Behind the Scenes: The Getaway  

When I was in my early twenties, I had a habit of running away. From jobs, from towns, from situations that were going pear-shaped -- I would literally pack up my car in the middle of the night and leave. Luckily, I grew out of this by the time I was 25, which is when people generally start having less patience for adolescent bullshit. But this tendency to bail before getting bailed on was symptomatic of a deep sense of inferiority on my part. On some molecular level, I felt like people were simply tolerating me. I was grateful to be invited to the party because I didn't feel like I deserved to be there. I rarely broke off romantic entanglements, even when they turned bad or my paramours would use words like "expresso", because I wasn't confident that other people would find me attractive or interesting. And if I had any validation for these fears in the form of abandonment, I would absolutely shrivel up and die like a gremlin who had been dunked one too many times. I looked back on these half-finished situations -- the friendships, the jobs, the lives -- and wistfully mourn what might have been. Whenever I revisited these memories, I viewed myself as the one who had lost out. 

Until one day, I said, "To hell with that." What if they were the ones who had messed up? Who had lost access to me? What if I was the one who got away and not the other way around?

To be clear, these situations were complex and ghosting on your own life is generally not the move. But it was the first time in my life that it occurred to me to value myself and view my own company as a privilege that could be won and lost. 

That mentality, when applied to the music industry in general, has helped me through some low points where it would have been so easy to say "I missed out." But I didn't. I haven't. And I'm done running away. 

 

Much like "Real Good", this song was written over two years ago when I was working long hours as a teacher. I stumbled across the first few chords in an evening ukulele lesson, and before I knew it, the song had poured out of my hands. It's not a complicated ballad -- just a handful of chords that my band was able to wrap in frenetic licks and bucks. What my guitarist Josh calls "some real barnyard shit" in a beautiful tribute to the genre I've chosen to dedicate my life to. I wrote this song while adopting the character of a brave woman who could leave a situation and feel confident that other opportunities were on the horizon. She's not a character anymore. I'm not sure if the moral of this story is that you should "fake it 'til you make it" or if it's that being in your early twenties is a profoundly stupid and traumatic experience. Probably some mixture of both. So if you are 23 and going through it, keep going. If you've resigned yourself to a shitty situation because you feel like you can't do better, get angry and get out. Tell 'em I told you to. 

Behind the Scenes: Seven Days  

Hey there! 

As I gear up to start releasing new music, I thought I'd share some snippets from the making of this album. If you've followed me on any social media platform or seen my IGTV series "Do You Know WTF You're Doing?" then you know I've struggled with imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy, compounded heavily by the highlight reel we create on social media. I'm always fascinated, relieved, validated, and comforted when people take the time to demystify and humanize their own processes, so I thought I'd do the same and share some insights into the process of making an album while completely unsigned, sleep deprived, semi-broke, and also clueless! Buckle up. 

My husband (then-boyfriend) and I released "Livin' Right" in 2017. I'm enduringly and endlessly proud of this album, and at the same time recognize that it was a huge learning experience for me. There was so much I didn't know, both about the resources available to me as an artist and about myself as a songwriter. By the time Will and I were married, we'd formed a co-writing unit and had started assembling what we knew would be our third full length album, and in many ways a "first" album. Our writing sessions usually go something like this:

 

Me: Here are the chords

Him: This is in Eb

Me: Okay I am using a capo because I am trash

Him: *continues to speak in Eb*

Me: *cries* 

 

Putting out an album always costs a lot of money and emotional resources; as proud as we were of our previous gains, we knew that we needed to aspire to a slightly more vertical rise in success with our next project. In an act of total cognitive dissonance, we also decided to have a baby immediately after getting married. While some (most?) people might have decided to delay a massive life event until after completing an important professional project, we charged forth, with the added motivation that if we fucked up our album we would be bad artists AND irresponsible parents!

