I write this from a café in Los Angeles this morning. It’s a grey, chilly and beautiful January morning. I’m out here seeing friends and family and taking some business meetings. Seeing the power of the entertainment industry all around and the good stuff money can buy brings up a lot of desires, feelings, ambitions, questions, etc.
I myself, like so many artists, musicians, writers and the like have fought to reconcile the gravitational pull of a need to express oneself artistically with the realities of the world and financial pressures. I’ve been in music, moved away, come back, moved away and am now back again. This time, I come with greater desire, urgency and realization that it is now or never.
I do have the good fortune of knowing with confidence that my talents and potential are significant enough that the pursuit of an artistic dream isn’t equal to a life sentence of poverty. I’m also seasoned enough to understand that I have to power to make great things happen. No great career in art, business or anything else ever happens without that knowledge and firm belief.Even still, I have to fight myself everyday and inner voices of doubt about the odds of making it happen. I have to consider strategy, the long, hard road ahead and the realities of this path without allowing it to undermine my determination or complete confidence in my ability to break down the barriers to a successful career in music.
No one wants to be broke…at least not anyone I know. On the flipside, if you are a creative person, a truly creative person who has been gifted with a talent from the Creator, there is a deep and inherent need to express one’s creativity and share it with others. It is a blessing and a curse. I have, in the past, decided it was time to focus on a career in business, to be a family man, to make a living and be a provider at the expense of my music. Somehow, someway, the need to express my creative nature is too strong to suppress and begins to cry out with a voice too powerful to ignore.
Right now I’ve got a business that I began a few years ago and it is starting to gain a bit of traction. I know that my pursuit of music is going to slow the growth of the business and, at least in the short term, hurt me financially. And it is. Still, I’m so driven to express myself and share my voice with the world that it just doesn’t matter.
I know the joy and fulfillment I get from making music and the pain that comes from feeling that you have been blessed with a gift and are not using it to enrich others, and it doesn’t sit well. I am not willing to one day look back at my life and say I had this special gift and didn’t give everything I could to share it with the world. It’s not gonna happen.I also know that the world is full of “successful” people with money who have incredibly unfulfilling lives and are simply not happy. There’s a ton of social pressure to do well financially and there’s really no way to not feel on some level that without more money you are missing out on something good. I love great food, I love nice things, I want a beautiful home, I want to travel more. I’m human, I want these things. But more than that, I want these things on my terms doing what I love to do and doing it in a way that brings joy, hope and value to other people.
One last thought that I want to share. I had a very dear friend that I met as teenager who I really looked up to. His uncle was my next door neighbor growing up and we met one day when he was up in San Francisco visiting from L.A. I was just getting heavy into reggae and here’s comes this guy with long dreads who has this vibe and aura about him that was undeniable. He was about 15 years older than me. As I got to know him I learned he was a photographer by trade and was doing his thing making a decent living in L.A. in the entertainment business. I moved to L.A. several years later to finish college and he became a great friend and like a big brother to me.
He had been best friends with Peter Tosh, had known Bob Marley well and as we became friends I saw so much in this guy that inspired me about the possibilities in life and power of the human spirit. He possessed a truly magnetic personality. To this day he may be the most self-confident human being I’ve ever known. He moved on to become a videographer and although he was terribly ambitious, he never really broke through to the success I know he desired to have.
But he never quit on his dream. There were times he was dead broke and struggling, but he never waved the white flag or decided he was going to get a job to make steady money in favor of his art. I find this really admirable. At one point many years ago, after I’d sent him several of my songs to hear via email, he told me point blank that “If you don’t pursue your music you will be wasting the gift God has given you”. That hit me hard.
I tried to reach out him via Facebook once or twice in the past 10 years or so but never got much of a response. I didn’t know if he was busy or maybe wasn’t doing well and didn’t want me to see him in that position. I know there were times when I wasn’t reaching out to him for that very reason. This past year, as I got back in the music game and started to gain traction on my project, I felt compelled to reach out to him to reconnect and share with him what I was doing. I really missed him and thought he’d be proud of me for fighting my way back in after all these years. I was super excited to talk to him.
I looked for him on Facebook but nothing. I started doing an online search and came to find out that he’d died of complications from cancer a couple years earlier. There were some news stories from entertainment industry sources in L.A. about him, his life and death. I was heartbroken. He was young and I’m sure he felt that some of his hopes for his life were left unresolved, but he had lived a rich and full life of adventure and had touched a lot of people deeply with his personality and spirit. D.A. was well loved.
The words he shared with me that day have never left me and I know they never will. I hope he is seeing me and what I’m up to these days and approves. I’ve been in and out of music a couple times now and do not intend to disappoint myself, God or D.A. by not giving everything I can and going all out until the end.