By Shawn Stjean
We all balance the everyday need–and when I say need, I mean, it’s as vital as oxygen, man–for internal satisfaction, with the fantasy/desire for external validation, which is more like Strychnine: anything more than a small, stimulating dose can kill you pretty quick.
If you were to survey the vast majority of young artists of any stripe out there, pining for their big breaks, which factor is the most important aspect for success, what would be their answer? Raw Talent? Promotional Genius? Connections? A Lucky Lightning Strike? Synchronicity with the Stars?
Undoubtedly, each these things plays their role.
Now ask the older–more experienced and supposedly wiser (which often only means having failed longer,) folks–do they know any better? There is some reason to suspect they do, because they may have discovered that, for the vast teeming mass of creative people, success comes by degrees, in the slow unfolding of years, and through the undervalued virtues of consistency (showing up, on time, always, and doing your work) and continuity (your work holds to a vision that lasts, a vision that includes constant improvement). That would make Perseverance, for most of us (unlike the “lucky” ones,) the master value.
If the work achieves both quality and quantity (stories, paintings, songs, poems, and so on,) how can it fail to eventually get noticed? And does this means you’re bound for glory and riches? Not necessarily–you may be living off your losses, for all of your life. But that’s still living–doing what feeds your soul–which, when you think hard about it, is a damn sight better than many people ever come close to.
Take Pennsylvania-rural rock band Halestorm, anchored by siblings Elizabeth and Arejay Hale. They’ve been playing since they were ‘tweens, living out the fantasy of millions of American kids who have said, “Let’s start a band.” Talk about launching young–their Dad, Roger, originally played bass for them!
And they didn’t just start it. Fifteen years later, outside their loyal fan base, many still haven’t embraced them–just yet–even with the Grammy win for their single “Love Bites (So Do I)”. Lzzy is the first woman to stage a Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category coup. All this while touring at the rate of 200+ live shows per year. Hard Rock?–how about Hard Work? But I personally discovered them, as many will, the old fashioned way–scanning my local radio stations, when “Freak Like Me,” arrested my spinning of the dial. No word of mouth, no posters or TV shows (okay, so I’m an older guy and not as in-touch with the music scene as I once was, and I missed them on late night circuit. The Leno, Fallon, and Kimmel performances span several years–not exactly a press junket.) But now that I do know, they’ve got me for life–I’m very loyal. What does that tell you? Diversify. Get that EP, charcoal drawing, audio book, your signatures and footprints, out there in every place that will bear the content. Remember, there was a time–not very long ago, in the grand scheme–when nobody had heard of Evanescence, E.L.Doctorow, or Joss Whedon.
Metal isn’t for everyone, so if the video link below isn’t to your taste, let me try to explain the appeal: aside from a return to the rebellious spirit, energy and edge like a scalpel, and imaginative lyrics that many of us have seen all-too-seldom in the mainstream, over the past two decades–the legacies of groups like Dio, Blue Oyster Cult, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest–the bass-heaviness and guitar-string-straining that define the performances is elevated by Lzzy’s voice, the kind you won’t find being lip-synced at the SuperBowl, the range of which she controls from softly crystalline, to ragged and frighteningly close to cracking the windshield. This is high-decibel stuff, so dust off the old Carver amp and Cerwin-Vegas stashed in the attic, not that Ipod dock with its sub-par-girlie-woofer.
Everyone with a favorite band–and who doesn’t have 3 or 4 of them?–knows that it’s not the pop singles that enjoy a few months’ airplay that endure (like “Love Bites?”), but the B-sides from the depths of the albums, known only to those who bought it or saw the show, and took the time to dive to the bottom. The Strange Case of. . ., (nice allusion to Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,) Halestorm‘s second studio album, used only about 1/3 of the songs composed in preparation for it. To me, that speaks to a commitment to excellence. Let me share just a few resonant lines from “Daughters of Darkness”:
We’re all survivors somehow
We just broke out the pack
And I don’t need no dog-tag
My name is on my back
We can turn you on, or we can turn on you…
Daughters of darkness, sisters insane
A little evil goes a long, long way
We stand together
No, we’re not afraid
We’ll live forever
Daughters of darkness
Daughters of darkness
So what does this rock-and-roll-rebirth tale have to tell us other artist-types, say, in the Authorship biz? Hey, the same balls-out, back-to-our-roots barbarism applies. We all admired creators who put it on the line, and left nothing in the tank at the end of each performance, whether it be a slam poem, short story, chapter, or novel. If the passion is preserved, and craft carefully matured, and you DON’T SELL OUT–the fame and fortune will take care of themselves.
As for Halestorm, Thanks to You for helping keep us all young. . .
Official Site: http://www.halestormrocks.com/