I saw a tweet from Ari’s Take the other day that really grabbed my attention. (A little background; Ari’s Take is a website that offers a lot of helpful business tips and info for musicians.) This statement about supporting your local music community resonated deeply with me.
I’m from Indiana, and I grew up playing Bluegrass, Gospel, and Blues music in Indiana and Ohio. I’ve been thinking a lot about how great our local music community is, but I believe one graphic does a pretty good job of illustrating it.
That is the music lineup for part of just ONE DAY at the Metamora Music Festival. My friend Cheri put it together, because there are so many venues hosting music in a town of under 200 people that you need a spreadsheet to keep track. I’ve been playing in Metamora for ten years now, and I’ve met some of my best friends, colleagues, and business partners through music events there.
Metamora is special. But around here, that type of music community is more widespread than you’d think. A big time example is the Baker Park bluegrass jam in New Castle, Indiana. It’s been happening on Monday nights during the summer for decades. I’ve been going for about 11 years, myself. I wouldn’t be the musician I am today without the folks out at Baker Park. It’s where I learned the ropes of playing with others, and it’s such a staple that it caught the attention of an Indy TV station, Fox 59. Check out the video, and watch for a cameo from a 15 year old me. (Which my 15 year old self was way too eager to point out via subtitles. Ah, youth.)
Fast forward a few years later, to age 18. I had a job working at Walmart in the same town, New Castle, because I lacked the confidence to make the jump and start pursuing a music career in earnest. Almost every day, someone from Baker Park would recognize me, come up to me, and say some variation of the following: “What are you doing here, boy? You should be out playing that guitar, not working here!” Eventually, I listened to them.
Everything good in my career has come from the local music community, from Metamora to New Castle to Beavercreek to Richmond to Muncie to Cincinnati. My family, the other musicians, the music lovers, the venue owners…they are the reason I’ve been able to go out and tour all over the world. They’ve opened up doors for me in previously unimaginable places. They are the reason I’ve been able to make a great living in music for more than six years now. I can’t even begin to COUNT the number of people who have supported me over the years!
There is a mindset that often infiltrates the thinking of musicians, an idea that you have to go somewhere “better” to succeed. Nashville, Austin, etc. I used to think that way, too. It took some growing up to see what was right in front of me, but now, I appreciate it for what it is. A treasure.
This community is the reason I’m able to say that I’m buying a house here in Eastern Indiana. The closing is next week. I’ll always tour, whether in Germany, Canada, or Colorado, but I want my home to be right here in this community. I’m excited to continue being a part of it for years to come. To everyone who’s made this such a great place to grow up as a musician, and given me a chance to make a living doing what I love, thank you.
Metamora Music Festival. Top: age 18. Bottom L-R, age 19 w/Dean Phelps and Ted Yoder, age 15, age 17.