Let’s talk about confidence. I grew up – when I grew up I was the nerdy kid. You know, my dad bought all my clothes at Sears & Roebuck, so my – I just had the wrong pants, the wrong shirt and people thought that was funny for some strange reason, you know? I was busy into my music so I didn’t really pay much attention to it, but I just wasn’t that popular. You know, and my best friend Ali Brown was much more popular and he was probably one of the few guys that would talk to me. And around about 13, I grew an afro so I got a little cooler, you know, I switched to the electric guitar. Girls started noticing me, things started to change. And so, for me, at any early age, I saw the difference between popular and unpopular and me in my heart, in my person, I didn’t change. So in my mind, I had to say, “What made you – what’s the difference between popular and unpopular?” It’s just what the rest of the world thought, you know?
And so, I sorta saw that and I always remember – it was always – seemed like two guys on the shoulders, one here, one there. There’s the good guy over here and there’s the bad guy over there and I don’t care who you are. I don’t care how great you are. I don’t care if you had 1,000,000 records. This guy over here is very convincing and he will say to you, “I know you’ve had 13 hit, but that was it. You’ll never get another one.” Or if you’re a new guy especially, “Well, yeah. You played pretty good, but you don’t play as good as so and so.” And that’s what holds most people back. Most people are really afraid to put their picture on the front, put themselves out there. ‘Cause they’re afraid if something goes wrong, it’s not like they’re selling shoes or another product. It’s their heart. It’s their face in it and they’re afraid of being rejected by the world. They just can’t take it and I hate to say it but, unless you can get passed that and experience the rejection a few times, you can never go on to be the big star that you would like to be because you will get rejected. There will be a day that you will stand on stage and you will get hit with a tomato. I promise you that – or a beer bottle, you know, or something else. And until you can do that and get through that and work your way through that and respond to the public in a positive way, you’re not ready to do it.
Well, you overcome it by – you have to think about concerts that you did that were great and when I say concerts, I’m not talking about as a star. I’m talking about little gigs you did as a kid. I remember playing Jewish bar mitzvahs when I was 13 and they would so happy when we would play the A-Train and I take my little solo on top of it. You have to go back to that. That group of people thought you were wonderful at the time, okay? And so, it’s the same thing even when you have a hit record. I’ve done concerts with hit records that I maybe somewhere in Alabama where all they wanna hear is blues and we’re sitting there playing some other type of music and the guys taking a beer bottle, “Play some rock and roll,” and then he’s throwing it at you. And so, you just have to go through that. And, I mean, I’ve seen shows where one night you can be in Washington DC and there’s 50,000 people at a baseball stadium and then you can go somewhere in New Orleans where maybe they didn’t pay of the radio station DJ and they haven’t even heard your new record, right, and you have no one there. So you have to put on a great show if there’s 20 people there – just a great show you put on if 20,000 people were there. And that takes some mental getting used to. You have to preprogram yourself to, “This is what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna walk out and I’m gonna give it to them like this,” you know? And when you can do that, you know, that’s what makes your career. It can be learned. First of all, just about everything can be learned. That’s really true.
I’ll never forget a friend of mine who’s a big producer, David Rubinson, told me years ago and I think I was – must have been 18 or 19. I was complaining to him about, “Oh, man. Sly is so good and Stevie’s so good and this guy and this guy and that. Why am I here? How am I gonna fit in? How am I gonna make this happen?” And his words, which was the best thing he coulda ever told. He says, “You don’t have to be the absolute best,” right. He says, “You can try to be, but even if you don’t be the absolute best,” he says, “there’s gonna be so many people moving backwards that if you just hold ground, you’ll end up in the front.” And sure enough, as I got older, a lot of people took themselves out doing drugs. A lot of famous musicians just thought they should kill themselves and die young at 27 so they could be immortalized, which I think is the most ridiculous idea, you know? And so, a lot of people went back and I just sort of rose to the front just holding ground, just working hard and just holding ground and just pushing forward and that was probably the best advice he –
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