A Comman Case of the Shoulds


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Photo Credit: DeathtoStock Photos

We spend a considerable amount of mental time and energy in the world of the “shoulds.” I should have been farther by now. I should be married. I should look like him or her. I should not still be struggling with this. This should not bother me. I should have gotten so much more accomplished today.  I should, I should, I should…. let’s breathe. And consider a few things about the should thoughts that tend to float into our minds or rather attack our minds…

  1.  You are where you are today. And that’s ok. One powerful thing a therapist once told me was- “you’re exactly where you need to be.” There’s purpose in that. There’s power in the process, in learning how to gradually grow. There’s beauty in realizing how vulnerable and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. No matter what the struggle, no matter how deep, no matter the pain, or how big that heap….. every mountain can be conquered step by step if you keep moving forward.
  2. How much of the “shoulds” are actually imposed perceptions by others OR supposedly imposed perceptions by others? Begin to ask yourself questions when a should pops up suddenly. Do you honestly want the things others want for you? Do you have the same worldview as them? Do you care about the same things they do? How much should their opinion affect you like the ankle weight they are? What if we began to challenge what others decided for our lives and decided to consider what was truly best, healthy and balanced for ourselves.
  3. Let the “should” only be used as a short emotional spurt of inspiration to spur you onto greater accomplishments. Want to conquer a goal and say I “Should” be here in my career? Then turn that statement quickly into a “how could I accomplish that” or “how might I find that purpose or enjoyment in another area of my life if I can’t be there today?” Then begin to map out small steps for improvement in that area. Even the tiniest incremental changes are STILL CHANGE 🙂

All in all, the “should” statements and thoughts focus on what we lack in our being. What if we were less harsh to ourselves and encouraging of the growth, gifts and goodness we did see in ourselves. Lovingkindness should be directed not only to others, but also to ourselves. And THAT is a “should” statement I think we can all get behind.

~lme

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Having a little faith… and Commitment


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Photo Courtesy: Death to Stock Photos

There is a connection between commitment to your faith and pursuing a career passion, in both your daily walk and your artistic journey. You can’t be a tried and true artist without having a little grit in your soul. There’s this sheer persistence beneath it all to prevail no matter what the chaos around you looks like at the time. Being an active and forward moving musician is teaching me commitment and sifting out the go getters from the half-tryers. Commitment is a skill that is earned and learned over time. Just as relationships aren’t cultivated in a short time, so a craft is not completed quickly.  In a generation that has everything right now or needed it yesterday, it’s worthwhile to realize that I’m learning the beauty in the struggle throughout the process.  Artists grapple with doubt, worry, fear and the “I’m not good enough” thoughts that constantly float in our heads. But we don’t let that stop us. We take the charge seriously to “neglect not the gift that is within us.”  Here are some thoughts on how working as an artist is similar to having faith and commitment spiritually:

  1.  You don’t always have a clear cut view of the story that will unfold. Unlike lawyers, doctors or teachers who know the model for success and follow it, artists do not have that same luxury. We are forced to brave a dark forest of unknown trials and winding paths that are each specific to our own careers. We don’t have a model for success because everyone’s model is different, even ones with similar backgrounds, managers, hometowns and more. In the same way your faith begins in a small way (a measure of it), it is grown and cultivated, tested through storm and has to be proven at times. How much do you care about it and how much are you willing to sacrifice for it? Those questions can never be answered until faced with more difficult choices.
  2.  You keep at it in the midst of the unknown. If your faith or your art are such an integral part of you, you practice them even when no one gives you any recognition. Artists understand the feeling of discouragement readily as we continue to hear more no’s than yes’s at times. Despite all of the rejection we face, there’s something eternally optimistic about us. Deep down, we don’t really believe the option of giving up but rather we choose to just keep on moving. Just because we’re at the bottom, doesn’t mean we give up.   
  3. The naysayers are often waiting in the wings and ready to whisper negativity and threats in your ears. There are those who will test your faith spiritually and as an artist. They will say things can’t be done, you should just quit and really what’s the purpose of even trying. They will try to drag you down to their level. They will also tell you all of the reasons it would NEVER work. Don’t listen to them. If you believe in what you are doing, keep at it. And remember, if you don’t want to live their life, then why should they get to determine yours?

