Random Thought Thursday: “Making It”

“Those guys have ‘made’ it”, “oh man, making it in the music business is tough”, “their new record is making its way to the top”…what the f*ck does it all mean? For real?

7 or 8 years ago when I first moved back into town and officially became a “Cambridge/Boston/Somerville” songwriter again I would say that my answer may be different than it is today. My view was certainly different back then, that’s for sure. My world was small. I would look at folks like Josh Ritter and Ryan Montbleau and Martin Sexton as the local-ish guys who “made it” and as almost untouchable. Surely their success was measurable by the amount of tour dates they wrangled in and the people they got to tour with. I dont think you can deny the success of any of these fellas, and they have certainly earned it. I still look up to them to this day for their songwriting prowess, their dedication to their craft, and how hard they continue to work to this day on their art. But my world has changed since then. Thats for sure.

Back then I also envied folks like the regulars at Toad, Passim or Lizard, or people who were asked (not asking) to play there. These guys were local heros, local legends. They are the guys playing the clubs that I want to play…the guys being asked to play those clubs. Well, most of those folks are some of the hardest working guys in town when it comes to music. They are tireless, they play most nights out of a week in some fashion hosting an open mic, playing a full band show, or sitting around a table at the Burren. The difference between then and now is that I get to play with folks like that…which doesn’t change the fact that I am constantly in awe of their raw talent and extreme efforts and hard work they put into performing and creating. These are the people who I want to be like. These are the folks who ARE MAKING IT happen night after night and I love them for it. I think those people who have become friends for life, I don’t necessarily envy any more (jealousy is an ugly thing), but have an immeasurable amount of respect and love for. They are the true people who have made it, from my eyes.

So…what does “he made it” mean to me now. A friend and fellow cohort in a monthly residency I host at Toad (Mr. Dave Deluca) has had many an early morning conversations with me about this. The conversation always lands on the fact that both of us have finally found these outlets where we get to create and make music with some of the best musicians on the planet, who reside right here in Boston, on any night of the week is ‘making it’. It’s making it happen and for the right reasons. It just feels f*cking good to make music with these people that you have not just a creative relationship with, but an actual relationship with. These are my friends and they are some of the most incredible musicians I know…plus they are just cool people I like to be around.

Another thing that strikes me in this same general realm is the closeness of my “heros” so to speak. I now get to play with musicians who play with people I put so high on a pedestal all those years back. People like Josh Ritter, or Aoife O’ Donovan…well the ever talented guitarist and producer Austin Nevins plays guitar with both of them and also plays with and produces songwriters here in our community. Paul Kowert of Punch Brothers strolls through town and plays at my favorite venue to play at, Club Passim. And occasionally I run into the likes of folks like Joe Walsh and jam through fiddle tunes with him backstage at that same venue.

It’s not all that hard to believe any more because what has changed in me is that I realize musicians are a special breed…at least the types of musicians that I want to associate with anyway. People do this because they love it and sometimes making it is just a chance happening, right place/right time kind of situation where someone who has some leverage hears you and pulls you along for a ride.

So what does making it mean to you? How can you measure this? By being able to make a living doing what you love? By getting back from your art as much as you sink into it? By it simply making you a happier person?

For me, getting to know the people I have and being able to create and play with them has given me a feeling of making it…and for that, I thank you.