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


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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

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To the Imaginative…


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Photo credit goes wholly to: Status Frustration photostream

A mere hike in the woods including a sprint can begin to feel like a scene from a fairytale.

Boredom does not exist because they need only step outside their door to see a need, an opportunity or an adventure at their feet.

There is always something to share and tell- for their eyes are wide enough to take in a world that is vastly changing, shifting and growing like the ocean that never rests.

They always have friends- even if they are only created up in their heads.  Even people begin to transform into characters in front of their eyes or into animals that match their personality characteristics.

Life is both a beautiful experience and terrifying letdown… oftentimes all in the same day.

There is beauty in all things large and small.

A person is never just a person… they are the object of affection or struggle and they become a character in stories, songs and daydreams.

Light dances around the world through shadow play in ways that most people miss as they hurry along.

Nature is a haven of rest and recharging.

Grit is absolutely necessary to see a future in which creativity can reign.

Nothing is ridiculous.

Whimsy is a part of everyday life.

Why not is always waiting in the back of the mind, ready to be latched onto like the last hope.

All things become fodder for inspiration.

Have and inspiring Wednesday 🙂

~lme

What Fear can Teach Us


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Photo courtesy of : U.S. National Archives

Today, I listened to a Ted Talk by Karen Thompson Walker where she discussed the unconventional topic that our fears are shaped like stories.  She talks about how certain people have overactive imaginations… but what does this teach us about similarities between fear and the construct of story?

Our fears and our stories have similar construction.  They have characters, suspense and visuals.  In our fears, the main character is usually ourselves.  Our fears focus on question- what will happen next?  It’s just sometimes in an extreme way.  A story also involves some relation to time.  Humans are the only animals that do this- we project ourselves forward in time.  So when we fear something, we are usually moving into a forward moment.  Fears also show us how one specific event can effect all other events as in a complex narrative.

We should think of ourselves as the authors of our stories- but we should read our fears as well.  She also discusses the idea of productive paranoia.  This is when people who might fear something are actually able to translate that fear into action.  And sometimes our fears can even predict the future.

She also talks about what makes a good reader.  A good reader is both artistic and passionate, getting caught up in the story, but also possesses a coolness of judgment like a scientist.  We must have this ability to be overcome with emotion but have a sense of discernment about our minds.

I had never really thought about this concept that fears are like stories.  They are always circling and interwoven within some frightening story with many or few characters in our minds.  The story then can also be unraveled and changed in its course of direction then.  This can help us when we begin to get sucked into the undertow and succumb to our fears.

To hear the talk in its entirety, check it out here: http://www.ted.com/talks/karen_thompson_walker_what_fear_can_teach_us.html

Have a great tuesday 🙂

~lme

Karen Thompson Walker

Elsewhere Seeker


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Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress flickr page

I am an Elsewhere seeker

I’ve nearly always been that way

contentment don’t come easy

even when I’ve lived good days

But maybe I keep looking

because Earth wasn’t meant to hold me

so the elsewhere that I’m seeking

is a place I’ve yet to see

~lme

keep your sights set higher than what you can merely see.  Go out. do good.

Thank you, Tift Merritt


tift

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!

~lme

A mind with a view


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Jessie Woodrow- thanks to this organization 

After listening to some thoughts from people last week, I realized that our whole perspective on life is really twisted.  We, and I, live in fear of aging of dying and leaving this world, but it shouldn’t be this way.  We should see our lives as the portal into eternity.  What if I always viewed my life that way?  I might not get so upset at people or worry so much about trying to make my mark or prove myself to this slowly vanishing existence.   I struggle with looking forward to death.  How many of us do- in a positive way I mean? Realizing that ultimately if we’ve only been spent by and for ourselves, we’ve really not left much of a legacy here.

It’s like a funnel, this life.  It’s only siphoning us into a much larger world of eternal existence.  I can’t imagine what that’s like and frankly, it freaks me out sometimes and I have to stop thinking about it.  I think the unknown scares me.  I think sometimes I fear I’ll be bored forever.  But I heard an uplifting sermon recently that talked about how heaven will be eternal bliss.  That feeling of newness and excitement continually overpouring like a fountain.  Trusting God is something I have to work at.  I need to remind myself that he made me and knows me and wants good for me and knows exactly how to fulfill me.  I have to remember that the reasons I groan and ache here are because I am not at home with Him.  At times, I get too comfortable here- thus the problem with our poshy lifestyles.  It’s probably helpful to get out of that comfort zone more than we reside in it.

