Updated: Feb 28, 2019
I’m Brina Kay and I’m going to write and sing songs for a living. This is how I think I got here.
This intro is a challenge because there is so much to cover before jumping into where I am now. I don’t want to leave anything out, but If I included everything, we’d be here forever. So, I apologize if I jump around trying to piece it all together. I am at this very moment resisting the urge to just scrap this idea entirely. Why should I start a blog? What if people think I sound stupid? I get this feeling a lot, but I’ve learned push through it. Little moments like this, deciding to keep going despite the fear and anxiety, have and always will make the ultimate difference in the way things turn out.
So how can I best sum up the past 22 years? How did I end up here? A lot has happened. I can’t name a single pivotal moment that brought me down this path. It really is more of a random combination of experiences that eventually lead to this decision.
Here’s an easy place to begin. I grew up in Chicago. When I say Chicago, I’m lying to you. I’m actually from one of the many suburbs around the city, but it’s common practice for us suburbanites to claim we’re from Chicago when people ask because they’ve probably never heard of our town anyway. Mine happens to be called Schaumburg and it’s actually a pretty neat place.
“Schaumburg? I have no idea where that is”
“It’s near Chicago. About an hour out.”
Schaumburg was a great town to grow up in. I went to Dooley Elementary School where I learned to play the violin as a kindergartener. I was actually in the first group of students at that school to go through the program. I grew to resent practicing and quit playing after middle school, but I’m pretty sure learning violin at an early age is what gave me much of my musical ability. I’m actually trying to get back into it, instead this time, I’m sticking to fiddle tunes instead of Suzuki.
I’d also been a singer for as long as I can remember. I can’t decide if the violin triggered or enhanced my singing ability, or if I was just born with a knack for it. Either way, I was always singing. I remember running around outside barefoot in the yard singing to the squirrels and pretending to be a Disney princess, or insisting that my mom play the Dixie Chicks during every car ride so I could sing along. I even composed songs in made up languages. “Bo-De-Day, Bo-De-doo Hoppi-Noppi” earned me a family nickname. I could go on and on.
I’ll sum it up by saying I eventually joined more organized childhood activities like musical theatre and choir. I did some notable things like sing the national anthem for our town’s minor league baseball team a couple of times and competed in some local “American Idol” style competitions. The point is, I sang. A lot. It was kind of my thing. I was very outgoing, loved to be the center of attention, and singing gave me that outlet. I always had a lot of friends but didn’t always feel like I fit in. I guess I came across as weird and over the top to most people, even though I was just being a happy kid. Frankly when I was up on a stage, it was one of the few places I felt I could be accepted as myself without holding anything back.
I didn’t really consider myself a songwriter until high school. Looking back though, I always had the capability. I excelled in my English classes. I had a very advanced understanding from a young age of how to read and interpret stories. My English and reading scores saved my ACT. When I wrote, I had a strong persuasive voice.
“I’m going to be a songwriter”
It was a choice I almost made too late. I began college and my first taste of “adult” life at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I always wanted to go to school out of state. I have great parents who loved, supported, and protected me, but that often times involved a lot of rules. I craved freedom and new adventures. I wanted to truly be on my own.
I began as a journalism major, which was a pretty natural path for a strong writer. I really just wanted a job that would keep my life interesting. I wanted to travel, see the world, meet new people, and I enjoyed learning new things and telling stories. My greatest fear in life was always the mundane and predictable. I figured as a journalist I could escape the trap they call normalcy. I never wanted to plant roots. I wanted to fly.
I appreciated the journalism world and still do, but without other creative outlets, it really wasn’t enough. The work, while interesting, was too straightforward and not colorful enough. So, I started taking dance and theatre classes I didn’t need. I then ended up completely switching my major to theater. That didn’t end up working out.
Around the same time both my parents lost their jobs. It was a big wake up call. Our family struggled, and I was worrying about even finishing school. For the first time, theatre couldn’t just be a fun activity like it was back in high school. It needed to become a viable career. I thought I knew this fact before, but I was clearly still living in the college bubble. Now I fully felt the pressure of having to use this to stand on my own two feet and take the extra burden off of my family. I wanted to be confident in my abilities, but I wasn’t. I became very stressed and anxious. It sucked the fun out of everything, and at that point, I wasn’t pursuing a career I thought I could love anymore.
So, I ended up going back to the journalism school this time as an advertising and public relations major. Some of my friends had majored in it and it looked fun. I liked the idea of working at an ad agency because of the creativity involved in the job. Remember when I said I had a strong persuasive writing voice? It thrived in this world. I actually utilize a lot of what I learned at school to develop a personal brand and promote my music.
Oh yeah! This is about music isn’t it? Where does the music fit into all this? When did I decide to be a songwriter?
This is what I mean by “random combination of experiences” and “it’s a challenge to write this intro.” So much has happened, especially in the past four years that it almost feels like a blur. Among all the chaos that was my college experience, songwriting was the steady voice of reason in the background. The truth is, college was a turbulent time. It was amazing in a lot of ways, but it was also very challenging. I had uprooted myself and moved to another state without knowing a single person. I’d left a solid foundation of friends and family behind and wasn’t finding those types of enduring relationships anymore. Over the past four years I met a lot of temporary people. I made and lost great friends. I had my first real heartbreak.
I was writing during all of these experiences. When I had nowhere else to turn, I wrote. When I wanted to feel empowered, I wrote. It kept me going. It gave me strength and hope. It was never on the forefront of my decision making, but it was always there for me when I needed it. The funny thing is, I don’t like being an emotional person. I would rather push things down and put on a brave face. For some reason though, sharing my emotions through music doesn’t make me feel weak or embarrassed like it would otherwise. It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel free.
I couldn’t tell you the exact moment I decided I wanted to do it for a living. I can’t even remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to move to Nashville after graduating. What I can tell you is that I believe it was always my destiny. What I can tell you is this is something I can’t live without. That little girl singing in the yard and the car and the grocery store wasn’t going to want to do anything else with her life. It was just a fact.
Songwriting gives my life meaning. It makes me excited to get up in the morning. It makes me feel like I can change the world, or at the very least say something about it. It is the one thing I can always count on no matter how hard life gets. With that in mind, what may seem like a risky decision becomes really the only viable one to make. Yes, music is a tough business, but so is life. I don’t want to live a life of “what ifs” and have regrets like many do. I’m going to write songs no matter what, and I want it to be a full-time thing. If I want to be truly happy, why would I waste my time on anything else?
I graduated from UNL in December of 2017 a semester early completely by accident. Long story short, I thought switching my major three times would put me behind so I took summer classes. I also studied abroad twice which gave me way more credits than I needed.
I spent the remainder of my apartment lease in Lincoln signing up for open mics around town and getting to know fellow artists. I ended up joining an acoustic Duo called the “Gunnison Drive Band” and performing with them around Nebraska. It was really the first time I’d been performing regular since high school, and the first time I’d really felt like myself in a long time. I knew in these moments, that if I could just hang on to the feeling I get when I perform, even if lose everything else, I’d be okay.
So that brings us here. Another new chapter, another story, and another verse. I’m not sure what is to come. I know there will be ups and downs. I’ll bring you along for all of it, and hopefully if there’s anyone else out there like me, it makes your life easier, or maybe gives you some inspiration.
Welcome back to the beginning. I’m Brina Kay and I’m going to write songs for a living.
And I don’t care if I don’t make it there, I’m never slowing down.