There are those in this world who fear change, who would rather set roots and live day-by-day in stability, settling down, raising a family–you know, the American dream–yet on the other side of the coin, mass a demographic who choose to embrace a more nomadic lifestyle; those yearning for changes in scenery, adventure, and stories to pass on to generations following…the life of a traveler, and for this musician, it’s the only way to live.
Since the dawn of our species, homosapiens have survived by traveling from one home to another, in search of food, shelter, and other resources; the nomadic tribes. While groups throughout history have chosen to set roots and build what would later become cities, nations, and empires, others have continued moving to new locations, in search of what lies beyond the next horizon. Either route you take could yield positive results, depending on what your ambitions are; however, if one has no such moxie, both roads may lead to unwanted outcomes. There are those who know from the get-go which path they will take, while others–like myself–need to explore each avenue for a time, decide which would be a better fit for them. For me, as a musician, it took a simple leap of faith.
In the summer of 2017, after 12 years attending classes on-and-off, I had finally attained my bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University, double-majoring in Business Management & Entrepreneurship, along with a Journalism minor. During those 12 years, I had struggled with re-aclimating with the civilian world after six years in the U.S. Army…and I was failing. Following a massive change in my daily life–structure & support–as well as a divorce at the time of coming home, I still challenged the notion of setting roots, being responsible, buy a house; I tried “adulting,” yet as time progressed, anywhere outside of my hometown seemed more enticing.
I got my first taste of post-military travel in 2012, when I dropped everything and drove from Spokane Washington, to Nashville, Tennessee, in hopes of making a name for myself in music. The drive itself was exhilarating, it was on my terms, my timeline, my dollar. Any traveling I’ve done in the past was normally family trips, or under orders…this time was different, I was in control of my life, and where it was going.
Unfortunately for me, Nashville didn’t turn out to be the big ascension to fame as I had hoped for. I had managed to land a spot playing drums for three bands, neither of which were paying at the time, and after burning through all of my savings, and relying too much on family to help keep me afloat, I made the decision to return home, selling my little Chevy pickup to afford the plane ticket, with nothing but a backpack to take with me; it was a major defeat in my mind, and–at the time–I had believed more that my path was that of the settler.
Returning home to Washington was bitter-sweet, while I had missed my friends and family, it felt as if I had failed–not as a musician, getting into bands went better than I had originally planned–more so as an adult in general; I couldn’t bring in a solid income. It was then I had decided to focus on getting a job and supporting myself, yet I still yearned for the thrill of performing on stage.
My parents got me my first set of drums when I turned 11, a blue Tama Swing Star, the very same set used when playing my very first rock show, the first time rocking on a big stage, going all the way with me to Nashville. Parting ways with something so sentimental to me–while moving back to Washington–was devastating, without my drums, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
Fast forward about six months, to the birth of my band, AARDVARK…
During the summer of 2012 I still had been missing a full set of drums, and my temper was becoming worse; turns out that hitting drums really hard for an extended amount of time is an incredible stress reliever, as well as an amazing cardio workout. Staying at home, attempting to set roots was losing its appeal to me exponentially as the days droned on, and I realized that something needed to change, I needed music back in my life. At the time, my brother–an incredible guitarist–had been showing me some riffs he had been tinkering with for a while…and then it dawned on me, I may not have my drums here, but I know some guitar, a little bass, and I’ve even done some singing at the karaoke bar, maybe there was a way.
Going from the back of the stage to the front (lead vocals) was a major change, bringing a new perspective on the life of a musician; moreover, it brought back something I had been missing for quite some time…passion. February, 2013, brought me my first opportunity to sing on stage. It was terrifying, yet I loved every single moment. I was able to be myself–no chains, no restrictions, unhinged–for [what seemed to be] the first time in my life.
A month later, we were booked to play The Knitting Factory, where many of the national touring acts come to perform; the main stage.
For me to say that I was nervous would be a monumental understatement; one of my favorite bands of all time performed on the very same stage I was stepping onto just a few days prior, this was no joke. The lights went down, the crowd began to cheer, and I was forever addicted to the rush of the stage. It was from that night I had decided where
I wanted my life to go…the stage was calling me.
Two years into AARDVARK’s adventure, we had come out with our very own album, we had played a fair amount of shows, attempting to build a fan base, and even did some traveling. With all the ups came some downs, and after a lot of stressful debates and auditions, we entered 2016 with a new lineup, introducing a new frontman, and allowing me to a.) get a new drum set, and b.) return to my roots as the band’s “new” drummer. The new lineup brought new opportunities for writing, for stage performance, and for travel, and we hit all three as hard as we could.
While most of my time and energy was focused on music, I was also focused on finishing my degree, to which I had been meddling with off-and-on for the better part of a decade…it wasn’t until after the lineup change–hearing bros tell me that their passion for music was all but gone, and that they were looking for an out–that I had made education a priority, choosing the business route, learning how to run my own business(es), answering to nobody but myself. After my time in the military, the jobs I had worked after, having my life & its choices essentially being made by those appointed over me, enough was enough, each step from here on out would be toward forging my own path; yes, I may stumble, or even find myself under someone else’s thumb for a short time, but the endgame will remain the same…my life, my rules.
The spring of 2017 brought a great deal of stress, as finals were drawing near, as were the final shows/days of AARDVARK, and I knew that changes were about to occur…the question was…would I avoid them, and settle with a job and a stable life, or embrace change, meeting it head on?
The Adventure Begins…
Thus began my journey as a traveler, as I embarked (along with Joanna Joy) on The Odyssey Of Awesome, driving from one end of the country to the other, exploring, meeting new people, and learning more about what life has to offer.
The Odyssey began late June of 2017, as I boarded a plane bound for Phoenix, Arizona, where I would meet up with Joanna, and from there hit the road, traveling up the Pacific coast, then exploring the Inland Northwest, to the Rocky Mountain states, heading East toward the Atlantic. During our travels, we encountered incredible sights, people, and experiences many people wait a lifetime for; the giant Redwoods of California, the red rocks of Utah, the snow-capped Rocky Mountains (Colorado), the lights & sounds of the Big Easy (New Orleans, LA), music city (Nashville) and its incredible nightlife, all the way to swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.
I was hooked, the life of the explorer had taken hold of me…yet it wasn’t enough…
It wasn’t until the end of September, 2017, that we finally returned home to Washington, ending our Odyssey Of Awesome, and I needed to take a good look at myself; is this really what I wanted to do with my life? Was it wise to blindly go where I’d never been? How could I make it even more beneficial and memorable? All legitimate questions shuffling through my mind at the time, along with the biggest of all: “How in the Hell am I going to fund this?!?”
The oilfield was calling…
…CONTINUED IN “THE TRAVELER, PART II.”