Lines in the Sand- follow up

Dear Indie Girl, 

I want to clarify some thoughts from my last letter. 

Although I described the catalyst for this revelation in my life as that one bar in Ann Arbor, on that one night when my dad came to watch me play… the sum of my frustration with playing at bars, clubs, and venues like these does not stem from this one event.  It had been building up over a period of time, and continued to build up after that conversation with my dad on the drive home.  And the post was really talking about all of these events as a whole experience, not this one gig in Ann Arbor.  

So, I’m going to share a bit more of myself and my background to maybe shed some light and make my intentions for such a strong declaration more transparent. 

Many of you already know that I started writing and singing professionally in a duet with my sister, Aubree, when I was about 15 years old.  We wrote Christian music, played for local churches and had a manager.  If you don’t know, a concert at a church is a VERY different experience than a gig at a bar/club.  One is an Event, the other is more or less background music.  I fell in love with performing while playing regularly for church audiences who were attentive, and interactive.  We didn’t have social media to fuel our interaction with fans, it was all live shows, and some of those fans have followed my career through various changing seasons, and continued their gracious support.

The letter I posted earlier this week, was really me expressing some birthing pains, if you will, for the next phase in my career.  I’ve been feeling the tug on my heart to get back to my roots. After College, I felt the need to prove that I wasn’t just another CCM artist who fell into Christian music because it was expected or because it was all I knew.  I wanted to explore my options and find other kinds of venues and audiences to perform for. And I did.  And it made me a better writer, a better performer, and I think a more well rounded musician and person. It also, just about, burned me out.  It’s time to go home.

 

The venues we’re lining up for the coming months are mostly churches, listening rooms, colleges and conferences around Michigan.  I’ve also joined forces with Be Loud Promotions recently, a grass roots Christian PR/booking company based out of Muskegon and we’re in the process of booking a “Ladies Night Out” tour featuring myself and Katy Kinard for churches near Tennessee and then a follow up tour around the Midwest.  I’m really excited about the changes we’re making and I feel more and more confident that it fits our music best!  

I want to be clear that this move is not about naming some venues as bad, and others as good, but it’s about me trying to figure out where my audience is.  For the past few years I’ve played just about wherever I was invited to sing, with few exceptions, mostly because I didn’t have a clear understanding of who my audience was and where to find them.  This is about finding those places where my fans already are and building my career there. I want to say thank you to everyone who has supported my music through the years and has followed the Rising Tide wherever we go, even if you can’t be there in person, your support is always appreciated! 

Love to you all,

Kelsey 

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Be Gumby, Baby!

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Dear Indie Girl, 

As my voice instructor told me in College, “you gotta be Gumby, baby!” 

Ok, out of context that sounds weird…

She was referring to surviving as a musician solely on music jobs while fully understanding that, for a while at least, you won’t be able to do the one thing you really want to do all the time.  You will probably not make money playing gigs with your band on weekends for a long time.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do something you’re also good at and enjoy.  You can still use that crazy expensive degree you got and are still paying off.  Heck!  You might as well, right?!  

For me that’s, utilizing my teaching skills and developing my music lessons business, Pray Music.  A service I provide, teaching guitar and voice lessons to students of just about all ages.  I’m actually really enjoying myself and it challenges me to be a better musician and to really know my stuff since I’m teaching it to other people.  Plus, I get paid to sing and play guitar with people all week.  That’s pretty awesome.  

So… as you take steps to make your dreams come true in the music industry, be Gumby, baby!  Be flexible, be versatile, and be willing to be creative to make a living doing what you love.  But never be a door mat.  Find a way to enjoy what you do right now.  And if you don’t enjoy what you do right now, do something else.   

Enjoy yourself, 

Kelsey

Buffalo, buffalo

Dear Indie Girl,

This week I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to do some creative co-writing.  I say it’s creative co-writing, because my co-writer doesn’t know about it.  Sneaky…

A friend of mine is on a very long tour with her band, The Rough & Tumble.  I’ve had the pleasure of tagging along.  Well… at least I feel like I’m tagging along because every couple of days I get another postcard from another place and I get to read a little blurb about their trip.  Postcards are like a vintage concept now days, I can’t remember the last time I got one from someone other than my mom.  I love it!

Anyway, I’m writing a lot about traveling lately and the concept of home, so I decided to take her postcards and turn them into a song.  I’ve done this before actually, with a letter from the same person, and it turned out so well!  So I thought I’d try it again.  The results are not in yet, since their trip is not over yet, and I’m still getting postcards every other day or so, but I’ll be sure to share it with you when it’s all done!  I’ll give you a hint:

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Until next week!

Kelsey

Always dress professional at job interviews

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Dear Indie Girl,

This week, for the second time in my life, I wore a pair of black rain boots to a job interview.  Not professional, I know.  And I am in no way suggesting that this is a good practice.  I’m just saying… it happened.  The first time I was fresh out of college, just moved back home with my parents and stayed up way too late the night before in a fight with my mom, and didn’t care that what I was wearing was “not professional”.  In fact my mother told me this on the way out the door the morning of the interview and I shrugged it off as no big deal.  They offered me the job at the end of the interview.

I was recovering from a season of mourning.  I was mourning the loss of 2 years of my life in relationships that were the worst decisions I’d ever made.  I felt like a target for manipulative 22 year old guys.  Doomed to only ever be attracted to smartness and only ever find the guys who use it against me. I felt pretty worthless.

