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Kicking The Bucket List: Making My Rock and Roll Dream Real (Part 6 of 7)

This is the sixth in a series of articles. Previous entries can been accessed quickly with these links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Part 6: Challenges and Potential Solutions

For the purpose of a quick review, here are just some of the challenges I see between me and the completion of this project:

– I don’t have the money
– I don’t have the time
– I don’t have the talent as a guitarist
– I don’t have the ability as a singer
– I don’t have the right gear, or know anything about what the right gear even is
– I have an electric guitar I bought for $150 at pawn shop
– I don’t have a band
– I don’t have anywhere for a band to rehearse
– I’m not in good enough shape, physically, to perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I’m not in good enough shape, vocally, to record or perform the way I want for a couple of hours
– I don’t know how to properly record rock music, or where to do it
– I’m a single dad with a busy career whose top priority is his kids. My time with them is off-limits to much else. What sense does it make to take this on?

Just how in the world am I supposed to overcome these challenges?

I’ve been thinking about that.

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I’ve already begun to play my guitars more and more. And I’ve committed myself to creating a “Song Blog” on my KevinBulmer.com page to force myself to play and sing on a somewhat regular basis. It’s likely that some (most) of those Song Blogs, at some point in 2016, will be demos of Mutineer tracks. That process alone should start to build some singing and playing chops back up, along with nurturing and feeding a consistent rhythm of creativity.

I figure I can always take some guitar and/or vocal lessons this year to sharpen up. Plus, I work in sales & marketing during the day. I’m on the road a lot. Nothing’s stopping me from singing along with the songs in the car or doing vocal drills to build up endurance and skill while I’m in between appointments.

You don’t find the time – you make the time.

As for my level of guitar or vocal proficiency (or lack thereof), I’m finally at peace with the idea of sounding like … well … me. After all, I’m the only “me” there is. I want to be the best representation of myself that I can, but I’m simply not going to have the level of skill that someone who does it for a living will have. I earn my living in other ways. I have two great kids who are my top priority. I am only willing devote so much time to becoming better at playing guitar or singing. But I’ll do my best and that’ll be that. For areas where I really need people with a high level of skill, I’ll find help. My ace in the hole is that there are lots of people who sing and play, but I’m the only one who has my songs. And I’ll go to bat with them any day.

It's not easy being green. Err ... flexible and fit. But it's worth the effort!

It’s not easy being green. Err … flexible and fit. But it’s worth the effort!

I’ve begun to change my gym routine to include more cardio and a lot more stretching. I’ve also begun to learn some beginning yoga poses and intend to take some classes through 2016 to gain more endurance, core and leg strength and flexibility. And if you don’t think I’ll need it, you have no idea what I’m intending to do. I don’t plan on just standing there. You’ll see.

Money, I can make. I could start a Mutineer online store and sell merchandise. Perhaps I’ll start a Pledge Music campaign once I get closer to it. Maybe I can secure some sponsorship. Perhaps there are grants available in Canada for this kind of thing. But the money is the part I’m actually concerned about the least. That part will figure itself out.

As for gear, recording and rehearsal space, I don’t have to know about all that. I just need to find people I can trust that do have that knowledge. I know what I do have: the songs. I can learn from others about everything else.

But what about the other players? Well, I already have a certain guitarist in mind, and have been thinking of trying to work with him for many years. In all of my visions of this project, he is the guy who is the other anchor of it all. He doesn’t know this, and would have absolutely no idea I’ve been thinking of him at all. And after I reach out to him, it may end up that he either isn’t interested or isn’t the right fit. But I want that to be part of this process of discovery. Ever since I first saw this guy play and met him 8 or 9 years ago, I figured we’d someday work on something together. When I see the moving picture in my mind of this band on stage, he’s the guitar player, the anchor, the cleanup hitter. We’ll find out if I’m right or not. I have not reached out to him yet, but will do that soon.

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Who will be standing on stage with me when the time comes? I don’t know. Yet.

