Perhaps it is the dark shadow looming over me as my dreaded 40th birthday approaches, perhaps it is the mixture of joy and sorrow that I feel knowing that my eldest child is about to graduate high school, or maybe it is just me having a nice little pity-party, but over the past few days I have been giving a lot of thought into what I have accomplished in my life. Or, should I say, my lack of accomplishments in my life.
The creation of this new book has me delving back into a world I have both loved and worshiped since I was thirteen, the world of music and the wonderful people who create it for us, a world which has saved me from utter despair and self-destruction on so many occasions throughout my life. I cannot quite explain the mystical hold music has over me, the strange, ethereal connection that I feel with some of the bands I have encountered over the years, but I know I am not the only one, as I see the same euphoric expression mirrored back on so many awe-struck fans’ faces as they stare up in admiration at the creators of magic as they dash around on stage. All I know is music, and the musicians behind it, speak to me as nothing else in this world can, not even my beloved books. I see in these bright, young faces the same love for the creation process I have, share a kinship with them that has never been fully realized or appreciated by anyone who does not share the same feelings and love for music that I do.
I love finding new bands and music, love how it fuels my own imagination, gets the creative juices flowing again, gives me a way to just relax and let go for a while. In recent weeks I was turned on to the world-wide phenomenon that is Black Veil Brides, an absolute orgy of punk, rock, glam, and metal. It was love at first note as I like to say, and I’ve been eagerly watching YouTube, gorging myself during the thirty minute commute to my EDJ with some of my newfound favorite tunes (Coffin and Rebel Love Song are always playing on a loop), and reading Wikipedia like a woman obsessed. Growing up in the late eighties and early nineties, it is a breath of fresh air to once again see musicians playing their own instruments and having someone, anyone, under the age of thirty to not only know who Motley Crue is, but who appreciates the talent and creativity that fueled the decade long trip into glam rock. Call me old fashioned, but no amount of tight abs, hip-thrusting dance moves, and buzz cuts can possibly make me swoon like the sight of a lithe skater-boy body in skin-tight leather jeans, long hair, tattoos, and eyeliner while rockin’ an electric guitar.
As I started writing Put it in Red: Hell’s Ballad, it became clear I had been away from the rock’n’roll scene for far too long. Let’s face it, writers have a tendency to live under a rock. The closest thing to social interaction I get is social media, and I’m not too crazy about it. So yes, it was painfully obvious to me as a writer that I had been away from the whole music scene for way too long. I had missed out on some amazeballs bands, BVB included. And with the introduction of the adorable but oh-so-sexy young men that make up BVB, it was clear to me I would have to immerse myself into this world once again if I had any hope of connecting with my readers. And so started my crazy obsession with Andy Biersack, Ashley Purdy, Jinxx, Jake Pitts, and Christian Coma, and the absolutely mind-boggling story behind their sky-rocket trip into stardom. OK, so maybe it only seems that way to me. I doubt they felt like it was a skyrocket trip, more of a soul-crushing crawl through broken glass and drifts of salt (I can relate).
It’s a story unlike no other I have ever come across. Once Andy recruited the rest of the guys for this new edition of an old name, these guys’ career took off like bats out of hell – the kind that crawl through boiling tar and ash – and they are showing no signs of slowing down even after six years. Back in the eighties, you were lucky to last six months, much less six years, seven years. In this day of new-and-improved everything, including bands, six years’ worth of songs and touring makes you a veteran musician, and I am just one of the many who make up the #BVBArmy who is more than happy to see these boys stick around for decades to come (hint, hint Mr. Andy “I drink like a fish and smoke two packs a day” Biersack. @ChrisABiersack can’t you do something with your son already? Seriously, he makes me want to break out my momma voice and snatch those things right out of his hand. Ugh, I’m officially the “band mom” now.)
So as I sat drinking in all this information and trying to get into the heads of this new-to-me band so I could get into the heads of my new characters (FYI, Jax Monroe’s physical appearance is actually coined after Ashley Purdy, I swiped the boys’ birthdays for the fake band, and I’ve managed to incorporate some of their antics into the storyline so far. I feel like a kid in a candy store!), I can only say that I sit in utter amazement of these young men. And I do mean young. Andy is just twenty-four. TWENTY-FOUR. I can barely remember being that young, much less imagine being in the situation of living out my dream each and every day. I find it hard to imagine what it must be like for all of them. How must our adorable, yet entirely too-sexy-for-his-own-good Andy have felt when he decided to move out to LA, not knowing that his decision to take his garage band on the road would be a sure-fire way to make himself into a rocking’ super-star by the time he was old enough to buy liquor.
