33 Percent Rockstar: Music, Heartbreak and the Pursuit of Rock Stardom
Scott has played over 500 concerts at hundreds of venues spanning almost two decades. From performing to the bar staff at strip mall dive bars, to a sold-out show with members of The Misfits and the Ramones, 33 Percent Rockstar: Music, Heartbreak and the Pursuit of Rock Stardom is about the love of music and life as a struggling musician. It is the true story of what happens when you give up everything to follow your dreams—even when they lead to a run-down strip club in a seedy part of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Scott learned how to play the bass guitar, and became a musician. He’d eventually become a damn good one. He fell in love and got his heart broken. Twice. He played in multiple bands, recorded multiple albums, and toured the country.
In the end, Scott never made it big, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. All for the love of music, he toiled in dead-end jobs, drove across the country in dilapidated tour vans, and dealt with the fragile egos and creative differences of a rotating cast of bands and band members.
33 Percent Rockstar: Music, Heartbreak and the Pursuit of Rock Stardom is a Behind the Music for the vast majority of musicians who never achieve rock stardom and offers a glimpse of the everyday lives of those hopeful, possibly deluded souls pursuing the rockstar dream.
33 Percent Rockstar Reviews
Kirkus Reviews: “An earnest elegy to the band life.”
A music fan pursues stardom in a memoir that plumbs the depths of playing bars and clubs in search of fame.
Sterling (Teenage Degenerate, 2016) recounts his misadventures while struggling to attain rock ‘n’ roll stardom. The author, by his own admission, wasn’t a naturally gifted musician; he struggled to learn how to play bass, but his persistence and devotion allowed him to eventually play a host of seedy venues in and around Denver with his buddy, Jake, and his band mates, Seth and Cody. But then, on New Year’s Eve 2000 “just like that, after three and a half years, hundreds of shows, countless hours of practice, one EP, and one full-length CD, the band was over.” The breakup of this first band echoes throughout the book.
Over the next years, Sterling played with three other bands that toured out of Colorado, and the book details a blur of concerts and van trips, all soaked in beer, as life on the road brought the young musicians only privation and sleeplessness. Sterling has a natural, easygoing prose style that suits his tale of the difficulties of making it in the music world. However, the narrative often dwells excessively on the mind-numbing details of band life, so that the many gigs and road trips begin to blur together. Sterling offers his most engaging work when talking about his relationship with a woman named Ana, or when analyzing his own failures, which he reveals with disarming frankness. Indeed, this honesty is more engaging than the beer binges and gigging that make up most of the narrative; also, after a while, the author’s penchant for the F-word gets a bit annoying. One message, though, emerges from these recollections—that the author’s love of music never wavered.
An earnest elegy to the band life.
AudioFile: “A realistic account of a journeyman musician.”
Narrator Eric Jason Martin’s dry delivery elevates this likable memoir about a Denver bass player who is trying to break out of the local music scene. Don’t expect to hear a typical rock star autobio. There are no hit records, national acclaim, or hefty royalty statements. Nope, this is the story of musical bottom dwellers who are willing to play at a dive bar with eight patrons, then drive all night in a smelly van, wearing sweaty clothes, to get home in time for a day job and a weekend hangover. Martin is the right “frontman” for this audiobook because he doesn’t play the funny bits for laughs and doesn’t milk the heartbreaking incidents for sentimentality. The result is a realistic account of a journeyman musician.
Blue Ink Review: Starred Review – An entertaining, honest look at the trials and tribulations most musicians endure — and still fail to attain their dreams.”
Scott Sterling’s 33 Percent Rockstar tells the familiar story of a young musician who dreams of becoming a rock star, playing to sell-out crowds and making buckets of money.
As the book starts, Sterling can’t even play an instrument. He gives up on guitar and picks up bass at the insistence of his drummer friend Jake, who teaches him how to keep time. Sterling steadily improves, and eventually he and Jake join a Denver band that plays dive bars, graduating to small theaters. A band Sterling later joins even plays the national Warped Tour—except they perform at the entrance as audiences file onto festival grounds. Throughout, Sterling and his bandmates drive tired vans. And drink. A lot.
The author’s self-deprecating storytelling charm is immediately evident in the beginning scene in which Sterling’s band prepares to open a 2004 punk show headlined by Agent Orange and the Misfits at a small venue near Denver. With stardom in his sights, he describes getting goosebumps as the lights go down and the crowd cheers—then waking up with a massive hangover and crushing self-doubt the next morning. “’Fuck, I am pathetic,’ I said as I crawled out of bed.”
During his rockstar journey, Sterling experiences adventures music fans will recognize. His descriptions of bars and clubs aptly recall the grueling grind of a band’s reality. Describing one club’s basement “backstage” area, he notes the undistinguished décor, including couches that “were worn and saggy and emitted a foul odor of beer and cigarettes” and a refrigerator that, on special occasions, contained “turkey and ham sandwiches.” Sterling also writes unflinchingly about failed romantic relationships.
The book is an entertaining, honest look at the trials and tribulations most musicians endure — and still fail to attain their dreams. Yet it also illustrates why the dream remains alive. As Sterling notes with hard-earned wisdom: “Giving up on a dream is hard, but realizing when it is time to give up is harder.”
The Booklife Prize: “10 out of 10!”
Sterling has a life story that is truly one of a kind. His experiences, successes, and failures while playing with multiple bands and band members are relayed in a manner that is honest, amusing, and often poignant. And his personal imperfections and emotional tumult, along with the often gritty backdrop of the music world, allow for this story to be both relatable and compelling.