Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Living the Dream

Last night I dreamt I wrote this blog post. 

I awoke from a dream where I survived a firing squad. A group of us were in a parking garage that opened to an adjacent alley. We all had guns (in my dreams, we always have guns) but we knew we were no match for the turrets on the trucks coming down the alley. The trucks drove up and aimed their guns at us, and at the last second I dove behind a pillar which shielded the machine gun fire. Everyone was slaughtered, shot to death, except for me. My heart raced as I stood still behind the pillar, a few seconds of silence passed. Did they see me? I held my breath until finally I heard the vehicles drive away. Then I woke up.

I love dreams because they are sometimes so analogous to reality. I love to dissect their meaning. Yes, I am one of those people who believe that dreams can have meanings. This dream made me think.

A few years ago as our band was finally getting off the ground we were filled with extremely high hopes. There was quite a bit of hype, and we had set our goals far beyond what was average for most bands at the time. I remember having dreams back then, flying dreams. I would be on a hill and the wind would pick up, and I would run with it and jump, hover, and slowly take flight. I would sore into the air with my dad and my brothers below me, yelling after me. They would be angry and want me to come down, but I wouldn't. I think they were mad because my choice to drop out of school and be a musician was different than theirs, different from what was expected of me, and maybe they were jealous of my 'success' with it. Who knows, but those were fun dreams. The thing about those dreams is that they were spawned from high hopes and expectations. They weren't real. Our band never really flew. My life didn't take off like I expected it to.

Since then I've had plenty of dreams, some of them quite anxious. You know the ones where you're running from something, but you can't seem to run fast enough? Your legs feel sluggish and you cant escape. It takes everything for you to be able to put one foot in front of the other. You're desperate at first, and then you're stuck with the sinking feeling of complete dread. Or how about those angry dreams, where you're punching someone in the face, or shooting them, but nothing is happening. Their face bounces back like the head of a blow up doll and they're completely unfazed. 

When life is looking up, my dreams are like an action adventure movie and I am the star. In one dream I saved my wife from a T-Rex. I took it out with a pistol. No big deal. When my life is characterized by anxiety, I tend to have falling or running dreams.

This dream last night, however, left me with mixed emotions. It left me with a mix of anxiety and relief. Yeah, I just got shot at and everyone around me died, but I was grateful I was alive. I felt blessed. I didn't fly or save my wife from a vicious T-Rex, but I still felt a sense of peace and accomplishment. Thinking about it last night, the parallels of the dream with my life seemed pretty striking.

I do feel blessed to be alive. Our band has been through a lot of ups and downs, probably more downs than ups considering our expectations were much higher, but I've come to a point of acceptance with my life. I feel like we've turned a corner, survived the firing squad and will live to see another day. No I didn't kill a T-Rex or take off flying, making everyone who doubted me jealous, but I am completely at peace with that.

Living the dream is as much about the work as it is the reward. I set out after the reward and in the process, through the struggle, I found what the dream was really about. One cannot be fulfilled by receiving the reward of another mans work. You must live your own dreams, built on your own blood, sweat, and tears. Only then and by the grace of God does a sense of purpose and fulfillment arise. Hope in the lottery is hopelessness. There is no replacement for hard work.

I remember when Albatross didn't sell as many copies as expected. We'd drawn the wrong lottery number. I remember the hopelessness and the doubt. Will we be able to write anything like that again? From the depths of that struggle The Silver Cord was born, a record that communicates and articulates intense emotional stress and longing. I am extremely proud of it to this day. I sometimes wonder, "What if Albatross had met our expectations?" I think we would have tried to write it again, because 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' right? The Silver Cord would have never happened. Correspondingly, had we struck gold with The Silver Cord we might have chased that dark sound into the mathematical caverns of prog-rock and never surfaced, but we didn't. We went back to the drawing board and wrote Vagabonds, and I love it. If anything but this album was coming out next I feel like I would be disappointed. It is exactly where I want to be musically. Regardless of success, I feel like we've found our musical identity on this record. The funny thing is we recorded it in three weeks, nearly half the time it took to record our two previous full lengths. There was almost no stress in the process, it just came natural. We weren't trying to chase some commercial success of the past (there is none) and we weren't worried about creating any in the future. We were making music for musics' sake. We finally stopped caring about the nonsense that is our industry. 

And then suddenly, I have peace.