For the most part, I cannot fathom what they have managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Back in the day, some of the bands I grew up on had been around for years (not one or two, try eight or nine, sometimes longer) before they finally got their big break. Others have been around for decades and still have not really made a name for themselves. So naturally I cannot imagine being world-famous at their age. Hell, I can’t even imagine being half-way famous at nearly forty, much less have millions of fans all scrambling to get my autograph, screaming my name, all competing to get just a single second of my attention. I look at the photos they have posted on their social media pages at the massive crowd and I just can’t quite wrap my head around it.
I read their tweets and their posts on FB and their silly photos posted on Instagram of them just being, well, young men, and it makes me wonder if even they quite grasp the magnitude of the power they hold in their hands. It makes me wonder if they fully appreciate the type of life they are living, the fact that they are living the life that so many bands, so many people, can only dream about. They aren’t just living an American dream, they are living the dream of fame fortune that so many yearn for, that so few are able to hold on to for more than a few fleeting moments, a life that 99% of the population could only wonder about and marvel at. Do they get it? YES, they actually do get it, and that is another thing that endears them to me and the millions of others who make up the BVBArmy. You can see it in their eyes, in their faces, in the over-the-moon smile that Andy has every single time he hits the stage. They not only get it, but they are quick to thank the fans every single chance they get for continuing to support them, and allowing them to live out this wild and wondrous ride.
They have managed to accomplish something so amazing, so gigantic, it almost seems unreal. And the fact they weren’t living out of their cars for a few decades on end (I think the norm for moving to LA is living at least one year in your car, otherwise, you can’t really say you have lived the whole rock star experience ;) while working four minimum-wage paying jobs just to be able to keep food in their stomachs all to pursue their dream is an accomplishment in itself because, let’s face it, in this day and age, the brighter your star burns, the faster it burns out. We have all seen those one-hit wonders that take the world by storm and quickly burn up like a super nova. Those quickly depleting lights happen a lot more often than the shining beacon of hope that is such bands as BVB.
Naturally, seeing such success in those who are still so young (jeeze, I’m not THAT friggin’ old) has me questioning my own life, my choices, and the complete lack of professional success that is my burden to bear.
I’m not rehashing my whole train wreck of a childhood. Let it suffice to say that when I say I KNOW what you are going through, I actually lived in that hell hole with the whole abusive parent and an UNpopularity at school that would depress even the most devoted EMO. Back in high school, when I lived the unpopular life because I preferred the glam metal bands to the pop crap that was Madonna at the time, all I ever dreamed about was finally graduating from school and going on to college. I had planned to study journalism and eventually boot Jerri what’s-her-name from Metal Edge Magazine as the top reporter for all the awesome bands in the world. I would finally get to combine my two favorite loves in this world, writing and being in the music world, interviewing the hottest bands, being around all those creative minds.
Looking back I often wonder just how great that would have been, how different my life would be had I fulfilled that dream. What I wouldn’t have given to accomplish that, to be around those kindred spirits, to be exposed to live music night after night, to be a confidant, to pick their minds, to share in their lives if only for a moment. Would I have been considered a friend? Would I have been someone they immediately thought of when they wanted to do an interview? Would we be able to connect on that higher plane of existence as only those who are in tune with the power that music holds can? What would it have been like? Would I have perceived my life to be any more fulfilled at age forty than what I perceive it to be now?
By the time May of 1994 rolled around (ok, ok, maybe I really AM that friggin’ old), I had already made a life-altering choice, and thus sealed my fate to the life that I am living today.
Love. Yeah, it sooooo is not what you read about in all the mommy porn books. My prince was not driving a Harley Davidson or riding a shiny, black steed. He was not rockin’ an electric guitar nor did he have any grand ideas about becoming famous. There was no sweeping me off my feet or the zing of electricity that had me practically creaming my jeans when he walked into the room.
No, my hunka-hunka burnin’ love came driving a beat up old Pontiac Grand Prix with zero interest in attending college and absolutely no plans for the future. Sure, he was cute, sporting shoulder-length curly dark brown hair, he had eyelashes that I would have killed for, and freakin’ dimples on either side of full, soft lips. He was more than a foot taller than me and had the lanky build of a skater boy. He was the cutest damn thing to ever enter my life, and in a moment of weakness that was so very uncharacteristic of my straight-and-narrow self, I decided that for once I was going to be reckless and do something just to be doing it, and that something that I ended up doing, was him. Dumbass.
Yep, old Nic had planned on having her one-and-only one-night stand. And like most teenaged girls I wondered what all the fuss was about. So how did I go from being on the fast track to possibly being the rock’n’roll world’s leading journalist to living in suburbia hell with three kids and twenty years of marriage with a dead-end EDJ that doesn’t really pay the bills and unrealized dreams of stardom as a world-renowned journalist and trade published author? The jackass kept asking me out. Again. And again. And again. Yes, I AM a sucker for romance. Erotic romance author, remember?
