When I was asked to write about my experience of being in a locally successful band while still in college, it definitely made me feel pretty old. It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, and the idea of writing something about this topic reminded me of just how important it was to have been in and around college while my band was getting its footing.
When the band was starting out, and most of us were still enrolled at MTSU, I felt a definite struggle in terms of where to put my energy. I was the dreamer of the band. I found it incredibly hard to focus on school or work because of how much I was putting into the band mentally and emotionally. In fact, I didn’t last in school largely because of this. Being a songwriter and musician was all I wanted to do, and sadly, songwriting was not a subject that anyone was allowed to major in. By the time the band was at its most successful, the bassist and I had quit school, our guitarist had graduated, and our drummer was wrapping up his degree. However, all during the existence of the band, our proximity and connection to the school made for easy promotion and fantastic networking. We’d make appearances on the radio station (where three of us had radio shows at one time or another), we’d use sidewalk chalk to create massive murals to promote shows, the college newspaper did numerous stories about us and we frequented the coffeehouses and bars and places where everyone hung out. After a while, people eventually knew who we were.
It certainly became more difficult for us after college. After our drummer graduated, his dedication to his education and career path led him straight into a solid internship. I had just started working a really flexible $8/hour part-time job in preparation for the moment that we’d all be done with school, so we could pursue a more rigorous touring schedule. I think the individual band members each had very different visions of what our future would be like after college, and I’d say mine was definitely the most ambitious. But in the end, the years when at least one of us was in college represented our peak years as a band, and were some of the best times of my life. But when it was all said and done, once college was out of the picture, so too quickly was the band.
I still play music as a solo artist. And to this day, I can’t drum up nearly as much attention for my music with social media as we could with simply flyering and sidewalk-chalking the campuses of MTSU & Vanderbilt. That environment and age group are so inherently interested in music and ripe for growing a new local band. If you’re in college and thinking about starting a band, do it right now. I’m definitely going to risk sounding old here, but just be smart enough to balance your emotions and vision with your success in school. You don’t want to be the guy who ends up with the $8/hour job while your buddies are jumping into lucrative careers. Or, as an alternative (as I wish I would have done), you can also decide to be at peace with a scaled-back lifestyle and a small paycheck in exchange for flexibility and the ability to pursue your dream, during AND after you graduate. Whatever you do, do what makes you feel good, even if it’s not that career in rocket science your parents sent you to school for.
Aaron Robinson is a singer/songwriter based in Nashville, TN. Aaron spent much of the early 2000’s fronting the successful Nashville indie-pop band Imaginary Baseball League. Since their demise in 2005, he has released two recordings, 2008’s full-length debut “We Are Racing Ghosts“, and 2011’s “A Dying Art” EP. He is currently writing and demoing songs for his next full-length album, to be recorded (tentatively) in the Spring of 2012. One demo, the song “The Good You Gave Me” is already available for download, along with the rest of Aaron’s material here.