this question was posed to me on the phone a while back by my buddy, blake allen…as we have a habit of doing during conversations, we veered off the cynical road and wallowed around in the big-assed puddle of whats-the-point-of-it-all there on the roadside.
which is especially easy for me to do, as some of you well know.
the conversation drifted to the topic of making records…specifically, making records if you happen to be someone of our particular demographic who occupies the rung of the food chain that he and i do – which is to say that a certain set of lowered expectations come with the territory. we know that our audience is limited, as is our ability to grow it significantly…we kinda know who we’ll be playing to, and we’re painfully aware of the ceiling imposed on us by various factors, most certainly including our ability – or willingness – to push these ventures past a certain point.
so why make a record, then?
well, because something inside you is perpetually giving birth…is constantly foisting snippets of lyrics and melodies on you that you can’t deal with in any way but to grab them by the head and yank them, sometimes unwillingly, out into the world and nurture them into maturity.
there are a lot of people who do this for a shitload of reasons that have nothing to do with music or creativity. they take their shots at reality television or american idol and chase the sizzle without any idea what the steak tastes like. they want the money, the notoriety, the pornstar girlfriend, the guest host slot on saturday night live, the superbowl halftime show – and they’d happily do it without learning a single chord or even singing a note, if they could get away with it. because, let’s face it – learning all that crap is hard…and it takes time…and dammit, they wanna be famous now!
if it had to be boiled down to a general analogy, you could use the baby boomers’ watershed moment…february 9th, 1964. the beatles on the ed sullivan show. it’s been cited time and time again as an inspirational moment by singers, songwriters, artists and entertainers. but you can tell, by examining their collective body of work, which ones heard music that defined their generation and felt something resonate inside them…and which ones saw a theatre full of screaming women and wanted a piece of that action.
i have no small amount of actual pity for the latter group.
if you’re lucky…truly lucky…you have that nerve somewhere in the center of your soul that has a degree of sensory perception that’s triggered by hearing a great piece of music, or a sincere lyric. you’ve experienced what happens when you hear something that stops you in your tracks to the extent that the degree of choice you have over whether or not to listen is practically removed from your control…you can’t not listen to it.
if you are such a person, you’ve probably already remembered a moment in your life when this happened to you as i was describing it. it probably wasn’t the only time it’s happened to you, either.
now imagine that you also have been given the seed of a gift that allows you to create that…that, at some point, something touched that nerve in the center of your soul to the extent that you summoned the courage to sit down at a piano or pick up a guitar or a pad and pencil or bravely open your mouth to sing – just to see what would come out – and found that you also had the ability to create this very thing that moved you so much.
you’d probably do it whether anyone was listening or not, wouldn’t you?
people like to point and laugh at some of the bands who are perpetually on the road long past their prime…they like to giggle and say that they should hang it up, that they’re not rockstars anymore, that they’re only in it for a paycheck. and, the fact is, that’s probably true of some of them. it’s usually pretty easy to tell when you cross paths with them – they don’t hide their motives well.
but then there are some who do this long past the point that most would call it a day that are doing it because they can’t imagine their lives without it.
i’m fortunate enough to call some of them friends of mine, and i’ve seen up close what they have to endure just to be able to walk onstage for 90 minutes and play for people…the travel headaches, using rented gear, dealing with house soundmen who aren’t always familiar or sympathetic to what they do – it’s a pain in the ass. but they do it because they can’t NOT do it.
so…why make another record?
because you can’t NOT make another record.