And then one day, as graduation finally came and went and I found myself attending junior college pursuing a degree in fucking nursing of all things because my plans of traveling the world attending concerts was now a distant memory, I came to realize that somewhere between my high school calculus classes and my college algebra classes, I had stumbled across the one and only thing I had been crying over for so many years of my life, the one thing my heart ached for more than fame, or fortune, or a sky-rocketing career. Someone finally loved me. And in my young, idealistic eighteen-year-old eyes, that’s all I really needed.
Love. That fleeting, inconceivable thing that had eluded me all those years growing up had landed on my doorstep, and for the first time ever I had someone in my life that I couldn’t fathom living without.
But love did not come with happily ever after like it does in the books. We fought, like all couples do, and we fought often, about everything. We fought, and we got married, and we fought, and then we had a few kids, and we fought some more, we nearly got divorced on more than a few occasions, and we fought some more. Hell, we still fight about everything from kids to money to sex to him leaving the toilet seat up yet AGAIN (seriously, if my fat ass falls into the damn toilet ONE MORE FUCKING TIME…..)
But even after twenty-two years I still can’t fathom living without him. I was alone for so long growing up, and I kept thinking that getting married and having someone to love me would somehow make everything in my life better. But that’s not the way life is. Instead, I feel I have condemned another soul to hell, a hell of my own creation, condemned him to put up with the fucking crazy bitch that inhabits this body.
Because you see kiddos, Nic was alone for a reason. I’m chatty in real life, but I don’t let anyone really get close to me, don’t let anyone in, don’t let anyone really get to know the REAL me. Because it’s fucking scary as hell inside this head of mine. I’m not just weird and it’s not just that I have horrible mood swings and question everything around me. I have strange tastes in a lot of things, I’m attracted to dark, scary things, and if it were left up to me, everyday life would be like a BVB music video. Trust me, you do NOT want to crawl inside this head of mine.
And so I keep people at arm’s length, smile and laugh and try to fit in even though I stand out like an emo kid in a Pentecostal church. I have an extremely odd sense of humor that most people don’t get. And as much as I think a lot of the band members that I listen to would probably understand me, would understand that feeling of being an outcast even in your own skin, I also understand that chances of me actually finding anyone who would be willing to get to know me, especially someone famous, are pretty much zilch. And that’s okay. I’m scared of me too.
I look in the mirror and I don’t like what I see. I have had to change a lot just to survive. I’m strong, but that person staring back at me in the mirror is twisted, stained, crazed. I’m resolved to the fact that this is how I have become, that I am someone that no one really likes, that I don’t have any close friends, and in all honesty I could drop off the face of the earth and no one would care, no one would miss me, I’m pretty sure no one would even notice. I have not made any type of lasting mark on this world, and to the four people who have to put up with my crazy ass every day, the mark I have made on them hasn’t been a good one.
So that leads us back to my choices in life. I wonder if I would have been better off pursuing my dreams of journalism. Would my life have really been any better off? I can’t say that it would be. I believe that I would either be dead, strung out on drugs, possibly with kids that I either didn’t keep or who were taken away from me by the state. I would have been one of those brightly burning stars that burnt out as quickly as it lit up the night sky.
You see, all I ever really asked for growing up was for someone to love me. And for better or worse, no matter how nuts I get or how far off the deep end I go, I have someone who is willing to put up with my quirks and my craziness. I have the family that I missed out on growing up. I may not be burning up the charts in the publishing world, I think I can hang up any dreams of becoming any type of journalist at this point, I most likely won’t ever meet anyone famous, and I’m always going to have an Evil Day Job where I’m grossly underpaid and very unappreciated. I’ll live in middle-class suburbia hell where we can barely pay the bills and pray we don’t lose our home before we get it paid for, and that’s okay. I won’t even be a blimp on the radar.
But that’s the beauty of being an author. It doesn’t matter that I’m hitting middle age and live in a backwater state that has the highest poverty rate of the entire country. I may only have six readers who even remotely appreciate my talentless ramblings, but deep down, I know that one day, even if I’ve been dead for fifty years, someone will come along and appreciate those crazy scribbles inside my book covers. One day I might accidently meet someone famous and find myself suddenly behind the cameras who help make all these rock stars and actors famous. Maybe one day someone will like my ideas and want to put them onto film or in a comic book. Hell, maybe one day Andy Biersack might come across one of my goofy-ass tweets and strike up a conversation (yeah, and monkeys might fly out my butt!).
Let’s face it folks. I’m not much, and I don’t have a whole lot going for me. But I can appreciate the quirkiness that is life, and find myself oddly not bitter about it. Because I am the poster kid for Murphy’s Law, and my life couldn’t go any other way. I will laugh about it, and be happy for young men like those who make up BVB because they make my life a whole hell of a lot less depressing. And because, if nothing else, I am Nicola Chey Matthews, an author unknown to the world…
and I, my lovelies, am a survivor. And at this point, that’s about all I can ask for.