My Year of Living the Rock Star Life

Two clarifications: first, it was more like two years. Second, it wasn’t as glamorous as all that.

I learned to play guitar in high school. I’ve always been able to carry a tune; my mediocre voice and average guitar skills kept me playing in my living room for many years, never believing that I was good enough to actually play in front of real people.

Then a couple of years ago, I went out on a limb and managed to worm my way into a friend’s band – first as a keyboardist, then as the rhythm guitarist and part-time vocalist.

This musical collaboration inspired me to begin writing songs – I ended up with about fifty original acoustic rock tunes. I began to record myself playing on my iPhone, but was dissatisfied with the sound quality.

I did a little reading online, then went out and bought a couple of cables and a midi keyboard, and used Garage Band on my Mac to begin building songs. I started with cover tunes – Coldplay and Eagles and Foo Fighters. Once I felt like I’d gotten the hang of it, I began working on recording my original tunes.

I ended up with two complete albums of original material, and released both albums on iTunes and Spotify under the name S.E. Hardwick. To date, I’ve made about $15 total, allowing me to add “professional recording artist” to my resume.

Meanwhile, I began searching out solo gigs outside of the band. I started by playing open mic nights around town, which culminated with a standing three month gig on Thursday nights at a local coffee shop. Not only a professional recording artist, but now a professional performer.

A local open mic performance

I was having the time of my life, living like a rock star.

Except I still had my day job. And a family that was unimpressed. And other obligations – having three kids and being active in your community has a way of eating up a lot of your free time.

And then I got bored, and a little burned out. I had accomplished everything I’d set out to do – write original tunes, record an album, perform in front of paying customers. There was really nothing else I felt I needed to accomplish with this – I had proved to myself that I could do it, and that was enough for me.

And to be honest, I don’t have the dedication to try to do it full time. My skin is not thick enough to handle all of the rejection and apathy – there are very few things that are as frustrating as pouring your heart out on a stage while a roomful of people living in their own little worlds talk more loudly amongst themselves to be able to hear themselves over your music. Open mic nights are the roughest, but in all fairness no one but my family and a few close friends every came out to hear me play specifically.

Jamming with the amazing Steve Caldwell

So I’ve all but hung up my guitar. I still play in the band – I have fun with those guys, and we’ve played a couple of gigs, but there’s no pressure to accomplish anything other than have fun playing music with each other.

I do have a new plan for 2019 as well – I plan to be a published author by the end of the year. That’s what this blog is about – in much the same way that I played those songs over and over to learn them well enough to play in public, I’m now playing with words, using them over and over, getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Hopefully someone will buy my book. I’d love to add “professional author” to my resume as well.

What I’ve Learned

I don’t know where to start! From a personal standpoint, carrying things through has always been a struggle for me – I’m forever being distracted by the next shiny object. Being a musician to frustrating? Hey, look – you can write a blog!

I love playing music – both by myself and with the guys – but a hobby is all it will ever be. I don’t have the drive (or the talent) to make it a way of life. And I suspect that if it ever became something I had to do, I would most likely lose interest very quickly. So, as I still enjoy playing music, a hobby it will remain.

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