bPatrick, Uncle Barry, and the Price of Tea in China

So, as you probably figured, I haven't gone through life with the name "bPatrick." Well, actually, I sort of have. Patrick is my middle name, and B is my first initial. But it's not like I filled out the name line of my grammar school tests with "bPatrick," though that would have been funny, now that I think about it - especially with the lower case b leading the way and the certain subsequent Picasso of red pen from any number of professionals entrusted with my academic formation...  anyhow, back to the present... 

I got the inspiration for bPatrick from other artists who have done something similar, particularly Adam Young and Toby McKeehan. Adam Young has released music under his own name, and in 2007 established the electronica project known as Owl City. I've always greatly respected Young's music and lyric writing, along with his signature production and singing. Owl City was another subset of Adam Young, but yet it was, at the same time, Adam Young. I also enjoy many of McKeehan's songs, released under his artist name, TobyMac. You all can probably think of many other examples, including many from outside of music as well. It's nothing new under the sun by any means.

Before bPatrick, I released some music under my legal name, Barry Russo. I'm sure, somewhere along the line, I will again. Just like Adam Young and Owl City, Barry Russo is bPatrick and bPatrick is Barry Russo (hmm, kind of getting a church vibe here, though I'm by no means in the same caliber as their lead character). 

I was named after my mom's brother, and my uncle was a story all to himself. In my eyes, as well as many others, he was the definition of "cool." As a kid and young adult, he was always the one who got into all kinds of mischief. Yet he was the kind of guy who had a heart of gold, and would do anything for anyone. He was the life of any gathering, and had a personality that drew people in everywhere he went. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014, after a battle with lung cancer. But his memory and spirit live on. He was a huge influence on my life, and had a sincere appreciation of my musical progress over the years. I can still see him sitting out there with my Aunt Pat at various performances of mine with a look of complete enjoyment and a sly smile on his face. You'll probably hear a lot more about him from me.

But that was Uncle Barry. I, on the other hand, was always kind of the dorky kid growing up...you know, the one who imagined breaking the rules and being a badass, but was always too chicken to actually do it. I never possessed the "cool factor" that Uncle Barry did, though in later years I'd often try to appear as if I did! Which is what brings us back to music, and possibly (hopefully) a lesson for all of us.

Once upon a time, I dove into the pool of songwriting and recording. More like an ocean, actually. With my entire heart and soul, along with a good amount of money and countless hours invested, I was determined to "get it right." I had a vision of what the end result would be like, but I had no real clue on how to get there. I ended up listening to and relying on the people I surrounded myself with, because they had more experience in this realm. In the end, I lost sight of who I was. Or maybe to be more precise, I dove into it without a clear vision of who I was to begin with. Because at the end of the day, the challenges I faced weren't all about music and recording. To put it simply, I had a lot of things to straighten out in my life and a ton of growing up to do, and what I would learn would eventually transcend my musical world.

To use my ocean analogy when speaking of those first recording endeavors, it was like I was getting tossed around by the strongest waves and tides. It wasn't the fault of those around me - they were just trying to help, based on their own experiences and who they were. But as the process went on, nothing felt natural or smooth. I felt riddled with doubts and anxieties about the musical results I was getting, and about conforming to how others thought my music should sound and how I should look and present myself. But I'd always put my preferences and opinions on the back burner and defer to the knowledge and opinions of those around me.

Meanwhile, the inner warning sensor was screaming. Often, it felt like I was trying to be something I wasn't, in every way. For example, I was trying to be an "artist," yet was being careful to hide, or at least downplay, the very things that were a huge part of my story, such as the fact that I was already making a good living as a working musician (church music ministry, cover bands, piano bars, functions, ceremonies, teaching piano, etc.), because, as I'd been told by many sources, those things would make me sound like less of an artist. As if "artists" just appeared out of a vacuum, ready-made to take the stage and wow the world. Based on what I'd heard, I feared if I admitted being a successful working musician, people would instantly dismiss any notion of me as a real artist. But, in that line of thinking, struggling at a non-musical job that one hated to pay the bills would somehow be seen as "artsy." It didn't confine itself to pop/rock artists either. I once provided piano accompaniment for a very successful opera singer at a wedding ceremony. In conversation, she mentioned how she never let those who booked her for extensive European opera tours know that in the off-season, she supplemented her income singing for weddings, because then they would no longer take her seriously! 

