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Where the music leads me
Paul was a struggling musician in Detroit. He moved from Bellingham because he thought it would be easier to get noticed. Paul was in to metal music. He was 23 now and had been singing since he was four; playing guitar since he was seven, and then he learned how to scream when he was 17. He didn’t really like the more hardcore music that was all screams vocally. But he knew that if he wanted to get anywhere with modern day metal, he would have to learn how to scream. He almost blew out his voice too many times to count trying to learn how. He ended up having to pay a lot of money for online vocal classes so he could learn how to do it. Back in Bellingham he had been in a few bands. The most recent one he was in looked like they were on the path to success until the band was in a horrible accident. Everyone died except for Paul and the drummer Jeff. There were five people in the band. Paul played rhythm guitar and did vocals, Jeff was the drummer, Tom was the bassist, Greg played the keyboard, and Steve played lead guitar. Tom and Jeff were brothers. The band had just finished playing a show in Seattle and was being offered a record deal. After the show the band went out and partied all night. After the party was over and they were good and drunk, they decided it would be a good idea to drive home.
“Dude Paul, you-you-you’re the most sober out of all of us.” Slurred Jeff
“I-I don’t know if we should drive home.” Said Paul
“Oh, don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine.” Replied Jeff
“If you say so…” Said Paul
So everyone piled into the car and tried not to throw up on the way home. By the time they got on the freeway everyone had passed out in the car except for Paul. Paul was struggling to stay awake but he wanted to get home. So he kept driving and right as he was about to get off the freeway, he passed out. The car swerved to the left and into oncoming traffic. As soon as he got onto the other side of the road the car got hit by a semi. The front of the car had gotten far enough ahead of the truck so Paul and Jeff didn’t get hurt too badly, just a few scratches. But the body of the car got nailed by the truck. The rest of the band was dead. Jeff woke up and saw what happened and he burst into tears. Paul went over there to try and calm Jeff down and Jeff punched Paul in the face.
“Hey man, what the hell?” Asked Paul
“You killed my brother! This is entirely your fault!” Yelled Jeff
“Don’t you think I realize that? Do you think I tried to do this? YOU’RE the one who insisted that I drive even though you knew that I was drunk. Just because I was the most sober doesn’t mean that I’m gonna be a safe driver.” Paul said
“I was drunk too! I didn’t know what I was talking about, but you should have known better not to drive.” Said Jeff
“Listen we can stand here and yell at each other all night, or we can try to figure out what we can do.” Said Paul
“What’s there to do? You and I are the only ones who didn’t die. The cops are going to get here soon and you’ll go to jail, and then everyone’s life will be a whole lot better.”
“Whatever, man.” Said Paul
That’s how they left it. Paul ended up going to jail and Jeff just went on with his life. Paul went to jail for two years because this was his first offence. While Paul was in there, he actually took time to think about his actions. He tried to remember how it all happened, but up until the accident, the rest of his memory was a blur. All he felt was shame and regret. Every day he wished that he could go back and tell Jeff that he wasn’t going to drive. That he would say that he was too drunk and that they should just hang out there for the rest of the night. But he couldn’t change what happened and he knew it. When he was released from prison he only started to feel worse. He had nowhere to go. He wasn’t on speaking terms with his parents because when he was 16 he came home drunk, trashed the house, and cussed out his parents. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since. He used to live with Jeff but he obviously couldn’t do that anymore. He started thinking about where he could move to try to get away from all the crap that had happened, and try to start a new life. He decided he would just get on a bus and decide when he was on the road. All he had to his name was $1000 cash, a duffle bag full of clothes and his guitar. He would play his guitar when the bus would make stops to try to earn money. He never really made much, maybe five dollars every stop. He found out the bus was headed to Detroit so he just decided that he would go there. By the time he got to Detroit he had about $275. He had no idea where he would go and no idea where he could try to work. He decided that he would use his money for food, and he would have to try to find somewhere in the streets to sleep. He applied at every single restaurant, grocery store, anywhere he thought he could get a job, but no one would hire him. While he wasn't out trying to get jobs he would sit in a local park and just play his guitar hoping to get some money. Since Paul had no cell phone or anyway a company could hire him, he had to go to each individual building every day to see if they had considered giving him an interview. After three weeks of checking in for jobs a man by the name of Craig stopped him and told him he wanted to sit down and have an interview with Paul.
