One of the advantages of being unsuccessful is that very few people, if any, want a piece of you. I remember well my days of pseudo fame—you know, the kind of which everyone is said to experience fifteen minutes. I remember the unspoken imperative that you at all costs keep up with the Joneses, the incessant expectation that your itinerary be scheduled around this allstar compilation album audition or that appearance at so-and-so’s fashion awards run, rather than your actual needs as a human; all of this turned my young brush with celebritydom into an exercise of being chewed, swallowed, and spat out, time after time, at the best of times.
I remember being asked once, in my state of pseudo-ascendancy by a pseudo-gatekeeper, what I wished to be. Now, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But I knew at the time that giving this answer would bear little fruit, so I turned to the closest and most genuine response that I felt would suffice, and said that what I wanted to do was write songs, I wanted to be a songwriter. We debated the subject for some time (meaning, he spoke and I listened, this is Asia after all), and eventually the conclusion was drawn that I would only be a songwriter when I wrote songs and got paid for doing it. That would be my one definition of success.
I carried this charge around with me in my young life as a musician. When I left the bright lights of Malaysia’s cultural capital in 2005, I also left behind a burgeoning career, a move that many friends, even close ones couldn’t comprehend. I didn’t have the guts to say it at the time, mostly because it felt laced with a sort of John Lennon-esque man-child helplessness that I had long sought to avoid. But the fact of the matter was, I left to be with someone, for love if you will, specifically the love of a kind and beautiful woman, wise beyond her years, who looked deep into my soul with all its charred scars and fetid wounds, and said: we can do this.
The years went by. I remember hitting thirty. Still, not a cent from anyone for the songs I was painstakingly writing in my home basement studio. Young puppies became pets in their prime, who became mature dogs, their love unflinching, their attention unwavering. I miss the ones we’ve lost to time, and cherish that moments I am spending with all of them, but especially the oldest ones, who despite our general avoidance of the subject we know are over the proverbial hill. Hairs turn grey, joints become more brittle. And need I mention the colonoscopies? (Well, I’m still just forty four, but I hear their approach like the tick-tock of a hungry crocodile hell-bent on horrors untold.)
So here I am, in my mid forties now, the amount of money I have been paid for my songwriting (or other musical work, for that matter) since I arrived on these shores unable to buy me lunch at the local deli. I live with my wife, who has remained married to me now for reasons unknown for seventeen years, on a decidedly unflashy New England farmstead with six dogs, three goats (one more on the way), two horses, and an open door to those dear to us. I’ve written, say, a hundred and five songs give or take, from orchestral works to acoustic ballads, some organized into sprawling rock operas and musicals, others barely a minute long, just enough to get a single idea across and hopefully elicit a smile.
<sidebar> Don’t ask how I live. The answer is not a soundbite. Separate from my wife’s professional and business successes, which are considerable, my financial situation is a stultifyingly tedious and rancidly complicated tale involving a patriarch who is richer than Trump (and possibly just as disagreeable), and a grandmother who died far too young. The bottom line is I find myself in a place where my day-to-day needs are more or less taken care of (more of less) </sidebar>
Still, it’s a far-cry from being Malaysia’s new “it”-boy who could write his ticket and command a six-figure salary for a month’s work (somehow, don’t ask me). And for my life’s circumstances, my interlocutor that day at lunch would surely insist that I am not to be considered a songwriter, because the cumulative offerings I have received for said activity are too paltry. Now, the lifelong student that I am likes to say silly things like, “What do we really know for certain? Can we be really sure of anything?”
But in this instance, I’m pretty sure of myself when I say: you know, I don’t think he was right.
TO BE CONTINUED...
at a glance
Adam Farouk (born April 6, 1978) is a Malaysian musician, producer, writer, and entrepreneur, currently based in the United States. He is known for his integrative approach to the creative arts, and frequently infuses his works with unlikely combinations of style, influence, and genre.
Learn more about Adam's other creative projects at bluedorian.com!
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