Not everyone who enters the music business wants to be a star.
There is a entire society of people showing up to work everyday that remain happily anonymous to the general public.
In the back of a restaurant, on a cruise ship, at the hotel bar, they are on their own proverbial nine to five. There isn’t a timecard. There isn’t a big office (most of the time). They may not wear the traditional attire, but make no mistake, they are, indeed, working.
Without being overly dramatic, it’s you against the world in many respects. It’s a path that brings many positive and negative experiences. It can test you physically and mentally in many ways. A life that is unimaginable for many is a reality for them.
Josh McClanahan, a bassist and guitarist based in the Antelope Valley, has been living this reality since the end of his high school days.
Born in Santa Barbara, McClanahan and his family moved to Washington State when he was about six years old.
He started playing in church and quickly developed a fascination for the bass guitar. In the seventh grade, when his school band needed a bass player, McClanahan jumped at the chance and has not stopped playing since.
At 15, he moved to the Antelope Valley and attended Littlerock High School. Here, he met his mentor Tre Balfour, who would change his trajectory.
“Once I got out of high school, he showed me the ropes and pushed me to start playing professionally,” McClanahan said. “The rest is history.”
Since his high school days, McClanahan has played in various corporate and cover bands in about 15 different countries, including extensive touring in Asia, the Middle East, Russia, the UK and the Caribbean. He has also played with artists like NSTASIA, Darius McCary and Eli Teplin, a Quincy Jones artist.
When asked about his experience as a working musician, Josh expressed an overall positivity with his time in the business.
“I’ve gotten to experience and see other cultures and places that most Americans haven’t gotten to see, through being a musician and that, to me, is the biggest payoff,” he said. “Also, getting to do what I love to do and not having to clock in and clock out like most other people. I’m not saying that’s bad in any way, but that just wouldn’t work for me.”
As with any job, there are the negative aspects you have to deal with. Musicians face a unique set of challenges and job unpleasantness at wherever their office is that day.
“I’ve dealt with anything from not getting paid, physical and verbal altercations with other musicians, artists, even the audience,” McClanahan said. “That comes with the territory.”
As mentioned before, being a musician can test you mentally and physically. Touring, where musicians and artists make most of their money today, can be incredibly taxing on one’s health.
Mentally, it can be taxing to trust your income to something that can shift in an instance. McClanahan is no stranger to this.
“You could be locked into a specific gig with a specific artist for years and then all of a sudden while on tour, that artist could just decide they want to pull the tour and you go from having all this stability, to having absolutely nothing,” McClanahan said. “You’ve kinda gotta be ready for anything at any time and never get comfortable even if it all seems that’s it going OK.”
The real meaning behind the phrase “music business” is exactly that. A hybrid of music and business. Wiser people than myself have said repeatedly that the music is why you do it.
The business keeps you doing it. Through all the advice and positivity, sometimes the negativity can catch up to you and start to seep in. This where it pays to callous your mind.
In looking to the future, never forget the long game. McClanahan sums up perfectly what has gotten him through his hard times.
“Knowing that hard work will eventually payoff,” he said. “I look at my music career as I look at life. No matter how well you do in life, the rain is going to fall. So the best thing you can do is be prepared for that.”