The Moment I Knew I Wanted To Make Music: The Dream Eaters

by - January 30, 2024

Photo courtesy of Steven Fugitt

People should tell you how hard it is. Someone should. Then you would have a better idea of whether you REALLY want to accept a life of frustration and rejection and become one who makes music. You probably won't listen anyway. My father tried to tell me how hard it was. He just simply did the math for me. He said, "Let's just say you're the best guitarist in Norwood." That's Norwood, Mass., a suburb south of Boston, my hometown, and, as a matter of fact, I was not the best guitarist there. Even as an egomaniacal 13-year-old I knew that. It was a town that put a lot of emphasis on music. The high school had a national champion marching band and a national champion jazz band. And there were a ton of good guitar players. Dad said, "Even if you ARE the best guitarist in town, there's a lot of towns in this country, in this world." The point didn't really get through to me, although the fact that I remember it must mean it had SOME kind of impact.

The "moment I knew" I wanted to play music was not one moment, but a progression occurring through many moments. I think it probably is for most artists. Things don't happen in art as quickly and neatly as they seem to in the public imagination, in the Hollywood biopic. That moment in movies about Elton John, Elvis, Hendrix, whoever, when the as yet unknown rock star walks out onto the stage, and no one in the audience knows who they are. The mic feeds back, the mic ALWAYS feeds back, and at first it doesn't look like it's going to go well. Maybe they say something to which the only reply from the audience is silence. But then they compose themselves and start ROCKIN' OUT and by the end of the song the audience is losing their minds and singing along to a song they've never heard before. It doesn't happen like that. Obviously different people have different experiences. I have no doubt that Elton John was absolutely enthralling when he first played in Hollywood in August of 1970. But there was about 10 years of struggle and frustration and rejection and hard work before that that made that moment possible.

So it wasn't one moment for me. It wasn't like I heard David Bowie and I was like, "Well that's it, I'm going to make music", and then I went to the store and bought a guitar instantly knowing I wanted to dedicate my life to it. The seed had certainly been planted well before I actually made the decision to learn to play the guitar. I was probably 10 when the seed was planted, maybe younger. When you're 10 your whole life is ahead of you. You can still theoretically be anything. One day I wanted to make movies. The next day I wanted to be a basketball player. Later that week I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. The Eddie Van Halen seed started to grow and take over, until it started to, maybe a couple years later, fully consume me. And the sum of all those moments had come to bloom, and now I found that I was a musician. Which is great and wonderful and really one of the best things to be, and also terrible and gut-wrenching and filled with all-consuming non-stop frustration.

No one really said to me, "Listen, even if you end up being really good, it doesn't mean you're going to be successful, and you're going to fail over and over again, and that's really going to suck but it will still be wonderful, but, still, it will suck." I think I still would have chosen it. It would have been nice to know, but I still would have chosen it.

- Jake Zavracky, The Dream Eaters

You May Also Like