Disenchantment. It can happen to anyone in a band. Any band. More often than not, it is what leads bands to break up. More so because here in the Philippines, it is very difficult to get anywhere solely on your music.
You can spend years writing songs and playing crappy gigs never to get anywhere at all. That if your patience can last years to begin with. We all know most everyone will lose heart much earlier. So the more common story is of bands forming and breaking all in a span of a few gigs or a few months.
Yet even then we all want to believe. Fairytales abound telling of bands plucked from obscurity by an impressed record executive who all so suddenly find themselves basking in rock stardom, awkward yet famous and rich. And though to some degree, this fairy tale does happen in varying degrees, the hard truth is that it very rarely does so and in the grand scale we fantasize.
U2 took years and several albums before finally breaking out globally with their phenomenal Joshua Tree CD. First was Boy, then October, then War, then Under a Blood Red Sky, then The Unforgettable Fire. If they had quit then, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Gates would have hogged the TIME magazineís cover for Persons of the Year.
Lesser people would have given up after the first try. Maybe a few would have given it a second shot. Fewer still would have kept the faith and stayed the course. But weíre not talking about regular folks here. Bono and his band kept at it through all those long hard and trying years, and for all that, we now have a generationís rock icon. And heís not even dead yet!
So whatís the trick to staying with it longer than most?
Is it the ability to delay oneís satisfaction? Maybe, but even then, there is the element of anticipation. Prolonged anticipation breeds disenchantment. So that canít be the answer. Patience has limits. The same with perseverance.
Rather than imagining a grand goal and pushing hard to achieve it, why not just pushing on and enjoying the ride wherever it takes you.
Iíve long since understood that success is not guaranteed even if you work hard. What can I say, itís a cruel and unfair world we live in. Even talent guarantees nothing. Geniuses have lived and died without ever reaping their due rewards, the world only catching on to their contribution long after their death. That, if at all.
Worse, the whole entertainment industry is as dirty as a cavemanís ass, where money is the universal grease and everything is bought and sold: radio airtime, media mileage, concert slots, even awards. In the face of all these, it can be hard not to lose heart.
But we can still choose to go on and keep playing, and surprisingly, many do. True musicians at heart will find music to be its own reward. I know I do.
I ran into an old acquaintance some time ago. He used to play in a band too but like many, had probably grown disenchanted at how the local scene had ambled painfully through difficult years with not much to show for it. He had lost touch with the scene regulars and, judging from his slacks and shoes, had submitted himself to corporate slavery. Upon seeing my packed guitar slung over my shoulder he gives a surprised look and asks me if I was still in a band. Why yes of course, I answered. Without missing a beat he replies, ďyou mean you never grew tired of it?Ē
I replied with a half-smile suddenly unsure how to react. I had too late sensed from his condescending tone that he found it absurd that I was still pursuing a dream at my age. He might as well have said: ďhavenít you grown up yet?Ē But I just smiled, delivered the socially required niceties and went my way.
A typical disenchanted ex-musician. There are many others like him. Yes, dreamers we all are. But some of us have chosen to keep playing.
I believe the difference is that the disenchanted build their music to pursue a dream when they should be building a dream and pursuing their music. A dream is not something you must reach but something you must live.
Enjoy every gig like itís your last. Write every song as if itís your best. Build your dream on every riff, and live it in every note. The whole point is not in reaching your dream. The whole point is the pursuit. Only by understanding this can you fight aridity and disenchantment. After all, it is not the destination. It is the journey.