Over the last 20 years in Nashville I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I was literally crazy for wanting to make a career out of writing, recording and performing my music. Have you ever felt crazy for dreaming something that other people didn’t think was reasonable? These are some of my thought—perhaps they will encourage you on your journey… (Please visit my “20 Years in Nashville” landing page!)
Success in Nashville can seem like stories I hear about people trying to climb Mount Everest. As the highest peak in the world, it’s a dangerous trek for climbers at any skill level, but stands as one of the greatest feats to conquer. The enormous difference between Everest and Nashville is that there is a clear-cut way to get to the summit of Everest. There’s no such path in Nashville. Sometimes it’s impossible to see where it is that you’re wanting to go, even though you know it is “up there.”
That’s what makes it so easy to compare my path to someone else who has already “made it” and wish mine looked more like theirs.
“You’ve got to make your own way,” I’ve been told.
“But I want my life to look just like _________ (fill in the blank with the artist du jour),” I whine. “That’s the kind of success I want.”
“Then you’ll always be frustrated when it doesn’t look like that. Write your own story, not someone else’s.”
This intense wondering if I’m actually crazy or not has been a hugely powerful force in my journey. I’ve got to prove myself not crazy—even if everyone else thinks I am. Hold onto an audacious dream long enough and people will think you’re crazy. Enough people think you’re crazy; you start to wonder if you are.
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Several years ago, in conversation with a friend, we decided that we could waste our lives waiting to be invited to all the cool parties. Meaning, sometimes it seems like the “people that have” in the music industry keep getting, and the “people that don’t have” don’t get anything. I’m talking about opportunities here, pardon the difficult analogy. But my friend and I decided that if we were tired of waiting to be invited to other people’s parties, the best answer would be to throw our own. So…
I’m throwing a party.
Click here for my “20 Years in Nashville” landing page
What it looks like is me investing, most importantly, in myself, as well as in the lives of people around me. It looks like me taking time to care for myself: through physical exercise, rest, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, good food and drink. It looks like creative risk-taking. Loving, laughing, listening. Calling people out of the blue to see how they’re doing. Finding and listening to music that I love. Reading great books. Drinking coffee frequently. And more that I can’t even put words on. But what it ultimately comes down to, is living for today…not waiting or hoping for what I’d like to see happen. There’s endless beauty and joy being offered to me today. Sometimes I just have to take my eyes off of my own navel to see it.
It also means that I’m fearlessly and courageously going to do whatever I can to create the life I desire. I’ve been waiting for other people to give me permission, or to make it easy for me. And since that’s not happening, if it’s gonna be, it’s up to me. And I’m worth it.
The sky is really blue today. I am loved well by many people in my life. I have great hope and optimism for the future, but even better…today rocks. I am a very rich man and I’m throwing a party.
And you’re invited.
Connect to my 20 Years in Nashville home page right here!
Nashville is such a city of promise, filled with the allure of fame and fortune. Like Hollywood, without the tan. My understanding was that if you wanted to be a movie star, you move to California. If you want to do music, especially country or Christian, you move to Nashville.
Like the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, I heard that there was gold in them there hills of Nashville. Gold records, that is. The adventurer in me knew I needed to pack up my wagon and trek across the country from Minnesota to see what I might uncover, even if it meant that I would simply become an additional anonymous person making the trek, crowding the streets of Music City with another wide-eyed dream.
Heck, I had as good of a chance as anybody, right? I remember thinking a well-intentioned, charismatic, halfway-decent singer like me stood a pretty good shot at a record deal. I had bought records and seen concerts by artists who appeared to be a lot more mediocre than I was. People say the record industry just puts out crap. I say, why can’t they just put out my crap?
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As part of my celebration of 20 years in Nashville, I’m sharing some stories from my past—some parts of my journey that have influenced me the most. Here’s a look back to when I was just a wee kid, wondering who I’m supposed to be.
Watch my intro video here!
It’s Donny’s fault. At least, partly. And if I’m being completely honest, Marie’s too. What they did to me was nothing short of life-changing. They combined singing, dancing, acting, effusive charm, a dazzling array of costumes, in-studio ice-skating, and a healthy dose of self-deprecation in their televised variety shows, just enough for me to permanently place performing in the back of my head as what I really wanted to do when I grew up. I even had a talented sibling! I was halfway there! If someone asked what I wanted to do for a career, I’d say “A mailman or a fireman,” but I knew the truth. And I knew I couldn’t speak it out loud.
“Dad?” I asked, after walking up the stairs from watching “Donny & Marie” in the basement of our house in Richfield. “When can I take voice lessons?” For some reason, I knew in order to be a professional, I had to have voice lessons.
“When you get older you can take voice lessons.” He didn’t say no, exactly. He just didn’t say if he meant older, like next year, or older like when you pay your own mortgage. Voice lessons were to be saved for the extremely talented, and the rich. Normal, middle-class people don’t just throw around money to work on something so intangible as your future career in show business. Little did they know. Armed with this confusion, I’d retreat to my bedroom and put on my headphones and try singing harmony with Hall & Oates, ELO or the Bill Gaither Trio. So much for eradicating my confusion.
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