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So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?

12th April 2003

For some of us, the moment of realization creeps up on us. For others, it is a blinding revelation - that moment or period in time when we get 'The Bug'... the need to express ourselves through music.  Again, the degree to which we become affected by this bug may vary, from passing interest to lifelong obsession. For me, the discovery of the guitar and my ability to play it was like a religious experience. Yet, I have friends who picked up the guitar around the same time as me who simply find it a nice way to relax, when they're in the mood.  To the outside observer, ‘showbiz’, in it’s many shapes and forms, is a world of bright lights, glamour and MTV. To be fair, this is indeed an integral part of being a performer, and definitely the part most newsworthy. There is, of course, that which goes unseen... all that stuff that you read about in biographies and background stories. This is actually the main part of the artist's world - the everyday, the regular, the downright mundane.

Having said all that let me give you an idea of what it takes to become a professional musician. Not necessarily a big name rock star, or the artist of the year, but a person who makes his or her living playing music. This is very important, because in all honesty, your chances of achieving mega-stardom are about as good as winning the national lottery. I don't mean that you shouldn't aim for the stars... My point is that even if you're playing at the local bar or doing the club circuit in your town, it's still a hell of a lot more enjoyable than selling shoes or digging ditches... You know what I mean?  This series of articles is based on my experience and that of my friends and people I have worked with over the years, as well as my own beliefs and values. Thus, this is not the Bible, just the way I see things, and hopefully a good place to start in building your own experience and view.   First, let's look at the big question... Why do we do it?

As I mentioned earlier, we get the urge to express ourselves through music, usually because somebody's music has touched us in a way that makes us realize what a powerful means of communication music is. Our calling may be to sing, play an instrument, write songs, or any combination of the above, but it is basically the same.  We gravitate toward like-minded people, and begin to share our experiences and learn from others. This is where a lot of people find themselves in their first bands, ensembles and groups, testing the water and finding their place in the scheme of things.  These are usually heady days, full of enthusiasm and the joy of discovery as we get together with our mates to bash out our favourite tunes in garages, sheds and rehearsal rooms. The feeling of making music with a group of people is a feeling of togetherness, of creating a whole that is bigger than the sum of it's parts, that is, to put it simply, a real 'buzz'. Be it a rock and roll band or a church choir, the buzz is the same, and as one grows and progresses in music, one appreciates and understands more about the phenomenon.

I was watching an episode of 'Parkinson'  (a long established ‘old school’ UK TV chat show host) a few years ago, and a middle-aged, well-respected and very experienced actor summed it up perfectly when asked if he had any advice for young hopefuls. He said, "Ask yourself if this is something you want to do... really want to do, and if the answer is yes, don't bother... do something else.  You'll find that this is something more, something you have to do... you don't really have a choice in the matter."  This is pretty much the way it is for countless musicians around the world. Not everyone stays the course, but those who do have a love of music at the core of their longevity in the industry. My next instalment will deal with (among other things) the first step towards that longevity... practice, practice, practice!

Graham Greene



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