Monthly Archives: April 2016

Love in an elevator

afterthedreams

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I know I am supposed to be writing my elevator pitch, but all I can hear in my head is Aerosmith’sLove in an elevator“. Buggered if I know why, but the harmonies and lyrics really grab me.When I listen closer, I can almost get a sense of the message that I need to hear. I can see your amused grin as your mind starts moving along paths that involve turgid flesh, downwards sexual adventures and my pitch.

Mind out of the gutter!

What I am hearing is a message couched inSteven Tylers deep throated vibrancy.

Workin’ like a dog fo de boss man
Workin’ for de company

Oh, I have done that, worked hard, believed in the integrity of my peers and then like Ceasar, collected a fine set of steak knives between my shoulders. Most of the folk I worked with were good people, it…

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One Proud Moment

afterthedreams

I have many proud moments scattered through my life, some that I achieved through my own actions and others that were in spite of the odds stacked against me. So rather than write another pseudo-psychoanalytical post, I thought I would walk through a few of them and remind myself of them before I zero in on one of them.

One moment that is more a series of moments than a singular one is that I played nearly 20 years of competitive volleyball, followed by another 10 years of state level Ultimate. Playing these sports isn’t an achievement as such, but it becomes more so when you understand that I was also boIMG_7329rn with the congenital deformity called talipes equinovarus, better known as clubfoot.

My case of clubfoot was moderate, meaning I could walk and run but would have got to a point, if untreated, that I would be…

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You say you want a revolution? (Day 7, LYL blog challenge)

“What revolution will you lead?” Oy, this is a tough one. As I read this question, I immediately begin to metaphorically shrink into a corner, as I did as a younger person whenever I was addressed in a group. Er, who, me? You’re asking me?! Um…I probably won’t start one, really…

I’ve never planned or desired to lead a revolution. Though it’s true, there are things I’m not happy about in this world, that I’d change if I could. And I know there have been some marvellous industry revolutions led by musicians in the past. So perhaps I can indulge my imagination to answer this question.

If I were to lead a revolution, it might be to tackle a couple of things that strike me as needing change in the music industry today:

  1. the increasingly low income available to original music artists for their works, due to the digital revolution and a smaller and smaller piece of the pie going to artists
  2. the perception by musicians that they can’t make a living from their music (true in part due to point 1)

As I still have much I can do and grow in music and the business of music, many of the obstacles that lay ahead of me are ones I see myself able to overcome, and it’s just a matter of time, devlopment and growth. But the above points, I see as potentially worthy of the attention of a revolution, as they are current roadblocks to many musicians wanting to make a living out of their abilities.

But revolutions aside, I’ll be happy just to keep learning how to make music and develop my skills and my art for now.

planet-wee-san-diego-california-by-night-nikki-smith
‘Wee San Diego’ by Nikki Marie Smith looks to me like the world revolving around a compact disc. 

http://fineartamerica.com/featured/planet-wee-san-diego-california-by-night-nikki-smith.html

What difference do I want to make? (Day 6, LYL blog challenge)

What difference do I want to make?
That’s a question that I find both easy and difficult at the same time. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to answer it in a way that’s completely satisfactory to me. I touched on it in my previous blog, covering my elevator pitch. My elevator pitch tells people that I aim to make a difference with my music, by taking them to a higher place, and better place. But…that’s not very unique, is it? That’s my first thought. My second thought is, does it need to be? Well, I kind of think it does. If I’m going to offer something in what I say, that people won’t get anywhere else, that is. 
The self-effacing side of me says that the statement “They won’t get me anywhere else” just doesn’t cut it. An in and of itself, that statement is true, in my opinion. It’s not enough. On the other hand, it depends on who I am and exactly what I do, doesn’t it? If I think of some other people in history who also called themselves ‘me’, like Nikola Tesla, Terry Pratchett, or Marie Curie, well, then we’re talking about some pretty significant ‘me’s, aren’t we? Amazing, inventive and ridiculously smart and cool people who made something truly special and wonderful out of the word ‘me’. And in the world of music, my field of work, what about Brian Wilson, Nina Simone, Lucinda Williams, Stevie Nicks? There are some pretty amazing folks there who also call themselves ‘me’. So, really, at the end of the day, all you need to do, is be someone super freaking amazing. O-K…maybe way out of my reach. Going to a local, more accessible scale, how about, just being the most awesome version of ‘me’ that I can be, making the most of my time, skills and talents, and producing work that’s the best I can produce given all that. I guess then, if you also want to have a successful blog in terms of making a living out if it, then you also need to write stuff that encapsulates your ‘freaking amazing me’ status, while also (according to Scott Dinsmore’s 4 Pillars to Starting a Blog that Really Matters) doing the following:
  1. Having a cause worth following
  2. Helping people
  3. Producing mind-blowing content
  4. Making real connections
So in conclusion, if I think about the difference I want to make in terms of the above four points, and in light of the people I look up to and want to follow in the footsteps of (in my own small way), i.e. singular and brilliant musicians and songsmiths such as I’ve listed above, then I’d put it like this: the difference I want to make is to  move, touche and help people with the music I create, and to make a connection with those people, through my music and through speaking to and with them. How that happens will, I think, become evident over time. 
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‘Driving the desk’ at my music production course

