Behind the Curtain
Disclaimer: this post discusses mental health and the use of medication. I would like to make it clear that I am not a licensed professional and my opinions as they relate to my personal experience are my own. Being that these are unfiltered thoughts, they are in no circumstance meant to be treated as fact or used as guidance for others. Anyone considering these things should speak to and trust the opinion of their doctor.
I was on too much of a roll last night. I started out being productive but then I ended up wanting to watch all of my old TikToks for some reason and now I find myself awake at 9:30 AM. I wish I wasn’t like this. I’m upset because it’s been beautiful outside all week and I haven’t made it to the park. I was sure today was going to be the day and now it’s not. I also have to get my toe checked out because it’s been feeling numb since last weekend. I figure it’s probably just from wearing new shoes to a friend's wedding, but not knowing for sure scares me. I tried to go to the urgent care I could walk to yesterday, but they don’t take my insurance.
Today has been awful. I tried to make use of my inability to sleep by creating some social media posts for my two performances coming up next weekend. I then got on the phone with unemployment again and got nowhere. Then, one of the performers for my “Behind the Songs” show (the one we are filming and the one my family is going to be in town for) pulled out. Now I have an incorrect poster and a position to fill. The venue specified I needed three performers so this is stressing me out. I was hoping to only have people play who were involved in my EP project. That was important to me. I know I can find someone, you can throw a pebble and hit an amazing performer in this town but that’s not the point. I was at least proud of myself for getting that poster out and checking something off of my to-do list, and now it’s inaccurate and I need to hunt down another performer. Then, I realized I forgot a friend's birthday. I feel like I can’t do anything right.
The contrast in my feelings from last night to today is making me genuinely concerned for my mental health. I don’t want to overshare, but I am just not sure what to do. I’ve never been this way before, and I know that most of the issues with my sleep, mood, and anxiety are circumstantial. That is why I’ve resisted seeking medicinal help. I truly don’t believe my brain is the problem. When I have a solid job or am on vacation or enjoying my time with family/friends or working on something that I love like music (for the most part) everything is fine. I don’t want to become dependent on something or take medications via trial and error and end up screwing things up more.
What worries me today is the fact that my sleep schedule is impacting my joy. I didn’t have to wake up for work today. I was going to go to a pumpkin patch or the park, something I’d be doing just for my own joy and this kept me from that. I was also unable to get my toe checked out because I slept too late (and because the Lyft rides are expensive so that was also a factor) and that sort of thing puts my physical health at risk, something I normally always prioritize.
The thing is though, circumstances are involved here too. I walked to the urgent care and didn’t get what I needed not because I didn’t take the initiative, but because of affordability issues.
To put it plainly, I don’t think medicating people is always the answer, especially for people like me. If doctors could prescribe people the money to actually solve their problems, I bet a lot of people wouldn’t need to be on medication for stress, anxiety, or depression. And don’t get me wrong, I am pro-medication, pro-modern medicine, pro-vaccine, all of that. There are people out there who need medication regardless of where they’re at in life. More power to those people I’m glad they are getting what they need, I’m just not sure if it’s right for me.
I’m also well aware that I've chosen this path for myself. It's a self-inflicted struggle. I’ve chosen a life that is fairly unstable and stressful. If I just got a normal nine-to-five job out of college and didn’t aspire for things that seem impossible, maybe I’d feel better. Maybe I wouldn’t be dealing with these things. It’s the whole “insane artist” trope all over again. That trope is problematic for a lot of reasons.
As an artist, it is difficult to exist and be positive in a world with so much potential yet so many problems. By nature, most artists I'd say are optimists...visionaries. We (or at least speaking for myself and other artists I know) believe wholeheartedly in better things most refuse to see or believe are worth pursuing. Those of us in Nashville (or other similar places trying to make it) did so because we believed in our dreams more than our doubts. Yet most of the time, all we get in return is failure and disappointment. We feel terrible on the inside and it’s a constant struggle of feeling like we’re imposters, like we’re not good enough, like we don’t belong here. Yet for some godforsaken reason, we forge ahead anyway because we can’t shut out that small but loud part of us that still believes we do. Most normal people would call that delusional. In that case, living a delusional lifestyle, or rather choosing to do so, probably does take a toll on one’s mental health. But the thing is, it does work for some people. Some people go for it and end up living their dream life, confirming every belief they ever had. Do we call them crazy?
