Why I never “made it.”   A musician’s lament.

I predict hearing the phone ring as soon as my parents, husband, or a bestie reads this blog title. They’ll say; “You DID make it, it just doesn’t look the way you expected it to.” It’s actually endearing. But more importantly, it’s a reminder of the peace I have made with the idea of what success looks and feels like. And that really is the crux of it all. I can accept that my life turned out differently than had hoped, but knowing that those who love me feel the ache—that’s what hurts the most.

I ended the workday yesterday in a shitty mood. Everything I tried to get done was challenged by roadblocks. I could feel my frustration and blood pressure rising (I’m ok Momma. Please stop worrying. I love you.). I finally abandoned ship and ran errands. As I drove, my anxiety lifted and I felt myself returning to a reasonable perspective. When I was asked how I was doing at Trader Joe’s, I shocked myself when I enthusiastically responded “Great! How are you?” Huh?!… I decided to go with it.

Sadly, back on the road, my anger built again as no one would let me merge while trying to get back home. Out of the blue my iPhone, which was on shuffle, played an old song I co-wrote with my friend, former housemate, former recording studio partner John Tabaccco. I started to smile. Then I laughed. And then I cried. I remembered the joy of writing that song and could feel the spirit emanate from the recording.

In that moment I realized the answer to the inevitable “WHY?” which tortures me. “WHY didn’t I make it?”.

This random song that surprised me also triggered the truth; I never made it because I refused to discipline myself and fit it into a genre-box.

Ironically, I know I have a good head for business. I understand the mechanics required to create success; offer a solid product, connect with an audience, relentlessly market and promote oneself. I have never been afraid of hard work. I put in the hours, the years. I just wasn’t willing to stick to a theme.

Well, that’s not entirely true…

I did try to fit myself into a box that I could live with many times throughout my career. I dressed like Madonna and wrote to drum grooves to become what was referred to as a dance artist early on. During the whole angst-ridden female singer/songwriter phase of the 90’s I cut my wrists to bleed onto my CDs for everyone to experience. Years later after I turned 40, I decide that folk was the only genre of music that allowed women to age. I transformed myself into a folk artist, or at least I tried to. I couldn’t help myself. I had to throw in a jazz-infused song, an homage to the Beatles, and a sweetly twisted tune ala Burt Bacharach on my first solo folk album.

I wasn’t fooling anyone, especially not myself. I tried to force myself to be disciplined and create a coherent sound, my inner muse fought back.

Back to the impetus of this story—this song reminded me of why I started writing music; to feel good. For me, writing feels decadent. It feels freeing. This song, in particular, is, for lack of a better word, FUN. Was it pop’ish, rock’ish, weird’ish? Sure, it was all of those things. Could I hear it on the radio? Well, could, but I’m not a radio programmer or a DJ. Does it even matter?

I ask that question because I do wonder if there are others out there like myself who want their playlist to be diverse, surprising and mysterious? I guess there are, because to this day I retain “Lovely Listeners” who are willing to go on the journey with me, and who forgive my musical digressions.

And therein lies the true success. It may not equate to riches, but it does provide richness to my life. It is what sustains me because as much as I’d love to believe that I write to write, I do care that somebody hears it.

Do I still yearn for that moment when I can say, “I made it”? I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a part of my soul that still holds out hope for that one hit that will allow me to leave an imprint on this planet. Who knows? Maybe all this music travels past our atmosphere throughout the universe. And maybe there’s a planet out there where my music and I make sense.

What matters to me is that I’ve remained musically honest and I’ve found my Lovely Listeners who like what I do. That is my version of making it…until I write that hit one day 😉


Wanna hear that song I co-wrote with John Tabacco? You can listen to it here: Open Your Eyes

JT MG 1995

Me & JT (John Tabacco) in the studio circa 1995. Photo by: Sirka Louca

Wanna learn more about me? You can here: www.MarciGeller.com

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10 thoughts on “Why I never “made it.”   A musician’s lament.

