Living a successful and meaningful life, doesn’t just depend on what you do, it’s also about what you don’t do. Andre LeClair’s new book, Don’t Suck, is a collection of easy-to-read stories, presented in a fun and entertaining way, to teach fundamental life lessons.
From wedding disasters to improv classes to house parties, the anecdotes within illustrate the dos and the don’ts of everyday life based on Andre’s varied experiences and he invites you to live your best life with a don’t suck attitude.
Hey listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with Andre LeClair, author of Don’t Suck: Life Lessons for Success. Andre, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.
Andre LeClair: Hi Drew, thanks, nice to be here.
Drew Appelbaum: Andre, I’m really excited you’re here. Can you help us kick off the podcast and maybe just give us a brief rundown of your professional background?
Andre LeClair: Professional background, for 30 years, I ran a wedding band in the Boston area. I was also a bass player, singer and trombone player in that band. You know, I ran the band, I did the marketing, I did the sales, I did the promotion but I also performed at weddings as a musician.
Drew Appelbaum: Now, you were in that industry for a really long time, you’ve seen so many things throughout your life. So why was now the time to culminate everything together and to put this book together and to share your story?
Andre LeClair: Actually, after those 30 years, I decided that I was working one day a week playing weddings for my entire life and I felt like I did my life backwards. So I decided to go and get my real estate license and move from New Hampshire to Florida, and I opened a small brokerage firm and I got up every day and I went to work and I became a realtor, and I did that from about eight years ago, I did that ‘till presently.
It was a backwards life so I had all my fun and interesting life and then I went to the uninteresting, non-fun life of being a realtor sort of at the end. It all worked out very well and I just found that the way I live my life, it wasn’t necessarily what I did but what I didn’t do, and that’s how the, “Don’t Suck” thing came about. I just decided that I had a lot of stories to tell.
So it’s a book of 60 some odd stories and it’s music stories, it’s real estate stories, it’s just general life stories and life lessons because the life lessons sort of helped me to be successful in a life that you wouldn’t normally think you would be successful, especially in a music segment of that of my life, those odd 30 years.
Drew Appelbaum: You’re right about the book. What was your reaction from friends or colleagues, other professionals when you actually told them that you wanted to write this book?
Mixing Stories and Life Lessons
Andre LeClair: Mixed. I’ve always been kind of a jokester and being a New England guy, we have that kind of thing about us and some people say, “Yeah, that’s a good idea” and they winked and other people said, more the real estate people were definitely for it. They were definitely encouraging and then what pushed move over the edge is, I was doing a course in Florida and there was a teacher, her name was Cynthia, and I took a lot of classes with her and she had written some books and I said, “Jeez, I’m thinking, I’m writing a book” and she says, “Okay, what’s it called?”
And I said, “I’m going to call it Don’t Suck” and she had the same reaction that everybody has, that they’re taken back a little bit, and as I got more and more committed to it, I said, “Boy, I’m uncomfortable as with the words suck but I don’t know any other, I don’t want to say, don’t be an idiot.” I’m still a little bit uncomfortable with the “Don’t Suck” thing but I think it kind of grabs, and then when you stop reading the stories, you sort of see how it unfolds and at the end it says, “Be on time, don’t suck” kind of thing.
So it’s the theme throughout the book but I’m still not 100% comfortable with the title because I had to explain it to my 87-year-old mother and she still isn’t a fan of this.
Drew Appelbaum: Sure. So you did describe the writing style, which is super interesting, but I want to dig into when you said, “Okay, I’m going to write this book” when you got the encouragement, when you started doing it. In your mind, who exactly were you writing this book for?
Andre LeClair: I think I was writing it for, I consider myself a successful guy that shouldn’t have been successful. I wasn’t educated, I did 30 years in the music business and couldn’t read music. So all these things and to me, it was all the stuff that I didn’t do in these life lessons and I thought that, you know eventually, maybe get into coaching or speaking or something to just show that you know, anybody can be very successful but you’ll have to do these certain things or have to not do these certain things.
