It seems cliché to say, but as I find myself just weeks away from kissing my twenties goodbye forever and embracing the unbridled adulthood of turning thirty my daily life has become inundated with self-reflection. The boy I was just ten years ago probably wouldn’t recognize the man I have become, or if he did he may think me a sell out. While I still consider music my home and the place I feel most accepted I now work two jobs to keep that roof over my head and to put food in the bellies of my two admittedly obese cats. In fact, music is the only thing outside of immediate family that has remained the same, and I hope that continues to be true as I journey forward in life.
No one ever tells children that one day they may wake to find they have lost their passion for life, but if I have learned anything during my three decades on this planet it’s that such changes happen all the time. We may all dream of doing big things after high school, but the fact of the matter is that most will find something else to do with their time within the first five years after graduation. Some will have families, both planned and unexpected. Some may also find their family needs money or assistance in a way that requires them to abandon dreams to better utilize their time. Still others will simply decide the work is too hard or too much or too engineered against them to be worth continued self-sacrifice.
None of the above reasons given for abandon dreams are wrong or bad per, but none of them have applied to me. As I stare at the red circle I’ve drawn around my thirtieth birthday I find I have the same passion for music and the business of writing about music that I’ve carried for over a decade. It’s what I live for, work for, dream about, and think about on a near-constant basis. It is my life, and I am thrilled that after fifteen years of working whatever jobs or gigs I could find in this industry that I still wake each morning passionate to see what happens next. The same cannot be said for many of my friends, including those I met through my work in music. Some of the definitions above fit while they left, but there are a hundred more reasons why they couldn’t stick with it that just as acceptable. Music may not be for everyone forever, but it is for me.
This is why, or at least I think this is why, earlier this week I found myself falling apart when Brian Marquis released a new song titled “The Romantic”. Brian is a music industry lifer, having spent over a decade touring more or less nonstop as part of numerous bands that reached various levels of success. He’s played packed clubs and empty bars, sometimes on consecutive nights, and still he wakes each day knowing there is nothing else he’d rather due than pursue his passion for music. The road has never been easy, but it’s the only road for him. He may be a father and a husband and a bunch of other things to a bunch of other people, but there is this thing tethering him to music that he knows will be a part of him until they lay him in the ground.
When “The Romantic” opens Marquis is singing in reference to basement concerts held in Allston, a neighborhood in the greater Boston area known for college kids and a culture that caters to their twenty-something tastes. Allston is where you go for overpriced drinks in bars with expensive sound systems and/or late night slices of cheap, albeit very mediocre pizza. It’s also a hot spot for punk bands who cannot get booked into the city’s numerous venues. Bands come to Allston to play illegal shows in basements of homes that have been (sometimes illegally) converted into apartment for anyone willing to listen. These shows are hot, sweaty messes that often end in parties that leave the floor sticky with cheap beer. It’s the kind of place a person learns to be themselves and bands learn whether or not kids actually give a shit. It’s stomping ground, one which Brian and I have both visited in our youth, and the lessons learned from the experiences there never leave you.
As the song moves into its chorus and latter verses we learn the importance of those tiny shows. Now in his thirties, Brian finds he is one of the lucky few whose passion for music has not been erased by the stresses the business of music can produce. He never made it big in the way a top 40 artist might, but he has found a way to make a life for himself and his family that is enough for him. He’s happy because the boy who dreamed of music has become the man whose married to music and playing it regularly for people who pay to hear him sing. That’s all anyone can ever really ask for as an artist, and Brian has been able to make that something that lasts longer than most of his peers could have ever imagined. Does that mean he can do it forever? I don’t know. Brian, like everyone else who chases a dream in music, knows there are no guarantees, but with this song he makes it known he will die on stage if he has anything to say about it.
The lesson I hope you take from this is simple: Chase the things you love with all your might and know if it feels right to you that is more than enough. You don’t need the world to approve of you, just like you don’t need to live your life by the standards you feel the world has placed upon you. The only thing that matters is that you listen to your heart, be kind, and believe in yourself. If you can do all that, which I know first hand is harder than anyone could explain, then you can find joy in this life. Brian has, and he wishes the same for you. I do too.