Last week on Facebook I posted the following pithy, and terse, status update:
"Adam Marsland is considering never playing original music onstage again. Thoughts?"
Not surprisingly, this set off a cascade of comments. The original post was just a joke, albeit a bitter one, prompted both by a friend requesting a covers song for one of my increasingly rare originals shows, and by a depressing accounting of sales on my last three albums the day before.
But as the conversation unfolded, I uncovered a deep well of bitterness. I posted my own comments where I flat out said that I thought my work was undervalued and taken for granted and that I was really tired of putting my heart and soul into what I was doing and either having it not acknowledged, or suffering in comparison to music that was shallower and more obvious.
Steve Gregoropoulos (he of WACO and Lavender Diamond) tweaked me for trolling for compliments, which was interesting more for confirming how I felt I was viewed in L.A. after 15 years than what my actual motivations were (and I appreciated him saying what I think a lot of people were thinking but wouldn't say to my face).
Because the fact was, I didn't need the compliments...I knew the usual suspects who liked my music would be supportive, the rest of the people who didn't care wouldn't even read the thing. I am way past blaming the audience or whining because people don't come to shows. It just is what it is, and if people are busy, or if you don't rise to the level of the most important thing to do that day, well that's just tough. I was more annoyed by the expectation that I perceive a lot of music listeners have of musicians these days: that it shouldn't matter how little we get paid, how much our work is devalued, how unfulfilling the job has become. We should do it anyway, because we love it, right? And that attitude just annoys me.
After I'd had the time to think about it I realized it was this simple: this was one of many annoyances that would bug anybody in my shoes, but I'd hardly vented any of them. I used to be that guy that would pigeonhole people and tell them about his own thing for hours. I outgrew that and became more of a listener...except the funny thing about being a listenter...you often don't wind up saying that much about how you're feeling.
So it dawned on me that all these little frustrations, minor slights, financial worries, disappointments had had this slow, cumulative effect to the point that it bust out in unexpected ways, and then I'd just suddenly post something very bitter on Facebook, except of course nobody really knew what I was talking about, so how could anyone relate?
Taking my music and using it to personally connect with people used to be my strong suit. In fact, it was a big reason why I did it in the first place. It was a way for a quirky guy to find his place in the social world; an acceptable place to put all these observations and thoughts that didn't seem to occur to other people, and a place to be appreciated for what talents I have. And I realized the whole kerfuffle, such as it was, had a lot less to do with how much people appreciated my music than with how disconnected and alienated I'd gotten to the people I was playing for.
Whether I gave up playing my music or not was not really a very burning question. The answer was found in the comments: just play less and play smaller and more appropriate venues. And of course, the very next show we did was well-attended, all-original and the band played great and people appreciated the hell out of it. The only trick is to have more of those and fewer of the soul-destroying gigs. And I'd already made the decision to not do anything musically that would lose money, which meant no more albums and no more promotion of same for the forseeable future, but I've put out four albums since 2006, and people haven't even caught up to that output yet. No need to pile more on. So yeah, if there's a worthwhile gig and people want to hear it, I'll play my stuff. If there isn't and they don't, I won't.
What I realized I really needed to do was start a blog. Take all those little frustrations, write about them, get it out there, let people hear about it, and make it into something people can laugh at and/or learn from. Get feedback not just every time I blow a gasket, but take people on the journey with me every day.
I used to do this all the time. Back when I was on the road 24/7, my tour diaries were widely read, and people seemed to like my writing. I stopped because, like a lot of things, it had started to seem like an obligation that fewer and fewer people appreciated but everyone expected me to keep doing regardless.
But if I can write something meaningful and funny and truthful, and create an audience for it, it's a win-win for everybody. People have something fun to read, I get to speak my mind, and maybe I'll sell a few albums. And the life I'm leading now, bouncing from nudist colonies to casinos to garages to stadiums in search of a gig to pay the rent, has plenty of its share of humor. If I jot down a little bit every day, it shouldn't be a burden. In fact, I think it will do me a world of good, and maybe entertain some other people in a different way.
So, welcome to Adam Marsland: The Chaos Diaries. I hope you enjoy what I have to write. I'll try to make it interesting.