The last boyfriend I’d had in college not only broke up with me because he said we were intellectually incompatible, but also told me that he and his family were all teachers, and I just wasn’t the teacher type, so we didn’t fit together. He obviously hadn’t seen my results from that career placement test we all took in high school.  So, I found it fitting, I guess to apply for a position as a tutor in a college library as soon as I graduated.

I loved my job tutoring.  It had challenges of course, but I had good stories from the people I met and learned a lot about what our K-12 educational system doesn’t have to offer for those students who fall through the cracks.  These students were the ones I spent most of my time with. I did so well, that after one semester I applied to teach a Remedial English class (not college level).  I started to see for myself that I don’t need to allow someone else’s assumptions about me define who I am.  It’s okay to decide what opinions I will take with me on my journey, and what opinions I will return to dust.

I remained at that job for almost 2 years.  It was the doorway to a much anticipated fresh start in my life.  I grew to recognize my skills and my compassion for students like me, who were labeled “dumb”.  We gave each other a boost in confidence opposite sides of the library table.   I only left because I was getting married and moving across the state to Grand Rapids.  This guy was the smartest man I’d ever met, a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing.  But he actually accentuated my attributes- smarts, music, compassion, writing, business skills. We compliment each other in a way I’ve not known outside this marriage.

Funny how something like boots can trigger a flood of memories.

This week as I walked away from this second job interview in my dirty, black rain boots, (this time for teaching voice lessons- also a success), I smiled and thought, “this is gonna be good.”

Love,

Kelsey

It’s always okay to start over

 

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Dear Indie Girl, 

After exposing my great plans for taking over the world by becoming a writing machine, life did what it does best, and  TOTALLY THREW OFF MY GROOVE!  I went from 2 or 3 weeks of a good writing rhythm where I wrote 5 or 6 song drafts.  Then I, arrogantly shared my success story only to turn around and have a week like this one.  Where I write hardly anything.  

Schedule changes are killers!  And you know what else is a killer?  Not getting enough sleep because you want to stay up and watch one more episode of Kora!  Don’t do that.

I’m a full time musician so the schedule changes really shouldn’t phase me at this point… sadly, they do.  If my schedule gets thrown off, I feel helpless to write a single thing worth hearing.  Mostly because my brain is so focused on what’s going to happen next.  The beauty of sticking to a writing schedule is you don’t need to think about what’s going to happen next.  The latter excuse is just foolishness.  

What I have learned though, is that when these things happen, I’m tempted to guilt trip myself into a routine again.  Don’t do this either.  Self-deprecation is NEVER productive.  If anything it only hinders my writing further.  

When you have a week like this, give yourself some grace, go to bed on time and get back up tomorrow and start over.  It’s always okay to start over.  

Improve your writing by writing bad songs!

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Dear Indie Girl,

The above photo was taken at Shoutfest when I was in my Junior year of high school- 2003.  I’m the one on the right.  My sister, Aubree, and I won a local competition to open up the festival.  One of the judges was Rebecca St. James’ manager.  After we won the contest, he came up to Aubree and me and told us to keep going in music, that we were good.  I was star-struck, obviously.  I LOVED Rebecca St. James and here was her manager telling me and my sister that we had talent!  I thought we had “arrived”.

After recording for about a year, we finally had a product to sell, our very own CD.  This was BIG!  By the time we got done recording the songs, I was so sick of singing them, and ready to move on with more music.  It shouldn’t take a year to record… I learned this later.  I thought I was sick of these songs because we’d played them so much… and we had, but it hadn’t occurred to me that I was sick of them because they were poorly written.  At least not until I went to school and really studied music.  For a long time I would cringe when I’d hear these songs, or look at these pictures because they made me feel inadequate as a writer/performer.  This CD was evidence that I was a flawed writer.

I carried this attitude into college.  In 2005 Aubree and I stopped playing music together as “Kelsey & Aubree” and I went to Cornerstone University to study music.  I worked hard as a music major, but I stopped writing.  When I’d try to write I’d only get frustrated because I think I was growing out of my own writing.  I was starting to sense that I needed to grow as a writer in order to continue to be satisfied with it.  But I didn’t know how to do that.

I went away to Martha’s Vineyard in the fall semester of 2007 to the Contemporary Music Center, an intense 4 month internship for songwriters, performers, students eager to learn about the music industry. That was when I was really challenged as a writer to “get up and go to work”.  To “stop waiting for inspiration”.  These hard lessons every serious writer learns.  I’m still learning these, every morning when I sit down to write and I immediately want to quit.  The best thing I learned that semester was not to be afraid to write a bad song.

George Gershwin used to write 3 songs a day.  The first two were just getting the bad songs out of the way, so he could write one truly good song.  Truth be told I feel more satisfied with my work at the end of the day having written a bad song, than on a day when I haven’t written at all.  And on the days I write a song I don’t like, I’m beginning to learn that that’s PERFECT!  That’s right where I want to be!  Why?  Because it takes writing thousands and thousands of songs to become an expert.  It takes years and years of practice to get really good at something.  And at the end of a week of writing I’ll usually have at least 2 good songs that I can work with (If I sit down everyday to write).  2 out of 5- ain’t bad!  And even if I only have 1 good song a week, those songs pile up quickly for the next album!

So, don’t be afraid to write a bad song.  In fact- write lots and lots of bad songs!  You’ll become a much better writer if you do.

Love,

Kelsey