I know I need to make a change. I’m going to try the alternative method of just trying to improve myself mentally and physically, being more disciplined, staying off my phone after midnight, and things like that. If it comes down to it I’ll seek out more. Today was hard, but I faced setbacks today. I’m in a stressful state of life so even small setbacks feel big. I am not sure yet if that means I need help with my mental health beyond lifestyle and attitude changes. Time will tell. Till then I’m just going to do my best until it becomes overwhelming apparently more is needed. I truly don’t feel like I’m there yet. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time. I’m just not sure what to trust about it.
Today started out as frustrating as every other day but ended on a positive note.
Long story short my money is running out. I still haven’t gotten a single unemployment check. I’m not sure what I’m going to do after this month if I don’t get something.
That is just baseline anxiety I’m dealing with, but on top of that, I’ve also been pretty stressed about my upcoming shows. I’ve got a round on the 7th and a showcase on the 8th. Both dates crept up on me and I feel unprepared (cue Rome again.)
Today I had a rehearsal with the guitar and fiddle players accompanying me on Saturday. I was worried because we only have one rehearsal before the show, but the arrangements came together nicely.
This was supposed to be my release party. It was supposed to be with a full band at a different venue. Crazy to think I thought I could pull that off.
The EP is coming along, I just have to do harmonies and background vocals on three more songs, and film the music video. I also have to film a performance separately for my documentary. Originally I was just supposed to film this show, but due to scheduling conflicts, we’re going to do it in a studio instead. Although that’s one more task, it’s probably for the best. One less thing to have nerves about that day.
My family is going to be in town for both shows, so that will be fun. I just hope I can pull off good performances and not make a fool out of myself. Even if I do, at least I know they’ll be nice to me.
After my rehearsal, I went to my boyfriend’s (who also plays guitar) to go over some songs for the round prior to the Saturday show. I had hoped to play some new songs but again haven’t had a lot of practice time. The dates snuck up on me. We went over some familiar ones and tried a new one. We’ll see how it goes. I feel bad because I always feel like I play the same songs at this venue. I don’t want them to think I have nothing else to offer. I wish I just played guitar already, that would make these things so much easier.
I’m trying to have the mindset of preparing as best as I can and then the day of, just focusing on having fun. If it isn’t perfect, it’s not going to kill anyone. All I can do is my best with the time and circumstances I’ve been given.
I wanted to write an entry right away to capture myself in a rare good mood. I just got back from the studio after recording harmonies and background vocals for my song Dandelion. For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know Dandelion is my best song to date and harmonies are my favorite part of the recording process.
I am ecstatic about the way things turned out today. It’s always so rewarding to hear your ideas come to life after literal years of waiting. It sounds AMAZING and I can’t wait for it to be heard. We’re finishing up with the chorus tomorrow.
In this music industry landscape full of heartache, rejection, and setbacks, tonight was one of those rare beautiful moments that reminded me why I’m here. Reminded me why I’ve sacrificed so much. This is where the magic happens.
I needed today. I feel like I’ll have just as much fun tomorrow. I’m only a couple of sessions away from actually finishing this thing. It’s crazy to think about.
Another amazing day of recording. The harmonies on my song Dandelion make me want to cry (in the best way.) It’s crazy how I’ve been working on this project for two long years and we’re so close to wrapping it all up.
I deserve to be happy and I deserve for this to go well. I feel optimistic and excited for the first time since I lost my day job. This feeling is the reason I am here and made it this far.
Today I took a risk and failed, but I’m still proud of myself.
I had a writer's round at the Commodore Grille. It was fun because I actually hosted the round and invited all of the other players to play with me.
One of the challenges I continue to face is the fact that I can’t play guitar yet. It really inhibits me from taking opportunities, but also it hinders my ability to play new songs. The last couple of times I’ve played at this venue, I’ve played the same songs.
Now my family was in town for a girl's trip, and they were all here. It would have been very easy for me to play it safe and give a solid performance of my go-to tunes, but I didn’t want to do that. So I attempted to play a couple of newer songs, one of which was challenging for me to sing.
