Redefining the Dream

All my life, I wanted to be a rockstar.

And this was far before I started playing music, or even before I started listening to music seriously. Something about making music appealed to me, and I wanted to be famous for it.

So when I graduated from college, I took the natural next step: I moved to Chicago to work on my music career.

My days were spent playing in subway stations, emailing label representatives, calling venues, and recording my debut album in my apartment.

But after a few months, I hated it.

I started to resent the very thing I had always wanted. I had to force myself to open up GarageBand each day, or else I’d just waste all day scrolling through ICanHazCheeseburger (oh, 2009).

Meanwhile, some artistic friends (including Patrick, hi Patrick!) back in my hometown of South Bend, IN started talking. They saw the potential for a thriving arts and music scene—if people just dug deep and planted the roots for it.

With all the growing disillusionment and disappointment in the industry, the prospect of helping build a musical community was immediately enticing. I packed my things and headed back.

That was nine years ago, and while it’s taken a few years for that vision to be realized, today, South Bend has a vibrant creative community. While there were two or three places for even acoustic music nine years ago, today there are nearly a dozen venues that host full band performances on the regular, with more popping up all the time.

And in the midst of this musical community, I’ve found satisfaction. I may never have fans clamoring over each other to buy my beanie, but I’m following my muses as far as they will take me. My main band even released a vinyl record a couple years ago.

I’m also hosting shows in my home, MCing an Open Mic at a local café, and helping to facilitate local and regional music festivals.

While this might not look a whole lot like what I meant when I said I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up. But if I’m totally honest, I think I’d much rather be where I am, investing in the local scene and supporting (and being supported by) my fellow artists.

And as far as I’m concerned, that’s living the dream.

–nathaniel.