Boundaries, Creativity and Music Therapy

Music is woven in me and I have yet to be able to separate from my love for it.  This morning I recently read these two amazing blog posts that remind me that music doesn’t’ merely have  a self-involved process.  There is so much more to it being on this earth than that.  Music Think Tank is a great blog for those in the music industry, and this article on Creativity in Constraint really hit home.

We are such musical beings…. Just like the birds and the chimps and even trees and flowers.  There is so much music continually around us in earth and the sky.  Sadly, we are often too plugged into our indie rock to really listen to the music of nature.  But music is a healing thing from God.  It’s awesome the way that a song can transport us or lift our spirits.  God created that in us to do just that very thing.  Music is part of worship and He knew that it would bring us closer to Him.  Why is it that so many of us as musicians tend to think that we must shirk our God to pursue the thing He wanted us to be a part of?  Why do so many of us cut Him off in pursuit of that?

This article discusses our limitations as creative people.  If our limitations are what encourage our creativity such as creative fashion coming from poverty and resourcefulness arising from want….. perhaps there is a connection between spiritual limitations and creative limitations.  Perhaps the boundaries God has given me are not something to be angered about.  They are rather constraints that guide me and teach me how to excel in them.  Is creativity going beyond the lines?  Perhaps, but what if the most creative approaches to certain things were staying within some sort of parameters and finding ways to do that in more innovative ways?  I hope to find ways to do this through my career.

As I listen to some of Neil Young’s greatest tunes, I know he had limitations in both his technical abilities as well as his voice.  I can relate to that.  I’m no picture of perfection.  I get upset when I lack more abilities than I wish I had and to be disciplined to become better.  I am someone trying to change the world for good with my art.  I leave you with an image that tugs at the heart of every songwriter…. Thank you to this blog for sharing:


And as my wheels are turning, how could I ignore the healing power and therapy of music that have existed since long ago…. Through God.  King saul utilized David’s musical gifts to ease his depression and whatever mental demon he was continually fighting.  Music heals our pain in different ways.  This girl’s blog is an amazing testament to the healing properties of music and is a great resource into the world of music therapy.  I think this new field gives validity to the scientists of the world who don’t believe art and music are really something that can be effective in large ways.  It is intriguing that science and art are closely tied and the health of our bodies and minds can be changed due to it.  This is all just more evidence that points us to our Maker.  God knows us and knows how to heal us, and He equipped us with the tools for this.  Thanks mom for the realization.

Pensive on a Thursday am I,



Why I will persevere as a visionary


I’m currently reading the first chapter of a great book called The boss of you… written by two brave women.  And they challenged me to really think about the why behind what I want to pursue.  So here’s the why behind it.

1.         For those who love creativity.  I’m creative.  I believe we can be that and be different.  We are people with conviction, faith, love and want to soak up the world around us.  But we’ve been told to tell ourselves no, believing there wasn’t an arena for us as people of faith and artists.  I’m here to tell you I will not believe that lie anymore and neither should you.

2.         I believe in the future, in the artists, the musicians and those who have worked really hard at their craft, despite math and science brains saying what they have is more important to offer.  Because if one is more important than the other, then why are the doctors buying tickets to our shows and unwind after a surgery by listening to some enchanting melody from our contribution to society?  In a world of negativity and increasing ills, hope is needed through the arts.  I believe that so much good and blessings can come from what music can offer.  And I believe that I can contribute to that.

3.         I want to be able to write songs and share them for a living and create a listening experience that is unparalleled and exciting.  I want creative venues for shows that have so often been forced into a narrow idea of what a venue is.

4.         I want to use my music to fuel goodwill and do good things in the world around me.  I want to write songs that give people hope and stir them onto good works and to look to a greater home after they die.  I want to bring people to an appreciation for life, God and a healthy hereafter.

5.         Money will not be the goal, nor will fame.  I will welcome the blessings and use them as I think God would have me do, but I do not want the goal other than supporting, saving and giving back.  And my goal is to be able to have health insurance and feed myself and others in the future all because I work hard at honing my craft of songwriting and performing.  I will be the Barnabas in a world of excuses and failings.  I will encourage the people I meet every day.

6.         I want to show people that someone who wants to do what’s right can be successful in a difficult industry by paving her own path.  Someday I hope to help others find their way of making a difference around them.

7.         I want to tour, make friends all around the world and have countless stories from a life well lived.

8.         I will not be average…. I will live awesomely through the talents I have been given and through the God who gave each of them to me.  And I will restore them to him, rusty and worn and say “thank you for these gifts- they are loved and worn and my hands are tired and my mind is ready to be at rest forevermore.”

Live the life you’ve imagined…



Let me know how you can relate!

Follow a Leader or Lead a following… just move


Photo Courtesy: This flickr Stream

While reading Ross Hudgins’s blog today, I came across this statement….

“Leaders should understand the power of team, and the weakness of individualism. Communicating individualism divides team, and is a bad choice for any grammatical situation that would be better fit for “we.”

