Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Post-Alt Recovery

Last weekend, I went to an amazing conference for bloggers, designers and artsy folks in general.  Have you heard of Alt Summit? It was my first time attending.  Interestingly enough, after I bought my ticket and was preparing to go, I had several people warn me about how the conference was more of a display of pomp and peacock feathers than anything else.  But having been to a handful of conferences before, I took those comments with a grain of salt.  Often when people get together in large groups of like minds who are experts in their field it can feel intimidating.  But I didn't go to prove myself to the prestigious.  I went to learn from people who are successful and to experience the knowledge and light that they had to offer.  Everything is what you make of it, right?

I was so impressed with the attention to detail at Alt.  Nearly every printed item was done on the most beautiful paper in letter press.  The food was exquisite.  The themed d├ęcor was so clever.  The speakers and panelists were top notch.  Rave, rave, rave.  I went with the goal to meet new people and find something to love about every one of them.  I hardly hung out with anyone that I knew (sorry guys!) because it didn't make sense to network with people I see almost weekly.

I've also heard people complain about what it costs to attend Alt.  I paid over $500 for my three-day pass.  That may sound like a lot of money at first glance.  However, I honestly don't see how it could have cost any less than that for what you get.  In fact, for the networking opportunities, the many classes, the parties, gifts and the gourmet food, I seriously think it's a steal of a deal.  I'm already planning to go to the next one! Who's in?

(Mike and Alma Loveland and writer, Amy Hackworth ham it up with me in the smilebooth.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Music and Motherhood

Photo by Justin Hackworth.

I am a singer and songwriter by profession. I am also a mother (which should be a profession).  Someone on my Facebook page recently requested that I blog about how I balance these two roles.  And although I'd love to tell you all just how "balanced" I am, I'm not sure I've ever achieved that level of zen in real life.  But what I can do is tell you how I'm really just making it all up and writing my own story as I go along.

Stories are something I'm good at.  I've made up a lot in my lifetime about my limitations and weaknesses. There was a time when I thought that after I had kids, that would be the end of my ability to pursue a career or further my education.  Where did that story come from?  There was also the time when I bought into a story that being in the entertainment business would make me a bad mother.  Or how about the ones I've made up when I've been pregnant? No one will want to watch Jabba the Hutt sing songs about hearts with scars and little girls with great, big plans.  Thankfully, I've had some amazing mentors who have pointed out my story-making abilities and how they've proven to hold me hostage.  Why not make up stories where life is working for me, not against me?  I began to write a story where babies didn't mean that my own personal dreams were over.  But, a story that spelled out a plan where my children would be by my side as companions on my musical journey.  A story where I would wrap them up, and carry them to my college classes in a sling if I had to.  A story where they would toddle around during sound checks and eat the finger foods in the green room during concerts.  A story where people would find my big, round, pregnant belly endearing rather than offensive up on stage.  I have found that when I write stories that resonate with truth and lay them at God's feet that he always carves a path for me to accomplish them.  Does it all look perfect?  No.  Have I made mistakes?  Yes.  Have there been times when I've been self absorbed and lost my center?  Heavens, yes.  

So, if I had to sum up just exactly how I do both motherhood and music, I would tell you that I do a  reasonable amount of it with my kids in tow.  Yes, I write songs while I'm cleaning, driving or rocking a baby to sleep.  I do paperwork while my toddler dumps everything out of a drawer and onto the floor.  I let the camera crew hold my baby during shots and then I soothe him in between if he gets fussy.  At times it can be exhausting and as my career has grown, I've also recognized the need for help.  I have some amazing young ladies who come and help me with cleaning, answering emails, running errands and watching the kids when I need solitude.  My husband has also adapted in amazing ways to what our life looks like with me as a recording artist.  I'm not superhuman and I can't pretend like I do everything on my own.  I think the main thing to emphasize to you (and repeatedly to myself) is that your story doesn't have to look perfect.  In fact, it can't.  The beauty of it is, you get to write your own.
Photo shoot in L.A. for Zoe Magazine.

 Wrangling baby Griffin in between shots.

Backstage with my boys at the release concert for "Anchor." Photo by Justin Hackworth.

 Performing with the Teton Chamber Orchestra at six months along.  Photos by Krista Maurer.

 Filming the music video for "Eyes" at nine months along. 
Griffin was born exactly one week later.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Stepping Into the New Year and Out of Your Comfort Zone

Photos of my Christmas concert at Velour Live Music Gallery by Justin Hackworth, 11/28/12.

Do you ever lay awake at night and run scenarios in your mind in which you are doing extraordinary things that might normally scare you in real life? Perhaps it's speaking in public, maybe it's traveling to a foreign country, pursuing that love interest you've pined for from afar, quitting your job and starting your own business or maybe something as simple as striking up a conversation with someone at the bus stop.  

I've been performing on stage for more than ten years now and I still have times where I literally lay awake at night imagining how I can improve myself and what new things I can try on stage to take my live performance to the next level. Last month I literally lost sleep and awoke in cold sweats after I decided to learn five new songs on keyboard. In addition, I also wanted to start performing standing up at the keys, versus sitting down. Those may sound like simple things, but admittedly, I've long been intimidated of playing keyboard in my shows.  In the past, I played enough to write the basic outline of a song, but never felt quite confident in actually performing on keys. I've learned a song here and there and over time have built up my repertoire to be able to play at least supportive parts (so long as there's a guitar playing lead).  But last month was December, which meant Christmas songs, which meant learning new pieces! I also had a tour in Japan where my Christmas album was releasing for the first time and I really wanted to play my Christmas songs with total confidence at my shows.

So how did I get through that initial phase of fear when I decided to step outside of my comfort zone?  First of all, I made a clear commitment to myself that this was what I wanted to do.  No backing out.  Secondly, I made a plan of preparation.  I have always been taught that when one is prepared, one shall not fear (or at least, let fear control them).  I called up a piano/performance coach to not only help me learn my songs, but to also help me perform them comfortably in front of an audience.  I practiced those songs every single day until they became tattooed to muscle memory.  Muscle memory is VITAL to performing comfortably.  When your songs are engrained in your memory and fingers, it frees up your brain to be able to perform in an expressive way.  If you're worried about playing the right notes and singing the right words, you simply can't connect with your audience (which is the most important part!). In the end, I did learn to perform my new songs, standing up, no less.  Was everything perfect?  Of course not!  I made plenty of mistakes, but you have to allow those mistakes to happen when you're doing things outside of your comfort zone.  It's part of the process of become better at what you do.  If you show up with the intention to connect to your audience and serve them, they won't even care if you mess up.  In fact, it often endears you to them.  That's the beautiful thing.

So to recap, here are the steps I took to enable myself to step outside of my comfort zone and accomplish things I was previously only dreaming about at night:
  • Make a commitment to accomplish your goal.
  • Create a plan of preparation and carry it out.
  • Practice consistently.
  • Do it! Allow yourself to make mistakes in the process.
Forget yourself and show up with the intention to serve people. It gives more meaning to what you are doing and takes the pressure off of being perfect.

To end, I'll leave you with this little 5 minute TED Talk about the value of doing things that make you uncomfortable.  (I stumbled across this while reading a great post by Ariel Hyatt called, "Why Getting Out Of Your Comfort Zone is the BEST Thing You Can Do For Yourself in 2013"). Best quote of the video: "If you want something you don’t already have, you have to do something you haven’t already done."