Pursuing the Excellent Life
Sept. 1, 2021

Flourishing through music with Bryan Toney

Music is synonymous with emotion and beauty and is a vital part of life. This week Andrea and Craig welcome musician Bryan Toney as he gives us insight on how music can help us flourish. He explains why it’s important to find your passion and how you can make music (or engage in some other creative activity) while still working another job. We also learn about some of the struggles musicians face in modern times, the hardships of the music industry nowadays and Bryan’s contributions to helping other people flourish through music by organizing open mic nights so more folks can showcase their passion and talents. Listen in to discover how to flourish through song.


Visit Bryan Toney’s website: https://www.bryantoney.com/

 Listen to Bryan Toney on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/58Xf6nCVfn3QzSU4aCxpXi?si=Y1qxZnDdToWBHAxGKGd7OQ

 Listen to Bryan Toney’s album Cone of Uncertainty on Apple Music: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cone-of-uncertainty/1451933911

 Connect with Bryan on Facebook: http://facebook.com/bryantoneymusic

 Check out Bryan’s Youtube Channel: http://youtube.com/bryantoney

 Follow Bryan on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bryantoney/


Preview 00:00 

Yeah, you're exactly right. And that comes from seeing too many people that I know that have embarked on careers. Not because they were passionate about it really had that much interest, but it was either because that's what their parents wanted to do. Or what they thought they should do. And, um, and I've known some, some very creative people that, that almost had to suppress their creativity, you know, to, to pursue that career.


Music 00:30 

Mississippi sunset behind the trees.

Louisiana calling out to me.

Turn right past the cowboy church

My GPS got me in a lurch


Craig 00:47 

Hi folks. This is Craig Van Slyke. Welcome to the Rational Ignorance Podcast, where we talk about ideas, values, and living life. We're here to have fun, interesting conversations that help us get to the heart of what it means to live a good life.


Andrea 00:59 

Hello everybody. Today, we're going to talk with songwriter and musician Bryan Toney about how creating music helps him flourish. Before getting into the interview we want to briefly remind folks of our view of flourishing. We define flourishing as living an excellent life, which includes not only living according to virtue and reason, but also the things that enrich our lives such as health, friendship, creative achievement, and pleasure.


Craig 01:23 

We hope you enjoy and benefit from the Rational Ignorance Podcast. If you do, please help us spread the word and the impact for our podcast by sharing your favorite episode with at least one person this week. So, Bryan Toney has been writing songs since his days growing up in North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee, his debut solo album With a Y was released in 2017 with the sophomore album Cone of Uncertainty, which is an awesome name, by the way, released in 2019. People in hurricane country will understand Cone of Uncertainty.

Bryan has played solo and with his duo, Bryan Tony Overdrive in cities ranging from Nashville to Asheville, to Denver, Salt Lake City, and Washington DC and little old Ruston, Louisiana. His music has been compared to Nick Lowe, Belle and Sebastian, The Mountain Goats, Daws and Elvis Costello. Bryan, welcome to the Rational Ignorance Podcast.


Bryan 02:16 

Oh, thanks for having me. Great to see you all.


Craig 02:18 

Yep. Likewise.


Andrea 02:20 

So Bryan, tell us a little bit about yourself, your career, your family.


Bryan 02:25 

Yeah. So I'm a native North Carolinian. I'm about as North Carolinian as you can get. Both sides of my family were here before the revolutionary war. So we deep roots in the state.

I was born in the state, but then I grew up, uh, some in Virginia and Tennessee, and then spent some time down in Atlanta as well before coming back to North Carolina. My wife, BillIie and I have been married for a long time. We have two grown sons, one lives in Salt Lake City as an artist and another one is an engineer down in South Carolina. And I've been fortunate to have some great careers, very different careers after going to University of Tennessee and Georgia Tech, which is where I met Craig. When I started a career first in technology, working as a consultant and then starting my own company. And then when that wasn't as much fun anymore, I decided to go do something completely different. Went into academia. And worked at three different universities, helping to launch entrepreneurship programs with those universities. And then when that last job, uh, ceased to exist, I decided to devote full time to music. I've been playing music all along, but decided that four years ago, it was time to maybe just to focus on that.


Craig 03:30 

Oh, it's great. We love to hear stories of multiple careers. Kind of reinventing yourself from time to time. See your song Simple Needs starts off with this line. "The first thing I remember is singing. I want to hold your hand riding my red tricycle inside the house when the rain began", and then later says "nothing makes me so happy as to hear something new, becoming inspiration for what I'd grown into." So it's clear that music has been a huge part of your life even from an early age. So, yeah, I'm really curious about that last line. So how has music helped shape you into what you've grown into?


Bryan 04:06 

I think it's, it's the creative aspect of it. You know, I've always loved hearing something new, whether it's, you know, from, from a friend of mine had just written a song or something that, you know, a new release of an artist I like when it comes out. So I think it really comes back to, to creativity and a lot of what I've done in all my careers has been around creating things. My first career, technology, I tried to start a company that was doing something that nobody was doing at the time and in an area that nobody actually thought was, was even possible.

