Be Your Own Leader. - Indie Music On Tap: S2E5
posted 24 Oct 2019 by Krister Axel
Today we are talking about how people get stuck, the importance of finding your own leadership, and how the way we define success for ourselves is everything.

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Hello and welcome back to Indie music on Tap season 2 where we cover depression and how it affects any musicians around the world. We are wrapping up our second season with a book giveaway, we announced that last episode, and the contest is still open to receive a signed copy of More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of LA Punk, from Hachette books. Please just visit and click the promo link at the top of the page, or from the menu if you are on mobile. It is a fascinating read, very relevant to the divergent relationship between Roots, Punk, and Power-Pop, that we see in the modern musical landscape. The chapter from Louie Pérez of Los Lobos fame is one of the best, I think, at recreating a sense of what the 80s were like on the West Coast, and what a rich scene and sense of purpose there was among the Indie musicians of the time. Next episode we will announce the winners during the season finale.

NEW: Watch this episode as a vodcast on our Vimeo channel.

Today we are talking about how people get stuck, the importance of finding your own leadership, and how the way we define success for ourselves is everything. So - sometimes people get stuck. I've got an example - a friend of mine, we'll call him Tom. Now Tom is a very intelligent and academic person, well-educated, but the way that he is stuck is in the concept of victimhood. If we allow that our own personal image of self can and does lead reality in a meaningful way, then we have to admit that there might be an explanation there - that we create a pattern of finding exactly what we are looking for. Now if you get used to saying to yourself: people take advantage of me, so there's no point in trying too hard; or even more generally, that the deck is stacked against me, so I am probably going to lose - if you say that over and over again, over the course of a lifetime, you inevitably create situations where that is true. The simple equation is this: life presents problems that cannot be overcome; this is the best I can do; so I must be happy with the consequences. Except that I am not happy - so there is the rub. Either I need to find a way to be happy with less, or I need to create more opportunity for myself. So far so good; so where is the block?

It's all in the control. It's in the way we explain the past to ourselves. The difference is very simple: either we look at complications as an opportunity to learn about the complexity of life, and we continually refine our sense of analysis, or we throw up our hands and we call it bad luck. But we do have a choice; not in the way that we want of course, because there are always things that we can't change about our own life, but we can always control the way that we react. And most importantly, we can control the way that we frame things. I had a wonderful therapist in Beverly Hills once who told me: we are meaning-makers. We don't have to do that, but we want to because humans love a good story. But we need to be careful about what kinds of stories we tell ourselves, and we need to realize that we can change the meaning on our own. So back to Tom: he is obsessed with genetics. He tells himself that his genes are not particularly good, but not particularly bad; he certainly does not feel empowered by the knowledge that other things, like lifestyle choices can radically improve our prospects for longevity, beyond what we get from our genetic makeup. Tom doesn't want to hear that, because his story is that things don't work out for guys like him. He has okay genes because he deserves okay-ness; the story he has for himself has created this cycle of self-fulfilling mediocrity. In a sense, we get exactly what we expect from ourselves. And if we don't have a story that creates incentive for growth, alas, we don't grow. And then eventually we blame the world for not having handed us the spark we were looking for. And in the worst cases we blame others for that perceived tragedy.

Now I will admit, everyone is misunderstood. And Tom himself would say, look: these are all the things that have happened to me that were out of my control, and that set me back, and if you're saying that is all my fault then you don't understand me. That's what can be tricky about doing this kind of a reset, the idea that if the situation is fixable then you are to blame for not having fixed it already. But that's an empty path; most of all we need to be forgiving of ourselves. And I would also argue that sometimes we need to be in a certain state, for a certain period of time, for our spirituality to evolve. So we never have to blame ourselves for anything really, as long as we accept that we have the power to change the current moment. So Tom if you're listening, you don't have to feel guilty for being stuck. It happens to all of us. Just know that the day you decide that you deserve something different, and you are willing to be vulnerable to get there, good things can and will start to happen as a direct extension of that open sensibility. When we are closed we stayed closed, but when we are open, the universe can find us.

And now, our first song. This is one of our top posts for the busy month of October.

It is said that the cells in your body replace themselves every decade or so. After 11 albums, two EPs and 17 years as a singer-songwriter, Leeroy Stagger has been wondering if maybe the soul works the same way. Ten years sober, with two kids, he’s so far removed from the hard-living twenty-something who started on this musical path that they aren’t even the same person.

