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"Uncaged" and a Life in Music

Its been awhile since Ive blogged.  I guess Ive been busy with things.  Ive definitely been inspired to write.  I just havent brought my fingers to the board to lay it down.  Life is very good overall.  ZBBs new album Uncaged is due out July 10th, the childrens book I wrote recently, called Amy Giggles- Laugh Out Loud, is doing very well, and The Troubadour fedora hats I did with hat company, Peter Grimm, is about to have another 100 something hats made.  Sweet.
Speaking of ZBBs new album Uncaged, I got to listen to basically the finished album in its entirety a few times over the weekend.  Its always hard for me to put the pieces together when listening to a finished album that I was a part of writing and playing.  There are so many memories wrapped up in each note and each song that its hard not to constantly flash back to what made that musical event happen while listening. Id love to be able to listen to one of our albums, or see us play live, as just a listener. Seeing as thats impossible, I wont spend too much time on that.  Im super excited for the world to hear this new creation.  The week that we put aside on the calendar to arrange Uncaged might be the most creative few days of my life.  Its crazy to think that you could be that excited to create music with guys that you live with and are around constantly, but it happened.  Ive never been around that much musical mojo flying freely.  You can definitely hear it in the album.  Im so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful group and I cant believe where my life is today.  I live a life of creating, sharing music with wonderful musicians that I love like family, and spreading a message through music that life is yours to live wide open and do it your way with love.
Speaking of a life in music, I get asked a lot if I can give people advice on a career in music.  Most of the time its either a musician, or a family member of a musician, asking what advice I can give to help.  Im usually more than happy to help.  My opinion of this issue is very honest and maybe not so pretty at times. There is an idea that at some point in your career you make it.  I understand the theory of making it.  I dont exactly think that its the best way to look at it.  Sometimes hindsight is 20/20 though.
I was hanging at Northside Tavern, a blues bar in Atlanta, listening to a band called King Johnson.  This is a band that Oliver Wood was in for years.  Oliver Wood is now a member of The Wood Brothers on Southern Ground Records.  Oliver has been a hero of mine for quite sometime.  I cant speak highly enough about Oliver Wood as a person and a musician.  This was the night that Oliver found out that his brother and he had just been signed to Blue Note Records.  Blue Note is an iconic American record label.  So much amazing music has come from Blue Note Records.  Oliver Wood, my buddy, was just signed to Blue Note.  I was just ecstatic for my friend.  At the time, I wanted to be recognized in the world of music so bad that I never slept.  I went out and played every night.  I spent all day studying music and would have sacrificed anything to make it. Oliver took a break from playing that night and walked outside.  I went up to him and said Wow, man Im so excited for you. Congrats man, you made it.  He had kind of a less than excited look in his eyes and said, Thanks man. He seemed to not really want to talk about it and seemed a little overwhelmed at the response from everyone concerning his accomplishment.  I didnt understand at all.  But Oliver is such a cool cat that I thought it was his way of being humble. Oliver is very humble man by the way.
Years later, the Zac Brown Band won a GRAMMY for Best New Artist.  My life was instantly changed it seemed like.  People came up to me and said, Congrats man.  You made it.  I had Olivers Blue Note face as a response to everyone.  I thought that I needed to be so much better of a musician and still do.  I was and am very thankful for the honor of getting such a prestigious award.  Once the dust settled a week or so later from the winning the GRAMMY, I had a total AH HA moment.  I now knew what that look on Olivers face was about.  I dont know if you ever make it.  I could totally relate to Oliver in the way that its not about being connected to a record label or an award.  Its about being creative and having a life in music.
People ask me what can I do to make it in music.  My reply is one of two things.  If you feel like you have no other option in life but to follow your musical path, then do it. If you are talented and focus all your energy on becoming better and furthering your career and never give up, something will happen.  Im not sure what will happen, but it is guaranteed that you will do more than if you didnt do all that. Frankly, that is what it takes to make it.  Its a grind though.  Its a life of little money, not a lot of sleep and not a lot of security or comfort.  In my eyes, life is so short that Id rather take my chances with risking everything for something that I believe in than playing it safe. Because, before you know, it will all be gone any way.  But you play music for a living, you live a simple life of creativity and you share that with the world and that is a wonderful life give or take the luxuries that come along with it.
The other advice I give is having music in your life to any degree is a wonderful thing.  If you have any doubt in your mind that music might not be your path, then your best bet is to focus whatever energy you have left over, after your days at work are done, on music. Having a band that plays every once in a while and spending your past time writing songs, or learning how to play, or sing, is a wonderful life.  I think that American Idol and other television shows like that are good for the music industry.  They bring light to talent, which in my opinion is always good.  But they also give a sense of false hope to the viewers.  That somehow or another someone is going to find you and after that you will have made it.
Ive learned along the way that life skills might be the most important factor at being successful at anything.  So many musicians or creative people I know cant seem to put the pieces together because they seem to get in their own way, or they often implode at key moments.  There are a lot of things that can cause this.  One is their up bringing.  Im very lucky to have to very solid parents that built a house of love and have always shown me nothing but love and support.  Without that, I dont think I could handle all the ins and outs that come along with such a crazy life like I have.  Most of the time creative people can be emotional.  Being able to connect with your emotions and understand how they affect you and everyone else around you is pretty crucial to success in any area of life.  The one other thing that comes to mind is work ethic.  You have to have a rock solid work ethic to survive in music and to further your career in any area.
Im not really sure why I decided to write about this other than the fact that someone asked me this question the other day, and Ive had it on my mind ever since.  Ultimately, its about life.  Having a life in music is beautiful.  Id have it no other way.  Luckily I was surrounded by love as a child, and then surrounded by wonderful caring musicians who showed me that its about making music instead of making it.  Playing music at the level that ZBB is at now is all Ive ever wanted to do.  It was, and is, my goal in life. If this had never happened, I can speak for everyone in the band and say that we all would be playing music still.
I hope this inspires those of you who are questioning whether or not you should follow your musical path and gives you the strength to keep going, or to hunker down and make things happen.  I hope that it comforts those of you who play music on the weekends and after work.  Having music in your life is a beautiful thing and its yours and yours alone. No one can ever take that away from you.
Coy Bowles

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