Dave Cobb and the BHAG

Let me start by saying that I really, really hate “inspirational” quotes and “spiritual” self-help books or instagram posts. I have zero school spirit, don’t root for any teams, think most forms of patriotism are shallow and knee-jerk. I don’t like dressing up for Halloween and…well…as my wife says pretty frequently, “God, you’re such a Scrooge-y old man!” 

But here’s the thing: I’m trying to teach the old dog of my heart some new tricks, and I think it might actually work.  

It’s too much to talk about here in any real detail, but I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last few months focusing on figuring out what’s next. My home life is good (albeit crazy, as home life always is if you have two young kids), but I was feeling confused and a bit stuck at work and directionless musically. Both those areas had good things happening and loads of potential, but I felt like I’d lost the plot and didn’t really know what my role should be or where I was trying to go. Nor how to balance that with the home life that is important to me. 

So, what did I do? I went to Germany for a week and walked in the woods with a bunch of other tech people. I read “Designing Your Life” and started working on it (still doing that, but also just trying to think about things in an iterative and experimental way has been transformative). Read about Google Design Sprints in the book “Sprint” and pondered how that kind of methodology could apply to artists (again with open-mindedness and experimentation). And finally, I read Traction about how to structure, manage, and market a business. 

And, along the way, I encountered a ton of cheesy shit. I mean…good God…in Germany, the improv coach made us “write words with nature” and people did things like write “share” with twigs. (I am fighting the gag reflex just thinking about it…what am I gonna learn by writing words with nature?! Sigh…) And, if you’ve ever read a business advice book…well…let’s just say there is a lot of “inspirational” talk and every salient point is generally followed by 5 pages of ridiculous anecdotes. 

But here’s what surprised me the most: it actually helped. Writing my word with sticks and rocks was…well…kinda dumb. But seeing the generous words like “share” that the other people on the Germany trip wrote…well…these are all people in positions of power. People with artistic and creative spirits who have created or run companies. And I learned the degree to which they’ve done this by focusing on meaning and inspiration and how to lift up and empower others. So…the twigs…ok…but the fact that the CEO of a big agency wrote “share” on a trip with her competitors…well…that’s a bit different. 

And so, to get to something like the point, I’ve been trying to be more open to this kind of stuff. I mean…honestly…what do I have to lose? I’m a quick reader. So I don’t like something? Ok. Move on! But sometimes I’ve found that something can be both cheesy and TOTALLY MAKE YOUR HEART BEAT A LITTLE BIT FASTER! My mind can say “yuck” and yet I still find myself feeling better and making bigger plans for myself. 

I knew my internal editor was pretty darn strong, but I’m starting to think that, at least in the early stages of encountering something, he’s basically George Costanza: Whatever he recommends I do, I should strongly consider doing the opposite. 

So, what does the have to do with Grammy winning wunderkind super-producer Dave Cobb? Why am I dragging this poor superstar and his friends/clients like Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Amanda Shires, John Print, and Brandi Carlile into this morass of my internal struggles? He’s innocent for god's sake! 

It goes like this: 

  1. They say you’re supposed to have 1-3 Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs) that you are working on any at one time. These are goals that feel scary and ambitious, but just might be possible if you really work at it. I didn’t have any... 
  2. I read an inspirational Facebook quote (ugh) that said, “A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes reality." 
  3. I realized that I did have a super clear dream and that the only thing preventing me from calling it a “goal” and making a plan was fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of not even being able to give it my best. 
  4. I don’t want to live by fear. 

My dream is this: I want to make a record with Dave Cobb. Everything about how he approaches making it record is my dream of how to do it. You can read more about it here: https://vintageking.com/blog/2017/05/dave-cobb/ Long story short, he uses amazing gear in an amazing room and prioritizes getting a full-band take with live vocal. Ya know…the way so many of my favorite classic records were made. 

And the other part about it is that…well…he seems like a nice dude! And he hangs out with other people who seem like they are cool and talented people with functioning moral compasses: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, John Prine, etc. Unlike the stereotypical rock star BS with drugs and stuff, these are people tackling real-life issues in their songs and living real lives with kids and political engagement and generally trying to actually be adults while still making amazing creative work. 

In short, to paraphrase Hamilton, I want to be in the room where it happens. And THAT is the room and those are the people where I think it’s happening.  

And, even crazier, I think I could fit in. In my heart, I think I have the talent to be part of that crowd. I’m afraid that I don’t. But, again, I don’t want to live by fear. And I’m not there yet in so many ways, but I think I COULD be. And I’m not “young” anymore, but I’m not dead yet. So fuck it. 

My goal is to be in the studio making a record with Dave Cobb by no later than Jan 15, 2024. Bonus points if Jason Isbell plays guitar on the record and Amanda Shires plays fiddle. ? But the goal is to make a record with Dave Cobb in Nashville (or wherever he has his main studio at that point in time.) 

So…holy shit…now I guess I need to break this down into steps and make a friggin’ plan. And I better get moving on it!! Cuz that date feels awfully near and there’s a lot of hard work (on myself, on my music, on my songwriting, on building an audience, on getting press and attention) between me and making a record with Dave Cobb. 

As part of this, I plan to be sharing more content and more updates. I hope you’ll stick around and join me on this journey.  

Matt / Kid Bear