Moving Forward With No Regrets

When I started playing music, I pursued it with a stark determination for success, and a willingness to put myself in an early grave to get there. I would’ve rather lived a short and exciting life than have followed the herd. I pushed myself. I was “punk rock”. I drank every night. I made stupid decisions. I experienced things that most people never will, and I don’t regret any of it. But a singularly-directed life is unsustainable, and it prevents any meaningful personal growth. 

If I had continued, I would be walking the fence, teetering on the edge of becoming a total cliché. I would be playing with some semi-known band, still chasing the record deal that I had once had and convincing myself that, at thirty, I still had as much of a shot at making it in this increasingly fickle industry as I did when I was twenty. I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone. I have many friends who are still actively pursuing careers in music, and I admire them for it. That road is a hard one that requires fierce determination and a true commitment to your convictions.

 Photo By: Chance Hutchison

Photo By: Chance Hutchison

When I look back on my own experience, I wonder if I ever really wanted to be a professional musician. Growing up, I was shy, insecure and lacking in confidence. Playing in bands provided me with a sense of pride and confidence that I had so longed for as a kid. It was like night and day. One moment, I was a loner, nothing special to anybody, and then all at once I was cool; crowds of my peers were cheering for me, girls wanted to date me and other musicians looked up to me. That said, there is an important distinction to be made between playing music and pursuing a career in music. To me, music is spiritual. It’s a type of religion. I believe in its power blindly and defend its merits wholeheartedly, without need for tangible reason. A career in music, however, seems like a fool’s errand. You bust your ass only to be undervalued and disappointed.

My time on the road gave me wonderful experiences that I’ll always be thankful for, but I’m glad that I’ve moved on. Life is, and should be, more complex than being fully committed to one path. I don’t miss living in a van, or existing on the social outskirts. However, I’ll always miss the feeling of being on stage and connecting to people through music, the most eloquent and connective artistic medium.


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Alex Newman

is a 28-year-old student of Professional Writing at Algonquin College, in Ottawa, where he is Co-Editor in Chief at Pulp Free Magazine. ­In addition to being a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Alex is an accomplished songwriter and a former touring musician.

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Hurry Up and Wait

Making a music video is a microcosm of life on the road. The finished product looks pristine, energetic, inspired and exciting, however, the process of getting there is anything but.  A day on set is spent waiting in increments and performing forced, repetitive actions in an attempt to capture the mood or energy of the song. A day on tour is spent in a crowded van until you arrive at the venue, where you spend a few hours smoking cigarettes in limbo. The entire day exists to support the forty minutes that you’ll spend on stage. On set, an entire day, or two, is spent in support of a three minute montage of footage.

 In The Fully Down, we were spared this tedious process. Our video for the single of our second record was a simple compilation of live performances and footage from the road, shot and edited by the director. We just had to do our thing as he filmed our performances, and provide him with footage that we had collected on tour.

The Fully Down's video for "Descent, Rebellion and All Around Hell Raising", the single from their 2005 Fearless Records release "Don't Get Lost in a Movement", directed by Korey Schaefer.

After The Fully Down split up, my next band, The Bad Ideas, recorded our first and only EP. We decided that we would do it right and produce a full-on professional music video.

We booked a gig the night before the shoot to help us recoup some of the costs. However, in retrospect, this may not have been the best idea – we were all tired and hung over the next day, and very unhappy to be outside in the inclement weather. If we had chosen a more temperate season to shoot the video, it would have been a decidedly more pleasant experience. Thankfully, we had the foresight to bring a couple of cases of beer to the shoot - to ease our pains earned the night before - and to help pass the time. As long and tiring as the day was, the experience was one I look bck on fondly and will never forget.

The Bad Ideas' video for "Eyes Closed", the single from their 2009 independent release "Dirty Little Looks", directed by Karl Richter. 

Post production generally takes a while, so it can easily be a couple of weeks before you get to see a finished product. That in mind, the worst part of any music video shoot comes when it ends. After a long day of hard work and waiting, the hardest part is the lack of resolution; the knowledge that you’re just going to have to wait to see the fruits of your labour. 


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Alex Newman

is a 28-year-old student of Professional Writing at Algonquin College, in Ottawa, where he is Co-Editor in Chief at Pulp Free Magazine. ­In addition to being a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Alex is an accomplished songwriter and a former touring musician.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

On our way home from Japan, during a layover at Vancouver International Ariport, our signer, Gab, told us that he was leaving the band. He being somewhat of an odd man out, we were relieved. In the months leading up to that moment, the division had become exacerbated and a wedge was driven deeper between him and the rest of the band. While the rest of us felt, at the time, that this was a new beginning, it would set forth a string of events that would spell the end of The Fully Down.

 The Fully Down Reformatted 

The Fully Down Reformatted 

We took time off from the road to audition new front-men, finally deciding on a singer named Justin from Detroit who had a powerful voice. I respected his talent immensely. We started demoing new songs, but as our new singer’s bond with my band-mates tightened, I felt myself gradually being pushed out of my role as songwriter in the group. The seed was planted. It was time to move on.

As my discontent grew and the band’s sound began to evolve, the record-label took notice, and they didn’t like what they heard. We were eventually dropped from Fearless Records. Our management and booking agents held on for a while, but inevitably followed suit. This didn’t fare well to keep us together. Divides grew; members announced their resignations and the band finally broke up.  

