I’m not really an American Idol fan, but my daughter was watching it and I had a bit of time to kill before leaving for my gig yesterday. So I sat down to watch the show. I didn’t know that they had a whole new set of judges on board – like I said, I’m not a fan and don’t keep up with any “Idol” news – so it was a pleasant surprise to see that Keith Urban was one of the judges. I dig that guy!
Not surprising to me was that it was Keith Urban who said something that struck me. The judges were discussing a person who had just left the room after their audition, and all the judges were commenting on his easy-going style and his natural feel. Then out of nowhere, Keith Urban said, “He’s like what they say about real musicians. They’d do it anyway.”
That struck me to the core and made me smile because I said something similar to that to my wife years ago when we first got married. She was trying to push me – lovingly, mind you – towards make music a full-time profession. I told her that the reality is that we have a family to raise and that takes precedence. “Besides,” I said, “I’d do music anyway, whether I was professional or not. It’s a large part of what defines me as a person.” I also absolutely love software engineering, and frankly, I wasn’t about to give that up; especially since I was experiencing so much professional success in that area and have had a lot of success to this day.
But I never gave up music. Like I said those years back, it’s part of what makes me who I am as a person. I just do music as a matter of course in my life and really don’t think about it too much. I write the occasional praise and worship song, I record when I can, and I gig a lot (I did about my average of 150 gigs last year). I get paid for almost all my gigs, but there are some I do gratis. I just love to play.
Speaking of getting paid, I remember lurking through a thread on a popular musicians forum a couple of years back where people were debating about whether they’d do a free gig. There were some folks who said they’d play for free, but most said they’d only do a gig if they got paid, and some were quite emphatic that they’d NEVER do a free gig under any circumstances. Though I didn’t reply, the thought struck me that those folks probably don’t gig all that much. I could be wrong, but to me, that’s a bit of a shit attitude.
I did a few free or very low-paying gigs last year. But my take on those was that I needed to take the long view with those gigs, because invariably, people would take my card when I’m done. I’ve been hired several times for gigs based upon people seeing me previously, so I I don’t get paid then, I’ll make up for it later. But moreover, I just want to play. It goes back to what Keith Urban said about the real musicians. For me, I don’t claim ultimate virtuosity on my beloved instrument, but as the saying goes, I’m going to play anyway…