My songs took shape in our basement with our amazing band (Josh, Andrew, Alexandra and Sweet Dan). Will tried his best not to speak in Eb around me and I tried my best not to let my pregnancy hormones transform me into a horrible crone. I'd decided to focus on solo performances throughout my pregnancy so that my band and I could hibernate and build a new set -- sometimes it was hard watching my friends perform live, but it was also fun and refreshing to turn inward. By spring of 2019, we had our first day in the studio with the amazing Ben Green of Ivakota in DC. Because I funded all our time in the studio myself, our sessions were spaced out. All in all, we had three full band days, and recorded three songs per day. These days were mostly comprised of Will, Andrew and Josh doing the hard work while I sat in the studio and slowly ingested cheese cubes. I had another two sessions for vocals and guitar, and violin and trumpet were recorded remotely. Seven days, from May 2019 to September 2020. With financial backing it could have taken a week or two, but then I would have missed out on seeing how passionate and dedicated my band was. They waited with me for 14 months. 

We recorded Real Good on the first day, and that was the day that I started to believe we could do it. And I wanted to do it, so I could tell my daughter that we did something brave and risky when conventional wisdom was quietly telling me to give up. I want her to know about the things that made her -- the yearning and the stubbornness and the sheer force of will. The voice that won't let you quit. The thing with feathers that perches in the soul and says, "Maybe today."  

And cheap champagne, of course. Who am I kidding. 

 

To Be Known & Loved 

Vulnerability as an artist is a difficult topic to tackle in that it has so many layers, corners, and nuances. On the one hand, I feel like if I'm not creating art that is genuine and representative of myself, then it's not worth the effort. There's only one of me, and despite how many honey mustard pretzels and burned CDs of musical theater soundtracks and cheap sundresses you might throw in a cauldron, I can't be replaced (one is more than enough). And I can say the same thing about every single one of you! That's why we listen to each other's songs and read each other's stories: there is something each of us can create that no one else can create. Hence: vulnerability is priceless.  

And yet, we need to articulate and package our thoughts in digestible ways. I don't think putting on make up is disingenuous -- in fact, for some folks, make up helps them become their truest selves. I don't think curating an Instagram feed is disingenuous and I don't think spending time making a song that has a certain amount of appeal is disingenuous. It means we are creating accessibility. Gestating your art is absolutely a genuine part of the process and I will GLADLY tell your lo-fi indie boyfriend that soliciting the services of professionals doesn't make someone a "sell-out." Like seriously, give me his number I just wanna talk.  

And yet, as I sit here toggling back and forth between eight different artist profiles, attempting to make them all look uniform and professional, and as I sit in the middle of a messy house with a sleeping baby, as I wear expired foundation and ride a few waves of jealousy over the success of my peers, as I draft a pre-save campaign for an upcoming single, I can't help but feel like a little bit of a liar. I pretend like I have my shit together because I want people to have faith in my art but the truth is, I'm learning as I go. Literally. Today I googled "pre-save campaign ??" with one hand while finding a Sesame Street with a hot celebrity cameo with the other (please don't judge me I have been inside for TEN GODDAMN MONTHS). I'm proud of my accomplishments, my bravery, my gumption, and the knowledge that I've acquired, but there's so much I DON'T know, and there are so many ways I feel inadequate.  

I'm sharing this to see if (A) anyone can relate and (B) to help bridge the occasional chasm between honesty and presentability. 

REAL GOOD 

Me in March: I'm going to learn piano, French, and yoga!

Me in November: *has seen every episode of Outlander seven times; couch is permanently dented from literally carrying the weight of this family* 

 

I wrote this song over two years ago, when my now-husband and I were living in a small apartment that didn't get much sunlight, I was working three jobs trying to get on top of some credit card debt, this album was just a seedling of an idea, and my daughter didn't exist yet. I wrote the opening chords while I was helping some of my students get packed up after a long music lesson. I knew I was about to go home and start drinking, or watching TV, or texting my best friend about our mutual hatred of certain people, or some other vice that would numb my brain and require very little of me. to my credit, I had some level of awareness that I needed to come up with better ways to cope with my life, and hence: this song was born. 

 

I think I've gotten a lot better at being Good. You know, it's a two steps forward, one step back thing. Quarantine has simultaneously forced me to come up with better life skills and habits, while also teaching me self-forgiveness for when I royally fuck up and start drinking mimosas and scrolling fandom Tumblr at 11 am on a Wednesday. I mean, I think I currently have a load of laundry mouldering in the machine downstairs, and I could choose to berate myself over that -- but I think sometimes being Real Good means forgiving yourself when you simply aren't. 

 

Okay my baby is eating a puzzle piece and I have to try to show up to work on time. Thanks for reading -- can't wait to share this single with you!