Next Big Thing should be the next book you read. Terry Kitchen’s debut novel is an honest account of the trials and tribulations young musicians face while vying to become the “next big thing.” In the end, the characters must ultimately decide how much their dream is worth.
Kitchen uses a creative “fast-forward” and “rewind” method of storytelling, weaving between the past and present to tell the story of Mark Zodzniak (or Zodiac, as he is sometimes called) and his bandmates (collectively, they are Shadowland) as they move from Ohio to Massachusetts in an effort to make it big in the Boston music scene. What happens next isn’t just a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, but a substantial story about love, disappointment, and, in Mark’s case, the struggle to preserve the integrity of his music in a changing industry.
Trouble starts with the band’s album release party, when Mark’s broken hand thrusts him into the spotlight as Shadowland’s lead singer with major stage presence. For the first time, the band seems well-received by the audience. However, the change in dynamic doesn’t find favor with Will, the bass player, “heartthrob” and rising star of the group. While Mark fights to keep the songs he has written intact, he must also convince his bandmates ~ who frequently criticize his lyrics ~ to not give up on their dream of making it big.
Shadowland’s story isn’t always pretty, and Kitchen, a 30-year veteran of the music industry, no doubt dipped into his plethora of experiences as a recording artist, award-winning songwriter, journalist and former production assistant for Rounder Records. In fact, Kitchen said that Next Big Thing, which takes place in 1980s Boston, is based on his years with his own ‘80s Boston band, Loose Ties.
Whether you are a music insider or a casual music fan, the story is enough to keep you reading. While Kitchen traverses through Shadowland’s history, he invites the reader into Mark’s songwriting process. In these moments, the reader can watch the lyrics develop as Mark delves into his emotions of finding and losing love. At one point, Mark tells his bandmates that: “… our music is about love. Looking for it, being skeptical of it, missing it, maybe even finding it.”
An added bonus: You can actually listen to these songs (some are performed by Kitchen; others are performed by Loose Ties). The soundtrack is free to download with the purchase of the book.
As a Massachusetts resident, it’s especially fun to relive and read about the 1980s underground music scene in the area. Even Worcester gets a shoutout when Shadowland plays a gig at Sir Morgan’s Cove in January 1986, the same night Foreigner was playing at the “glitzy new arena down the street” (aka, the Centrum, which, of course, is now the DCU Center).
Next Big Thing is available online, both in softcover and e-book form. Visit terrykitchen.com/nextbigthing for more information.