Please, don’t listen to yourself…

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Sixteen-Stone-20-Year-Anniversary

The year was 1995.  I was 12 and my older brother took me to my first rock concert.  It was the Bush “Sixteen Stone” tour with special guests Goo Goo Dolls and No Doubt!  My Sixteen Stone t-shirt, full of holes, is still hanging on my bedroom wall 24 years later!!  (I am now considered vintage, I guess… lol) Either way, that shirt Is a nice reminder of the day my world changed.  The energy of the guitars hitting my chest, the lights, the smell of weed, all completely foreign to me… My young impressionable psyche was floored by the whole experience.

I wanted to be a rock star…

Fast forward a year…My parents bought me two Cerwin Vega speaker cabinets, a receiver and a CD player.. I spent that year playing air guitar to Metallica, Foo Fighters, Blink 182, and Deftones. After I had perfected my air guitar skills my parents rewarded my efforts with a real guitar on my 14th birthday. It was a pawn-shop Kramer with a tiny Crate amplifier and it made me feel like I was the king of the world.   ( My old cassette tape recordings, that I recently found, would say otherwise…Haha ). This was the beginning of a lifelong journey in finding my voice.

All I knew was music, and it was fueled by overwhelming feelings of anxiety, and fluctuating mood swings that had been ailing me since an early age.  Writing became my defense mechanism – a natural response to unwanted feelings. Once my high school years started coming to a close, I further fell into a deeper well of depression. The idea of leaving home for college seemed unimaginable to me.

Reluctantly, I moved away… Fortunately, to a 2 year program focusing on audio and recording production where I met some other musicians, and started a group called “Another Band”.  Our first year on the road was spent traveling west on I-80 where we slept on couches in North Platte NE, then Cheyenne WY.  We kept working on our craft, developing our sound, and playing shows.  Colorado bound, we found a small studio in Fort Collins, hugging an alleyway on the corner of Mountain and Shields right behind the Jacksons gas station and Beavers Market.  That gas station served as our bathroom, while Beavers Market served up my Ramen Noodles, chicken nuggets, and morning Red Bulls.  This was my daily meal on a musicians budget. lol. We lived and breathed music, rehearsing up to 8 hours a day in that tiny garage.  3 of us lived behind the walls of this shack converted into a sound-proof recording studio.  I slept in an orange sleeping bag on the cement floor (every night listening to Beck’s “Sea Change”) and every few days we would drive up the road to the Poudre River and wash ourselves in the mountain river run-off!  It was like getting baptized when you hit those freezing cold temps.  Holy shit!! lol  There was never any question as to why we were doing it, it was for the love of music and a collective drive to become better musicians and a great band.

Looking back in retrospect, I would say that my biggest regret early on in life was thinking that everything I performed had to be perfect.  My inner world was consumed by negativity, self doubt, and an unpredictable wave of mood swings.  Nothing ever felt good enough regardless of how much I was striving to become better.  Our rehearsals got longer and longer, and our music lost that human element.  Caught up in a cycle of endless practice, we always seemed to be preparing for something that never really came.  Perfection is never attainable, and I was too scared to fully commit to performing in front of an audience again, feeling like we needed more work.  Less shows equaled less money equaled a string of 9 to 5 jobs ranging from telemarketing, to fork lift operator, to Guitar Center Salesman, to landscape Forman.   I allowed my insecurities to get the best of me and self doubt ultimately robbed me and our band of sharing our music with the world.  We had a lot of potential, but I got in the way of it.  I take full responsibility, and own it.

That’s life… Live and Learn!

I learned my lesson at the age of 26 – feeling like I had pretty well lost everything that I had been working for.

I moved back to Nebraska, gathered my thoughts and my shit, and  moved to Oklahoma and began the long process of finishing songs that I had been ignoring close to 10 years.  This was difficult as I really had to face my inner demons and fight through my insecurities and self doubt, wondering if people would receive my art well.  My first record “Learning To Love Yourself” (2009) came to its completion while I was living in Oklahoma City with my brother and sister-in-law.  That record was the catalyst for what has now been a decade of music, 6 albums, and 100’s of videos that I’ve created and shared with my fans online – collectively receiving millions of views in the process.  I promised myself back in 2009 to put my art out there regardless of what my inner world was telling me.  I’ve learned that my way of thinking most of the time, along this roller-coster ride, is not a good indicator of reality.  Being diagnosed with Bipolar Depression has at the least shed a bit of light on why I’ve felt the way I’ve felt most my life.  It’s been challenging, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Mental illness, believe it or not, is something I’ve “learned” to be quite grateful for.  It’s the reason that I create, it’s the reason that I’ve strived to be better, and it’s the reason I’ve adopted a rather different perspective of the world.  Its made me, “ME”.

For the last 10 years I’ve been performing as a solo acoustic singer songwriter having traveled all across the country sharing my original music.  At times living out of a van, other times couch surfing.  I’ve been fortunate enough to make a living performing shows and creating video content online.  These days I’m living back home with my lovely fiancé and our beautiful little Lilly.  Still making my living performing music regionally,  I’ve learned to love myself through the ups and downs, and I’m eternally grateful for those that have supported my art along the way.  If you’re still reading this, I just want to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart.  I hope my story will inspire you to share yourself with the world, if you’ve been on the fence.

Should you ever have any doubt…Please, don’t listen to yourself.

If you’d like to hear my most recent millstone on this musical journey, click here to check out my latest album “LIVE”.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’d like to share your stories about life, music, or anything else for that matter.

I’m listening.

-Dustin

 

 

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