For those who haven't known this about me, I am a rockstar. Not a former one--nor a particularly famous one--but a rockstar nonetheless. Now, I don't call myself a rockstar out of arrogance, nor to imply anything tremendous about it. It's just one of the many things I have chosen to be...and so I am. And so are YOU, dear reader, if you choose to be one too. It really is your choice.
There was a time in my life when I was much more literally a rockstar in the sense I believe most define the term. I spent many years of my life both on stages and in studios--both writing and performing. Some of the things I have done are fantastic, and some are horrendous...and I cherish them all just the same. I regret nothing. All things I have done to this point are a part of me, and never would I want any of them to go away from my life's story. Some are more personal and autobiographical, and others were simply for the sake of fooling about and enjoying moments.
So what about that parent thing? Yes, that is something else I chose to be, while also a tremendous gift I was given--twice over. And I will get to that, but I was a rockstar long before I considered the prospect of fatherhood, so I will begin there.
My first several times on stage were very scary. Contrary to what many believe, I have never been musically inclined by nature, nor have I been naturally outgoing. Tempo has never been my friend, and I used to be quite shy and insecure by nature. I overcame both of these weaknesses gradually over time by way of hard work, determination, and by confronting my fears directly. I threw myself onto the stage (after lots and lots of practice!), and committed myself to being vulnerable in front of random groups of people I mostly didn't know. It didn't take long, of course, to realize that though most audiences tend to overwhelmingly support and root for you (even during your most disastrous shows), there are always going to be hecklers and just jackasses in general, who seemingly enjoy nothing more in life than watching others feel bad about themselves. I came to understand more and more with each performance, that both, those that loved your show--AND those that hated it--were essential. The ones that complimented you were a warm blanket that would put you at ease, and let you know it's pretty cool just being yourself. The jackasses & hecklers were always the greatest motivators, though. They were like the pistons of a raging hot rod engine. They would drive you to work harder and harder, so that, in the end, THEY would look the fool rather than you. The two types of audience members together created a lovely recipe for me becoming ever better versions of myself over time. Fear fluttered away, eventually, and was replaced with self-confidence, and even a bit of swagger from time to time. And though I got much better musically over time, I still ran up against a lot of limitations. See, this all became too ego-driven (the quest for the ultimate coolness, you know, lol). I was always trying to shred a little faster, sing a little higher, and be just a little cooler. In a word, I entered a place where I was trying too hard for the wrong reasons.
And then, in 2005, fatherhood entered my life, and my life was never the same again. I played my last stage show New Year's Eve, just a few weeks before my son would be born. This was my own decision: I wanted to be a father rather than a rockstar. At that stage in my life, I believed the two to be mutually exclusive. And so I retired from rockstardom, for what I believed would be forever. So little I knew back then!
In 2006 I became a father again, when my daughter was born. These were, of course, very busy times in my life. Between working full time, and caring for the two most beautiful little pieces of me, making music was pushed aside to the point where it became even less than an afterthought. And I was truly happy and grateful for this. Strangely enough, many of my experiences with fatherhood seemed very much to parallel my experiences with rockstardom (I didn't realize this at the time, of course). There was initially a lot of fear and insecurity within myself when it came to being responsible for the raising of the two most magical beings my personal world had ever known. It was like another musical tour, but this time I was the only one in the band, and my precious children were the only audience. There were no warm blankets, nor hot rod engine pistons to push me along. But there was something else...something much, much better! Pure, unconditional love. And a whole new recipe: 1 part obligation, sifted into 9 parts of joyfully joyful Love...and a pinch or two of unbridled silliness, for silliness' sake alone. I was becoming cool again, but in a different sort of way: I was becoming "Dad-cool!" My ego still poked its head out once in a while to take a look around, but then it would scurry back down into its cage, perhaps recognizing it wasn't needed just then. These were beautiful times in my life, indeed!
