Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Be a Star : What Willie Nelson and You Have in Common
I’m continuing with my series that supports why writing is very much the entertainment industry, comparing the rough roads to success between novel writers and performers.
The many stories about Willie Nelson’s rise to stardom are pretty famous. Most of us know that it took him decades to ‘make it’ in show business. But one can hear this tidbit, shake his or her head in amazement, and really fail to comprehend all the kicks this songwriter had to endure just to get someone to listen to his songs. Incidentally, he always wanted to be a songwriter more than anything. The performing just came naturally.
Here’s the big thing you—or any other artist for that matter—share with the Red Headed Stranger before he made his mark with the Texas Outlaw sound: You never really know if you’re going to make it.
Sure, Willie knew lots of people…players in the industry. He made headway and impressed performers enough that Patsy Cline and other country music stars recorded his songs. But there is never job security in the entertainment business. This is true as well with the publishing industry. If authors’ sales decline, publishers will drop them. If songwriters can’t pump out any more hits, they’re marked also. The trick to ‘making it’ is loving the art so much that you’ll keep doing it no matter what.
And Willie loved playing music. When he pitched the Red Headed Stranger album to Columbia Records that would go on to launch his performance career, they said they liked it but thought it was a little bare and offered to front him some coin to produce it with a more contemporary sound. Having been ‘produced’ almost to death, and advised to portray a clean cut image - I might add, Willie told Columbia that they could take it or leave it. He was prepared to play bars the rest of his life. Columbia gave in and now we all know who Willie is.
I can’t write a piece about my idol without pointing out a couple of his most brilliant career moves. Hang with me for these, because whereas they don’t necessarily underscore any challenges to finally get his big break, an aspiring artist can learn from them. Willie is a master of publicity. No one really ever gives him credit for it either. In the early 70s, Willie invited his country music star buddies to play at an outdoor 4th of July concert every year. Banners flooded the Lone Star State calling out the event. Guess whose name was on each banner. Pretty damn smart. Then when he gained fame, he started singing duets with just about everybody. And by doing so, he doubled his exposure.
So if you get another rejection-or a slew of them for that matter-for your book, consider how long and how many extra miles Willie walked to finally make it in the entertainment business.
G U st O
D A v O