The other evening, my buddy Woodtick and I were drinking a beer behind the Park Theatre, waiting to see the Fred Eaglesmith Travelling Show. The Ginn Sisters, from Texas, had just gone inside to start their set.
“Shit,” said Woodtick. “We better get inside.”
We slammed on the beer and turned to go in. We passed their trailer, with the Lone Star plates, and then passed a van with Ontario plates. Inside, a man was rustling up and out of a bed in the back. It was Fred Eaglesmith himself.
“Mr. Eaglesmith,” I said, extending my hand as we rounded the van, the side door of which was wide open. “Pleased to meet you.”
I engaged Eaglesmith in conversation as he pulled on his socks. I had him autograph a CD of his, and gave him an album of my own, introducing Woodtick as the producer and guitar player on the disc. We chatted briefly, and then we left him to his preparations.
As we turned to go, he looked at us and said, “Never quit, boys. Never quit.”
I pondered his words throughout the rest of the evening while sucking back cold beer in the hot theatre. Coming from a man who has had a thirty-year career of producing and playing his own music, the words rang true. The traveling musician’s life is far from glamorous. Driving daily, sleeping in the vehicles, in parking lots, on the go all the time is about as far removed from working a steady nine-to-five with a daily commute as possible. And yet it is a life that many yearn for, and that many attempt to live. Many, though, are unsuccessful and retreat, eventually, to the daily grind.
As Fred would have it, the only way to succeed in the music game is to stick to your guns and never surrender. The same could apply to the writer’s life. While the music industry is still reeling from the challenges of existing in a world where information is available for free on the Internet, print media is not far behind, as anyone studying, or even vaguely interested in, the written word could tell you.
Despite these challenges, the writer will continue to exist as people will always want to consume the written word — no matter what format it is distributed in. While still working the paper format, Winnipeg born “punk-author” Chris Walter has carved a niche market for himself, publishing over a dozen titles including two biographies of Canadian punk legends, Personality Crisis and Dayglo Abortions. The man is relentless, publishing a book about every year. And his books sell; I sell close to one of his titles a day at the shop I work at. While Walter is far from moving the numbers of a Dan Brown or even a Miriam Toews, he has made a career for himself doing something he loves. Just like Eaglesmith, Walter has stuck to his guns, and has never given up. How he deals with the impending changes in distribution is another topic for discussion, but based on his success so far, I’m sure he’ll survive.
The bottom line is that if you are going to be successful in what you do, you have to commit to it wholeheartedly. It is no cakewalk to success. If one wishes to be a successful singer or make a career out of writing words for other people to read or bake the best damn bread in town — whatever it is — you have to give it your all. Doing what you love may not be easy, but it is achievable. Get your fists up and go for it. Time’s a wasting.
Sheldon Birnie is the Comment Editor at the Manitoban.