Tryna Be A Rock Star, Part I – LIVIN

Dispatches from the front lines of the music industry.

I figured all you non-music folk out there might be interested to see what this life has been like before I go off and do other things. Beginning with a bit of background on how I got here: 

So you’re facing down your senior year of college and staring towards the void of post-graduation real life, wondering “what am I going to DO???”

Naturally, you decide to spurn your degree and pursue music.

“But where?” you wonder. Through a rather arbitrary decision process, you choose a city hundreds of miles away from everyone you’ve ever known because it’s cheap and has a reputation for live music.

Now you gotta find a place to live in that place you wanna live. ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY AND SUPREMELY USEFUL AND OCCASIONALLY SERENDIPITOUS CRAIGSLIST. You begin to worry that you haven’t been checking often enough for housing opportunities and you might have missed the ideal one. Most postings in your price range of less than $500/month for a rented room are hard to decipher from afar, with just a photo and a curt description…

But after a few weeks of checking daily, finally! You find a posting worth contacting! Of note: you are not yet anywhere near this city in which you will live. But this posting is cheap and says it will be a house of musicians! Huzzah! You can live with people your age who can introduce you to the music scene! You won’t have to take the extra room of some empty nesters who work all day! You don’t have to consider living with the hippie who has a kid and some very particular demands and who reposts almost daily!

You skype with these musician folk. They’re using a real real estate agent. It seems like if it were a scam, it would be an overly elaborate way of just getting a couple hundo from you. You cross your fingers and sign the lease before you’ve even packed the van.

After a few days of cross-country drivin, you arrive. It checks out. They are real people. There’s really a house. It’s raining as you pull up. Apparently it hasn’t rained in months. It won’t rain again for months. There is a band practice shaking the walls as you start carting your stuff to the room they have saved for you. Feels like you’ll fit in well enough.

Enough of using the second-person voice.

But that’s roughly how I got here.

Now, here is what here is:

It’s a large one-story house with five bedrooms plus a closet-room that we are also renting out. I share the main bathroom with three other people. The rest of the house is one verrry large space divided into a carpeted living room and a tiled kitchen-slash-dining-room area. One of my housemates went to town decorating before I even arrived, so there are large tapestries on some walls and posters on others. Everywhere you turn some other rock god is glaring at you. Pink Floyd wishes you were here while you do the dishes.

We keep carpets and couches in the dining room area because the living room is too full of instruments. Currently there are: at least four guitar amps, a serious mixing board, half a drum set, two electric organs, a cello, a couple PA cabinets, several guitars and pedals… That is in addition to two closets full of gear, plus all the stuff in our rooms. Musicmusicmusic.

The house is I think at least twenty years old, judging partly by the fact that the ground has started shifting beneath it. Some doors no longer align with their jambs and my room slopes slightly. Several gutters have fallen off the roof. The little wooden gazebo roof on the deck out back fell apart a couple months ago after a few hard rains egged on the rotting process. The exterior walls are brick, the interior walls are plaster painted a light brown in a weird spray pattern that looks sort of like orange puke under certain lighting conditions.

The house is about 10 minutes east of Austin, technically in Manor (pronounced “may-nor”, don’t ask why), on a country road where the houses all have big yards and at least a couple people have goats and chickens. But right around the corner is a big subdivision where every house is identical and where the streets wind around every which way and you get lost when you bike through. The general area is still pretty spread out and empty – a large tech company found the space nearby to build a sprawling campus. Plus the dump is down the street. Sometimes when the wind is right, you can smell it in our yard…

Our property is long and narrow and a little less than two acres. When I arrived, it was a parched brown field weathering day after day of 100+ degree heat. After some rain, suddenly it all was green green green. Our landlords mow it for us, but they don’t do it very often, so it gets a bit wild. One of my housemates tilled the dried-up patch of vegetable garden in our backyard and planted a ton of seeds, but through some miscommunication the landlord re-plowed it. I think at least some carrots survived. There are a couple sheds – one with a bunch of unused lumber, the other with an old washer and a bunch of paint cans. The back of the property is a barbed-wire fence in front of a bunch of bushes. We have a two-car garage we use for storage and weightlifting. If you park under certain trees in the summer, your car won’t be an oven when you get in, but your windshield will be covered in bird shit. A tricky tradeoff actually.

For the first month I lived here, we hadn’t set up our trash service, so we would pile up trash bags in the sun room. Raccoons came in a couple times and made a mess of all the trash. It was incredibly foul and a huge relief to finally get them all taken away. A bit eye-opening though to see how fast garbage can accumulate…

One housemate has a cute calico cat called Caligula (Callie for short) but everyone just calls it “KITTIE!” It lives outdoors, but it was never taken to get spayed so right now it lives in a closet with its five incredibly cute kittens.

There is a spice factory next door. At least, we think it’s a spice factory: it smells quite fragrant when their doors are open and a breeze blows our way, but a car with “Playboy” painted on it in large letters is often parked outside…

My housemates range from ~19-28 years old. Nobody is a morning person. If you’re up before noon, you’re up early. I’m the only person who doesn’t smoke cigarettes, but thankfully everyone smokes outdoors (and each of them, at one point or another, have maintained that they were quitting). Nobody does enough dishes. The bathroom always needs to be cleaned. But everyone buys their own food, and for the most part leaves everyone else’s alone. Except that somebody will drink your beer. Always.

All in all, it’s about what you would expect from seven twenty-something musicians living together. The house is big enough that we aren’t getting in the way of each other too much. I generally don’t drum before 2 or 3, because somebody is probably sleeping. But you can usually make noise until about 1AM before someone will complain. Our landlord’s are happy enough with us that they are apparently willing to re-lease, but I won’t be here for the second year.

To conclude, here is a financial illustration of my life these days:

Weekly groceries: $30-$35
Earnings for playing the organ at a church on sunday: 1 service – $150, two services ~ $200
A full tank of gas: ~$65
Rent+bills (depending on which month it was): $320-$400
Baldwin HT2R 1967 electric organ bought from a church in Dallas and found off of Craigslist: $280
The first two beers when You’re In The Band: $0

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