In conjunction with the end of your life is the perspective of the rest of your life.  It is interesting to realize what defines you when you start to strip earthly things away.  If you weren’t able to paint your body like a canvas with tattoos or the latest trend in the fashion industry or do your hair in a specific way or stand behind an instrument every night or shell out your fancy business cards, what would you look like?  Would your character speak volumes about who you are?  I am blessed to have several people who have reminded me of this recently.  These “about us” things really are just tangents to who we truly are.  Sometimes it’s easy to let our material goods and talents define us.  We’ve been taught to express ourselves since we were little.  And though I don’t deny that being unique and an individual is something God appreciates, maybe we tend to value people more or less for what they can DO and not who they ARE.  Inhabit who you are and the gifts you’ve been given, but also be willing to set them aside of you at times and say- that’s not who I am at the core- those are things that I do.  I think this is becoming more real to me as I have been shifting in my passionate pursuits and the desire to feverishly chase a dream has been melting a little from my heart.  Maybe it’s age or maybe I’m just tired.  But, strangely enough, I have had more opportunities to play music live than when I was touting my talents to the world and trying to figure out how to market myself and who to talk to in the music industry.  Funny how things begin to fall into place once you let go a little and just truly enjoy what you do and relinquish some control.

I don’t know where I’ll end up with music or writing or my career endeavors, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.  At the end of my life, what will matter is the way I’ve walked the journey through life.  It’s exciting to think big- to imagine yourself on an Olympic pedestal or playing music for those who truly love it or winning a Nobel prize.  But all of these things are just things that will collect dust and after the moment will cease to hold as much excitement as they once had.  Therefore, how you grow as an individual, the hard work that builds character, the way you treat others and the lives you influence all hold more weight than the actual attainment of the goal.  Remember that.  Tell me to remember that.  And let’s not let people, places or things define who we are.

~lme

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

~lme

Put your heart into it… or better yet, put it elsewhere.


Photo Credit and rights: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mararie/

This phrase is heard often in our post-modern culture.  “Seize the day- and put your heart into it!” What, praytell, is “it?”  Well, “it” can be anything we want to fill that absence within ourselves- religion, sports, music, academia, philosophy, writing, etc etc.

But I’m going to pose a new way of thinking about our tangible pursuits down here.  What if we don’t put our hearts and all of our focus into so many various parts of our life.  What if we do live a litte “air-hearded” in the sense of all of our everyday affairs, choosing rather to meditate on the spiritual concepts floating above our heads?

Put my heart into music?  No, then i’ll just be anxious and bummed when recognition often escapes me or when I see others who are farther in their successful careers than I am.

Put my whole heart into the stock of what others think, say or my actual relationships?  No, people will disappoint and I’ll spend my time vacillating with each relationship and worrying about how I’m inadequate or how much they’ve hurt or disappointed me or my ego.

Put my heart into creating such a comfortable nest I’ve created here that when it comes my time to fly this coop, I think, oh, but I love my life and stuff here. I’ve invested  so much of my heart and energy into this place.  So, then maybe it behooves us to put our energy and work ethic into what we do, but not our total hearts into what we do.  What do I mean?  Well, maybe our clutch should not be as tight as it is to our image, our talents, our loves (leah speaks to self).  What if we’re called to sacrifice whatever it is?  What if what we thought was our greatest contribution to the world is later revealed as merely a stepping stone to a greater plan set forth for us while we were yet being formed.

