A Music Career is a Fluid Career

There's a lot that goes into a music career. Adaptability is a good trait to have.

Have a listen as author Neal A. Yeager reads a few chapters from his novel non-Hollywood following a struggling musician and his unique (and humorous) attempts at moving forward with his career.

From recording in a remote shack to avoid noise complaints from his neighbors to participating in a vampire movie for the contacts, this musician's adventures remind us that a music career is a fluid career.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Valley Lights

Chapter 50: Valley Lights

It was dark as Sean drove his ancient Ramona down the steep drive of Mike’s 10-acre hillside home in Encino. He sure hoped that the brakes on the ancient vehicle would hold out on this long, steep drive. He didn’t really mind if he went over a cliff, but his guitar and all of the rest of his musical equipment was in the car. Losing that would be tragic! Below him, Sean could see the lights of the Valley making a huge and beautiful tapestry off into the horizon. It really was a breathtaking view. Mike really was lucky.

As Sean pulled up to the shack which was located on the multi-million dollar piece of property he was happy to see that Mike’s van was parked out front.

Though there were no lights on in the house, through the living room window Sean could see the glowing orange tip of Mike’s cigarette floating in the darkened room.

Sean grabbed his guitar and amp from the car and walked toward the front door of the shack. Even before he could knock on the door Mike had opened it. Sean called out, “I’d like to run something by you.”

To which Mike immediately replied, “You can’t move in here. I told you that my brother owns this place. He doesn’t mind me being here but the one thing he’s not cool with is me letting other people move in. So that’s not happening.”

Sean laughed and said, “Jeez, relax man. I’m not moving in. That’s not what I want to run by you.”

“So you didn’t get evicted? Because a while back you said that you were getting evicted.”

“I said that the manager threatened to evict me, not that I was getting evicted. Relax.”

“Then what is it that you want to run by me?”

Sean set the guitar and amp down on the front steps of the shack. He said, “Well the reason she threatened to evict me was the noise from the guitars. And I figure since you’ve got ten acres your neighbors are pretty far away. So maybe it would be cool if I record here. That’s all. Just record here. Not live here.”

“You want to turn my home into your studio?”

“Well, there’s this guitar, this amp, a drum machine, a microphone and a 4-track. It’s not like I’m gonna set up Abbey Road in your house.”

Mike thought for a moment. His cigarette had gone out, so the two men stood in the darkness, the glow from the Valley below the only light source. “And how often are you planning to do this?”

“I don’t know. Maybe once a week, or once every two weeks.”

“So not every night?”

“Dude, I don’t have enough ideas to do it every night,” said Sean.

“And there’s no moving in? This is all we’re doing?”

“Scout’s honor.”

Mike again stood thinking.

“All right,” Mike said finally, “As long as you promise me that’s all we’re doing here.”

“That’s all we’re doing here,” said Sean. Then he picked up and carried his equipment into the shack. He then returned to his car and on his second trip to the house, Sean clutched the X-15 under his arm.

“What is that?” asked Mike.

“This is the Fostex X-15. It’s a fantastically great 4-track recorder. I had one just like it since I was 12 but last week it blew up!”

“So you got a new one?”

“Well it’s new to me. It’s probably 30 years old but I just got it. That girl I told you about, Icon, she got it for me.”

Mike smiled. “She gave you a present?”


“And isn’t this the same girl you said was the only one who showed up for that gig you did?”

“Yeah, that’s her. Nice girl. Kind of weird. But definitely a nice girl.”

“Who has a thing for you,” said Mike.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Yes you do,”

“No, I don’t…” said Sean. Then he paused. He thought about it for a few moments, then said, “Although…” and trailed off.

“Trust me on this one Sean. If someone goes to that much trouble to make you happy, then they’ve got a thing for you.”

Sean pondered this for a moment. Actually, it sounded quite reasonable. Why else would she be so nice to him? Were there people who were just that naturally nice, or was it that she liked him?

