The Best Part of Waking Up
July 20, 2009, 4:30 am:
Each weekend I dedicate an eight hour block of time to work in my recording studio.
I may be composing a new piece of music, reworking an old tune, or working on one of the numerous projects I have on my "to do" list, but I'm doing something related to music. I look at this time as sacred and, as I should, treat the investment with respect. Discipline is the key component to the success of each project I undertake. It takes enormous discipline to make this happen at this point in my life considering my personal, family calendar. It's hard being a grown up who does grown up things in a grown up land. Back in the land of Far, Far Away, when my hair was long, Doc Martins were fashionable, and Pearl Jam was not a part of "classic rock" formatted radio...work, sleep, gigs, rehearsals, and paying rent were my primary responsibilities. In truth, sleeping was really an option in those days considering I would get an average of three to four hours each night. Technically, I think the AMA refers to this as sleep deprivation. Now my life is much different.
I have a wife, family, kids, grandkids, a house and a car. To maintain these priorities I must work, sleep, help, support, listen, yell, cry, suffer, and continue to develop an enormous degree of patience. These things take time, money, energy and willingness to execute properly. Obviously, as a man, most of this is difficult to manage since my skill set as a nurturer and caregiver rivals my only other talents as a paleontologist and neurosurgeon. I can only do my best and not become an alcoholic, develop Tourette's syndrome, or have a nervous breakdown in the middle of the produce isle at Walmart. I'm successful at getting through each day without any breaks or concussions. All this makes my time in the studio very precious. Now that that I am residing in the world of tax returns and coffee breaks, making this time available comes at a price.
Since the fruits of creativity don't usually grow at a pre-determined pace, it can be hard to put the process into a time frame. It can sometimes take hours, days or even months to transform a creative idea into something you can see, hear, taste, or smell. Sometimes this is hard to explain to those who are not artists, musicians or writers. They may not understand that it does not work like an assembly line. Ideas can come and go. You need to strike while the iron is hot because the iron can get cold very quickly. Also, it may be difficult to explain that once creativity is flowing, you must take advantage of the well spring while it is active. Unlike a faucet, it cannot be assumed that their is an unlimited supply of hot water that can be turned off and turned back on when it's most convenient to bathe. You must use the the water while it is hot and don't take it's quantity for granted. As a family man and creative professional, I need to show up at the well and hope that my timing is right and politically correct.
Fortunately my studio is located in my home and allows me to have full access to it's creative benefits twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this will never, ever happen. Back in the day, this option would have been an incredible benefit in my life but would have caused me to become a shut-in, have huge take-out expenses, and become extremely offensive from lack of bathing. Now I've become something of an "audio farmer" who gets up at the butt crack of dawn to raise the crops and feed the horses on my ranch of sound and vision. My wife and kids don't see the view as clearly as I, but as spectators of my creative life, my passion, drive and seriousness just translate into me wasting a monumental amount of time on my music "stuff".
I shouldn't expect to have intense conversations about recording techniques, guitar tone or computer software with my wife and kids because they are just not that interested. Honestly, I cannot blame them. It must be boring and a little creepy living with someone who is obsessed about music, writing and recording. After a passionate demonstration and play by play commentary of my newest tune, I may get enthusiastic responses such as: "Yeah, sounds good sweetie. Have you seen the tape measure?" OR "That guitar thing is weird. Sounds old. I'm riding my bike to the park." Some of these gems could cause me to quit and take up scrap booking instead, but I've stopped taking them to heart. Over the past year my music and creativity has become more personal, private and sacred. Like a scientist working on my own cure for cancer, I sneak off to my lab to experiment in the quiet hoping to uncover something wonderful only to expose when it is perfected and proven. Until that time, I am content with my solitude, but still, always excited to share what I've discovered prematurely.
In the years between 1990 and 2000, on a normal Saturday night, you could find me in a number of Boston nightclubs either listening, playing, or talking about music. I joined the hordes of the musically obsessed as we vacuumed in a pig's share of ear bleeding decibels while our favorite bands played into the night's sweat. I burned under the hot lights and stood on the greasy stages of one club after another fighting the late hours with caffeine and cigarettes. My days started at 5:00 am and ended at 2:00 am the next morning after my regenerating schedule of work-rehearse-play came to it's close. Now, my ears are numb from only childish shouting, arguments over who controls the TV remote and bedtime frustrations. Now I burn and sweat under the Oklahoma sky as my family huddle around a community swimming pool celebrating the second birthday party of a grandchild that weekend. My days now start at 6:30 am and end at 11:30 pm as I hopelessly fight sleep upright on my couch. I feed my blood with caffeine each morning to try to make a difference in the dreary, weekday world. As the weekend, approaches, I get anxious to get back to work in mine.
At 4:00 am Sunday morning my cell phone alarm screams out "Wake Up" as Jim Morrison's voice gives me a shocking jump start. I get out of bed with a purpose but push my palms into my temples quickly reconsidering my reasons for the early rise. Throwing on my best cargo shorts, beaten t-shirt and Red Sox cap, I stumble to the coffee maker to partake in the last drug my body can handle. In the dark I make my way to the door of Uncle Brown's Sound, my studio and sacred wishing spot, to plant, cultivate and tend to my crops like a good farmer. It's 4:15 am and I've happily returned to work. For the next eight hours, mostly while my family sleeps, eats breakfast, and watches cartoons, I will try to breathe life into something conceived in my heart, formed in my mind and built with my hands. My music. A smile slowly covers my face after the first swallow of bitter warm coffee.
I realize that I am the luckiest man on earth.
I create music.
It's 4:30, I'm at work and I'm happy. - BT