Enlarge the Circle: How One Thing Leads to Another

A few months back, a drummer friend and I were talking about how it feels like we're constantly hustling. Always on the lookout for the next money gig, it can become easy to get tunnel vision and forget why we started playing music in the first place, before it became a way to make a living.

We decided it was time to stop complaining and get together just to play free. No tunes, no gig, no recording, no plan, just show up and blow. We called up a bass player who was like-minded and scheduled some time.

On our inaugural session, we showed up to the drummer's rehearsal space only to find out that one of the guys he shares it with was using it. While standing in the hallway figuring out what we were going to do, a producer my friend knows who rents space in the same building came through. He very generously offered to let us use his rehearsal room.

"Great!" I thought.

But he also wanted to play us some tracks of a singer he was producing and writing with.

"Not great!" I thought.

The truth is I just wanted to stick to the original plan, to play and then get out of there. The angel on my shoulder though reminded me he was being generous by letting us use his space. What the hell, I decided to humor him for a little and listen to those tracks.

It turned out the singer he was working with sounded fantastic and the songs had real promise. He asked us if we were interested in backing her up for some gigs. We talked it over and thought sure, why not?

Our first rehearsal with her went really well. In addition to the three of us original guys, the producer brought in a keyboard player who is a producer in his own right. A very nice guy and good player who I ended up hitting it off with.

Woody Allen
Three weeks later, the keyboard player/producer called me out of the blue asking if I'd like to do some recording work. Paid recording work.

This reminds me of a saying attributed to Woody Allen: 80% of success is showing up.

What started as a desire to play creatively with no thought of money and no plan ended up only a few weeks later netting me some really great paid recording work.

Talking about it later with my drummer friend, I was saying that all this came about because contrary to my initial impulses which were to just get the hell out of there, I was open to playing with and meeting new people—I jokingly referred to it as "enlarging the circle."

Though this seems like a no-brainer, I realized that like me, many musicians I know tend to stick with the same few people they know and play with, resistant to new situations.

I don't have a tremendous amount of wisdom to drop here other than the obvious. Had we just shown up and played free, that would have been completely satisfying in and of itself. However the fact that we were able to do that and I was able to get some great extra work out of it is a testament to keeping your mind open to new situations and new people.

Enlarge the circle.

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