I live the dream everyday. Not the dream I set out of live seven years ago, the one with delusions of grandeur, but the one I probably should have dreamt about in the first place. It's taken me several years and a lot of heartache to get here, but let me tell you I am loving it.

Yes, I still live month to month, and occasionally I'll have a pang of worry about my future, but my life right now feels incredibly blessed. Either that or my perspective changed, or I've learned to love the right things, or both. I don't worry nearly as much, and I've settled with the fact that my minimalist lifestyle is so much more of a blessing than it is a hardship. I want to have integrity and make music for musics sake, regardless of potential profits or marketability. Of course it would be nice if the mass audience appreciated our musical integrity and decided to become fans of our band, but if they never do there will be no harm done. We already have an audience, a really appreciative one, and for that I am thankful.


  1. This is a hard blog to read. I've said this before in comments but it really sucks that something so near... (excuse my word choice)perfection wouldn't *succeed.* It's so incredibly frustrating that people wouldn't GET the music you guys make. But even so, suffering->character->perseverance->hope, right? It comes off considerably more selfish for a *fan* to say it, but I wouldn't change it if I could, either...
    But I am so glad you're 'at peace' despite the lack of "success." It's really cool that you would be thankful, regardless. (We are certainly appreciative.)

    I look forward to hearing Vagabonds with incredible anticipation, and curiosity, and more than anything, excitement- if hopelessness and doubt produced The Silver Cord, I can't imagine what would be made from the kind of thoughts we've read in this blog since then.


  2. Ooo Vagabonds, can't wait.

    You have a very appreciative audience! And it's not just your music; it's you. You seem so much more real than other artists I listen to and love. I feel like there is such a soul behind the words, the vocals, and the instrumentals in TCC's music. Thanks for your authenticity, again.

  3. This is good to hear, Matt. I think that is the reason why so many 'popular' bands have sophomore slump, while many other bands get better and better with each record. They aren't chasing after the success of the last record, they are just writing out their hearts. And really, that is the best music.

  4. Thank you so much for being real in your music, and for writing for music's sake. Thank you for not trying to cater to what you think will get you "success." I play in an orchestra, where many people will measure success by how good the orchestra is or how far up you sit, which I guess is kind of like a band measuring their success by how many records they've sold or how many fans they have on Facebook. But I've learned that true success is measured by you. To be successful (please excuse me for using word so much) is to be satisfied, to love what you're doing. I don't sit first chair in my section, but I get to live my dream every time i pick up my instrument and play it. That's success. It doesn't require a person to be the absolute best by the world's standards.
    I am incredibly excited for Vagabonds. I know that its going to be fantastic, because I'm sure that you wrote things that are true to your emotion. Your entire audience is going to appreciate this one :)

  5. I am the same as you, i like to be there and then analyze my dream to see if it ever does have an effect on my daily activities. but it usually does not. anyways, i can not even express how excited i am for vagabonds. it will be amazing i am sure. anyone who records an album with no click track or anything, is immediately awesome. you all have a definite God given talent. you sound great on the last transmission song for moneta, i hope that i hear that at the show next friday.


    then come to the line before doors and pick out the worst ones and then do something like the couch at the acoustic show. that would be so cool. can not wait for the show on the 18th.

    God Bless Everyone.

  6. Hey Matt.

    I'm a 17 year old freshman in college and I first heard The Classic Crime a couple of years ago, and automatically knew that I had struck gold. I remember sending you a message through the band's myspace thanking you for writing the music that you did. It's always been an incredible inspirationg to me, a "semi-musician". I'm a music minor at the University of Mobile, and I know that music is NOT my calling, but I know that Music is a part of my life, and your music shows how much music can affect one's soul, both playing and listening. So, really look at how you measure success, Matt. In my book, you're more successfull than any other band out there, because you write music that isn't only fun to listen to, but I'd describe it as "life-giving". Thanks for doing what you do, and as long as you're doing it, I'll be listening.


  7. Matt,

    I can't express how much your music has meant to me the past few years of my life. On the subject of dreams, thats how i discovered TCC. I had a dream that i had a "albatross" sweatband.. haha. After looking into the band, I am incredibly happy i did. I also really respect you as a musician and a person. These blogs give me and other fans a peek into your personal life and motivations. I'm starting to think God plays a much more active role in my life than i realize. Thanks for the inspirational music. Even if you never become a platinum selling artist/band just know that you have made a difference in my life. For the better. Thank you for everything you do.

  8. This is exactly what I needed to hear today.
    Thank you.