Blogging is such a serious affair!
It’s 4.49am, I’ve just completed my meal prep for the coming week and sleep seems to be evading me so what is a Sista to do?
Write a post.
Thus, here we are.
A while ago, a dear friend suggested I write this series – about my experience in venturing into the world of professional singing as an unsigned artist and how I dealt with the roller coaster of emotions, choices, and lessons. After all, what are friends for if not, among other things, to make you stay up late to write a blog? Mmhmm.
I was reluctant to at first because I wanted to be certain I was writing from the right place; with clarity and enough sense to share a thing or two because at the time, I was still dealing with traces of hurt, bitterness, sadness, mental exhaustion, physical exhaustion, confusion, and disappointment – basically a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, I think my head (and heart – never forget the heart because it’s important) is clear enough to show and tell in a helpful way.
Let Me Give You The Back Story
When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I discovered and came to love the phenomenon called Whitney Houston and it had absolutely nothing to do with her popularity. It was for two reasons;
- At that young age, I could detect something powerful from Whitney which many years later, I came to realize was the force called PASSION.
- Listening to her sing set fire to my bones that all (and they are legion I tell you) the distractions, mistakes, confusions and uncertainties of life has not been able to put out.
She inspired me.
(And then I had to do some more growing up, which even I am too tired to bore you with details of, so let’s fast forward)
So last year when I took the decision to step into the world of full-time professional singing, I went for it with all guns blazing.
Here’s what I learned.
Know What You Have or Find Something to Give
‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them’
(From the bible – the book of Ephesians chapter 2 verse 10)
Personally, I think the word ‘talent’ is over flogged (all thanks to Simon Cowell and his talent hunt minions). Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the use of natural abilities because it has the propensity to save time, increase efficiency and yield great results.
However, dedication, time and consistent effort can cause a talent to develop or lead to the discovery of a talent. So, rather than spend the better part of your life searching for that special talent that is uniquely yours, at this moment in time, what can you offer?
Knowing what you can do is not as difficult or mysterious as some would like to portray (like signing up for 10 sessions of yoga classes or a pilgrimage to some mountain in Jerusalem to pray – Nah)
Simply consider the following:
- What do you like?
- What do you dislike?
- What do you have/make time for?
- What comes to you easily?
- What do people compliment you for?
- What is available to you? I.e. Writing short stories, playing an instrument, cooking, fashion designing, volunteering, studying, talking, blogging (mmhmm), etc
For me, I liked music, dislike music with crappy lyrical content or when the sound is just off, have and make time for music, have decent ears for music and…well…Bud says he could listen to me sing all day (the dude knows a happy wife is a happy life, so he knows to say the right things).
Note: Saying you love spending time with the brethren or in the house of The Lord is downright boring. Like we’ll say in Nigeria – na who dat one ep? (translates to – of what use is your love for the brethren?)
Count The Cost and Assess the Risk(s)
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?”
(From the bible – the book of Luke chapter 14 verse 28)
Most people would remember excerpts from the hit song by Doris Day;
‘Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be’
Well, when I was still a little girl, I used to sing that song a lot too (I also liked ‘Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars…’ – the oldies are truly the goldies). However, those words could not be any further from the truth. Reason being that things that weren’t supposed to be, happen. Such as Donald Trump becoming president (No, I won’t let that one go) and an African getting a sunburn.
Bottomline, anything is achievable, it’s just a matter of WHAT IS THE COST and HOW MUCH are YOU willing to pay?
Counting the cost means counting the cost. Feelings, good intentions, and great ideas do not put food on the table, pay the bills or inspire anyone until you can devise a way to convert all of that into something of value that would meet a need.
I quit my day job to go into full-time singing sometime last year but plans for that had been in the works for a couple of years and by plans I mean research, vocal lessons, accepting cheapskate or free gigs, building a network and saving up some money.
From research, the main cost I would have to pay was having enough income/savings to fund my budding music career because for an unsigned artist, starting out in full-time music is the lowest paying job.
So you need to decide on what you can do without, changes in lifestyle (every payday doesn’t have to be a spend day) and how much disappointments, rejections, scarcity, and opposition you can take because girl, you will experience all of those; sometimes all at once.
Sift What You Hear
“I have to fight the good fight because people are telling me I can’t. You can’t do this, you can’t, are you crazy? You’re moving to California with your son, you’ll never make it. I was 26 when I decided to come here. There’s the age thing. ‘Oh, you’re too old.’ If you listen to people, and if you allow people to project their fears onto you…you won’t live”
– Taraji P. Hensen
As a reformed ex-member of the ‘me, myself and I’ society (sayonara Beyoncé!), I can say this with complete conviction:
- You need people but not everyone is necessary to/for you.
- Most of your opposition will be internal, that is from the familiar crowd not external
So choosing who you listen to is almost as important as the dream or idea itself. Most folks are nice, really, and their comments or ‘advice’ will come from a good place. You just need to consider if that good place is good enough for you.
Here are few lines I heard in my time;
“Why not have kids and do this later?”
“If you were younger, you would have had a better chance”
“So, when are you going to get pregnant?”
“You need to have a baby if you are looking for what to do”
Before you feel sorry for me, let me just say the commenters were handled. Mmhmm!
Seriously though, having people around who can ask some hard questions or criticize constructively is one of the greatest blessings you can enjoy when embarking on a new project so choose that group of persons wisely then simply ignore the rest.
Note: Not all your friends will get you. some will run with you while others will stand and watch. That’s ok, be nice to all. Remember, don’t burn any bridges. Just don’t pass on the lighter.
Practice, Practice, Practice
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”
At some point in secondary school, I use to like calculus (I know it’s hard to believe, even I find it hard to believe). So I would ask my brother (who happened to be a genius in maths) to come up with challenging equations for me to practice solving. And each time I solved a problem I would ask him for more complex ones to solve.
Although now I cannot solve a differential equation to save my life, I did get an A in my final exams though.
On the making of the very iconic ‘Single ladies’ video, choreographer Frank Garson Jr remarked, “They danced so hard that they kept breaking the [high heels of the] shoes”. He also commented that the dancers (including Beyonce) performed the entire dance at least 50 times all the way through.
Now, I am no Beyonce fan but one thing I can attest to is, that woman puts in hours and hours of practice time into her craft – be it singing or dancing. And the results are always clearly evident which translates into her worth.
So what do you practice? For me, practice was paid vocal lessons on the other side of town, several hours of personal practice time, several hours of watching and studying live performances, accepting unpaid gig so I can practice being on a stage and managing a crowd, volunteering in music groups, writing and re-writing only to do it all over again.
I can say first hand that practice doesn’t just make you better at what you do, it also helps you grow, build confidence and makes your craft or interest more refined.
So if you want to see the results, put in the leg work.
Take That Step
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done before.”
One of my many ‘ideas’ was to create a body of musical work that is originally mine that hopefully would inspire. I had never done that before so I did something I had never done before; take a step away from regular work and into professional singing.
I came out with an EP titled ‘Voyage‘ (a body of musical work that is completely originally mine) and an experience that is most worthwhile. (The Hubby insists I tell you that ‘Voyage’ is available via the link above on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, CDBaby, etc!)
“You will never finish something you do not start”
One important factor to remember is to be prepared to learn (this will help you handle all the drama along the way better). Taking that step does not mean that you know. It means you are prepared to know so it’s okay to say ‘i don’t know’ along the way (just don’t make it your mantra).
Oh! and don’t forget…
Live – spend time with friends, learn an instrument (don’t be like some people we know), say ‘no’ just because you can, pray, work hard…
And prepare for the show!