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Go Ahead: Quit Your Day Job Part 4 by Alex Walsh

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stars in my eyesRead previous installments:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

By the fall of ‘92 my solo career hadn’t taken off as fast as I wanted it too. I’d had some success, played lots of gigs and even had a featured interview and concert appearance on community radio, but having to get a day job again was very disheartening. I had tasted freedom and I liked it.

But I had to eat. And pay the rent.

greenpeaceThe problem was there was a recession on and getting a job was not as easy as it used to be. My go to coffee job wasn’t hiring so I went back to canvassing (fundraising door to door) for Greenpeace part-time. I had been a successful canvasser for a year and a half and always knew I could go back to it. But this time around my heart wasn’t in it, plus it was much harder during a recession.

Musically I was restless. I knew I wanted some sort of band but had no idea how to put one together. I tried auditioning a flute player and a guitar player but soon realized I did not have the musical chops to communicate with them. Luckily a percussionist moved into my apartment. I knew how to play with a drummer! We started jamming and eventually played gigs together. It worked out so well that one night we met a studio owner who was in town for an audio convention. We ended up palling around with him for the weekend and he invited us to come record in his studio for free. Wow! The only problem was he lived in Atlanta.

sgt pepperBut going to Atlanta was an adventure, right? For the next two months I scrimped and saved for an airline ticket. I had visions of going there and recording and making the next Sgt. Pepper’s and getting a record deal.

So I kept canvassing and then we went to Atlanta. It was a fun weekend and his studio was the real deal. It was even more real when he informed me that I would have to pay for the reel of 2” magnetic tape, an $80 expense that I hadn’t accounted for. The result was a pristinely recorded 6 song demo of me playing guitar, harmonica, and singing, and the percussion player slamming away on his djembe. It was kind of disappointing—we flew all the way to Atlanta for this? But at least it had given us some focus.

djembeWhen I got back from Atlanta I returned to working downtown in a coffee shop, which was now hiring. My next mission was to upgrade my living arrangements. I had been living out of a walk-in closet for the past 8 months and it was starting to get to me. The percussionist wanted to move too so we got an amazing two bedroom on top of Bernal Heights with a killer view of Twin Peaks. The percussionist was actually a software guy and didn’t mind paying most of the rent. My rent actually doubled ($250), but I thought it was worth it because the place was so nice. The only problem was it was at the top of a huge hill with no bus service and I did not have a car. My commute was problematic to say the least.

twin peaks viewI continued working and trying to do music. As a duo we played on the street, had a couple regular gigs and even landed a spot playing live on the radio. We tried auditioning bass players but it didn’t work out. For a couple months I slept in the living room because a friend needed a place to put all of his recording equipment. He said he would produce one of my songs if he could keep his stuff set up in my bedroom. I jumped at the chance. He produced a club version of one of my songs with me singing—complete with midi horns and sampled acoustic guitar. At night when he wasn’t there I would mess around with his equipment but I didn’t know what to do. He had an Atari computer I didn’t know how to work and DAT machine with some effects. I basically put reverb and delay on a few things.

dat tapeBy the end of spring I decided to go back to school. I rationalized that it would help my songwriting and maybe help me get a job if I had a degree. I applied to a local private university and was amazed to get in.

When I started school I quit my café job and did work-study at the school. I moved off of the big hill into the Mission near campus and tried my best to adjust to my new life. I was depressed about my music career. Nothing had worked out.

The school did have a small music program. And there were musicians there. It wasn’t long before I had stars in my eyes again and was uttering the most hopeful words, “Hey, want to start a band?”


To Be Continued…