For a couple of years, I’ve been trying to figure out what I’m doing. Somewhere in 2014 I came to the realization that mid-career was sitting on me in like a bag of bricks. Not the mid-career highlighted by golf outings, an arsenal of fresh khakis, or international festival appearances that I get my institution to pay for (all great things of course). It was something more unsettling.
To say that I’ve been around the musical block a couple of times might be a tad too self-congratulatory. Certainly, there are people who have toured more, recorded more, taught more, and commissioned more. But by 2014 I had done enough of those things to take pause and look around my life for a spell. And I noticed the gears in my brain spinning in a slightly different way.
Let me offer more personal context than you might need or want. Several years prior to 2014 I lost about 25 lbs without trying. I weighed 165 lbs and then, several months later, I weighed 140 lbs. Poof! One day you’re the size of a grown man and the next you’re occupying the body of your 8th grade self.
“Are you a runner?”, people would ask.
I’ve chuckled it off ever since as coffee and stress. The truth is it was around that time that my wife and I had our second kid. Kids are the best. My kids are the best. But kids are a lot of work. Life changes around you and if you’re a sensitive observer (i.e., introvert), as I consider myself to be, maybe you change with it at some point. I changed and I didn’t/couldn’t anticipate the change. It just happened.
This affects professional life, aspirations, and projects—all of it really. I think those who care about their professional output sometimes worry about that type of change. What if I can’t practice 3-4 hours a day anymore? What if I get cobwebs in my mind? What if I get tendinitis? All of those things have happened to me, by the way.
In my 20’s I wanted to be better than everyone. Really, I felt that way. (<— What does that even mean?) Looking back I’m embarrassed at my younger self. Of course that sentiment was couched in the pursuit of artistic excellence but still, really?
Somewhere in my 30’s I stopped caring as much. Stopped caring what new piece was being written for someone else and not me. Stopped caring that my old man hands hurt sometimes. Stopped caring if I would ever be a card-holding member of the marimba club.
I’m 40 now and I’ll get to the point. I’ve changed. We change. And I’m only aware of that change in semi-retrospect. I say “semi” because sure, there are times that I feel aware of the change even when it’s happening. But mostly it’s in looking back. I never thought I would change. Never thought my artistic aspirations would be much different than they were when I was 26. It’s impossible to anticipate what’s to come. But things do change.
So that brings me to now. That brings me to Liquidrum. It started with a book idea and one that my 26-year old self would have surely scoffed at. An accessories book? Wha? Yeah, I don’t know. But it felt right so I pursued it. And here’s the thing—it was actually really fun, really rewarding, really challenging in ways that learning difficult Japanese marimba music can’t ever be. Or Bach. Or Scheherazade.
The book was a process and one that took years to write. Not because it’s 1000 pages long but because I have a full-time job and it’s hard to make time for other projects. But I kept making time here and there and kept chipping away. And as I did things started to happen.
First, I thought “wouldn’t it be nice if whatever I was doing could be bigger than a book? Maybe it could involve other activities like performance, teaching, commentary, etc. Maybe it could be an umbrella idea. Maybe it could be a company."
Now I’m no biz wiz but last I checked most companies, organizations, and big ideas have names. So I grabbed one. Grabbed it straight from my brain one day as I sat somewhere quietly or mowed my lawn or picked weeds. I don’t really remember the moment but at some point, the name “Liquidrum” came to me.
And if you have a name then you can certainly have a social media presence. So that soon followed. And then there were the videos. Now here’s the thing, you can ask anyone who the least tech-savvy and sophisticated person they know in the music biz is and they just might point to me. My duo partner of many years, Doug Perkins, can certainly attest to that.
So it perhaps came as a surprise when I started releasing videos.
“Todd found the power button on the camera?”
“Todd knows what editing software is?”
“Todd plugged something into something else???”
Admittedly I didn't know how to do these things. But I figured them out.
The vids came out of left field. I had no intention of making videos, no desire, nothing. They just happened. And there again I found myself peering into a changing reality. I mean, it’s all an artistic process, albeit of a different kind. But still, it's as if they just happened.
Because the vids were released under the Liquidrum umbrella and because some people liked them, a modest following formed. Nothing major. But loyal enough and interested enough I suppose. And that’s when the idea became more developed, more refined. I had to think a little harder about what I was doing and as I did, more ideas bubbled to the surface.
Liquidrum, in its own way, developed under my feet into an idea, a brand, a percussion hub that will hopefully add to the landscape of the larger percussion and music community. It didn’t start as a business plan, didn’t start as a massive new project, didn’t really start as anything other than a thought. And that thought led to another and then to another.
So I’m planning on following the trail of thoughts down the path to see where they might lead. And I’m happily anticipating forks in the road, switchbacks, re-dos, missed opportunities, and things I can’t even imagine. It seems art isn’t always linear, even when mixed with business.
Todd Meehan is the founder of Liquidrum. He currently serves as the Associate Professor of Percussion and Division Director of Instrumental Studies at the Baylor University School of Music. Todd was a founding member of So Percussion and has performed as one half of the Meehan/ Perkins Duo since 2006.