Making Music in Adulthood

April 19, 2022

I played in a number of bands through my teenage years and through college. Some were more successful than others, but none of them had me on the fast track to super-stardom. Bummer.

The band I played in during college was kind of successful. I used to look forward to weekly rehearsals and gigs, and I really missed the community that arose around us after graduation. Sure, we were playing gigs mostly in our small college town, but we sold out the clubs each time we played. We had a consistent fan base who wanted to hear our music and be part of our “scene.”

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this was some grand endeavor. The biggest club probably held 400-500 people. Many of them were much smaller. The size of the crowd didn’t really matter though, those were OUR fans. All 500 of them, and we were part of their community and that was special.

Predictably, that band broke up after graduation and I moved to the city to start the transition to adulthood. I had a job and a few friends and family in town, but otherwise my life was a blank slate. I wanted to make music, but I didn’t know any musicians in the area. Sure, I could have started over, but that was daunting and to be honest, I wasn’t sure that I had the kind of energy it would take to create a new band from scratch. After all, now I had real-world responsibilities and I couldn’t stay out all night at the clubs like I used to do.

One day I ran into a buddy from college. He was the founder of our college acapella band. He and I toyed with the idea of starting a band for a while. We experimented with different lineups (including using a drum machine when no suitable human was available). We played some gigs and drank some beer. It was fun, but it was pretty clear it wasn’t going anywhere. Eventually, we stalled out.

One day our little band decided to do a little recording session with some of our friends, friends who had some musical talent but weren’t really interested in being in a band. It was more of a goof than anything.

We wrote a comedic parody of U2’s “One” with lyrics about Elliot Spitzer’s sexual proclivities. We were pretty proud of the outcome, so we sent it to our local radio station hoping they’d play it on the morning show. We got an email back from the DJs saying how great they thought it was, but it was too spicy for radio. So, we made a video slideshow to go with it and threw it up on YouTube. It got to about 70,000 hits and then it got taken down due to copyright violations. We didn’t understand that we couldn’t use photos from the media. Oops! Lessons learned.

Anyway, things fizzled out for that band shortly after that. We called it quits- for a while. Then one day my buddy’s wife suggested that we give it another go. She said that her husband was happier when he was making music and she really wanted to encourage him to have that kind of influence in his life.

I’m not sure that I had the self-awareness at that moment to know that I felt the same way, but I do now. In fact, that moment has hung with me for 15 years. I thought it was amazing that she supported us making loud noises in her basement, while she watched their two young girls upstairs. She was trying to let her pursue the things that made him happy in life. She did it with a smile (even though I know she didn’t appreciate it when we vibrated the wine glasses off the wine rack).

Sure, that says a lot about her. Clearly, she’s an amazing wife. (My wife is similarly supportive and exceedingly awesome like that as well. It’s part of why I married her!) Perhaps more importantly though is the realization that even though we weren’t kids anymore, even though we had given up on Plan A- Be a Rockstar, rule the world and we had moved on to Plan B- get a job pay bills. We didn’t have to give up on the music. We just had to find a way to be more creative about how we did it. That’s what this series of articles is going to be about… how to keep the moment up with music after your life changes.

Maybe you had a Plan A that led you into a successful career. Great for you! Maybe your life took you down some winding roads and you found your success on the second or third attempt. Maybe you’re still trying to find your path. Either way, if you’re looking to make music a bigger part of your life, and make your life happier, then this series is for you. This is how to move on to Plan M.