"I wasn't making any money," Bates said. "It was a bit of the world hitting me in the head kind of thing."
After a year and a half, he decided to quit music -- at least as a career.
"I kind of came home with my tail tucked between my legs."
But he had to make a living. So he put an application in at the state police academy and was accepted. Training, he said, was physically demanding and emotionally draining.
"They had us up doing pushups in the snow at three in the morning or staying up for 48 hours. When you made a mistake, you were ostracized and repeatedly embarrassed in front of everybody else."
Bates said he learned to toughen up and deal with criticism. He also learned to make fewer mistakes.
Meanwhile, he couldn't help but be fascinated by his classmates. Many of them were guys not much older than him, a lot were ex-military.
"I was sitting next to and polishing shoes with guys back from Afghanistan and Iraq. I listened to their back stories."
Bates found himself writing songs in his off-time, and when a friend in Los Angeles called about a job doing music for film and television, he decided that maybe he'd learned enough in nine weeks at the state police academy to do what he needed.
"It was probably the best thing I ever did," he said. "They beat every timid bone out of me."
To be sure, he said, working as a musician with the film and television industry, is a very "foot-in-the-door" kind of thing. In L.A., he records music demos called pilot tracks, which other musicians use to sing finished songs to.
He also had a song in this spring's cage fighting drama "The Philly Kid."
"Sean Connery's son directed," Bates said. "It was a very low budget film -- about five million dollars -- and to be honest, the movie was kind of terrible."
Bates said he looks at his time in Nashville as a "constructive failure." He learned a lot, but it wasn't where he was supposed to be.
He's still working on that, but so far, California isn't bad.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.