And if she did like him, how did he feel about her? He had to admit that she was cute, but there was just something about her that was… well, odd. But then again, was ‘odd’ really that bad? Sure, ‘psycho’ would be bad but that wasn’t the vibe that he got from her. Not at all. She was nice. So assuming that Mike was right and that she liked him: a nice girl who was also cute and who also liked him… Did ‘odd’ really matter?

Mike said, “How about this? Next time you come over here to record, ask her if she wants to come along.”

“I don’t know…”

“No harm in that. And if I meet her I’m sure I’ll be able to tell and I’ll let you know if you should ask her out on a real date or if I was wrong and you should drop it.”

“I’ll think about it. Meanwhile, where can I set up?”


Sean set up his ‘studio’ in Mike’s living room with his setup facing the large picture window. It turned out that Sean’s previous experience of Mike sitting in the darkened room was not a singular experience. Mike liked to leave all of the lights off at night so that he could look out his window at the incredible view from this hillside lot. On and on the pinpoints of light stretched out below. How much was this perfectly situated, gigantic piece of property worth? Sean couldn’t even guess.

“This has gotta be the album cover,” said Sean as he stared out at the view, “It is such an awesome view.” He bent down and turned on the power to the amp. A little red light glowed in the dark room.

“It is a good one,” said Mike, “I’m very lucky.”

“Yeah you are,” Sean agreed. Then he strummed a giant power chord whose thundering sound split the night.


Sean spent the next few hours recording tracks, filling up his cassette tape with different versions of a new song. All the while Sean worked, Mike sat in the dark, chain-smoking cigarettes and listening along to Sean’s progress. After a time, Sean set the guitar on its stand and flipped the amp’s power switch to ‘off.’

Mike said, “I’d forgotten what that was like.”

“Say what?”

“Creating. I had forgotten what that was like.”

Sean smiled and said, “Yeah, no other feeling like it, is there?”

“No there isn’t. And I could see that on your face. Even in the dark I could see it…” Mike trailed off. He sat silent for a moment, then continued. “I used to really get off on it. Creating. But now…”

Mike stood up, walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. After the hours of darkness the light from the refrigerator seemed blindingly bright. Mike pulled two beers out of the fridge and brought them back into the living room. As he handed a beer to Sean he said, “Man, I wish I could feel that again.”

Sean took the beer and said, “Why can’t you?”

Mike shrugged, “It’s all past. All gone.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Sean, “Hollywood’s still there.”

“Screw Hollywood. I don’t miss Hollywood. But I would love to do another independent film, but… Wouldn’t work… Plus, I don’t have the money to just do it on my own… In short: my time has passed.”

“What?” said Sean, “There’s nothing stopping you. Especially if you want to do independent. You told me before that you wished that you had directed. Why don’t you? There’s not a damn thing stopping you.”

“Money is stopping me.”

“Money?” said Sean, “Why would you need money?”

“You can’t make a film without money. Hell, even way back in the seventies we’d spend $15,000 just on the film stock. Who knows how much it costs now?”

Sean started to laugh, a big, hearty, loud and full laugh. “It doesn’t cost anything now. People don’t use film. They shoot on HD.”

“You mean video?”said Mike, “I wouldn’t want to do something on video. It’s true that we did some pretty cheap movies in my day, but we would never stoop to video.”

“Wow,” said Sean, “You’ve been out of the loop for a while haven’t you?”

“Meaning what?”

“Meaning that all indies — every single one of them — are shot HD these days. Hell, about half of the Hollywood films are shot HD.”

“Really?” asked Mike skeptically.

“Really. If you wanna be creative again then do it. You’ve got that script that wasn’t produced. And that stupid little statue that you’ve got glued to your van’s dash? You can sell it to that idiot who wants to pay you $10,000 for it. Then you use that money to rent a camera and some lights and you’re in business. You could shoot it here. This place may not be the greatest place to live but it would be a bitchin’-looking film location.”

