Then there was me. The lead singer who created the lyrics and carried the vocals. I was the one with the weakest personality, and I knew if it weren’t for my band, I wouldn’t have found the sliver of success that I had. I was kind of an asshole, overall. Not good with people, and even worse with social media. But I did love the music. Music understood parts of me that humans never got close enough to discover. Music saved me from some of the crappiest days of my life. I didn’t know what I would’ve been without the Wreckage. Our daily rehearsals were what kept me grounded.

As I walked into the barn house, the guys were already debating about the next steps for the music.

“We have to put on a local show and livestream it on Instagram Stories,” Eric clamored as he raked his hands through his red hair. “If we don’t give the fan base a taste of the new music, we’ll get trampled by people who are driving hard-hard-hard on social media. If we want to be the next Shawn Mendes to be discovered online, we have to push like we want it,” he said.

“Christ, take a chill pill, E. I don’t want you giving yourself a heart attack over this Instagram bullshit,” Marcus grumbled, grabbing a beer from his six-pack. “How about we ease up on the social media aspect for a minute and create some good-ass shit?” Marcus had always been that way—more into the music, less into the fame.

“Ease up . . .” Eric began huffing and puffing as he paced the barn house. “What do you mean, ease up on social media? Social media is our one shot at this thing taking off, and you want to go back to just dicking around in the barn house? Our video views dropped by five percent over the past few weeks, and you all are acting like it’s not Armageddon out there!”

I smiled at my extremely nerdy yet passionate bandmate.

If there was one way to ruffle Eric’s feathers, it was by having Marcus tell him the social media aspect wasn’t of importance. The two argued like the brothers they were.

“Maybe because it isn’t Armageddon,” Marcus said with a shrug.

Eric took off his glasses, popped out his hip like my grandmother after a hard day of cleaning, and pinched his nose. “Thirty-seven percent,” he said.

“Oh, great. Here he goes with the statistics again.” Marcus groaned.

“Yes, here I go with the statistics again, because they really fucking matter. Thirty-seven percent of United States citizens are on Instagram. Our biggest followers are in the United States, and do you know their age bracket?”

I joined the group and sat down on the edge of the wooden stage Big Paw built years back, listening, knowing Eric was about to take Marcus to school with the lesson.

“Please, do share,” James said, obviously interested.

“Ninety percent is younger than thirty-five years old. That means we are dealing with a world of millennials and Gen Z, who have the focus of a puppy chasing its tail. If we don’t capture their attention and give them a reason to give a damn about our sound and our brand, then they will be on to the next faster than a Kardashian moving through a basketball team. We need to focus. We need to think bigger. Otherwise, we’ll lose the footing we’ve gained over the years.”

Everyone shut up after Eric’s words, because it was clear he knew what he was talking about. Plus, I agreed 100 percent. Lately, I felt stale. As if the music wasn’t going the places I’d hoped it would go. I had massive dreams and goals, the same way the other guys had, but it felt as if we were stuck. I hadn’t figured out how to break through to the next big thing. I knew Eric was right about the social media side of things, but if we didn’t have the music, no amount of pushing was going to make us a success.

We needed hits, not just mediocre sounds.

“What about that new stuff you were working on, Ian? Maybe we could do some of those tracks for the livestream,” James offered.

I cringed. None of the stuff I was working on was ready to be explored. My mind felt stuck, and when a mind was stuck . . . “I’m still working through some things with it.”

“But until that’s ready, we have to push forward. We’ll play our best tracks within the next few weeks. Invite all of the townspeople and livestream. It will at least get traction going again,” Eric offered.

“Good deal. So how about we run through a set list and rehearse that?” Marcus offered. “Make it shiny and neat and shit.”

We finally all got on the same page and began doing what we loved—making music.

Hours passed as we rehearsed with only a dinner break, where Eric shared the knowledge with us that pizza was the most Instagrammed food—sushi and chicken taking second and third.

I swore, the amount of information in that guy’s head was destined to be used on Jeopardy! someday. You couldn’t know that much stuff and not end up on some nighttime game show.

When the barn house doors opened, I was shocked to see Hazel walking in. She looked a complete mess. Her hair was pulled up into the messiest bun I’d ever seen, her eyes were flashing exhaustion, and her clothes were tattered, torn, and covered in shit—literally. Her combat boots were destroyed, and her spirit was clearly broken, but she still stood there. Battered, but not ruined.

“Sorry to interrupt, but I’m done with the pigpens,” she said to me, nodding once. “If you want to come and check my work.”

I stuffed a piece of garlic bread into my mouth and rubbed my grease-covered hands against my jeans. “Took you long enough. I’ll head over there in a few.”