During a recent appearance on the "Hardcore Humanism With Dr. Mike" podcast, ex-STYX vocalist and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung spoke about what motivated him to keep going in his early years as a professional musician. He said: "Fear of failure. That's what drives us all. That's it. You can dress it up and be romantic about it: 'I had a quest, I had a vocation.' You were afraid to fail. That's a good motivator.
"I said in [the STYX song] 'The Grand Illusion': 'America spells competition. Join us in our blind ambition. Get yourself a brand-new motor car. But someday soon we'll stop to ponder, what on Earth's this spell we're under. We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are.'
"So, my philosophy has always been that what drives us, fear, as much as anything else, is a great motivator," he continued.
"When there's a crowd of people standing there and you jump up and down and wave your arms and demand attention and ask everybody to look at you, you'd better have something going.
"For me, our fourth album, we were going up to [the] WLS [radio station] to promote our fourth album, which was 'Man Of Miracles'. After that album was over with, we were out of business. Nobody else was gonna sign us; we had no record success. And this guy, this programmer director, Jim Smith, goes and picks 'Lady' out of thin air.
"So, for me, I always knew how close we were to complete failure. It made a big impression on me. But for me, I would have had to go back to being a school teacher; I would have been done in music if 'Lady' hadn't been a hit. I look at it and I think, 'Wow! What a pivotal moment that that happened to me.' It's unbelievable to me, when I look back on it, how close we were to failure."
Asked whether success leads to happiness, Dennis said: "Talk to any real successful person, and if they're honest, they'll tell you, you were trying to fill up a hole, a void, a need for approval. And then when you got there, despite the fact that you got the approval, it didn't feel like it was enough. It didn't feel like it did its job. Anybody who tells the truth, that has been successful, will tell you that."
Pressed about why he kept going with his music career even though his commercial success didn't give him the emotional fullfillment he was seeking, DeYoung said: "It's all you know, but [secondly], it does become who you are."
DeYoung co-founded STYX as a teenager alongside his neighbors Chuck and John Panozzo in the early 1970s. James Young joined shortly after that, with Tommy Shaw coming on board in 1975.
The voice behind such STYX classics as "Come Sail Away", "Best Of Times", "Pieces Of Eight" and "Babe", Dennis released his latest original solo album, "26 East, Vol. 1", in May 2020 via Frontiers Music Srl. The LP was originally supposed to be his last album, but he had so much material he split it up into two volumes.
"26 East" was the address where DeYoung grew up in Roseland, Illinois on the far south side of Chicago. This is where the band was formed in his basement in 1962. Across the street lived the Panozzo twins, John and Chuck, who along with DeYoung would go on to form the nucleus of STYX. The cover artwork features three locomotives traveling through space, representing the original members leaving Chicago on their journey to the stars.