“My grandmother always liked having me around because she didn’t have to baby sit me. I would naturally move from one thing to the next. I’ve always been drawn to music and have always been the creative type. I would say I was pretty sheltered from the drugs, sex, and violence growing up.”
When you’re younger it seems like everything is perfect and it will be a fairytale the rest of your life. When you get older, sometimes, things change.
This is the story of John Busse. A musician out of Somerville, New Jersey.
John Busse was born and raised in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. He grew up with no brothers and sisters. “My childhood wasn’t a Hollywood story but it was an important story for me.”
Like many of us, our childhood, teens, and 20’s lay the foundation of who we are today. Some of the stories in our past are difficult to bring up to others but some stories we wish we could shout it to the world in hopes they will understand.
There are specific moments in all of our lives that really define who we are. These are the things that we remember from everything else that happened to us.
John explained how in middle school, he was always at the top of his class. “I couldn’t stop doing my best.” Being a humble and gracious person though he said, “It was tough for me to accept that praise or recognition when I got an A. I just felt the people around me that didn’t get the A and it felt very unfair.”
Of course, everything isn’t always perfect, and after John received a failing grade on a test he told himself, “I’m not going to define myself by the grade on a piece of paper.”
Realizing that the pressures of getting into a good college were still there, growing up, he continued to excel in his courses.
A couple things started to change for him, “I started realizing I had a choice. I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want to.”
Although a musician at heart, John still wasn’t set on pursuing music as a career in high school. The thing that happened early on for him, is that he realized that he wouldn’t make the decision what his career would be, or whether or not to go to college, based on any outside influences or pressure from anyone.
Going back a little bit…
“When I was 14, I committed myself to learning the guitar.”
Mostly being self taught, reading some books, and “going to like 5 guitar lessons,” along the way, he had one teacher that made the biggest difference.
“My dad was definitely my greatest guitar teacher.”
It wasn’t like his dad set a Gibson, Les Paul guitar in his hands when he was born and said, “You will play this son.” He let his son find his passion on his own.
“He wasn’t a domineering force in my life. A really quiet person overall. He would speak up when he needed to. He’s the nicest person I know.”
Starting high school, he also started working as a taekwondo instructor. A few things John learned was patience, and to be 100% natural and comfortable with yourself. Also, to also have a filter.
“What I really needed to learn was patience with myself.”
Other things he learned growing up was the importance of friends and family. After breaking his wrist, showing off to his classmates and running on the walls in gym class, his family and friends were there every step of the way through the healing process, helping him out with basic things he was now limited in doing.
Like many of us, who have worked enough jobs that we can’t even remember all of them anymore, John’s story is no different. After leaving his job at the taekwondo studio to go wrestle, he learned that sometimes you need to have an incredible work ethic.
“I mean the way they push kids is insane. It’s pretty traumatizing.”
Soon afterwards, more jobs started to pile up.
From there, he went into the restaurant business. He started from the bottom and worked his way up. Starting as a busser and running food, he applied his hard work and attention to detail, and soon moved his way up to a server.
During that time, he also picked up another job at a grocery store and had to work extra hours and pick up as many shifts as he could to pay back his mom for damaging her car. With the debt driving him and his work ethic continuing to push him through, he paid the damages off pretty quickly and then was able to save up enough money to buy his own car.
At the time in a teenagers life where a lot of kids are going out with friends every weekend, John wasn’t. He had to make some sacrifices.
“While everyone else was going out partying, I was working.”
Things don’t always go as planned, and as people like to say, “Shit happens.”
Those early jobs ended but more soon followed.
“I started to work for a general contractor, loved it, but in between I also delivered pizza and worked at a convenient store too.”
Other than working for the contractor, the other jobs he did weren’t lasting long.
“I can only last so long in places like that until they start to rub me the wrong way.”
At 20, he started to explore his passion for music a lot deeper, and he made the decision to move out of his parents house.
“I moved into a band house and that experience really shaped and defined who I am today.”
Although, still not fully committed to playing the guitar and pursuing music as a career, he had a start, and was holding onto his dream.
During this time, John played bass for two bands and continued to work with the contractor he had been working with for a few years.
Opting to move in with his girlfriend, at the time, he made the decision to move out of the band house.
That would have never have happened though, if it wasn’t for a random guy at a bar, he was playing at, who decided to give his girlfriend a little “moving out” gift during the middle of the show.
“He just gave her $1300 and said, “You have to take this.” I don’t know why, but I think he received the money after a friend or family member died and he felt bad. If that didn’t happen I probably would’ve moved back in with my parents.”
At 23, John moved into the band house he was in before, where he had to sleep in the band room this time. With no bed, he slept on the floor along with the instruments and band equipment for three months. He got really familiar with the bugs and ended up “getting a lot of spider bites.”
“It taught me that being limited really shows me how unlimited you truly are. The more you get squeezed on the more you’re forced to face your inner potential.”
Being with that band and in that band house didn’t last long. During that period, John was going through a lot of hardships in his life. He didn’t have a license, lost a job and was looking for work to pay the bills.
“I mean, I was supposed to play a gig down in Nashville and I bailed the day we were leaving. I mean… I felt really shitty. That’s what I felt like I had to do. I felt like if I went down to Nashville, personally, I wouldn’t have had a good experience. It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make. I really liked those guys. But I had to tend to my life first.”
Having to part ways with a group, that he really loved, he continued to move forward. Soon after that experience, he ended up forming another band with some of the guys he already had played with. So far he’s been with two bands and now, decided to go off on his own and start his own.
With all of the shows John’s played, he’s had some shows that have went great and others, well… not so much.