My elevator pitch (Day 5, LYL blog challenge)

Today’s blog challenge from Live Your Legend was to write your elevator pitch. I have to admit the mess of apologetic words I currently blurt out when people ask what I do, is indeed in dire need of a fix-up. So, let’s do this…

I’ll try not to ramble, but as my answer to the blog challenge I’ve chosen to write out the creative process I took (don’t worry – it’s not too long). Firstly, I’m going to include a snippet of the challenge by LYL, so you can see what points I’ve addressed:

1. Create a minimal viable pitch.

Don’t over-think this. For starters, we want to have an interesting response to the “what do you do” question. You could write and rewrite your pitch until your pen runs dry, but it’s next to useless until you get it out in front of someone. All you need is enough to test. Ideally, have a few versions ready to go.

Your pitch (and follow-up discussion) should answer some or all of the below:

  • What am I excited about?
  • Why am I excited about it?
  • How will it help people? Who does it serve?
  • How does it uniquely tie into my story, passions, talents and/or experience?
  • Why do I care and why should the world care? (Watch my interview with Simon Sinek for a review on the importance of Starting With Why.)

The real goal of our pitch is to talk about something you’re excited about and get a feel for how others react to it.

OK. So, what do I do? Let’s address the above points…
  • What am I excited about? Creating musical compositions, peforming music, taking people to another place with my music, and helping them transcend the state they’re in, and feel better. I help people get high? Haha Or, I help people get lost in the moment?
  • Why? Well, I’m excited about it because it uses (to me) my best and most precious talents; the thing I get the most enjoyment out of, and long to do the most with my life. So therefore I transcend with them. In fact, it’s only through my enjoying and blissing out that I help others do the same.
  • How? And for who? It helps people to forget their worries, it helps their brains to feel good (improving neural connectivity and even helping their mental and sometimes physical health). It serves people who come to my gigs, or listen to my recorded music.
  • It ties in to me? Music is something I’ve always loved to listen to, but took a while to get to do for others. I love to sing, and I love the feeling singing gives me. I enjoy creating music, and there’s a lot of music in my head that I’d like to get out. I’m learning how to do that better now, studying music production.
  • Why do I care? I care because I feel music is one of the most powerful tools we have to bring about positive change. In people – their lives, their health, their mental states; in communities, and in the world – dealing with today’s societal and environmental problems.
So, my pitch will start out something like this:

What do you do?

I help people to get high, to get lost in the moment, and to come out the other side of that moment feeling better than when they entered it. I’m a music creator and performer. I believe music is one of the most powerful ways to help and heal people. I aim to do that through my live music performances, and through my music creations.
What do you think?

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What’s one thing I’m proud of? (Day 4, LYL blog challenge)

The Live Your Legend writing prompt today asked me to think about something I’ve done and accomplished; something I’m proud of. I’ve got to admit, for the first time in this blog challenge, I slipped back into over-prepare mode: an old habit that has held me back from getting things done in the past. The self-critic in me leapt into action (inaction?) with a “You haven’t done anything really that deserves writing about.” I responded with a formerly characteristic knee-jerk reaction, and off I went trawling through my Facebook posts from years ago, my old emails, Google, whatever: in search of the ‘golden achievement’.

