Today, I finally got back in the studio. My producer had finished moving and it was pretty much all set up. This new one is a lot bigger than his old one and feels a lot more studio than home compared to the last, which is really cool. The downside is he lives out in La Vergne TN, which is about forty minutes with added traffic. He used to be about eight minutes away.
I couldn’t help but feel a little sad about nostalgic about the old studio. All of my previous singles came out of there. I didn’t know my last time there would be my last time there, so I didn’t really get to take it in and mentally say goodbye.
I feel like this is symbolic for both my producer and me though. We are both literally and figuratively moving on to bigger and better things. Me with my EP, him with his band. We’ve both progressed a lot here since we met at that BBQ. I’m proud of us. I hope one day people will look back at his old place and that top floor room as something notable, historic even, a place where all the magic began.
We made a lot of meaningful progress on my instrumentals, which felt good. It was a pick me up I needed. It also gave more meaning to the work I’m doing at my day job.
When I wasn’t recording or performing, I truly felt like I was just working for the sake of working my life away. Knowing the work I am doing is funding the recording I’m able to do really puts it into perspective. It makes me feel less pessimistic. I can hear my EP coming together and for the first time in a while, I feel excited. I can sense the possibilities.
I called out of work today. I couldn’t sleep last night. I was feeling physically anxious, which was weird because I was so happy coming off of working on my EP. maybe it was just hard not to think about all the things I have to do now. The thing about getting the ball rolling is that once it’s rolling it’s hard to stop. It can spiral out of control. Such are my thoughts. But long story short I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t wanted to take anything for it because it gives me night terrors.
So I called out of work today. I decided it wasn’t worth it to push through on two hours of sleep. My mental health is more important. I took the time to finally get going on my manifesting journal. I feel a lot more focused and organized, despite having taken off work. I think it’s good. I know this will help me stay afloat the rest of the week. Sometimes it’s important to listen to your body and take a break so it doesn’t become a longer burnout or leave you susceptible to illness. This isn’t cutting myself slack in the way I was critiquing before when I left off my last post. This is strategic in order to pursue the kind of progress I want to achieve. I will wake up refreshed and less anxious tomorrow, I know it. I’m hoping I can keep the momentum going.
Well, it’s 5 am and I can’t sleep so I might as well catch up with this diary.
I’ve been busy lately. Good busy. I’m doing what I said previously and giving myself a good kick in the ass. I’m chipping away at the goals on my to-do list which feels really good. I’m booking more shows, going to more social events and I am officially getting started with voice lessons again.
Getting back into voice feels really intimidating. Even in the room where I should feel free to make mistakes, I find myself worried about being judged and not being taken seriously. My teacher has a lot of big-name clients, which is good because it means he’s doing something right, but it also makes me feel small. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is silly. But I push past the feeling and do it anyway, and that is what has always been the difference for me.
We all know I like to think in metaphors. I feel like my Nebraska Cornhuskers are a great metaphor for the way I’ve been feeling about my music career post-pandemic. I apologize to those of you who don't follow college football, this next section probably won't make much sense to you. You might want to google how my team has been doing and read a couple of articles to get a sense of what I'm talking about.
I know I am capable of greatness and I know that greatness is something I want to pursue. In many ways, I feel as if I’ve achieved greatness in the past when it comes to music, (especially when I was a kid) that I haven’t achieved in a long time. I know this isn’t an entirely accurate statement and I don’t want to discount what I’ve achieved in Nashville this far, but oftentimes this is how I feel.
Let’s call 2020 and 2021 (aside from growing on TikTok) my Mike Riley era. Pre pandemic in Nashville I feel like I was in my Bo Pelion era. Was I touring stadiums and signing big record deals? No, but was I performing regularly, recording music, and getting some minor recognition? Yes. I was at least winning nine games, even if I was getting blown out by Ohio State. Had Bo Pelini not been fired, who knows what would have happened. Maybe he was working his way up to a National Championship the way I was working my way up to full band performances before the pandemic shut it all down. We’ll never know what might have been.
