Wow!! I can hardly believe it!! It’s that time of year again and I made it to yet another soon-to-be birthday.
Yes, next month on December 28th, I will turn 44 years of age! I’m quite happy about it, thank you very much. Especially seeing as how at this age, I’m still playing, learning and studying the drums.
This year will mark 34 years of drumming for me! The past 12 of which has been at a professional level and is still going strong. Arguably I’ve spent the majority of my life honing my craft and dedicating my life to this musical journey.
2 weeks ago I finished up playing the outrageously awesome Erosion Festival in Missoula, Montana with my band Mother Crone. What a blast we had.
Mother Crone has completed our 7th US tour over the span of nearly a year and a half, and are now switching gears for write the new album, due out early 2018.
With all the shows we played and all the bands we played with, I’ve really reached a whole new fresh level of inspiration.
I live for inspiration! I can feel the fire of inspiration burning inside my drumming soul every waking moment. Sometimes it’s raging and distracting, and other times it’s a dimly lit flame. Hence the journey to keep inspiration burning.
I consciously make an effort to seek out inspiration, especially at this age and at this point of life. It’s not always an easy task with the real world of bills, work and relationships knocking at your door and demanding your attention. As adults, if we’re not careful, we can let life get the best of us and smother us with unfulfilling and meaningless tasks, leaving us living like zombies in a Groundhog Day movie.
So how can we avoid the zombie days of no inspiration? Continue reading and I’ll fill you in with 34 years of tips and tricks to help keep you on track.
I remember one time playing a performance at the Seattle Drum School of Music where I was a teacher, and a colleague of mine who had a Berkeley School of Music degree was asking me what I did to stay so inspired and motivated all the time while playing, touring, and studying.
The answer is…. I don’t!!
Nope. In fact like I said earlier, I have to seek out inspiration with a vengeance. I have found that I need to practice staying inspired just as much as I practice my instrument.
This road we (as musicians) choose to travel – the long and bumpy road of the music business – is a tough, unrelenting road that seemingly has no end. Don’t be fooled as to think this only happens to us musicians (or drummers …. sorry inside drummer joke here). The boxer, the quarterback, the author, the pastor, or the husband or wife … we’re all chasing the ever-moving inspiration freight train.
Finding My Way
After graduating high school in 1992, I packed up my drums and left my small Northern California town in pursuit of the unknown. This unknown was fueled by passion and inspiration where every day was met with the excitement of the journey. It fueled me with the drive to get better at drums and music every day.
Early mornings and late nights of hours upon hours of practice seemed to flow effortlessly from me. When I wasn’t behind the kit, I was listening to music with studious and eager ears, soaking up sounds like a sponge.
Days became weeks, weeks became months, and months became years. In those days that followed, I jumped on every opportunity I had to further my experience in my art and hone my craft.
In 1996 I went on my first national tour with an awesome hard-hitting Seattle band that I later joined called Barbie Car. That experience introduced me to so many new sounds and bands and styles of drumming and playing that it ultimately started to reshape me as a player. My new friends in the band grew up in a much different scene than I did. The core members of Barbie Car were from Laramie, Wyoming. They were these radical tattooed badass skater/snowboarders that introduced me to bands like Unsane, The Melvins, Ween and The Warlock Pinchers.
I soaked it all up. And just as I have for most my life, I obsessed over and studied these bands and the players.
Of course all this is easy to do when you’re young and carefree, with little to no bills or responsibilities.
The years blew by and I was fortunate enough to be in many fantastic bands and go on countless national tours. During that time, I met my (now ex) wife and life was beginning to look a bit different. Nonetheless, I never stopped playing and moving forward in my career.
The house, the car payments, school loans, and all the real life stuff was adding up as I turned 30. I remember feeling the drudgery of going to practice or writing at band practice after a day spent working.
One day it all hit me like a ton of bricks. I had just gotten off of work from a job I hated and I sat behind my drum kit, a place that has been my temple, my sacred safe place most of my life, and….. nothing!! Nothing at all. I sat on my drum throne and stared at my sticks that lay across my snare drum and felt empty and dry. With no desire to practice I got up and drove home feeling depressed and lost.
A few days later I went to my 3rd drum lesson at the Seattle Drum School of Music where I had been taking lessons. I told my teacher at the time about the slump I was in, and how I had no idea what I was going to do to move forward. My teacher told me about a wonderful technique he uses when he’s feeling uninspired ….. he puts down the sticks and goes out and does other stuff!!
This was fascinating to me, as I was always in the mode of relentless practice. My entire life, I thought of myself as a drummer’s drummer. So I put my sticks down for a week and I forced myself to do other stuff. The chain of events forever changed my life.
By being away from my drums and my routine, after the 1st week I began to feel the itch …. as I was driving to my job early in the morning it dawned on me that in order for me to live a life of inspiration, I’ve got to have the courage to mix it up. So I arrived at work and walked into my boss’ office and quit. Now I was demanding a change of scenery for my day to day.
I soon did something very scary, as I enrolled in the one year course at the drum school for a drumming degree and started teaching drums. Both of these actions were WAY WAY outside my comfort zone. Forcing me to delve into new uncharted territories both creatively and personally.
Soon I was surrounding myself with musical sounds and shapes I’ve never heard of. And then it started again!! The fresh inspiration train came rollin’ through my town with my name on it. I jumped on for the ride and basked in the glorious journey.
Throughout the years, it’s only gotten harder to stay on the inspiration train. There have been many times I’ve thought about giving up on music and drumming. Every time I tried, I was unexpectedly inspired and the passion welled up inside me again. This is when I realized I need to practice seeking out inspiration.
A few years ago I started experimenting by trying out ne, more adventurous activities. I found that being out in nature really invoked mental clarity for me, which helped get me grounded and centered and made my creative floodgates open. A friend of mine asked me to go out to a poetry slam with them, so I did, and the creative energy there busted me open again.
Trying out new and fresh experiences has become its own form of art to me now. I now find myself living life in pursuit of the unknown as I did long ago.
As I write this, I’m in the back seat of a car in the middle of the night on a desolate highway heading south towards Chumphon Thailand, after leaving a 5 day stay in Pai, Thailand where I was in a hotel room with a makeshift studio laying down drum parts for an electronic band called ManifestiV.
I was hired by them to write and perform live drum parts, which they’ve never had on their electronic albums before. These beautiful artist insisted that we get inspired and writein the paradise of Thailand. The idea of breaking new ground while being in a foreign land has let loose a flood of inspiration in me. That along with a good challenge was enough for me to get excited and jump on board.
Living an inspiration-filled life is the sure-fire way of having that inspiration show up in your practice or study.
So if you’re feeling stuck and uninspired in whatever endeavor you’re pursuing, try going outside your comfort zone. Mix it up. Be that heavy metal guy in a tuxedo at the opera, be that MMA fighter up on stage sharing an impromptu poetry jam. Go for a 5 day backpacking trip in the woods. Go to yoga, learn to meditate. Learn surfing and snowboarding, hiking and biking.
You wanna stay inspired? I’ll leave you with a final thought:
Seek out adventure. Call out for the unknown. The sky is the limit, and the real gems of life are hidden within the unknown. Have no fear, go bravely, and you will surely persevere.