"Thank you for coming in today," Said Craig.
"No, thank YOU, for even giving me this interview. You have no idea how badly I need this," Said Paul.
"I could tell by how often you showed up. I really admire your determination for this job. I'm gonna be honest with you. I'm giving you the job. I don't know why, but I see something special in you. It doesn't pay much, and it's not a fun job, but it's income and we can even put a roof over your head until you can find your own place to live." Said Craig.
Paul didn't know what to say.
"I'll take your silence as a yes," said Craig.
"You bet it's a yes!" said Paul
"Great! Now what we'll be having you doing is working in the back. Unloading trucks, restocking the shelves, or cleaning up any messes that are made," said Craig.
"That sounds fantastic," said Paul.
"Well great! We'll have you start tomorrow at four," Said Craig.
"I'll be there," said Paul.
Paul actually liked working at the store. Well at first anyways. While Craig seemed nice when he was interviewing Paul, it turns out he didn't take any crap from anybody. When Paul would mess up, Craig would yell at him. Within a few weeks Paul started to hate his job. But Craig let Paul live in the store so Paul had to be respectful, and he knew he needed this job. On Paul's off days he would go to any public area or event and play his guitar. He still didn't make a whole lot, but he noticed that a group of guys started to show up everywhere he played. That made Paul nervous because he had no idea who they were or what they wanted. He started to ask people at work if they knew of any bands that needed a guitarist or a singer, but nobody could think of any band with an opening. After about six months of working at the store Paul got a big raise. He could have been promoted to cash register or working the floor but he liked his job in the back. It gave him time to himself, and time to think. But every day, the thought of the night of the accident would creep in and that would just bring him down so far that even the easiest task was a struggle for him to accomplish. He missed playing music with the band, and he missed playing shows. He never gave up on playing in public though, and he soon found out that those guys that would show up to watch him play, were looking for a guitarist for their band. One day when Paul was playing in one of the parks, they approached him. They started off by introducing themselves.
"Hey, man, you sound pretty good. My name is Alex, this is John, Josh, and Logan. We've been watching you play for a while now. How long have you been playing," asked Alex.
"Yeah I've seen you around. I'll be honest, you were creeping me out. But I've been playing since I was seven and I'm 26 now so it's been a while," said Paul.
"Damn dude. That's a long time. What kind of music do you like to play," asked Alex.
"Metal. Ever since I was ten I've been playing metal. But it's hard to play metal music on an acoustic guitar," said Paul.
"No kidding. Are you in a band right now? Or looking to be in a band," asked Alex.
"Nope. It's just me right now. But yes I've been trying to get in a band ever since I moved here almost a year ago. Why? Are you guys looking for a guitarist? I can do vocals too," said Paul.
"We're good on vocals right now. That's what I do. But we're in desperate need of a lead guitarist. You interested," asked Alex.
"You bet I am," said Paul excitedly.
"Good. How about you come on back with us and we can jam," asked Alex.
"Lets do it," said Paul.
So Paul was back in a band. But playing in the band just didn't feel right to him because he couldn't let go of his old band. He tried not to think about it, but every time he was at work, that's all he could think about now. Music used to be the way he could get through every day. Now it was dragging him down, and he didn't know what to do. During the seven months he had been working at the store, he had started to become friends with Craig. He had told Craig about the accident, and what had happened, but he didn't tell Craig that it had been making work almost impossible for him.
"Dude I don't know what to do anymore. Music used to mean everything to me but now it's making my whole life drag. It's like I'm moving in slow mo while everybody around me is moving at a normal pace," said Paul.
"Yeah, man, it's rough for sure. If you need some time off, let me know."
"No dude you know how badly I need the hours. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do even if I could afford having time off. It's not like the band is playing any shows any time soon," said Paul.
"Well why don't you suggest that," asked Craig.
"Because playing in this band just doesn't feel right. I know it's what I want to do, but every time I start to play a song with them, I just think back to playing with Jeff and Tom and all of them and then I just remember that horrible night, and everything just doesn't feel right. I feel like I'm betraying Jeff," said Paul.
"Listen, I don't know how you're feeling, and I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I do. But if you really do want to be playing music, then you need to let go of that night. Of your old band. Of the accident. Nothing you do will bring them back. While Jeff may hate you, I'm sure the rest of the band would want you to keep playing music with or without Jeff. If music is really what you love, you've got to put everything into it, and don't let anything hold you back from it," said Craig.
