How I Sabotage My Music Career - And Why
Updated: Dec 3, 2021
"Man, what are you doing here? Why aren't you famous?" - I hear this now and then.
My answer? "I've sabotaged being famous."
First of all, I should define what I mean by “sabotage."
I don’t mean the ability to make a living with the guitar. Between gigging and teaching I’ve pretty much done just that. No sabotage there. I’ve been very fortunate in that my love for the instrument is such that if I’ve got a guitar in my hands in any capacity - gigging, teaching, writing, recording etc. - I’m a pretty happy guy. It took awhile for me to figure that out. I had to go through some real crapola (and put some other people through it too) to realize that I wasn’t motivated by fame and money - i.e. “success.” I just love to play the guitar, plain and simple, and have worked hard at it - because I love it. That’s my primary motivation.
On the subject of playing the guitar, Eric Clapton has said, “It is good to be good!”
In other words, being good at playing the guitar has intrinsic value, whether anyone else hears you play or not, and whether or not you achieve any fame or money doing it. It is an end unto itself. It is good to be good. I heard that quote when I was a young guitarist trying to figure things out and it resonated with me instantly. I’ve never forgotten it and, even at that young age, I committed myself to being good, or at least as good as I can be, even if I got no "success" out if it.
So what I mean by “success” is the most common definition - fame and money. It’s that kind of success that I have sabotaged.
How, and why?
Well, the big picture is that achieving it takes everything. Nothing can be more important. Nothing can stand in the way. Nothing. And I wasn’t willing to sacrifice everything on that alter. And even if you do all that, it's still a crapshoot and the odds are ridiculously against achieving it.
I’d be hard-pressed to name a super-successful superstar musician who hasn’t left a trail of human debris in his wake - broken marriages, broken relationships of all kinds, broken physical and mental health, substance abuse etc. ad nauseam ad infinitum. Maybe there are some but I can’t think of any right now. (Remember “Behind the Music?” Same story, over and over.)
Yes, no one is beyond redemption, it can all work out - but still, there are consequences, karma and scars.
The first thing I did to sabotage my success was get married at a fairly young age - and stay married.
Don’t be shocked, I’ve never regretted it. It was absolutely the best thing for me. She’s been very supportive and gone through a lot of crap because of me and my career choice. Most women just can’t do it. She's one-in-a-million. I’m pretty convinced that had I chosen the different path - shooting for fame and money come hell or high water - I’d be dead by now. She's literally saved my life, probably more than once.
Our mutual commitment to the marriage is such that divorce is not an option. She has accommodated, compensated and changed a lot of desires and expectations to make it work. I also have done the same thing - it takes two; if one is unwilling, it won't work.
On the other hand, it was my music that was one of the initial attractions. I even had to play my own wedding! So the thing, well, one of the things, that attracted her to me in the first place is the very thing about me that's the most difficult to live with. Irony strikes again. BTW - I think that is true in most relationships.
Think about it ladies; I work nights, weekends and holidays. Not to mention the aspect of my job that involves being a public figure with all the stresses and potential booby-traps that entails!
The first thing I changed as a result of getting married was a decision to play cover music for immediate money rather than pursue some kind of big-time, long-shot deal based on any kind of original music. The bird-in-the-hand mentality. Actually, there were other reasons I did that besides the marriage, reasons that had to do with getting as good as I could be on the guitar, but the marriage was one of them. In general, while some cover artists achieve great success, they are not players per se but usually singer-personality types. Think Tom Jones, Rod Stewart et al or any number of current country and pop celebrity-artists. Emphasis on “celebrity” - and they pay the same price.
The next thing to sabotage “success” was the decision to get off the road. This decision was directly related to the marriage - to save my family - my wife was at home with 3 kids under 5 and I was gone; sometimes for weeks at a time (she was not happy!). I had to ensure that my kids wouldn’t grow up with an absent father - with all the issues that can cause. I could see issues developing with my first 3 kids before the oldest was 5. And those issues were rooted in Dad being absent a lot of the time. My thought was, “The Music will never know if I don’t play it but my kids will be screwed up for life if I don’t change something.”
A swift kick-in-the-ass from my father-in-law was also helpful.