Down the rabbit hole I went. Down the drainhole went my valuable minutes, and subsequently, nearly a couple of hours (good thing I started this challenge on my study break!). Then I made a bright decision: “Hmm, maybe I should reread the LYL Day 4 challenge.” “Yeah, maybe you should, genius!” said my inner Genius. 🙂

I read through the three inspiring case studies of Scott, Mike and Leo, and the words of encouragement by the LYL team. I was reminded again of what was important about the challenge: take the first step, and then take another, and so on. And so here I am, now actually writing something. The other words in there that helped me particularly were, “The point is giving yourself the chance to welcome the serendipity.” Ha. BOOM! What was I doing wrong? Well, if you consider Merriam-Webster’s suggestion that ‘serendipity’ is ‘luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for’, I was not giving myself that chance at all with my panicked search for valuable things in my emails and Facebook feed.

The thing is, my best achievements came from the aforementioned ‘taking one step, then another, and so on’. And the achievement I choose, is my becoming a respected local live musician for a living. Yeah, I am proud of that. Proud that despite the fact I left starting that journey a couple of decades longer than I ideally might have, at least I did start taking the steps to turn a love of music and a knowing that I had something to offer, into a career.

Those steps that I’d call action and not just ‘overpreparation’? Well, it’d have to be when I first answered an advertisement to join a band at the age of 31. At the time, despite having taken sporadic singing lessons for years, I had very rudimentary musical skills. Over the next few years I kept learning and developing my voice. I began actually doing the consistent work I needed to do to grow with a goal in mind: to be a professional musician. Before long, in addition to singing I picked up the guitar and began building on what was a very basic and unmusical palette of skills acquired to date. I learned how to build a set list, how to operate a small P.A., how to arrange songs, guitar maintenance, working with others, learning about the history of popular music. As we began to get gigs after a couple of years, I started learning how not to be petrified with fear onstage, and to move ahead to learning how to read audiences and entertain them with songs that were right for the moment.

I went on to work with different musicians, and got to the point myself where I could ably provide sole musical accompaniment for other singers or just myself. I picked up regular work thanks to my friendships and connections with other musos, venue managers, and local venue agents. By 2012, I was working reasonably regular gigs, and I had a great part-time job as a local sales and customer representative for a wonderful Australian company run by people I respected and admired.

However I was restless. I felt something needed to change, but didn’t know what or why. Then in November 2012, I stumbled upon a blog with something in it that spoke to me: the ‘Should I Quit test’. To cut an already long-winded story, by December, I had quit, and became a full-time musician. To me, that was a ‘wow’ moment in my life, and one I’d given up on ever happening years before.

So I am proud of this achievement in my life. I also know only too well it came with the support and encouragement of many people in my life, including my husband, my mum, my work colleagues at the time, and my music colleagues and clients, and also a stranger: one I’d only met through his words in an email mail-out, Scott Dinsmore. But I also know my achievement came from that definitive decision to ignore my fears saying “stop”, and instead, to start.

I’m excited to see what other achievements the universe has in store. 🙂

National solo Oct 2015_3

 

What do people thank me for? (Day 3, LYL blog challenge)

A couple of years ago I decided to create a special note in Evernote: a reminder note. I called the note ‘Mindf%@! Aversion Strategy’ (or MFAS for short). An interesting title, yes? Well, it came about as my eventual response to that ‘enjoyable’ phenomenon I can probably safely say we all go through: self-loathing. Regularly through my life I’ve had doubts, and consistently through my life they’ve stopped me from following my dreams.

When I was 10, and I loved listening to and singing along to my favourite albums, I was so shy that I felt I surely didn’t have any place in the world of my music idols – amazing artists like ABBA, KISS, the Bee Gees, and whoever had made it to radio airplay at the time. At 16, I still kept my singing to my room, and was still way too afraid to take it outside that room. At 20 I restricted my singing to a group, and slipped into the sheltered safety of a choir: my music dreams partly met, I was able to muffle that inner voice. At 30, I finally decided to work on playing music for a living. It would take years before I felt that I was actually giving something of value to people. I finally got to a point where I thought, “Yes, now I deserve to be on this platform, playing music for actual, physical people.” Only with that mindset could I – someone who for all of my teens and twenties loathed being in a spotlight of just 3-4 people in a group conversation – come to a point of being happy and even enjoying playing music solo to a room full of expectant people, and for a venue manager expecting quality music for their spend. Several years into this business, however, there were many times I still couldn’t believe it. So I created the MFAS.

