I’ve been playing guitar for about 25 years, 15 of them “professionally” whatever that means.  There may have been a 20-minute window in 2011 when I thought I was good, but aside from that fleeting moment, I pretty much go about my day convinced that I suck. Ok, I admit that is a bit harsh, but suffice it to say, I’m not walking around with the Rocky theme song in my head as I head out to a gig. While I don’t actually believe that I suck — that would be unhealthy — I don’t think that I’m “good”. What I mean by that is that to accept that I were any good, would mean to think that I’ve “arrived”, and if you truly want to be a good musician, you will eventually discover that you will never “arrive”.

About a year ago, I played a gig with a bunch of great musicians; the likes of which I could have only dreamt of sharing the stage with when I started out all those years ago. I did the gig, which was a house band type thing, learned 40 or so songs, and the show went pretty much without a hitch. So why did I feel so shitty when I got home? I felt as though I had to throw everything out the window and start all over as a player.

andre papanicolaou pierre flynn

with Pierre Flynn, José Major and Mario Légaré. (photo Jipé Dalpé)

I struggled with this for some time. Maybe it was because the other guys we so goddamn quick. Or maybe it’s because they could sight-read their charts. Or maybe it was because of who they had toured with. I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I stewed in my own boiling soup of insecurities and fears, I bumped into a drummer friend of mine. We chatted a bit on the usual stuff; kids, gigs, gear, the records we were listening to. At one point, I tested the waters and threw out a generic “man, I gotta get back into shape as a guitarist….” “You too!???” he replied as though a 10,000 pound weight had just been lifted. In one two-word response, my friend had just completely eradicated my insecurities. He just blew everything up, and now I could see as though I had been going through life myopic, having never been prescribed corrective lenses. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Plus, this was a musician I admired a great deal. If he thought this way, surely, I must be over reacting a bit! We sat over coffee and casually, and most importantly, humorously, recounted our shortcomings, only to have the other party argue that that’s what they liked about us the most!

andre papanicolaou guitare vincent vallieres

with Vincent Vallières, in 2015 (photo Josée Tremblay)

In the months after my existential musical-mid-life-crisis, I suddenly remembered what my first guitar teacher told me almost 25 years ago: “once you think you’re good, you’re in trouble”. Those words ring truer today more than ever. We are surrounded by the loud, the bragging, the shameless promoters. One of them will be the next American President. It’s easy to get caught up in that mindset and to then apply it to our lives. As a musician, there will always be 100,000 “better” ones out there. But being “the best” makes no sense; it’s what we all bring to the table that counts. So, as 2017 creeps its head, and we say goodbye to this turbulent year that brought us Trump and took away Cohen, I will raise my glass to the mediocre, the average, and the less-than. May we all continue to make music, and life, a little better every day, in our own special way.

Happy New Year.

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About The Author

Andre Papanicolaou
Collaborator - RREVERB

Andre Papanicolaou is a Montreal-based singer/songwriter, producer, touring and session guitarist. Over several years of recording and touring with other artists (Vincent Vallières, Daran, Pascale Picard Band, Patrice Michaud), Papanicolaou began to carry around a notebook and write down a series of essays. He brings to RREVERB a unique point of view: the one of a professional musician.