Ok. I’m gonna be extra real today.
It is getting a bit harder to find inspiration this last leg of the trip. First of all, we are still making effort to go out and meet people, play open mics, connect with other musicians, etc. But we are hitting a wall. Someone said to us the other day at the Music Biz conference, “There is a time in your career when you don’t have to be in Nashville anymore. But there is a very real time in your career when you ABSOLUTELY HAVE to be in Nashville.” It is disheartening, at best. To think that we will have to be here more and more in order to make a connection with someone who may or may not even be able to help us, is super frustrating to wrap our heads around. Last night at the writer’s round that we were invited to play in, one of the guys in the group before us sang a song about barely scraping by for ten years, just on the off chance that someone may pick up one of his tunes… and what does he do in the meantime? He plays covers with different bands and splits the meager pay four or five ways, all the while watching any true passion he once had for the “art” slowly dwindle away with each version of “Jolene” or “Wagon Wheel” he has to play.
This is the first time in a long time that Jared and I aren’t bringing in steady money for our work. We knew this was going to happen, and we were totally financially ready for it. So why is it a big deal? Well, because more than the financial security the money provides, it is also a way to gauge the responses from the audiences. You take BOTH the money AND the responses away, and you begin to question if what you’re doing is worth it. There’s little to no real feedback. We’re just hoping that someone we gave a card to, or a person who was intrigued enough to look us up on social media, or a sole hanger-on at a show where most of the crowd has left or fallen asleep (yes, I’ve seen it), may reach out and say, “Hey, I really enjoyed that.”
This week, a young lady got world-wide recognition in a few short days on the internet after posting a cute little ditty she wrote and sang about being a fish. While amused and entertained by the tune, I just couldn’t help but wonder what in the world are we doing wrong. What is the ideal of “making it” anyway? When Jared and I are working steadily, bringing in money for our little family, playing shows where people listen and we get to connect with the audience, and touring the states with our Rudy, I honestly feel like we’re “making it”. It’s only when I let people’s words get into my head that I begin to feel like a failure, like what we’re doing isn’t “making it” enough… “Why aren’t you guys famous yet?” “Why would you be playing here? You’re so much better than this place.” “Have you ever thought about touring Europe? You’d TOTALLY make it over there!” When people think they are complimenting us by making these kinds of comments, I do understand it. However, the reality of that is that those comments are translated in my head to “Why aren’t you working harder to achieve something that ultimately may not make you happy anyway?” Or, “Why isn’t what we’re doing ENOUGH?” Why is there always a push to be more? I just think that the seemingly endless quest for bigger and better can start to wear on the deep psyche of a person and your whole self value becomes wrapped up in it.
We have definitely chosen to be in a career where our worth is equated to our success. Who we are becomes entangled with the acceptance and approval of our art by others. We’ll have a great show one night. Technically perfect, in time and locked together. Every note, every story. But maybe no one really looks up, acts engaged, buys merchandise, or compliments us, then, all of a sudden, we question our very existence. On the contrary, some nights we play pretty well. Some mistakes are made, words forgotten, chords flubbed. But we get a huge crowd response and sell a bunch of stuff, people are crying, sharing their life stories with us, gushing. Then, we’re on top of the world and feel worthy to play a 50,000 seat arena. The art hasn’t changed, just the response to it. WHY SHOULD THAT BE AN INDICATOR?!?!?!? But, alas, it most certainly is.
So this is the daily battle. Finding the self love and acceptance in-spite of, outside from, away from, the opinions, either good or bad, of others. I have always struggled with rejection, but am not naive that it is a huge part of all aspects of life, from job interviews, to relationships. What I did not prepare myself for was the crushing weight of disappointment I would feel, not living up to the expectations of others in my career. My thought being that people have invested so much in me, now I have to go and get discovered and show the world who we are, or I will indeed let everyone down. I can’t be the only artist to feel this way. I’m sure that’s why so many creative types just slowly slink away to create on their own, have a small following and cater to that, or just quit altogether. Quitting will never be an option for us, but I’ve got to be able to show myself grace and find peace in wherever I am at any given point…it will just always be my personal road to navigate.
But please don’t worry. We ARE worth it. Our art is beautiful and effective. Deep in my bones and to the corners of my heart I know that. But honestly, it is just so nice to be able to put the thoughts from my brain hole into words, read it back to myself, validate my very real feelings, and then move forward, as I have always done. As WE have always done, for eighteen years. Because we are Champagne-Mutha-Freakin-Sunday!!