Bass Player article - November 2008
Soapbox: Just Don't Say No
By Scott Shriner
I haven't perfected the technique that I want to share with you. I practice it, much like how I practice bass. My goal is not to be perfect but simply to be aware, and to do my best on a day-to-day basis. I believe that practicing saying "yes" got me to where I am today. The more I continue to say "yes," the more I get out of life.
My whole life, I've had a natural tendency to say "no" to trying new things and taking chances. At first, I had to be muscled into saying "yes". For example, I refused to sing background vocals in my first cover band. The singer was my big cousin, and she could push me around more than most people - so when she wouldn't take no for an answer, I stepped up to the mic. I am so grateful to her for that. Singing has been a huge part of my life, and a must in Weezer. Not to mention how great it makes me feel to do it.
But it still took me a while longer to learn the lesson.
I moved from Ohio to Los Angeles to make it in music. After a few years of nothing happening (or a bunch of somethings almost happening), I started to wonder what was missing. I had a couple of great mentors who tried to give me direction (like, "Get out there and start your own band, dummy"), but I stayed resistant to new ideas. This painful and dark time in my life lasted for years before it finally broke me. I realized that my way of doing things was killing me creatively, and I started to become willing to listen. Being relevant and teachable was a very new to me as a die-hard rocker, a former Marine, and a genetic know-it-all.
My breakthrough happened during the summer of 2001. The year before had been an all-time-low for me. I considered moving back to Toledo to return to my cover band roots - which at least paid the bills and was better than dying a slow death in Hollywood. I gave it one more good shot and called everyone I knew, saying, "I'm looking for a gig. Who needs a bass player? I sing, I write, I learn fast, and I'll play almost any kind of music." I started getting calls asking me if I would come jam with a couple of people. Ugh..."jam." (No offense, jam guys!) Or if I could do a blind session "on spec." On spec? You kiddin' me?
But I said "yes" to these things that made me queasy, and all of a sudden, I was magically busy again. Original band, cover band, recording a CD, doing sessions for friends. One day I got a phone call from Rivers Cuomo, the Weezer frontman, asking me if I'd be interested in helping out the band for a bit while the bass player took care of some "things." Sounded temporary, sounded scary.
It also sounded like a chance of a lifetime. And it was a good freaking thing I had been practicing saying "yes."
My life has been a whirlwind of action ever since, with a few minutes of downtime to pet the dogs and kiss the wife. Weezer's The Red Album is full of examples of the end product of me saying "yes". I set goals for myself on The Red Album that I never thought I could reach: singing lead vocals, writing music, and playing synth. I achieved all this and more, and I don't intend to stop now.
Saying "yes" has also gotten me to try yoga (never thought I'd do that), have a regular meditation practice (tough guys like me don't meditate!), and surf (I'm from Ohio, man). Okay, I'm a horrible surfer, but I tried it, and it was amazing. Meditation has changed my life, and has helped me work out a lot of my anxiety, allowing me to create freely. Yoga...I'm still trying to be willing.
This all began with a slight change of thinking - a practice in the Power of Yes. Just don't say "no." But don't tell your mom it was me who told you.
Scott Shriner plays bass and sings for the alt-rock band Weezer. Weezer's latest CD, The Red Album, was released in June.