Close your eyes and you can imagine what it was like. Hot, sticky, crowded. Smoke, flashing screens, and lighters flickering. Fans screaming, laughing, clapping, and crying. Bodies pushing, shoving, trying to catch a glimpse. Everyone wanting to see the stage— the lights, the equipment, the musician himself.
He was running back and forth singing, headbanging, and playing his guitar. The lyrics were jumbled. His movements out of sync. The sound of the bass thumped through the crowd so loud my body vibrated with every wrong note played. I just wanted it to end.
Nick Wilde had opened for the Counting Crows at the Hollywood Bowl. It was his second chance— and he blew it. The crowd was exhilarated at the start of his first song and he owned the stage but it didn’t last long. By the third song he was improvising, pulling notes, and forgetting words. He was lost in his own trance, soaked in alcohol, and no one could help him...not Xander, not my mother, and definitely not me. “Mr. Jones” started playing before he even finished his fourth song...and he never played onstage again.
Music was his soul. Music was in all of our souls. When we were younger he taught us everything he could...how to play, to sing, the right way to command a stage. We knew every song by every artist. We traveled to concert after concert. Music was his life and it became ours.
But he wasn’t happy just playing. He had a dream—he wanted to be famous. And somewhere along the way his dream became an obsession. I’ll give it to him, he got further than most do. By the age of nineteen he had been signed by a label and cut his first album. But after a disappointing run they released him. He spent the next fifteen years working the circuit—clubs, churches, weddings, birthday parties, as he waited for another big break. And then, just like that, he blew his golden opportunity.
Everything in our life changed after that. The drinking got worse, Grandpa came around more to check on us, and Mom went back to work. Every day left another kink in his chain as he lived in his own world. I was sixteen when his plan A became my plan B and, just like him, at a young age, I cut my first album. But unlike him I had Xander. He wasn’t going to let me fail. The band’s album had a slow start but after a year of touring, it started to gain popularity.
I remember the first time the Wilde Ones graced a real stage. We were restless. We had been sitting around for hours waiting. When we were finally up we strutted confidently across the stage like we had in rehearsal, but, really, we were nervous as hell. The lights were much brighter and the audience so much bigger than we were used to. When the guys started to play, soft, barely audible words flew out of my mouth so fast I forgot to breathe. The band was drowning me out and I knew it. Looking around, I adjusted the microphone height and took in the crowd. They were cheering me on with such enthusiasm that my voice finally soared over them. It was the same voice I’d grown up with, the one my dad had fostered. It was raw and present and soulful, and, in that moment, my music came alive. The crowd went crazy and just like that my life changed again.
Xander struck while the iron was hot. He arranged to go on tour. That was the beginning of the end for me. We started out small. Smaller venues, shitty hotels, crappy food, and a lot of drinking. We opened for band after band and the relationships I made...they kept me going, that and being up on that stage doing what I loved...it kept me going, wanting to make my dad proud...yeah, that, too.
But touring was a constant infringement on my personal space. I hated the cramped quarters, lack of privacy, constant strict schedule, never being in the same city for more than two nights, people following you everywhere, people always wanting something from you. Even the girls throwing themselves at you got old. It was the longest year of my life, but I did it for him because somewhere along the way his dream morphed into mine. What I came to realize was that his dream wasn’t mine—my dad thought being on tour meant you had made it. His dream was about being famous. Mine is about the music.
As the venues got bigger so did the crowds, the fanfare, and I could see how you could get lost in it, caught up in it—but I was determined not to end up like my father. He was addicted to the fame. I’m addicted to the creative process. I hope that difference between us is enough. The tour ended and we wrote, we played around LA, and as time passed life was good. But I had managed to put off cutting another album long enough. This time I was doing it for the band and for my brother and for me—because I love the music. Cutting the album—that’s the fun part. It’s the promoting I dreaded, at least until the day I saw her through the glass. The girl who inspired our song “Once in a Lifetime,” the girl Xander always referred to as my muse, the girl who stole my heart one night and then crushed it at the very same time.
She was as beautiful as I remembered and with one glance she took my breath away. She walked my way, pulling a suitcase behind her, and my heart skipped a beat. I knew immediately she was the one sent to interview me and suddenly any negativity I had about doing press was gone. I couldn’t help but watch her. I wanted her unlike anyone I had ever wanted before. I had to stifle a laugh when her briefcase fell off the top of her suitcase and she glanced around to see who saw. I wanted to yell, “Only me and don’t worry because everything about you is sexy as fuck.”
I rushed to grab the door for her, but she pushed it forward and fell into me—not that I minded in the least. I’d catch her over and over. There wasn’t a thing about her that I didn’t remember from the first time we met and even the awkwardness of the moment brought me to full attention. When her body pressed against mine, I knew in that instant...this time I wasn’t letting her get away so easily. I’d go on a thousand tours to have her in my life—there was just something about her, a light in her eyes that made everything wrong feel right. And just like my dad, I got a second chance—it was her. But unlike him, I wasn’t going to blow it.
When she extended her hand and said, “Hello, I’m Dahlia London from Sound Music. I’m so sorry I’m late,” I knew she had to be mine.