I turn 26 today.

Birthdays are usually not the kinds of things that make me think about where I was, where I am, and where I could be, but 26 is a big one for me for some reason (maybe cause it’s closer to 30 than 20… I don’t know.)  Anyway… I’ve been discussing the last few years of our lives with some friends recently, and we’ve come across some crazy stuff.

Here’s just part of my story… my friends had BETTER ones.

I don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to the Rula Bula Irish Pub open mic back in 07. I’ll tell you about that night in a minute, but first…

Let’s work backwards:

Right now I’m working on some pretty cool stuff related to my new album “More than Maybe.” It’s the first album I’m really happy with in my whole life as an artist.  It’s also the first one that’s giving me some pretty nice traction in the “business” side of things.  Basically I’m thrilled with where I am and this album is necessary for EVERYTHING I want to do.

The rare and driven state that led to sickening work ethic, the willingness to do very nearly insane things to accomplish the dream, the album, and most of the songs on it only exist because of my transitional sort of quarter life crisis that I went through in the wake of my last relationship.

That relationship only ever happened because I went back to Montana for 2 months in early 08 to finish my previous (NEVERENDING and ultimately disappointing) recording project.  Keep in mind, timing was crucial here – I doubt the situations that caused sparks to fly would have even happened if I had gone back to Montana a little later or a little earlier.  It had to be exactly when it was.

The only reason the timing worked out was at the end of 07, a guy at this little bar called The “Wine Rack” in Ahwatukee AZ heard me play a few times, asked for a copy of my recording… then asked what I wanted to do.  I told him I wasn’t happy with it yet and I could fix it back in Montana… so he wrote me a sizeable check to help me finish it, which allowed me to go immediately instead of way later after I’d saved enough.

The only reason I was playing The Wine Rack when I met that guy, was because I had played the open mic there on Halloween night when no one else showed, and the owner, after hearing me play to him and 3 other people for 2 hours, invited me to play there twice a week on Friday and Saturday nights.  My backer for that project was a regular and he came out every Friday to see me.

With tips and my pay, I made more than I made painting in the 100 degree weather for 40 hours a week. I have not worked a “job” since – I only mention this because I don’t think I would have had the confidence to start the relationship if I hadn’t felt like I was “on my way.” This was the beginning of a lot of good things! It’s why I am where I am today… period.

The only reason I knew about the open mic at the Wine Rack that led to the gig, was because I met this INSANELY talented, long haired, 6 foot 6 singer/crooner/songwriter named Gregg who later became a good friend and songwriting inspiration.

I met Gregg at Rula Bula Irish Pub open mic.  And he invited me to The Wine Rack for an open mic the following week.

Now here’s the crazy thing.  Gregg didn’t go to Rula Bula every week… not even close.  If I had waited or decided to go on a different night, who knows?  The Wine Rack was only open for 4 months after I found out about it. Halloween (when I booked the twice a week gig) was 3 weeks after I found out about it.  I only went and played to the owner, the bartender, and 2 customers for 2 hours that night, because I was already comfortable with the place.

I only booked the gig which led to me making my whole living from music because of Halloween. And when I say it led to making a living from

music, I’m not kidding…

During that same time, I met these guys Brian and Scott at that place.  Brian is now my musical partner in crime and one of my best friends.  And 2 of my new (REALLY cool) regular shows are only mine because one of Brian’s and now my friends is really well connected in the restaurant scene in Scottsdale.  And Scott… well Scott basically introduced me to the possibility of playing for a real living in the first place… AND he got me my first twice weekly resort gig which took the game to a whole new level at the time.

Everything… and I really do mean EVERYTHING about my “career” today, my album that’s keeping me in this crazy artist’s world, the relationship that turned me into a responsible adult, the songs that keep me alive… all of it started at the Wine Rack… and by extension at Rula Bula open mic in October of 2007.

I don’t know what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone to Rula Bula for the open mic in 07.

The most insane thing about this when I think back on it, is that I really didn’t want to go.

It was a new city, and the thought of having to face the uncertainty of the new environment, while I waited for hours with a bunch of strangers for the opportunity to play three songs was almost enough to keep me from going out at all that night.

I waffled a lot, I even decided against it and sat back down on the couch and turned on the TV.  I thought “I’ll go next week.  I’m tired…. I don’t know.” etc..

It all came down to one moment.  I decided to stand back up and GO. I changed the course of my whole life in a measurable MASSIVE way, by deciding to get up and do something I didn’t want to do. And it wasn’t even a very brave or admirable decision. I just decided to go instead of not going.

I only wrote about this in detail like this, because I know that this is just the way life works.  It’s not just me, it’s everyone.  One of my friends can attribute most of his absolutely stunning success in the world he works in to the fact that he worked at a shitty furniture store job during one of the hardest parts of his life.  It’s classic Chaos stuff.  Decisions happen in single moments, immeasurably small pieces of time and impulses of thought change everything about where we end up.

I’ve probably missed some turns that could have taken me somewhere I’d rather be than where I am.  And I’m sure there are turns I could have taken that could have left me devastated on the side of the road right now.  And it seems so chaotic that it could almost be easy to feel like we have no control at all. Well… maybe we don’t.

But I’m still going to do my best to take the risks and make the decisions that will put me in the position for another run like this one.  I’ll err on the side of facing what’s dangerous and scary, doing what’s uncomfortable and unpopular if it’s what I believe in, and stepping up when I hit those moments where it’s a choice between sitting back down on the couch, and getting up and putting myself out there.

The beauty and the irony of my relationship with the thought of chaos is that there are unlimited roads, and every decision I make puts me on a different one. To begin to contemplate the complexity is enough to make my head hurt.  But when my heart is in it, I feel – I almost KNOW – that wherever I end up… it will be better than anything I could have planned for.