Before I get started, let me just address the elephant(s) in the room:
- I no longer go by “Mr. V-Sax”.
- I no longer play the saxophone.
- I no longer have a recording studio, meaning I no longer record, produce, mix artists songs.
- I have no desire to go back to do any of the above mentioned.
I could just end my post with that, and it will be all good. But if you wondering how did I get to this point, well, that itself is a story and a journey. One that requires me to “open up” and tell my story on how it was being the music man and all.
For those that have known me, either for a long time or for a short period, know that I never ever like to open up to anyone (if you did, you realllyyy had to get it out of me). That’s just how I was, therefore I wouldn’t be able to truly connect to anyone on a personal scale (unless it came to music), even if people wanted to open up to me.
I’ve never been the “vulnerable” type, and I have to admit that as of right now it’s still a struggle. However, in explaining why I no longer have a desire to play the sax or record artists, I feel that if I share my story, then others can hopefully relate and use it to better their situation…even if they are doing music, entertainment, or any other profession that they feel “passionate” about that doesn’t pay well right off the bat.
So here it goeesss (eyes closed as I type…)
For most that knew me, I “suddenly” moved to New York on November 2014, only to simply “disappear” and not hear from me, until this past week when I got back on Facebook. No one knew what happened, only hearsay & all from others. So straight from the horses mouth (or so they say), I’m simply going to explain where my mind was during these moments.
Many of you may have seen me perform at weddings, events, parties; may have seen my pics and videos around and felt that I was “living it up”. The reality is that although I was mostly enjoying performing around, by November 2014 (before I left Houston) I was 29 years old at home living with my parents, mostly working non-stop trying to “make things happen” by performing, recording my own material and just “holding on to my dream”. I was mostly doing it in my makeshift studio in my parents garage.
I would make all my money from my gigs (as any musician/performer who works full-time would). The problem with that however, is that all the money I made from my gigs went directly to my bills, so I wouldn’t have too much money left in the bank to get my own place and live comfortably on my own.
I give the ultimate credit to my parents for allowing me the freedom to continue to do what I “loved”, instead of forcing me to do a profession I didn’t like just to make money (something Nigerian parents are notorious of…although I now understand why). However, as I got older and there was no true “plan” in sight in order to be financially free, even my parents were quietly wondering when I would actually “make moves” to get out of the situation I was in…although they never directly told me. But I just knew. I wanted moves to be made also…why else would I be grinding day and night like this?
The seeds of me moving out to NYC were planted long before I left. Actually, many seeds were planted.
There were gigs (clubs, shows) where my band and I would do all this setup, and only walk out with less than $400, $500 total (before splitting up the funds), but the special guests who came through would walk out with a minimum of $1000+ by simply partying it up, drinking with friends for 1 hour then leave. I remember one night I found out that one artist got paid $5000 to show up for 1 hour at a club, but my band would get less than $500 and we worked harder to set up that day.
These situations left me asking hard questions to myself! (I wouldn’t understand why until my “disappearance” in 2015. Now it completely makes sense and I commend the club/party/event promoters that make this happen…and the bands/performers who still get paid the $500 and under rate).
There were recording sessions that I enjoyed, but due to the “market rate” for recording studios in Houston, the amount I would be getting wasn’t enough to live off of…especially all the hours it took to set up, record, produce, mix and master songs. Sure I could’ve just commanded higher rates from these clients, but I would also fear losing them to a competitor who charged a similar rate I was charging (once again, due to the city’s “market rate”). Eventually, the love of the studio was lost, and I let that go as far back as January 2014.
Now for the saxophone part. Those who knew me for the past 20 years knew, at baseline, that I played the sax. Yes, it took me to places I’ve never seen before, allowed me to impact people I thought I would have never impacted and have been in many pictures of weddings (over 75 of them) that I was involved in. It even got me through college.
I don’t regret any of it.
I thank Mr. Browden at Youngblood in Alief for teaching me the sax and starting off in 1st chair that first year back in ’96, playing his funk tunes. I thank Pastor Joy at (the old) Chapel of Praise church for allowing me to play the sax at 15, while learning how to record tracks using the Old Korg Triton keyboard they had. I thank Dr. Waters at Oral Roberts for believing in me with scholarships to make it when I got to college in 2003…even all those times I would skip band class to be in the recording studio honing my craft.
In 2007, after seeing a piano player on youtube named “David Sides” perform a #1 Billboard hit online, I decided to focus my talents to learn “popular songs”, since not many sax players did that publicly. My blueprint was simple: Play songs people know. Don’t worry about all the jazz or classical stuff most professional sax players play. Don’t try to do too many runs or things like that. Keep it simple. People will relate to it and will book you for their events. The strategy worked and got me early gigs.
In 2010, after watching my saxophone buddy Chris Mitchell walk around the crowd with his sax at a show in Beaumont TX, I knew that if I incorporated walking around the crowd playing and learned the top Nigerian songs (which was my target crowd), that I would get bookings into weddings. I also knew the power of “word of mouth” and that I wouldn’t have to advertise to get future gigs since people would be talking about it after I played. All I needed was my business card, and let the chips fall where they may.
That was my blueprint and it was working.
However, as time passed, I would start to get “bored” of the same-ol, just being the “side-show” of an event instead of being the “main attraction”. These were actual aspirations I had at the time. The more I was paid to play at these events, the more I was relegated “to the side” as a performer.
At first, it was great because I was getting paid, but eventually I got bored and wanted more. I just never told the people who would book me, or the people I recorded with (remember, I have a tough time opening up to people). I just went with the flow because 1. I was making a living off it and 2. I actually enjoyed it most of the time.
