But here I am five-plus months into mine–and make no mistake, I am aware of how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Everybody makes mistakes in their lives, take missteps in whatever career is it that you choose, but it’s even easier to slip up when you are in a career without a defined path or established rules.
I fully believe that with a few different decisions or moves I could have been one of the major players in the Toronto music scene. Some of you might say that I actually was, but I’d disagree. I could have been. I made and continue to make an impact on that music scene and have helped hundreds of bands–a few dozen significantly. We had some of the craziest shows the city has ever seen and made friendships that will last a lifetime. But I also got caught up in this idea of what I had to be and became so obsessed with it that it sometimes stunted my ability to move forward.
I became obsessed with the idea of owning a bar. Other opportunities came up–chances to maybe move to bigger rooms or into a different part of the industry–but I was always so sure I was a few months away from owning a bar that I didn’t pay them much mind. I stopped seeking out chances to work with higher-profile acts because I was addicted to the search of finding new acts and watching them develop on the TWM circuit. I also made myself into some sort of crusader for good etiquette among bands and would drive myself batshit crazy over things like bands leaving right after their set or cancelling a show for some bullshit reason.
Don’t get me wrong–this stuff still bothers me. I just realize now that I am never going to be the one to fix it.
But more than anything else, I fell hard in love with Rancho Relaxo and working with some of my best buds. Most of the things I could have done to change my situation might have jeopardized that, and that was not something I was ready to do deal with. And then we had our son Ezra, and slowly but surely everything changed…
I was back at work less than 48 hours after Ezra was born–some idiot stole the float/door money, and I had to go down to the bar to apologize to artists who weren’t going to be getting their gas money that night. And while I took it easy that month, I was around more than many–including me–had thought I would be post-baby. But it was always a bit different. If anything, over the next several months I tried harder than ever to get things to a point where I could financially feel comfortable keeping the dream alive, but the dream needed to change. Then the worst/best thing that could ever happen to me happened to me when a silly dispute resulted in my briefly leaving Rancho, and an even more poorly informed and, well, rather stunned decision resulted in my being without a room to call my own, period.
What resulted was a scary and soul-searching time that ended up with saying goodbye to some of the best and most beautiful people I’ll ever know to move to St. John’s, Newfoundland. In the few short months I’ve been here, I have launched a Road to CMW event, where we will bring four local acts to Toronto to play our TWM showcases at Rancho/Handlebar for the festival. I have started booking my own standalone TWM shows and met a ton of awesome people and musicians on the island, where we are plotting big shows, big tours, and so much more. Oh, and I started a growing touring company.
The difference? I’m trying not to sweat the small things so much–and yes, that is easier to do here because Newfoundlanders don’t sweat the minutia like Torontonians do. I’d still like to own a bar but maybe I’d also like to start or work at a festival, work my touring company to the point that it alone could be a career, work for a music association, or just keep on at what I am doing until Terri becomes a famous writer and take care of the best kid in the world. Having some flexibility in that career path has really took a burden off my shoulders. I try to get more excited about TWM’s successes than I do upset about our failures. That is a hard one for me. But I am trying, and for the most part it is working.
I have to trust that I am not in this alone. TWM did so much of what it did as a lone wolf who didn’t play well with others, but I am proud to say right now I am working with two people very closely, along with one intern and three other people, who all help to make it work. There is no way we could do what we are doing in Toronto from all the way out here without those people.
And if you bail on a show a few hours beforehand for some bullshit reason you made up–and I know it as an absolute fact–like what happened to me on Friday night, it still pisses me off something fierce…but in the end, what am I going to do? Any band who will pull that is going to be broken up or failed soon enough. I just need to let it run its course and not bother working with them ever again.
So, five months into my second chance at all of this and things are looking pretty damn good; my stated goal to “shrink the distance from Newfoundland to Ontario” doesn’t seem so outlandish anymore. In fact, it is already happening, thanks to the artists I am meeting here and how much they love music, even though most of them have never played off the island–or hell, maybe outside of St. John’s. There’s also the fans who come out and see the same acts so faithfully every week, at the same venues, with similar lineups–and it just fills me with so much belief in the potential of this music scene. I just need to help cultivate the massive energy that has been growing here for years, and get it out to all the rest of you before it bursts. Now that is something I don’t mind obsessing about.