Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Zach Guy, Simien the Whale

This whole project, people have talked about how if you follow your passion, money and comfort will follow.

But there’s often an anomaly when you look at music. Sure there are ways to make money while playing music, but more often than not, especially in the Internet age, music is unlikely to support your lifestyle, even if you’re a signed touring act — there are the major exceptions. (A popular act from Grand Rapids a few years back, led by Chris Andrus, made a documentary on the issue.)

Zach Guy, bassist and lead singer for Grand Rapids’ Simien the Whale has gone through a progression of music in his life. When he was in college, and after, his band Jim Crawford Band was close to breaking through, the band carried itself with a youthful charisma and arrogance. They were too big for their britches.

“We were so young, there was nothing to lose,” Guy said. “We were playing bars, drinking before we were legal. Anything went.”

But the band broke up just as the interest became appearing, Guy said because they didn’t know what was good for them.

“Upsets not the right word for the situation,” Guy said, though a bit upset as he was under the impression this would be a “puff piece,” “There’s no regret. But we were so young, there’s wishing we knew what we were doing; what was good for us.”

Now he and his Simien the Whale production partner, Tory Peterson — another Jim Crawford member — have continued to make music and perform live. The bands self-titled, full-length debut album just won John Sinkevics Local Spin of the Year as the best album in the West Michigan region.

Though an acclaimed album and a solid live show doesn’t equal monetary success. Not even major touring acts anymore.

Like Nick Helmholdt said, there’s a market out there for everyone. Guy said the same thing for music, but it’s depending on regions.

Grand Rapids, though historically had a good market for rock, is trending toward folk now, so Simien the Whale isn’t what the market is embracing.

“There are different styles that flourish in different areas,” Guy said. “It’s about finding the right market of who will embrace it.”

He said that generally the finding a passion and money will come theory is right, but there’s certain aspects, such as music, it doesn’t apply. In those cases, it still is important to have a passion to help you enjoy life.

But that passion in music might wane when Guy can’t play live anymore.

“It’s something I struggled with,” he said of playing music after the public shows are finished. “I’m not sure I’d have the same sort of satisfaction I have of sharing it with others.”

He said he still gets that satisfaction even playing to a room of 10 people, as long as there’s that one person who says they enjoyed the music.

More important, though can be connected to passion, is the people you surround yourself with people you like.

Guy quoted Malcolm Gladwell with good people make you better and that you’re a product of the five people you spend the most time with.

“Good people make you a better person,” he said.

Another key to happiness, according to Guy, is independence. He spoke of his decision to major in philosophy and anthropology, “I knew there weren’t jobs in that, it just made me happy.”

“Making your own decisions and being responsible for your own destiny,” he said, “accepting the benefits and consequences of those decisions.”

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