There was a buzz rattling around our heads for the month we lived on a hill that overlooked the city of Wimberly, TX, on one side and miles of the Texas Hill Country on the other. We (my band) had set up a make-shift recording studio in the guest house of a well-off family who let us live and work there free of charge. The compound had a pool and a hot tub, which is where we spent most of our evenings enjoying the temperate summer nights. It was also where we were when I said one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said.
“If we’re not huge this time next year, I’m gonna be pissed.” My comment had added thrust thanks to the Guinness I’d been drinking. Who drinks Guinness in a hot tub in the middle of summer, by the way? The 20-year-old version of me, that’s who.
It was 2001, and people were trying to figure out what the crap was going on with Kid A, and we were making our first album. Obviously, as time would reveal, we were not huge by 2002, nor by 2012, the year of the last show we will probably ever play.
But, in my defense, the first time you hear those song ideas come together on expensive studio speakers can be deceiving. You start to hear those choruses as anthems and those verses as, well, more anthems. It isn’t until years later that you realize the world is littered with anthems that will never transcend the blue side of a CD-R—and your’s is just another of the same.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. We wrote, toured and promoted our music like crazy. But the timing was all off. Our sights were set too far ahead. We were trying to figure out a way to be huge without taking the small steps to get there. In the music industry today, you must be near-sighted. You can only focus on the immediate goal. There is so much uncertainty, and likelihood of failure is 100%. If you’re really, truly in love with making music, it’s like being in love with your best friend’s spouse. They are near enough to feel attainable, but you can never really have them.
So, now that it’s 2013, I have resigned to the fact that I will never be huge. But, honestly, it’s probably the most creatively free I’ve ever felt. Basically, what I’m saying is don’t worry about success, worry about the quality of your art. Because when you’re 30 and you look back on what was a good run, you’ll think, man, it could’ve been better.