Success was a 50/50 shot. I went into it knowing that, but I wanted to take the shot anyway. I wanted to be brave, and it almost paid off.
This is a song whose high notes I'd really have to train and focus on to hit. I’ve had some vocal training so I know the exercises I need to do consistently in order to hit these kinds of notes, but I lacked the time and energy to go over the song adequately before the performance.
So, I gave it my best. I was hoping under the stage lights something would just click and it would happen for me. After successfully completing the first verse and chorus, I believed that it was.
But then came the second verse and my voice began to falter. I also messed up the lyrics, but I finished the song.
At first, I felt upset embarrassed, and disappointed in myself. But as we did our next couple of passes, I realized it wasn’t such a big deal. Like I’d been telling myself before the show, if I miss a note it isn’t going to kill anybody.
I’m proud of myself for having the courage to try. People can say or think what they want about me but nobody can make the claim that I’m not brave and I don’t go after things, even if they’re challenging.
When I was brand new to town, my main focus was being as clean and perfect as possible. However, now that I’m more seasoned I can afford to take some risks. I’ve noticed that the artists who have played around longer are usually the ones up there at a round trying a song they wrote like, ten minutes before going on.
It’s cool to see myself grow into that phase of my Nashville journey. I may not have executed the song properly, but I’m proud of myself for going for it instead of playing it safe. I know one of these days that will pay off.
It was also fun for me to be able to invite someone to play their first show at this venue. One thing I really wanted to do once I got any traction in this town was encourage and embrace newcomers the way my first couple of connections did for me. Pay it forward.
It was really fun to host the round, my first time doing so. It’s a different vibe for sure and I still need to grow into the leadership role but I loved inviting friends to play with me. I hope to do it more.
Moving to Nashville and pursuing a livelihood in music in and of itself is a considerable risk. I’d encourage all artists to keep taking risks and know that failure is an important part of the process if you’re feeling uncomfortable. It means you’re growing.
I had my “Behind the Songs” showcase and it went better than I could have hoped.
I haven’t been able to reflect on it yet because the past couple of days with my family in town have been busy, but I’m going to try and do my best.
I went into the night feeling cautiously optimistic. My hair, makeup, and outfit were on point so that started things off well (it’s hard not to feel like a star in silver sequin boots.) I got to the venue at 6:30 pm for soundcheck and nobody was there. I knew I had people coming and still, I was nervous that people wouldn’t show up. When they finally did, the show got rolling and I was a lot more at ease.
I tried my best to be in the moment and just have a good time. I was coming off my not-so-great performance the night prior and had only one rehearsal with my accompanying musicians, plus I didn’t prepare a script for my pre-song speeches, so there was definitely potential for major screw-ups. Of course, there’s always the fear of potentially forgetting the words to your own songs.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. I felt very loved and supported immediately when the curtains opened so it really set the tone for confidence. Reflecting back on the last time I performed a showcase in this venue, having more years of experience under my belt now, I was a lot more comfortable and confident up there. I also had a fiddle player along with an acoustic guitar, which was an added boost. It’s the closest I’ve come yet to playing a full band show.
Nights like these remind me why I moved here in the first place. Being under those lights, telling my stories, singing my heart out, it feels right. It feels more right than anything else in the world.
I was able to stream my performance on TikTok and save that video, so I was able to watch myself back. I did a good job having not been playing out regularly over the past year. I honestly thought I’d be a little more rusty and awkward but I was confident, comfortable, and executed every song according to plan.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and once my EP is out and I shift my focus to full band shows and touring, here are some things I want to work on.
First off, listening back I found myself saying “Uhm" a lot during my song introductions. I want to get out of that habit. Time got away from me and I didn’t get to plan out speeches, so I know that will help, but even if I’m playing a show without a rehearsed introduction I still don’t want to be doing that. I know there are public speaking strategies that help with that, and I want to seek them out and practice.
Secondly, I was actually proud of the way I commanded the stage. I let my expressions and movements be a little bigger and it definitely paid off. This is something I observed about myself last time and wanted to fix, so I’m glad I did. I know I can still push myself to go bigger and move around more, but I’m happy with what I did. Given the size of the stage and the fact that the mic wasn’t cordless, I did what I needed to do.