So I kind of had that in mind, almost like a motivational book and then it got to I started writing the stories and I found that they came out in kind of a funny way or a fun way, and I said, “Oh, okay.” So now, my audience would be, “Okay, I want to be successful but I don’t want, you got to do this, you got to do this.” It was just more of, “Okay, I’m going to tell you a story, it’s going to have a little fun component to it and it’s going to have the life lesson at the end and here’s how II lived through it and why it happened.”
So I guess, the audience would be anybody that wants to better their life or anybody that just wants to sit and read fun stories that are relatable.
Drew Appelbaum: It is a hilarious book, I really enjoyed reading it and it does come off as a stream of consciousness, but you’re right, you do layer the lessons in there. I mean, you do make some good callouts, you know, some Sopranos references and even calling on Walnuts, Mr. Walnuts in it, which is, never heard of that but it was incredible, but I want to dig into how you structured the book itself.
So you actually start each chapter of the book and even each sub-chapter within with a quote. Why did you decide to frame it that way?
Andre LeClair: When I originally did it and I said, “Okay, I’m going to sit down today and I’m going to start this book and here’s my idea.” I said, “Okay, I’m going to do a picture, I’m going to have the chapter about don’t suck and don’t be late” say, and I would have a picture of, you know, you’re just searching and you’re late and you have all these pictures and a guy looking at his watch and I did that and then I realized, “Oh boy, I have to go and I have to buy all that clip art for those photos” and it’s just, it’s kind of fun and kind of funny.
But I said, “You know, I’m better off coming up with a quote” and that will kind of solidify the ideas I’m putting out and that’s what I did, and I just kind of got this idea for the story and then just research quotes until I found one that was fun and relatable and interesting, and that’s why I did it, and I thought it was better than just throwing stories at people, gave it a little bit of a more fun aspect to it.
Drew Appelbaum: So, speaking of, you do start every chapter before the quote with, you know, each chapter starts with, “Don’t suck at…” and then a certain subject. So how did you choose which subjects to include and to write out?
Andre LeClair: Actually, I’m a ready-fire-aim, guy and I just started writing and I wrote all these stories and I got with a publisher and I said, “Hey, I want to grab, you publish my book and do this thing for me” and he said, “Okay” and I said, “I have a bunch of stories and they’re all written out” and “Okay” and I sent them and he said, “Boy, they’re all over the place” I said, “Yeah, I know, that’s what I did, they’re all kind of…” and they actually put them in groups, which was brilliant how they did it.
It sort of ranged me in from being a guy that was just, you know, writing on sticky notes in my bathrobe every day to having it be, “Okay, we’re going to group, these four stories are about this heading” and it made it easier to read and easier to relate to, but the idea was also to be able to pick up the book and go to any page and there’s a new story. So they call it, unkindly call, those bathroom books sometimes or something.
It just a book you can just pick up and read and you can start anywhere, and I liked those books myself. I’ve done a lot of reading over the years and I’d like that. You know, you could pick it up and have a chuckle and have learn something and you can continue or go to the next day or something.
Drew Appelbaum: And so regarding those topics, let’s just pick one, you know, “Don’t suck at proper etiquette” is one of your chapters. So again, where are you gathering the info for this chapter from? Is this only life lessons? Did you do any research at all? Did you, you know, interview friends and family?
Andre LeClair: That’s a great question. I consider myself observer of life, and one of my pet peeves is I just happen to eat in a lot of restaurants, and you see people who don’t know how to properly use a knife and fork and it always drives me crazy, and they hold that, they have this way of holding it and it almost looks like this sort of cripple, I don’t know what it is and it just drove me berserk.
And I said, “Oh, that would be a good story and I’ll tell the story about how my father wouldn’t feed me on Sunday until I learned how to use a knife and fork.” So it was more, I guess, observational and then relate it back to something that I would, you know, do and I’ve since, you know I will be somewhere and like, “Oh look at that guy, that boy, that would make a nice chapter” or that. So it’s just, I think I’m just an observer of life and these things kind of bug me and I want to write about them.
What Started As A Whim Became A Life-Changing Experience
Drew Appelbaum: I love that you actually talk about improv in the book because people notoriously feel strongly about it, for and against, and you actually mentioned you enjoy it in the book. So for all those people that are against, give me the positives?
