There’s some of us out here in the world that may have had dreams of being a full-time artist, part-time employee. You know, the kind of artist that says the hell with “getting a real job”, as your factory-working uncle tells you at the family reunion each year. Or the weird truck driver that lingers a little too long at each stop in order to tell you what’s wrong with kids these days. The kind of artist that gambles it all for the sake of creativity. Slaying tables at a restaurant, or selling Kenny Wayne Shepherd CDs to that same factory-working uncle at the local record shop in order to make just enough dough for rent and a case of ramen. So that what is left can be put into instruments, software, painting supplies, CD duplication, promotion, and maybe an extra pair of jeans. Then hopefully there’s enough change left to put gas in the shitty compact car they’ve had since sophomore year in college to get to a gig/showing/installation. All so they can go play a gig that they put together themselves so someone can poo poo about paying $10 for a CD or $25 for a t-shirt as that artist is setting up their own equipment and sweating the fact that besides the guy annoyed at paying money for product, there’s only 6 other people in the venue.
Despite the hassle, the low returns, and the poverty that full-time artists/part-time employee promises, they still do the dance. They do it because creating art, regardless of the medium, completes something in them. They work the service industry because it can be flexible and it allows the artist to continue writing, performing, painting, or whatever their creative trip is. There’s this unity in the independent artists community that cannot be denied. The freedom to create what you want, when you want, that seems to foster reaching for something far beyond the usual.
Unfortunately, with the gamble of being an independent artist with a job without benefits of healthcare, paid vacation, and the general safety net of monetary shelter, even something as minor as a sprained ankle can do irreparable damage. That’s why a lot of us artists become part-time artists and full-time employees. We trade artistic freedom for security; 2 am recording sessions for 5 am wake up alarms; Friday night gigs for Saturday morning pancakes with the kids. I think the full time artist gives up far more than what I’ve given up. I’ve traded my artistic aspirations, but I haven’t given up my passion for art. I get my fix through these many independent musicians I encounter on a daily basis. Whatever “thing” I don’t get through going into my basement studio and disappearing for hours at a time I’ve found it in the music of so many wonderful and beautiful musicians. Their art fulfills an artistic need and intellectual need I crave to get through the daily grind. They open my brain and pour in big ideas and a musically-colored escapism that I’ve devoured since I was 4 years old and got from my parents copy of Sgt. Pepper.
If you’re at all familiar with these digital pages, then you’ll recognize the name Justin Sweatt. I’ve talked about Justin a handful of times just in the last couple of months. His Termination Dust kind of knocked me on my ass, which led to my mind being blown by an impressive body of work which includes The New Dark Age Of Love, Urban Gothic, California Chrome, and plenty of other incredible EPs, re-scores, and art installations. He also recently released his first solo album as Justin Sweatt. It’s called Say Your Goodbyes and it’s absolutely brilliant. Justin is one of those independent artists I’ve been talking about. He slags through the service industry in order to support his desire to create music. He’s given the freedom to create what he wants to create, work with whom he wants to create with, and explore where the muse wants to take him.
Last week Justin was riding his bike when he was struck by a car. The accident had the potential for serious injury(or worse), but his quick reflexes avoided anything life-threatening. Unfortunately Justin suffered a broken collar bone and concussion. He’s unable to work now for at least four weeks. The injury has left him unable to work at his service industry job or to create musically. He’s in a physically and emotionally painful holding pattern. The double album he was working on has been released “as is”, as well as a two-song ‘Sessions’ EP.
Justin is understandably frustrated and worried about where to go from here. Why am I telling all you about this? Because we can help Justin, and many other independent artists by supporting them. How? By buying their art. Downloading their albums, buying their LPs, paintings, or paying the cover charge and checking out their shows. Justin has quite a collection of music to dig into. Head over to Justin’s Bandcamp page and download some music. It’s that simple. It’s not charity. It’s capitalism, baby. Money for product. That purchase allows Justin and many other artists like him to stay independent and creative and make the art their hearts and minds ache to create. It’s not product like crappy food, disposable goods, and general manufactured refuse. This is heart and soul goods. This is spiritual fuel, man. Music is good for the soul, and with the click of a button it can be yours. And maybe Justin doesn’t have to worry so much about medical bills.
Whether you’re a full-time employee, part-time artist, sometime parent or lapsing Catholic it doesn’t matter. Support the arts and the artists that make that art. Give Justin some peace of mind and download some of his music. We need creative souls like Justin to keep creating. He, and other artists like him, are what make the world go around.