[Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new monthly column from veteran punk Brad Logan of Leftover Crack, Rats in the Wall and the Adolescents about surviving day to day between tours as a working musician.]
On May 18, 2017 Chris Cornell was found dead from an apparent suicide hours after a nearly sold-out performance at Detroit’s Fox Theater. He was in the prime of his career, 52 years old, with a long and impressive legacy to look back on. 52–that’s my age. I don’t remember what I was doing on that date. But it’s safe to say I was probably looking for work between tours. That’s what I do, much as I have done for most of the past 20 or so years that I’ve been a professional working musician.
When I say “professional” I mean for the past couple decades I’ve toured the world countless times, played on stages in front of thousands of people, made records for labels I only ever dreamed of recording for and for the most part met every musician I’ve ever looked up to. Professional by some standards, certainly by my own. Still at the end of the day I don’t make enough money to live off the music, and unlike most people with 20 year careers I am in a perpetual state of starting over. Usually at the bottom.
I didn’t know Chris Cornell but I was a fan. And I surely didn’t know his reasons for pulling the plug on his own life. But I am no stranger to long-term clinical depression, drug addiction and alcoholism in my own life. Hell, I don’t even need to know his reasons to understand why. I have been at the brink many, many, times. Life’s a bitch simply put, and if a guy like Chris or any other seemingly successful icon who has done the same, feeling that doom was the answer to life’s questions. I had to wonder what it was that kept me going. And why? I know I’m not alone. There are many people in my line of work in this same spot. What keeps them going? Pushing forward. Continuing to create in the face of the shit-storm-life-blizzard that continues to pelt them.
Such is why I’ve chosen to write this column. Being a working artist is not an easy road. In fact, I would advise against it. You’re better off sticking with your day job, breeding, buying your piece of dirt and dying a happy death. I know everybody looks great and rich and famous and happy on IG, FB, Twitter or whatever the fuck, but that’s more often than not total fantasy. Over time the victories and successes become the little things; the completed piece, an idea clicking, getting what’s in your head into your hands. And it usually takes every piece of your soul to get there. And only really makes sense to those who have NOWHERE ELSE TO GO.
So I wanted to dig deep to analyze the what, where, when and why of an artist’s survival. What musicians and artists are doing to keep the lights on while they work away obsessively on their chosen craft. It’s been said the life chooses us, we don’t choose the life. I already know self-destruction. And examples are well documented for those that don’t. What I’m not as familiar with, is the other side of that coin. Life and the will to carry on against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
As for myself? It’s been mostly a stream of music related jobs. At least In the beginning. Venues, record labels, record distributors, booking agents and tours as a tech for other bands. None of which came easy. Lots of slammed doors, un-answered emails, Un-answered phone messages, on seemingly endless loop. And when I was fortunate enough to land a gig, it was all about working my ass of like my life depended on it. Because it did.