May 2012 was a really cool month for me. It started out with a bang when I had my iShowcase gig at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville. I ended up winning a consultation with an A & R rep, Spencer Nohe, from Warner/Word. In this consultation, I was told that the decisions that I have made in the last year concerning my music have been wise ones. I was right to move from Christian music to Roots/Americana, as my raw lyrical content and gritty sound don’t necessarily sit well within the Christian genre, but fit like a glove in the Roots/Americana world. Spencer said many of the things that I felt- that my songwriting is good, but needs a bit of improvement… that I need to plan out my sets better, as in what I’m going to say between each song or do within the set to grab people’s attention better… that in his words “the nuts and bolts” are there, I just have to “get everything put together.”
Then later on in the month, I was at a gig in Franklin, TN, at Franklin Mercantile and Deli. I was subbing in for a great little country artist, Brenda Allen, who had another gig that night. I was told about the gig from my friend and occasional guitar accompanist, Sam Madewell. (THANKS, SAM!) The gig went well and afterwards I found out that the Senior Vice President of BMI, Fred Cannon was there along with his friend, Rose Drake, (who owns a brand new indie label,) and the producer they work with, Paul Buono. Fred liked my voice and wanted me to sing a demo for him, which I did the following night in exchange for a song co-write collaboration.
At the end of the month, I had another radio interview, this time with Wildman Steve Radio, in Auburn, AL, followed by a gig at The Gnu’s Room. I went to Mobile on Saturday night to play, only to find out that they took the sound equipment away, therefore I wasn’t required to play. I was fine with this, because I wasn’t feeling super-great anyway. Then on Sunday night, I played at a little place called Lillian Cafe. I highly recommend it to any traveling artists. Good food, kind people and a little bit of pay. I hated that my voice was giving out on me- my throat kept tensing up on me. After a couple days of rest, it seems back to normal again. Back in March, I got strep and it always takes me a few months to get back to normal where I sing with ease. I am really ready for it to get back to “normal”.
But my meetings with Spencer early in May and Fred, Rose and Paul a week later, really got me in an introspective mood. I’m probably thinking too hard now- I’m having a hard time songwriting. I’m struggling to stay true to myself and not fit a mold. I am individualistic by nature and don’t want to lose who I am as an artist. On the other hand, I don’t want to spit on the advice given me by both groups, because they were right about quite a bit. Most of all, I have questions. I always have questions. If my writing isn’t “good enough”, then what is it that needs to change? What is it that I need to include in my sets that would grab people? How much talking do people like to listen to? How much is too much? How much is too little? How much should I alter my style in order to keep it fresh? How much should I alter my style to be more marketable? Would becoming more “marketable” change who I am artistically? I write in two VERY different ways- one way is gritty and roots-rock, a bit dark sounding. The other way is lighter, more acoustic-based, folkier. Which way is best for me?
This has been my inner struggle since the beginning of the month, especially the last two weeks. I keep waiting it out, hoping to get some sense of inner direction, but I haven’t yet. That leaves me feeling UNSETTLED. Being a decisive person for the most part, I don’t like this feeling- AT ALL. I’m a bit in the dark about direction. I want to know what’s next, so I can plan for the future, but I can’t. So, right now, all I can do, I guess is keep promoting “Black Ball”, which has done so well for an indie artist’s first full-length release. I have to make myself look back and be content by seeing all of the good that has happened with “Black Ball”. I was #2 on the Roots Music Report’s Roots Rock Internet charts, #27 on the Roots 66 International charts, and #110 on the AMA charts, as well as charting on smaller roots-based charts. I’ve sold three times as many initial copies with “Black Ball” than I did with “Backwards”, my first roots release. (“Backwards” is an EP of 4 songs.) I’ve sold twice as much digitally with “Black Ball” than I did with “Backwards” and my previous Christian-genre releases combined. I’ve increased my fan base. I’ve gotten to play on television and on Balcony TV. I’m starting to get the music industry’s attention. I’ve played around 25 gigs so far this year and have quite a few in the works for the rest of the year too. I’ve had to turn down gigs, because I’ve been too busy or already booked. I’ve started getting paid for gigs. I was able to procure a publicist and I have a booking agent interested in working with me, which I am REALLY happy about since I hate booking gigs the most. I’ve been able to do three radio interviews so far, with the possibility of doing a few more. I’ve been played on dozens of radio stations all over the world. Good stuff.
All this, and still I’m driven to figure out what is next. I guess that is the nature of being successful in the industry. You always have to be moving, thinking about your next step, the next song you need to write, how to improve, how to make the next album a step up and not a step down… It’s just this UNSETTLED feeling that I dislike. I’ve felt this way before. It’s usually when something incredibly good or annoyingly bad happens or when they happen simultaneously, which also bites. But through the good and the bad, I’ve only wanted to give up once. That was when I transitioned from Christian music to Roots/Americana. I was going to quit altogether, because I was sick of the harassment, of the negative and judgmental attitudes that I was getting from some Christians, of the lack of encouragement and state of the church universal. I was very discouraged. That was a really dark time in my life, because I felt that I had given up a piece of my destiny. In reality, it was just a death of one dream and the beginning of another. (And a step in the right direction. But I digress…)
I have no intention of quitting anytime soon, come what may. I just want this UNSETTLED feeling to go away. I am desiring direction for the future, concerning what I will do next. Perhaps the Americana Festival I’m attending here in Nashville in September will help. Maybe I’ll get my answers before then. Maybe this long and meandering blog post will help matters out. At any rate, I’m going to keep on trucking. I love music and creating it and performing it. Roots music strikes a chord in my heart and moves my soul and I’m sure that it always will. I just would like to know what my future looks like… Wouldn’t we all? 🙂