And then, um, when I went to the academic world, this was just in the early days of starting to see entrepreneurship programs pop up around the universities. And so I was able to start programs there. Just again, did create something out of nothing. And I view on music the same way. Yeah. You start with a guitar or a phrase and see what you can make out of that.

So I think that's what's, yeah, sort of been the common thread through everything I've done.


Andrea 05:02 

Yeah, Bryan, that's great. And in fact, you've even got a song called Someplace New. And so this idea of creating new things is something that comes up. And when you were telling us about your career early on, it had a lot to do with business and technology and then lead eventually to music and you have a lyric in that song that says I can something like I can tell where I'm going because of what I've left behind. And so I just wanted to ask you a little bit about like, how that has shown up in your own life. How we always really think about pursuing new things, but it also involves leaving things behind and that connects to the idea of rational ignorance, in that we can't know everything, we can't pursue it and everything. So tell us a little bit about that process of deciding to leave things behind and what that feels like and how that helps you chart a new trajectory.


Bryan 05:53 

Yeah. I've never had any regrets for things I've left behind. I just felt like if it's time for a change. I guess I'm a little bit restless in that respect. And then every few years I feel a need to go do something different to sort of reinvent myself. But I also see that all those experiences help shape what I'm doing, uh, going forward. Yeah. I would not be doing what I'm doing today if I hadn't started a technology company back in the eighties. And if I hadn't gone into academic world in the nineties, there's no question that those experiences shaped what I'm doing led to relationships and opportunities that then opened doors later on.

So, yeah, I'm a big believer in luck and know there's a little bit of luck involved along the way, but, but you've got to put yourself in a position to get lucky. And a lot of it's just getting out there and doing things.


Craig 06:40 

Uh, it's great. So you started writing music as a teenager, is that right? You were fairly young?


Bryan 06:48 

Uh, probably even before it was a teenager. I think I was thinking back I was probably a junior high school when I probably sat down and tried to write a first song. At that point, I was actually writing it out on, on music notation. Cause cause I'd had enough piano lessons I could write notes and I don't do that anymore. I'm not sure I could because we've got technology now that can just capture those things for us.


Craig 07:10 

So, so what, what made you shift from music consumer to music creator? Especially at that age?


Bryan 07:19 

Uh, I have no idea. Uh, you know, I, I, listen, I really was not that long after starting to listen to a lot of music, then I started creating it. Yeah. Cause I'm, and again, I'm thinking I was probably oh 10, 10 or 11 years old when I first started really paying attention to a lot of music that I was hearing on the radio. I'm fortunate that I had a piano teacher when I was in elementary school that recognized that one of the ways to keep her students motivated was let them play what they wanted to play. So once a month, she would ask me, what song do you wanna learn? And I would tell her something I heard on the radio. I remember saying, telling her I wanted to learn Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head or Let It Be by the Beatles. And the next time I'd show up, she would've gone to the music store, bought the sheet music for that song. And I doubt she, she had ever played a Beatles song in her life. She was an older woman at the time, but that kept me motivated and interested. It's interesting. When we moved to another state and I had another piano teacher, I lost interest in it because that teacher didn't provide that opportunity as she was more interested in teaching, you know, classical music and I enjoyed it to some extent, but I very quickly lost interest. So the writing, I think, just, I don't, I really don't know where it came from. I don't come from a family of songwriters. I didn't know any songwriters didn't have any relatives that played instruments. I think it was just something that was just inside me that needed to come out.


Craig 08:42 

That's great.


Andrea 08:43 

And how would you describe your music?


Bryan 08:45 

I would... people ask me that I say it's original high energy folk rock, and that's a pretty broad category I said, but it's gets a lot of hints of late sixties and early seventies folk and rock music because I grew up listening to that, but it's original and I've been, I think I have a fairly distinctive sound. And when we hear that, when, when we play, but when I go out and play live, I rarely do a cover song. I might do one or maybe two at most, and out of say a three hour show. But I like to think the music is, it has some sort of familiarity to it that people hear it and it reminds them of something that maybe they listened to last year or 30, 40 years ago.


Andrea 09:27 

Can you talk about your experience as an artist, since you usually do have original work, but maybe occasionally you play a cover song. Like what's the difference in that experience for you? What's the value or the experience of creating your own work?


Bryan 09:42 

Yeah. I mean, I hang out with a lot of musicians now, and I know some that, that are almost, um, very sensitive about playing their own music in front of a crowd. If they feel more comfortable playing a cover song. I'm just the opposite. I feel much more comfortable playing my own music than trying to play something that somebody else wrote because I have this feeling that they're all ,they're going to, always comparing me to the original artists. Whereas if I play something that I've written, there's no comparison. They haven't heard it before, or if they have heard it, they've only heard it from me. And so at least from a, from a comfort level, you know, I'm much more comfortable doing that. Now there are a lot of music venues out there and you're particularly sort of bars and breweries. They sometimes would almost prefer that somebody plays songs that the audience is familiar with. Cause that's what they want to hear. But I've really never, since that, I mean, I very rarely even have somebody come up and request something. Cause I realize tight away that I'm not playing cover songs and yet, yet they still seem to enjoy it. I mean, the way you measure success to me is, success of a gig is, is it if people that show up stay for most of the show. And of course that's what the venue wants, the venue wants everyone to stay there and spend money on drinks and food and whatever real estate they're offering. So, but I just personally just get so much more satisfaction out of playing my own music and yeah. Much more comfortable doing so.


