A 2017 Retrospective
Some of the People Who Helped Shape my Year
2017 may have been the wildest year of my life. I was born in 83, graduated high school in 01, finished my undergrad in 06, left teaching in 09, got my law degree in 2012, & left law in 2017. Leaving law wasn't even the exciting part of 2017. I started making music full-time. That means recording my music, producing other people's music, & running my business.
This year was fun, intense, & life changing. Every 30 days or so I was working with new people who were helping me move my life & career forward. I'd like to look back over the past 12 months & share a little bit about the people (and a dog) who made 2017 a great year.
In fact, the year was so action packed that I'm going to be breaking this up into two posts because to cover a year's worth of people in one post would make it a very long read.
January - Cheryl B. Engelhardt
If you follow me on social media you probably have noticed that I share quite a bit of what Cheryl does. That's because I love her work, but more importantly she's unintentionally become a big part of my life.
In January of 2017 I started her online course, MX4. Shortly after starting the course I committed to reducing my lawyering time to 50% by the end of 2017. She helped me start charting my course to becoming a full-time musician. A few weeks into the process all of our work got derailed when my doctor told me that 1) I may have cancer, 2) I may lose my hearing, & 3) my live music days were over.
Of course I was devastated. (Don't worry, turned out to be a false alarm.) I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to worry my family since nothing was for sure yet, but I needed to talk to someone. My wife is great, but she's not a musician, & I needed to talk to someone who truly understood the fear I was facing.
That was Cheryl. I asked if she'd chat with me about my health & my music. A few days later we spoke & she became a friend who listened to me but also wouldn't let me give up. Keep in mind that by this time we had spoken a total of maybe two times. She barely knew me, but I trusted her. That was the most important thing.
Without Cheryl I would have probably quit. She helped me weather the storm & shape a new plan for my life. I'm forever grateful. I will be doing a full blog post on this soon, because I don't have enough space here to fully describe the ordeal. But the short version is that Cheryl B. Engelhardt was there for me when I needed her. We were brand new to each other at the time, but she went above & beyond for someone she barely knew. She's an amazing musician. She's a better person.
Thank you Cheryl.
February - Anne Luna
You all know Anne! She's my partner in crime on our Break Free vlog. More importantly she's my lifelong friend & my weekly accountability partner. We started talking weekly on 2/20. We haven't missed a week!!!! Every week we talk about our goals, our progress, frustrations, & what our next steps are to become fully independent musicians.
Anne is dope as hell. Her band, the Hard Road Trio is exceptional. She's an amazing songwriter, friend, bassist, singer, & amazing person. She encourages me & doesn't let any of my B.S. slide.
I also plan on posting about how Anne & I were best buds, lost touch, & came back together after she kicked my ass at the state science fair. I love you Anne, even if you bested me.
March - Dan Manly
I met Dan at an open mic in Denver. I thought he was a great singer/songwriter & thought, "I should jam with him someday." I gave him my card. Next thing I knew we were making a record together. It was the 1st album I'd made that wasn't my own. I couldn't be prouder of this one. Dan is one talented dude.
April - Annie the Bulldog
Annie has been a part of my family for 5 years now. She's a 7 year old American Bulldog that we got from a prison. Not a pound or a shelter...a freaking prison. Needless to say, she's stubborn & tough. She's also a sweetheart who has become my best friend on 4 legs.
This year was rough on her. She got very sick & I thought we were going to lose her. She spent several days in the doggie ER & I'd go sit with her for hours in her concrete hospital room. I got her a nice dog bed so she wouldn't sleep on the cold floor, & I'd hang with her scratching her head until I had to go home.
She never seemed all that perturbed by what was going on. She came out fine & was a little upset to leave the emergency vet clinic. You see, I'm not always a big fan of being around people, but Annie loves people. She seemed to like all the attention she was getting, never mind she was getting it because she was deathly ill.
Annie loves no matter what. We could all learn a lot from her. In times of struggle, she's happy to give kisses & receive love.
Good dog. Here's my Instagram post from the day she came home!
May - Marley Forman, Jeff Koy, & Nick Stachokus
These three dudes have been amazing to work with. The four of us comprise the Zak Sloan Band. They are good friends & wonderful musicians.
Marley was the 1st bass player I worked with when I moved to Denver in 06. Then, over 10 years later I was starting up my new band & needed a bass player. I called up Marley, he was interested, no audition needed, the gig was his. He's been holding down the groove for us ever since.
Nick & I became friends in 06 or so too. We both taught at the same school. He was a 3rd grade teacher, I was a 4th grade teacher. We hit it off, & played 1 gig together in 08 or so.
Years later I needed a drummer, & like Marley no audition was needed. Nick is rock solid, a fun guy, & bloody hilarious. He's the perfect power station for my band.
Jeff Koy & I met when I was working in child abuse law. One day we had breakfast, talked guitars, & set up a time to jam. He's been my right hand man ever since. We've co-written some songs I'm really proud of like Whisky Kiss, Come Get Me Smile, Red Light Paradise. There's no guitarist I'd rather have standing to the right of me on stage.
These three guys have given my music & live show the kick in the ass it needed. They are great guys & fantastic band mates.
June - Family
This is a good spot to conclude this post. June is when life got real. I had my cancer scare behind me, wasn't going lose my hearing, & was cleared to play live. Now the only thing standing between my life as a full-time musician was my job. To quit my job I needed support. Thank God for family.
The day I decided to quit I made 5 phone calls. 1st was my wife. PROTIP, always call your spouse before you quit your secure job. Next was Anne Luna. I knew what Anne & Annette would say, they've both been watching me move towards quitting my job. I didn't know what my family would say. I was hoping for support. I got way more than that.
I called my mother. "So quit," she said, "you'll be fine & you'll be happy." Madre is usually pretty quick to the point & that day was no exception. She knew I wanted to leave law behind & she probably knew I'd eventually do it no matter what, so she got behind me right away. Besides, she was the one who suggested I go to music school in Levelland, Texas rather than to a big university. She has always known what I was. (Also, special love to mama Sloan, Levelland is where Anne Luna & I became all-time best buds again.)
Next call. My Dad simply stated he was excited for me. "Do what you love & you love music." He also said something that helped relieve some anxiety. I don't remember the exact words but it was along the lines of "the law isn't going anywhere, if you later decide you made a mistake, go back." Genius. This was not life or death. After years of making legitimate life or death decisions in the world of child abuse law, this decision wasn't nearly so grave & the upside was huge.
Last call. My aunt Doris, who has been a friend/sister/aunt for my entire life. She runs her own business, so I thought she'd dig what I was doing. We talked about the ups & downs of running your own business. She gave me good advice about being your own boss. She never seemed to contemplate that I might not actually quit. She knew I would leave law, she was 100% in my corner & has been ever since.
My family is great. I needed support to build up the courage to quit. I went to my office & gave my notice.
Annette & I wrote Beat of Your Heart that night.
Next time I'll finish the story. In January I wanted to only practice law 50% of the time. In June, I left the 9-5 for good. July is where the fun starts. I've got 6 more people I think you're gonna dig. I know I do.