- Vincent Van Gogh
I love that quote.
So, on August 1st I sent out an email to my email list, announcing that I am officially on the path toward recording my third full-length album (affectionately referred to as GNALP3). This mostly means that I have begun saving money to record the album. One of the bigger realizations I have made the in past year (and there have been many) is that this project is something that is totally sustainable, as long as I work it into my budget and stop treating it like this massive, separate, magical being that requires miracles and sorcery to financially support and maintain. It’s possible for G,NA to be like any other day job; I just have to be realistic about it.
I’ve been working on “being realistic” about G,NA since 2009. I grew up playing music and worshiping rock stars. I didn’t have the Internet, and I didn’t know any bands who were Doing It Themselves until I moved to a bigger city when I was 19, and got introduced to my local underground/punk music scene. Even then, bands were only just starting to use email to book tours. I cold-called venues that I found in BYOFL when it was still in print, in order to attempt booking my band’s first tour. But until that point, I thought bands just started writing songs, looked cool, and then got signed to labels and became famous, having all of their expenses covered by their sweet record label deal, and having all their tours booked by their sweet booking agency. God, that was forever ago. I was a different human being, completely.
Learning about and adopting the DIY philosophy probably affected my life more than any other influence, and it still does to this day. It’s so woven into my foundation as a person that I can’t even separate myself from it anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t fantasized about what it would be like to be signed to a record label that paid for me to spend months in a recording studio, or helped me get on tours with amazing bands, or paid for my merchandise. It would mean giving up a lot of creative control, and sacrificing a lot of my freedom, and compromising on a lot of decisions… but man, how nice it would be if my only job was to work on music and hang out in recording studios and play shows on the road.
That isn’t to say that I haven’t been in a situation where that was my only job. From the end of 2009 through the end of 2010, I didn’t have a steady paycheck, I didn’t pay rent, I was starving and stressed out and sleeping on couches while living out of a suitcase — but, I had nothing else on my agenda other than working on music and playing shows. (I couldn’t afford to hang out in recording studios.)
The problem was: it wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t keep going like that unless I wanted to truly become homeless and live out of a car. Like, literally, put all of my stuff in a car and find places to park so I could sleep, and rely on friends and family to feed me and let me shower. It sounds so romantic, and for a long time I pushed for that lifestyle, but in 2010 and 2011 I started to realize that it was taking a major toll on my self-esteem and my self-worth, to not be able to take care of G,NA on my own. This was another big realization of the past year: going back and realizing that my self-worth was directly linked to my ability to take care of myself.
My Kickstarter campaign in 2011 was a turning point on my path. It was both humiliating and exhilarating to ask my supporters to help me make my second album, and then to see it actually happen. I had to ask for a lot of money, but the response was loving and overwhelmingly positive. So I learned that it’s okay to ask for help, but not to expect it. And it’s okay to ask for money, but only if it’s being directly invested into the project. And most importantly: there are enough people who want to see G,NA continue, that if I do my part in supporting and sustaining the project, it will continue to stay afloat. It will keep going, people will keep supporting it, and I will get to work on music and hang out in recording studios and play shows. It might not be in this glamorous, Radiohead-esque way that I used to fantasize about (can you even imagine what it’s like to be Thom Yorke for a day?!), but I can still have a career. I just might have to work Monday through Friday, and lead a normal life for the most part — which, I’m also realizing, is actually quite beautiful and fulfilling in its own way.
I have been working hard on my realizations and self-care this year. I have a plan and a budget for the next year that should get me to my $5,000 savings goal even if I don’t sell any songs or albums online, or any merchandise, or raise any money any other way. That feels really good. I’m an adult and I can take care of myself and my dog and my baby, which is this project. But that doesn’t mean I can’t ask for help. And I know (because people ask me all the time how they can help) that there are people who want to invest in the project, too. That’s why I started my Gittip account. As of today, I’m receiving $5.50 in anonymous tips per week, from people who want to see G,NA continue. I’m also donating $1 per week to myself on there, from my personal Gittip profile. It wouldn’t be fair to ask for investments if I wasn’t, myself, one of the investors! Check out my G,NA Gittip profile and my explanation of how it works.
This week is all about getting “up and running.” I sent out the email last week, and I’m working on a new website for G,NA, and I’m creating time to update this blog, and find new inspiration for working on new songs. This past weekend, I went to Chicago to see one of my favorite bands, FOALS, play a Lollapalooza aftershow. It was incredible. I stood up front in the small crowd and danced and sang along and enjoyed being a fan. The importance of connecting with music from the fan perspective is another realization I’ve had this year. I’m also realizing how much I miss just playing local shows, having regular band practice, and being part of my local music scene. I’ve gotten involved with the Nashville indie music scene on the fan side, but I’m finally ready to get back into it from the band side, too. Yes, band. I want to put together a band for live, local shows. I want to rely less on backing tracks and more on real instruments. More on that, later. The point is, I am excited to get up an running, to set all these plans and ideas into motion, weaving into them the newly-sprouted realizations I’ve been making about myself, and music, and life. There is so much new growth in my soul that I want to express in everything I do: my actions, thoughts, words, and music. It takes a lot of work to pull out those old weeds and plant something new. But it’s worth it!
P.S. I am doing the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge (presented by Oprah & Deepak), which started on August 5th. I highly recommend it! You have until August 9th to start from Day One: chopracentermeditation.com