Craig 11:03 

I'm going to see if I can frame this question that's just occurred to me. So making music, you mentioned that you have this something inside you that needs to come out, which is why you create music. You know, you write music, but that's that very different from getting up in front of an audience and often an audience that are at least slightly drunk, and playing that music. So what, what motivates you to actually get up there and share your music rather than just have it be this thing that you do and you enjoy?


Bryan 11:37 

Yeah, I think it's, you know, it's, it's the getting the feedback. And getting a reaction, you know, and, and you all maybe appreciate this. I heard somebody say one time that most teachers are frustrated performers, you know, and that we get up, you get an audience, you stand up in front of a group of people and you have their attention for an hour. And so I think there's something there's, maybe it's a little bit of ego, whatever it is that, that you just enjoy, you know, having that interaction with an audience that then obviously has, is much more different than sitting in my living room and strumming my guitar. I'm not going to, I'm not going to get that feedback. And, and that's also how I determine, you know, sort of which songs that I write that I keep playing, you know, you can, it's not necessarily by how much applause I get, but it's, it's, it's the look in their eyes and, and, and the smiles on their faces or the reactions that you get that helped me determine, at least the performer determine, you know, is this something that's resonating? You know, because ultimately, you know, I want, I want everything I do to resonate some way. Either it might just be rhythmically. The men that care about the words at all, or it could be the, you know, the message in the song or a combination.


Craig 12:43 

So what, this is going to sound like an odd question. If you don't mind, Andrea, if I could build off of that. So what, why does it matter whether or not something resonates with someone else?


Bryan 12:56 

Well in the end, I don't think it does if it resonates with you. Okay. I mean, I was talking, I had a conversation with some songwriters the other day about playing our music and, you know, and the main reason they do it is for ourselves. And it's what makes us feel good. You know, there's, there's a personal satisfaction. I saw a quote from Keith Richards recently about, they ask him, why do you keep performing? And, and yeah, cause obviously the guy doesn't need the money doesn't, you know, as, has met every goal that you could ever have as a musician. And he says, I'm going to it til' I croak. It says, because I personally need it. I need to be out there performing. I don't, it's just, that's just what, it's a, something that's deep into him and he'll do it, you know, until he's no longer able to do.


Andrea 13:40 

I think what's so interesting about that is that in many ways it seems dialogic. In other words, there's almost this false dichotomy between doing something for yourself and doing something for others, right? So this is something that obviously is satisfying to you. But part of what is satisfying is the interaction with others and is engaging with others and seeing how it affects them. And so, so much of our life, we think of like, either I'm doing this for myself or I'm giving to someone else, but there's actually this, a practice of interchange, right, of offering up your music, seeing how people respond and then that in turn gives something back to you. And so I think that just reinforces how we're in a community together. And we, we often might think, well, you know, here's the performer and there's the audience, and this could be seen as transactional, but it could also be seen as a kind of dialogue or relationship that has mutual benefit.


Bryan 14:36 

Oh, yes. Yeah. And I sense that every time I play and everywhere I play. Yeah. And it might only, in some cases it might only be two or three people that you, that you noticed in the audience that are just that, that you can tell that's just, it's just making their day to be able to sit there and listen to the music or for an hour or however long it is. And, and they're very appreciative of it and yeah. Cause, cause I'll, cause there might be other people in the audience there they're just there with friends and having a conversation and it just happened that there was a musician playing there and that's fine too. But then even at those tables or it might be six or eight people, I always sort of zero in on that one person who's not as engaged in the conversation, but they're intently listening to me. So yeah, I think it is the community aspect. I think that's, that's, you know, what people like about listening to music, that it's a communal thing. Whether you're going to a concert with 10,000 other people seeing their favorite artist, or you're sitting in a, in a small outdoor cafe with, you know, 15 people who you don't know, but, but you're still in doing something together that that's unlike really any other type of experience.


Craig 15:40 

I'm going to have to remember that when the fall quarter starts, cause I'm going to have 60 students and I'll focus in on the one that's actually awake and paying attention in my eight o'clock class. So that's what I'm going to have to do. So yeah. Eight o'clock class is the bane of all students.


Bryan 15:58 

Oh, I remember those. Yeah.


Craig 16:00 

So let me ask you something that kind of follows onto what Andrea was talking about.

She mentioned community and I noticed a couple of years ago and then more recently you've been really involved in organizing these open mic events. I see your posts on social media about them. So what makes you do that? You know, it's not just about you performing you'll, you might play one or two songs, but, so what motivates you?


Bryan 16:26 

I mean, part of the reason I'm involved with that now is that's really how I got started.

