Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dreams, Undeferred

Sunday night, at the close of one of the best games I've ever seen, a group of millionaires on the field began throwing punches at each other. They were frustrated and stressed about a game...a game after which even the losing team's players get a $49,000 bonus (on average a year's salary for people in the US, and twice that of mine). It turned my stomach to watch. This is what role model behavior looks like? Is it too much to ask for some good sportsmanship and gratitude? You might say to me, those were a few bad eggs and the game is about more than just money. And I would agree. 
The Seahawk's recent season represents a lot of beauty out here in Seattle. I see it reflected in my friends, my family, my neighbors, strangers on the street...unity, tradition, tenacity, charity, loyalty, hope, brotherhood, fun. There is a palpable sense in this city of being part of something bigger than yourself. But really, the core of the NFL is just business-as-usual, let's make some money. And as Jon Stewart said, they care more about what's on Marshawn Lynch's head (a non-approved Beast Mode hat) than what's in it (his brain, likely to be significantly damaged after his stint in the NFL). For me, it makes that beauty feel a lot like a byproduct, a side effect of a heartless non-profit (ha!) machine as it goes about filling the pockets of people who wouldn't recognize selflessness if it bit them in the face. That beauty has a bitter aftertaste.

In the Seattle TV market, a commercial ran early on during the Super Bowl featuring Jennifer Hudson singing "o-o-h Child" in a diner with 5 "unknown" artists. It's part of a new ad campaign called "Dream Fearlessly" launched by American Family Insurance. The basic pitch is that AmFam is helping artists achieve their dreams...and lo and behold MoZo was selected as featured musicians for the radio campaign! Aims and I get renters insurance from AmFam, and our local Ballard agent Maria Gonzales knew we played music (after meeting us once 2 years ago), and recently passed our name along to the higher-ups. Old school! We have a real-live agent with a real-live office a half mile from our apartment, who knows and remembers what we do for a living! And as I've mentioned, we're not raking in the big bucks for Maria. We are surely a tiny, tiny account for her.

MoZo @ High Dive, Seattle 2014

Essentially, American Family has donated some of their radio airtime to feature our music. Ads will run in WA, OR, ID, and the Dakotas through April. We'll also get some print press in AmFam magazines, but alas, as of right now we've got no arrangements to sing and/or act with Jennifer Hudson.
Jokes aside, it's been a nice way to kick off the new year, feeling validated as working musicians. The pay isn't much, but it's something. In the dozen or so years we've been making and trying to sell music, I've watched the ability to support yourself plummet...I know, I know, a story that's been told and re-told many times. It's hard to make a living! But companies like Spotify, and the digital revolution in general, have literally cheapened the value of music so much that even I myself question the value of my own hard work. But People! The soundtrack to your life should not be free! We need to value music for the balm it is, the savior of many, the buoy, the joy, the light in the dark, the darkness articulated! 
We need to value music by sustaining those who create it!!

But, you know, the truth is that most of us are gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn't pay. As Gillian Welch once sang. I am incredibly blessed to have the means and circumstance to live my dreams, undeferred. I'm in music for the passion, the exhilaration, the product. Not product simply in the commercial sense, but as a tangible thing...a song that someone can listen to on a bus, staring out the window, feeling something primal and true. I'm in it for the intangible experience of seeing live shows, connecting essential dots in your soul. I'm lucky. Realizing the dream has taught me the art of gratitude. I mean, I live in a moldy apartment with rats in the walls in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and it's perfect for me. I've surrounded myself with people I love, admire and respect, and I want for literally nothing in this world. I'm happy. And I've tried to learn not to throw temper tantrums when trivial things upset me. It's a lesson that would've been nice to see lived out on that field in Arizona. I'll end with a photo of the garlic beds we put into the planting strip in front of the apartment last year, around the time the NFL season was starting. There's a lesson in there somewhere if you look, something about tenacity, survival, hope, and growth.