Thursday, September 6, 2018

Persistence Over Frustration

The other day I was talking to a friend about all of the things that come with being a working and/or professional musician. Of course the joy that comes with creating or making music with other amazing artists is the most rewarding thing but there are so many things that surround that experience that at times make a musician question why they continue doing what they are doing. Immediately it made me think of a small section from the introduction to my music memoir:

Music was my first love and will always hold a special place in my heart. It has offered me all of the joys and trials that can only come from a loving relationship. Music gives me purpose and frustrates me. It fills me with a joy beyond words while also breaking my heart. It allows me to succeed while also humbling me. It has been my best friend and a vicious adversary. It was a dream beyond all dreams while also being something I wish I could have done without. Finally, music has also been my loyal bride and my deceitful mistress.

And deep down I have loved all of the joy and the abuse!

So many times I wanted to react to many of these obstacles by walking away from the music scene once and for all. Many of these experiences were quite painful and at times made me question if my love for music was worth the struggle but somehow I found a way to continue with my music career. When people have asked what made me do it I guess aside from my love of playing music I also found the good in each situation that made me want to continue, even if I had to start over yet again.

Early Days 

My first professional gig was on May 2, 1991. It was 18 years old and playing in a heavy metal band that wrote our own music. We worked hard both in rehearsing our music and putting a show together and performed all over the Los Angeles music scene. On more than one occasion we met with music producers and managers both in their homes and even at our rehearsal location. Many people seemed to like our music but that was also a time when I vividly remember a changing music scene that concerned me due to the fact that my band didn't quite sound like this new thing that began to appear on MTV as well as my local Rock radio station.

It was the early 90's and grunge music was the new flavor of the week so before I knew it my band that seemed to be going in the right direction in terms of where the music scene had been was now a dinosaur in what was now seen as a new ground breaking sound. We were dead in the water and soon we would go through a series of painful circumstances before deciding to go our separate ways.

At the time I was also studying music in college so I was learning how to play different styles of music knowing that diversity was an important part of being a professional musician. Still, it was a time when I dreamed of being in a world renown Rock band so most people assumed I would jump into the grunge scene and see where it would take me. The problem was, I hated grunge music so I was not interested in playing with any band that wanted to jump on what I saw was a depressing band wagon. Sorry folks, but music is supposed to be fun so the last thing I wanted to do was work with people who either were or wanted to pretend to be on suicide watch.

Moving On 

I cannot invest my time and most importantly my heart in music that I don't feel a connection to. When I wasn't playing in a band I would jam with other musicians working on new styles of music while also keeping my eyes on the scene. Fortunately, I would find other groups that had a sound that I not only liked but believed in, which allowed me to keep taking my shot at the big time. Now I was working with management companies who got us big shows opening for world renown artists at popular music venues, spent time working in upscale recording studios and even had the chance to spend some time at record company office meetings. While I was always sure to keep my eyes focused on reality one could not help but wonder if this dream of mine was actually going to happen.

Of course the closer I seemed to get was also the moment when I could see that I was still so far away. We're talking about big business here so there are lots of dollars to be spent on a band that the labels hoped would turn a profit for them. The problem is that as an artist I always loved doing something that was very different, which could be a big problem for business minded people. I get it but still, I wondered how they could be so hesitant to take some of the bands I worked with to the next level after seeing us annihilate a huge crowd with some amazing music. Of course they never went for the bait but were always gracious with their reasons for passing on us while also having suggestions for what could make us more appealing in the future. As simple as that sounds that's when a group of people had to decide what they were going to do next and believe me when I say that such a thing can lead to some serious disagreements.

I was never one to resist change but when people wanted to take the band in a direction that I disagreed with it was hard to put in the same effort that I did prior to this change or even proposed change of direction. Sadly, there were times when I realized that things would never be the same and when I no longer believed in the vision of what we were doing it was either time to depart or this would become yet another band that mutually decide to part ways.

Changing Priorities 

When I reached my early thirties I was now married with a child and a home. At that time I made the decision to redirect my focus by becoming a working drummer in the local music scene so I could earn more money for my young family and be able to stay close to home in order to provide the necessary emotional support for my wife and infant son.

Working with original bands that were always having to promote their brand helped a lot in terms of preparing a resume and other promotional materials. However, now I was the only member of the team that was responsible for putting my name out there so I ended up doing more networking than I had in the past. It was nice in the fact that I didn't have to answer to other people with different ideas but now all of my progress depended on my own efforts, which at times was exhausting. I had to become a business person who stayed on the cutting edge of what was current both in the music scene as well as in the music business. And, I had to do this while maintaining my abilities on my drum set.

