• The Cerebellum Blues Story: Chapter Eight, Back to Work, Then Back to the Beginning.
In preparation of my album launch, which should happen in May, 2011, I'm recapping how I got back into music. In this chapter:
Returning to my job / Better songs and better ads? / Going on full-time disability / The Album Begins
I think it was some time in 2004. Or maybe it was 2005, I really don’t remember. Anyway, it was before my brain injury, and I was still working full-time as the co-executive creative director of an SF ad agency. We were pitching the Charles Schwab account and my boss was out from New York to help us polish our ideas a lead the presentation. A few nights before our deadline we (me, my boss and my creative partner) headed out to a wine bar. We’d had a few glasses, and I remember the subject of creativity came up and I confessed that I no longer felt creative. This should have been the equivalent of career suicide, but my boss listened and we ended up talking about music. He was working on his first album at the time and he expressed how getting back into music had totally re-energized him. Everything he said really resonated with me, but did I get home and pick up my guitar? No. I was under the misguided belief that I had to focus any creativity I had left in me on my job, otherwise I would spread myself too thin and be even less able to think up cool stuff.
Fast forward to mid-2006. I’d had my brain injury in January of that year and it was now June and I was returning to work. My doctor did not want me to, Catherine did not want me to, my parents did not want me to, but work was all I really knew so back I went. I believed that the sheer effort required to return to semi-full-time work (my doctor would only approve me for 20 hours a week, at first) work help me recover faster by forcing my brain and atrophying body to be more active. In hindsight, I should have listened to my doctor and everyone else save for one peculiar thing: for the remainder of the year, I only worked three/four days a week and yet produced more advertising that I was proud of than I had in the prior year. Plus, I was writing songs. And I learned something: creativity begets creativity. My notion that I could only do one thing at a time and to do more would be disastrous was totally and completely wrong.
As the year of 2006 was drawing to close I still refused to accept that my career in advertising was over for the time being, and even though my disability insurance would allow me to quit and still draw a nearly equivalent income I just could not do it. What finally changed my mind was a chance meeting with the agency’s CFO. We were both in the office over Christmas break — I madly transferring files and prepping for departure should I ultimately either leave freely or be punted, she probably doing real work — but I did not know she was there. Suddenly my phone rang. She asked if she could talk to me for a minute. I headed over to her office not sure what to expect, and as I sat down, she asked, “What are you doing here? Everyone can see you shouldn’t be here, you should be home recovering, why are you doing this, especially since you have disability insurance?” I explained to her my worry about being seen as a quitter, a freeloader, someone who no one should hire. (Never mind that to meet me in person at this time would have convinced you in about a second that I was disabled. Never mind that I still worried about throwing up at inopportune moments and Catherine still carried a plastic bag with her whenever we went anywhere together. Never mind that I was taking so much Excedrin and Imitrex in order to function that my neurologist, once she found out, told me to go cold turkey and deal with full blown migraines for a little while.) She shook her head and told me about her husband. He’d had a terrible set-back years ago, and like me, refused to go on disability for all the same reasons. He finally relented, though, and now thinks it was the best decision he could have made, the only decision really, and has no regrets.
Things happened fast after that fateful day and by January 1, 2007, I was officially disabled and no longer working. I struggled with whether I had done the right thing and resolved to become un-disabled as fast as possible, but, in the meantime, what to do? I rethought my career, my life, everything and my first decision was to longer ignore my desire to write music. I would finally make the album I’d been thinking about making since I was a teenager.
I wish I could remember the day making an album went from dream to to-do, but I can’t. I know I had been thinking about it in the later months of 2006, but Decision Day has slipped into the murk of memory. Regardless, after telling my friend Cory about my idea, my first plan (link goes to photos) was to work with a mutual friend, David Hearst, who had built his own studio. He was a guitarist and one of the early employees of Digidesign and had used some of his good fortune to construct a state-of-the-art home studio. (Oh, and he also designed some custom wood baffling for the studio’s walls, which he was still in the midst of building by hand when I emailed him about recording.) We lined up a drummer and bassist made arrangements to record drums and bass for eight songs in one weekend. Next, between my friend Toby and me, we would layer up all guitars and vocals. Well, after laying down the rhythm tracks one busy weekend in August of 2008, I opted to reboot. The problem was mainly that David’s studio was just too far away (he was in Redwood City, which is a 45 minute drive from SF), so I got online and started looking for studios in SF. My first Google hit was Hyde Street and after reading about it, decided it would be too much money, but emailed anyway. Jaimeson Durr, who runs Hyde Street Studio C emailed me back right away with rates that were super reasonable, and I was off to the races again. At the time, I figured I’d be done with my album in a few months. Ha. In a way, though, I’m glad it’s taken so long. I’ve gotten a chance to begin again, in a way, and I've learned a lot along the way.
Now, on the cusp of releasing my album, I can reflect a bit and here’s what I’ve learned about myself, and what I will strive to remember going forward.
First and foremost, family and friends should come first for me, not work. I’m now married and have two baby girls and would not have things any other way.
Advertising was a fine career, and might yet still be what I opt to do, but I should never again allow it to be my life.
Creativity begets more creativity, so, I’m gonna go ahead, spread myself thin, just keep those wheels turning.
Creating music is central to my happiness.