Andre LeClair: Improv dramatically changed my life. I was in Boston area, so there was a club in the North End of Boston and I just went one night at a whim. In the men’s room, there’s this sign that said, “Hey, would you like to do improv, come and take the classes” and I said, “Oh, I don’t necessarily want to do improv but that sounds interesting” and on midlife crisis of 40 something years old and I said “Okay” and I signed up, and it was just the most amazing thing because I had no aspirations to be an improv comedian.
I was a musician, I had real estate things going, I had all the stuff going, but it teaches you to be fast on your feet and my class was a UPS driver, a figure skater, whatever I happen to be at the time, a house wife, and you do all these skits and these things and the techniques is just this every man, woman and child should take an improv course, no matter what you do, and I know they go on the road and they go into companies.
It changed my life in such a dramatic way that I took it in Boston when I moved to Florida, I started again — I didn’t stay in Florida long enough to complete it. But I got right back into it again and it’s just absolutely life-changing. I sound like a commercial for improv but it really, really, really is.
There was one girl on my class, this is a long time ago, one girl in my class that went on to do improv and everybody else just said, “Yeah, it’s change my life and we were trying to be funny” and you know, some people are funny, some people weren’t but you’re making something out of nothing and so you can’t be backed into a corner because I’ve always been a business guy and always a negotiator and all that stuff.
You just think fast on your feet and I hope this interview comes out that way but you think fast on your feet and it’s just wonderful. Everybody should take an improv course.
Drew Appelbaum: When you were puting this together, and you were looking at all your sticky notes and everything you had written, what would you say was your favorite chapter to put together or if you were saying, if people could read only one chapter in the book, they should go ahead and flip to this one.
Andre LeClair: Particularly like the chapter called Dave Matthews. You want me to explain that?
Drew Appelbaum: I do, I do.
The “Dave Matthews” Wedding
Andre LeClair: Okay, so I was being in the wedding business and the band leader, you know, we had a kind of high-end wedding band and we played the high-end Boston weddings, and my job was to deal with the client who was the bride, we fondly call her the bride, and they would book the band and that would come to a couple of weeks before the wedding, and I would go to their house and put my shirt and tie on and go over and meet the family and I would say, “Okay, now, here’s how you can schedule your wedding.”
And there was a wedding info sheet and come in and do your first dance, do your blessing, do your toast, all the stuff and they would say, “Okay” and then I would say, “And here’s our song list and you can go through and you can check off or you can highlight what you’d like” and they’d say, “Okay.” So with this particular bride, and very well to do family, and very nice Boston wedding and she said, “And by the way, I love Dave Matthews.”
And I said, “Okay” and now I know what’s coming and she said, “And we want you to play, a lot of Dave Matthews at the wedding” and now, I’m getting heart palpitations. I’m thinking, “Oh boy” because every wedding you would play, you would be auditioning for a future wedding and people would think that we were just this awful band that doesn’t know what they’re doing, even though you’re following the guidelines of the bride.
So I said, “Okay.” so I say to the band, “Listen guys, we got to learn a lot of Dave Matthews” and musicians love Dave Matthews and band leaders don’t necessarily like Dave Matthews because they know it’s not going to further the band’s career. So we learned four of them and now, we get to the wedding and we’re playing and eating along and high enough or something, and 300 people, Boston Hotel, bride’s dancing next to her uncle, all just ripping the cover off the wall and the bride comes running up.
She says, “Hey, did you forget about our Dave Matthews?” and I’m thinking, Oh, I was so hoping she forgot, so I said, “Okay” and we play the first Dave Matthews song, I don’t know what it was and all of a sudden, 60% of the audience is gone. The dancers are gone and said, “Well, what the hell is this song?” and so she’s looking at—she’s dancing, she got her friends and she looks at me and says, you know, make a hand in a circular motion and says, “Do another one.”
And we do the second one and now, it’s her and six of her friends and the band’s looking at me, Man, this is so great, we should do this every wedding. I said, “We’d be out of business” and so now, she looks at me and says, “Yeah, keep it going.” So now, it’s her and her maid of honor and they’re dancing to this Dave Matthews song and I have nothing against Dave Matthews, he’s certainly way more successful than me as a wedding band guy, whatever he would be.