So when I. I guess it's been about five or six years ago now sort of got back into playing music a little bit and writing songs and I wanted to go out and try to share them, but didn't really, you know, I had not really played much music for a few years prior to that. So I went to an open mic. That's just an old coffee shop around the corner from where I lived. And the person that hosted that open mic was so welcoming and friendly and encouraging and I remember standing up there on stage playing my song and my knees were just shaking because even though I've written and play music all my life, I had never, until that point gotten up in front of people by myself. Ever. I was always, if I played music live, I was playing with a band and there you got people cover with you and it's just a little more comfortable. So I had such a good experience there that I decided the, I want to try to help create scenes like that. And so there was a new brewery that opened up here in town, not too long before the pandemic. And so we can get something started there. And of course it was, and put it aside for a while and I asked them if they were interested in open mic and told them, I'd be glad to host it. But again, it comes back to a community again, there's even though we have different people show up every week, there's some sort of a core group of three or four that have come to share their music. But what I most enjoy about it, and it's sorta similar to teaching is you get that young or older performer who shows up and maybe they've written some songs and they've never really tried 'em out in front of an audience. It gives them an opportunity to try something out, get some feedback, hopefully positive encouragement and then, so my job is just to basically facilitate that and help 'em, which is  part of what I've done throughout my different careers. And it's just doing it in a different fashion now. I have a colleague from UNC Greensboro, which is where I last worked, that was, came to one of the open mics recently. And she said you had to leave the university to become a real professor, which I thought was nothing common, but she was talking about all these people around there that  sort of mentoring in a way, mentoring and encouraging and, and helping them pursue a new career or a side career.


Andrea 18:35 

I think that's such an interesting point because, you know, one thing you could ask is when you're teaching students, what are you teaching them? Or, you know, how are you teaching them to be, and is this just teaching them to walk into some pre scripted life or perform some function that's already been established? Or are you teaching them how to really authentically discover themselves and lead a flourishing life and do whatever they need to do to be a unique and happy individual. And so maybe, you know, by modeling that, right, which doesn't mean that you are teaching them to be exactly like you, but you are teaching them to have the courage to do what it is, whatever it is that they want to do.


Bryan 19:16 

Yeah. Even when I was teaching, I taught a lot of entrepreneurship classes and I remember the lesson I tried to drive over and over again was, you know, if you do, which is something that you're passionate about. You're much more likely to be successful than something that you think is just a way to make money, you know? And, and I would bring in, uh, I brought in a lot of guest speakers into my classes. I would find entrepreneurs in the community that have been successful and, you know, 95% of the time those entrepreneurs got their start by following a passion. Whether it was, you know, cooking or technology, whatever it was, it didn't matter what it was, it started with a passion and they followed that. And my message to the students was eventually you're going to be successful. You might not make as much money in the near term, but a long term you're going to be happy. You can't wait to go to work in the morning. You know, and those, those 70 hour weeks won't be a chore because you're having so much fun. And I used to ask them, I said, would you rather have a job, a 40 hour week job that you hate, or a 70 hour week job that you love? And of course, most of us would pick the 70 hour week, you know, a job that we love and in a heartbeat. Um, so yeah, I think that's, again, I notice all these things are sort of ended up coming full circle and time, right back around together.


Craig 20:31 

It sounds like some of your music is reflecting that sort of a life philosophy. So for example, you've got simple needs and more or less, which kind of aligns with what you just said about not chasing the things and the, you know, the, the stuff, the, the money that you can buy stuff with. And then if only, which really kind of resonated with me and this podcast to an extent is, is not waiting around for some day to come, you know, when you kind of get into the same sort of thing and wondering


Bryan 21:04 

yeah, I think you're exactly right. And that comes from seeing too many people that I know that have embarked on careers. Not because they were passionate about it really had that much interest, but it was either because that's what their parents wanted them to do.

Or what they thought they should do. And, um, and I've known some, some very creative people that, that almost have to suppress their creativity, you know, to, to pursue that career. And, and so, and, and most many of them do have regrets later on. Now it's not, some people will be able to do both, you know, there's no reason you couldn't be an accountant and also a musician. Maybe musician as a hobby, but too often, those careers sort of suppress the other things and then they never get back to it.


Craig 21:52 

Right. Right. So how did you keep going? I mean, you you've had, let's see if I can count them right. You've had at least three careers, am I counting that right? Yeah, I can count. I can count three, but you've kept, I mean, I remember and Bryan and I have known each other for long enough to where I'm not going to admit how long we've known each other, because it would make us feel very old. But you know, you were writing music way back then and you continued to write music, even though maybe you weren't performing, but what, what kept you going through all of that and all of the, you know, day-to-day challenges that you faced.


Bryan 22:25 

Yeah. I mean, I think it was just, it was my hobby. It was mine release from doing other things and, and it would come and go. I would have, you know, sometimes years at a time where I didn't do much musically and it wasn't intentional. It's just, I got busy with kids growing up and soccer and everything else, and it just didn't sit and yet take as much time to sit down and, and play the guitar, or I'd find some people to play music with. But, but yeah, it was always there. So even if I wasn't writing or performing. I was still listening to a lot of music and attending as many live shows as I could. And that was a great thing about living in Atlanta, in the eighties and nineties, almost anybody you ever want to see perform live with would come through there. Uh, and you know, being in a big city, I was able to really soak in a lot of music and see a lot of live performances, everything from small venues up to seeing Paul McCartney playing at the Omni.


