I am one of very, very blessed freelance musicians, and maybe due to the successful images being delivered in concert situation and social media, it surprises people when I talk about that I go through self-doubt, anxiety, exhaustion, periodic depression, and at times also economic shortages. I do not belong to the category of imaginary musical elite, “who should be free of those problems” or “should just be happy." I don't think they exist.
I am 35 years old, and I have never had any other jobs than being a musician (ok, I have tried to be a cleaning lady in DK when I was 23 but got fired on the same day I started the job, enough said). In one of the post-concert low days last week I had the thought that I should start selling clothes instead, having been an expert in buying second hand gold in Ebay, charity shops, flea markets, and vintage stores for almost a decade.
Even though the thought of doing something else than a musician disappeared completely after a good night sleep, I think it was a symptom that somewhere in me was exhausted, because the performing life itself is such a direct manifestation of Life: it is fleeting, insecure, mysterious, and paradoxical.
A freelance musician doesn't need to pay for a horoscope expert to know the "curve" of each year. It is reflected directly by the amount of calls, concerts, and answered/ unanswered emails.
Being a musician or any field of performing artist itself is such a deeply satisfying yet schizophrenic life, that one needs a certain kind of extreme personality, strength, sensitivity, maturity, health, and obsessive passion, to handle the strenuous yet joyous work. One must be able to handle some kinds of curious force swinging both the body and soul between super-human, human, and zombie, from one polarity to another. This curious force seems to have its life and rhythm.
Here are some universal examples:
1) Before a challenging concert: Pre-concert anxiety, self-crippling doubts coexisting with hopeful, almost cheesy imagination of success, coexisting with the strong wish to cancel the concert and flee.
2) Pre-concert paranoia and about physical pain from over-practicing or practicing "wrong", which results that a large sum of salary earned by literally thousand hours of preparation per year goes to a couple hours of physical therapist per year.
3) But when the spotlight is on, the person on stage is supported by a mysterious force and suddenly aligned with Life. All the previous worries, pain, and thoughts to escape seems irrelevant and even unnecessary. A moment of super-human.
4) The post-concert exhilaration, joy, followed by drinking and socialising, followed by a depression, then followed by a few more schizophrenic days/weeks, depends on the dosage of the adrenaline used/misused.
5) Or: If the concert goes badly: months of self-crippling criticism, regret for weeks/months/years/life-time, depends on how bad the concert went.
6) Or: if there is a longer tour or travelling between countries, one is a zombie during the awake time, until the moment on the stage. After the tour is over one visits a physical therapist and/or becomes an anti-environmental consumer.
7) Periodic inertia for administrative work, answering sms and emails, making the tax and accountancy, and writing proposals and funding applications, coexisting with the paradoxical anger toward those who do not answer emails and sms immediately.
8) The artist's "otherworldly" relationship between money and time vs. the worldly hour-rate: Those who decided to be a musicians already had a premature transcendence about proportional relationship between time and money and often gets a bit personal or confused when the rest of the world charges them by the hour-rate.
9) When handling the fee: recurring regret for not asking for 3 times more of the fee.
10) Regardless of the above, one still gets so happy to get a new concert and looks forward to going on the stage again.
Am I missing something?
Your unprofessional philosopher