Dear Teenage Self... (4 Things I Would Tell Teenage-Jesse About Music Careers)

dear teenage.jpg

Do you ever look back to High School and wonder how much time you spent doing ridiculous things? I’ve probably amassed literal days of crafting the perfect AOL Instant Messenger “away status” or walking around video rental stores looking at the covers of DVDs I would never watch (although, I still do this with Netflix…).

In the midst of all of the ridiculous posts on and youth group movie nights I remember developing a very serious passion for music. There was a lot of stuff to navigate and I wish I could go back and encourage my teenage self with a few things about my “future career". I figured I’d list them here in case any of you could use some encouragement as well!

  1. Music as a career is possible, but it looks different than everyone thinks. Not everyone who makes at a living doing music will be a household name. So many of the people I admire now are people who do their work behind the scenes and crush it.
  2. Find good community and dig in with them. The “staying power” I have in music now is directly proportional to the community that I’m in and the woman I am married to. Without their continued encouragement and support to pursue it, I would’ve stopped a long time ago. Find those people who will push you and keep you lifted.
  3. Being the best musician in the room is neither important or possible. Everyone has something different to bring to the table. Just because you study for 4-6 hours each day, know your modes, and how to construct atonal matrixes doesn’t make you the best musician in the room. Sometimes people without a formal education in music can hear things that you can’t because you have “rules” so deeply ingrained into you. (*Note: music theory and practicing your chops is great, but the importance of that has rarely ever shown itself in my career thus far.)
  4. Gear is cool, but don’t let envy of other people’s gear consume you. Seeing friends with pedalboards filled with $400 Strymon reverbs and delays, hundreds of dollars of overdrives, and every mod available is certainly something to want, but find what sounds great and don’t worry about having everything. You’ll never be satisfied with your pedalboard when you’re constantly trying to innovate and create different sounds.

I’m sure I can think of hundreds of other things to tell the teenage version of myself, but I’ll start with those 4. What would you tell the teenage version of yourself? What is some advice that you’ve been given that’s been helpful to you?