It’s been a minute but if you read my blog, you know it’s pretty irregular anyway. I’m currently visiting LA and realized its been a full calendar year since I moved back to Chicago. Whenever I can trace a year back I feel the impulse to reflect so here I am. It’s been a building year. While I learned a lot in LA about myself and the industry, I did feel a worn down by the city. Everything was far apart, I had a tough time settling in, I moved three times in a year, hated my job and it seemed like no one cared about my music. Everything is colossal out here and way more “big business” than you’d expect. Things had to be a pitched with a box they fit into and music was no different. I started playing more private gigs and getting my cover sets up which would be prove to be key in returning to Chicago.
Upon my return, I began looking for jobs like a normal human. I had a few gigs here and there and wanted to find something that would work with my schedule. I had lucked into great 2 bedroom that apparently required rent money each month (go figure). So out I go, beating the pavement with seven years worth of restaurant experience and got a second interview at a place called ‘Revolution Brewery.’ They were ‘artist friendly’ and I thought it’d be a great match. I followed up religiously and never heard back (side note: That’s one of my pet peeves. If you decided to go another direction, don’t make someone follow up a million times to find out. It’s rude.) Luckily, music was the only option so I hit THAT pavement hard and month by month, I used less of my savings and got more and more gigs. College gig here, Agent grabbed a gig there, holiday gigs, weird craigslist gigs and potbelly. They started to add up and I kept spreadsheet letting me know how much I was making and how much I needed. After a while, I was concentrating so hard on not tipping over that I didn’t realize I was actually riding the bike.
One super smart thing I did was get a free financial advisor at a place called Next Door Chicago (seriously, do it). They fleshed out my budget and I was able to start saving for the next record while killing debt, saving for myself, and having money for happiness. With my finances locked and loaded, I charged into summer with 24 gigs in the 30 days June. I played 115 for the year at the midpoint of 2017. I was tired as hell but results give me energy. I was a full time musician playing tons of gigs and writing an album. I played less original shows but I made the ones I played count. Part of what can wear down a young musician is feeling ignored. You play gigs with low attendance or you take 3 hour bar gig trying to play your own stuff while people talk as loud as they can. Covers were a bit of a godsend, not because my stuff isn’t good but because unless people are in an environment to hear new music, they won’t pay attention. If I play my stuff to a room full of people who don’t care, it hurts. If no one listens when I sing “Dock of the Bay,” they can take it up with Otis. The other thing that helped was tips. Waiting tables, I hated tips. I hated someone’s mood dictating my livelihood however in music, tips became a different thing. All of a sudden tips became someone’s way of saying “you moved me” or expressing joy. They also helped my spreadsheets out a whole bunch. To the point where when I ran out of merch at the end of the summer, I put out a jar and allowed people to express their gratitude. I wasn’t pushy about it, I just let them know it was there and left it to them. It felt like a great exchange.
At the end of the summer, I had the opportunity to do a residency in Portland, OR and experience the eclipse in 98% totality. It went super well (both the eclipse and my shows). It felt so great to be in the same town for a week and play every night. I casually said to a friend “I would love to do residencies all the time” and later that day, I got an email about a contest I had previously gotten runner up for. The prize had been a year of free rent and apparently, there was another building that wanted a musician in residence. With a much more tempered excitement this time around, I prepped as much as I could and had shows before and after. I figured I’d do my thing and if I didn’t get it again, it had no bearing on my musicianship because I paid a year’s rent with my guitar and voice already. Well, I won and turns out it starts the day after my lease ends. I will be playing somewhere around 5-7 hours a week at various properties and teaching some lessons as well on the premises. The place looks incredible and I’ll be living alone. While I’ve got a new album ready to record and need to tweak some plans, this is obviously a huge leg up and will be a great asset to the next chapter. One year has turned to two and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the year has in store.
I just won a year of rent....with my voice. Basically there's a super cool group of developers in downtown Chicago who held a competition to have a resident musician play their properties in exchange for a lease. It's been a while since I've won a contest. Making music my full time job last October was a dream come true and having steady work (and place to live) for another year is amazing. I know things have been a little quiet but I've got some plans up my sleeve and this situation is definitely gonna help with that. I'm so thankful that people still value art and use their resources to help people continue making it. I love you all and can't thank you enough for all the support. -Phillip-Michael AKA Briar Rabbit • • • • • • • • • • • #music #musician #chicagomusic #chicagomusician #berklee #chicagomusicscene #taylorguitars #magellandevelopment #lakeshoreeast #lakeshoreeastlegend #soul #acoustic #blues #tour #singersongwriter #singer #awards