Something I do still need to work on however is keeping that energy between verses and choruses. I need to stay in the moment even when I’m not singing. Looking back at myself, I seem to be coming in and out of it a little bit. This is an easy fix and I know if I just channel my inner theatre kid a bit more I’ll be able to do it.
I also noted that if I’m going to have a water bottle on stage, I need to place it somewhere where it won’t be seen in photos and videos. It’s right under my legs the entire time and it distracts from the show. It also makes it less professional looking and visually appealing in videos I want to post to social media.
Piggybacking off of that, I still need to be doing more vocal training because I feel like my voice gets fatigued way too quickly. I should be able to get through six songs without needing so many drinks of water between them. I may have been a little dehydrated or tired from the week’s activities, but I know there are probably some technical adjustments I can make to preserve my voice better. I warmed up well so I know that wasn’t why. I wish I could afford to be in voice lessons consistently. It’s also on me to practice though, which I don’t do as much as I should.
Every show is a learning experience, which is why it is good to play often. Once I finally finish recording, that is what I plan to do.
Today was a very interesting day for me that lead to a lot of reflection, because today, I got a gig job as a production assistant for a country music award show.
It was easy enough to get hired, all I did was respond to an email my roommate forwarded me, and it paid only $3 less hourly than my old job. I needed the money and it sounded like fun so why not?
As we were being assigned our roles, I really was hoping my job would be in the showroom but alas, I was put outside. My job was to hold umbrellas over the fancy people invited and attending the show.
This felt very metaphorical for me. I’m so close to the places I want to be, it’s quite literally a few steps away, yet still at times feels so impossible. A couple of different thoughts and emotions crossed my mind during my shift.
The more pessimistic one is that I feel so small and invisible. Like I’ll never be one of those people actually attending the award show and that couldn’t be more clearly illustrated than being placed outside in a rain poncho protecting the important people’s hair and sparkly outfits as they walk in.
The second thought I had though was the feeling of not being quite there yet, but being that much closer. The last time I found myself in an award show situation like this, I was Postmates driving and made a wrong turn into an area I wasn’t supposed to be. I was completely stressed and overwhelmed and felt FOR SURE I didn’t belong there. That wasn’t the case today. No, I wasn’t at the award show as an artist or even as a guest of an artist, but I wasn’t being told by security to leave either. I had credentials. I’m a step closer to the award show than I was a few years ago. Maybe it doesn’t matter if I’m not up on the stage, but for me, perhaps for my own morale alone, I feel like it counts for something. It’s another step closer.
My third thought was the one I’m doing my best to land on, which is the little inside joke I do with myself from time to time. I remember being less than a foot away from a big-time country record label CEO and thinking “wow, he has no idea he’s standing in front of the next big thing. He has no idea that she’s here today holding umbrellas.”
I had an amazing weekend attending a concert in Chicago at the House of Blues for my friend's birthday. It was also the same night Taylor Swift's new album came out. I had wanted to write about it but didn’t get the chance. I’m bummed because it really was a high point and I don’t get to write about those that often. At that moment I was very much reminded why I choose to do what I do and was all the more inspired to keep going. For this reason, I can’t stress enough how important it is for artists to regularly attend live shows to keep up morale.
This is not that entry though. I’m back to reality and the situation I’m currently in is that I have no way to pay my rent this month and nobody can bail me out this time. I don’t know what to do with myself. Considering filing for bankruptcy.
This is the part behind the curtains that most don’t see. This is the part where you feel like you’ll always be in financial ruin and where you feel like you’ve dug a hole so deep you’ll never be able to get out. This is the part where you can’t afford to go home for the holidays. This is the part where you feel like a burden on everyone you care about. This is the part where you wish you could have been born with simpler ambitions and feel cursed by the calling that is so tied up with your personal identity that if you fail here, you feel like you have nowhere else to go.
This is the part where you think about the way you’ve seen your own story as unique, your struggles as an interesting part of the plot rather than a harsh reality. This is where you finally consider the fact that there are millions of stories untold, the ones that never became a movie or an inspirational documentary because they never made it far enough for anyone to care. This is the part where you maybe reconcile with the fact that your own might be the latter.