Strange Path is the name of Stagger’s newest album and book, and it outlines his unexpected route from the BC punk scene to southern-Alberta singer songwriter. It is the end result of a triple-album’s worth of scrapped demos, record label rejections, and an inward retreat towards his artistic core. Hey Hey! (Song For Gord) lays down a rollicking retrospective of life and love, as Stagger is ready to learn as much from success as he does from heartbreak. The barroom piano, the folk-rock pocket, and the lyrical catharses are all here, as Leeroy Stagger presents the road-wisdom he's pulled from a lifetime of struggling towards the light. Hey Hey! (Song For Gord) brims with the hard-won joy that sizzles at the heart of his recent renaissance, and sparkles with the sweet love of life itself.

One more thing about getting stuck. I have this metaphor that I use, about life being a bunch of doors that we run towards. Sometimes they are open; but sometimes we get there and the door is closed. Doors close. Do we blame ourselves for choosing a door that closed? Blame the world for fooling us? Or do we look around and say, maybe that door was open, and is now closed, simply because I needed to run in this direction for a while? What's good about where I am now? Maybe this particular door didn't need to be open, and there is an adjustment to make. Maybe there are no mistakes, and maybe every closed-door is really just an arrow pointing to something else. The minute we stop trying to make it through that door in time, every time we slow down before we see the obstacle, we die a little bit. You got to keep running at those doors, even if they keep closing. Because the only other option is to give up.

Now this next track is from a band out of Nashville, these two ladies have written a song that IMHO perfectly encapsulates the moment of neurosis, when the flames of antisocial instinct rise so high that we must laugh at ourselves, so that we don't cry. This is Sorry, I'm busy (lyric video), from The Harmaleighs.

The last thing we're going to talk about is that sometimes, your friends don't give you what you need. Especially if you don't have a whole bunch of friends. I've been a pretty solitary person my whole life, and then once you have kids it's very hard to maintain friendships. Which is why learning about loneliness through the lens of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke was such a help - I'm not sure that I've said the full name properly on are so I'll say it again: Rainer Maria Rilke. That book really helped me out. Anyway, once you accept loneliness as the price of admission for a certain personality type, you move on to setting a realistic type of success for yourself. Which doesn't necessarily mean lowering the bar, unless that's important to you, but more just aligning short-term and long-term goals in a way that creates synergy. And everyone is so vulnerable to creating patterns of behavior that reinforce themselves; which is why it can be useful to have outside input. But I have said this before, even the wisest and most well-meaning of people still give bad advice sometimes. It's so hard to communicate the depth and complexity of emotion, that we sometimes crave some voice of leadership to bear the burden of decision-making for us. I think that instinct comes from simply wanting someone to blame if things go wrong; it is as if we are happy to take risks with ourselves as long as somebody else tells us to do it. But the minute we have our own organic instincts, we start to second-guess. And when we realize that concepts like time and money have no bearing on a spiritual truth, we realize that we are using the wrong metrics. Defining success in terms of wealth is like navigating a river in terms of how wet you get. It's not about the water; it is about where it takes you.

Speaking of water, Laurel Premo is known for her rhythmically-deep and engaged delivery of roots music on fiddle, banjo, and guitar. She is a Michigan-based artist who has been writing, arranging, and touring since 2009 with vocal and instrumental roots acts, and is internationally known from her duo Red Tail Ring.

With a wavelike sustain of electric and acoustic guitars, and a bow on the double-bass, Premo leans in to the archaic fiddle melodies and in-between intonations that connect folk sounds to the mystic and unknown. The Brushy Fork of John's Creek creates a unique landscape by combining walking-paced traditional fiddle repertoire with finger-style guitar, presenting a bold and dynamic instrumental narrative that mimics the flow of water and the natural turbulence of nature itself.

Okay one last time, if you are interested in a beautiful signed copy of More Fun in the New World: The Unmaking and Legacy of LA Punk, from Hachette books, please just visit and click the promo link at the top of the page. We will be announcing the winners in our next episode, which will be wrapping up this season 2 of Indie Music on Tap, a discussion of depression and how it affects Indie musicians. I would also like to announce that this series of videos, along with a bunch of lyric videos for select music submissions to, are now available to stream for free on Roku TV - just use the code 6DLJ5Z6 to add the channel. That is Six David Larry Joe Five Zebra Six.

This episode of CHILLFILTR®: Indie Music on Tap was brought to you by Krister Axel and The River South®, and was produced in Southern Oregon with help from ASHLAND IO LLC. We support our local community and are proud to be underwriters for Jefferson Public Radio. Our blog pieces are published weekly at, the podcast is available at, and our video feed is available for streaming on Vimeo.

About the Author


Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.

Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist