By Gary Sohmers, 2017 copyright, All Rights Reserved
Chapter One – Introduction To A New Reality
“Overnight sensation” can be a term often used, and mostly misused, to describe the instant attention an artist receives when a mass of people suddenly discover or admire a piece of the entire body of work. Success can be calculated by the amount of money in a bank account, the amount of physical goods you have, the number of people who cater to your needs and the line of people who want to use you for your influence. Not too many real overnight successes, but many hard-working dedicated people can have success.
Having desired to succeed in the music business for many years, and beginning to feel like there will never be that achievement as defined by modern society, I continue to write, perform, communicate and share. The chemical reaction within my body to the appreciation gained from those who do care gives me strength, and more ideas. During my relatively short existence, hundreds of poems and songs have flowed from me onto paper and into the computer. At times I would be a volcanic fountain of thought and words.
As far as the business goes, instant fame can also often lead to instant forgetabillity. The biz can be unforgiving, and nostalgia can be fleeting. During my time on the road to my misguided definition of success, I had sacrificed many things and people, learning lessons and aggregating a core universe of true friends. I for them and they for me. They were my band and crew, they were my brothers and sisters, they were my family. So any success was a group success, a group progression, a group creation, and definitely not overnight by any means.
Growing up on the classics of music, we all had common loves for Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, John Lennon and Pete Townshend. We all were comfortable taking musical risks, playing what we wanted and felt, along with getting by on the money that we generated, recording and performing original material we enjoyed. The business of music was controlled by money and influence, so the success by definition was not going to happen for us on this path.
Gigs are gigs, audiences are audiences, and crowds are crowds. To analyze any show as more important than another would be to diminish a small enthusiastic group over a large disaffected one. Songs are songs, until they are embraced by masses of people who had never heard of you before, and the next thing you know everyone is singing your lyrics, dancing to your melody and embracing your messages.
I’ve seen it happen to many in my past, a one hit wonder, a catchy ditty that everyone loves, rises to the top of the charts, sells more product than the artist had ever previously and the elation and adoration is poured out by the spending public. That confirms that someone’s definition of success can be achieved. The responsibility to one’s own art, one’s fan base, one’s future work and legacy of past efforts that had gone unnoticed. It must be difficult to a person’s psyche to have it all.
Having written most of my songs during emotional crisis times in my life, I never expected to ever win the money game with my whining about love lost, depression, hopes and dreams. But it did not stop me from writing, sometimes not even understanding where these words were coming from. Often in my favorite rhyming pattern that stayed with me from childhood, the ease at which all Dr. Seuss stories read, the rhythm of his word use, the alliteration and invention of new words.
My songs came first as words, poetry with a beat. The music came to me afterwards. I was always lucky to find great collaborators and musicians who enjoyed my lyrics, music and the way I did business for the band. I became a leader by default because I was willing to be, and in return my songs began to become the predominant material in our sets and recordings. No one challenged that action, as it happened in an organic manner, with everyone contributing their best assets to the group sound.
Since I was the business guy and the front guy in the ensemble, it fell upon me to make sure this was not a hobby, as we had all committed to stay with it and keep at it. The business is really just that, a business. All businesses have rules, levels of order and hierarchy. The amount of time spent “learning the ropes” and “paying the dues” are not just catch phrases when it comes to the music biz.
Everyone in show biz has long memories, so kindness, like currency, can sometimes pay great rewards. Time spent to make solid human connections is equal to talent and business development.
So we finally found a good manager, who connected us with a decent booking agent, who worked with all promoters and producers to keep the band working and progressing. They all seemed to like our music and the crowds we were bringing in. All we needed last year was to record a great new record and there was a chance that a new level of success may be attained. As a team we could succeed.
And today was kind of a special day, a free concert in Central Park in New York City for what are expected to be a few thousand people. Maybe our largest crowd, by far our largest in New York City to date. The business guys put it together, and we were all thrilled at the prospect. Maybe this could be considered the success management wanted, or salesmen wanted, but to me the success was giving our message to that many open minds interested in what we say and play.
The band was anchored by my two long time friends, truly brothers of the musical note. We seem to be able to read each other’s minds when performing. Bill on keyboards and saxophone orchestrates my songs, which makes us all sound so professional live and on vinyl. When the song works, the audiences definitely react positively.
Lead guitarist Vibe and I have known each other for a very long time. Being the first person to ever play guitar on any of my songs, he always accepted my minor talent next to his studied expertise, and brought credibility to me around other musicians with his belief in my material and abilities. He played, I wrote words and sang.
Since I was named after my eastern European grandmother’s long deceased brother, some considered it unpronounceable starting with a “vuh” sound, to the point Vibe decided to just call me Voice.
I was so lucky to have these people in my life. The band was rounded out with Sid on drums and Radar on bass, both somehow psychically connected to Vibe, Bill and I to naturally understand the changes, moods and flow of my songs. The five of us have had some really good times, some equally difficult times and brilliant learning times through our commaradere and commitment to each other and the music to get to where we are today.
But it all goes back to a year earlier, when in a state of severe depression, I gathered poems and unrecorded songs from my past, with several new pieces written to explain my current mindset aggregated into a new release. Thanks to the band’s musical brilliance, being able to record it live in studio, the recording was financially successful by the terms respected by the business people.
So it appears that now, since we have achieved the level they wanted us to attain, and profits were coming in, they supported our desire to give back to our fans with this free event. There was money, so we felt we could produce with the musical quality our fans deserved.
It was a beautiful day and I was surrounded by friends.