Back in those days, I had some songs that could be classified as specifically being in the Christian genre. However, I was careful never to mention any of the doubts, questions, thoughts, or differing insights that might be considered off limits for someone who performed at Christian venues, and likewise avoided, or again at least downplayed, any mention of venues I performed at that might seem unseemly for a Christian musician. 

Finally, there was the age factor. My life story is one of a late bloomer. I constantly felt uneasy when the subject of age came up, because I felt sooner or later, I'd encounter those who deemed me "too old" to be taken seriously as a recording artist, especially in a music industry filled with bands and artists in their teens and early twenties, time markers that even then had passed me by.

As a result of all these things, it seems the songs themselves, along with the image that surrounded it, never really clicked. They never had the magic, or as some say, that "X factor." Something was missing, and it seemed I was spinning my wheels. Oh, don't get me wrong. On the surface, to those on the outside, I had the appearance of someone doing all the right things. I worked hard, made a good living as a musician, and was pursuing songwriting and recording. But deep inside, conflict ruled the day.

During the time of some major life transitions that followed, during which Christina and I got married, I took a long step back. By some unexpected twist of events that occurred very naturally, we ended up relocating, another ingredient that fueled my time of growth and transformation. Everything that I learned along the way will be a huge part of this Z-flat Major venture, and I'm excited to share it with you.

For the last couple of years, I've waded back into the world of writing and recording, this time from a very new perspective. I have a much clearer vision, and while I'm open to advice and input from others, I'm now clearly the captain of the ship, and steering in the direction I want to. I'm way more hands-on with many of the steps in the process that I used to rely on others for, and have been accomplishing things I never imagined I could. The final destination is still a bit of a mystery, but for the first time, I'm thoroughly enjoying the journey. I'm thrilled with every aspect of the writing and recording process, and can't stop listening to the final mixes of these first few songs! If they bring hope, inspiration, thoughtful reflection, and plain old enjoyment to others the way that the music of countless bands, artists, and composers has to me over the years, then this adventure will have been a success.

As a sort of symbol of my new beginning, I thought it would be appropriate to release the new music under a different name. But I still wanted it to be real, and to be me. That's when it hit me. Growing up, my family referred to me as B.P. (sorry, British Petroleum) to differentiate me from Uncle Barry. And as I mentioned earlier, Patrick is my middle name. BPatrick emphasizes the "BP" and utilizes my middle name. The lower case b (bPatrick) was just a quirky variation, because let's face it, I'm sort of quirky. As for the Realign collection of songs, well, a realignment is exactly what I went through. For now, I'm releasing the songs one at a time, as singles.

So by this point, you may be wondering what exactly my little trip down Reminisce Lane has to do with your life or, as I borrowed from the catalogue of colloquial old sayings, the price of tea in China? 

I doubt there's a need for any great preaching skills here. From my little tale, I'd be willing to bet there's many of you who can make the possible parallels to your own life journey. It seems some of us come out of the womb knowing all this kind of stuff already, while many of us have to learn it, sometimes painfully, along the way. No matter your profession or your passion, you need to follow your heart, along with your inner GPS. Often, we don't know it all, or even a little bit, and it's important to be open to the guidance of those who are more familiar with the paths we're traversing. But ultimately, no one knows us like ourselves, and if our gut's telling us something, we need to honor that.

Whatever your "it" is, some of us get it right the first time, and hit the home run in our batting premiere. Likewise, many of us strike out a bunch of times. But what's important is to get back up to bat, or back on the bike, or whatever analogy you feel like using. You have your own "bPatrick" in you, and every now and then, you just need to realign. It's my hope and prayer that it brings you the happiness and fulfillment you desire and deserve!

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