A Decade of Doing Music

Today is special to me because it marks the 10-year anniversary of when I released my first album. I know numbers can be arbitrary, but who cares? 10 seems big. If nothing else, numbers that end in zero are little reminders to check in on life.

10 years ago, I’d finished recording my first album. The mixing was done, the mastering. Artwork. It’d been sent off to be pressed and now I just had to wait.

I was working construction and living in northern Minnesota, an hour from my hometown. The CDs arrived at my parents’ house. Mom called. She mailed one so I didn’t have to wait for the weekend when I’d drive home. An eternal-two-days later the postman delivered a padded manilla envelope. I opened it and held the shrink-wrapped square like it was a glass menagerie. Slept with it under my pillow.

my whole life cover

To say releasing my first album was the start of everything wouldn’t be accurate, since it really started 10 years prior, jamming with my drummer friend, playing in cover bands, church bands, school talent contests, county fairs, practicing guitar for hours in the basement, dreaming of “doing music.” Whatever that meant. My reference point was the magazine rack at Wally’s Supermarket and late night television. Guitar Magazine and Rolling Stone. Leno and Letterman’s musical guests — toggling channels to make sure I caught both acts. Those artists, those bands, they were my compass.

But recording my first album with a producer and finally getting it in the mail, though it wasn’t the beginning, it certainly was the turning point. I was 24. Anything was possible. I had a box of CDs, ’91 Honda Accord, and acoustic guitar. I remember opening for a band in St. Cloud and Minneapolis one late autumn weekend. Just selling CDs, I raked in more than I earned pounding nails in two weeks. Without thinking anything through (which is the key to any chance of success in music) I quit my job and went full time music man.

There’s really no How-To book on doing music. You’re only hope is that you have friends and family who believe in you and are willing to lend a hand. I know I owe mine everything. They really helped me figure stuff out along the way. Not because any of us knew what we were doing. But because we were not knowing what we were doing together.

Hey Shawn and Gavin, I don’t know how many times I asked you to hang show posters, sleep on your couch, eat your food — but it was a lot. Steve, Josh, Jeff G, remember when you rallied all those freshman to a show of mine in Chicago, some basement at North Park College? Roger, you set up all those gigs in the UK and shuttled me around (and your wife had just delivered a baby!). Ryan and Max, anybody coming to any show of mine in Duluth was because of you. The Finns, I owe you my life. You treated me like a son when I treated your place like a glorified hotel. Matt, you’d rehire me after I’d run out of money on the road time and time again. Dad, when my car broke down in Kearny, Nebraska. Brock lent you his truck; Nathan his trailer, and you drove 12 hours through the night and brought me back home. Zane, in California I ran out of CDs and so you burned a hundred blank discs and we sold those, collecting people’s contact info to get them actual copies. Mom, I know you used your money from teaching piano lessons to help pay for my car repairs (more than once). Erik and Aune, how did I find myself in western Alaska? Heidi, every time we got in the car to drive to a show it was a risk. Who would show up? Would we even break even? And that time I was having anxiety attacks — you were a brick. My dear sisters, I owe all of you money, I know.

I could go on and on. There are so many more people and meaningful events.

So today I’m just reflecting. Thankful to still be doing music. Also thankful I’m a little more stable (knock on wood) than I used to be crashing couches. But it’s taken so many of you believing in me and being willing to help. I feel so much love in my heart right now for all of you.

I just wanted to say thanks.