I even became so dad-cool after a couple years of this, that I made a subtle and unplanned return to music: plucking around on my acoustic guitars, and learning to sing softly rather than higher. And for no other reason than just cuz. Cuz it was fun, spontaneous, and silly, and my kids loved it. When they were old enough to start speaking in full sentences, they would ask me to come and play them to sleep at night sometimes, and they always wanted me to play my guitar for them while they were taking their baths. I started writing some silly educational songs too, for them. I remember doing an ABC song performed like KISS' "Lick It Up" (except much, much gentler), and another finger-style ABC song on my Spanish guitar. Sadly, I never recorded any of these songs, and I have no idea now how I played them. Remember, I had no intention of doing anything with music at this point, I was just enjoying spontaneous moments with my children. I DO have one song I ended up recording when my daughter was 3. I was so super inspired when she came into my room one morning and woke me up, saying "Dada, dada, come see!" I followed her into their room and she led me to their window. She pulled up the blinds and said, "Dada, guess what?! There were clouds, but I said to the sun, 'Sun, wake up!' And it did! See?!!" And I did see, indeed...there was the beautiful sun, shining down on my precious daughter and I. And so I wrote and recorded my song "Three" that night after the kids went to bed. I still had no intentions of becoming a rockstar again, though, at that point. But that desire would return not many years after that. In retrospect, that may have been the moment I realized being a father wasn't mutually exclusive to being a rockstar, but I'm not really sure.
Ultimately, my desire to be a rockstar once again returned as my kids were getting ready to enter elementary school. It was an ego-based decision, of course, but hey. I'm just my imperfect self, you know, lol. I considered that it was inevitable they would be having a parents' day in the classroom at some point, and truth be told, I didn't want to tell my children's classmates that I was a pizza delivery driver. I wanted more for them. So I got this crazy idea, "Hey, we have the internet now, and I have the recording equipment! I could be a rockstar again...right from my own bedroom! That way, when I go to their classroom I can tell the students I'm a professional musician instead of a pizza dude. Yes! Perfect!" And so another "tour" began, so to speak.
I began really dedicating myself to this task, much like I had way back when I had first started playing live shows with my band. The fire inside me had been completely re-ignited. And, though my intentions were still impure and ego-driven, they were centered around my children rather than myself this time around, so it was a higher purpose for myself than previously it had been. That's a sort of progress, right, albeit imperfect? I started rehearsing and writing songs on my acoustic guitars while my kids bathed, then I would write lyrics and melody in my car while I was delivering pizza, and I would record tracks late at night after the kids went to bed. My skills as a musician suddenly flourished in every way, and my creative flow was as though someone had opened up a fire hydrant. I got better and better, and even got myself registered with ASCAP as both a songwriter and a publisher, so that I wouldn't be lying when I told my children's classmates I was a professional musician.
Another thing that was different this time around was that I realized my children would be hearing these songs someday...so of course I was much more careful in regards to the lyrical content of my songs. Sex, drugs, and rock n' roll lyrics just wouldn't do anymore. No, I would need some meaning and depth in these songs...even as a rockstar, I also was a father now, and of course it mattered immensely to me what sort of example I was setting for my own children. I suppose by then I had finally realized the two aspects of myself weren't mutually exclusive. I've always been a late-bloomer, lol. My songs got better and better, for so many reasons--all centered around my kids. I aimed to make a good song rather than to show people how cool or talented I was. I had matured, and so had my music. I became the greatest rockstar I had ever been, and accomplished things I never could have as the cocksure punk of my youth.
As a result of all these things together, I reached a personal pinnacle...one I will forever be proud of and grateful for. In the interests of honesty and integrity, I must admit that the cocksure punk of my youth still lives on inside me...and he always will. And I'm okay with that. We have made peace with one another. Also, I should confess that I like to let him out of his cage once in a while. Just not in front of my kids. Thank goodness for Twitter!!! And thank God always for my beautiful, amazing, and magical children. I know we're supposed to Love all people equally, but I will always love you two more and better than anyone else on this planet. Thank you for never giving me a bad time for being the only dad at your school that wore makeup and nail polish.
And thank you, dear reader, for sticking with me on this fabulous journey! I love you too!