Andrea 23:16 

So your website compares you to certain other, um, singers, to certain other bands. We did that and you know, yourself, when we asked about your music, described it as sort of like a folk rock you know, context of a certain era. And so we always have to, seems like do that situate ourselves in some sort of context. And yet, like, there's, you really enjoy playing your own music and it's very distinctive. So can you, I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about that learning from others, situating yourself in a genre, but also developing your own, really authentic voice.


Bryan 23:51 

Yeah. Uh, you know, when I sit down to write a song or more likely when the muse shows up, you know, I don't, I very rarely do I sit down thinking, oh, I want to write a song that sounds like The Beatles, for example. Uh, I, I really just start with, oftentimes it's a phrase that I've either heard someone say or thought of when I'm walking my dog.

And I note that on my phone, or maybe it starts with just me strumming guitar and coming up with a rhythm and a chord structure that I like and started humming along with it. And so it's, it's, you know? Yeah. Yeah, maybe on the rare occasion, I may hear something on the radio. I said, oh, I like that. I want to write something in that genre. But typically it's, it's not it's it's, it comes from some genuine place. That's really a hodgepodge of all those influences, you know, that, that, that. Yeah. Um, unintentionally, you know, lifting references from, I mean, it's, it's hard to create anything that's totally original. There's only so many melodies out there that must have not been used before. And sometimes you unintentionally, you know, use something that may be familiar that maybe from a song that's, you know, it was resonated with you, you know, 20 years ago.


Craig 25:02 

I wonder if we could switch gears just a little bit. I know you're pretty passionate about supporting independent musicians and can you talk a little bit about the challenges that independent musicians face these days? I mean, it seems like it's a weird landscape.


Bryan 25:17 

It's a weird landscape and it's, and it's changed dramatically over the last, you know, 10 or 15 years, particularly for people that are there that are trying to do original music and really want to make a living out of it. You know, uh, biggest challenge is making money, particularly on those early stages of a career, because one of the biggest sources of income for most musicians starting out is selling their music in prerecorded form, you know, whether it's a, you know, a CD or cassette or a vinyl record and, and that's pretty much completely gone away. So, I mean, it's, you can, you can stream your music, but the revenue from that there's minuscule unless you're getting millions of streams. So that that whole revenue stream has disappeared. You can still make money from performing live, but what venues pay for live artists today is hasn't really changed much from 30 to 40 years ago. It's just the same dollar amount. So in real dollars, it's actually a lot lower. The other challenge that musicians face now is, okay, okay, well, let's say you can always, you know, throw out your tip jar and get some money there. Well, guess what? People don't carry cash anymore. Sorry. So even the tip jar now, they're Venmo and PayPal. And those things help a little bit, but that requires somebody to take an action, you know, pull something off on their phone. It was a whole lot easier just to take a $5 bill out and throw it in the tip jar. And people still do that. I think people who listen to go to hear live music often will take cash just for that. Uh, aspect of it. So there's a lot of challenges on the flip side, you know, there's opportunities that, that musicians have that they didn't have in the past. You know, you can record something and get it out there to a worldwide audience for virtually nothing. You know, I think it costs maybe $75 to put an album out on all the streaming services. It's a one-time fee and it's out there forever. Wow. So, so you can be on Spotify and apple music and Tidal and YouTube. You put it out there. Now that doesn't mean anybody to listen to it, because guess what? There's also millions of other people doing the same thing, putting music out there, and there's no filters or... There's... it's very difficult for people to find your music. Although it is interesting to me because one of the things I can do is I can track where people are listening to my music. And last week I got somebody in Iraq listening to one of my songs.

Somebody in mainland China, listening to one of my songs I had, I had a bunch of people listening from Sydney, Australia. I have no idea who these people are, but with, with today's technology, you can do that. Now, you know, am I getting much revenue? If anything? No. I think I get about a third of a penny every time somebody listens to one of my songs. That's on a good day.


Craig 28:05 

Well, you you've earned about 10 cents from Andrea and me lately, so.


Bryan 28:10 

Okay, good. I appreciate that. So the barriers to entry are lower than ever. I think the barriers to access are probably higher than ever. And just getting over that initial hump... Yeah. I really have this fear that the only people in the future that will be creating original music are either going to be retired baby boomers or trust fund kids. You know, because, because it's almost impossible to make money in the early stages of a career right now, just because the options are so limited. Yeah. So you pretty much have to have a job, you know, a job and that's fine. Musicians have always had jobs, but, but that means you, you can't go play in a venue six hours away because you, because of your job. So you can only play locally. And there's only so many times you can play locally. So yeah. It just ends up being this sort of catch 22, that particularly one, that, that is the really, the only source of revenue for most musicians.