Along with my dear husband, the MFAS is where I go when I’m not sure, or I’ve forgotten, or even worse, I’ve lost belief in the premise that I was born to be a music artist. In it, I write the nice things people have said to me about my music. Things like thanks for making them feel good, for helping them through feelings of darkness, for giving them a buzz, or purely appreciation of my singing and playing. Conversations, emails, passing comments: I jot down the ones that make me feel that warm fuzzy feeling, and keep them in my MFAS. Then anytime I’m on the verge of a crisis of confidence (aka a ‘mindf#@%’ as my other half calls them) I open up the note, and read the nice things. And the nice things people have said remind me not to leave this track, but instead to forge on ahead in full confidence that music is the thing I do that fans a spark and ignites a flame in others. Fortunately, as time passes and my confidence and belief solidifies, I find the need to look at the MFAS less. But I know in times of growth – such as now, with blogging – doubts can return, and I’ll be using it if need be. Actually, I think I might start a section for ‘Blogging’ in it…

I encourage anyone who has felt the same doubts to start your own Mindf%@! Aversion Strategy, or whatever you want to call it. Even if you’re a stable kind of person, the nice things people have said about you are so good to read back over, and well worth keeping somewhere. 🙂

 

Me at 16: I sure could have used a MFAS as a teen…

 

What really makes me angry about the world… (Day 2, LYL blog challenge)

I probably amuse my friends no end with my penchant for ranting on Facebook about stuff I know little about, or have just seen come up on my feed. I don’t do it often, but when I see something that really irks me, I might feel the need to say something about it in a post shared to others. I know this amuses people because recently a friend mentioned it in a real-life meeting. What? I’m that angry chick who gets all red-faced and ranty on Facebook? Nawww, I’m a kind, tender-hearted person who tries to always see the best in people, OK? Well, except that ASS who got into government and used all our money on st00pid, pompous projects, or those DICKS who hurt those animals, and… Er, OK. I get the point.

So, now that I’m a new, non-ranty person, what does get me ‘really’ angry in this world? So much so that I might forgo my new edict to be nice and fluffy on Facebook, and return to my old ranty ways?

Injustice. Any place/time/occasion where people with power hurt or take advantage of people or creatures with less power. I hate that so much.

Why? Because it just cuts to my core. It makes me feel sad. I have been that powerless person to some extent, in some situations. Seeing it in others triggers a reaction in me, and makes me feel like I need to do something, to say something, to help in some small way.

And so I may have to create a separate Facebook for the ranty me.

Rant over.

About that reluctance… (Day 1, LYL blog challenge

Well, here, finally, is my first blog post on this blog I created, oh, more than a year ago? So, why start now? I’m starting now thanks to a timely prompt by Live Your Legend, the organisation started by Scott Dinsmore to encourage people to do work they loved. And despite this being a weekend where I’m supposed to be focussing on other things, I saw the call to start a blog over 7 days, and jumped at it.

I’m writing this, the first blog entry, two days late. And at 20 minutes past midnight, after enjoying dinner with my husband for our anniversary, and finishing one of three Diploma of Sound Production assignments due this weekend. But despite the late hour and perhaps the inappropriate choice to do a blog post while my husband waits for me to come to bed…I am (perhaps dysfunctionally) so happy to be finally starting this, right now.

You see, I’m a frustrated writer. And songwriter. A frustrated writer of words in general. And in LYL’s call to start that blog finally, I felt the urgent call to jump onto the speeding train that was passing by, even though I was perfectly fine busily working on something important trackside.

I’m actually pretty excited about starting a blog.

Oh, and FYI Scott was responsible for me deciding to do music for a living full time a few years ago. I’ve never looked back. I don’t plan on doing it this time either.