I’ve been struck recently by the difficulty of leading and having to really stick your neck out and stand for something, accept conflict at times and plow through things that aren’t often enjoyable at the moment.  I think we either yearn to follow effective leaders or to be effective leaders ourselves.  For those of us who see problems in the world at large, we want to lead some kind of effective change that has lasting impression in the minds and hearts of those who have followed us.  I believe there are four pitfalls that most leaders face.

  1. They really want people to like them and they choose to avoid conflict.  This just is not possible.  You will undoubtedly always make someone unhappy.  Trying to please each and every person will get you nowhere as a leader.
  2. They allow criticism or praise to affect them strongly.  Some people want to gripe and when you are trying to do what you can, a complainer instead of an active participant is more of a dead weight as a leader.  But on the flip side, basking in your previous accomplishments will only cause you to ferment in yourself after so long until you get the label stamped on you of “washed up.”  You should never be this- you should always be swimming onto bigger and better things.
  3. They get so focused on a goal that they forget the purpose of the goal in the first place, and when a new strategy is needed, they cannot adjust.  Leaders must remember that flexibility is highly important throughout the process.  You will have a goal in mind, but it will change and develop over time.  A leader must remember to not forget some aspects of a project will come easily and others will need work.  But you must always remember to step back and assess whether the original big picture problem or issue is being addressed.
  4. Poor communication skills.  If you want people to understand your perspective or your vision, you will have a hard time converting them if you can’t properly communicate it.  It may take work at times, but listening to others’ views and trying to really see what they are seeing is imperative for a successful leader.  You can not lead people you know very little about.  People want to be accepted and understood. If they feel this need is being met, they will align themselves with a group of people.

My musical journey thus far: Why I play music but try to separate myself from the music industry


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

Thank you, Tift Merritt


Today I listened to an old NPR interview with Tift Merritt.  I haven’t heard something this real and encouraging from someone in the music industry in a long time.  She said “The spotlight isn’t that interesting of a place.”  She went on to say how the m

usic industry is a self-centered world- not music itself- but the industry.  And she just didn’t want to be like that. 🙂  Thank you, Tift.

She has won my heart, my respect and my applause.  I loved her music before, and now I love her even more for her humble and honest approach to art.

You can check out the interview and music I heard on NPR’s World Cafe.

Have a wonderful Tuesday folks.  And let me know if you have heard any other encouraging musician interviews as well that you’d like to share!


Thursday wisdom from Seth Godin

IMG_0260Some thoughts from Seth Godin and my own commentary to remember as you navigate the music industry.

1.  Safe is Risky– So, then the smart thing is to dwell at the fringes.  How does this apply to musicians?  You can’t dwell in the “what’s already been done” area.  You can’t think- oh this worked as a great marketing tactic or facebook contest.  If you’re studying everyone else’s music career, stop.  You can’t expect the same scenario to be recreated.  Because let’s be real- we are all living different lives, know different people and have influence in different circles.  Can you draw ideas in regards to revenue generation and creative strategies? Of course.  Just study for a little while and then be willing to launch out into some uncharted waters.

2.  Not everyone will want what you have.  But that does not matter.  You need to find those who desperately want what you have.  Find those who are obsessed about what you do.  How does this apply to me?  Well, here’s the cold hard truth.  Folks, people will not always love you (gasp?).  Yes, I get upset about this as well, because who does not want to be well-liked.  The need for belonging is deeply entrenched in our psyche.  But it’s time we shook off those who would rather move on and say it’s alright.  Maybe someday they’ll change their mind and return.  After all, no use in crying over spilled milk.

3.  Sell to those who are listening- and maybe they will tell their friends. I’ll take this a step further and say that not only should you hope for good fans who will tell their friends, you should also REWARD them for spreading the word.  When you have great fans who are willing to share, you should give back.  Give them swag, host a concert in their home, send them a holiday gift, write a thank you card.  We are losing true connection with our fans and people in general.  When we lose this, we lose a massive part of what music is supposed to do for us: connect us and unite us.

4.  Acknowledge that what has worked before does not necessarily work anymore.  We used to think of marketing in terms of television where if you could buy enough ad space, you could change the world.  Then we think advertising- push it on the world.   It gives the idea that you are in charge and you’re going to get things done.  But with this idea of connection and social media came the rebirth of the Tribe.  It is something that people have wanted forever.  We have work, spiritual and community tribes.  The internet was supposed to homogenize us but rather it has created silos of people with similar interests.  You can connect if you WANT to be connected.  It is not that you force people but that they want to connect.  It then becomes a movement.  So, as an artist, what characterizes your movement?  If it sounds like something you’ve heard before, get back to the drawing board.

5.  You can’t do it alone.  Begin to find your supporters and build your inner cabinet first.  Find trustworthy, dependable people who you enjoy working with.  Don’t waste your time with people who drag you down or who do not support you in your vision.  1000 true fans is the solid foundation to get you to the next rounds.  Work on cultivating those relationships and be true as the tribe leader to the vision.

Some final thoughts from Seth Godin:

Who are you upsetting?  If you aren’t upsetting, you aren’t changing the status quo.

Who are you connecting?  People want to be a part of a culture and they want to be missed when they are gone.  Do you create that sense of community for them?

Who are you leading?  They’re waiting for you to show them where to go.

So, get goin’ 🙂

And remember…. “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” ~Proverbs 25:27