I was always one of those people but couldn’t sit still.
“Too curious” my teachers used to say in grade school, I always wanted to know what the person next to me was doing, and sometimes would walk into the principal’s office asking questions as though I worked there.
It would be a pattern throughout my life, that I simply want to know everything, and know how to do everything, and even though that may seem a little ambitious, even now in my early 50s, against all odds, I am still that kid, who couldn’t sit still and wanted to know everything.
I started singing and gigging around age 9, followed by being a roadie, setting up my own private investigation service at 11 years old, ( I had cool little cards made up, and we actually solved a local crime in Berkeley/Oakland) getting the Daily Californian in Berkeley to publish my work at age 12, and walking across UC Berkeley on a daily basis, I would stroll into the offices of every professor I wanted to talk to, for direct one on one important meetings, about geology, astrophysics, metallurgy, art, biology, and sociology. (I met the only other person I know with my first name, they’re in the geology department at UC Berkeley in the 70s) I was pretty well known as that little kid who wandered around campus by himself.
At age 14, I was I believe, the very first Latin music video disc jockey in United States on Viacom Metro cable, with a weekend show in San Francisco, between a singing gospel preacher, and a professional trucker, both of whom spun records and interviewed local artists.
As I got older, I got into Afro-Cuban music pretty seriously as a teenager, (part of my family background) and learned that playing music, opened up all kinds of great doors, for opportunity, food, and girls! Maybe I had a chance after all!
I had a couple of pretty successful bands in my early 20s, but even then, at gigs, I wanted to know what the soundperson was doing, what the lighting people were doing, what the janitor was doing, how the club was wired, questions, questions, questions. I pretty much quizzed every single person I met, and I have a pretty good memory. It saved my life a couple times.
I also like to just do things, that people assume you cannot do. So I became a bodyguard, a sous chef, a roadie, a club manager, a promotions director, a research associate for prominent Internet company, where my office dealt directly with the INS, a nonprofit director, a vocal instructor, percussion teacher, and event coordinator. Some of these things were very challenging, but I loved it.
Much later, I began writing, playing Scrabble for money, doing bit part acting gigs, and volunteering for anything I thought smelled like an adventure.
I love adventure. What can I say?
Fast forward 42 years, thousands of gigs, three California music awards, more television, radio, and press interviews than I can count, and while I’m certain that I’m still not a household name, I would like to think that the households, who know my name, think I did a pretty good job.
I would like it even better, if they thought I was someone who could help them somehow, and wanted ask me about something. It started becoming a pleasure to share what I knew with other people.
Then fate struck.
In a one year. period, I showed signs of fast developing cataracts in both eyes, rendering me 90 blind, suddenly, for the first time in my life. I had a bad injury to my shoulder and knee, and became badly depressed, putting on a lot of weight, and not being entirely sure what to do next. I’ve been very physical all my life, biking, hiking, martial arts, and so for the first time in my life, ( I am sure this would be much to the amusement of my grade school teachers if they were to know this) I had to stand still. I got my eyes operated on, and had some space age unfolding acrylic lenses installed in my eyes, I can now see about three blocks in the dark, no kidding. But physically, had obviously hit a time to heal, and rest.
So I began writing. Poems, some lyrics for other musicians, political opinions, etc.
During this process three things happened:
First, I began for the first time in my life, wonder what I was going to do next. I had never thought about that before, because things just happened.
Secondly I started getting calls all the time, from people who I’ve known in the music business, who needed either piece of advice about how to approach a publisher, or needed to find somebody who could be a part-time roadie, or wanted to interact with a club, or had been stiffed for some money by local manager, and needed advice on how to get out of a sticky situation. These calls just kept coming and coming.
And lastly, my closest childhood friend passed away, and I didn’t even find out about until months later, and when he passed away I found out that we had been only miles away from one another. It moved me, Najim was a man of action, and the first to say yes to nearly every adventure I came up with.
I began to become very reflective about life, my path, and my future.
Over the course of six months, I started noticing for the first time, that some of my friends had contributed incredibly to their communities, and to the world.
I’m surrounded by pretty awesome group of friends, many of them doctors, engineers, business magnates, nonprofit directors, successful musicians, advanced teachers, and world explorers. I began to ask myself the question, “what can I do to contribute something good? What good are all these random various experiences? Who would be interested in them?”
My questions were answered directly the very next day, when I got a job, ( once again with no previous experience in the field) developing language applications, for the person who is the preeminent Thai-English translator on the West Coast, and one of my mentors, Benjawan Poomsan.
Now Benjawan, is worthy of an entire series of books by herself. (she actually has one) The CEO of a successful publishing company, she began her career as a Thai-English interpreter, when she was around 10 years old, translating between a Peace Corps worker, and a local Thai girl, in her region of Thailand known as The Issan. (20 provinces in the northeastern region of Thailand)
She made $.15, from her first gig as interpreter, never spent it, constantly honed her English, not to mention the numerous other languages she is fluent in, and reinvesting in herself over and over again, coming to United States, and starting Paiboon Publishing.
Working for Benjawan was a revelation. At only 5’4”, and around 100 pounds, she had an energy level it would take an army to keep up with.
Suddenly we were going for long long walks all across San Francisco up and down the hills near the Marina district, and while she was encouraging me to learn new languages, I was learning how to code, how to create language libraries, engaging in online antipiracy efforts, running the service department, and testing apps created by her partners, around-the-clock. It was during this period of time, that I mentioned book project, to which she said “Just do it, Piero”
I was so full of “buts” and “ifs” did and didn’t I need to do 1000 things before then?
Didn’t I have to know somebody?
Didn’t I have to get it edited, and corrected, and, with some great concept and deal with some particular person in the business?
“No” she said flatly. “Look”
To my surprise she had already released several books in the iTunes bookstore, aside from her already published works about languages, and once she started making money from writing books for the Internet, she promptly wrote another book about making money from writing books on the Internet.
She was just the kind of person that didn’t see any point in talking about it, when you could be busy doing it.
My experience with her taught me a couple of very important things. One is that, there are only two paths between you and every location you want to be. Action and inaction. She constantly chose action, not worrying about whether it was perfect or not, not allowing herself to be saddled, by doubt, and self sabotage, and never once teasing me, or anyone around her, by bringing up the fact that she had come from one of the poorest places in the world, and essentially had talked and written her way out, into an incredible life. She had done me an enormous favor, by not having any respect for my reservations.
I worked for her company, for about a year, and decided to create the Tao of gigging. It was more than just a book idea about musicians in clubs, it was an idea about travel, commerce, promotion, spiritual inclination, mental, physical, sexual, social health, strategies for moving forward financially and artistically, I would include every situation that was ever sticky for me that I made my way out of, talk about every character I had ever met in the business, and preach the gospel, of why service people in this industry, the performing arts in general, are my heroes. I would talk about things that no one usually writes about, real things that happen on the road, like mental health, drugs, and STDs, and strategies for all of them.
Suddenly everything I had ever done, and everything I had ever learned, and every person who ever contributed to my life, all made perfect sense.
I decided I would simply be who I am, and make what I know available to anyone who wanted to know. That is my new job title. Answer Guy
Now I feel the same way I did when I was nine again, and everything is new all over again, and I look forward to everywhere that this takes me.
Thanks! I hope you enjoy reading the book, as much as I did writing it, and get as much of it as I did, especially the interviews section, which is still a little bit stunning to me.
That is how this all started. That is the beginning of the Tao of gigging. Welcome.
Got a question?
Piero Amadeo Infante, 2015