Monday Motivation: Garbage

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

Chasing a career in music is something I set my sights on at a very early age. My parents were both big music buffs in their own right, and some of my earliest memories involve the three of us traveling all over Northwest Ohio to see a wide variety of acts. By the time I reached elementary school I had already begun learning at the school of rock and roll with a double major in third wave ska and a minor in alternative Christian folk music. The kids I met in my day to day classes knew little of the bands I already swore by, and that trend continue right on through high school. Part of this was probably due to the fact we didn’t have immediate access to the internet, so the act of music discovery required far more patience and time spent listening to radio, but I like to think it was also due to the fact that I spent every moment of time I could find with my ear glued to whatever music I could get my hands on. I devoured everything, from Styx to Big Tent Revival, and I made sure to ask questions (far more than my parents could answer) to better understand what it was that I liked so much about the sounds I heard.

When I reached my teens years I started to recognize just how different my views on and tastes in music were from the majority of my peers. Where other kids had devoted countless hours to making the track team or watching cartoons, I had been sitting in front of our aging stereo with my ears (sometimes literally) pressed to the speakers. Music had become my life before I knew such a thing was even possible, and when I was asked in my first year of high school what it was I wanted to do with my adult years I could think of nothing outside the entertainment industry to name. Music was the only destination that ever made sense, and I worked every day from that point forward to make that dream a reality.

The funny thing about chasing a career in music, especially in this millennium, is that it can be incredibly hard to know when you’ve quote/unquote ‘made it.’ Anyone can start or band, manage a band, book DIY shows, or launch a music blog, but only a select few can find a way to use those paths to establish a lasting presence in the music industry at large. Of those that do manage to navigate the treacherous waters of the entertainment business and secure paid work, far less feel secure in the positions they’ve earned. We all know there are hundreds, if not thousands of aspiring industry professionals working every day to get a job just like ours, and with that knowledge comes a sense that we are all easily replaceable. There will always be another self-proclaimed marketing guru willing to work for pennies in exchange for a place in the music business, just like there will always be more bands, more managers, more publicists, and more producers. The quality of their work will vary, of course, but if one person doesn’t fit the needs of the business you can rest assured another will.

My journey in music started when I was just fifteen years old. I booked and promoted shows for a local venue in between writing, recording, and performing with an acoustic project all my own. Most gigs came with a door charge of $5, and I thought I had made it anytime more than 20 people showed up to an event because that meant we made at least $100. When I reached college I gave up my own musical pursuits and took up writing, which lead to the launch of my own music blog. That site would later sell to a major media group before I had even graduated, and as a result of the deal I was able to get a handful of interviews at major independent labels and music tech startups. I had a few gigs, but nothing felt permanent until I landed the job I have now at Haulix in 2013, which was essentially one full decade removed from the days of playing guitar for my friends in coffee shops.

What I’m trying to say is that I spent a decade more or less being a music professional before I felt I could even tell people I worked in music, and even then I was lying awake in bed at night wondering if I would be able to keep the dream alive for another week. Even now, at twenty-eight years of age, I still worry about what I will be doing to make ends meet in the years to come. It’s not that my job isn’t secure, because it most certainly is, but it’s the fact I spent so many years fighting for every single step I took on the journey to get to this place that I fear I still  haven’t reached my professional destination. There will always be another job on the horizon, and there will be stiff competition for any role I choose to pursue beyond the position I currently hold at Haulix. There is also no guarantee Haulix lasts another five or ten years. I believe it will, and our clients are as loyal today as they have ever been, but still something in my gut tells me I need to be prepared for the day when I find myself back at square one.

It may sound obvious to some of you reading this now, but it took years for me to realize that I could find the strength to continue fighting for my place in music by listening to my artistic peers. The bands I grew up listening to were very much growing up themselves, and their anthems of chasing dreams fueled my every move. I’ve been in music long enough now to have seen many of those dream chasers give up their passion and pursue other, more reliable paths, which in turn has only added to my own dread over what the future may hold. What I had to realize for myself was that those artists who manage to make their time in this industry extend beyond two or three releases are often fearing the same downfall into obscurity that keeps me awake, and that fear often fuels their material. They might not write anthems laying this out in a direct sense, but if you listen closely to the music of artists with more than a decade of experience under their belt their is a sense that they know they have to leave it all on every recording because they know they might not have another record. Where some career fields award longevity with higher pay and bigger rewards, music often works in the opposite way, with decreased sales and decreased interest in new ideas. The trick to surviving this changing of the tide is to learn that what matters most is how you feel about what you’re doing. If you believe in you, then you’re doing what you need to do, and the public can react however they want.

Enter Garbage. I knew of Garbage when I was just starting my journey in music, but I honestly didn’t realize how big of a role they would play in my life until their new record, Strange Little Birds, was announced in the fall of 2015. Here is a band that many may say peaked in the late 1990s still finding a way to chase their dreams and share their view on the world in 2016. It would be very easy for a band like Garbage to tour off the hits of yesteryear, but instead the band is forging ahead with new material, new ideas, and a palpable passion for their craft that can reignite the fire within any dreamer. Strange Little Birds may not be the best rock record of the year, but it’s a strong contender for that title, and it has more heart than any other mainstream rock release of 2016. We’ve been jamming the record here at Haulix HQ for weeks as we prepare the biggest update in our company’s history, and when our patience is wearing thin it’s the vocals of Shirley Manson that empower us to push onward. We’ve been wanting to thank the band for giving us this strength for what feels like months, and the best way we can think to do that is to tell others of the strength we have found.

If you are struggling with your place in life, or if you feel like you may never be who you know you are capable of being, make time for Strange Little Birds when it arrives in stores this Friday and see if it doesn’t make a difference. Garbage are one of the best bands of the last thirty years, and the reason they continue to hold that title is entirely owed to their perseverance in the face of a culture that says aging talent is not as important or good as young blood. That belief is a lie, and sometimes we all need to be reminded of that.

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.