a time of reflection

I’ve just finished my last gig of the year. It’s 3:30 in the morning – I’m quite sure I will be finishing this blog at a later time (update…I definitely did) - and I’ve got to leave for the airport in an hour to make a flight home. Can’t seem to sleep, might as well write. I haven’t really been quite sure what I would write about for my final blog entry of the year, but it dawned on me that one of reflection might make the perfect ending. I always tend to reflect on my year around this time. I think most of us do. Though, I have to admit, this reflection seems far different from any other year. Most years in recent memory have felt the same when they ended, with a few differences here and there. This year kind of changed my whole outlook. More on that outlook change in a bit. With the reflection of the year, I think I need to tell you how my year went from the very beginning to now.

2017 started on a huge high…playing on Jimmy Kimmel. Probably one of the biggest bucket list items I could have checked off. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d ever get the chance, but there I was walking through the backstage door of Kimmel to perform in January. It felt like I had finally “made it” in some weird way. Lots of love from friends and family through texts, phone calls, and the social media gambit solidified this. The band absolutely killed that performance and I think we all walked out those doors feeling like we were badasses. Derrick and I even felt a little famous for a second as we walked out and paparazzi snapped our photo from the alley behind Kimmel’s studio (note: I am not famous, or even very cool for that matter and I’m also quite sure said paparazzi were very disappointed).  We all gathered in our hotel down the street to watch it together when it aired that night. Damn was that moment special. The world was at our fingertips. It felt like this year was going to be BIG and it was just getting started.

The next morning we hopped on a plane to head back across the US to start a tour as direct support for Brantley Gilbert, checking off another bucket list for me – an arena tour. Nobody dreams about being a musician and doesn’t immediately think of walking on stage in an arena filled with screaming fans. There were some moments on that tour that were pretty surreal. Some nights the crowds were just insanely into it. And let me tell you, walking out in the dark to an arena filled with a rowdy crowd is an adrenaline rush you can’t find anywhere else. We even played an arena near my hometown and my family got to come out and see me there. As did the families of other band members in their home states. I could tell how proud my and their families were. Once again, we felt like badasses.

Next we moved into the standard fair and festival season. These shows are pretty self-explanatory: there’s a lot of people, tons of bands playing on one stage, it’s hotter than hell, it might very well rain, and your chances of getting a nice shower that day are FAIR-ly (see what I did there) slim. But what I absolutely LOVE about this season is seeing friends you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. It’s kind of like the holidays for seeing extended family you only see once a year – a time to reconnect, have a drink or two and just have some fun. Almost every fair/festival ends up being a great atmosphere – at least backstage – for that reason. So while I may curse the person who ever thought of putting a show outside on these days, I also send out some thanks for a little bit of time with some amazing people.

By the time September rolled around, we were finishing up the last few fairs and festivals we had, while playing a few clubs here and there. The strange thing was…not seeing much else pop up on the calendar. As most musicians know, that’s when you start to get a little nervous and wonder if you’re working in the fall. Sure enough, Tucker wasn’t working much at all. I was lucky enough to fill in some of the gaps with a couple of other artists, but since October 1st, I’ve played a total of 10 shows. For all you kids doing the math at home…that’s about 3 shows a month. Which obviously isn’t enough to even completely pay the bills, but somehow things have worked out pretty well to where I haven’t had to worry too much and it’s all been alright.

Which brings me to now. I’ve finished my last gig with Tucker and my last shows of the year, with absolutely nothing really lined up for next year. I should be terrified - and believe me, there is at least one moment every day where I am completely terrified about the future – yet, I’m really not. There’s this overwhelming sense of calm in my life (except for the aforementioned moment) right now. When reflecting back on this year, I looked back to the last 3. And all I can think is how thankful I am for them. They’ve been rather amazing from a career standpoint when I look back. In that time I have: played with 2 artists with top 5 singles, played on numerous TV shows from Good Morning America to Kimmel, played the Opry, been on 2 tours opening for huge artists, played Red Rocks, traveled all over the country and Canada, played to a stadium filled with 40,000 people, and grown as a professional musician and human being. Writing these things down is not meant to brag, but to help myself truly realize how lucky I have been to live the dream I’ve dreamed since I was a kid. Sure, I know quite a few musicians who have done just as much or more in that time, but one thing I learned this year is to try to not compare yourself to others. We’re all on our own journey and no 2 people’s journeys are alike.

Every year except this year, I’ve reflected on the year and been somewhat disappointed. Disappointed that I didn’t get that gig, or disappointed that I didn’t make as much money as that guy, or disappointed I didn’t get the call, or disappointed in myself for not getting myself into that “top tier” of musicians in Nashville. This year is not like that. From all the frustrations of not knowing where I’ll be in a week, month or even year professionally, has come an appreciation for what I have had and optimism for whatever will come next. I still have plenty of moments (even days) where I’m scared about the future, but I don’t let it consume me like it did even a year ago. Somebody recently commented on this change in me and I simply said to them, “I was getting real sick of being unhappy”. And that’s really it. I want to see the positive in everything. That’s already been tested a few times, but I always seem to find it when I go looking for it. It’s not always easy, but it’s there if you try to find it. I have vowed to myself to never end another year like I have in the past, no matter what has happened. It’s no way to live and it’s definitely no way to ever be truly happy.

I think reflecting at the end of the year is good and healthy for all of us. It gives us perspective and a renewed sense of purpose and direction. That purpose/direction may change, kind of like I feel mine has. Reflection can also bring a change with no set path forward, a time of not knowing what, if anything, will be coming next. I’m strangely living in both areas of reflection; a renewed sense of purpose and also not knowing what is coming next. Though, I beg to question – does anyone actually ever know what is coming next? 

I was speaking with a good friend recently about how my year had turned out and how I was left looking ahead into the future with a lot of uncertainty. Being quite a bit more seasoned in the music industry than me, he had some words of wisdom. He said just three words, but they really resonated with me. They were words that will stay with me forever, and I’ve already found myself saying them to others who are a bit lost as to what’s next. Three words that give me (and I hope you) some calm, hope, peace of mind and positive vibes going forward. They simply were…

embrace the unknown.


See y’all in 2018.

- Nigel 

Nigel Knop