Carlock: No need to put up with a tempermental artist

Published 3:50 pm Thursday, November 1, 2012

I think every young artist needs one of two things: a mentor or a therapist. They need someone detached and wise enough to impart that elusive perspective that will either sail or sink the trajectory of their lives and livelihoods. When I was in my early 20s, I was an artist without either figure in my life, so  when I see young artists screwing up, I wish better for them because I know they have no idea what they’re doing. Good parents can only play this role until their young adult starts the inevitable process of establishing independence from mom and dad: They they just don’t listen anymore, if they ever did. This rudderless moment is frightening, exhilarating and necessary, but bridges burned in youthful anger is nothing short of opportunity’s arson.

Destroying relationships because you’re young, clueless and handy with a flamethrower will most certainly come back to haunt you. Sometimes, this haunting is directly related to a particular action, but more often than not, it’s a slow continual self-sabotage thinking that that behavior is an appropriate way out of a difficult or disappointing situation, leaving them nothing but failure as they scratch their heads.

Some people base so much decision-making on feelings that they develop the idea that doing whatever makes them feel better is the best decision. Feelings of fear, inadequacy or loss of control are the wrong reasons to strike out at those who are trying to help.

I have to say, too much slack is cut for a “temperamental artist.” I’ve known more than I can count. They have a lot of growing up to do, and anyone who encounters “that side” knows so, so let’s just call it what it is. All this “wink wink nudge nudge” and “well you know, temperamental artists…” is much too forgiving. Everyone has conflicts with another person, but handling it with tactful communication, which includes listening as well as talking, is always the answer. Cowardly bomb-throwing and agitation from behind a QWERTY keyboard is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, Facebook now allows us to spot the unstable libelers in the newsfeed and wise people can flee. In 2007, flaming FB statuses were new territory. Five years down the road, the world is wise enough to spot a trash talker and get away.

The only reason that any third party puts up with “a temperamental” artist is because they either have a bunch of money tied up in them (labels) or they believe the artist has the potential to bring them a bunch of money (sycophants, and usually wrong). The good news is that since the old model for making a bunch of money is mostly history, people aren’t putting up with it anymore because they don’t see the paycheck at the end of the BS. Things are getting a little healthier and less enabling on that front.

Temperamental artists kill their own careers. Period. And then later, SURPRISE, they can’t hold jobs, keep friends, etc., until they get their heads straight, if they ever do. No matter what your desired career is, creative or otherwise, the scenario is the same. Every day you either build relationships, leave them dormant and fading, or you tear them down. There is nothing else.

Having worked with “some of the best and some of the worst,” I can tell you in every single example I can recall, the temperamental artist in a band was the least talented figure in the equation who brought the very least to the table. Not because they couldn’t really contribute, but because they didn’t develop themselves because of self-doubt or they drive away people who want to give them a “break.”

In that case, a therapist might come in handier than a mentor. I wish every artist could have one. Most people could be so much better equipped to handle conflict and navigate through uncertainty with the help of a skilled therapist and advisor. That invaluable advice would give them the tools to preserve relationships and keep themselves open to the countless unknown opportunities their emotional unevenness and feelings of “lash-out entitlement” would otherwise destroy.

If I were to offer up just one concrete piece of advice that no one ever told me, it would be: Do not send angry letters when you have conflicts with people. Any professional will move away from you in a split second. I sent a handful in my 20s, thinking I was justified in “expressing my feelings.” Bottom line is relationships that could bring opportunity will dry up much quicker than you gained them because you mercilessly torch the wrong person. Don’t do it.

Instead, take a cue from Abraham Lincoln. After he died, his personal papers left behind revealed many a “hot letter” that he wrote, only to be set aside until his emotions subsided. While in a better frame of mind, with a display of perhaps some of his greatest every-day wisdom, he would write at the bottom “never sent, never signed.” That’s some real wisdom.


Dave Carlock is a 25-year veteran of the entertainment business whose work as a recording engineer and producer, touring musician, and songwriter made him Googleable. His continuing work as an Independent Content Creator of Sound and Image has earned him a Grammy Award certificate, two Platinum Record Awards, and a Paragon Award in advertising. Currently, he brings national and international artists to make records and music videos at his production studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District.