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Original Roots, Different Tree
Original Roots, Different Tree
“You got a show at the House of Blues?”
He nodded his head up and down acknowledging the words that came out of my mouth. It felt good. The registry. Inside my head. It was inside. It was inside his head, too. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone.
He nodded his head again and smiled. But I still didn’t believe it. It wasn’t one of those, “You-couldn’t-believe-it-but-you-knew-it”, kind of things, I was just in pure disbelief. He was B.S.ing. And right from the get-go I knew he had some sort of fine print to what he told me. I knew the whole time from then, until now. And he did the worst thing anyone could do. Ever. It was unfathomable.
I dragged my amp into his basement, the same smell, new carpet, it was different than the last time I plugged in and sang at his house. Same atmosphere, though. So I plugged in my amp, set up my microphone, and we sat and waited for our 3rd man. Only . We didn’t have our 4th. He never fit. Just a singer/guitarist, a guitarist, and a drummer. We’ve been here before.
“There he is!”
We both stood up. Helped him move all his stuff into the basement.
“Dude, your basement still smells like garbage & cheese popcorn.”
He plugged in. We started playing. Almost everything was perfect, the sound, the way we played, the transitions, the love for our music, the music itself, everything was so serene and unreal, that we were ready to play anything, anywhere, at any time. We wanted it, bad. To be in front of people, to show them our music.
So the practices went well for awhile. And for awhile, I mean about a month or so. Doing major justice to the songs we had. Hitting every note and switch. Perfection. Mass perfection. So I had my step-dad (who’s been playing guitar for 30+ years) come in and listen to us play. He loved it. He said we were ready to get up on a stage with the caliber of a professional band.
I could never ever fully describe the feeling I had when I got on stage. I’ve done it before. How nervous. How you just let go on stage, you don’t care what you look like to other people, it’s always about the music.
And just when everything was perfect, he effed up. Bad. This kid I trusted forever was going to ruin everything. We had just run through our set and all looked at each other and laughed. Ready to play our first show at the House of Blues. But he did it anyway. How could you screw up something so perfect?
“Hey, I think we should change some things.”
I looked over to our drummer and guitarist.
“We should have you actually, sing more. Like clean vocals. A lot more.”
“Why? There’s melody, people can sing along.”
“But record labels and radios won’t like it.”
I turned off my amp and the whole PA system. I shut off the guitarist’s amp. This drummer had changed, but the guitarist wasn’t saying anything to defend me, he was looking at me and I just knew he was for the change.
“So what if they won’t like it.”
Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t even end that sentence with a question mark. I didn’t want an answer back at that point. I was so angry that there began a long, long determining, destructive, devastating silence. A stare down. I almost lost myself. It was always about the music. Always about the music. Always. It never wasn’t about the music.
We started inching farther apart. In my head, we were running farther apart.
“We want to be famous.”
“Famous? You want to do what everyone else wants. Something to sing along to? That’s ridiculous. Don’t lie. Our music is good enough that people will love it. And where there’s a following, there’s your record label and radio play. Are you happy with the stuff that’s spewing out of your mouth? Are you happy with changing freedom of creativity for someone else and being their slave?”
“No, I’m not happy with it, but I’d be happy if we got somewhere with this stuff.”
“We will get somewhere.”
I started packing up. I couldn’t understand what he was talking about whatsoever. I put all my cords and pedals in my bag, and called my step-dad for a ride home. This was the decision I was making. This was the most meaningful thing I’ve done in music, staying with my roots, and staying with creativity, originality, and freedom to express myself. I would give it all up, the show at the House of Blues, the musical (not the actual) friendship I had with that drummer and guitarist, rather than sell myself out to make the teeny boppers and mainstream kiddies to like the music I played. My voice was my voice. It stayed in key. It was driving, powerful, and mean. The lyrics actually meant something instead of being about breaking up with some girl or something completely unintelligent like that. I had come to the conclusion the shortest straw had just been pulled for me.
I got home, played my guitar for hours, and ate. I didn’t do anything else. I didn’t wonder what they were thinking. I didn’t wonder what I was thinking. I just cared about my music.
Their tree had blossomed different flowers than mine. Theirs were generic and bland. Just like everyone else’s. Our roots no longer tangled within one another. It was all over at that point. I made the decision not to sell out. And I’ve never been happier to be where I am now. I just couldn’t be happier.