I think I’ve decided that after this EP comes out, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore, even if I wanted to, I can’t afford it. The people who make it in this industry are often times the ones who were born into wealth to begin with. I’m tired of being burdensome to everyone around me. I’m tired of being disappointed and feeling left behind. I've come to terms with the fact that I’m not talented or special enough to be here anyway.
I'm fully aware that I'm probably just being melodramatic right now, time will tell. This has just never felt this impossible. There isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel if you’re tunneling downward. It only gets darker. So maybe it’s just time to stop and head back up to the real world.
I have no idea what stopping music looks like. I doubt it will actually mean stopping writing or playing. It would be more like stopping taking myself seriously. Stop investing in it, stop going into debt for it. Just letting it be the hobby it was probably always meant to be.
This isn’t how I ever wanted this story to end and I don’t think there’s a job out there that I will ever enjoy but I’ve run out of options. I can’t keep living this way. I can’t even if I wanted to.
I’ve been living in delusion for a long time, it comes with the territory. But you can only outrun reality for so long. It’s caught up to me. There’s nowhere to hide and no one here to save me this time.
Does that mean this is really the end? Probably not. I can still write. I can still play small acoustic shows at the same places I’ve been playing for the last three years. I can still grow a following on TikTok and hope a song will go viral and change everything. I can still finish my EP and put it out, (although I won’t be able to market it in the way that I want to and I’m probably scrapping my only music video for it.) The thing is, most of it is out of my hands now. There’s nothing more I can do, no more ways to invest or dream any bigger. Not unless someone wants to come along and dump a bucket of money on my head (a label perhaps?)
It’s sobering. Maybe it was the truth all along and I just refused to see it. If this really is the end, I can say it’s been a hell of a ride.
I don’t want to stop. I don’t think I’ll ever be fully happy in this life if I do, but I don’t have the tools to keep going in the way that I want to. There’s nothing else I can do or say about that, it just is.
Today I took a stand against my self-sabotaging tendencies.
It all started when I tried to get my music video refunded. I couldn’t because a lot of prep work has already gone into it. This should have stressed me out, but I was actively relieved.
I didn’t want to give up my music video. I still don’t. And I think back to the person I was when I paid for everything upfront. She knew this would happen. She wanted to make sure I’d put that money where it was meant to be, towards the music.
Even though I’m frustrated she left current me with all the stress and things to figure out, I’m glad she did it. It was a very purposeful and determined act of bravery, a mindset I lack currently.
I could feel everything start spiraling downward, but I recognized myself not just going with that flow, but actively creating more of a soul-sucking current. I recognized this.
Do I really want these outcomes? Do I really want to push away the people around me because “they don’t understand?” Do I really want to move out of Nashville? Do I really want to quit music? No. The answer is no I don’t.
I wrote this in a song idea today. Maybe I self-sabotage because I’d rather be the reason for my own demise than let it be circumstances around me. In that case, I at the very least feel like I have some say or sense of control in the matter.
But I don’t want to be unhappy. I don’t think I deserve to be unhappy. I don’t think life only exists in black and white and the extremes of I'm going to be touring stadiums or I’m going to be at a miserable soul-sucking job forever.
I am still a believer in manifesting. So I don’t want to put too much energy into these self-destructive thoughts.
So today I did a few things. I opened the window during a thunderstorm, and let the smell of rain fill my apartment (I’ve been here sitting on my couch for the past three days.) I cleaned my room and the common areas (cleaning I’ve found gives me that sense of control I’m looking for and it’s a much healthier alternative.) I put everything I could think to sell on Facebook marketplace. I applied for more jobs. I took a shower.
I’m not giving up. I doubt my dreams and my life will end up exactly how I wanted or planned, but in all of this, I’ve forgotten the most important part is just enjoying the process. I’ve got good people around me. I’ve got some promising opportunities coming up. I’ve still got lots of potential. I’ve got my creative mind. I’ve got a song called “What I’ve Got” about all these things.
In that song, I say faith is the most important thing you can have. In circumstances like mine, it’s hard to hold on to, but it’s never something that can be taken by outside forces, it’s only something you can give up.
I won't ever say I don't feel like giving up. But feeling that way and actually doing so are two very different things.