Mike looked at Sean, again skeptically. He seemed to ponder this possibility for quite a while. He sat back down in his chair, took a swig of his beer, then lit up another cigarette and said, “Won’t work. My time’s over. It’s gone.”

Mike turned his gaze away from Sean and out to the view of the Valley. Mike repeated:



*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sean.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 54 ]

Temporary music studio

Sometimes the will to play music and the opportunity to play music do not coincide.

Say you are a musician who is living in a studio apartment. The opportunities to really let loose with the music are limited in that environment. Sometimes you need a place to play.

Sometimes you need a rehearsal room.

Sometimes you need a temporary music studio.

Luckily for Sean, he happens to know someone who lives in a remote enough location that bothering the neighbors really shouldn't be an issue.

Free to play his guitar, free to record. As long as Mike allows him to.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Associate Producer Credit

Chapter 54: Associate Producer Credit

Sean knocked on Icon’s apartment door. In his hand he held a rolled-up poster. For some reason, for the first time ever, he felt a tad bit nervous knocking on this door. Had Mike been right? Did Icon like him? Would she go out with him? Would they be compatible? Would this little waif be the one seated beside him in his perfectly restored 1952 Corvette convertible as they cruised down PCH from their Malibu beach house on their way to the Grammy awards ceremony where he had been nominated in nearly every category?

Icon opened the door and said, “Hi.”

“Hey!” said Sean, a little too loudly, “How’s it going?”

She smiled and said, “Actually it’s pretty good.” Then she turned and pointed to the living room full of film equipment. There was hardly room to walk in with all of the film gear stuffed into the place.

“Whoa!” Sean called out as he entered the apartment, “Dude, I didn’t know that you were getting that much stuff! You know what it looks like? It looks like one of those behind-the-scenes things you see on dvds. This is amazing!”

“Yeah, I’m pretty happy,” said Icon. And it was pretty obvious that she was.

“Holy Hell, what’s in this gigantic case? Can you even lift this? Are you gonna need to hire five huge guys just to carry this case around for you?”

“That is an Arriflex camera,” said Icon

“An air what?”

“Arriflex. It’s a professional film camera.”

“Well the case is friggin’ huge,” said Sean.

He held out the rolled-up poster and said, “Hey, this is for you. It’s kind of a housewarming gift. Not that your house ain’t warm. But all of this stuff makes it like a new place. So, I got you this.”

Icon took the poster from his hand and unrolled it. The poster was simply text. Giant, bold, red text which proclaimed: I DESERVE TO BE FAMOUS, DAMMIT!

“One of my roommates works at a copy shop — well, he did until a few days ago when he got fired — and he made a few of those for me. Cool, huh?”

Icon nodded. “That’s sweet, thank you.”

The word ‘sweet’ caught Sean’s attention. A girl doesn’t use that kind of language unless she’s hot for you. He was sure of that.

Icon walked over to her desk and pulled out a roll of clear tape. “Where should we hang it?” she said.

“I’d go with right over your computer. That way it’s staring you right in the face every time that you go and edit something: ‘I DESERVE TO BE FAMOUS, DAMMIT!’”

“Sounds good,” said Icon. And the two of them used the clear tape to mount the poster on the wall above her computer workstation.

“Looks good,” said Sean, “Looks right. Looks like someone here deserves to be famous… dammit!”

“Thank you.”

“And speaking of that,” began Sean, “I’m going back over to Mike’s place in Encino tonight to record some more brilliantly awesome music. And I was thinking that you usually hear all of this stuff when it’s done, but maybe you’d want to come listen while I’m recording.”

Icon smiled and blushed, “Sure.”

“Great. You’ll get to see what I do. Plus, all the biggest rock stars have cute girls hanging out in the studio with them, so it’ll make me feel like a rock star having you there.”

Icon simply smiled.


