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Dan Tedesco Examines Life Of An Independent Touring Musician With ‘Chasing The Lightning’

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Dan Tedesco grew up loving music, eventually playing and studying jazz as a college student, knowing all along that he wanted to make his living as a performing musician. That life hasn’t always been easy but, as he points out in his documentary film, Chasing The Lightning, his dream hasn’t faded.

Tedesco provides a screening of the film and a live performance on Friday, Nov. 17, at Barleycorn’s.

Jedd Beaudoin: When did the idea to make the film Chasing The Lightning present itself?

Dan Tedesco: Doing what I do for a living, people are always asking what it’s like and, ‘How do you do this? Where do you go play? What are the venues like? What are the crowds like? What’s it like on the road?’ I think a lot of people have seen documentaries that portray or profile a certain level [of comfort]. People traveling around on tour buses and Learjets and playing to massive audiences.

I started to think, ‘Well, maybe instead of trying to explain these answers to people who ask me these questions, maybe I could just find a way to show it to them.’ At the same, really try to focus on what I would refer to as the blue collar side of the world of rock ‘n’ roll. Not the over-sensationalized and over-glorified idea of what it is to do this for a living but actually showing the reality of what it is. And show the reality of what most people that go off to do this are, I don’t want to say faced with, but what they ultimately have to work with.

In the film you touch on something I’ve seen so many times: You say, ‘I was depending on these six or eight people I saw the last time to come through the door.’ I’ve seen that so many times, where somebody will come through and you’ll have a packed room and six weeks later they come through and there’s literally me, the bartender and the performer sitting in the room. It’s so strange the factors that go into why people don’t turn out to shows. I would have to think, on one hand, it’s hard not take it personally, it’s hard not to be stressed about it, and there’s that moment of, ‘What’s going to happen now?'

I think that was that boils down to is: There’s only so much that you can control. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that you just mentioned. They’re all things that, psychologically, can be extremely challenging to deal with. Some nights are going to be good nights and some nights aren’t. It’s like that for everybody. Even at a big level, there are still shows where, maybe the word ‘tank’ would be a little strong to use because there are still successful nights, but there are things that go wrong. There are artists that come through and they’re expecting to sell out some arena and they don’t.

Just like there’s an artist who comes in and hopes that there’s going to be 30 people at a coffee shop and there’s two. It’s all relative. But those things don’t ever stop happening. I don’t think. Because that’s just how life is. Things are never 100 percent. It ebbs and flows. Fan bases can be really good for one or two years and then maybe a portion of them have kids or people move or something comes up where they can’t go to shows as much. They might still be following you and being supportive in the way that they can but physically being at a show may not be something that’s easy for them to do.

In the film you have this moment where you basically say that part of you hopes that you don’t ever catch the lightning that you’re chasing. I’m curious about that statement and what that meant to you at the time that you said that.

I think it’s important to always be hungry and to be chasing something. My comment in the movie comes from that place of, ‘I hope that I don’t ever become complacent with this.’ Or, that, I don’t want to lose that spirit and that drive of trying to reach something. I think the moment that you ‘reach something,’ that’s a scary place to be because now …. You hear people talk about this all the time: Guys that do make it up to a Number One slot somewhere. The hardest thing in the world is to maintain that. It can’t even be maintained. I don’t even know that that’s truly possible.

I think that you’re always going to be going up and down and up and down and again you hope that, over time, it averages out to a certain level of success you can be fulfilled with. But I think chasing something like a gold record, which is sort of what – when the film starts, [I’m talking about] going after something like that? Those are kind of arbitrary goals. That’s not really, at 18 years old, when I went and talked to that guy, that that’s really what I wanted. That was still was kind of a younger, more naïve person’s perspective on, ‘This is what it means to be successful.’

As you go along, in your pursuit of something that you’re passionate about, those goals change. They go from one thing to another thing and, as you get older and life experiences happen to you and life itself happens to you, the dream and the goals sort of metamorphosize.

To me, it’s totally sustainable to get doing this and it’s not something I have any intention of stopping. I do think that it might ultimately be that I end up going in a different direction with it than maybe I thought when I was 18 years old.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

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