Saturday, June 23, 2012


It so happens that my contribution to The Kill Zone ties in a bit with an element of John Gilstrap’s excellent piece yesterday. John at one point mentioned persistence; persistence doesn’t mean working at a job for two weeks and then wondering why you’re not the manager or supervisor. Persistence means learning and working and butting your head against the wall to go through it if you can’t go over it or under it or around it. And I’ve got a story about persistence for you. It’s not about an author, either, though there are plenty of those. There are freaking lists of those on Facebook, listing authors whose names you know and the number of rejections they received before selling their first story or novel. No, this one is about a musician. His name is Scott Hartlaub and yes, he is related to me. He is my nephew.

Scott plays drums. He has played drums for almost fifteen years. Scott is a quiet and unassuming and gentle guy who disappears into a room even when he is the only one in it. But he wanted to play drums for a living. He formed bands that disbanded and joined bands that broke up and lived in crappy apartments and drove hundreds of miles to gigs that barely paid and worked jobs that most of us would regard as beneath us to support himself in the meantime. All along the way he honed his craft and kept his eye on the goal. I am sure that he got discouraged at some point(s) but he just. kept. going.

A couple of years ago Scott auditioned for a position in a band that backed up an extremely talented singer-songwriter named Jessica Lea Mayfield who at that time hardly registered on anyone’s radar. She started playing small clubs where the dressing room and rest room were on and the same.  Scott was in the back of the stage pounding away, behind Jessica and a set of keyboards and a guitarist and bass player, not to mention loading and assembling and unloading his kit, and doing all of the things that drummers do and a few that they don’t normally do, either. Jessica (she has a huge story about persistence as well) got some notice, and then some more notice, and then she got signed to a major label (the equivalent of an imprint of a major publisher). She recorded a CD with Scott and the band and then one night, we turned on the television, and there was Scott, on Late Night with David Letterman, the camera in a tight shot on him as he counted off the beginning of a song before Jessica started singing. If it had been me, I would have screwed it up, but Scott didn’t. But you know what? When I called him the next day he was back on his other job, making pizzas and taking phone orders for a large pep with double cheese in the Merriman Valley area of Akron, and he never even blinked. Talk about compartmentalizing. And he stayed Scott, even though he had become SCOTT. He even gave the pizza shop two weeks’ notice before the band left on a world tour of music festivals.

Scott is living in Nashville now, in between tours and doing pretty well. He’s doing what he wants to do, after fifteen years of no’s and sorry’s and really, really tough breaks and pounding his head through the wall. But he broke through. So can you. But if you want to break through you can’t stop pounding. And don’t complain because the plaster is hard. That’s a given.


  1. Love your post, Joe. Just what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  2. And yes, I hear your voice reading it to me. Have a great weekend.

  3. Great story, Joe. And the kind of thing I need to remind myself every once in a while. Keep your eye on the prize.

  4. Great story. Thanks for that.

  5. Nicely rendered, Joe. And you know, I think about your "head pounding wall" analogy for writers. There used to be only one wall, the one that protected the Forbidden City. And it was a hard one. Steel reinforced. But now that's not the only wall in the kingdom anymore.

    But wherever you choose to ram your head, persistence is the thing.

  6. Wonderful story, Joe. And a lesson to anyone who has a dream. Too many people think it comes easy. That all you have to do is want it and it'll come true.

    We all know that's not how it works, and it's certainly good to hear stories about someone who has worked their butt off to get what they want and is finally seeing it pay off.

    Congratulations to your nephew.

  7. Thanks Joe. Very inspiring.

    "I'm still pounding." Reminds me of a lyric in a rock song. Or maybe I'm thinking about old carpenters.

    Not many comments today. Everyone wore themselves out yesterday.

    "Can't we all just be friends?"

  8. Thanks to everyone for your comments and even more so for reading. If you'd like to watch a clip of the Letterman appearance you can find it here:

    I misspelled Jessica's middle name as "Leigh" when it should have been "Lea" and which I shall correct forthwith as soon as I prove I'm not a robot.

    Love that Forbidden City comparison, James. Indeed, I walls ten feet thick around mine. And Jordan, you have a great weekend as well. Gyro, Joe, Rob, and Jim, hope you're having a good one. And David, next time you find yourself in Columbus,let's have coffee.

  9. That is beyond awesome. Good for him. Very inspiring!

  10. Given all the bruises I've taken, I'm aspiring to walking THROUGH walls in the future!!
    Beautiful post, Joe!

  11. He's a trooper, Lisa. An inspiration to everyone in our family.

    Kathleen, may all your walls be paper thin and crumble at your touch...