So remember that it takes faith and commitment. Your spiritual walk and your artistic walk are not easy roads. And as Tom Petty said,

“Some say life, may beat you down, break your heart, steal your crown.  Learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings, coming down, is the hardest thing…”

Look to the light-

~lme

Creatively clear


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Drum roll please….. Wanted to share my new logo. SO EXCITING!  Thank you to the talented, Jason Hill who worked for a good, long time helping me figure out this whole identity thing.  To check out his stuff, click here. I hope you guys like it, and look for new merchandise soon! On a different note, I wanted to share a few thoughts should you feel stumped in your creative process.  We want to create something meaningful, beautiful and that will resonate with others. We want to change the world around us and not just be here as a meaningless vapor. Whether we use art or music or film as our medium, we have a need to make something with weight,value and significance. I know the feeling of being stuck in a rut, writing the same song, painting the same piece or making the same film. Here are some things I’m brainstorming for ways to get out of the rut, so I thought I would share…

  1. To get out of the rut, get out of the routine. Go to a movie on a Monday night or meet up with someone you hardly ever see. Drive a new way home from work or listen to a totally different genre of music. Giving your system a little shake can cause some things to get dislodged and tumble out.
  2. To get out of the rut, let yourself play.  Instead of writing a song, just play with some chords on the piano or write a funny poem to loosen up those muscles.  Sometimes creative play can help you relax and not make you feel so bent on writing the next big hit, the next great American novel or being the next Picasso.
  3. To get out of the rut, think of a different process you have not yet tried. For example, maybe as a songwriter, I could take all the best lines fro my last 10 songs written and see what kind of song I might create from that. Or instead of sitting down at the piano, maybe I could just take a walk and start singing a melody to create something.  By doing things another way, you might get a different or even better result.
  4. To get out of the rut, get out of yourself. A great way to have some ideas come to you might be actually “not” thinking about it. Go try some new with a different group, get involved with others, socialize, volunteer or host a gathering. By thinking about something other than yourself and your creative “problem,” you might actually solve that pesky thing.

So, go on creative ones or even those who often claim they just “aren’t really creative,” and try one of these four options to get the creative juices flowing.  You might be pleasantly surprised and impressed at what spills out. If you have other things that have worked for your creation process in the past, feel free to share them below!

~lme

A word in context


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Photo Credit:  Maria Ellen Photography

Awhile ago, I had the pleasure of going to the Italian Fashion Exhibit at the Frist Center for the visual arts, and it was fabulous. So much detail, so many beads, so many layers of fabulous fabric beautifully hand-crafted as an art form. There was also a Jaume Plensa exhibit and one of his pieces, composed of letters, foreign words and all sorts of text really struck me.  In the plaque about the piece (and I’m probably not quoting verbatim), he mentioned something like this:

“One letter seems nothing but in association with others they could compose a word.  One word with another word could compose a text.  A text with another text.”  I thought about this in regards to being an artist.  As an artist, you are one.  But when you start connecting the dots from artist to artist and building community, you begin to be enriched.  Your medium of art becomes richer, more developed, more intense with emotion and relation to something outside your tiny world of self art.  The art then becomes a piece in a larger painting, and you can find your place of belonging in the realm of creativity.  The idea of individuality is great, but in relation to a larger picture, it has more context.  If you are an artist, think about yourself more as a word in context.  Here are some ways to think of art in terms of context:

1.  Don’t restrict your music to just being influenced by what you can give to it.  Let other artists influence it, help paint a stroke on the canvas and move it forward in a direction you might not have considered before.  Sometimes the growth comes from the interaction with others.

2.  Don’t try too grip tightly onto it like a helicopter parent.  Realize that music is an entity all it’s own that moves and breathes and has to become.  A song sometimes is something you can’t control.  You need to let it happen naturally.  I’ve heard people in the recording industry talk about it in terms of what is needed to “best serve the song.”  It’s like having a love for your music as if it were a child, and you would do well to let it have room to become.

