Dispatch from the Road (Year 1) / by Michael Dustin Youree

I have been home-free for a year now.  On July 1 of 2013 I gave up my East Village apartment and my steady job as a private music teacher so I could make a full force effort at living my life as an artist.  "Now or never," I thought.  Beyond that, my life in New York City had become stale and uninspired, murder for an artist.  So, with the risk-taking and sometimes reckless, yet calculated state of mind necessary in the modern entrepreneur, I packed all my possessions into storage in Queens and jumped off.

Initial hope was with my band, PushMethod.  I had taken on the task of booking a fall tour, as this might be the final piece in getting the deal that could support us full time.  Lack of tour experience was our weakest link.  I hustled hard over the summer to land decent gigs.  Yes, I wanted desperately to do this, but I also wanted it to be a solid business move.  I knew it had to be.  While visiting my dad in Colorado, I discovered that he had an old RV going unused.  Two weeks later we drove it from Loveland to New York City so PushMethod could avoid the cost of hotels on tour.  It's called The Honey.  We had some good times in this beast.  Below is a gallery of its journey... so far...

Bottom line, things didn't work out as I had idealized.  In truth, the other guys in the band could only be away from their 9-5s for two weeks.  Our tour became a two week stint down the East Coast with a series of weekend trips around it.  I realized I would be spending much more of the fall in New York than I anticipated.  I didn't have an apartment to go back to and couldn't afford to get into one.  I set to making a couch surfing schedule.  A week here... a few days there... bouncing around among friends as I tried to figure it out.  

This lifestyle is filled with surprises of all shapes and sizes, hard and happy.  The happiest surprise came on a fateful night on E 14th Street.  I met the girl who has shaped everything since then.  We were together five days before she returned to her home in Holland, but the bond was made and I promised to visit her after Thanksgiving.  It was a signal that I had made the right choice to jump.

The surprises kept coming, up and down, all the way to this one year anniversary.  No major breakthrough came of the touring we did.  And though for a brief period I tried to keep the tour momentum going, I realized that PushMethod is a band not meant for small stage, half-empty room, self-booked touring.  I did make it to Holland after spending Thanksgiving in the the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my adopted family.

While in Europe prior, I spent a week in Paris where I was introduced to Oscar Nominated film composer Reinhardt Wagner (ironically through Jean-Pol Franqueuil the father at the beginning of this PushMethod video).  In the last six months we have composed eleven songs, recorded basic tracks for these, and premiered them at a private party... all in Paris.  Suus, my new girlfriend, returned with me to the US for a Texas Christmas and a Colorado New Year.  She has become the closest thing to home I can figure in this wild adventure.  It was her glowing personality that first attracted the founder of The Acoustic Guitar Project on New Year's Eve in Denver.  I have since recorded a song for the NYC project and have become the curator of the Amsterdam version.  I have big hopes for both of these musical developments.  

Still, there is one more thing to report from this year on the road.  Inspired by the Acoustic Guitar Project, I began exploring the possibility of a solo tour across the US in August.  As a solo artist, my options are much more open on the touring front.  More paying gigs.  Less financial liability.  The only hitch: I didn't have any quality recorded solo material to distribute or support my tour.  That changed while in Denver last April.  I brought up my situation to old friend and veteran music man, Lance Bendiksen.  Without hesitation he said "I'll do an indie deal with you."  We rushed into record two days later and banged it out in 8 hours.  Now, I have a solo EP due out in July that cost me nothing but a share in the potential profit.   

The band is still going strong.  We continue to elevate, slowly but surely, and have upcoming summer releases of which I'm very proud.  Understandably, my choice to jump off came as a shock (though not a surprise) to my bandmates.  Traditionally thinking, we should be in the same place all the time, rehearsing and gigging around the city.  I'm not buying that anymore.  Part of why is detailed in an earlier editorial of mine.  We have a saying in the band: "What's your PushMethod?"  It has a different meaning for all of us, but there is a common thread.  It's about facing fear, embracing risk, experimenting and going full force after your dreams, aspirations, and fulfillment.  It is a way of life, not just a music group.  It is in that spirit that I chose to jump, and I am living my PushMethod, in all of its pleasure and pain.  

Beyond my personal interpretation and choice, PushMethod is a brotherhood, and, more callously, a business partnership.  I seek to make my jump service that, as well.  I am the reconnaissance soldier, making waves in all ways possible and pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a band.  Everywhere I go I take PushMethod with me.

