Chris Isaak: “When I hear people say things like, ‘I would make it, if someone would only introduce me to the right people,’ it drives me crazy. I call that the Magic Door Syndrome. I never approached it that way, and I don’t advise anybody to stand around waiting for somebody to hand you your dream on a silver platter. You’ve got to build your own Magic Door, and then step through it with everything that you’ve got.” – Chris Isaak
Lessons I Have Learned
“The biggest lessons I’ve learned in the music business are not really about the music at all –they’re about life,” says Chris lsaak, a successful singer, songwriter, bandleader and actor who’s been working hard for more than a quarter century, recording international hits like “Wicked Game” and “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing,” as well as appearing in movies likeSilence Of The Lambs and Married to the Mob among others.
Roy Orbison as Mentor.
“I’m a very lucky guy because one of my heroes became a mentor to me — the late greatRoy Orbison,” lsaak explains. “How amazing is that? Roy inspired me as an artist before I met him, but he inspired me even more when I got to actually work with the man. For a guy who was so legendary, Roy showed me a lot of humility. There were so many things he did that I watched and thought, ‘That’s a lesson I’ll try to remember.’ For instance, when we met, I didn’t have a hit yet. I wasn’t important, and he did not need to be nice to me. Yet, Roy immediately treated me like I was a friend and an equal. And that is something I try to remember to this day.”
What Holds People Back from Achieving Their Goals
Asked what holds people back from achieving their goals in his business, lsaak says, “From what I’ve seen, what holds people back from making it in the music business is laziness and thinking that the whole thing is just one big party, and not keeping in mind that most of the best things in life actually take a little sweat to get. When you’re a musician, leave the partying to the people out in front. Your party is the music. So I never drank and I never got high, and that allowed me to focus on the music and on the work. In my life, very seldom have the great things in the world just been laying in the road for anybody to take. They all took work, and maybe because you work for them, they become so valuable.”
Show Up and Play for People
Maybe if everything in life is handed to you, you might think, it’s just a job. But I have always thought of the chance to make music for people as also a pleasure and an opportunity and a gift. We loved to showup and play for people and in twenty years, we’ve never missed a show and that’s the kind of record we take pride in. We never missed a show. We never had a substitute player. I think I learned that from seeing my parents. My dad drove a fork lift and mom was a worker in potato chip factory. They both got up every morning and went to work and loved it. I try to take that same attitude to my job. I show up and I smile and I work hard because that audience is your boss, and if you do a good job, they’ll hire you back. Remember, every night is an audition and you want to be invited back. And have fun up there because nobody wants to pay to have their teeth pulled.”
Barely Any Obstacles
As for obstacles he’s had to overcome, Isaak thinks for a moment, and then says, “I guess I don’t really think of obstacles in my life. When I think back to the things in my life that could be seen as obstacles, I think back to an old cowboy song I love that has a line about playing with your troubles “like a toy.” I always thought that the troubles I had in my life were never so many that I even prayed to God about them. There were never enough to mention. I had my family, and my health, and past that, everything else was groovy.”
“The common thread to the success stories I respect is hard work and determination,” Isaak explains. “I remember a great story about Buck Owens. Buck was working with some young guy – then he stopped. Someone asked him why, and Buck said it was because the guy didn’t want to be a star as much as Buck wanted him to be a star. You’ve got to want it. Then you’ve got to work for it.”
Chris’s Empowering Thoughts:
- “I show up and I smile and I work hard because that audience is your boss, and if you do a good job, they’ll hire you back.”
- “Treat everybody like you would like to be treated. That’s not just a music business lesson — that’s a great life lesson.”
Do you agree with the insights of the famous Motown singer-songwriter Chris Isaak? And are you following them?
Copyright 2014 Jerry Gladstone