“If you wake up in the morning, and you can't think of anything but singing, then you should be a singer, girl”
Ah Sister Act II – one of the greatest movies of all time!! But whilst that’s all very well and good advice Whoopi, choosing to pursue a life as a singer and/or songwriter is basically committing to a life of various rejection, uncertainty, insecurity, online abuse and of course financial instability…essentially a life of constant ball-ache (metaphorically for some of us of course)! And even for those who do ‘make it’ (whatever that means to you) they say it takes 20 years to make an ‘overnight success’ so those that are successful will still have endured at least some of this and may continue to do so forever more.
I decided to write this after turning 28 because like all other late twenty-something’s I know, we suddenly sit up and ask ourselves ‘am I where I thought I would be by now?’ which is usually followed by ‘holy s**t-f**k I have a lot to do before the big 30’!!
Unfortunately this 'concern' with aging is more prevalent for those of us pursuing a life as a singer! I know singers (read: female singers) who have been told by their management to keep their age a ‘mystery’ because they are fast approaching or over 30! Yes I’ve actually met some of these women - this is not an urban sexist myth you may have heard! But this is not a blog on sexism so I will move Taylor swiftly on……I do not keep my age a mystery but I very much recognise that I would now be considered an ‘oldie’ if ever I dared go on one of those ‘reality’ talent shows and people would say things like ‘wow –this is her last chance…good for her for taking one final leap…I hope she at least gets through because that would be really nice for her’…which makes me want to vomit into a hat (although thanks for the votes of course). But this is also not a blog about ageism……..
So I turned 28 and I’ve asked the ‘what the capital F have I been doing since high school?’ question! I think its accurate to say that I have been trying to ‘be a singer’ since flying the nest at 18 (although it wasn’t so much ‘flying the nest’ but more that my parents moved back to Poland and I wasn’t invited….maybe ‘the nest flew from me’ is more apt). Since then I did the traveling thing, got myself a degree in Anthropology, moved to London and have since been holding down a couple of jobs (two at a time mostly) all whilst gigging and writing songs wherever and whenever I could – always having my rent and bills paid as priority.
Like most things of course, 'trying to be a singer' has given me ups and downs. There have been unread emails and rejection emails, but also emails of love, praise and support, people have come to my gigs, people haven’t come to my gigs, people have bought my music, some have illegally downloaded it, I’ve been told to dye my hair black/blonde/red/white and told to get ‘em out/put ‘em away…and so forth (you get the gist).
Now I could go on and on about all the challenges of trying to be an artist in today’s world…at MY age especially…but there are already a million and one other blogs out there about how artists today have to be the creative, the manager, the marketing expert, the social media guru, video director and editor, stylist, tour manager, roadie and so on…and bank roll the whole lot themselves…..and how that totally sucks ass…and I’m sure that after reading all that bitching you may think either of the following;
1) gosh she is such a whiny so-and-so, let me get out my tiny violin and play her the saddest song ever to be played
2) I totally agree with everything she is saying – I am also an artist and my metaphorical balls do in fact ache all the time as a result!!!!
So why do I keep on doing it then? I’m sure my parents would like to know because whilst being the most supportive parents in the entire universe they would definitely sleep better at night if I was just happy doing my 9-5 or became a lawyer or teacher or simply ANYTHING with guaranteed income and stability.
Well dearest parents and all, in the simplest form…because I can’t NOT do it!!!! and THAT is what Whoopi was saying back in the 90s!
So put your tiny violins away…
It may come as a surprise to some that despite the occasional “you’re not quite what we are looking for” emails, the financial struggles, all of the slogging around London carrying instruments, learning to build websites and Youtube banners and late nights at networking events…that I absolutely LOVE every second of it! I strangely love that the life I am choosing to live will never be straight forward, will never be easy, will never be certain! There is no ladder to climb, there is no one way up (only a million ways back down again) and as technology continues to challenge the industry…financial stability will only continue to be a pipe dream for most of us (read: pay for your music everyone).
I love going to networking nights not knowing who I might meet and end up calling a friend for life! I love playing at gigs not knowing who will be moved by the songs I’ve written! I love walking into a co-writing session with someone I’ve never met and leaving with a new song that beforehand never existed! I love catching someone singing my songs! I love the challenges of learning how to build a website myself just so I can save some money!
Knowing how much music means to me and how songs have affected my life…I love the fact that I could create something that might affect someone else in the same way!!!
For those (unfortunate) people who know me…I am not a particularly open person. I’m certainly an honest person but I can also be a little guarded emotionally. I hate public displays of affection. Very few people have seen me cry and I will never (never say never) be the first one to say I love you. But writing songs and singing them is my (clichéd) way of getting everything off my chest. I can write and sing about how I feel…how I think others might feel, what I should have said, what I still want to say and what I will never say! And so yeah it may be a cliché but that’s the truth of it and I think it’s pretty awesome!!
This is not a lifestyle choice for the weak-hearted that's for sure and 10 years into the 20 year slog for 'overnight success' I can report that it's been totally worth every minute! And if you are like me and you simply can’t NOT do it- even if you have to do one or two jobs as well just so that you CAN do it even a little…then I tip my empathetic and respect filled hat to you!
So there you have it…my rambling brain! This has been super long and so I will quickly end this blog post by repeating Whoopi’s wise words once more but without the Hollywood and instead? a little bit of reality….
“If you wake up in the morning, and you can't think of anything but singing, and you are quite possibly insane beyond all reason and logic…then you should be a singer, girl”
Hugs and high fives
x x x