Thursday, August 31, 2006

the only thing to fear is..failure, rejection, self-loathing disappointment, change...and oh, yeah, fear

I got a really nice email yesterday from a couple in Holdridge (surely you've heard of Holdridge, NE?) who run a house concert series. They were at the Beiroc CafĂ© last winter when I did the opener for Justin Roth. It was my first (and only) out of town gig. They asked if I would come do the opener for Peter Mayer at their house concert on October 7. I am so pleased to be invited. And I really enjoy and admire Peter Mayer’s music. I’ve checked my schedule (and Paul’s and the kids’ and the church’s) and I think we’re clear (Paul has to do a wedding so he might come late…?).

Like every singer/songwriter venue in rural Nebraska (okay, so there are three: The Listening Room, The Beiroc & The Balcony--which is the house concert series), The Balcony is not minting money. I know from working with the Listening Room that it is a labor of love to scrape together funds for a venue, lights, sound and artist’s fees. Then you hope enough people come to recoup and leave a little extra for down payment on your next show. None of them can afford to pay an opener. Tim from The Balcony explained that rather apologetically, but I’m not surprised or shocked or offended. I’ve yet to be paid for a show. He did say that I could certainly bring cds to sell.

I don’t have a cd.

There is absolutely no reason I don’t have a cd, except my own fear.

My unbelievably kind, generous and supportive friends bought me a gift certificate for some studio time over a year ago. I didn’t use it. I just kind of froze up. I didn’t know how best to use it. I could go in, just me and my guitar, and get some clear, simple recordings down. I could chalk it up to education and be pleased if I got a nice demo out of it. Or I could get an ensemble together, rehearse and go in and try to make a full recording of one or two songs. I feel bad asking people to invest their time in that---which makes no sense because I’d be thrilled if one of my musician friends asked me to do it for them! And everyone is always so willing and eager to play--it has everything to do with my fear and nothing really to do with my pals. Which songs to record? What if I got in the studio and wasn't feelin' it? What if the engineer and I didn't hit it off and s/he didn't understand what I wanted to do? What if I made a fool out of myself because there is so much stuff I should know but don't?

My friend Tom, who often plays & sings with me--he‘s my wingman, has a cousin who is a sound engineer in LA. He told Tom, and me when I met him last year, that if I email him digital tracks he’ll mix them for me….unbelievably cool and generous. But I’ve got nothing.

What I need is a mentor. A producer. Someone I trust to take me by the hand and say, “Here is the first step….[enter whatever the first step is]. Here is what instruments I think would sound best on this song.. Here is where you should record it. This is the engineer we should use. Here is where we’ll send it off to be mixed and mastered.”

So, yes, I am afraid of the unknown wilds inside a recording studio. I need a guide.

I’m also afraid of the unknown wilds of life with a cd to promote.

Because making any sort of cd. Having any sort of budget is going to be an investment and a risk. If I shell out money ($100 or $5,000) I am going to want to earn that back and then some. That’s kind of the point, right? And that stirs up a myriad more fears.

I don’t think I’m afraid that people won’t buy it. I know that, although all entries to contests or showcases have born no fruit, in general, my music is liked. People come to my shows. People ask me to play more shows. People ask when I’m going to have a cd for sale.

It's that recording a cd is a commitment. It’s a commitment to pursuing the singer/songwriter thing as more than just a hobby. Once money enters the equation it becomes a business. One can’t really fail at a hobby, but one can fail at business. It’s a commitment to the songs I record. If I want to entice listeners to buy a cd, I have to play the songs that are on the cd. I’m already developing a complicated relationship with my greatest hit, Boone’s Farm Wine. I’m proud of that song. Everyone loves that song. But I sometimes I feel like that’s all people think I am: Boone’s Farm Wine. I usually close with it, but the last time I did the opener for the Listening Room (for Darrell Scott!) I played it first, which was freeing. I thought, “this is not my best song anymore!” But it is still the one that everyone wants to hear. Once I record I am going to be committed to those 10 songs.

It’s also a commitment that means change. It’s taking the next big step. It means I might have to start pursuing more gigs--outside the places I know. I might have to drive more than 2 hours to a gig. I might have to stay overnight. I might have to set up my own sound, which would mean having to learn something about sound engineering or actually purchase a mixer or something. I might have to figure out how to juggle my schedule and my kids‘ schedule and Paul‘s schedule. I might have to learn how the finances of booking and royalties and all that other stuff that I know nothing about and don’t know enough to name work.

It’s taking a leap. And it scares me. But maybe now is the time. Maybe next year is the time. Maybe I should stay a hobbyist with half-decent basement recordings. Maybe some music business angel will swoop down and whisk me smoothly into the world of recording and playing paying gigs….or maybe I should get off my ass and start learning some of this stuff and making my dreams and my life happen for me. We’ll see.

thanks to jill for teaching me how to do these links and please pardon my overuse of's fun.

1 comment:

jill said...

Em-- I wrote that email before having read this post...which seems kind of divine to me. All of that email stands, and even more so now. As a sister champion of bold steps, I've got your back. Lots of people "got your back," and can't wait to see you soaring!