  1. Tony Starling Kidd

    Listening to your intimate, warm songs … your sweet, inviting voice … and watching the shine in your eyes when you’re on stage (I went to YouTube) … I would say you made it, in the truest sense. You are in love with what you do. – tony

    Reply
  2. Mark B Hussey

    You expected to “make it” at a higher level than you have so far achieved Marci. I know. I’m reminded: Your old high school classmate Mary Schroeder (my sis-in-law) told me she remembered the time she heard you had played at the Paramount Theater in New York City and how impressed she was. You were close to “making it big”. You were on the Today Show, on Regis Philbin’s show, and had many other notable accomplishments that most of us in your local music network of friends and fans never came close to, and never will.

    So….to me this is all about expectations. I have no doubt that YOU and your songs deserved a wider, bigger audience. I know that I have written songs that (I feel, and some others agree) in overall quality were superior to certain songs that became well-known / famous / were played on radios from coast to coast and even in foreign nations. This is certainly true for you–10X as much as it applies to me! But nobody ever said show biz is fair (I don’t think….)

    The bottom line is: if you’re an artist “by birth”–and genetics certainly play a big role–along with the familiy-home / school / social environments you grew up in…..what you do is add beauty to the world*. You add to the lives of others by honing your craft and sharing it. And you’ve done plenty of that–you should be proud.

    You’ve added beauty to my life and enriched it, and inspired me. So have many other folks we both know! It’s true–what music provides is MOMENTS of beauty, enrichment, inspiration. Admittedly, these moments do NOT last a long time, and certainly not “forever”! But with recorded sound, people can go back to it time and time again over the years. And they do listen again. The beauty of your work may be getting played by people in other time zone while you’re fast asleep!

    You’ve already left what you could call a legacy. And fortunately, it’s still “a work in progress”! Keep it going!.

    In February, Clare and I went to see 76 year old Darlene Love (“He’s a Rebel” vocalist….along with many other great hits and lesser-known tunes, and background vocals) in Port Washington. She had been touring in many American cities for several previous months (we know because we’re good friends with the keyboard player of her current band)…..and wow–talk about inspiration! She was awesome! She looked terrific and had a lot of spunk and positive energy onstage. It was just a great show put on by an “historic figure”.

    We later learned that this was Darlene’s last stop of the tour, and that she had to get hip-replacement surgery….like in another couple of weeks! Ed, the keyboard player, told us she had been fighting through a lot of pain and discomfort to finish the tour. But she just kept plugging away. And this 76 year old lady–whose legacy is preserved at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (I saw it in person, in May) was wearing HIGH-HEELS throughout her performance! Yikes! But we never knew she was in physical pain or discomfort–there was no way to know, watching her that night.

    Good luck, Marci! I look forward to seeing you on the stage again….whenever–later this year or next year.

    PS — if you noticed an asterisk next to the word “world” above……of course, there are “dark” artists who thrive on negativity, who have no interest in adding beauty to the world. They love attention as much as anybody else who’s a performer, but they found their niche in reveling in things that are not so great about life and the world. Sometimes the dark ones are geniuses, and are worth listening to if they have new insights and important warnings for people. Or just have great, original music despite themselves! BUT that type of artist is decidedly in the minority, and NOT the kind of artist I’m talking about here. You get my drift….

    Reply
    1. marcigeller Post author

      Thank you Mark, and of course you’re so completely right and in so many ways. I hope I did not sound ungrateful, because I am very very aware that I have accomplished things that some artists only dream of. I am humbled by it, to be honest with you.

      I guess the whole point of this blog was, sometimes success doesn’t look the way we expected it to. I feel accomplished in many of my achievements, I still get frustrated with having to struggle with financial challenges. And believe me, I am well aware that Even in that department, I have much to be thankful for!

      It’s friends like you, and the people who do want to hear me that make it so incredibly satisfying. That was the point I was trying to make, but I can see how this may have triggered a lot of emotion from so many people.

