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July, 2007

"Just Plain Notes V1.165"

by Brian Austin Whitney

Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Bob Turner Bob Turner: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians sent me the following in an email. Thanks, Bob! It's from "Just Plain Notes: Volume 1.165," June 28th, 2007 Written by Brian Austin Whitney

My Take:

It's been a long time since I wrote about a Roadtrip Tour. For the first 7 years of [Just Plain Folks] I spent a great deal of my time out and on the road visiting and meeting members across the US and Canada. In 2006, because the music awards had grown so large and due to some health issues, I was forced to stay off the road and in my office all year until we headed west for the 2006 Awards show. Now that I am back out on the road, I remember why I did it all in the first place. It's a unique and rewarding life experience each and every night!

That said, it can be a pretty intimidating thing to visit places you've never been to spend time with people you've never met and do things you've never done and have no idea if they'll even work when you try. I bet many of you have had a similar twinge of anxiety when you've considered jumping in with both feet to something new involving
> your music or life in general. Planning a tour outside your local comfort zone, contemplating going into the studio for the first time, committing to a new band or even a shift from doing cover songs to doing all originals can all be major shocks to your system and psyche.

So how do I jump headfirst into so many seemingly crazy things? You know, like staying with members I've never met before after shows booked in venues I've never been to in cities I've never visited with artists I've never heard? Here's a few things that work for me that might be useful when you tackle something new or overwhelming. Feel free to use or ignore as you see fit!

1. Think about things on a grand scale, treat them like a small thing.

Even the most ambitious plan is really just a series of small things that need to be lined up. Once we know how to deal with 1 event, we know that pretty much applies to all the others. Build your career one venue in one town at a time, but plan to expand that circle to include the surrounding region. Work on your songs methodically and use the same expertise on each. Even the biggest career plan is just a lot of little steps.

2. The more things slow down, the more you should speed up.

There are all sorts of things that keep you waiting during any major project. The key is to work furiously on other aspects of it when that happens. If you're waiting to hear back from one music conference gig, apply to 3 others (using the knowledge you gained from the first). If you're waiting to learn if a song is going to get a publishing deal, realize that your work has enough merit for consideration and send out other songs to other publishers. Don't stop everything waiting to hear back from anyone. Relentlessly move forward.

3. Well meaning clueless people will divert you, don't let them.

We all want the blessings of others in our plans. Often we can fall into a trap trying to please people and vice versa. They will offer opinions which usually differ from where we want to go with things. They do that because when asked for advice, people feel the need to improve on or offer alternatives to what we're asking about. That's human nature. Don't be misled by well intentioned but clueless people. No one knows more about your project than you do. Don't get off track and going in the wrong direction to please others.

4. Do what's right and it won't fail (even if it does).

Our lives are the sums of our actions and our own internal morality behind them. We know when we do right and wrong and that adds or subtracts weight on our shoulders as we plow ahead. If we do the right thing and it doesn't work out, we've still done something positive. If we do wrong, we lose no matter what the result.

5. It's better to get beat up along the way than to simply rot in one place.

An active person doing something challenging will likely crash into barriers along the way and that will leave it's marks on them. No pain no gain is more than a cliche, it's often a reality. But sitting around in perceived safety doing nothing with take a toll on your soul far more devastating not to mention remove any chance at success you wish to have.

6. Planning too much is as bad as not planning enough.

This is huge. If you have a good outline and you've thought things through, you don't need to micro manage everything along the way. Always refer back to the primary goal in your outline when things go awry. Don't worry if a part of what you want to do fails as long as you redirect things back to the outline in your head. Over planning often kills any chance of happy surprises as well. Keep your focus on the primary result and simply move towards it, no matter how much you might veer off to the left and right along the way.

