How Community Support Makes All The Difference
“The Great Wide” potential of strength in numbers
Long the days
Long the river wide
Fleeting is the time
And so it is
More than meets the eye
And so it is
*Lyrics from “The Great Wide” by Gregory Douglass
Gregory Douglass, Category: Artist, Albums: Live from the Chapel, My Hero, The Enemy, Lucid, Battler, Up & Away…open.spotify.com
Believe it or not, I starred in a scripted “reality” web TV show alongside Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino back in 2011. The show was a Yobi TV production called New Stage that followed the contestants of an America Idol-type talent show behind the scenes. The Situation played the head judge — the Simon Cowell of the show, if you will — and I played a contestant who had made it all the way to the final top three. My character’s name was Gregory Douglass because I was ultimately playing myself, only a more fictional, scripted version of myself. It was kind of fun to play “me” because (spoiler alert!) it was the only me ever to win a televised talent competition — even if it was just a fake competition.
The entire experience was awkward and bizarre — like something out of a Black Mirror episode. It was fascinating to experience the life of an actor on the set of a web show though. It was a glamorous mix of exciting and laborious. I tried to escape the crowd and seize some alone time whenever I could so I could stay sane throughout the week.
I retreated to the steps of a side-door exit one afternoon between scenes to get some air. Moments later I was joined by The Situation himself. He was looking for some alone time too but he didn’t seem to mind me sitting there. He lit up a smoke and we proceeded to shoot the shit. He opened up about the struggles he faced before his claim to fame on Jersey Shore, and how everything changed so drastically after the show made a situation out of him. He admitted that he couldn’t go anywhere without paparazzi following close behind. He missed his freedom more than anything else.
I had a hard time feeling compassion for him at first. Freedom felt like a luxury that was hardly comparable to the struggles and uncertainty of my own indie career, so I didn’t hesitate to share my story with him. I assured him that he’d probably never heard of me before because I was an independent musician still fighting for exposure, but that I’d been pursuing music on my own for over 12 years without the help of any label support. I made it clear how much I was still busting my ass to make things work despite every roadblock I faced. I figured I didn’t have much to lose in sharing my truth since he probably wouldn’t care anyway, so I just laid it all out there.
He took a deep drag from his cigarette as he thought about what I said. Then he looked me dead in the eye and said, “Damn, bro — that’s gangsta!”
I couldn’t believe his response. I took a beat, and then I realized he was right — my story was kind of gangsta! I was expecting him to glaze right over my words, but instead, I got mad respect from The Situation himself.
A month later, I received an email from a man in charge at National Public Radio. He wanted to interview me and feature my latest album Lucid on NPR’s Morning Edition in their year-end “Music We Missed” segment. It was a huge opportunity for me that presented itself seemingly out of the blue. His name looked familiar to me so I looked further into my database to see if we had any previous connection. Sure enough, he had been pre-ordering my albums since 2005. He was a fan!
The piece aired on December 28, 2011, as a four-minute feature (edited down from a 30-minute interview) titled Gregory Douglass: Controlling His Own ‘Lucid’ Dreams. I tuned in to listen and was overwhelmed with gratitude as I processed the heart of my own story. I thought back to my conversation with The Situation and my eyes began to swell with gratitude.
My story wasn’t one of “rags to riches” at all. I wasn’t taking the easy route. I was gangsta — and that was something I could finally be proud of.
Despite my challenges, I was living my dreams with integrity. I wasn’t famous at all, but I had built a supportive community around me that was helping me sustain my music. I was doing what I loved and people were championing me forward. And isn’t doing what we love what matters most at the end of the day?
It’s easy to forget what’s working when we spend too much time focusing on what’s not working. I’m grateful when I receive messages from people who have been impacted by my music, and it seems I often receive messages like this when I’m plagued with self-doubt. It’s in darker times like these when I wonder, “Is anyone even listening? Should I even go on making music?” Then I am once again reminded that people are listening and they have been all along.
Bill Clinton once said in an interview with Stephen Colbert that he believed “selfishness equals selflessness.” He went on to explain that when doing what you love also contributes to others, an act of selfishness also becomes an act of selflessness. I believe this is the kind of mutually beneficial exchange we should all strive for in every aspect of our lives.
We do what we love because we yearn to feel valued by others. We strive to connect so we can be sure that who we are actually matters to other people. We want to create an impact, build our legacy, and make a difference in the world. It’s connection and community that are the driving forces of contribution and perseverance.
The community I have made through music has made all of the difference throughout my life and my humble creative career. I’ve financed every album I’ve released with the help of patron support. I’ve gone on national tours with the help of fan-hosted house concerts. Now, in the digital age of everything for free, I am sustaining my craft with monthly patron support over at Patreon. Their ongoing patronage allows me to persevere as an artist and feel valued as a creative person in exchange for their support. It grants me permission to keep on being the artist I have become.
I’m not sure I would believe in myself without the support of my creative community. If those darker bouts of self-doubt are any indication of how things could be without a supportive community, then I should consider myself the luckiest artist on earth.
Community support has made me brave. It’s urged me to consistently take chances throughout my indie career. It’s helped me to think outside of the box and it’s opened my mind to new possibilities. It’s given me strength in numbers.
At the time of writing my song “The Great Wide” (the grand finale on My Hero, The Enemy), I wondered what my life might look like if I moved to Los Angeles from my comfortable home in Northern Vermont. How would my life change from such a blind leap of faith? It was a terrifying thought that took four years of serious consideration before I was ready to take the plunge, but my intuition was pulling me west in ways that could not be ignored. All I knew for sure was that my community believed in me, and that was enough for me to believe in myself. So I finally braved the move across country and have been embracing the great wide unknown ever since. It’s been three (3) years of personal transformation and creative expansion since the move to LA and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
In closing, “The Great Wide” is a song I wrote for my studio album My Hero, The Enemy. I just released a live version of that album called Live from the Chapel that was recorded and filmed live at The Chapel in San Francisco. I wrote this song about the uncertainties of intuition and the expansive possibilities of creative potential… Take a listen to the original version of the song or live version of the song if your curious.
Yours in music & creative wellness,
PS. I’ve got a whole riot of recorded music, videos, and articles to inspire you at GregoryDouglass.com.
PPS. Want to help me sustain all this creativity? Click here to become a Gregory Douglass patron.