Then came the Mike Riley era. It was all downhill. It felt like my prospect of greatness didn’t just grind to a hault, it took a free fall. It became a joke. I spent more time in my childhood home binge-watching Survivor than I did in Nashville working on my music.
Now I’m in my Scott frost era. I’ll compare Scott frost to the vaccine. I think we expected it to be a quick fix. We’d get the vaccines out and life would return to normal, Nebraska would return to the glory days in the 90s, but that isn’t how it’s been. It’s been grueling. It’s been a lot of frustration, confusion, and setbacks mentally, physically, and financially. It's felt like trying to run a sprint while you’re knee-deep in mud. Sure you’re moving in the right direction, but it’s much slower than you want to be going and takes twice the amount of energy just to move in the slightest.
Getting back into the studio was my Northwestern game. Making progress on my EP again after pausing for so long so that my producer could set up his new studio finally felt like a win. I could sense the greatness in the air again, I could feel the glow of the red lights and the championship energy being summoned by the thunderstruck light show. It felt like what I haven't felt in a long time, it felt like momentum.
But I still have a long way to go. I feel like I’m in the midst of my Michigan game. I’m doing everything right. I’ve changed my mindset to that of a winner again, but I’m not quite where I want to be. I'm still falling short of where I left off. I still feel frustrated that I’m not moving fast enough, and I do find myself questioning whether I’ll ever get there.
It’s in these moments of frustration where many people might quit on their team, or themselves. The ones who choose to keep the faith are the ones who get to savor the win the most when it finally comes. The die-hards.
I have what it takes to play amongst the Michigan’s and the Ohio States of Nashville. Even if my record says otherwise, even if I haven’t been able to fully prove myself yet, even if there is still a lot of doubt in the air, I’m choosing to believe in my potential. I’m choosing to keep fighting against the odds.
I remember watching a documentary on the Nebraska National Championship team. I can’t remember the story specifically and I wasn’t able to find more details online with vague Google searches but it went something like this.
The year before the Huskers started winning National Championships, they lost. And they lost will a small amount of time on the clock.
The next season at the end of every practice, they put that amount of time on the clock and the team pushed themselves in a work our as hard as they could until it ran out. They used their disappointment and frustration to fuel the greatness that was to come.
They refused to quit. Day by day they got better and better. It's a mantra I try to hold on to. It’s no different anywhere else, take Stacey Abrams for example. After losing her Governor’s race she worked to eventually turn Georgia Blue for the first time in ages for the presidential election.
I’ve got thunderstruck blasting in my car. I’m one score away from winning the big games. I can feel it. I just need something to finally break my way, and that only happens if you keep going, so that is what I intend to do. Even if I am exhausted at work tomorrow because I stayed up till 5 am again.
I’m so upset.
Today I took the day off work. It was originally supposed to be for a writers retreat in the smokies, but that got canceled because not enough people signed up.
I was supposed to then use it for an all-day recording session with my producer. We were supposed to knock out a big chunk of the instrumentals for the rest of my EP.
Thursday was also the one day in a long time that I had no second obligation after my first job. I was going to come home and rest and maybe even get some of my own things done.
Instead, there was an emergency in my household.
So I went to bed late and woke up not feeling up to it. I originally tried to postpone it to 1 pm but then was nervous about getting back for the show I was playing that night (which in hindsight I should have booked on a different day) because he lives almost an hour away now with traffic.)
I'm mad at myself because I should have just sucked it up and went. This is the kick-in-the-ass stuff I've been talking about. I wasted an entire day that could have been used to really achieve a lot. A day that was what I’d been looking forward to all week, hell it’s what got me through the week. Not a great mindset to have to go into a performance.
I’m also very limited in what I can play right now because I still don’t have charts for most of my songs. I want to play new songs but I’m stuck playing old ones. Nashville Tour Stop is a good round, there’s potential there for playing full band shows as well and I don’t want them to get the impression that I don’t have a variety of music to offer.
