There's this movie called Mr. Holland's Opus about the life of an orchestra teacher named Glenn Holland. Late in the movie he explains to someone that he got into teaching so that he would have time to write and become a full-time composer, but in the end, teaching required so much time and dedication that he never pursued writing as he intended. The catch is that he might have been a better composer because of it. I see so many parallels in that story to my musical journey over the past 8 years. So let's get to that.
I started playing piano when I was 4 and cello when I was 10. I got a job making pizzas to purchase my first guitar when I was 16 (although in truth, I had been playing for a couple years by tinkering with friend's guitars and trying to figure out how to not play them upright like a cello). I started singing in my first bands around that time and two years later went to Texas A&M and earned a degree in Biochemistry & Genetics (it's more impressive than it sounds). There I began writing and performing much more often and played in an acoustic duo throughout college and self-produced two albums while playing around Texas.
The idea of being able to exclusively play music to make a living is still crazy to me. Whether I would admit at the time or not, it was always a deep down desire of mine.
I think this is a pretty common background for a lot of people who have a passion for music. You develop a passion, go to concerts, learn to play an instrument, take it as far as you can and have fun for a few years, and then move on with life. It's no doubt still a passion, but it doesn't remain a way of life. It doesn't become your career. Here's where I differ. There's something in me that can't seem to shake it and move on to anything else.
After graduating I started working full-time at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center doing hereditary cancer research and playing on the weekends at a local sandwich shop. I knew I needed to have an outlet to keep playing and writing. Deep-down I had this belief that there was the possibility to make a career out of it; I was just unsure of the path.
The sandwich shop work resulted in a offers from customers here and there for corporate events, weddings, and parties. The lightbulb went off that if I did this right, there was a way to do it full-time. In 2009 I started a wedding company, Acoustic Production, and began marketing within the Houston-wedding industry to perform alongside a cellist at ceremonies and receptions. In the meantime, I picked up one weekly restaurant gig, which led to adding a wine bar, which led to adding a couple pub gigs, and within a year I was playing 3-4 nights a week at bars and restaurants and weddings on weekends. Over the course of the next two years I went part-time at M. D. Anderson and eventually left entirely in 2011 to play music full-time. In 2012 I self-recorded and produced my first album. 2013 saw the first of a series of unreleased videos and I started freelancing as a vocalists in wedding full-bands. In 2014 I started rebranding my wedding company to DANNY RAY and the ACOUSTIC PRODUCTION playing as a 5-14-piece band at weddings and events.
The idea of being able to exclusively play music to make a living is still crazy to me. Whether I would admit it during the years before I was doing it, it was always a deep down desire of mine. The band is set up and extremely busy, I'm having consistently high energy solo shows, and I'm really excited about the direction the songs I'm writing are taking. I'm at a crossroads where there's a next step to be taken. There's been so many terrific parts of this journey; ups and downs, unforgettable shows, injuries, setbacks, connections, parties. My mind is filled with spectacular memories of these magical moments that happened with a guitar on and a mic in front of me. A New Year's gig that turned in to playing for 7.5 hours, weddings, meeting celebrities, opening for Kelly Clarkson.
At this point I don't even have in mind what my end goal is, I just know that I have no intention of stopping.
There's a certain amount of hesitancy I've always had to saying, "yes, I want to be playing a sold-out show at X." I'll own up to that and I'm working to get there. I've got a great group of musicians I'm playing with and have a really successful wedding and event band. I'm writing with a certain amount of hunger and fire. If I get reflective on the years where I've been playing music as a career, I can divide it into a series of chapters based on the projects I'm working on. This chapter is really about getting to that next level. At this point, I don't even have in mind what my end goal is, I just know that I have no intention of stopping.