Persistence pays. It’s a simple two-word lesson that we’ve all been taught at some point and it’s one that anyone who is going to make a go of it will need to keep in the back of their mind.
Playing for money on the street isn’t easy, and that goes double if you’re trying to grab the attention of New Yorkers, people who have probably seen five buskers before they ever reach you and who boast of not-giving-a-good-g*ddamn baked into their very being. After four years of performing during rush hour, 32-year-old subway songbird Damiyr Shuford has learned how to persevere through thousands of people willfully ignoring his performances.
“I’ve seen a lot of buskers who get pissed when they end a song and notice no one is paying attention to them,” he said. “They don’t last long. But, for me, it doesn’t bother me as much because I’m doing this for me first.”
Shuford goes even further, putting on a bit of the anti-busker attitude that so many affect on their daily commute.
“I’m doing it for the ones who will listen,” he said. “I don’t expect everyone to be into it. I mean, who am I to demand someone’s attention?”
Perhaps Damiyr’s ability to keep plugging away comes from his life before he started singing for strangers. Shuford had to overcome massive hurdles both personal and technical to get to the point where he could make singing in the subway his full-time hustle.
When Shuford was very young, his mother developed a substance abuse problem and his father went to prison. This left him to be raised by his grandmother, who regularly abused young Damiyr.