Ask Exene: For women, music and matrimony don't mix
Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let me start by saying I recently read an interview in which you gave your No. 1 piece of advice for female musicians: Don't get married! Having been in bands for most of my life as a guitarist, I know how valuable that advice can be. In the mid-'90s, I married a longtime friend of mine, and we started a band. We went over a lot of the typical turmoil of a married couple working together. We were in our 20s and very uncompromising in our world-views, which made for great music but a lousy relationship. When we fought about stuff, we really fought, and it ended up putting stress on the music, which in turn put stress on our livelihood as a working band.
About 18 years later, we were both in our 40s, both of us had other relationships that didn't work out on opposite sides of the country. We sort of reconnected again four months ago, mostly out of friendship and the desire to play music again, and we've been recording with each other. I think you know where this is going, but he and I both seem to think we'd like to try to give it a go with the music/band relationship again. Given that we've both mellowed out a lot, have new careers and aren't trying to really "make it" as a band anymore (though we still wanna do gigs), do you think it's still not a good idea to get involved with a musical partner?
You are both older, presumably wiser, still really care for each other, compatible musically . . . you could give it a go. Working (however bohemian and artistic we are) with a lover/partner is difficult. The work drama bleeds into the domestic drama. You or he or she can lose identity and individuality, lose sight of your opinions, get stressed out, be overwhelmed by too much togetherness. With different careers, it's easier. But you'll still be spending a lot time and meaningful energy doing music together. What drove you apart, and are those issues resolved? That is a soul-searching question. The first answer--or the obvious answer--isn't always the truth. Communicate with each other about your expectations, both musically and romantically. Don't bring up things that no longer matter, unless you find, to your amazement, they still do. When I said don't get married, I didn't mean just bandmates. I meant don't get married at all.
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