Why be so picky? Well, I need, or at least I think I need, somebody with a certain set of skills that likes a lot of the same music that I do that can pull off the level of playing that I’m envisioning. I want to play guitar on some of the songs, but not all of them. I even have a few specific songs in mind that I know I want to include in the concert, and I know he could not only handle them, but would likely enjoy playing them, because I know he loves a certain band as much as I do.

I have no vision yet of who plays bass or drums, although I do envision some guest vocalists to appear on certain songs and in the concert. I figure that if I can somehow convince the guitar player I’ve mentioned to jump on board with me, the rest will sort itself out. And if it’s not him, someone else will find their way to me somehow. Navigating through that will all be part of the process.

Having said all of this, what could possibly be in it for you to take any time and trouble to follow along? I’ve thought about that, too, and will share those feelings in the final entry of this series in Part 7, tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

Meantime, please join Mutineer on: Facebook, Twitter or YouTube

“Tops For Bottoms,” and Why the Middle Matters Most

My late grandfather once owned a plumbing business. During that time, he had promotional plastic key chains made up that were molded to look like toilet seats. Along with his business name and contact information, each toilet seat proclaimed his business was “Tops for Bottoms.”

I still think that’s funny. And I got thinking of it again the other day, when I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts, where references to the “top” and the “bottom” both came up.

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During the program, the two hosts were discussing the potential merits, or drawbacks, of taking on a professional role of significant leadership and heavy responsibility, and why anyone would want such a job. Offered as a consideration against it, one of the hosts quipped, “It’s lonely at the top.”

Almost immediately, the other responded with, “Yeah, but it’s a long way up from the bottom.”

Tops and Bottoms.

My conclusion? Both are somewhat correct, but it’s the thought of an existence of a top and bottom at all that serves an example of how, in much of North American culture at least (and in my opinion), we’ve got it all wrong. We want to slap labels on everything, including ourselves, so as to define our lives as one thing or the other. We are constantly comparing ourselves to, and hinging our contentment on, how we stack up versus other people. We view these out-of-context comparisons as barometers of success or failure, allowing us to gauge how close we are to reaching the “top,” and how far we’d need to fall to hit “bottom.”

All too often, when we do finally hit the heights to which we’d originally aspired, be it a new job or a new car or a fancy house or even entering into a relationship, we end up disappointed and deflated after but a short while.

Lonely at the top.business-growth-1-1426746-m

I have been in leadership roles. And it can be lonely, if you allow it to be. But even when you’re at the “top” of your specific set of criteria, as an achievement-oriented person, you’re also keenly aware that there are many others well above you yet. And so, though you may indeed feel as if you’re at the top, you may feel lonely because of it and burdened from the emotional weight you bear. You may also be exhausted by the thought of how far you’ve yet to go to reach the heights – or acquire the things – achieved by so  many others.

I now realize that I’ve spent far too much of my life thinking, “If this, then that” will transpire and make everything better once it’s occurred (whatever “this” or “that” happen to be). After a few decades, I finally began to understand that, no matter where I was or what I’d achieved, I was always there, with all my evolving thoughts, feelings and emotions with me. There was no magic answer. There is no “there.”

I realized there was no such thing as “the top.” And yet, I still chase after it.

Conversely, I’ve been down, at home and at work, as just about anyone else has at one point or another. And when you feel you’ve hit “bottom,” it can feel overwhelming to work your way back up, so much so that you rarely stop to ask, “Back up to what?” And, “What for?” It could be, and likely is, that you’re just fine exactly as you are.

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What really is the “bottom” anyway? It could be ten different things to ten different people. And even when I reached what I would consider the furthest depths of my own personal cellar, I still had a safe place to stay, family and friends who loved me, food to eat and time to reflect.

Not so bad. In fact, it was appealingly simple. And yet I’m scared to go back to it.

Ironically, I’ve always found what I consider to be “bottom” to be a catalyst for new beginnings and new learning. It’s ironic because I’ve often had the exact same – initially hollow and empty – feeling each time I’ve reached “the top” (i.e., fulfilled a goal or some kind of achievement).

