Every now and again I get asked a question that I’ve never really thought about. This happened recently during an interview with a small music publication in reference to my sports background (I played lacrosse in college). They asked, “What did you learn from playing sports that you’ve carried over into the way you approach music?”. I thought it was such a great question and deserved to be explored further.
So now that I have this fancy little blog here, I decided to expand slightly on the topic and lay out some similarities and differences between my experience in athletics and the arts. When I was playing sports in college I used to consider myself less of an athlete and more of an athletic entertainer. I approached lacrosse with an artistic mind.
Lets start with similarities.
I spent hours upon hours each day of my childhood with a lacrosse stick. I was absolutely obsessed with it. I woke up thinking about lacrosse and went to bed playing in my mind. I don’t think there’s any secret to success. No matter what skill you’re looking to learn - the commitment level and time requirements remain the same. You just have to DO IT, over and over and over and over again. But here’s the critical second part of that…you have to WANT to do it. If you have to talk yourself into taking the time to practice, your journey to mastery is going to be a long struggle and quite frankly, not fun.
So this is certainly something that I’ve carried over into the way that I approach music. I’m obsessed with getting better and fully aware of how much time I need to dedicate to the craft. I know it takes laser focus. I have a difficult time walking past a guitar without picking it up and playing it. I WANT to play all the time and so I do. I know I have a long, long way to go but I view that as exciting more so than daunting.
When I was a kid I used to pretend I was Gary Gait (one of the best lacrosse players of all-time) in the backyard. I would practice his moves for literally years until it flowed naturally. Once I reached that point, then I could expand or alter the move to fit my style. It was this exercise that allowed me to develop a completely original style of playing that was unique to me. The same has been true for my musical journey thus far. If you listen to my earliest recordings you will hear me trying to be Dylan and Prine. However, I believe that’s just the way it goes for us humans. You find someone that moves you, that you consider to be a master at the craft you’re pursuing, and they seep into you whether you know it or not. But eventually you find yourself in there somewhere.
This one has more to do with playing in a band or just playing with other people. From my experience, a band is no different than a sports team. Every player has a position and a job they must complete to get the win. You’re all in it together and although you need to listen and be aware of what your bandmates are doing you can’t get caught up thinking about what they should be playing. You have to do your job to the best of your ability. In terms of sports, I never worried about what defense my team was running. That wasn’t my job. I never told our goalie how to make saves. That wasn’t my job. My job was to put the ball in the net, so I focused all of my energy on that. I have carried this over into my approach to music.
And now for the differences
You Just Need Luck
Since I started playing music professionally I’ve heard so many people say, “you just need some luck”, “you just need to be in the right place at the right time” “you should move to Nashville” or “you just need to catch a break”. I never heard that once while I was playing sports. No one ever said after a game, “Hey, did you ever think about moving to Baltimore? Lacrosse is really popular there and I’m sure if the right person saw you play you would catch a break.”
No Rules, No Scoreboard
There’s no scoreboard in music and no tangible way to measure your success. At the end of every sports game you can look up at the scoreboard, walk off the field and now immediately whether you won or lost. Every time I come off the stage I have no idea because people base wins and losses on their own personal taste. I could play the best set of my entire life and there will be a person in the back that just doesn’t care for folky songwriting, they like instrumental jam music for example. I honestly think this is what really drives me, its the unknown. It is a really beautiful thing about music, it is so individualistic and expressive of one’s self.
And lastly, Showering
I have never showered with my bandmates.
Whatever you do, do it with pure passion.