Excerpt: Notch in Your Belt
Once again, Wyatt Brave woke up to an email from his manager that detailed the cost for the studio time he had wasted the day before. The first time he left the studio with nothing accomplished hadn’t been a big deal. However, as the days dragged on and on, more and more people were becoming frustrated by the lack of progress: his manager, producers, record label, co-writers, session musicians… The list went on and on. Wyatt dutifully showed up to the studio every day but had absolutely nothing to show for it.
With a sigh, Wyatt reluctantly rolled out of his California king bed, luxuriously wrapped in silk sheets. He balled up the comforter and didn’t bother making his bed. How long had it been since any lover had been in his bed, much less a live-in boyfriend? He sighed again at that sobering thought and shoved a hand through his messy brown hair as he stumbled to the shower.
After his shower, he spent the next eight hours sitting mindlessly in a recording studio, doodling in his notebook, humming hooks already recorded by other artists, and jotting down snippets of lyrics only to be hit with writer’s block after less than half a verse.
He was fed up beyond belief. He had recorded some really good material so far, maybe even a hit or two. But the album wasn’t done, and he knew it. He couldn’t fill an album with a breakup, depression, loneliness, and unrequited love. A couple of songs, yes. Maybe even a single—one single. After all, he had made it his mission to combine rock and country in all the best ways, and none of the “I lost my dog, my wife, and my truck” kind of songs that made people roll their eyes at country music and change the channel.
That wasn’t his message. He was country rocker Wyatt Brave, sex god and Mr. Optimism. He wouldn’t release the album as it was. He couldn’t.
The label, Tennessee River, agreed. There were good songs, but there was no album. No matter what songwriters, producers, and guest artists they thrust into the studio with him, there was still no album in sight. Even his favorite producers, some of the biggest names in pop music, couldn’t wrench a single song from him.
Tennessee River was beginning to have doubts. The last three tracks they had heard revolved around crude, meaningless sex, porn, and the aforementioned lost dog/wife/truck level of depression. At that point, his manager stopped sending them demos, knowing that anything less than the next radio hit would be worse than nothing. Wyatt’s manager was fighting for him, but everyone in connection with his career was worrying about the same thing. Maybe the success of gay country was a freak accident, a one-hit wonder. Maybe this was the end of Wyatt Brave.
Safely back at home behind locked doors, where he could hide from the world as long as he shut off his phone and didn’t check his e-mail, Wyatt fell back onto his bed. In his head, he could see his album: a mix of love, beer, loneliness, and expression. It was a personal album, very honest, taking raw songs and blasting them with leather and dirt until each track screamed exactly what was in his soul.
He could see it… He just couldn’t hear it.
Wyatt sighed, pulling the blankets up so that they half covered his bare chest. He couldn’t see the foot of his bed, much less the handcrafted dressers beyond it. They signified the type of lifestyle that was only a fantasy for the young man he had once been, a young man with a guitar and a dream, playing in every bar that would have him. Maybe he failed that man, somehow burned out before he’d made it enough to stay in the game. Maybe he wasn’t ready to put out a second album yet. He knew what Tennessee River said: he needed to release a second album quickly to solidify himself as an artist. He could take a break after the second album, or better yet, the third.
Turning onto his side and staring into the darkness as his thoughts ran unchecked, he allowed himself to wonder if there would ever be a third album… or even a second. What would that man with a guitar and a dream say about him if he could see where he would end up?