Editor’s Note: Out of Los Angeles, California, Tiny Stills is bringing back that feeling that we all got when we listened to 1990’s/early 2000’s pop-rock. That feeling where one can roll down the windows, let the wind blow in their hair, and just not have a care in the world as they are heading on a journey to a destination that they have never been before. Tiny Stills recently released a music video for “When I’m With You”, which you can check out after Kailynn’s edition of The Musician’s Tribune: The Times I Quit Music. In the meantime, fans can check out Tiny Stills at the following locations:
I pour my life, time, money and heart into music. I forfeit celebrating anniversaries and birthdays with loved ones so I can tour. I give up a lot of things to be a musician, but this is about the times I gave up on music itself.
My first instrument was the Saxophone, because Lisa Simpson played one. I thought she was so cool, and so smart, and I wanted to be like her so I picked up the sax. Until I met my teacher, who we’ll call Mr. Burns.
My central PA elementary school was a meat locker. It had cinderblock walls that had been painted over with a goopy mucous paint that must’ve tripled its insular freezer wall capabilities. In my childhood brain, Mr. Burns was a huge, scaly man with a glass eye that scared the shit out of me every time I went to my private lessons. He couldn’t explain what 8th notes were, so when I didn’t understand what he meant, he’d raise his voice in frustration. I was terrified of him, and of playing the wrong thing. I wasn’t the only person he freaked out. My classmate Brian had lessons around the same time that I did, and we both decided to quit on the same day with a whispered “I wont go if you wont…” With a silent nod of agreement, we decided music just wasn’t for us.
Mr. Burns showed up at our classroom door to confront us about our absences. He called us into the hallway and our classmates leaked that notorious collective ‘OoOoooohh’ that happens when you get called into the principals office. I wanted to die. Music filled me with dread, all because of a man who couldn’t explain 8th notes.
That was the first time I quit.
But music came back for me. My sister gave me her old guitar for Christmas. It was a birthday gift from her old boyfriend, information that remains duct taped to the back of it to this day. I didn’t know it then, but this guitar was going to change my life forever. I was going to become an engineer because of this guitar, and later run into aforementioned ex boyfriend who we’ll call “Dilly”. He was also an engineer, and by way of mutual acquaintances I would find out about rude comments he’d made about my sister, to which I’d like to respond on this blog: “Dilly, so sorry you’re so sad with your life, but thanks for the guitar you weenie.”
Anyway. I loved it. I learned Green Day. I learned Blink 182. And when I couldn’t play other people’s songs, I did what all young musicians should do- I wrote my own. I tuned the guitar to an open D tuning (with a high E string) and wrote most of my first EP with that tuning. I loved that stupid guitar. I loved it so much that I took three lessons every week, one from a classical guitarist and one from a lap steel country guitarist, and one from a folk/songwriter. I had a violin maker repair that piece of crap when the neck almost snapped off- and I think the repair cost more than the guitar itself. I played it at The Hard Bean coffeeshop in Hershey every week at the open mic night. I organized benefit shows and regular shows. I wanted to share my joy with the world.
Enter shitty high school boyfriend #1. Let’s call him Weenus because it seems fitting. Weenus played music too, so naturally I wanted to play music with Weenus. He was a grade older than me, he wore dickies (SWOON, right?) and I thought the world of him. I wanted so badly to play with Weenus that I even learned Pink Floyd (even though I never really liked Pink Floyd) and showed him how to play the other parts. He didn’t take to it, and after practicing, he told me I wasn’t very good at it either. He also said girl fronted bands weren’t as good as boy fronted bands, so I was out of luck there, too.
I was a sensitive, young, impressionable teen, and My FiRsT tRuE LoVe was telling me that I wasn’t good at something? That I wasn’t cool? I was heartbroken. I really liked it, but maybe he was right. I trusted his opinion- I loved him.. So I quit.
Then, as teens do, we broke up a year or so later. Not only did I start playing again, but I learned how to spite-play. (Also something I recommend to all musicians.) I cut my hair short because he told me not to. I played guitar because he told me not to. I played in two bands. Then three. Everything I did now became about proving him wrong. It wasn’t until years into my young adult life that I realized how completely dumb and manipulative he was. The dude used to sell porno mags in paper bags to other guys in high school because the internet was still slow then. I’ll give it to you, Weenus- you were an enterprising dude. Good luck trying to raise your daughters. For their sake I hope they never run into someone like you.
I still think about quitting- probably every day. I look at my friends who have normal jobs and retirement funds and paid vacations and manicures (something that makes no sense for a guitarist to have) and I wonder what that life is like. I carry a piece of Mr. Burns and Weenus with me still (weirdest sentence I ever wrote.) Sometimes the bad days bring them out, but I’ve gotten good at ignoring them. Every now and then I get to do great things because of music- like play sold out shows (2015) or write the walk on music for Bon Jovi’s tours (2013). Sometimes I play in dirty bars to crowds of 5 people and a tip jar (weekly). I get to travel and see the world, and most importantly I get to share my passions with other people. Every now and then I meet someone who tells me that my music has helped them get through some hard times, and I remember an Emerson quote that I always loved: “..To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived- This is to have succeeded!” and I forget the times that I quit, and remember why I keep going.