How Music Became My New Calling

Plus: Why I’m excited to vote for The Grammys—and why you should be, too

When I first had to face the possibility of not playing basketball anymore, I sat down and had the first serious conversation with myself about what I might do beyond the game. 

At the time, I thought I’d play more games—and I did. But that was the first real break I’d had from ball in, well, my whole damn life, so my mind got to wandering. And here’s the question I ended up asking, over and over again:

What else do I love?

I’ll be honest: Answering that was hard—and it took time. Because, for as long as I could remember, my whole life had revolved around basketball. 

So I decided to look forward the only way I knew how: by looking back first. And I realized that there was one thing that had been in my life almost as long as basketball: music.

Music is important. It’s the soundtrack to our lives and it’s a language that can be understood all around the world, no matter our differences. It’s a conduit for people to come together and enjoy themselves, much like basketball is. That’s why it’s so important to me. It can inspire generations and transcend time. 

And for as long as I could remember, I had always listened to music to fire me up. To study to. To get me through tough times. To say those things I probably couldn’t say at the time. As a kid, I even tried to learn an instrument a few times. But picking up something like piano was always “too hard” when I was spending all of my free time developing my basketball game, so I kept on quitting. Man, I thought I didn’t have any free time then? Try an NBA schedule on for size. 

In retirement, though, my days felt truly open for the first time in decades. That was daunting—but I knew I could fill them by throwing myself into new skills. Specifically, I wanted to become a musician. And I didn’t only do it to pass the time. I also viewed it as part of my job as a father, conscious not just of my mortality but of the need to set an example of hard work for kids I knew might not remember how many hours I’d had to put in to make the league. 

So I picked up a guitar and a mantra to go with it: I’m going to keep going until I learn this thing. Next thing I knew, I was getting into production, familiarizing myself with software, and paying visits to recording studios, where I spoke to producers, artists, and engineers—some of whom were even responsible for the music that’d gotten me through tough practices and pregame jitters. Rico Love. Symbolyc One. Childish Gambino AKA Donald Glover. Usher. J. Cole. Bun B. That wasn’t just a thrill because those were all heroes of mine—hearing them talk about the work that goes into a single song, from digging deep inside yourself to working with others, I had a conviction, clear as day: Everything about this process, I wanted to do, especially because it felt like sports, with all of the teammates who have to come together to make music come to life. 

Record scratch to right here, right now: Daddy Jack Records is my very own independent label, based out of my home in Austin. Its name is a tribute to my grandfather and hero, Daddy Jack Bosh, whose legendary work ethic in the face of Jim Crow segregation I’ve written about before. Building DJR from the ground up hasn’t been easy, but I’ve been lucky to do so with a long list of talented folks who are constantly raising a bar I strive to hit every day. Through hard work, dedication, and a commitment to learning more and getting deeper into the craft, I think we’re getting better every day. 

And now, I have the honor of being a voting member of the Recording Academy. If you’d told basketball-obsessed teenage me, the one who didn’t have the time to learn piano, that he’d be voting for the Grammys one day, he might’ve laughed you out of the room. But I’ve worked way too hard to get here over the past few years not to take this privilege seriously. And now that I know more about the labor behind the music we all listen to, and what it means to be awarded for it, I want more people to do the same.

Watching the Grammys, it’s easy to focus only on the stars and platinum records. And I get it: I’m never one to miss a red carpet or showstopping performance. But there are also more than a hundred categories in the awards. The majority of those are actually won by musicians on independent labels. And even if they don’t get the same airtime as the bigger names, getting that nod from the Academy can change a life.

Plus: The Recording Academy is about more than just the Grammy Awards and what goes down on that one night. It’s a non-profit organization doing work in communities around the country year around—building and organizing a movement that provides those in the music community with a voice and a platform to be heard. They also help musicians pursue their educations and show up for them in times of need. 

That’s why I think it’s so important for everyone eligible to become a voting member of the Recording Academy—and for every voting member to fulfill their duty of casting a ballot not only for the primetime awards but for the 22,000 names that fill this first round ballot. In recent years, the Grammy board has been vocal about its desire to better represent diversity in music, which is great. And one of the most surefire ways to make sure that happens is if we, the voting members, lift up our peers who deserve recognition and might not get it if we don’t vote. I’m talking independent artists, the ones who are every inch as devoted to music as the most elite professional athletes are to their sport. 

That’s the type of devotion I want to bring to this work myself. Because, through the misfortune of me not being able to play ball, I’ve found something else that I truly love and am passionate about: music. It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to exercise a vote for my fellow music makers—all of the artists, writers, engineers, composers, musicians, and vocalists in this industry—who are out there trying to do what they love professionally. 

In basketball, there’s a clear difference between being physically present on the court and truly participating—letting your teammates know you have their backs in addition to your own. If my time in the industry so far has taught me anything, it’s that music is no different. So let’s vote!