And the new year brings?
As I head into 2020, I have to wonder about my musical future. 2019 should have been a time of decision, but it wasn't. After leaving my band in 2018, I figured I would search for some new outlet. Something other than the "Classic Rock" genre I'd been playing since it was new, back in the '60s.
I've found I'm still in some demand. Most of my musical friends are roughly my age and thus grew up with the same music I did. Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, CSN&Y and the like. I'll get asked to sit in with them, generally playing guitar. It's fun, but I have no desire to immerse myself in it again.
Through the years I've played in several genres, starting with school band stuff, folk, rock and roll, a touch of modern jazz, Americana, and a brief flirtation with bluegrass. I've picked up a veritable plethora (I always loved that word) of instruments, having made noises on clarinet, guitar, oboe, bass guitar, banjo, drums, mandolin, harmonica, flute, saxophone, keyboards, all with varying degrees of immersion and success. I always wanted to give pedal steel a go, but it never happened.
My greatest proficiency was always guitar, my most familiar genre, rock and roll. The most common instrument and likely the most common genre. Not much to distinguish myself. An old friend who actually got into pedal steel has had great success, backing Dwight Yokum among others. Another guy from my high school days became principle oboist for the Nashville symphony.
But there's really a glut of guitar pickers on the market. As a singer I was always pretty average. Yeah, I could carry a tune and was pretty good at harmonizing. But my voice never had a power or character to make others take notice. As a writer I probably never worked at it enough. Through the years I only satisfied myself three times. One was a song I wrote when I was, I think, seventeen, one when I was in my late thirties (you can actually listen to this one by clicking on the "My Song" button on this page) and one just a few years back. The other fifteen or twenty songs I've written aren't worth the listen.
Two non-musical skills that a musician needs (or at least can use) are salesmanship and leadership. Salesmanship? The ability to grab the world by the throat and say "LISTEN TO ME!" It takes a ton of gumption and willingness to have the door slammed in your face a hundred times, being sure that they're all wrong and you're right, or that perhaps you just need the right door. I tried a solo career, developed the songs I wanted to use, but just felt uncomfortable knocking. The end.
Leadership is somewhat akin to salesmanship, except that it's directed toward other musicians. "Flock to my banner and we'll rule the musical world!" I could never get a band to accept me a
Shin the Musician
Last update: January 2, 2020
The John Shinnick Web Site
What's His Name and Patti
as a musical leader. It took me time to learn that whoever gets the gigs determines the direction of the band. See the paragraph on Leadership.
It's been said that one should lead, follow, or get out of the way. I've tried following, but just got tired of it. Leading, even leading just myself, never seemed to work out. Does that mean it's time to get out of the way? I'll turn 69 in two months. Maybe so, although the last several musical ventures I left (John Richardson, Earl Oliver, Void Where Prohibited) are all doing just fine without me, led by people older than me.
Nah, I'm still somehow optimistic that there's a niche out there for me. I don't know what it is, or how to find it. It probably will see me in a supporting role, and not schlepping a ton of gear at three in the morning, hopefully playing a few different instruments in different genres. And havin' tons of fun!
The recording, lyrics, and back story to "My Brain Is Too Small", a song I wrote and recorded in 1990.
A metaphor for my musical direction?