3.   As an artist, consider that you are not merely an isolated creative force.  Rather, you are a force being acted on and acting on others every day as an inspiration and a muse.  And take it a step further, and don’t only let your career be focused on pushing your music into the atmosphere.  Don’t merely shout, but listen.  Connect with others, offer them help when they need it, volunteer with your other musical friends and build relationships instead of just trying to take something all the time.

When I see others who seem to be just waltzing through with roses everywhere, I tend to get discouraged.  Some days I’m not sure what to do with these gifts I’ve been given.  Perhaps other artists’ paths are not as winding as mine have been.  But those uncertain times are those that build our faith and teach us to trust.  Maybe we must first be lost to then find ourselves.

~lme

 

Liberation through Limitation


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Photo Courtesy: Maria Ellen Photography

Limitation. What an unpleasant concept to us, creatives and more. We hate being limited by time, talents, energy and finances. We want everything now and to be able to do everything we want when we want to with unlimited funds (I mean, that’s realistic right?). But what if our limitations are really something that liberates us? And what if those limitations actually help us instead of hurting us like we think. Allow me to expound.

Limitation provides:

  1. Context– Limitation gives us a field or a boundary to work within.  It’s a good thing we aren’t able to do everything with our own two hands.  By learning where our skillset lies, we are able to focus, hone our craft and really find where we can excel and best serve. Limitation actually helps us narrow that search. Surely we can learn and grow, but some people have stronger aptitudes for certain areas.  I don’t personally consider myself a super strong instrumentalist, but I have other gifts in a different facet of music.  Once you begin to see where your skillset lies, you can begin to center on where you would experience a truer fit and ideal opportunities for yourself. The ability to say no to things that aren’t well-suited for us actually leaves openness in our schedules to say yes to things that are a better fit.
  2. Creativity– Limitation actually make us stretch our creativity. If I’m not proficient on an instrument, I may try to make that same sound using an instrument I do know how to play. Throughout that process, something innovative can be born. We learn by our limitations in time, talent and finances how to be effective where we are right now. So you can’t afford to fund a massive marketing campaign, so you roll up your sleeves and get to work making your own things, building connections and going out and networking in your area. Despite seeing limitations as hindrances, you might do better to see them as actual gifts.
  3. Cultivation of acceptance and community– Early on, we believe that we can do it all. Every super mom and wonder woman leading her team at work makes you think you can do it all (or you are lacking when you can’t). But let me tell you, it’s a big fat lie we’ve been fed. I’ve been told early on that there are trade-offs for everything, and I can see it very clearly now. You may think you are doing “it all,” but you cannot do everything to an effective level by cramming as much as possible into your day. You will choke out the moments of realization, creativity and joy. Some facet of your life will not be excelling. Now almost a year into my 30s, I’m learning how valuable it is to have a grasp on reality. I cannot expect myself to be at a level where I am not. accepting that you aren’t a rockstar at everything, you begin to employ the use of other talent, fostering community and building relationships. You develop a mutual respect for people and their skillset that is stronger where yours is weak. You are humbled by the fact that you do not “rock” at everything and are stronger as a team of people striving for one goal. You also learn to appreciate the level of talent you see in others and working with them is a pleasure.

So, go create, accept your limitations, but be willing to work to press them where you can. Also work toward a better version of yourself despite those limitations. Happy weekend 🙂

~lme

Sofar Sounds is Sofabulous!


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Last night I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous new thing happening in cities all around the world.  It’s called Sofar Sounds, and it’s a really cool new concept.  It has a similar vibe to a house show, but the venues are rooms or spaces in different areas of a city.  They pick pop-up locations all over the city where you are, and they host a music concert in a room.  For example, last night, the show put on by Sofar Sounds Nashville was hosted at ClimbNashville East location.  It was great to be somewhere laid back, meet some new people and hear some new artists I had never heard before.  They have someone introduce each performer and talk to them a bit, the performers play 4 songs for a healthy taste of their music, and then they break and set up the next act.  It reminded me of one of the SXSW parties I had been to while living in Austin where they rotated several artists in and out for a day of music.  Last night, the artists were Sasha Daniel, HR_Lexy, and Little Raven.