"I guess you're right. I'm working on it too, but it's hard, you know," said Paul.
"I'm sure it is. But I want you to keep practicing with them, and when you start to feel comfortable, let me know. I have some hook ups around here and I can get you to play in a pretty big show," said Craig.
"I'll definitely let you know when that happens," said Paul.
So Paul continued to practice with his band, even though every single feeling he felt told him to stop. About six months passed before he finally started to feel comfortable playing. He told Craig right away, and like Craig told him, he booked him a huge gig. He got them to open for Bullet For My Valentine. The band was ecstatic to say the least. The show was in three months and they needed to practice more. So Paul would go straight to practice from work, and practice lasted anywhere from six to ten hours. Paul got virtually no sleep. Craig started to notice when he found Paul asleep in the back room.
"Listen dude, I admire your dedication to what you work towards. That's why I hired you in the first place. But I think that you need some time off so you can really practice and get ready for the show," said Craig.
"But I need the hours, I need to be able to afford new pickups for my guitar," said Paul.
"I'll give you a loan. Just make sure you pay me back when you get big and famous," chuckled Craig.
"I can't ask you to do that, Craig," said Paul.
"I know how much this show means to you. And I know how badly you need the pickups. Just take the offer dude. If you keep up with how you're living right now, you're not going to have any energy to work, practice, or play the show. Just take the time off and take the loan," said Craig.
"Craig, I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for me," said Paul.
"Don't you start hugging me or anything. You know that I'll sock you in the face," said Craig.
"Ha ha, yeah I know. I'm just telling you thanks," said Paul.
Paul was able to go out and buy the pickups for his guitar, and he still had a month before the show. The practices went from six to ten hours to eight to twelve hours. It was pretty crazy. But the band made huge progress in the music, and within a week before the show, they knew they were ready. The day of the show, they all gathered at Alex's house for one final practice.
"Alright guys, I don't have to tell you important this show is. If we can rock this like we have been, I think that we'll be able to get some good attention, and maybe land a record deal. So lets go out there, and just have fun with it. Try not to focus too hard on making sure you don't screw up because then you will look like a stiff out there. And nobody wants to see that. So just go out there, get comfortable, and just have fun with it," said Alex.
Now, obviously, the band was nervous. None of the members had ever played a big show, and the number of people at this show was over 100000. They were going to play eight songs, then Bullet would come on. Paul was scared, but confident. Right before they went on he gave Craig a call.
"This is it dude," yelled Paul.
"Go out there and show them what you're all about dude. You're one sick guitar player, and I know you're gonna show them what real metal sounds like," said Craig.
"Again, thank you so much for this Craig. I gotta go though. We're on in five minutes," said Paul.
"I know. I'm here dude. I'm at the show," said Craig.
But before Paul had time to respond, Craig hung up. As soon as the band walked onto the stage the whole crowd went nuts. As soon as the crowd settled down, the band felt at home. All of the fear was gone, and they played better than any practice session that they ever had. The crowd loved them, and the band knew that this was their night.
After the show was over, the band was immediately addressed by Rise Records who was asking them for a three album contract. All of the band members agreed that this is what they wanted. Paul had finally made it. While he still felt that he should have been there with his old band, he knew that he was exactly where he was supposed to be. And he had finally moved on from that horrible night.
The next day, Paul went back to the grocery store because he was quitting. He didn't want to quit because he loved working for Craig, but he wouldn't have time to work there anymore. Craig wouldn't even let Paul come back to work for him. He knew that Paul was starting a new chapter in his life, and he had to move on from here.
"Paul, I told you, you're moving on the bigger and better things. You can't try to hold on to this. Just go and do what you were born to do," said Craig.
"I know. And I won't forget you. I promise. You're the reason why I'm here in the first place. I will never be able to repay you for this," said Paul.
"Just make sure you pay me back for those pickups," laughed Craig.
"You know I will," said Paul.
Paul said goodbye to Craig for the last time, and he got onto the band's bus, and headed to New York to start recording their album. While Paul knew that his old band would want him to be where he was, he would always miss playing with them. But he knew that all his hard work had paid off, and he was going to follow the path to wherever his music would lead him.