Life happens. Plans get disrupted. I’m just so sick of constantly feeling like I’m being derailed because I put SO MUCH into getting myself on track and in a good place. Mercury retrograde is supposed to be over, like... things like this are supposed to stop happening now.
It’s like the Huskers metaphor all over again. JUST ONCE I’d like things to break my way. The time and effort I put in are not being reflected in the results right now and it’s beyond frustrating.
The show must go on I guess.
I’m sick of moral victories. But I can’t discount them either. I haven’t done a very good job of getting things checked off of my to-do list or writing new songs but I did have a really fun weekend.
After my performance (where I feel I did meh) I went out with some friends that came and saw me play. We went to this cool arcade bar and since one of them knew the owner, drank and played for free. I then met up with other friends at a bar in East Nashville and even got to dance under a disco ball.
The following night my friend had a bonfire, and the day after that I went to a botanical garden to get some fall-themed Instagram pics. It was a beautiful day and I even ate a pretty damn good hotdog.
A lot of times I feel like my social life is lacking, simply because I’m too busy or tired from working or don’t have enough money to go out. This weekend reminded me that I have a good circle of friends and that there is fun to be had outside of music.
I really need to find a way to figure out how to reduce my work schedule. Ideally, I could do it only four days a week and still make enough. Maybe if I put out that energy an answer will come my way.
I had to bail on a trip my roommates and I had planned. That was disappointing. I hate feeling like I’m letting people down. I hate being in a position where I have to make these tough choices. I have to choose my music, it’s why I’m here, but As Bo Burnham ironically said, “all I’ve ever wanted is a little bit of everything all of the time.” In his version, this is supposed to be a negative, but I truly feel like that’s what I want. I don’t want to miss out on anything. I don’t want to waste the finite time I have on this earth. When I want to do something I try to have a "yes and" attitude because having good energy keeps things possible. It's worked for me in moments when I've had no means to do what I'm trying to do, it's made it work out somehow. I had no capacity at all to afford the apartment I’m currently living in when I posted about it looking for roommates, and here I am. I've gotten so used to speaking things into existence that it is a rude awakening when it doesn't happen. It's not what I expect to happen.
I want to work less and make more. I need to work less and make more or else life is just going to feel miserable. I can’t stand jumping through hoops trying to pencil in the things that mean the most in between all of my work hours. It feels like defeat when I have to face the reality in front of me when I’m doing my best to live in the mindset of where I want to be. When you aren’t manifesting what you’re asking for it's supposed to mean that something even more extraordinary is on its way. That’s what I’ll choose to believe.
I feel back on track today.
I had the day off work (originally reserved for the New York trip) and used it instead to catch up in the studio. We were able to make instrumental blueprints for two more songs. We only have one left to do before bringing in session players.
Today I worked on music from noon to 11 pm. And I loved every minute of it. It felt worthy of my time.
A lot of people might read my previous entry and think I’m lazy for not wanting to work. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m an incredibly hard worker and an extremely ambitious person. Even at a young age as a soccer player or a cheerleader I always had a “leave it all on the floor” mentality. I tried out for cheerleading running a fever and made the team. I very much have the mindset of if Michael Jordan can play and win with food poising I have no excuses.
The key is that especially now I only have the energy to work hard for things that mean something to me. Working for the sake of owning a house and having food is an obligation, not an aspiration. I’ve tried many times to make myself believe it’s all connected and try to have a better mindset but I don’t. It’s just not comparable.
As for my session, what happened in the studio was really interesting. I wanna talk about the beauty of the songwriting process for a second. My favorite part about recording a song is that it gives it new life. I had an idea about the way I wanted this particular song to be, but not a clear concept or direction. This song is not one I originally had on my list of favorites and even potential singles, but by the time we were through I couldn’t stop listening to it on repeat. I see it in a whole new light. The word I was thinking of when I came in with it was “percussive.” I wanted it to really drum and beat-heavy, sort of like my song Into the Sun. What it became was incredibly groovy vibey, something I didn’t plan, anticipate or expect. Music is so exciting in that way. You never know what a song is going to become until you get there. My belief is that deep down the song knows who it is and will become who it’s meant to be whether or not you are intentional about it. This song might very well be the lead single off the EP, something I never would have even considered had you asked me a while ago. Did I mention how much I love making music?