      Thank you as always for sharing your insight and your kindness. 😊

      Reply
      1. Sebastian O'Sullivan

        I wanted to reply the other day, Marci, but had too many things to say at once. So I said nuthin’! Haha…..same reason why my newest cd has been almost ready for nearly 2 years, but I still haven’t finished it yet. Anyway, NO, I did not think you were sounding ungrateful at all. I understood and related to virtually everything you were saying (although, in my case, there was never any ambition to be a performer really). And I was just spontaneously reacting off the top of my head to some of the key points you were making. BUT one thing that neither of us have mentioned was–my first reply to your Google+ posting, which was only a link; a reminder to keep the big picture in mind always! The article I was linking you to, in case you overlooked it or never clicked it…..was about the DOWN SIDE OF FAME. Of course this is a topic we’ve all heard about before–but we forget it’s really true! I have seen and heard so many celebs in magazine, newspaper, tv, and radio interviews (politicians, musicians, rock stars, artists, actors, movie directors, pro athletes….etc.) say how annoying it is to be recognized everywhere and having people stare at them, invade their privacy, deal with stalkers and so on. It seems so ironic that the select few who do eventually attain real fame must sacrifice a huge amount of freedom that we–“the other 99%”–take for granted in our everyday lives. LIKE…..[LET’S HAVE A FANTASY]: I have to go shopping at Shop-Rite in about an hour. How suburban and mundane! But (as Lisa Ling says “This Is Life”). Now, imagine that I am a really famous person–like say, Bill Joel. So, when I go shopping at Shop-Rite…..the idea of people staring at me, watching me, watching what I’m buying, trailing me, asking me random questions, asking me to sign their cereal boxes…..etc. etc. You know what I’m saying. I’m sure when this first happens to you, it must be fun, funny, and exhilirating! But after you’ve gone through this routine a few times, the famed person begins to realize that they have lost a lot of personal freedom. It really sucks, and I’ve heard famed folks say this, in many different ways. They realize that as long as they are well-known people, they must accept that they’ll never have many of the freedoms that they had (and took for granted) as “just plain folks”–the great mass of humanity that is totally NON-FAMOUS!

        That’s all, Marci. I am glad you posted this in your blog and shared it. Gave me, and I’m sure many others, some interesting and important things to think about. Have a great week!

      2. marcigeller Post author

        Hey Sebastian,
        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I don’t think I saw your google+ link, but then again, maybe I just didn’t know it was you? Ah, to navigate all of these cyber spaces that we live in…crazy sometimes!

        And of course I can see how “fame” or celebrity is an exhausting responsibility. I moved past the desire for fame years ago. I guess what I started to crave was measurable validation–if that even makes sense. Not awards but feeling like the music was truly out there and that creating became my sole source of income and perhaps, it was also just very normal. Perhaps that owuldn’t be satisfying either…who knows?

        I do know that I will keep on creating. Keep putting it out there. Continue to be thankful for people like yourself who care to listen. I hope you finish your new CD too! 🙂

  3. Ear Chords

    Anyone who got to work with Tabacco has achieved something if you ask me. You were in that fabulous folk band too. I would think it wouldn’t matter what we do we’ll always think it wasn’t enough. Those that settle and think they’ve arrived are resting on their laurels or have ego issues.

    Reply
    1. marcigeller Post author

      Interesting perspective. I always aspired to finally feeling arrived. If for nothing more than to finally feel at peace with it all. But I do catch your drift. 😉

      Reply
  4. Mark Hussey

    I have no idea how my name MARK BRENDAN HUSSEY got translated into SEBASTIAN O’SULLIVAN….which is the alias I use at Quora, but maybe at Word Press too? Which I completely forgot since I almost never use Word Press! Whatever….you got my message. And thx again for your candid reply.

    Reply
    1. marcigeller Post author

      LOL! Ok, now it makes sense! I actually thought it “sounded” like you, but the name through me…and at the same time, didn’t want to offend my good friend Sebastian! LOL!!! Thanks again Mark 🙂

      Reply

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