“Oh my,” said Icon as she stepped out of his car, Ramona, and looked out at the spectacular view from Mike’s driveway.

“I told you!” said Sean, “Now is that an album cover or is that an album cover?”

Icon stared out at the grid-work of lights sprawled out below them. Sean had convinced her to bring a camera with her for this very reason, and she had brought along her best digital camera: a high-end DSLR, the type of camera which would take not only amazing still photos but which independent filmmakers the world over were using to shoot their film-like video.

“Or,” said Sean, “Is it an album cover?”

Icon simply stared, breathless. After several silent moments she said calmly “It’s man-made eternity.”

As Sean took the two trips to carry his equipment into the shack, Icon stood where she was, seemingly hypnotized by the view which she was beholding.

It was beautiful.


Sean had set up the equipment in Mike’s living room but had yet to start recording when Mike brought in beers for the three of them. There was something different about Mike’s demeanor. Ordinarily he seemed to be a pretty somber sort of guy but today he seemed happy and there seemed to be a bit of a spring in his step.

As Mike handed a beer to Icon he said, “Well it’s good to finally meet you young lady. This guy here has told me a lot about you.”

Sean protested, “I haven’t told you a lot. I don’t know a lot, so how could I have told you a lot? That just makes no sense.”

“Whatever you say, Sean,” said Mike, “Anyway, Icon, what I’ve heard about you so far is good. Very good indeed.”

“Thanks,” said Icon meekly.

Mike pointed at Icon’s camera and continued, “So is that one of these ‘can-do-everything’ cameras that I’ve been hearing so much about?”

Icon replied, “It’s a DSLR.”

“And that’s one that you shoot independent movies on?”

“Yes. A lot of people use these.”

“Uh huh,” said Mike, “And Sean here tells me that you are pretty skilled with a camera.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Yes you do. Yes you do.”

Sean piped up, “Jeez Mike, ease up. I also told you that she’s kind of shy.”

“Which is part of what tells me that she’s good with that camera. Shy people are always more artistic than those who can’t keep their damned mouths shut.”

“Hey!” objected Sean.

“So young lady, how would you feel about shooting a vampire movie?”

Sean and Icon both said in unison, “What?”

Mike laughed. “Well Sean, I thought a lot about what you said the other day. I’ve got the script. I’ve got a location. And if I don’t have to pay for film stock and it’ll still look all right, then hell, why shouldn’t I do it?”

Sean said, “Exactly!”

“So, I called up that idiot who wanted to buy that little plastic statue from me for $10,000, and I sold it to him…”

“Just like the Dolly Buddhist dude would have done!” interjected Sean.

“The Dalai Lama. And I don’t think the Dalai Lama would do that. But anyway, that little statue wasn’t the only piece of crap — oh excuse me — memorabilia that I had from those days. I’ve got all kinds of stuff from those old movies. So I sold a bunch of it to him: some 1970s movie props, some posters, a couple of my original shooting scripts.”

Mike then reached behind the couch, seemingly searching for something. He said, “One thing that I didn’t sell him. Or actually two things that I didn’t sell him…” And he pulled out two foot-long, sharpened wooden stakes. “If we’re shooting a vampire movie we need to have stakes!”

“Whoa!” exclaimed Sean, “Way cool!”

“Yeah,” said Mike, “They’re props, of course. The two stakes look basically identical but one of them is solid and looks good for closeups, the other…” he trailed off and at this point took the prop stake and stabbed himself in the chest, the phony prop stake giving the illusion that it had penetrated his chest by a few inches “…is retractable!”

“Cool! Let me see?” called out Sean as he grabbed the stake from Mike and stabbed himself in the chest, calling out a dramatic “Aaaaaaargh!”

Mike said, “The way it works is the top half of the stake slides inside the bottom half of the stake. It’s the same thing they do with swords in movies or in plays. It makes it look like the thing is going about six inches right into a person.”