Andrea 29:06 

Yeah, although I'm not sure because the way the world is changing, I mean, more and more people have the opportunity to work remotely. So there could be a new sort of opportunity opening up where someone is doing remote work that would enable them also to travel at the same time and perform in other venues.


Bryan 29:25 

But yeah. That's a good point. Yeah. That, that, that I haven't, I don't know anybody personally doing that, but it, but particularly if you're in, I have one of those careers where you can work work remotely. Yeah. There's no reason you couldn't combine, you know, a little bit of your day job with the performance.


Andrea 29:42 

Yeah. So, Bryan, I just wanted to circle back to this idea of living a flourishing life. And when we're thinking of flourishing, we've described this. Well, we say it's an activity of the soul in accordance with virtue. And again, that's kind of clumsy language perhaps, but I think it describes what we're really trying to get at is just a way of being something in your soul. That is, is really excellent. And it's a way that you are. And I just wonder how pursuing music has helped you achieve that.


Bryan 30:12 

Yeah, I think it's, uh, it has, you know, throughout all my careers, you know, I think, I think I was a better technology CEO of a small company, but I was a CEO of the company. I was a better technology CEO because of music. And one example of that is, uh, I had a, in fact, the company that I ran back in the late eighties and early nineties was a software development company. And we had a lot of young, uh, computer programmers working there. Well, it also turns out a lot of young computer programmers are also musicians. So once we discovered this common interest, we had, we formed a little band of just of our people in our company. And it was probably six of us. And we said, wow, let's throw a party and we'll play for our other coworkers. And so that, that helped, you know, just build even more community within the company, you know? So it was part of the company culture was we had this unique, unique thing. Yeah. So I think that the music has just helped me to flourish, you know, throughout different careers. An a lot of it's just being genuine and being true to yourself. Don't hide who you are, too many people have their work life and their personal life. And sometimes they're totally different. That person outside of work is totally different from the person in work and inside their jobs. And so I think, um, you know, I think I, the key to flourishing anything is to be genuine to people around you and be true to yourself versus what other people think that you should be.


Andrea 31:38 

Yeah, that's a really great example. And I love how, you know, you gave us the example of that even if you're doing something else to make money, if you have a passion there's often an opportunity to, in some way, integrate that passion, you know, if not into the work of technology, say directly, even into the community of technologists that, that you're working with.


Bryan 32:00 

Yeah. People flourish in different ways. Yeah. For some it's it's maybe through exercise and other ways, but then find finding that community that has the same passion that you do this I think is so important. And there's plenty of open mics out there, so there's no excuse if you're a musician for not being to find a place to play. There's plenty of places you can show up with your guitar once a week and share your talents with others.


Craig 32:21 

So that brings us to one of our final questions. And maybe you can expand on that. So say some of our listeners are thinking about kind of getting into, or getting back into creating music. So other than finding a community, what advice would you give them?


Bryan 32:39 

Yeah. Other than just do it. Yeah. You know? Yeah. Finding a community. Yeah. Making, taking, making time for that passion. I knew a guy in Atlanta who was a, uh, ran an office supply store, but his real passion was photography. And, and he was a great photographer and he wanted to do a creative photography book. And so what he would do is he would get up at five o'clock every morning and spend the first three or four hours of his day working on his passion. Then you would go to work and run the office supply store. And I've always liked that approach, which was, you know, give your first hours your best hours to your passion, and then take the other hours and work on your career. But you really, you gotta make time for it, you know? So you've got to get to make time for music, particularly if you want to try to turn that into a career. Now, if it's just for fun, just, you know, find another. Community of people who also enjoy doing the same thing. There's like I said, open mic are a good way to do it right. There's also song writing circles where people gather just formally or informally just to share the material with each other. It's a little bit easier if you don't have to have, uh, an income string along with it, to be able to do something that's musical that maybe you've submerged in the past.


Craig 33:57 

But that, that would be most folks. You know, it's one of our most downloaded episodes is about tuning out. And I think maybe one way people can make time for their passion is to just step away from some of the voids that we get into, whether it's Twitter or TV or whatever it might be. There's usually an hour or two, you can carve out of a day uh, somewhere, to get into your passion. So I like your, I mean, it's kind of, it sounds kind of simple, but it's really profound. Just do it.


Bryan 34:28 

It sounds kind of simple, but yeah. Um, and, and you may not even realize you have a passion until you start doing it. You know, sometimes it's, it could be something. Maybe there's some... I had talked to somebody the other day, who's about my age, who had piano lessons as a kid and really enjoyed it. And then we were talking about my, when I'm doing music and he says, you know, maybe I should just sit down and start playing the piano again. And, and he hasn't done anything musically probably for 30 years, but yeah, I said, yeah, that's a great idea. Yeah. Just, you know, go out and... He doesn't have a piano right now, but go out and buy a piano and just sit down and start noodling on it. You know, it is, it's like riding a bike. It is like riding a bike for most musicians. If you've ever played an instrument, you can go back to it. Uh, it might hurt at first on the guitar cause you got to build up those callouses on your fingers but, but once you get through that initial three or four days of pain, then the things that you learned come back very quickly.


