I’ve been doing my best to keep my mouth shut the last few weeks and months of the election season, and the few times I’ve failed I made sure my comments were relegated to someone else’s Facebook page instead of my own. Hasn’t been easy, and I haven’t enjoyed being silent one bit – unfortunately, it was the right thing to do. I am one-fifth of The East Texas Garage Band – when I tell people this is my band, I mean this is the band I perform in, NOT this is the band that backs me up. There’s a big difference between the two, and I make sure that distinction is made each and every time I discuss my band. I am part of a team; I’m a piece of a whole. Being a member of a band means you have to think twice before you say or do anything, because your words and actions directly reflects back on the band as a whole.
I have some definite opinions on certain subjects, opinions that run more towards the secular humanist/socially progressive vein. These opinions are not necessarily shared by the hard-working salt-of-the-earth blue-collars that make up the vast majority of our fans, and while I don’t have a problem with these fans not agreeing with me, these same fans would have a problem with me not agreeing with them. As much as the band is out performing because we love music, we’re also trying to make money; and a band that ticks off its fans won’t be making money long.
Back in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq invasion, Natalie Maine of the Dixie Chicks stated her opinion in front of a British audience: she was ashamed the President of the United States was from her home state. While her remarks played well with the European audience, her words went over like a lead balloon with the band’s fans back home – suddenly one of the most popular and successful acts in Country music couldn’t pay to get their songs played on the radio. Eventually the uproar died down, and the Dixie Chicks went on to more critical and commercial successes, but there is still a rift between the band and the Country Music establishment, and the damage to the band’s finances and fan base is still not completely repaired.
Closer to home, a couple of years ago my brother Kelly’s band had a spot of trouble. Kelly’s lead singer posted something on his Facebook page that riled their more hard-core fans; instead of removing the offending post or apologizing for using a poor choice of words when expressing his opinion of the situation, the singer doubled-down: he cited his right to say whatever the hell he wanted under the 1st Amendment, and flatly stated that the folks getting all hot under the collar were either stupid or willfully ignorant of the facts. It wasn’t long before bars were calling the other members of Kelly’s band informing them the venues were in danger of being boycotted by their patrons if the band was booked to play without issuing an apology of some sort – the singer was fired after the band told him to tone it down and he told them to suck it. A week or two later, the Reverend Rock Kitchens was brought in as the new front man, the band was renamed to illustrate the change in line-up, and the fans returned to the fold.
(The sad part was, the lead singer wasn’t wrong – the facts were on his side, he made a good point. He did, however, make that point sound like it was the victim’s fault, though, and he made his statements way too soon after the incident – emotions were still running very, very high the days after. Had he just apologized for the poor wording or unfortunate timing of his Facebook post, he could have left the post up and kept both his pride and his gig with the band.)
There’s an argument to made for artistic integrity and intellectual honesty, and believe me, I’ve been having that argument with myself since the start of the Republican primaries – there’s a lot I’ve been seeing and a lot I’ve been hearing that I just don’t care for, and sitting on my thumbs staying out of the fray has rubbed me raw. If I were a solo artist putting out nothing but original, very personal music, I’d state my opinions loud and proud, criticism be damned, and trust in my fans to either share my views or respect the honesty of the sentiment. I am NOT a solo artist with a message, though; I’m a band member singing popular songs for money, just another service industry worker putting out a product to the masses. Stating and standing by my opinion could get my band fired.
It is sad that politics and religion have become so divisive in this wonderful country of ours that you can no longer talk about your beliefs without risking your job. There is hope: my drummer, Patrick, is a small government/low tax/social conservative, and we have fun talking politics all the time. We have informed, respectful discussions, and more often than not, we find ourselves agreeing somewhere in the middle (of course, he’s not so married to ideology that he can’t face facts, and I’m not so pretentious I won’t admit when I’m wrong – we argue like adults are supposed to).