Photo Credit: New York Public Library photostream
They tell you good things take time. I can see the beauty in waiting for the right time in my life.
I began writing songs at the close of my college career in my one-bedroom apartment in east Texas. I still remember my first open mic, shaking hands and the honest statement before I sat down saying “I am not a professional.” But I began to write and play and create in a way I never had before. Shortly after college, I moved to Austin, the live music capitol of the world. At 23, I wanted a music career. And at 24 and 25 and 26 and so on. I wanted to find the person who would help me launch my career. I wanted to go, move, meet everyone I could. Someone once told me “I had the fever.” It was funny, but it was true. I observed an industry guy at South by Southwest one year with my business card, wanting to drop it into his briefcase at his side, hoping it would be discovered and appreciated later. But I now wonder whether my fever rested in the actual love of music or the pursuit of fame and fortune. I confess at times, I really became stary-eyed for the hopes and dreams and pursuit of being something wonderful to the world. In those early twenties, I had an innate desire to prove myself to a world that I believed did not understand me, family included.
Since that time, I have grown to realize some things about myself and the industry as a whole that have shaped me. I’m not totally jaded and walking away, but that’s probably because I haven’t gone deep into the recesses of the music industry abyss. I always thought dancing on the sidelines would hold me back. And in a way it did. I was never willing to sacrifice my faith, my dignity, my conviction or my vision for what others were willing to sell it for. I respected myself, my conviction and my art. And I wanted my music to sell itself. And I knew that those who sacrifice more and faster would get farther down that career road faster than myself. But I still refused to follow the path of least resistance.
Throughout my stint in Austin, I began to meet various musicians, booking managers and mentors in the field. Flaky musicians, waiting for producers who never showed at coffeeshops and disappointing recording experiences were all the continual existence of my world. The music industry and its people began to manifest themselves as saturated with addiction and selfishness. I saw people who had fallen into difficult times. I also saw good families falling at the feet of the music god while neglecting the spiritual welfare of their children. My heart hurt when I lost friends or felt rejected. Most importantly, God began to open my eyes to an existence that began to look empty and fruitless. But in my heart, I felt pulled by a passion that I could not deny. I knew I had this gift of writing songs, connecting to people and inspiring others on a daily basis. I will always remember my continued grappling with my talents while questioning who I was supposed to be in God’s kingdom. I also remember struggling with why others were living my dreams and the near tears I held back once when leaving a show for wanting it so badly. In my heart, I longed to be doing what I loved and what I knew I was good at.
Somewhere around 26 or 27, I arrived at a monumental conclusion. If I was ever to make a career of this music thing, I would not be able to follow the same path the others had followed. I didn’t feel comfortable playing in certain atmospheres, so I was picky about where my performances occurred. I was highly selective about band members, because I knew that people you spend copious amounts of time with will undoubtedly affect and change you. I never wanted a manager who didn’t understand my vision and direction. I also began to realize that trying to get recognized by a record label might not be my best course of action unless it was an an ideal label that respected its artists. Rather, I decided to become an independent artist. I would self-produce an EP and create my own “cabinet” or network of trusted designers, printers, booking people, photographers, artists and videographers. I would be able to control what I created and the image I would ultimately project into the world. This would force me to become creative in both revenue generation as well as promotion. I realized after a conversation with a band manager that I would be viewed as either a pioneer or a purist who was holding onto the way she believed about certain things. Though challenges were undeniable, I still felt compelled to try. I had grit, and I knew with some hard work, something could be achieved.
I have often felt that even if I did fail at this, I would still be happier than never having tried. With a father who started his own business and a grandfather who was a gifted salesman, I felt like it was in my blood to pursue an entrepreneurial path. Now thinking about business plans for my music, I am challenging myself to see things as truly beneficial or not. I have both 3-5 year goals as well as short-term goals. My current goal is to complete my first EP by the end of August and have it mixed, mastered, packaged and ready for all of you by mid-September. I am blessed to have Michael Estok and Vibe Dial Studios for this. After the release of the EP, my next goal is to play 4-6 shows in various cities in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia to begin this train down the track. All aboard.
I want to create something meaningful and relatable. I believe in my vision of a career of writing, playing and singing music while involving great people along the way. But I guess the larger theme of what I’d like to do is to change the musician stereotype of self-centeredness. Throughout my endeavors, I want to incorporate the aspect of service into my character and my business model. By spreading revenue to positive organizations as well as helping with benefit shows and selecting service venues to play, I believe this will help keep me grounded and give back to communities small and large. I believe in the need for more musicians to perpetuate a healthy perspective by viewing our gifts as something we’ve been given. And they are gifts we are forever indebted to share with the world for good. May we never forget that God bestowed us with gifts to enjoy for ourselves and for others.
So now, here I am at 28. Five years after I began writing my first songs. I hope at this point, I have a better head on my shoulders than once was there and a little more savvy in the way things work. I know I have much to learn and will always be learning. But here’s to future goals, projects and endeavors. Let’s all work to have the best attitude and be both thankful and effective with the gifts we’ve been given J