Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cash Can't Buy Autograph Bread (My Friends are Cooler Than Yours)

I'm a musician. It's what I've always done. I believe it's what I'll always do. I'm a "lifer" as they say.

Being a musician typically means living a life that is full of long nights, longer drives, poor cuisine, miniscule pay, inherently rocky relationships, hundreds of missed birthdays of loved ones, nephew's piano recitals, ........

Sounds pretty bleak huh? Well, those aspect are decidedly bleak. There is no way around that.

So how does there continue to be people (like myself) who are not only willing to suffer this existence but sacrifice so much and work for decades to have a chance at this existence?

Well, there is obviously an "up side".

That up side is the joy of creating music, performing music, and connecting with people. The joys that accompany those aspects of the musician's life out weigh all the negatives (at least they outweigh the negatives in the mind of the wouldbe musician enough to keep him/her striving for it).

Those are the more apparent , obvious bonuses to being a "lifer" musician. One that is a little less obvious is the fact that after years and years of struggling along side similarly minded musicians , you realize your friends are cooler than everyone else's friends.

Before I went to Belgium I was well aware of the tremendous careers both my friends, Beverly Jo Scott and Rick Hirsch, have had. I even realized that they were stars. But after my experiences in Brussels I realized that they are legitimate, bonafide, sho nuff, no way around it stars. Again, don't misunderstand, I knew the great things each of them had done. I could list their accomplishments for you. But these people are my friends and dare I say........colleagues?

So to see children in the mall clamor to get a picture with BJ, or when the clerk of the clothing store ran to the window and started clicking pictures of us, was odd. I knew that I had severely talented and accomplished friends, but they were still my friends. Not in Belgium, Beverly Jo and Rick are of course still my friends but they truly are celebrities.

Beverly Jo is a super star in Belgium. She has adoring fans every where from her 10 albums and infinite high profile gigs. Recently she has become even more famous due to her being a judge on The Voice Belgique and her radio show. It was fun yet amazing to see the ripple of excitement she would cause by just walking down the street to get lunch. One day while we were attempting to buy bread the cashier was such a fan of BJ that he wouldn't let her pay for it. She autographed a couple things for his wife and again tried to pay for the bread but the cashier wasn't allowing it (of course we jokingly called that loaf of bread "autograph bread" for the rest of the evening). This is my friend from Bay Minette, Alabama we are talking about. It warmed my heart to watch. But I had knowledge that Beverly Jo was a big deal in Belgium before I arrived so I had been trying to prepare myself.

I had not prepared myself for the level of celebrity Rick Hirsch has there too.

Rick has been a phenomenal friend to me for years. He also produced and played on my album, "My Brother's Keepers". Rick also happens to live in my neighborhood. So to see Rick cause some Belgian folks to get star struck too, made me doubly happy.

Beverly Jo had a dinner party at her house one of the nights we were there (no frog legs or magic. But lots and lots of food, fellowship and music).

As the evening began waning we quit singing and picking and began telling stories (enhanced with youtube clips from BJ's computer where applicable).

One of BJ's friends Alain (an incredible musician and BJ's luthier) said his favorite guitar solo ever was one Rick Hirsch had played at a live concert with Joan Armatrading at Rockpalast in 1980.

Alain had been waiting 32 years to meet Rick. Alain cued up the youtube clip (if ya wanna see the exact solo it's at about 2:50 on this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_GTQUfENq8)

To watch Alain enjoy Rick's solo 32 years later and have the same child like fascination with it as I assume he did the first time, was great. Alain air guitared every subtle nuance of this 2 min solo. It was apparent that he had studied and restudied and played and played and played this solo himself.

This celebrated, experienced Belgian "lifer" was geeking out over Rick's solo. (I must admit after hearing the solo, I was geeking out myself. Rick always plays with heart and soul but it came across impressively so in that solo).

( as a side note: I asked Rick about the solo. He didn't remember it. He of course remembered the gig, but he didn't remember the solo specifically. He had just played what he felt at the moment. And 32 years later this accomplished Belgian musician was able to mimic every subtlety.)

It gives you perspective when you see an event like that. Every person (musician or not) has had that part of a song, whether it be a vocal line, a solo, a piano riff, or any other part of song that moves them so deeply that it is almost like a sonic tattoo. It stays with them til their dying day. I have many of those tattoos. So it was excellent to see this great musician turned into a kid again while listening to Rick's solo. Rick's solo had very deeply left its mark on this man's life (and being as Alain is a professional musician, Rick's solo influenced his career as well).

My friends Rick and BJ are stars. There is no denying it.

And of course Rick and BJ are two of my many many many cool, famous friends. But seeing the response people had to them on this trip just solidified what I already knew. I have cooler friends than everybody else.

So kids if you feel like you wanna be a musician let me give ya some helpful advice.

When you are a musician the conditions are usually very very rough. When you are a musician, you will likely live life uncomfortable and broke (in the traditional sense).

But that is because when you are a musician you get paid in a different kind of currency. Musicians get paid in experiences. One of the greatest of all these experiences is making friendships with incredible musicians whom you admire.

So before you shlep down to the crossroads and sell your soul, do a little soul searching.

If you are getting into music to make money, turn around, go back home, and choose ANY other career. I promise you, the workload of a musician is more than the corresponding pay check.

However, if you can value experience as currency....if you enjoy making music for the sake of making good music.......(and as I have shown you here through one example, namely, my recent trip to Belgium) If you want to have the coolest friends of anyone you know..............well .....welcome...come on in.....

"this first one's in B flat.......1,2,3,4"




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