Musicians are some of the most glamorized people in society. Many big name stars have thousands of worshipping fans, lots of money, and travel all over the world, but where did they start? For some musicians it takes years to be discovered by a major record label and some never get the chance at all. Three things that many don't understand about musicians are: 1) the lifestyle that they have to live while trying to make it until that big record deal; 2) the sacrifices they make personally; and 3) what it really takes to be successful. Local Fort Wayne musicians, Carl Murray, Marcus Farr and Taylor Fredricks opened up about the struggles they have endured out of love for what they do.
Carl Murray, a retired musician from the Fort Wayne area, started playing the drums at age 12. He attended Northside High School (class of 1982) where he played in the Concert, Jazz II, and Wildsiders bands and was drum captain of the drumline his senior year in the marching band. Playing with other local musicians his age in high school, soon led Carl to discover that he wanted to make a career out of music. After 10 years in and out of bands traveling all over the Midwest and East Coast, having played all kinds of gigs while living the musician life, Carl realized that it's really not as glamorous as it is often made out to be. When asked to share his experience on the road he commented:
"When you're starting off, you're usually driving around in a bus or something. You have to take shifts to sleep, musicians don't get a lot of sleep when on the road, there's been many times I've had to sleep on a hardwood floor; you have to be adaptable. You don't get to shower either. You never know when you'll get your next meal, you can't always afford things like that."
Taylor Fredricks, a self-taught 22 year old Fort Wayne musician and fellow alumni of Northside (class of 2010), picked up the guitar at the age of 9 as a result of his father's influence and has been playing locally ever since. He says that even though he hasn't been on tour as of yet, he's ready for it.
"… knowing friends who have been on tour, yeah, it’s not going to be the most casual lifestyle. A lot of bands tour and eat unhealthily because it’s what’s cheap and affordable. You’ve got to make do with what you have, whether you have an RV or a soccer mom van like I do, you just gotta make it work."
Marcus Farr, another career musician since the age of 6, steered himself in a different direction than that of Carl or Taylor. Marcus decided that the road life wasn't for him. Instead, after graduating from Northside (class of 1996) where he played in the Concert, Jazz, and Wildsiders bands, he chose to obtain a formal education in music at IPFW and stayed closer to home playing many gigs that were around the Fort Wayne area. However, by having many friends in the music scene and seeing what they've gone through, he does agree that life on the road is a tough thing to do.
"It all depends on what type of gigs you get involved in. The longest I’ve been away from home for a gig is only four days, and I slept in a pretty decent hotel for those nights. A lot of times bands will take on any type of gig in order to get exposure and are willing to live 'rough' for a while. It's a great sacrifice."
Sacrifice is something that musicians have to adjust to rather quickly if they are serious about their music.
Throughout Carl's 25 year career he has experienced many personal sacrifices:
"One of the biggest sacrifices I made was time with my kids, I was always out gigging. Personal relationships like with family members, significant others, friendships, and even time with myself, all these relationships suffered because you're always around someone else when you're on the road."
Taylor, who has dealt with similar hardships, agrees:
"I have been in a relationship or two where my girlfriend at the time would make me choose between her or my music. Of course I told her she couldn’t compete with my music, and she gave that up real quick. But the point is, musicians give up personal relationships, time, money, and even other musical ventures to pursue one to make it as successful as possible."
Marcus too has had to make some difficult decisions for his music:
“I have quit jobs, good jobs, in order to make more time for gigs and practices. The immediate time after leaving a job was always rough but then eventually, I was able to find a job that would accommodate the time I needed to continue being a musician as well.”
Despite having to choose between their music and certain aspects of life, Carl, Taylor, and Marcus agree that making hard choices has its rewards. Feeling accomplished and successful whether they end up getting that big record deal or not, doing what they love and experiencing what life has to offer through their music is all worth it.
Carl put it like this, “In my experience, there’s three stages to being a musician. In your 20’s when you’re just starting out, you have stars in your eyes you’re going to be this big rock star, then you get to your 30’s and you’re considered a back up and you get to play for some famous people or someone who is going to be famous, then you get to be my age and you do it because you love it and you want to just hang out with your friends and jam. If you really love what you’re doing, then it’s not a job. That’s success.”
In Taylor’s opinion, “I’ve built a following and made a name for myself in Fort Wayne and have made great connections to help me further my music career. I also want to tour, get signed to a good label that will help me out, and just be successful in that sense. I want to experience what I haven’t experienced musically yet: that’s what makes it worth it.”
For Marcus, “I have been in groups that have opened up for huge acts, including Blood Sweat & Tears as well as Babyface. When someone recognizes you’re a musician and puts you on a stage with groups like those, it’s very special.”
In order to be a successful musician, one must have certain characteristics to further themselves and their career. They can be summed up in three D's: desire, determination, and discipline. The advice that Carl, Marcus, and Taylor offer to the young aspiring musicians out there demonstrates these qualities.
“Don’t be afraid to take chances. Write songs that are bad, that’s how you get better at what you do. If you have a dream, stick to it, you’re going to have a lot of heartache and you need to know that up front. Also, know your limits. If you can’t handle the life of a musician you’re going to see yourself on a shooting star to nowhere. You have to really want it.” – Carl Murray
“Work hard and don’t give up. No matter how hard things can get, don’t let anyone or anything bring you down or tell you that you can’t do it. Make those words give you strength.” – Taylor Fredricks
“Don’t get discouraged, keep doing it. Not every musician makes it big right away. And play as many small gigs as you can … birthday parties, coffee shops, etc.” – Marcus Farr
In short, being a musician doesn’t mean that you have to become this bigger than life celebrity with a major record deal and live like a rock star. Being a musician means being passionate about what you do and reflecting that passion to those around you whether you’re playing a gig in front of hundreds of people or even just yourself.
Though Carl has retired from the music scene, he still plays his emerald green Premier set on occasion with friends or whenever the mood strikes. You can also see him back at his roots on the asphalt with the Northside drum line this summer giving the gift of music to the next generation.
Marcus Farr will be on the asphalt at Northside as well. He assists the band director, Mr. Edward King II, in instructing the marching band. Aside from teaching Marcus also plays in a few bands around Fort Wayne: The Freak Brothers, New Millenium Jazz Orchestra, and is also the director of IPFW’s pep band.
Taylor Fredricks can be seen around town with his two current bands, The Victim the Witness, a solo project of his, and Tracing Oceans. He will be playing at his next live event at Wooden Nickel on June 27 in The Victim, the Witness.