It has this great vibe of being a fun, hip and exclusive evening without being snotty and “too cool for you.”  The people at the show seemed friendly and welcoming, and we were even chatting with the people who were running/volunteering at the show.  If you want a cool show vibe where you can actually hear the music and it not be about anything but the music, I think you should definitely check out Sofar Sounds.  You will enjoy yourself, get a taste of some new music and not feel drained from people trying to talk above the noise of downtown crazy establishments.  Thank you Sofar for creating something great, and check out a Sofar show in a city near you!

~lme

Spoiler alert: No such thing as a “big break.”


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Just like a breaking of a tree branch, artists have come to believe in this so-called concept of the big break.  Spoiler alert:  There is no such thing as a big break.  Need a tissue?  Tis true.  We musicians have been warped into thinking this mentality about the “big break” from shows like American Idol or America’s Got Talent.  We expect it to happen fast without all the uphill battles, sores upon our feet and weariness for the dream.  I think it’s time we stopped looking for our “big break,” and started looking for ways to work at our craft or spend our time more effectively as music business owners.  Why on earth have we spent so much time thinking that one door would solve our problems?  For the same reason people think that marriage will be the holy grail of perfection in their lives.  We need to start viewing things as new challenges and new opportunities to work and use our talents.

Another aspect of the “big break” is this.  It amazes me that “new bands” are seen by people and no one really knows the behind the scenes.  They think- wow this band just catapulted into stardom.  No, no, actually they didn’t.  Every huge band you know and love did not begin that way, and there is SO MUCH more that has gone into what people thought was their “big break.” Musicians sometimes are in multiple failed projects before settling into a really great one.  Years of sleeping on couches or working terrible jobs to fund their touring endeavors are never seen by the public.  Then there are the countless hours of doubt, worrying whether people like the music and even asking why they’re doing it in the first place.  The public never knows what goes behind the seemingly easy “big break” that actually isn’t big, but it is a break.

You know what the real big break is?  It’s a breaking of these things: Your pride (playing for an audience of 2), Your bad attitude (giving excuses for why you couldn’t or didn’t do something), Your unwillingness to work (willing to drive for a gig and lug your gear in the heat or rain or ice to play) and Your desire to take the easy option of giving up (and believe me, you’re gonna wanna give up).  The big break is breaking off all of those pieces of yourself as you continually reach farther and higher and push yourself to new goals and new heights.  Sure- an incredible opportunity may come your way, but without utilizing that and keeping the momentum from that, it won’t do you a bit of good.  The big break is not just a moment, a person or a venue you’ll play.  It’s a culmination of many moments, meeting many people and playing countless shows all around that begin to shape you, shave the laziness off of you and the bad attitudes that won’t help you work for your goals.  It’s being broken and vulnerable and real that is the honest “big break” for an artist.  Once you have let go of that one pill fixes all mentality in this cut throat music industry, you’ll begin to view things in a healthier way, pick up the tools in your toolset and get to work carving your own niche in the business.  Until then, you’re just a hotshot that wants others to notice how amazing you are, living for the fame and glory.  Let’s get up, get moving and get over ourselves.  There’s enough ego out there without more.  What do you guys think about the “big break” mentality?  Let me know in the comment section below 🙂

~lme

Songstress Night at the Bluebird!


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Last week I had the pleasure of playing the Bluebird Cafe alongside several other talented female singer, songwriters at Chick Singer Night hosted by Jaclyn Brown.  I played alongside such talented ladies as Sam Hatmaker, Rhetta Jane and Peyton Parker.  It was so nice to be featured along with these ladies at one of the greatest intimate venues in Nashville.  It was great to have my mom in town for the show and then to pull my sister up onstage to sing my final song, Pilgrim, that my brother and I wrote together back in Texas years ago.