7. Pleasant surprises usually come when you do something unplanned that could turn out to be unpleasant.

I can't tell you how many times something amazing has happened when I took a chance on something that could turn out miserably. A personal example is the fact that I often stay with strangers in cities I've never visited before. Sure, sometimes I end up sleeping on a hardwood floor with a sheet and my jacket for a pillow or in a backwoods shed with a dirt floor and a garden tractor as a bed, but more often it turns into something amazing. On this last tour I was surprised to find out one last minute host is one of the animators for the Simpsons. He showed me his work on next season's premiere episode! Another last minute host is the voice of Sprint PCS phones and she has been talking in my ear literally every day for the last 10 years when I get my voice mail messages. I knew nothing about these cool little facts when I followed them each home after two shows where I had no place scheduled to stay. Now I have new friends with amazing day jobs and heck, they even had nice guest rooms I got to stay in. The bottom line is that sometimes you just have to do something risky to end up with a great life experience and even the bad results often turn into the funniest stories later.

8. When you ask others for their opinion, it usually means you don't like the truth you already know.

When planning anything crazy (like our Roadtrips or a career in music) we are faced with a lot of realities that are tough. A lot of the time we ask others for their opinions simply because we don't like the obvious truth. We all do it. Just work to understand that fact and you'll often be able to just move forward faster and on your own while bypassing the middle person.

9. The most important person in the room is rarely the most obvious.

I always make a point to let folks know that the best contact they may make at one of our events may not be the best performer or singer they see. I use an example of a night where we had a weak performer who didn't sing or play well. Most of the folks at the show ignored this person and made no attempt to meet or network with him. That was their loss because he was a major label A&R rep and he really came out to the show to see if there was any interesting talent, but was enjoying the vibe so much that he wanted to be part of it and play a song. A lot of folks missed a golden opportunity pick the brain of an active expert who was happy to share what he knew. Those who did meet him gained a great new contact in their careers. Most people don't bother to work an entire room when networking. They size people up based on who's famous, who's overtly attractive and who exhibited Alpha characteristics in the room. A lot of the industry veterans are also experts on how to NOT stick out because they don't want to be overrun at every event they attend. But many times when introduced to someone the right way, like they're another actual human in the room and not some equivalent of a career ATM machine, they're happy to offer info, ideas, feedback or actual help. You never know who might be in a room unless you bother to learn. Networking is about meeting someone and learning something new, not simply chasing VIPs you already know about who are likely overwhelmed and unable to help you even if they wanted. That expands nothing including your career opportunities. You can always follow up with the obvious VIPs through traditional means later.

10. Make sure you get you pleasure from the doing, not the recognition.

Whether it's your career in music, your efforts to support the community or anything else you do in life, do it because you love it, not because you want others to love you for the effort. You'll never get the thanks you deserve for the hard work you put in or the accolades that are justified for the talent you have. Always do whatever gives you personal pleasure and satisfaction. Everything else is gravy. If you don't get enough pleasure from simply doing something, find something else to do. You'll be much happier that way.

11. Accept that no matter what you do, the world will insert obstacles and tragedies along the way that you can't anticipate or avoid.

No matter how hard you work, no matter how much talent you have, no matter how good a person you are, no matter how well you think things through or how good your intentions are, life will throw curve balls at you and horrendously sad things will still happen. That's a part of life that you can't control or plan.

Just before this tour started, a young artist contacted me about following along on all the dates of our Southeast tour. We exchanged emails and chatted on line about it all. He was excited about the prospect of visiting all those cities and meeting a lot of new people and finding some of his own gigs along the way. Yesterday I got an IM from a family member telling me that this young artist was killed in a motorcycle accident over the weekend. Though I barely knew him it still stopped me dead in my tracks. No matter how old I get or how many similar experiences I have had, I still have trouble accepting that one day someone is planning their future with great excitement and joy and the next minute they are gone forever.

This isn't the first time that we've lost someone during a tour or faced tragedies of all types, nor is it likely to be the last, but the tour will go on and it does so with the knowledge that none of us know what will really happen tomorrow or even later today. We can only do so much to prepare and we can only live our lives with the best intentions and most sincere efforts we can. If we do that, even in the face of life's tragedies and roadblocks, we can soldier on and be glad that, at least for now, we're doing what we love.

Thanks to all of you who help me continue doing what I love. See you on the road!

You can find out more about Brian Austin Whitney and Just Plain Folks at their website.

Thanks for visiting AcousticByLines.com.

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