I ended up getting a job as a Brand and Marketing Strategist for an amazing company called Energy Lighting Services. I’m going to spend some time giving them as shameless plug because I love it so much. First of all, my boss is one of the best human beings I think exists on this planet. He is a former teacher and pastor, and instead of just preaching about it, lives by the golden rule. He spends a lot of time and effort building making sure our team is compatible and that we have a good company culture. As employees, we get unlimited paid time off (as long as we schedule and plan it out it ahead of time) and we do a special company lunch on the fourth Friday of every month, along with a shorter work day! I’m doing all of the fun stuff I learned in school and actually getting paid for it. I love my job and the people I work with. The best part is, ELS helps make the world better. We help businesses save money by switching out old lightbulbs in buildings with LEDs, which saves energy, which saves the planet. I’m the type of person who wants to do meaningful work (hello, I’m an artist) and it’s really hard, as I’ve discovered, to spend large amounts of time doing something I’m not passionate about. Every day when I get up for work, I feel like I’m making a difference. If I’m spending time away from my music, it better be worth it.
This is another important thing for aspiring artist to remember. If you’re spending 8 hours working a day job, you need to make sure it’s a positive environment. The people you surround yourself will be a huge factor in your creative energy and your ability to focus on your art when you get home. I once worked for someone who was pretty much the complete opposite of my current boss. I spent my days frustrated, dealing with condescending and misogynistic comments and it really took its toll. I did not write a lot of music during that time, I came home exhausted and drained every day. I was lucky to be a part of the “Nebraska Women’s Leadership Network” at the time and took some great advice from alumni mentors I met at the Spring conference. I told them what was happening, and the answer was simple, “Get out.”
Your day job is a necessity, and it’s there with the sole purpose of keeping a roof over your head and food on your table while you carve out the path to your dream. If it’s distracting or inhibiting you in any way when you get home, you need to do what you can to find something else.
Anyway, now that I was making a living wage, I was able to focus a lot more on music. Something I’d been aching to do since my move was to perform. I finally got that chance through a mutual friend named Perry. She was on a kickball team with my friend Steph, and I’d met her a couple of times. Steph and I even went and saw her play a writer’s round. Perry is super sweet and down to earth, and not only introduced me to the person who put me in my first round (the wonderful Candace Kuykendall) she also played guitar for me. Perry and I are now doing weekly YouTube covers together and we’re trying to put together a full band to play downtown.
But back to my first writer’s round. It was at AJ’s Good Time Bar on Broadway, which was amazing. I literally cried the first time I saw Broadway. And I know there are people who turn up their noses at it, write it off as an overcrowded tourist trap, but to me, it is a magical place. The streets are alive, and walking/driving down and hearing live music in every corner really makes me feel like dreams are not only possible, but they’re happening all around me. Suddenly, I was a part of it.
Perry and I practiced a lot that week. Beyond the chords and the songs, I also took a lot of time to practice my introductions. I’d gone to different shows to get a feel for the flow of it all, and most if not all of the time the singer was also playing their guitar. That is one disadvantage I have at the moment, and I can’t wait to look back and read this when I can finally play. But often times the performers would fingerpick while introducing the song, and I wanted to still give the audience that effect, so Perry and I practiced the timing on that.
One thing I remember looking back on my first round was how I physically could not calm my body. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking the entire first half. Usually, I can get over those jitters pretty fast, I’ve been performing all my life, after all, dance, theatre, cheerleading soccer, etc., but something about this made it nerve-wracking. The thing was, I didn’t necessarily feel scared or anxious, I was happy and excited, but my body would not allow me to relax until halfway through the show.
I also happened to be the only girl playing that night. We all sang different styles. There was Nick Halsted, who had kind of a folksy country vibe to him, very unique, and he wasn’t wearing shoes. another guy, Josh Mack who had a darker edgier vibe and wore sunglasses inside, and Corey Farley who was from Iowa, and talked a lot about his experience on a farm. And yet, here we all were in the same place with the same dream. That part is always cool. It felt like a movie.
One of my favorite parts of the night was singing “I’ll Write” at the end. I had written that song, kind of as a victory song after getting through a pretty tough time in my life. When I looked out into the audience I saw a girl nodding along and looking like she was really feeling the song and what I was saying. That always means a lot to me. A theatre friend of mine once said, “if you can make a difference for just one person, it’s worth it.” I was never really even that close with this person, but that advice has stuck with me and helped me whenever I start to doubt myself. At the end of the day, as an artist, that is all we are really after. It keeps me grounded and authentic, thinking about making a difference rather than climbing a latter. If my art can make a difference in the life of just one person, it’s worth it. And I think it still counts if that one person me.