Craig 35:21 

Tracy keeps trying to talk me into picking up the trombone again. But, uh, I think it's only because she can take her sound processors off and be completely deaf during my practice.


Bryan 35:33 

You don't have any real close neighbors. So I think you might be able to get away with it.



Craig 35:37 

And it, it would be fun to watch the goats' reaction to, uh, two a little sly trombones.


Bryan 35:41 

Yeah. That sounds like, that sounds like a good YouTube video that could go viral. You're standing out there in your field with your trombone and just, just seeing what the goats do. So..


Craig 35:51 

Yeah. That's. We'll have to give that a shot.


Andrea 35:52 

Yeah, but I think that's a great idea, Craig. And I, I think you shouldn't be afraid to try it because, you know, we were talking with Bryan really about opening up the space for people to pursue this as a passion and somewhat professionally. And that's fantastic, but we really have to take in these activities that are fundamental, I think, to every human life, which is making music, singing and dancing, which every person really likes to do in some respect and said, well, you have to be a professional in some way to do this, or kind of make fun of people for trying to do these things in an amateur way on their own. But I think that making music, however you do that or dancing, however you do that are really, um, fundamental human activities that we all enjoy and benefit from. So I think getting out the trombone is a great idea.


Craig 36:41 

Yeah. Okay. I'll put you down on the yes category, but you may have to explain it to the goats.


Bryan 36:46 

At least he got two people fans already. So...


Craig 36:48 

There you go. There you go.


Andrea 36:49 

Right. I mean, uh, for instance, I, I sing and I'm terrible at it objectively, right? Like I used to try out for choir. Every year I wanted to be in the choir. And every year they said like, no way you're out, but I still do it and I still love doing it. And so I think that it's really important. You know, we talk about a flourishing life to open up these spaces. Like it's one thing if you really want to become semi-professional at it, but also that there are especially, I think artistic ways of being that that should be open to all people to pursue in some way.


Craig 37:20 

Well, you have, you have to enjoy the process of it. You know, it's not necessarily the end result that's the important thing, you know, that was it, Steve jobs that said the journey is the reward. And so, you know, I, I think, and, and often...


Andrea 37:35 

He couldn't have been talking about air travel.


Craig 37:38 

No, no, that, yeah, that's true. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Not these days...


Andrea 37:45 

So yeah, not these days. So, Bryan, any, any last words on this before we wrap up here?


Bryan 37:53 

Uh, no, I, I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you all. It's been a lot of fun. Uh, hopefully a little bit of what I've, you know, talked about and suggested might help some folks out there, you know, find their own way to flourish, you know, it's, you know, we, we all have the opportunity to do it. It's just kind of, you know, take, take the time and, you know, dig back in your childhood, you know, go back and ask yourself, what, what did I really enjoy doing when I was 10 years old? Yeah. 'cause that that's often a good indication of what you probably would enjoy doing today. You know, that those things haven't changed that much, you know?


Andrea 38:24 



Craig 38:25 

That's great advice.


Andrea 38:27 

That's fantastic. And so, and can you tell us, Bryan, what's next for you? Do you have any upcoming gigs or releases?


Bryan 38:33 

Um, not, not, not working on anything at the time, I'm, I'm trying to write some songs.

Yeah. And then that sort of comes and goes. It's whenever the muse shows up. So I, I perform mostly locally right now and, uh, particularly with all the uncertainty in the world. And then every Sunday evening I host an open mic at a local brewery called Odin Brewing here in Greensboro. So for me personally, it's just listening to all the other musicians and, you know, trying to support them by going to their live shows, which is something else we all can do. If you're a fan of music, go to hear people play live music and throw a, throw a 10 or 20 in the tip jar, not a one. Throw a five or 10 or 20 on the tip jar and you can really help make a difference. But I think that we all have the opportunity to flourish and just hope that more people out there will do it.


Andrea 39:18 

Okay, so that's great. So if you're living in Greensboro, North Carolina or passing through, look for Odin Brewery and open mic night with Bryan Toney, and Bryan, where can listeners learn more about your music?


Bryan 39:31 

Yeah. So I have a website, bryantoney.com , B R Y A N T O N E Y. Or you can just Google Bryan Toney. There's only a couple of us in the world and the rest of them don't have much of a internet presence. So, so you can, you can find me online, but also wherever you stream music, my music is out there. As Craig mentioned earlier, I've had, I've had recorded two albums, so they're out there on Spotify and Apple Music or wherever you like to stream, it's there. And so, yeah, just search my name and you'll, you'll find me. It's good to have a unique name, but also I can't be anonymous anymore. You can be anonymous if your name is John Smith on the internet, but when you're Bryan Toney, you know, everything you put out there is going to be public knowledge from here on out.


Craig 40:12 

And remember it's Bryan with a Y.


Bryan 40:19 

So one last one, one last quick story. So, so Bryan with a Y is the least common way to spell Bryan. Most Brians spelled it with an I. But one night at the open mic, there were three of us there, all named Bryan and we all spelled our names with a Y. And so we decided the next time we show up at the same time, we're going to perform as the Three Y's Men.


