is their ability to expose their guts every time they play. Pursuing an artistic career demands a deeper concern – an inward vision. Not surprisingly, the ones that last – the ones that make an impression and stick around forever and become the essence of blues – are the musicians who put the music first and who recognize that at the end of the day, with a light pocket and a smile on their face if they made good music that night and people felt good, it was all worth it.
Being a good music isn’t enough though. To be a real success in music – you need friends. The people who come to watch your band regularly become like an extended family. This is a really awesome thing – they come out in snow storms and rainy days, they drive far and wide to make sure they are there for you, camera ready front row. They are the loving faces you concentrate on when the night is hard and the room feels like its full of angry strangers. Occassionally we invite folks up to sing with us, and the smiles and feeling of good that comes from making dreams like that cmoe true is just beyond explanation.
The final entry point is when you start competing for gigs with other worthy and talented musicians. You are the “new kid on the block…and the block is really small. And as much as we may all be a ‘family” once all the entry level requirements are completed… if you are new to the circuit, it takes a complete pushing aside of your personal ego and agenda – again staying focused on making the best music possible. A little bit of “trial by fire…” I’d say. But again, it’s all part of the game and even that part is not so bad if you’re smart about it and stay focused on the quality of your music.
I had an “old timer” tell me once;
“Montreal is a small pond with allot fo little fish. You’re a little fish”.
At that moment I must admit I felt like a minnow…
But even with a punctured ego – a musician is more interested in playing music than in winning friends.
The best day comes when you start contacting potential gigs in places like reknown blues houses and establishements where the lovers of music (our favourite people) come together to share and exchange this passion and they want you because they heard you make good music – I must admit there is no better pay check than this.
The music world extends far and cuts through many different artistic talents and I have to give credit to our artistic cousins the photographers that join us, very often taking photos for free to encourage the musicians and be part of that community of fellowship. The videographers, managers, bookers, waitresses, bartenders and sound technicians are all an integral part of the community created around a band; what a wonderful job we have.
Maybe in other business there is some kind of sense of fellowship. I lived in “that world” for a long time working in sales as a mom, a high school teacher and University for many years. I can assure you that in no other business will you find a fierce surrounding of each other and protectiveness and a sincere love for what we each bring to the stage no matter our professional differences. When you play music with someone there is an intimacy and an exchange of somethign very difficult to describe. It is like raw sex – and is at its very essence substantially human.
Since my mother died in the fall I have experienced waves of tremendous grief. Music has become so much more to me than a hobby or a job. Of course, life had to go on but unlike other jobs, when you are having a “bad day at work” and you are a musician, you are having a bad day in front of 200 people. As grief tends to go, sometimes I would pass through twelve different emotions at a time. Even though confusion and sadness marred my ability to do many things in my life, music was the one thing that kept my feet down and moving forward. Because I am a singer when I perform it’s almost like a meditaton for me. I become centered and focused and I know that whereever my voice takes me, my band will be there to catch the end and bring me ack to the song. There is no thinking or analysis or planning to this – it’s what good musicians do. I cannot express my gratitude enough for this in my life.
Music is my work, passion, therapy, community and family.
Thank you montreal musicians for letting me share your world. My life is magical because of you.