After my show, I had a moment to reflect on one aspect of the gig experience that I really enjoy.  It’s the post-show conversations.  Of course the music and the performing and selling merch go into it, but connecting with people is enjoyable to me.  Those conversations with new musician friends, visitors from other states, someone celebrating a birthday, sisters from New York, a couple from Gulf Shores and three gals from Scotland who were traveling around America for several weeks make it worthwhile.  It’s those moments with people that really bring me to a good place as an artist.  Take away the drama and the makeup and the stage and the lights and I really love the opportunities I have to connect with humanity.  I love to see the similarities in the human race as we are bonded through our shared love of music.  Despite the fact that there is a lot of bad out there, I continually meet people who redeem my view of humankind.  I realize there kind souls who want the same things for their families and just want to make a good life for themselves.  Human connection resonates with me just as much as the chords I play on my instruments.  As I begin booking my first tour for this fall, I hope I will make new friends, share stories with those on the road and come back richer from my experiences while sharing music in the great, big, wonderful, frightening, humbling and rad world we live in.

~lme

Pandoland 2015 was amazing!!


pandolandLast week, I attended my first entrepreneur conference in Nashville called Pandoland 2015 and got to hear fabulous speakers including Andy Sparks of Mattermark, Marc Ruxin of TastemakerX, Bijan Sabet, General Partner at Spark Capital, James Freeman, Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee, Katia Beauchamp of Birchbox and many others.  It was great to be in a room for several days with such movers and shakers, people who have ventured into the unknown, learned many lessons and have come out on the other side as stronger beings.  It made me realize there are people in the world who are working hard for something they believe in and not just following the status quo whatever that may be.  I think the human spirit loves to know there are still people willing to hurt for something and to work super hard to strive for it.  In true entrepreneur fashion, the audience got to witness 10 startups present over the course of 2 days time and the winner, an innovative clothing company called Umano, started by two brothers and based out of Georgia, received a grand prize to help fund more of their endeavors in the world of many clamoring entrepreneurs. Congrats guys!!

One of the greatest talks for me personally was by Ryan Leslie, Musician and Entrepreneur.  I love that he has created a way to interact with his fans directly and has not just dumped all of his marketing faith into various platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  I appreciate someone who is willing to interact directly with his fans and actually gives his email and his number out at conferences for people to contact him.  Might it get out of hand in the future, sure.  But I think there is something about him that makes you relate to his bootstrap effort to get out in the music industry and think of it in terms of business rather than in terms of fame.  He is really working hard to marry his skills with his business savvy to see some career longevity in a difficult industry.

Overall, the conference was wonderfully organized, and Sarah Lacy is absolutely the best host of Pandoland.  I absorbed so much useful information, and I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to attend and learn.  Check out their site here for helpful articles and more information!  Did any of you attend this great conference or are there other entrepreneur/music conferences you recommend for independent artists?? Feel free to share in the comment form below!

~lme

Who ya doing it for?


bluebirdAs I am hours away from playing my first slot at the famous Bluebird Cafe (which is sold out!!!),  I am going to ask myself, and my musician readers, a really important question.  Who are we doing this for? Why do we make music and when we are performing, where is our head?  I believe when performing and marketing and anything musical, our fans should be kept in mind.  But I want to pose a thought to each performing artist out there.  And I realized this while watching a talented man with just himself and his guitar perform last week.  You have to come to the point as an artist where you don’t wholeheartedly “do what you do” for other people.  While the two girls in front of me rattled on about their lives and people were laughing it up during a contemplative song by the artist, I had this realization.  He was in his zone, living in the moment, because he does it for himself and seemed to exude a genuine love for what he did.  It’s almost as you have to forget what the other people are doing, saying, thinking or that they may not even like what you sing and play.  Deep down, it has to be in you to perform the best that you can whether there are 2 people listening or thousands of screaming fans.

The music should be sewn inside your heart and the will to find joy no matter the setting.  Come to think of it, performing onstage is a lot like life.  Despite the storms, the frustrations, the struggles or what it took to get you there, joy can’t be based on circumstances.  So as we live our lives, may we carry our fire inside, and find joy in the beauty of the gift as opposed to seeking the recognition that may come along with the gift.

Keep giving it your all and putting your heart into it 🙂

~lme