THE MODERATELY FED ARTIST
By AUSTIN WHITELY
Bangor, Maine. New Orleans, Louisiana. Bloomington, Illinois. Athens, Georgia. St. Augustine, Florida. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Boulder, Colorado. Radio stations in all of those cities, and others, have been propagandized with my debut album. The most recent envelope containing a CD and press release has the printed address sealed with tape—WTMD, Towson, Maryland. I’ve learned my lesson with shipping costs rising, Sharpie writing growing sloppier, and my hand earning the semi-permanent marks and aches that come from addressing more packages than have ever strummed chords. Hand addressing each carrier of hope has been for the birds, and I’m two wings short of the metaphor.
What I lack in aviary appendages, I make up for in stubbornness, disguised as fortitude, and an ingrained patience earned by years of “deferred gratification.” At least, that’s what my dad called it, when I was under his watch.
“Can I get this [game, toy, candy]?”
Deferred gratification. You can work for it.
“I just can’t get this homework right.”
Deferred gratification. Keep practicing it.
“Are we done yet? We’ve been here forrrrrrever.”
In instances of the last example, when I was a teenager and part of a father-son contracting team, my dad would usually trail off, delivering his motto and moving on to the next job procedure. In my youth, I’d always assumed it was a way to deflect the fact that he didn’t have the money for whatever toy, that he didn’t want to take the time to help with a problem, or that he just wanted to finish the current Trademaster Associates job with the least amount of complaining possible. I was probably right sometimes, but that’s not the point.
When I need supplies to keep my dream alive, I look at what I have to do to get things done, instead of wallowing in pity. I’m in the business of audio and art, not futility. I’ve been instilled with the knowledge that a work shirt isn’t an Armani button-up ruined by a drop of coffee, but a T-shirt decorated with grease, dirt, and sweat. A man can be defined by his successes, but he is ruled on how he handles obstacles. In my mind, problems are merely that—obstacles, something to get past.
Was “deferred gratification” a ploy of fancy words articulated to confuse a child into parental submission, or was it an exercise in character building? I don’t care.
Either way, I use it to my advantage. When a radio station informs me that I’m “not a fit” (which happens more often than not), I send two more pressers out, like a wounded hydra. When a station never replies to an email, I dig in deeper and research other locations. When I read on several “Contact Us” pages that CDs, if approved by the station’s lone music director (one person’s tastes decides the fate of airplay, for most stations), will sit in a bin of other new releases where DJs may or may not happen upon them, I still send a package.
Is this blind faith? Is this insanity? Is this OCD behavior? (Maybe). No.
It’s deferred gratification.
I did my due diligence. I put in the “work.” I encase the word work in quotations because my hands won’t blister from assembling envelopes. My skin won’t burn from the sun as I enter a post office. My throat won’t parch from exhaustion when I ask for postage. Ask Sandy at the Clermont office or Jenifer at the Shepherdsville branch. They’ve seen me enough times to tell. In this world of NOW NOW NOW, sometimes the hardest work of all is waiting.
While I wait, though, my dad’s latest motto, which he says about everything, comes to mind: “There’s a song in it.”
Austin Whitely is Auzman Propaganda, Man, a solo artist from Shepherdsville, Kentucky. He co-founded the Homegrown Art, Music & Spoken Word Show, an open-mic and art exhibition series held bimonthly in Bullitt County. Auzman Propaganda, Man’s debut release, “Greatest Hits Vol. 3 & 4,” is available through CDBaby, iTunes, and other online venues.