There are musicians who are rich and famous, go on tours with entourages and have their names spelled correctly on marquees —and then there’s the rest of us. It is very difficult to survive financially, playing gig to gig, but luckily I have a supportive husband with a steady income that allows me the freedom to play music.
I remember one gig in particular where I was the first musician they had tried in years. I was led to an open staircase in the center of the restaurant. They had created a panel of wood (maybe four feet by four feet) that balanced over the staircase ledge. They placed concrete bricks next to the wall, so I could climb up with my heavy equipment, set up and sing—perched close to the ceiling where the fumes were. I felt like a bird in a cage and afraid any minute that I would plunge to my death in the basement below.
A toothless man, maybe 80, shuffled over to me after I had sung my first hour set, reached up and placed a dollar bill as a tip next to my feet. I smiled thankfully, and then he asked if I could sing Johnny Cash songs. I apologized and said I didn’t know any Johnny Cash tunes. He took his dollar back.
I often think, “Just get a 9-5 desk job, and punch a clock like a normal person,” but I can’t. Music is more than what I do; it’s who I am. I have to do this—like breathing. I bet most of the local musicians I will interview for Noteworthy will say the same thing.