Jesse Leach’s Check Your Head: Perspective, In The Eyes Of The Beholder

Check Your Head with Jesse Leach

Jesse Leach of Times of Grace and The Empire Shall Fall, and the voice behind Killswitch Engage’s landmark release Alive or Just Breathing is back from a summer of touring with his latest installment of “Check Your Head.” I must say, it really is good to have his prose back on the site. Click this link to hear the song that inspired this column.

Life is fleeting and tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

Here I sit in my little home studio, beefing up my resume preparing for another day of job hunting. That’s right — job hunting. I know many of you are there now or have been in the past, so you know what it is like. I just finished two U.S. tours and a Europe/UK festival tour with Times of Grace and here I am not even two weeks later, looking for a job!

If you would have told me three to four months ago this is where I would be, I would have called your bluff. It is a tough pill to swallow and I have been humbled by trying to make a living off music before so I am familiar with this routine. 

So what about you? Have you ever had a dream or a goal that you achieved and it turns out it is not exactly how you thought it was going to be? I know there are a great deal of people that have this thinking that bands touring in a bus “living the dream” have little worry of money, etc. The reality is, as it turns out, there are a great deal of bands in these uncertain times of music that are struggling.

I sit here and remember playing in front of thousands of people in Germany and the feeling of “Wow…I made it here.” In truth, it was a teenage dream come true and I lived it. So there are two sides to the story here, but it all depends on perspective. On the one hand I feel good — I achieved my goal, I put out a record I am proud of and was able to tour on it and live that life I had almost forgotten after being off the road for five years. On the other hand, in truth, I have moments where I feel like I fell flat on my face and it takes everything in me to muster up the strength and humility to put my self out there to get a “regular” job again and it kills me. 

Granted, my tour days may very well not be over, but at the moment, there is nothing solid lined up for me and, I made zero money on the road. I will address this real quick as even some of my more “in the know” friends don’t get how that can happen. When you tour, you have a “guarantee,” a specific fixed amount of money you make per show. 

your guarantee
minus bus rental 
minus bus driver fees/overdrives/daily hotel room for him
minus gas/tolls 
minus per diems (allotted money every one band/crew receives for food, etc.)
minus crew “salary”
minus booking agent fees
minus management fees
plus, whatever you sell in merchandise

I am not giving figures but I think the majority of you “get it” — there is no real “guarantee” there will be a profit and turns out on these past few tours…not so much. Chalk it up to experience as they say, right?!

So to bring it all home, perspective-wise, how do you see my situation? How does your view effect you in various situations? I think it brings up an interesting point on the power of the way we think and perceive things.

Admittedly I had brief moments of self pity, but when I stood back and really looked at the situation I couldn’t feel anything but an acceptance and thankfulness. I took a day to reflect down in Manhattan (one of my favorite places) and walked around observing people as I tend to do when faced with many thoughts that need to be sorted. I saw people: living on the streets, performers in the subways and on the streets playing for change, business men glued to their phones tied up in their world of money, drug addicts strung out talking to themselves covered in filth, city workers emptying trash fighting off roaches and rats…and then there was me. 

I have traveled all over doing what I love to do, and it all hit me. How fortunate am I?! OK, granted, having some money to pay bills would have been great and an easy way to validate myself and my “achievements” but I don’t and it doesn’t. So it raises the question: what constitutes “success” in my mind? What about yours? Money comes and goes, experience and memories can not be bought or sold. I have family that loves me, fans that still support and encourage my music (even though I am unable to live off it, but I will keep doing it!). So in your life, do you find yourself measuring your success off of money? Or perhaps not. I urge you to do as I have done (and pray to continue to do): modify and reevaluate your perspective.

Life is filled with trials and tribulations, ups and downs. It is how we deal with these issues or situations that measures our “successes” or “failures.” Some of you may look at my life and my career and want to live my life perhaps because you only see a small portion of how I live and what I do. Just like I may see someone else and envy them for whatever reason. That saying, “the grass is always greener,” holds real truth. The life you live and have been given or have achieved is yours — you are responsible for it and it is you that can make changes or not. As a man of faith, I look to God and realize he has a plan for me and watches over me. As a human, I strive to attain “things” in this life sometimes selflessly with good intentions, other times with pride and desire. At the end of the day we all need balance in our lives and in truth, a clear perspective on who we are and what our purpose is in this life. 

Big questions, deep thoughts — but that is where I am at these days. As I walk in to bars and restaurants, etc. putting myself out there again in the world of 9-to-5 or whatever I end up doing for a paycheck, it humbles me and makes me appreciate the “little” things in life; waking up next to a woman I love, a fresh cup of coffee, a good pint of beer, going to a local show, the sunshine, Sunday dinner with my family, driving in my car with my windows down and the Clash booming out of the speakers, wondering what kind of job I will get…it may not seem like much to some people, but its my life and I embrace it because it is all I can do.

So no matter where you are in your life, keep your head up, be self-aware and appreciate what you have. If you are struggling or unhappy, it may very well be your perspective that needs to change and maybe, just maybe your life will change. You never know until you give it a try. 

As for me, music will always be a part of my life on or off tour — job, or no job. I have more music on the way, however, I need to stop typing and pound the pavement as they say and land a job. Ah, the life of a struggling artist — it is bitter sweet, but I think today I will focus on the sweet side and keep my perspective bright for the future. 

Wish me luck in my hunt for gainful employment! Thanks for reading and thanks for wanting another column, all of you who wrote and sent me messages on Facebook/Twitter. See you at a local show or perhaps I will serve you your next pint of beer in the city? Who knows? In the words of Joe Strummer, “the future is unwritten…” and I have my pen in hand, preparing for the next chapter of my life. 


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