We should guard our hearts and, as Rudyard Kipling says, “If all men count with you, but none too much,” we must somehow learn to separate the situations in which we find ourselves and our emotions.  They must not be what drives us- rather, there should be something of far stronger weight acting as our anchor.  If heart is where your treasure is (Matthew 6:21), then where is this anchor?  Investing my heart elsewhere will lead me to less attachment and disappointment in the mere here and now.  Putting my faith and trust in a God who is vastly more powerful than myself will help my perspective be more fixated on better things.  I wont’t get as anxious or worried over politics, broken relationships, stressful moments in the hustle bustle and angry over what I feel I deserve or am owed.  This is part of the strangeness of life.  We see what others have and we want it too.  But sadly, those who have everything we long for often aren’t the people we’d really want to be if we were honest with ourselves.  Do I get giddy over talented musicians?  Why yes, yes I do.  Do I want their often dark and depressing vh1 behind the scenes life or their broken marriages or their exhaustion or addiction to pleasure?  I’ll be honest- aspects of the music lifestyle are incredibly tempting to me.  But then I think deep down, there is a part of me that knows there is so much emptiness in it as well.  I’ve experienced it- the heartache, the sadness, the decision by those I love to leave all for the music at the expense of themselves and others.  And about this whole getting famous bit?  I don’t think it’s that hard to do.  When you’re willing to sacrifice everything- family, friends, dignity, money- for music, you’ll make it out there.  But is that really who I want to be….. someone who has spent their whole life in devotion to self?

I must let my love and pursuit of God and good things be what seeps into every facet of my life will make everything else just compartments.  Instead of giving God his little box, why not view our lives as many boxes and all of them are floating in the same sea of God.  They all become submerged and eventually sink into His greatness.

~lme

“People who feel nothing, DO nothing.”


The heart-shaped hash browns a lad from bongo made just for me 🙂

I read this recently right here.  He’s right.  You absolutely HAVE to latch onto something “too.” Too edgy, too different, too creative, too friendly.  If we are not too something, we are not putting enough of ourselves into it.  If we don’t invoke feelings in other people that compel them to act, perhaps we aren’t really standing for anything.

Ask my brother and sister- I’m highly impassioned and moved by experience, emotion and relationship.  It’s in my DNA- maybe from both sides. Here are some things that I feel passionately about and move me in my musical pursuits.

~~Being a pioneer can be a lonely and uphill way at times.  Don’t TELL me I can’t do it and don’t tell me that since it’s never been done, I should sit down and shut up.  Because I won’t.  I believe there are other good-seeking truth followers who wholeheartedly adore music and yet they do NOT want to spend their evenings playing places where they feel they must compromise who they are and what they stand for.  If you’re out there, I want to meet you and shake your hand.  And I want you in my network, because I appreciate you.  I want to stand by my faith as well as stand with my music in hand and say- here are my talents and here is what I did with them.  “Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.” Lest we forget- the guy who buried his talent was scolded.

~~Why is it that people can’t get paid for their gifts they have spent valuable time honing?  There have to be innovative ways to generate revenue in the music industry.  It can’t be that I’ll finally make a living at my craft after I’m playing arenas and huge venues all around the world.  Music industry crew- let’s stop being so narrowminded.  Let’s stop listening to people that tell us there is one model of success and it’s name is Ke$ha or Beyonce.  To follow that path is to be lazy. It’s already been done.  So get to the books, the blogs, the influencers in your community, the events and start brainstorming.

~~I want to change the way people see art and music as a career.  Because they are careers.  So if you’re reading this and shaking your head, then do us both a favor and stop reading.  My blog may not be for you, because you won’t like what I have to say. God is Creator.  And he put that into us as lights in this world, which is one of the coolest things in which we see Him down here. I long for respect for spiritually minded people who pour their heart and soul into creating art, music, video, etc.  And if you don’t believe that it is a valid and respectable career choice, then I want you to chunk your ipod and burn all your concert tickets and take all your books to goodwill, because that is what you are basically saying when you think such thoughts.  To artists- If we don’t start treating ourselves with respect, others won’t as well.  So buck up, hold your heart and head high and walk this path with me friend.

~~People always warn of the spiritual dangers in the creative fields- and rightfully so.  But consider this- Wandering from God isn’t merely constricted to those in the creative industries- the pull to go with the flow and follow the Liar is seen in all career choices.  But people rarely shake their heads in sympathy when someone’s future husband has high hopes of being a doctor or lawyer.  Do they warn them like they’ve warned me?  They should.  Yes, “pursuance” can transform into “idol.”  Yes, this can happen to all of us.  Let’s just be fair across the board is what I ask.  Though we be farmers, doctors, lawyers, musicians or teachers, we all have the ability to put something higher on the todem pole than God Himself.

What drives you in your creative endeavors?  How have you worked toward marrying your faith and your talents?  Feel free to let me know in the comment space below.