How it all came to an end for us was as unremarkable as it is for any band. Things tend to fizzle out rather than erupt. But good things came from this gradual disintegration. I started The Bad Ideas. I came into my own as a songwriter and became a front-man for the first time. Some of the others took jobs in the industry, as sound or lighting guys; still on the road, but no longer needing to worry about record contracts and the ugly business end. For me, however, this newfound freedom proved dangerous.

My rock ’n’ roll lifestyle continued with The Bad Ideas, but I found myself back at square one, playing small shows on east-coast tours and acting / drinking like we were twenty again. Therein lay my mistake. Playing in a real band is exciting and unlike any other experience, but when it ends it’s hard to let go and so you often don’t for too long. I don’t regret any of it, but I wish I had started college before twenty-eight. I wish I had simply thought ahead. 


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Alex Newman

is a 28-year-old student of Professional Writing at Algonquin College, in Ottawa, where he is Co-Editor in Chief at Pulp Free Magazine. ­In addition to being a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Alex is an accomplished songwriter and a former touring musician.

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Somewhere In Between

This weekend, I found myself standing in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, staring at the walls, still covered with memorabilia from my touring days. Keepsakes left for safekeeping while I pursued a different path.  I surveyed the room and my eyes were drawn to a particular section of a wall, where my old tour passes are hung. Feeling nostalgic, I looked them over and began thinking about the bands I've known. Bands like Four Years Strong, with whom my band first toured the U.S., Boy Sets Fire, who acted like big brothers to us while we were learning the ropes, and bands like I am the Avalanche who inspired us to be better at our craft.

 A few surviving tour passes

A few surviving tour passes

In my last post, I mentioned the camaraderie that touring musicians share. On the road, this sense of community can be a driving force that keeps you going. But off the road, it can leave you feeling segregated from your would-be peers.

In the winter of 2006, The Fully Down was preparing to tour Japan. We spent our time off beforehand working whatever jobs we could, to save money for the trip. I worked as a janitor at the very college that I now attend. One evening while I was sweeping the floors, I ran into a girl I had gone to high school with. I could tell she felt superior in her assumption that my interest in music had amounted to nothing but a career in the custodial arts. But being quite self-satisfied in those days, I brushed it off and thought Fuck her. She isn't leaving for Japan in a week. I didn't realize it at the time, but my response to her haughtiness was equally ignorant.  

Today, I see my past as a point of inner contention. I’m proud of what I've accomplished, but I realize that, for many people, being in a band stops being cool when you hit 25. Now, at 28, when I tell people what I've spent the last decade or so doing, I still, occasionally, feel a bit judged. But now, my response is subdued. I was part of a club once, but so was everyone else. Sometimes I wonder if it was mostly pride that kept me hanging onto that lifestyle for so long. Most of the people I grew up with have degrees and careers by now, and I'm just getting started. I’m not a member of any club anymore, but rather somewhere in between.

 


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Alex Newman

is a 28-year-old student of Professional Writing at Algonquin College, in Ottawa, where he is Co-Editor in Chief at Pulp Free Magazine. ­In addition to being a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Alex is an accomplished songwriter and a former touring musician.

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Ego and Aspiration

In some ways, being a touring musician is like being a member of a secret society. A club populated by people on the fringes, who often feel alienated from the normalcy of life back home; a club whose members are bound by an unspoken understanding about living under their shared circumstances; an understanding that makes for true camaraderie and fast, but lasting, friendships.  We are all familiar with popular conceptions about band culture, but these depictions are usually focused through a narrow window, something equivalent to Lifestyles of the Rich and Debaucherous. But what about the bands that didn't quite make it, and, for them, what comes next?

 The Fully Down Circa 2004 - Photo by Kyla Christoffer

The Fully Down Circa 2004 - Photo by Kyla Christoffer

Until we broke up in 2008, I played bass and wrote songs with an Ottawa-based band called The Fully Down. We had our share of successes: a record deal in Los Angeles, the opportunity to play in famous venues and on big festival circuits like Vans Warped Tour. We toured North America and Japan extensively with bands that we had grown up idolizing, and achieved local celebrity status back home as a result. When it all came to an end, still filled with ego and aspiration, I held on and started a new band called The Bad Ideas. Still driven by the craving for that same feeling I had in high school, when playing in the school cafeteria felt akin to headlining Madison Square Gardens, I again jumped in with two feet. Although, I was back at square one, I felt that I was reaching a creative peak and producing the best music that I ever had. But after tasting success, the wear of being back on the road and playing to the same empty bars that I had when I started out at 17 felt like a step backwards. Weary and with a fading sense of self-worth, I entered into a dangerous thought process: I began to think about my future objectively and where I was really headed.

 The Bad Ideas Circa 2009 - Photo by Julia Steele

The Bad Ideas Circa 2009 - Photo by Julia Steele

After some time spent pining over my partially realized dream, I decided to make a change. Now I’m a 28-year-old full-time student with a part-time job, carrying as much regret as I do warm, nostalgic feelings about my past. But as I face the challenges of re-integrating into “normal life,” I’m also discovering the hidden value of my experiences on the road. This is a blog about change and culture shock; about the transition from band life to real life. Tour-mode turned off.

 

References: 

http://www.purevolume.com/thefullydown

 http://www.purevolume.com/TheBadIdeas

http://www.fearlessrecords.com/artist/58

 

 


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Alex Newman

is a 28-year-old student of Professional Writing at Algonquin College, in Ottawa, where he is Co-Editor in Chief at Pulp Free Magazine. ­In addition to being a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Alex is an accomplished songwriter and a former touring musician.

Twitter l Facebook l Tumblr