Given the chance, it’s enormously important to get around the people who are part of your natural network.
These are the people who can open doors and create opportunities, who are in on the joke, who share your idiom.
I was listening to part of Guy Clark’s 70th birthday concert the other day, and one of my musical heroes, Lyle Lovett, walked onstage. Introducing Guy’s song “Anyhow I Love You,” Lyle told the story of going to Nashville as a young man and leaving a demo tape at the studio where Guy worked.
On subsequent trips, Lyle continued, people would tell him, “Oh, I heard about you from Guy Clark.” As Lyle put it, Guy was speaking up and standing up for him before the two had even met — and that’s what allowed Lyle to build his own extraordinary career making records.
I encountered Lyle’s music (or at least his records) before I started listening to Guy’s, and those songs have been the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life, as well as tonic during hard times.
And, if not for Lyle’s pluck and Guy’s stand, where would that music have been when I needed it?
All these communities of affinity are much smaller than we tend to think. And this kind of inter-generational generosity is what makes them go ’round.
There’s no question that there are insidious, incestuous networks out there that are more interested in mutual self-preservation than cultivating a community over the long haul.
But there are also always opportunities to get in front of the people who need to hear you or play talented newcomers’ stuff for the people who need to hear it.
Who could you promote today that others will celebrate later?