An unusually personal posting of life, music, what’s next (?)
The Golden Braid went live in 2010 to coincide with the release of Dorian Green’s first album, A Symmetry, which was to be followed by other Dorian Green musical stylings and writing, all free and enjoyable enough to keep listeners and readers coming back. This was also to generate demand for live shows outside of Birmingham in bigger, better venues. The plan had been developed years prior to that, and I had nearly all the music already written. I just had to record it all and get it out into the world.
This happened to some extent, but it doesn’t take much research to see Dorian Green is not currently playing Madison Square Garden, which prompts the question, why not? Well maybe it only prompts the question to a select few of us. First of all, as many of you know recording and is challenging, particularly when self-producing. I even had more resources than most non-major-label musicians in terms of home recording and access to studios. Everyone who has ever recorded music, or done anything artistic for that matter, knows how hard it is to release something into the world for good. Both full-length rock albums Carousel and A Symmetry were years of writing and months of recording, legitimately working harder than I ever have at anything else. It gets to some point where you have to say, “yea I’m ready to get this out there and move on.” You could always keep going with any project and never let go, which happens sometimes.
While recording A Symmetry in my early 20s I was convinced it was the most important thing I had done in my life. Of all the many endeavors I’ve taken on in my life, musical and otherwise, it is one of few things I ever felt like I had to do. I still feel this way about it its importance and having done it, though perhaps with a more sober perspective. I still find it conceptually rich, packed with the irreplaceable passion of youth and bold musical ideas, with a warm-sounding recording that unintentionally but effectively matched the classic rock feel of the album. As my biggest critic, however, I hear the flaws in the recording and lament the less than ideal methods required to get the project done with the musicians I wanted. Producing the album involved aligning schedules of talented but busy friends, and would have benefitted from considerably more time and arranging. Not to dissuade anyone from listening, as I said I still believe the end result was something special to be proud of. But listening these years later, I can’t help but think about how much better it could be, and wonder if I could make larger waves remaking the album with the level of attention it deserves.
Now, when I talk about making waves, a big part of all this is I’ve done very little self-promotion for Dorian Green. Which I’m not particularly regretting as that wasn’t part of the plan. I just wanted to put the music out there and hope for the best. I really enjoyed it, so it seemed others might want to.While I put most of my musical stock into A Symmetry, I knew even while recording it wasn’t likely to lure in and keep most listeners. I planned to do this with the material that ended up becoming Carousel, as well as Chocolate on Chocolate and the electronic stuff. Again, still a valid plan that might work with some initiative.
So maybe this has led us to the real question, where is the initiative? Since growing up like most children inclined towards music, I had certain visions of rock stardom that feels inevitable throughout youth. At some point you learn that, as unlikely as this is, there is virtually no chance unless you work, really, really hard. This work includes not only producing music, but every other part of the game, most of which ultimately translates to self-promotion. I personally find this to be the hardest part. Even when you have a product you believe in, as a modest person it’s a challenge to “sell” yourself to the public, to promoters, and the rest of the music community. In an industry where everyone insists you check out their music or come to their show, how do you separate yourself as music people, friends or not, voluntarily seek out because they enjoy it? You seek it out because it make you feel the way music is supposed to – the invincible feeling of youth music provides, which is harder to find as one gets older but undoubtedly still present.
So again, how do you separate your music from the rest of the pack as worthy of public attention? Without a miraculous hit and record company promotion, the way most people get over is by playing everywhere nonstop until the name finally catches on and shows become a major event for people beyond your friends. I was fortunate enough to experience this on some scale, but as I said you have to play nonstop. At some point, I made a conscious choice (based on the hand I was dealt) not to spend years sleeping on a strangers couch, wake up to get to the next city, rinse and repeat. Some people thrive on this lifestyle. I personally like beds, showers, and not being stuck in a van for weeks at a time, all preferences that do not translate well to rock and roll living.
While I’ve become comfortable with my choices, it obviously lingers in my head enough to write all this and consider how much of my current status is a result of choices I’ve made and how much is just the cards I was dealt. A combination no doubt, but there is no room for regret in these considerations. Some part of me wonders how much more I could’ve accomplished if I had simply fought more for self-promotion, sucked it up and done all these other requirements of the music business. But what’s most important, I’m happy these days and continue loving music more by the year. I rarely play on stage these days, but have found solitude to be one of the best possible audiences one can perform to. I have friends that are currently very successful with music, practically living the dream and loving every minute of it. I have other friends that are extremely talented, yet somehow music has become a job to them, just going through the motions rather than performing. For me, every time I pick up a guitar, or sit down at the keyboard, or open up a new session to make a beat, I am grateful for the opportunity and know making music is a privilege never to be taken for granted. And given the choice of being a rock star with this attitude or being a campfire guitarist that savors every minute of playing, I don’t think there’s too much to consider.
So this is where we are, and I asked the question, Where Do We Go From Here? Forward is the only possible answer to that question. I plan to continue making music as much as possible and make it available to anyone who wants to listen. Every time someone tells me in person or send an email about enjoying Dorian Green and having it speak to them, it means more to me than I could ever put in words, one of life’s most fulfilling feelings. My dad also taught me the most important person you’re making music for is yourself, and I still find this to be true. In fact, I think a lot of music gets made because it’s something the creator wanted to listen to. I wrote A Symmetry because I had to, because the muses compelled it out of me, but I also made it because I wanted to listen to it. So I’m going to keep making music that I want to listen to, and I hope you want to listen also. I can fill these pages up with words for you to read, but it would never communicate with the depth of a song. I’m going to keep writing them, and working hard to realize their production and put them into the world, no matter whether it’s for you or me.