You might say that I reason my way into the situation that suits me best, and perhaps that's fair.  Yet over the last year I have become more aware that all dots connect.  If I had never worked at the French school (where I was a music teacher) I would have never met Jean-Pol and his wife Colleen who introduced me to Reinhardt.  If I had not been free to see Suus in Europe, I would not have gone to Paris to meet Reinhardt.  I have been back to Europe twice this year and formed a powerful collaboration.  The matchmaker for Suus and I is a friend from my teen years with whom I had lost touch.  He is a writer and actor in LA.  Now that we are reunited, I have recruited him to come on as screenwriter for my musical film project with Reinhardt.  Through one conversation I reconnected with the producer of my new EP, and throughout my solo tour across The States I will be tagging "Free Hawaii" (a new PushMethod single) and "What's Your PushMethod?", as well as meeting up with other Acoustic Guitar Project curators.  Were it not for this freedom I've embraced I would have never been seeking solitude in Central Park that fateful day in May and inspired the biggest piece of exposure PushMethod has ever received.  You see, all these seemingly different paths aren't independent dots, but pieces of a bigger picture that feed one another.  Even if you still think I'm reasoning my way, what would any of this be if I weren't living the dream I preach... the PushMethod philosophy?  I'd be little more than a phony bible salesman.

I am practicing what I preach, and would be remiss if I didn't highlight some of the low points.  First off, I have to live very modestly.  My only big expense is transit.  It has to stay that way.  No new things or lavish entertainment.  I've worn the same pair of shoes everyday since I jumped.  I do own nice things, but only so much will fit in the bag on my back.  The money issue haunts me.  Truth is, I don't know where I'll be only a few months down the road.  I could be completely broke without a way to keep this candle burning.  Doubt is my perennial companion.  

Some days I'm overwhelmed with the impossibilities that deter so many from this path.  I get caught in the downward spiral of second guessing.  I question my own ability.  I damn my own luck.  All the while, I try to keep a smile on my face and embrace the relentless optimist in me.  Who wants to hang out with a frowny pessimist, much less have them crash your couch for a week?  I work hard at being a good house guest and giving the people generous enough to host me the best version of myself.  No room for the mopey me.  

Just the sheer fact of living out of a backpack and not having a place to call home takes its toll.  Sure, I love this adventure that I'm on, but I appreciate sanctuary and long for it now more than ever.  And then there's the rejection.  It is constant, with failure just a few steps behind.  Much of the time I don't even get the courtesy of rejection, I just get ignored all together.

I'm at this interesting place where I'm producing at a very high level, and yet I'm so unsure and insecure.  I've taken the leap knowing that I have to make a career out of this now if I have any hope of having a home of my own with a family that can rely on me financially.  I have worked hard to hone my talent and build a vast network.  Is it enough?  Will I sprout wings or go splat?  There's a line in one of my new songs with Reinhardt that says, "It may be I fall flat on my face, but at least I could say it was a damn good story."  I guess that's my consolation prize and perhaps the heart of my PushMethod: to make my life a story worth telling.  Those are the ones filled with inspiration.  Not all of them have happy endings, yet all are fraught with peril.  No matter what, I will be able to say to those kids I have someday and the ones who watch me now -- I did everything in my power to make a life out of what fulfills me.  I pursued happiness.

As I step into the haze of another year on the road, I have hope that this is bigger than me.  Sure, there is a healthy helping of personal ambition and desire, but it's also for those kids in my life, now and in the future.  It's for the woman I love.  It's for my brothers in PushMethod and all the other struggling artists I have come to know.  If I can succeed, maybe they can too.  It's for my friends.  It's for my family.  It's for anyone who dares to dream.

The kicker is I'm not exactly sure what success looks like.  If life has taught me anything, it is that this may not turn out as I have it drawn up in my head... it can actually be more beautiful.  And so this troubadour heads on into the mist, hoping that the beauty I find will turn into a song that the whole world can sing.

 

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Below is a vastly incomplete gallery of the places I slept in over the year.  There's a couple ringers.  Can you guess which?  I swear I took more pictures than this, as I had the notion of documenting everywhere I laid my head has been spiraling through my brain for a while.  This year, I'm making a point of getting a shot of every location.  See you back here for Year 2.

Special thanks to those who have opened their homes to me over the last year: Zvi Ben-Dor, Katherine Fleming, Michael Finnegan, Erika Baracaldo, Jenna and Shelby Francis, Larry and Wendee Blum, Tiffany Lowery, Megan Bolado, Amanda Dean, Allyson Spencer, Tavis Eaton, Dan Hymson, Samuel and Marie-Sophie Schwalm, Andrew and Claudia Hersh, Allen Hulsey, Scott Boswell, Derek Holt, Todd and Amy Zipper, Adam and Michele Zipper, Justin Vaughan, Suus Groenleer, Judith Groenleer, Dirk Van Tellingen, and my dear parents.