And now, it’s her and she’s looking around the people and waving her hands, “Come on up, come on up, come on up” and nobody’s budging because they can’t—where’s the twist, you know? Where’s the old time rock and roll. So now she comes running up to me and she says, “Get out of this right now, you’re ruining the wedding.” Okay. So I said to the guys, “Okay, here we go” and Sweet Caroline, we’re in Boston and all of a sudden, everybody was back up on the floor and the lesson was there, hire professionals.
I knew what I was doing, I knew what songs people were going to dance to and she micromanaged me. I mean, the story is a lot longer than what I’m saying but she micromanaged me to such a point that she ruined her own wedding and blamed me for it. So it is just another fun day at the office of being a wedding band leader.
Drew Appelbaum: You know, Dave Matthews ruins another wedding.
Andre LeClair: Yeah, poor Dave, yeah.
Drew Appelbaum: Yes, typical Dave. I also love at the end of the book in your acknowledgements, you give a shoutout to everyone who told you not to write a book. So what would you say to them now that you’ve finished, it is out there in the world and are you sending them a copy?
Andre LeClair: I would like to send them a copy. I mean it was so many, the book starts with a person who told me a no, in certain terms, “Do not write this book. You’re an idiot, go sell real estate, go manage property, do that” and I think that through my whole life I did stuff that kind of went against what people would say. So I, you know, as a guy in his 20s, yeah, I am going to make my living and career running a wedding band and they said, “No, you can’t do that because nobody can do that. That’s impossible.”
Then I had a karaoke business for a while, “Don’t do that, you’re wasting your time.” I would always go against, you know, go to college, “No, I’m not going to go to college.” So it’s been a theme in my life, so when I come up with a new idea, “Don’t buy into the jewel stocks” or whatever it happened to be, I would take the temperature of people and the more people that told me no, the more I was bolder to do it, and I would succeed.
So when that happened, it was just another chapter in my life where I am going to something, I am going to boldly do it and I am going to do it and it is going to be successful and that’s the end of it. Now, I have fallen on my face a few times, obviously, everybody has, but I’d like those people because they – I wanted to prove to them, which looks like I guess I did at this point and it’s funny, it’s always the people that don’t really know what they’re talking about or what they’re basing it on.
Those are the loudest non-cheerleaders for anything you would ever do. Well, I do thank. I mean, I’ll seek them out and you know, they could probably care less one way or another, but when you follow a traditional path, everybody is with you, you know, get out of high school and go to college and then rah-rah-rah and this Andre is starting a wedding band, and they say, “We don’t even know what that is.” So generally, I have always gone against the grain anyway.
Drew Appelbaum: You also have a companion website for the book. Can you tell folks what the website is and what they could find there?
Andre LeClair: Again, the annoying name of the book but the website is, dontsuckbook.com, you can also get there from andreleclair.com and it’s a place where you can buy the book. You can certainly go to Amazon but if you don’t go to Amazon, you can go to this and I’ll sign it. It comes directly to me and I’ll sign it. You can’t get a signed book from Amazon because they’re printed at Amazon and shipped to the person.
But it is just a little bit of information about me and about the book, and then if they do want it signed and eventually, well, you know I am already starting another book and what highlights, so they can just kind of check it and see what’s going on but it is basically, they can buy the book there and we’ll have different promotions there and maybe include a Christmas CD that I recorded years ago, or something like that, and will be all through that site.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Andre, we just touched on the surface of the book here. Again, there is so many great stories inside but I just want to say that just getting those thoughts out there, opening up your life and telling your stories, putting this book together is no small feat. So congratulations on having your book published.
Andre LeClair: Oh thanks, Drew. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview today.
Drew Appelbaum: This has been a pleasure. I’m excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, Don’t Suck, and you could find it on Amazon. Andre, we just heard about your website, we know we could find the book on Amazon but is there anywhere else where readers or listeners can connect with you?
Andre LeClair: There on Facebook, I’m not on Instagram yet, which I will be. The website is probably the best and if they leave their email, I can email them the promotions. We decided not to go into the book stores for whatever reason but we just decided not to do it. So Amazon and the website are probably the two best places.
Drew Appelbaum: Well Andre, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today and best of luck with your new book.
Andre LeClair: Thanks Drew, I appreciate it.