Welcome to my series of posts about how I got into music and songwriting and the events that ultimately led to the 2012 release of my first album. Here are the posts, so far:
2. what’s with the title?
4. from high school to LA and back
5. the talent question
6. the lost years
If you read anything that strikes a chord please let me know in the comments section or via email. As always, thank you for reading.
1989 was the year The Sharper Image hired me as a copywriter. After I accepted the offer, I remember driving home and grinning the whole way and listening to loud music and thinking about how my life had finally, fundamentally changed for the better. I felt so good about myself and my future.
At the time, I was in a band called Germano Warfare and as I settled into TSI, I made up my mind to finally stop pursuing music. Given all my doubts about my musical abilities, my fear that I would never amount to much as a rock star, my infinite insecurities about anything and everything, I should have felt nothing but relief, but leaving Warfare was hard. First, the band was founded by one of my best friends, Toby Germano, and I felt I was betraying him, even though I also knew that my presence in the band was holding things back. (In music, you are either all-in or not, there is no in-between, you can’t hedge and I was always hedging in the back of my mind, sometimes even the front.) Second, we were good. Toby wrote great songs with interesting chords, words, melodies and grooves and delivered them with real showmanship over the pounding beats of Derek and Troy. Third, I liked the band. It was the first band I’d ever been in that I thought had something special. We looked pretty good, we played loud, we kept it simple. Last, but not least, being in the band made me feel like less of a looser, important when you’ve graduated from college and gone precisely nowhere in life.
But my mind was made up and so I told Toby I was leaving. I have vague memories of how it all ended but one is reasonably clear: I was standing outside our rehearsal space in Redwood City and I was talking with Troy and Toby, the sun was down, I was tired, a bit sad, but I was sure of my decision, and I think it was Troy who asked what I would be doing with my life and I remember answering with some vague thoughts on getting into advertising, he nodded and said he thought I would be good at that.
About a year later, the ‘80s crashed to an end, and The Sharper Image, a true symbol of ‘80s excess, let me go. Poof, just like that, my new life ended and once again I was in limbo. But it was different this time. The job at The Sharper Image had upped my self confidence and I was reasonably sure I could find something new. Even more important, I had met a girl. She was from Germany and right about the time I got let go, her visa ran out and I decided to follow her back to Munich. On my departure from the States, I considered whether to pack a guitar but opted not to. In fact, I left it all at home: the guitars, the amps, the recording decks, the microphones, everything. I had been toting it all around for years and I was tired of it and wanted to be free of it, free of the way it reminded me of my shortcomings and failures, free of the way it taunted and tempted me to try one more time, free of the guilt of having spent so much time and money and producing so little of worth. As I flew out of SFO and up and over the Rockies and into the mid-country, I remember looking out of the window the plane and seeing dark ahead while behind the sun was setting. A new day awaited and I was more ready than I had ever been for something different.
What I thought might be a few months became four years.