Today I played a gig at the Moxy hotel downtown. It was cool because it was only a two-person round, which meant I was able to play seven songs instead of two or three. I played all of my EP songs in order together for the first time which was exciting, and closed it out pretty strong with Heat of the Moment.
Having previously felt rusty, not performing live for much of the pandemic, tonight I felt really comfortable. There was a sense of ease I felt not only about my on-stage banter, but also my singing ability. I think my voice lessons are helping, I don’t feel like I struggled at all with low notes I normally would have, or high notes, or even pitch. It felt really good because those are things I typically worry about.
I did get some unease later in the night hearing some of the other performers say they were only a couple of months into town. I know people who have spent ten years only playing writers rounds. I Don’t want to be that person. It makes me frustrated because I was progressing towards full band shows when covid hit. I know I need to focus my energy and can’t achieve everything at once, so I am determined to make it a major goal after my EP is out. Beyond just wanting to play with a full band, I also want to tour.
By Nashville standards, if it’s a ten-year town, I’m roughly a sophomore now. I deserve some grace for making it through 2020, but I also need to continue to push and challenge myself. I felt comfortable up there tonight. I don’t want to discount that and make it a bad thing, but I can’t help but think that I’m comfortable because I’m in my comfort zone. If I’m in my comfort zone I’m not progressing. I need to take the next steps. I just have to figure out how to afford to first.
Well, I got my covid booster shot and my flu shot. I was happy to do so because I don’t want to go into this winter unprotected. Better sooner than later. However, I thought the side effects wouldn’t be so bad from the booster, and I was wrong. So I’ve been having flu-like symptoms for the past two days and a very sore arm.
Yesterday I took off work. Today I went begrudgingly. I was feeling pretty optimistic about my music lately and I don’t know if my body is affecting my mind, but now I’m feeling a little down.
I just feel stuck. I’m working so many hours and barely affording my rent and bills. My mom is helping me afford voice lessons and I don’t feel like I’m in a position to afford to pay band members to do the types of shows I want to do. It sucks.
I need to figure out how to make more money, but I also need to protect my mental health. It can’t be like the last high-paying job I had that absolutely drained me of my energy.
I haven’t been solo writing songs at all lately, and that’s a big concern. I have a lot of ideas, but kind of like during the pandemic, I’m not finishing anything. It’s because I’m tired. This was why I quit the last time.
There’s got to be some balance I can find where I can make enough money, not be too stressed and have flexibility. I’m trying to change my attitude about it and be open because I know it’s gotta be out there. This “stuck” I’m feeling is not my reality. I know this deep down. Possibilities are endless. There are ways to make things happen. I almost feel like I’m putting myself in this mindset so I don’t have to push myself or leave my comfort zone. That’s a problem. In my earlier days in Nashville, I found ways to make things happen, when I was much worse off. I don’t want to lose that hunger. I need to get it back somehow. Yet I also don’t want to ignore what I’ve been through over the past couple of years. The pandemic, the election, I’m not the same person I was. That person might not be someone I can go back to. But that doesn’t mean the person I am now is allowed to stay stuck and make excuses. I need to keep pushing forward.
I feel like I’m doing a lot of groundwork. I don’t want to discount that. My producer and I are one song away from the second phase of my EP, which is bringing in session players. That is exciting. The songs are really coming to life and coming together. I feel like by the time my EP comes out, I will be regularly playing full band shows and even touring. Scratch that, I know I will be because I’m going to make it happen.
While I’ve been feeling sick I’ve been binge-watching Dancing With the Stars. This show reminds me of the kind of performances I want to put on one day. I miss dance, I miss the smell of backstage and sparkly costumes and how it feels to be under multicolored lights. For a lot of people who did those types of things in high school and childhood, those days are long gone. I’m not ready to leave them behind. I’ve got more in me, bigger and better things.