On parenthood and being an independent musician

So I’m due to become a father sometime in the next two weeks probably?  Already it’s been quite the emotional ride, and I haven’t even really gotten started yet.

I don’t think there was really any way for me to anticipate the feelings becoming a parent would bring up until it was actually becoming a reality.  There was this realization that this is one of the handful of times over the course of my life that I would get advance notice of everything irrevocably changing.  Knowing that, I figured probably the most important thing I could to do prepare–besides the non-negotiable items like getting a carseat and installing it correctly–was to attend to my mental health as much as possible leading up to kiddo’s birth.  Set aside time to reflect, journal, take therapy really seriously, and basically try to unpack as much of my own baggage as possible, so as to minimize the amount of harm I might do to my child by projecting my own shit onto them.  Sounds altruistic enough, but what this has meant in practical terms is that my usual existential crises have all been amplified.  I’ll spare you all the angsty ruminations that basically begin and end with “THE PASSAGE OF TIME, MY GOD”, but I wanted to write a little about what this has got me thinking about music and my relationship to it.

When you become an indie musician, you quickly learn the script of “yeah, I’ll have a day job or three and work like hell on my music late at night and on my days off and toil away for years in obscurity”.  Maybe it gets romanticized a little bit, but I don’t think most really completely believe or process it, for the plain reason that it’s freaking disheartening. I think many of us do fantasize that, after some reasonable period of dues-paying, maybe we will actually get some measure of recognition, if not quite fame and fortune.  I mean nobody thinks they’re going to get rich doing this, right, but maybe I can manage to build a modest following, be able to eke out a living and keep making records and tour to decent-sized audiences and not wonder all the time “Exactly what the fuck am I trying to do here?”

After the dust settled from the album release, I had a little more space to ponder the question of how I would define my own artistic success.  It seems like any metric like selling records, draw, getting positive media attention, etc. depends on so much besides one’s own talent or drive.  I’m also keenly aware of just how finite one’s time and energy for creative pursuits is, even when one manages to finagle a situation of avoiding honest waged labor for a decent chunk of time.  That time and energy will only diminish more once the little one gets here, and as I’ve said before, it’s incredibly easy to spend all one’s efforts on promotion and have very little left at the end for the music.  I swear, I never want to quit more than when I’m in the midst of some promotional blitz.  Obviously I’m not going to do that, but it seems clear that if I want to keep music as a central part of my life–and I do want to–I need to rebalance this equation somehow and prioritize music-making.

With all that in mind, I’ve been trying out adjusting my thinking from “know that any wider success is a total longshot, hustle like hell anyway” to “accept that that kind of success is more or less arbitrarily bestowed, so hustle if you feel like it but put making music first, and find fulfillment where you’re at now even if there is no ‘leveling up’ further down the road”.  Unfortunately it’s not quite so simple as that.  Not to sound self-important, but I would never have felt justified dedicating the time to my art that I do if I didn’t see it as more than simply something that’s personally rewarding to me, but a social contribution with real value.  If that’s true, then part of my role is to make some concerted effort to actually put my art out into the world, which, whether out of narcissism or benevolence, basically amounts to promotion.  Sort of back where I started, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

For the immediate future, I don’t have any shows on the books right now, but I expect I’ll get back in the ring come winter or spring at the latest.  I’m still scribbling in my notebook too, and if anything I’m hopeful that the little woodle will provide a bit of inspiration.  You haven’t seen the last of ol’ Weefy…