Be The Roadie, Not The Rock Star
By T. Perry Bowers
The other day while I was at physical therapy my physical therapist told me I had done a great job preparing for my surgery and that I was ready. (I tore my ACL and will have surgery in a few days). I looked at her and I said, “Hey I’m just the roadie, not the rock star. I show up and do these tasks that you tell me to do” (slowly and methodically and without thanks).
I thought to myself after I said it, that’s a great name for a blog. So here it is. What exactly does that mean? It means that I don’t sit down and bang out three blogs per day. It means that I don’t write a song every day. It means that I don’t always practice my guitar until my fingers bleed. I don’t shoot a hundred arrows out of my bow every day. I don’t take every martial arts class I can.
I write for twenty to thirty minutes per day. I pick up my guitar for a half-hour five times per week. I shoot twenty arrows per day. I take three Aikido classes per week. There are a lot of other little things that I do on a daily basis, but you get the idea. The key is consistency. You can’t build on anything unless you can repeat the process over and over for the long term.
I have people in my life that intend to go on a strict diet for two months only to fall off after four or five days. I have people that say that they’re going to start working out every day only to stop after the second workout. I see people that say they are going to learn the guitar. They go out and buy a guitar and an amp and buy a package of online lessons, then give up after they realize it’s not about the shiny guitar. It’s about long boring, difficult hours alone in your room.
This is why I love the roadie metaphor. I have basically been a roadie all my life. Thankfully, it has been in my own studio, so I haven’t had to go out on the road. I move gear around. I set up lights. I make sure the cyclorama is painted. I make sure the bands in my rehearsal space have what they need to jam.
I didn’t start out thinking that my life would be that of a roadie. I thought I would be a rock star. I had dreams of playing in front of thousands of people on a nightly basis. But, at some point, I realized that I needed a side-hustle. Playing shitty club gigs and recording demo tapes in my living room was not going to pay the bills.
That’s how I got into the studio business. You can read my other blogs about the details of that. It’s a menial job. Thankfully, I have been in the business now for twenty-five years so I have a couple of guys on my team that help me with most of the gear moving, but even the management of the business is menial. I order drum heads online. I talk with software engineers about website design. I research how to implement Facebook ads.
These aren’t glamorous tasks. But, they have to be done. Why do I bring this up? Well, I imagine most of the folks who read this blog have some sort of desire to be successful as a musician. I do, even still. This summer, I’m going to get my band out there. I have a bit of a plan to play a bunch of shows and do some marketing to raise my band’s profile. I know I’m not going to become a rock star. I just want to play some solid shows and impress some audiences.
In order to make that happen, I need to do a bunch of menial tasks. I have to think like a roadie. I gotta line up some shows which means calling a bunch of venues. I need to make sure I have the right equipment for the gigs. I need to schedule and show up for a couple of rehearsals per week. I need to schedule a video shoot and the mixing and mastering of the new EP, create some online content to promote the shows, and much more. All of these things take the mindset of the roadie, not the rockstar.
The rockstar hangs around in the hotel waiting for the show to happen or the video shoot to start. The roadie moves the cases around until the stage is set, wearing black so as to look inconspicuous. The rock star needs the attention and accolades of the fans to motivate him to perform. The roadie does his job without thanks and notoriety. The rock star performs for his own pleasure, for his own ego inflation. The roadie does his job in service of others. The roadie watches the show from the side of the stage, knowing that without him his rock star wouldn’t even be on stage.
In this day and age of DIY, we have to be the roadie without ever slipping into the rock star mindset. Even when you finally put all the building blocks in place and end up on a stage in front of people, the rock star mindset has to be shunned at all costs. This doesn’t mean you can’t act like a rock star on stage. Go ahead and give them a show, but never let it infect your thoughts. You still have to tear down your gear and get on to the next gig. You still have to have humility for your next load-in.
This isn’t just my philosophy for musicians. This is my philosophy for life. When I was in my twenties I was gifted a clay turtle. It was given to me by a friend whom I considered to be connected to the spiritual realm. She had a way of living her life in the present moment. She let herself be guided by the unseen. She gifted me this turtle for a reason. I’m not sure she knew why and I certainly didn’t at the time. Of course, I liked turtles. Who doesn’t?
But as I grew older I found myself gravitating to turtle totems. Turtle imagery started to show up in different parts of my life. Of course, we all know the story of the turtle and the hare. The turtle just keeps on chugging slowly, methodically, and without thanks. The hare is so confident and cocky that he takes a nap and the turtle crosses the finish line first.
I’m the turtle. The turtle is the roadie. I will endeavor to master a task knowing it may take me years. I am not afraid of the long haul. I will not shy away from the hard work. I do not need my ego stroked. I am content moving road cases. Sure, I want people to see and hear me too, but I will never lose the humility it takes to live well off stage.
I will be the guy you don’t notice until it’s crunch time. You will call on me, not because I am popular or cool, but because you know you can count on me to show up on time and get the job done.