The other challenge was that I had to focus less on creating music and now on learning other people's music. As an artist it wasn't always fulfilling on a creative level but now that I was a family man the extra money more than made up for my lack of creative output. In some ways it also gave me some peace because by now I accepted the fact that the world may not really be interested in the songs that I wrote or helped write but I was more than happy to see the number of musicians who did value my drumming abilities, which in turn kept me working.

I Was Wrong 

The creative artist in me wouldn't leave me alone as I was deeply inspired by my love for world rhythms. I started to write and record my own original drumming compositions, which led me to make my own solo CD. Honestly, this project was nothing more than the fulfillment of a personal goal but before I knew it I was going to start working in two worlds that I knew nothing about.

The first world was the music distribution world. At the time my CD was only available as an EP that I myself designed and put out as a hard copy as an independent artist. At the time online sales were just starting up for such artists so I pretty much did all of the marketing and selling on my own. Soon after, and to my surprise, I was contacted by someone from a company called Peacework Music and found out that they were interested in distributing my music online. It was a pretty cut and dry deal with me as an artist having more rights to my recordings since I had already financed the recording project. Now my music had an online presence and it was great to know that people from all over the world were now hearing and buying my music, especially when they contacted me to tell me how much they enjoyed my CD.

Later on I was contacted (and continue to hear from others) by someone who was interested in adding my music to films and television shows. I didn't really know a lot about this other world that I now had to learn about, which was the world of music licensing world so I had to learn a lot and fast. In this case it wasn't so much of me having to deal with any type of obstacle or frustration but I did have make sure that I knew now to negotiate such deals in a way where I wouldn't short change myself. Thankfully, I had a lot of amazing musical peers who had experience in this world who were more than willing to help.

Of course it was a great feeling to have this happen to me and I was certainly very proud of my accomplishments. Still, I wonder to this day if the same thing might happen to music I have written where I use instruments beyond the world of percussion. Maybe it will happen and maybe it won't but all I can do is move forward and hope that perhaps one day someone might be interested in one of those pieces of music that is not one of my drumming compositions. Either way, I am still grateful for the

Changing Times

Twelve years ago I moved to the Tucson area and continued to work in the local music scene. I was more than content to do that but then an opportunity came about that hit me by surprise. Being a practicing Catholic meant that my faith life was important to both me and my family but the last thing I thought would happen was first, that I would join another original band and second, that it would be a faith based group.

That was exactly what I did when I helped start a band called Come Thirsty. At first we just wanted to learn some popular Christian songs and serve the Christian community with our musical performances. However, once the band found that it had a special musical chemistry we began working on our own material that was most pleasing to our audience. Eventually people started asking when we were going to record and release these songs and once we had a full album's worth of material we got started. Once the album was completed we came in contact with an independent record company from the Midwest. We ended up signing a contract with them so here I was at a time in my life when I thought I was way past that moment with a pen in my hand and a record contract in front of me.

To be honest I didn't get real excited about it. I was at a point in my musical career where I knew that nothing was as good as it seemed. While there were so many great things that came out of having this deal there were still so many obstacles for the band to endure. The most frustrating thing was that we never got the support from the label that we had hoped for. I felt like we were still doing the bulk of the work in terms of selling CD's and booking gigs in more high end places (in this case it would be bigger churches). We did have a label rep and they were supposed to be helping us with all of this because after all, selling CD's would also benefit them but when it came to getting to work these people were just not there for us. Still, we moved on and went as far as we could until the band decided to call it quits a few years ago. Even though things didn't turn out the way I hoped I will admit that I learned a lot from this experience and of course am proud of the fact that the record deal thing did in fact happen at least once in my musical career.

Onward and Upward

The focus on my work today is to keep writing music for more licensing opportunities and to sty active as a performer. Each of these things keeps me busy and I do enjoy working in these two musical environments. The difficult part though is the networking, which is always a bit of a chore. Sending out emails, phone calls, saying the same things over and over as you try to book more shows and peddle your music to those who you think might be interested. There are times when you don't even get a response or those moments when people do want to do business with you but take forever to get things done. Sadly, that's just how the music business works.

Lucky for me that I am working with people who are both honorable and appreciative of what I do. Even after all these years I had to/will have to deal with people who treat you like family one day and then turn on you in a moment's notice because for some reason they no longer have any use for you. Even though I expect that to happen based on past experiences it's never easy to deal with because even the most experienced musician is still in fact a person with feelings. In my case, I give my all to any project I am involved with because it's both respectful to those I am working with and because I care about my own legacy so yes, this type of business is very personal to me.

I would be lying if I didn't say that there were days when I just want to walk away from this rat race once and for all but I can never bring myself to do that. Music is in my blood but it's also in my soul. Being a musician is who I am, not what I do so like anything else in life, you just have to move on and continue to make things happen.

Get your copy of my music memoir, A Speck in the Sand at:

Carlos Solorzano

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