|2010 INAFA Convention Randy Stenzel, Randy Granger, Randy Starnes|
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Life as a work of art in progress.
I get inspired by reading autobiographies, hearing interviews with artists and learning about the not to public side of creative people and public figures. Hearing Joan River’s audio book about her husband’s suicide, her really difficult rise after being fired by Fox and struggle to find work again, I related to just how really tirelessly and hard you have to work to be noticed then stay in people’s minds and on their radar screen. I heard an interview with the songwriter Jewel about her new project. What struck me was how insightful and practical she is. At one point she says how after her first huge album success she realized she had more money than she could possibly ever need and continues to be very conservative with her money so she won’t be put in the position of having to be desperate and pressured to record a hit. What a refreshing thing to hear I thought from a successful musician. One quote really struck me though, “I want my whole life to be a great work of art, not just my art," she says. "And that means paying attention to my entire life and trying to make sure my whole life is balanced." You can hear the whole interview at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128243945
I live that way as well. Most of the time it means I get too little sleep, push myself too hard and don’t make rest a priority, but I’m not at the point where I yet have more money than I could ever need. Jewel, Joan et al have all made the sacrifice and struggle on the long long road up. A good sense of humor and thick skin are nice tools of the trade and a few lucky breaks sure as heck don’t hurt. Funny that we need to ask someone what they do as part of the initial meet. I mean dogs sniff each other’s butts; we want to know how they make a living and if they make more than we do. That’s easy on my part. Most people I meet make more than I do. Of course they then ask, “Is this all you do?” I still don’t have a witty answer to that question. Whether I’m cooking, taking photos, working on the garden, washing dishes, cleaning or whatever I try to make it all a “work of art.” Yep, even the dishes. I take care in soaking and scrubbing them. Sounds crazy but I think if you are going to be doing something might as well make it your best intentioned, in the moment thing right? Of course, I don’t want to do anyone else’s dishes so don’t send me yours thank you very much.
So getting back to the whole more money than you could ever need thing; here is how some booking inquires go, especially lately. So Mr. Granger, could you tell us how much you will charge to play 2 or 3 hours for our event? You will need to bring your own PA system, pay for your own travel and hotel but you can sell your cd’s on a little piece of cardboard only when you are performing. I reply and give them a very modest quote; especially compared to my Native Flute contemporaries let me tell you. Then, if I’m lucky I will hear back saying they didn’t choose to go with me or “went another direction” as happened recently. A gay and lesbian community in New Mexico recently contacted me about performing there since I would be in the area anyway. I perform anywhere they hire me mostly. So I gave them a modest quote and heard back they “went another direction.” Something about his didn’t sit right. So I politely responded saying thank you and pointed out how every single candlelight vigil, memorial walk and event the aids, gay and lesbian, battered women, child advocate, spay and neuter, humane society, human rights, peace, hospice etc etc. has an event they need music for or a fundraiser they are organizing guess who they call? Yep, moi. When I am available I say yes thinking I need to give to the community at large. Is it SO wrong to expect to be hired once in a while? Hello No! Share the love people. Same thing with the Abq Balloon Fiesta. They asked how much I would charge to get up at 4am, play in the freezing October cold for 100,000 people and I gave them a “range” of price. They also went another direction…hmmm. Getting paid has rarely been harder my friends.
When I can I try to book as many shows in an area as possible to maximize my income earning potential. But I’ve been so so busy getting my new album Pura Vida released I and now up in the Midwest for six weeks with about 10 performances total with a week at a time in-between. That means find a place to stay they won’t cause me to go broke. Solution; tenting and camping it. Someone forgot to tell me about all the flooding and raining and the mosquitoes the size of bats and more aggressive than paparazzi. The other night when Milwaukee got hammered by flooding I lay in my tent in about two inches of water and in wet clothes. A raccoon got into my trail mix and brazenly walked right over my shoes as I sat playing flute. Not so glamorous. But like Jewel, who was living and sleeping in her van on the California beaches when she was discovered by and A&R guy playing at a coffee house open mic—well, it’s what we do. This is what you do when your art is your priority, your passion, your living. You take it in stride and have no regrets and seek no sympathy. That doesn’t mean I can’t bitch about it if I want to. I meet really generous people camping and traveling. They are astonished as I fill the campground with my flutes or Hang or Halo. When they find out I’m a professional musician they never say to me, “Is this all you do?” Somehow we all know if you are camping you are probably a self-determined, rugged person who is there by choice. They usually buy my Cd’s and always share food and beer with me, give me wood even a tent the other day. People are good, they are kind and they are generous and I am in good company. When I can I pick up gigs through open mics or searching online for coffee houses. I would like more house concerts but haven’t quite trained people to do that yet. I also busk at as many farmers markets as I can. I always find musicians and chat them up about how it works locally. It feels good to work really hard and be able to pay my bills. When I’m on stage playing for several hundred people or at a festival no one needs to know just how much work it all is. And that is how it should be. Next time, however, you hear a musician think for just a moment at the metaphoric and literal road they took to get there.
I have some performances coming up in Chicago at the 2nd Unitarian Church and South Elgin, IL at The World of Faeries Festival August 1st, 7th and 8th. Check my Calendar page for details. After that I’ll be at the Santa Fe Indian Market and Roots and Rhythms festival at the Buffalo Thunder Resort in Santa Fe then the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee and the Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts in Mesilla Park, NM. Sometimes venues pay for my rooms and sometimes not. It is always an adventure and I hope makes me more appreciative of what I do for living, notice I didn’t say “a” living….
Oh yeah I found out this week that this blog you are reading right now won a “2010 Top 50 Indie Music Blogs award!” Thank you following this blog and for your support.