One Local Suncoast Musician’s Story

What I really do…

…is a concept I have entertained from time to time.

Making a living playing music on a beach, a boat and a patio for visitors from across the nation and around the world, gives me the chance to speak with a lot of people. I meet doctors, scientists, people who teach doctors and scientists, engineers, lawyers, and executives. I meet people who lead, influence, repair, build, sell, and grow crops. I meet every manner of white and blue collar professionals…my fiancé is a respiratory therapist at the hospital. I meet people who are essential.

I play for a living.

If I stopped, no one would suffer, except maybe me. I reconcile it by focusing on 3 immutable factors; (1) The more “essential” a person’s work, the more stressful it is, and the more that person can benefit from a temporary escape into live music. (2) Playing live music doesn’t come as natural to everyone as it does to me. (3) Playing music is the only thing I’m wired to do. The last one is the thought that most sustains me because, who am I to dispute a calling?

And then…

My theory was working pretty well until a little over a month ago when they shuttered the live music venues on the island, along with all live entertainment around the world. I sat in the music room and tried to hatch a plan; “Can I busk? Nope, no crowds allowed. Can I do a live stream? Who’s going to watch? Can I sell songs I wrote? I don’t know anyone who wants to buy them!”

I sunk into my chair in complete bewilderment because the same question that had served as a motivating muse all those times before, was now a real question; without a paying gig at a venue where people come to enjoy the sunset, have some food and listen to music, what exactly am I? What is my value without a venue?

There was no way to answer, because it was a pointless question. There was no answer because art is subjective. Art, as I understand it, is the rendering of inspiration for the presentation and enjoyment of myself and others. The reason I was stuck was because I’d been using the same platform the entire time I’d been in this business and never had the need for any others.

So, I wrote a song.

I poured out exactly how I felt…and then I edited, and then I recorded and then I rewrote and recorded, and on it went for weeks. I became consumed with creating a song that described a hopeless moment, but was musically pleasing to listen to.

I also followed up with a few ideas I’d had to partner with a couple of local non-profit organizations. I wrote songs that accompanied their mission and message. I tried to improve my craft by writing songs that would sync with a video about them but stand alone as a song as well.

And made videos.

I created videos. One for a nonprofit and a few sets of cover songs and originals out on the beach. Since I wasn’t going to try to stream, I figured multiple camera angles, with good sound at a beautiful location was something I could post for people to see when and wherever they wanted.

And I reached out to people. I started a daily post entitled Corona/Vacation, where every day, I write about 500 words on what I’m trying to create and describe some of the details, challenges and successes and then I invite people to tell me what they’re doing.

Without being asked to do so, people have started giving me tips and buying CD’s through my website. I email them versions of songs I’m working on and they tell me what they think.

Recreating myself

I’m nowhere near the level of income I was before the shutdown, but I am in the process of creating a new platform. I’m building a relationship with people who like my sound that, I hope to one day be the primary foundation of my career… but I’ll likely need everything to open up before it materializes.

As uncertain and unnerving as the present circumstance may be, the opportunity to actually be outside the box is the ultimate silver lining. Of course, that’s only possible because I’m healthy. I don’t know why I’ve been spared, but I’m grateful.

It goes without saying that there are people enduring far worse challenges in the battle against Covid. The desire to define the meaning of my life’s work doesn’t hold much relevance when I think of the victims, their families and the caregivers who literally risk their lives to save them.

This isn’t my fight and I just need to stay out of the way, so I’m trying to make good use of the time and maybe bring a little joy to the others who are out here on the sidelines with me…it’s what I’m wired to do.

More on Mike Sales music

The song Mike Sales wrote, about how it felt to be cancelled is called, “Show’s Over” and is entered in the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest.
You can view the video on his YouTube page, Mike Sales Sings.

Mike is also on a CD compilation made in 2016 of Anna Maria Island music.

Photo from Mike Sales

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2020-04-27