After playing a show in Pennsylvania, two and a half hours away, he had one of his better performances and was actually invited back to play. Of course, he jumped on the opportunity, but all good things don’t last. The second show didn’t go exactly as he expected it to go.
“It was absolutely crushing. I got no love. No one told me beforehand either, but they decided to put me on the B stage with the break dance crews. They didn’t even have a microphone stand. It was the dance crew stage… I just felt like I got no respect. I felt like I didn’t get anything back from it either. Other than a couple of break dancers dancing to the 3 songs I was allotted, it was very crushing and depressing.”
After his performance and while the other bands there that night were playing on the main stage, John was thinking. He took away a few important lessons from the ordeal.
“That taught me to use discretion and to not just grab every opportunity you see. Also, to have more awareness of what I’m agreeing to and where I’m putting my energy.”
After his lease ended with the band house, another big decision was made by moving in with his parents down in North Carolina. He had to leave the band behind, but as a just in case things changed, they booked a couple shows.
While in North Carolina something didn’t feel right inside. There was an empty feeling in John’s heart. He missed his home and his band. While playing a few shows a week at some small bars and cafes in the area was good, it still couldn’t fill the void he was feeling from not being with his band.
Living there for only a few months, his dad was laid off after 25 years with the company he was with.
“I was working but I wasn’t working a lot. I was also leaning on my parents a lot when I was living with them and when my dad got laid off it put the final nail in the coffin, in saying to myself, “John, it’s time to be your own person. It’s time to grow up.”’
After 6 months, he made his decision… he left his parents house in North Carolina and was coming back home to Jersey.
He got right back to work with his band and played the gigs they had scheduled before he left. Those gigs he scheduled with his band were huge and kept the momentum, his band had before he left, going strong.
Coming back home to Jersey, he moved in with a band member in Somerville and picked up a job as the baker for a grocery store.
“Even though the money wasn’t good, it was enough. On top of that, it was hard to have a life with the band by finishing a show at 2am and be into work at 4am. I really pushed my limits as far as sleep deprivation goes.”
“Despite all of that, it was important for me to be independent by paying my own rent, food, and other bills that I had.”
More jobs came and went. Another contracting job and then a job at a deli. The odd jobs continued. But he kept following his instincts and leaving the jobs that he wasn’t finding any meaning or purpose in.
“I want to feel good about my work. Whatever I’m doing I need to be able to engage myself and focus to an extent where I feel a connection that I need to get a payback.”
One day, he made perhaps one of his more “gutsier” decisions yet.
“I’m a firm believer that I create the reality around me. If I’m making myself miserable, there’s a reason for that, and I have the ability to change that.”
He did just that. One day instead of going into work, well… he didn’t.
“For the first time in my life I just didn’t say anything and I just went back to sleep. I said, I choose sleep. I woke up and felt amazing.”
Yes, there’s probably better ways to leave a job but he knew there was someone coming in so he didn’t feel that bad about leaving like that. Either way, the point is, he took care of himself first. He wasn’t happy where he was working and he made the decision to leave.
“Literally, I woke up and I did what I was feeling. I said yes to me.”
These decisions helped John realize his true purpose and career. You guessed it too. He chose music and made a commitment to it.
It takes some people their whole lives to find and commit themselves to their dreams and goals. At 26, John made the move. He committed himself to what he probably wanted to do all along, that being… music.
Now that he was committed there was no turning back.
“I would say I hadn’t 100% committed to music until this year.”
Still doing whatever he can to pay the bills, there’s a few things that are different. He now has a clear vision of what he’s doing and he knows why he’s doing it.
At the same time, he’s continuing to play small shows around the area, in cafes, bars, street fairs, and any place that will give him a stage to showcase what he can do.
His life is now moving in the direction he wants it to, but it sure isn’t getting any easier.
John has found what he wants to do with the rest of his life. With no back up plan, there’s no turning around. This is what John’s going to do with his life and there’s no one telling him anything different. Deep down, playing music was always there, but it took many tough experiences, decisions, random opportunities and sacrifices throughout his life, in order to commit himself and live his life the way he wanted to.
If you would try to follow the road of John’s journey in finding his true purpose, you would probably find a lot of potholes in it – just how we like it in Jersey.
Now that John knows what he wants to do with his life you may ask him, “What’s next for you John?”
He responded quickly when I asked him this.
“I’m hitting the road with my guitar and a small amp.”
I then asked him, “How are you going to get to your ultimate goal in your career?”
To that he said, “I don’t know. Life is how you get there.”
From 14, when John committed himself to learning the guitar, to 26, where John has now committed himself to pursuing music as his career, John’s story isn’t over yet. It has only just begun.
How to get more of John…
Check out his Band’s Website: www.BusseVibes.com
Follow his band on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter:
Interesting Facts about John:
- Wants to learn how to play the Flute because it’s easy to carry around.
- Wants to live in the mountains in a cabin.
- Has played 177 shows and counting.
- Likes to watch documentaries over movies.
- Wants to visit India or South America someday.
- Sang the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to his English class when he was 16.
- Enjoys Yoga.
- Ultimate goal in life is to, “Have nothing and be happy.”
- If he wasn’t a musician he would be a sculpture artist.
Quotes from John:
What I do today is what’s going to make my future.
You’re always riding on the edge and if you’re not staying with the flow you’re going to go under.
Play your best under any circumstances.
I believe if you can play to an empty room the same way you’d play to 10,000 people. Then you just have to keep doing that until 10,000 people show up.
Nothing lasts but nothing is lost.
Silence is going to lead you to the truth within yourself that no one else can tell you.
You can’t worry about whether you’re going to hit it or not. You just have to go for it.
Written by Tom Kubrak
Get updates, photos, quotes and more by following ReadyAction on Instagram @readyaction.blog