But by early – mid 2014 after researching the careers of performers that “made it” in the industry, I made up my mind that I was going to move to either LA, NYC or Atlanta to further my career. The only thing that held me back was the number of future bookings I had (and it was alot of them). I decided that I wouldn’t accept any more events so I can be freed up to make the move out of town.
The only problem with freeing up time, however, was that all the deposits I got from these future events (I would take 50% of my booking rate in order to secure my services) were no longer there…which meant that I would be cash-starved for a period of time. It was difficult. Even after I dropped my 2014 album Friends N’ Lovers and nothing really came out of that (due to non-promo and all), things were tough. To be honest, some of my lowest points came that late summer, the summer of 2014. Getting into specifics would make this longer than it already is. So we can move on a little further 🙂
Around this time, I got re-acquainted with the lady that will eventually become my wife, Charity. Since she worked 5 hours from NYC, I decided to rule out LA and Atlanta (where my parents live now) to move up to NYC to try to make it musically, and hopefully we’ll find a way to see each other while I was out there. That was the plan.
Moving out of my comfort zone to a new city is HARD…but I had to do what I had to do since I didn’t want to be old and living at my parents garage. After arriving in NYC in November 2014 (Tuesday, November 18th, to be exact), I eventually got connected with people in the industry and started to make moves with them….people I would see on TV or in music videos, they are right there! It was crazy.
What was also crazy to me was that there were no “special people” out there. Meaning the people you see in the major TV shows and music videos and all, are just like you and me (I would see David Letterman and his lady walk outside in Manhattan regularly). The only difference is simply that they were in an “entertainment” city that provided opportunities and mostly everyone else wasn’t.
It was while I was in NYC that I was offered drugs (cocaine, molly, etc) and the chance to be with different women on the regular. The more I got connected with people “higher-up” in the game, the more I had to accept the “way of life” the people in the music game lived. Maybe it worked for others, and it’s not my place to judge them…but I personally had my limits. Its a cut-throat business (people who live out here know what I mean).
So in one way, I’m excited that I finally had a chance to meet and work with people who could finally take my career to the next level. On the other hand, I was a little disappointed that in order to really “get on” in the music game, there were “certain things” you had to do in order to be “accepted”.
Truthfully, I didn’t stay in NYC for a long time. Really, a little over a month. But the knowledge I acquired during this time was to be very valuable in the future for myself, as I got to truly learn and understand the MUSIC BUSINESS. However, I also ran out of money, with the exception of about $80 I had left in my account. So in late December 2014, I decided to call Charity, use $40 out of the $80 that I had, bought a one-way greyhound ticket and took refuge upstate in the “unknown” city of Rochester where she stayed. I’m still there today.
However, I will always call my time in NYC the most important time I’ve ever had in my life. It allowed me to truly see what it took to achieve my dreams as a performer.
WHY I RETIRED FROM THE SAXOPHONE
While up here in Rochester, I knew that with my further knowledge in the music business, I knew there were many other ways to make a musical impact other than being a musician or performer. So I decided to take a MAJOR STEP BACK and see where my life was at this point.
I concluded with this info: Music is what I do. It’s not who I am.
In addition, I began studying stories of music executives and major business owners such as David Geffen, Jamie Dimon, Warren Buffet just to name a few. The more knowledge I found out, the more I wanted to know. I became an avid book collector as a result. This cycle led my mind to completely transform…and I started to see myself MUCH MORE than just a Saxophone player.
I began to realize the many mistakes I did in Houston, both as a performer and personally as well (like not being more friendly and not opening up to people who truly cared about me). There are so many things I learned, things that I will be posting on this blog in the future. Honestly, if I was to go back and do it all over again I would be in a much different position musically than I am today, but God has his reasons for everything and I am greatful everything turned out how it did.
Ironically as I was realizing this, people would still call me about saxophone gigs and weddings that they wanted me to play at (this was in the beginning of 2015). Truthfully, my mind wasn’t there anymore, and instead of just telling everyone individually that I stopped playing (along with them probably convincing me to come back), I decided to literally “cut myself from everyone”…changing my number, deleting all my online profiles, all my music (except for this), get a new phone (which made me lose all my contacts). I really felt I needed this time off to think and to find my true purpose in this world.
**For those who were offended that I didn’t at least let you know that I would be out of commission, I truly apologize. I really do. It was nothing personal.**
In all, I decided to focus more on giving artists and performers a platform to showcase their talents, and decided that the saxophone is no longer for me. I actually decided this in February 2015 (I did play at only 4 events in 2015, but these events were “carryovers” from early bookings I did the year before). Those 4 events I played at in 2015 were also the 4 times I literally picked up and played the sax that year. I haven’t touched the sax since my last gig in early October last year.
Will I ever go back? Maybe if my future kids want to see me play. Other than that, I have absolutely no desire to go back on the sax, be a performer or even record in the studio.
Finally, since my future wife Charity happened to be a medical doctor, I knew I had to “step up to the plate” and do what I needed to do in order to be in a position to take care of my future family; my wife and future kids are most important to me. So I’m working as a QA Analyst in the I.T. field (tip: technology is the new gold mine, next to health). It has allowed me to have things that even just 1 year ago I thought I couldn’t get. Maybe God put Charity in my life to be that person who would “take me out of that vicious music cycle” that I and so many others are in. Either way, i’m glad it happened…as it allowed me to open my eyes and mind to greater things, even within the music/entertainment field.
After finally coming to grips with where I am in my life today, I decided to come back to Facebook earlier this week to reconnect with everyone I haven’t seen in at least a year. It’s great seeing everyone again!
SO WHAT AM I DOING NOW? Read my bio on this blog. That will answer your question!