Thinking back again on my grandpa, he worked hard, loved his family, and by just about anyone’s standards of measuring the “top” or “bottom, ” would likely have fallen somewhere in the middle. And yet, I don’t think he took any regrets with him when his time came. As evidenced by his clever key chains, he knew how to do his work and live his life and have fun at both. We should all do as well.

It may be lonely at the top.  It very well could be a long way up from the bottom. The truth is, you’re likely not contending with either. You are where you are. And that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. May as well enjoy it.

After all, as grandpa’s old “Tops for Bottoms” toilet key chain reminds us, whether you think you’re at the top or on the bottom, or en route one way or the other, we’re all still going to end up getting flushed.

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary, No Schedule Man!

Four years ago today I achieved a goal I’d held for at least a decade: to complete and release a full-length CD of my own music. It was June 26, 2010, when “No Schedule Man” was finally released with a concert at the London Music Club here in London, Ontario. Much has happened since then. And looking back, I feel proud of myself for seeing the goal through to completion, and I’m glad I have those songs recorded in some form.

At the CD Release show

At the CD Release show

It took me almost a year and a half to finish the project (I documented the whole process with a weekly journal. All the entries can be found HERE). At the time, I was not enjoying the accomplishment as much as I’d been hoping to, as I was truly hurting with sciatic nerve pain caused by herniated discs in my lower back (which actually caused a two-week delay in releasing the CD). In fact, just one week after the CD release show, I decided to cancel the rest of the appearances I had booked for that summer because I was just in too much pain and wasn’t enjoying myself at all. Partly because of that, I never really felt those songs got the push they deserved.

Shortly afterwards, many significant life changes took place, including a divorce, change of address and change in career, all of which happened pretty much at the same time. In the face of that, playing the songs from “No Schedule Man” quickly fell down the list of priorities.

CD Artwork in development

CD Artwork in development

For the better part of two years after all that, I didn’t even really look at my guitar, let alone go anywhere and play. My mind was only on being with my two boys, keeping myself healthy and learning what I needed to learn from the life changes that had taken place. To that end, I feel grateful for the lessons I’m not sure I could have learned any other way. But there was always a part of me that felt bad about watching “No Schedule Man” sit and collect dust.

Eventually, the urge to start creating and sharing music bubbled back up. But it was different this time. There was much more patience, and even hesitation, to move forward. As I’ve written and talked about before, it was really my oldest son, Eddie, who nudged me to start working on music again, and so last summer I recorded a handful of new songs that became the acoustic EP, “Solo: The Return of No Schedule Man.” In the process of getting ready to release that collection, I went back and started rehearsing some of the songs from the original “No Schedule Man” CD again and thought, quite honestly, that there were some really good songs just sitting and waiting for me to pay them some mind again.

The new EP, released in February 2014

The new EP, released in February 2014

Now that “Solo” has also been released, my guitar is mostly quiet again, at least for now. I’m still not sure where all this fits in the scheme of a guy who makes his living as a Marketing Consultant and Radio Account Executive. But when I burden myself with trying too hard to make sense of it all, I think back to the lyrics of the “No Schedule Man” title track and remember that “No plan is all part of the plan.”

The idea of control is really a fallacy. Change is inevitable, and this present moment is truly all we have. So I strive to be more like the character I created with “No Schedule Man,” to the extent where I’ve since adopted it as a kind of “brand” for most of the things I do, and hope to be.

No Schedule Man, the character, doesn’t aim to have. He simply wants to be.

It was pretty cool to be able to put this in the CD player. Still is!

It was pretty cool to be able to put this in the CD player. Still is!

One day, I’ll give those songs the attention I always felt they deserved. In the meantime, I can look back and feel proud that they even exist in the first place, and feel emboldened about my ability to navigate through whatever changes and challenges may come from here. With that in mind, I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore and celebrate your own creativity as well, in whatever form that may be. I did, and I’m glad I did.

Happy Anniversary, No Schedule Man. I’m better for knowing you and am curious to see where we set sail next.

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