Sean kept repeatedly stabbing himself, “Eeeeeee! Ooooooo! Aaaaaaargh!”

“You want to make sure,” said Mike as Sean loudly stabbed himself, “that you don’t get those two stakes mixed up. But anyway, that’s what I did. Sold that idiot all kinds of useless junk.”

Icon said softly, “That’s great, Mike.”

“Yeah. It’s also the first time I’ve had any real money in a few decades. So, what do you say there Icon? You’ve got that camera. You bring it and shoot for me. I’ll pay you — not a lot, but a little. And we’ll make a movie. What do you say?”

“Um, sure. I’d love to” she replied.

“That way you’ll have a professional credit too. Always a good thing when building your career. This is one thing that I know.”

“That’s cool,” Said Sean, “Oh, but wait. What about me?”

“What about you?”

“Well what can I do on this movie? I have to do something on this movie. It was my idea to get you to do it. I should be able to do something. I should have some fancy title.”

Mike replied, “You can help me out if you want. There’s a ton of work to be done.”

“Can I be a producer?” Sean asked.



“No,” Mike said, “But, how about ‘associate producer?’”

“Cool! Yeah! Associate Producer! I love it,” said Sean as he continued stabbing himself in the chest.


There was an obvious pleasant feeling in the air as Sean went about recording tracks in the darkened living room of the shack with the million-dollar view. This was especially nice considering that two of the three people in the room were the types who tended toward the less pleasant feelings. In fact if Sean had to guess, he would imagine that Mike had been in a state of depression longer than Sean had been alive.

Sean’s guitar cut through the night and as he played and recorded Icon snapped some candid photos. Mike sat smoking in this chair and despite the darkness of the room he could see the electricity that was passing between the two young people. Nothing could have been more obvious with or without lights. And Mike, in this rare up mood, wondered for the first time in years, if maybe he too might yet find someone.


As Sean packed up his equipment, Icon went outside to take photos of the view before they left. The shack sat on a flat outcropping near the top of the hillside, which meant that after the driveway a cliff dropped off to the next lot which was far below. It was an excellent spot for photography as there were no obstructions, just a flat horizon line, beyond which were the millions of sparkling lights of the Valley below.

Icon clicked away at image after image, feeling good in the certainty that among the shots would be something fantastic.

After a time, she dropped the camera to her side. She took a deep breath of the night air and stared out at the view.

As Icon stood gazing out, Sean walked over and joined her. “Can’t believe how awesome it is, can you?”


“Mike said that his brother owns this and lets him stay here for free. And the dude even won’t sell it because it would leave Mike homeless. Can you imagine that? I want to see if his brother can adopt me or something. ‘Cause he sounds like a hell of a guy.”

“Yes he does.”

Sean shuffled a bit then continued, “The first time I saw this view… I don’t know. What is it? It just brings up some kind of feeling doesn’t it? I don’t know how to describe it. How would you describe it?”

Icon paused for a moment but didn’t take her eyes off of the view. Then, softly and with a tone of awe she simply said, “Romantic.”

Sean did a double take.

“Romantic?” he stammered, “Um… Yeah, I’d say that too.” He paused and then after a moment said, “And when you say ‘romantic’ do you mean like… Do you mean it like a general ‘hey that’s romantic’ or do you mean it like a ‘you and me’ type of romantic?”

Icon turned to him with a smile. She stood on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss. Then, blushing brightly enough to be noticeable even here in the dark, she walked back toward Ramona.

“I guess that’s a ‘you and me’ type thing,” he said, “Which is… which is great.” He walked back to the car himself and continued, “So does that mean… Is there a chance that maybe we could maybe go out on a date-type thing?”

Icon smiled and said, “Pretty good chance.”

As they got into the car Icon noticed on her phone that she had received a text. It was from Jasmine. The text merely said:

You need to come home.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sean.

[ or just skip ahead to The End ]

Music career is fluid