I Failed As A Musician And That's OK

Real Life

Published on July 01, 2016

At some point in my teen years I bought an electric guitar and decided I was going to be a rockstar. You know the story.

I lived in a tiny little town with no bands or venues for them to play at if they existed, but nonetheless, I rounded up a few of my friends and we started a band. We called ourselves Ether and we played a most atrocious variety of nu-metal. This was the early 2000s after all. We managed to find gigs here and there, including such epic shows as the local YMCA over-nighter, and this little taste of the limelight had me hooked.

Fast forward several years and Ether had long since been a thing of the past. I found myself in Florida attending a school for audio engineering, a field I assumed would help my own musical pursuits (though I quickly realized I had no interest in it as a money making profession). While in school I formed a band that I considered my first "real" band. We were called The Breakfast Meat Exchange Compendium, although we generally just went by TBMEC.

Jake singing in TBMEC at a live show
The members of TBMEC hanging out after a live show

TBMEC was a six piece hip hop band and we had a pretty good thing going. We got a following pretty quickly, and made some very beneficial connections with local bands in our area. We got to play with some pretty cool musicians too, including members of Solillaquists of Sound. Because we all went to an audio engineering school we also managed to record some decent tracks, although in my opinion our recordings don't do our live shows any justice. As of writing this you can still listen to a few tracks on our old myspace (yes MySpace was still a thing).

While playing in TBMEC, I would say I had the closest thing to stardom I ever experienced playing music. We had a handful of shows where the audience was in the hundreds, and listening to a mob of people sing along to lyrics I had written is something I will never forget.

Well, after the usual; financial arguments, creative differences, varying levels of commitment, TBMEC slowly crumbled and faded away. And that was that.

My next musical venture was with one of my good friends and another member of TBMEC. We played what we referred to as "gyp-hop" a blend of gypsy music, hip hop and punk, and this project also saw some pretty good times. We gigged a lot, although not many shows drew the audiences that TBMEC had. We also got to open for the Tribal Seeds which was probably the high point of Nasta's existence.

NASTA playing a live show
Nasta playing some jams

Eventually Nasta also dissolved, and I started a solo project. This was kind of my final attempt to do something legitimate with music. I bought a looping pedal and wrote a bunch of songs. I worked extremely hard at improving my guitar abilities as well as my singing voice, and this era in my "professional" music career is where I think I peaked as an actual musician.

Once again, I had some really memorable moments playing solo. I got invited to play on a local radio station, played at a music festival and in general made a lot of friends and connections I still talk to to this day. I also recorded an album under my stage name "Yuri Keyes" which I think sold a whopping 10 or so copies. You can listen to some of what I think are the best tracks from that album over on the music page.

playing some music on a local radio station
Playing live on the radio was pretty cool

Eventually, even the solo project faded away. Maybe it was the responsibility of keeping my life together. Maybe I wasn't dedicated, or didn't try hard enough. Maybe I didn't have the right connections, or I just wasn't good enough. But the fact is, after about 10 years of thinking I was going to be a rockstar, I accepted my failure as a musician. But that was okay.

Through the process of trying, really following through, I met some amazing people, and had incredible experiences. Sometimes when I tell people my stories about shows and the antics that came along with the musician lifestyle, I can barely believe they happened to me. And that's awesome. It's really easy to not do things because they seem hard or unrealistic, or because other people tell you you can't do it, but if I had thought that when I was 15 I would have missed out on some of the greatest moments in my life. I'm just glad that I tried really hard at something, even if it didn't work out exactly as I had hoped. And I still play music, although much more casually, so who knows? Maybe it will still happen.

I'm not so great at spouting motivational cliches, but I think you get the point.

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