We started small, taking tentative little steps forward, dipping our toes in the water, making sure the temperature felt o.k. While we busied ourselves with band practices and local performances, my dad kept an eye out for opportunities outside of our small town. He never tried to play the part of "super manager-dad", the character you hear about who paces back and forth in the kitchen in his sweat pants, cigarette dangling from his lips, cell phone tucked between his shoulder and earlobe. He simply loved us. We told him the dream we held for ourselves, deep in our hearts as starry eyed pre-teens, and he listened.
He quickly located a music conference in Los Angeles called "Taxi", a company that takes independent writers' songs and "supposedly" finds placement for them in movies and video games etc… He called the conference an opportunity. Dia and I called it…something else, but regardless, my father never failed to drill home the reasons why we so desperately needed to attend these events, "You never know who you'll meet…"
Dia and I enjoyed ourselves. We met a few friends, developed a crush or two on a few young fellow songwriters, and didn't take much of what any of the "industry experts" said too seriously. That is to say, until we attended the last panel of the event which consisted of all the songwriters bringing along their little demo cds to the show to be judged. We shyly handed our demo up to the intimidating panel of judges. Four "professionals" shared the judgement duties in order to comb through the anxious crowd quicker. We ended up with a pleasant looking woman. "She won't be too hard on us" I whispered to Dia before we stepped up to the plate. She smiled down at us, popped on her cd player's headphones, and proceeded to listen to our masterpiece with a totally blank expression. Dia and I squeezed each other's palms and shared a quick nervous glance.
After about 30 seconds into the track, she set the headphones down and gave us her two cents, which we didn't quite know to accept as bad news or good news. "I don't know if it's just because I've been listening to really bad music all afternoon…but I think this is really great!" My dad pounced on the opportunity to go for the hard close of his sales pitch. He reiterated all of the details of our short history as a huge local hit, buttering up some of the details for effect. She handed us our cd back. My dad gave her our card. He shuffled Dia and I out of the conference room. Once we passed through the double doors, he leaned in between us with a glimmer in his eyes, "She's the one! She's the reason we came!"
I know you've all heard the advice: "It's all about the connections". I've heard this so many times, my stomach churns on cue when I hear the phrase. So please, save yourself from hurling when I say, "It's all about connections!" That being said, I'm sorry to explain further that this advice sort of turns out to be fruitless at best.
You see, you can't go out yourself and find these so-called "connections". They find YOU.
Just like my dad said, she did call as if prompted by some mighty director watching the scene from the clouds above shouting to his production assistants, "O.K. They've just unpacked their bags, and they are so exhausted. Ring telephone NOW!" That call marked the beginning of an adventure which included in no particular order, a real demo cd complete with real studio musicians, a meeting with a major record label (woohoo!), professional photos, a signed management deal. A whirlwind of a journey which ended up being the first of many false starts. Success is never an easy road. Wish I could have yelled up to that director in the sky, "Come on, man! Throw us a bone, already!" to which he would have shouted back in fury, "What in the Hell do you think that just was?!"
Well, where's the "calm before the storm you mentioned in your previous blog?" you ask.
A scene took place. A small, biting blip in my memory. Before the new manager lady would take on Dia and I as her clients, she flew out to Utah to watch an intimate performance of "Jade Harbor". She shook her head after the show. "The band has to go." she said softly. One of the biggest regrets I have in this life is letting them go. Did we not understand loyalty back then? Did we not understand heart? I guess not. We allowed fiery visions of fame and fortune to get the best of us. So we wrapped up our little band in a little paper boat, set them in the water, and watched them float away.
I wouldn't call our experience with her a "failure". She shared a kindness and hope with us that set Dia and I in the right direction. One time, she drove us out to the west coast. Dia and I sat on the sands with hopeful eyes as we sang our simple melodies to the passing skateboarders and toned, sun-tanned mothers pushing strollers. Our manger lady dropped the only lonely dollars into our beat up guitar case. She was the only soul on the beach who bobbed her head and listened to what we sang and actually enjoyed what she heard. She believed in us, but as only the big directer in the sky knows, the timing wasn't right.
"Cut! Change scene!"