There’s a certain stress that is gone when you let go of your expectations. By mid 2012 our only goal was to have a great time. We knew the clock was ticking and unless something really amazing happened, we’d eventually have to close up shop. Our last hope was in one of the songs that we had recorded in early 2011 with our producer Allen Salmon. “Baby Run Away” was as charismatic and catchy a pop/rock song we’d ever written. We thought it was our last best chance to get the ball rolling one more time.
We decided that we would go all out for this one. We’d shoot a music video, promote it like crazy, do a bunch of shows, pitch to radio, and hope for the best. Even another TV placement with this song could give us the momentum we needed to make some more noise, literally. Through all of this, though, our spirits were high. We all came to a point where we truly cherished what we were able to do, even if we weren’t making money doing it. We became more and more thankful for the experiences in our past, and didn’t try to use them as excuses for anything. We just had decided to enjoy it, because we didn’t know how long we’d be able to.
We landed a corporate gig to help pay for the expenses of the single, and even entered into a local battle of the bands where we were pretty sure we’d win, just so we could make some cash. We won, and I’ve never felt so bad about accepting a thousand dollars. Battle of the bands is something we said we’d never do, but desperate times call for desperate measures. We took the money and put it all into the video and the song, and began to lay the groundwork for release. We needed to make enough money from Baby Run Away to pay for the next single that we had already recorded.
Now, based on previous blogs, you’re probably bracing for me to tell you story of another failure, disappointment, or series of circumstances out of our control that wrecked our plans. The truth is, we were forced to drop all of those terms. “Failure” was not possible because we had nothing left to lose. For the first time in a few years, we just wanted to make something. We knew we were limited in our experience and abilities and majorly limited in our budget, but we didn’t care. It was all about the creation of something. We realized that art in and of itself was a noble cause. We realized the idea of failure was an idea imposed by our society, and we had to let it go, as hard as it was. Now you may think that sounds like a cop out, and maybe it is. But when your dreams are on the line, you have to rationalize it somehow. We had to change our measure of success from financial to creative. September rolled around and we released the song and video. We did our best, but it hit the internet with little fanfare. The youtube video filled with comments like “why is this not more popular?”, a common theme with our songs. In October we made a run to Florida to help promote the single. We were having a great time, no stress, lots of laughs, but the song only made us a few hundred dollars, if that, and we knew that soon it would be time. Our hands were tied, more songs done, but not paid for, and the task of paying for them, even just a few thousand dollars, seemed a mountain too high to climb.
Bands break up for all sorts of reasons. Often they can no longer stand each other, or maybe they’re tired from years on the road, or the work has taken it’s toll on their families and they just want some quiet. None of these things happened to us. We were family, we weren’t road dogs, and our families were supportive. We just, ran out of money. We realized that to get back in the game would take not only extraordinary work and commitment, but extraordinary luck as well. The game had changed and success was found more easily through a retweet from Taylor Swift than actual hard work and great product. I had a one year old at home, and mounting debt from never holding a full time job so I could be in the band. Jim, Kyle, and Matt were still single and wanted to hit the road full time and see parts of the country we were never able to, and I didn’t blame them. At that point, I was holding them back.
How do you end something that has been your life for such a long time? This is what I wanted to do since I was 13. This was my dream. I had my chance, and it just didn’t work out. Whether I was a victim of circumstances, didn’t work hard enough, wasn’t good enough, or something else, it didn’t matter. It was time to move on, for the sake of our well being, and to what I didn’t know. I still don’t know. This was putting an end to a chapter of my life that had changed it forever.
December 2012 I was in charge of putting on a Christmas show at our home church. I booked Jars of Clay to come play, and our church was kind enough to let us open the show. This felt like the right time. The guys had a big tour planned for the new year, and we decided together that this would be the last show. For me, the day itself was incredibly busy. I was in charge of the entire event. All of the logistics, load ins, catering, and sound checks that go into this sort of thing ate up my entire day. The Jars of Clay guys were completely gracious and easy to work with, but no one really knew that this was it for us, and the emotions I was dealing with. We decided to not promote it as our last show because we were just the opener, and didn’t want to take focus off Jars of Clay and the Christmas spirit. We played 6 songs I believe, most of which is a blur to me now. Before the last song I said something to the effect of “this is our last song, I mean, our actual last song.” Before we knew it it was over. We shared a hug in the green room afterwards, but I was needed somewhere else because I was the promoter. After the show I was able to drive the guys in Jars of Clay back to their hotel in Cleveland where we had some great conversation. I shared with them briefly of what the night meant to me, and they were sympathetic. I remember getting back in the van after dropping them off, and driving home in silence. That was it. No big goodbyes, no party. No fanfare. It was over, just like that. Roughly 9 years we poured into it, and I would be lying if I said this ending was bittersweet. It was bitter. Like so many moments before, filled with disappointment and letdown. My identity was wrapped up in this band. I was not just Clay Kirchenbauer, I was Clay Kirchenbauer, lead singer of the Warner Brothers recording artist, The Undeserving. It was who I was, and almost more importantly, who I wanted to be. What was I going to do now? Who was I going to be? Truth is, these are questions I’m still figuring out, 4 years later. But I have figured a few things out.
To be continued (one more time)….
Here’s the video we released in 2012 after our last show.