Craig 40:40 

Ha ha ha! That's great! That's awesome!


Bryan 40:45 

And so we did that last Sunday. We, we performed as the Three Y's Man. We told the audience you'll never see three Bryans with a Y in one place ever again. So this is, this is a one in a lifetime opportunity. So that was a lot of fun.


Craig 40:59 

That's great.


Bryan 41:00 

And you can find that video. I think it's out there. It's out there. It's out on Facebook somewhere.


Craig 41:05 

And we'll, uh, we'll link to Bryan's website in the show notes. So Bryan, we really appreciate your time. It was good to talk to you and learn a little bit more about, uh, independent music and how it can help us flourish. And, uh, we'd love to have you on again sometime.

Maybe you can tell some tour stories. I'm sure you have a few.


Bryan 41:26 

Thank you. I've enjoyed listening to your podcast and look forward to hearing from some other folks in the future.


Craig 41:32 



Andrea 41:33 

Great. Thank you so much, Bryan.


Craig 41:35 

Yeah, thanks Bryan.


Andrea 41:35 

Hey everybody. If you would like to help offset the expenses of bringing Rational Ignorance to you, you can make a one-time donation through Buy Me A Coffee or provide ongoing support through Patreon. There are links to both on rationalignorancepodcast.com. Thank you.


Craig 41:51 

So, Andrea. Let's come up with three things our listeners can do over the next couple of weeks based on what Bryan taught us today. Do you have any ideas on that?


Andrea 42:02 

Absolutely. I think that, you know, one thing that we can do is support someone like Bryan Toney, who is doing original creative work.


Craig 42:09 

Yeah. We advised and Bryan advised kind of focusing on the intrinsics and being a creator, but I'm sure it helps motivate to see that people are actually paying attention and benefiting from what you do. It just, it just spreads the, the return on the effort that you put into it. It really is important, even though we don't want people necessarily to just focus on the externals when they're trying to create or find something that makes them flourish, but it is nice to see that people are paying attention to what you're doing. And so, plus live music is just fun. So if, you know, if you have a chance to go to a live music event, hopefully outdoor either vaccinated or wearing your masks, but please try to do that. I think another thing that people could do. Is to spend some time thinking about what you might want to create. You know, the, these days, the, the role of the creator can be taken on pretty easily in a lot of respects. And so do you, you know, do you enjoy photography? Well, even if all you have is your, the camera on your phone, you know, they're pretty advanced devices, and you could start trying to create photography or painting or music or writing, whatever it might do. Bryan had a really good piece of advice, you know, think back to when you were a kid, think back to when you were 10 years old or, 12 years old, or whatever. What did you really enjoy doing? And is there some way that you can build that back into your life? You know, even if it's just reconnecting with nature or gardening or whatever it is. You know, what is it that really brings you joy and helps you live the kind of life that, that you want to live? Think about it and, and maybe give it a try. Andrea, number three is all up to you.


Andrea 44:02 

Sure. So I think once you've identified something that you want to do, that's an individual creative pursuit, uh, do it. I think we heard Bryan Toney talking about talking about, you know, even if you have another job that you that you're performing to bring in money,

you can still get up early in the morning and give a few hours the day, perhaps the best hours of your day to your passion. So maybe think of Bryan Toney as an example. Whatever your passion is, start practicing it. I think that's another thing. We often think like, oh, I'd like to write, or I'd like to paint or, you know, I'd like to make jewelry or sing or whatever it is.

Practicing it is part of doing that. And so I think, you know, getting started might be the most difficult part, you know, as Bryan said, you have to get some callouses on your fingers before you get really comfortable playing the guitar again. But once you start practicing, you can just make that a part of your life.


Craig 44:56 

Remember that, that I, that whole idea of practicing and actually doing it is, is the big payoff on it. You know, it it'll add to your life. So any last thoughts?


Andrea 45:09 

I think it was really great to meet Bryan Toney. He's just seems like a great guy. I think it's fantastic to see him pursuing his passion and helping others, not only pursuing his own passion of music, but also working on open mics and really encouraging others to pursue what they love as well.


Craig 45:26 

Yeah, that really, I thought that was really awesome that he spent so much time organizing and promoting the open mic nights. Um, kind of, it sounds trite, but kind of giving back to the community that helped him. All right. Well, let's call it a wrap. Thanks again to Bryan Toney, our guest. Remember you can go to bryantony.com and listen to his music and remember it's Bryan with a Y. And Spotify, Apple Music, whatever it is that you might happen to listen to music on, checking him out. Uh, you'll probably like his music a lot. I know we do. All right, have a good week, everybody we'll talk to you later.


Craig 46:05 

The Rational Ignorance Podcast is sponsored by Sedona Philosophy, a completely unique tour company that uses Sedona's amazing natural environment to unlock personal growth and insight. Explore nature, culture and history with a philosophical twist. Visit  sedonaphilosophy.com to learn more. Instead of our normal closing, we thought you might enjoy a bit of Bryan Toney's song, Someplace New from his album Cone of Uncertainty. Enjoy!