I've always thought that being an artist is kind of self-centered.
Almost all of my songs are about my personal experiences and feelings. Writing is my therapy and I am the subject and center of my images, videos, and social posts.
This blog post, in a way, started as a justification for myself.
But the more I commit and dedicate myself to my art, the more I realize my place in the world and why my job as an artist is important.
Only recently have I felt comfortable saying that my main occupation is being an "artist." Maybe part of the reason is the outdated stigma of the "rock star," which brings to mind images of reckless partying (sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll man!). Compared to a "normal" job it does feel like fucking around sometimes. Hanging out with friends at practice and shows, touring and traveling - it feels too fun to be a real job.
But that's just a fraction of the job - the small fraction that we actually get paid for. Most of the time it's practice, managing, booking, organizing, emails, networking, researching, marketing, promoting - all kinds of stuff that we have to figure out on our own and pay for out of pocket.
It's so engrained in our society and our minds that the rightful path for a successful person is to go to college, earn a degree, find a good 9 to 5 job, buy a home, and start a family. This works great for some people, and I would love to eventually have most of those things. But the life of a working DIY artist seems to go against everything society tells us to do.
It's easy to feel like an outsider.
It's easy to feel less valued than a doctor, or lawyer, or any occupation which earns a decent amount of money. Every time I visit the dentist they ask me, with their hands in my mouth (why do they do that?), "How's school?" Even though I dropped out of community college so I could tour, my response is always "good." It's so much easier than trying to explain that I'm in a band. (Also then I have to try to explain our genre of music and why I don't try out for American Idol or The Voice lol).
While it can be hard for some to understand what the job of an "indie artist" entails, there are lots of people that do get it.
I've met doctors and dentists and police officers and people with 9 to 5 jobs at our shows. Seeing their faces, again and again in the crowd has made me realize that they must be getting something out of it.
There's something special about art and what it does to us. Creating or ingesting it allows us to step outside of the norm and experience something real and raw. It allows us to connect with and be who we really are.
Society teaches us to suppress our emotions and unique differences. All our lives we're taught to squeeze ourselves into a neat little one-size-fits-all box and pretend that it's normal. But it's not.
Art allows us to confront ourselves in all our wild and ugly and beautiful glory. It allows us to feel, to be whole and free. It's powerful.
When I'm honest in my work and write from my heart - when I'm on stage and can allow myself to let go and fully feel it, even though there are eyes on me - I feel that freedom and I know that others feel it too.
I feel it when I see another band perform with total abandon.
To me, it feels like lightening striking. It's a contagious, potent energy that can't be explained - only felt. And when it's buzzing through every person in a crowded room it can be so powerful.
I started writing this post last week but couldn't finish it for some reason. Like writing a song, sometimes it takes some time and experience for me to fully discover what I'm writing about.
I'm finishing this now from the back of the van, 24 hours after learning about the Las Vegas terrorist attacks, 4 hours after hearing the news that my second cousin, Christiana Duarte, was killed. We received news yesterday that she had been missing since the attack, while her friend was in the hospital with shots to the jaw, neck, and upper body. Christiana was in her early twenties.
After a long, heavy day of tears and trying to process it all, we made it to Seattle, where we had a Winter show. I've been playing guitar in my friend Samira Winter's band for a few months now and last night was one of the best shows I've ever played. There weren't a ton of people in the crowd - in fact I forgot the crowd was even there. Never have I felt so relaxed, so alive, and in-the-moment on stage.
Music and art can open up a channel in which we can connect and share our pain, fear and love.
I came across these words by Dani Fine yesterday:
It's my job to feel so that others, too, can feel and heal.
By tapping into my own power, I can inspire others to find theirs. With our collective power, there's nothing we can't overcome or change.
Life is fleeting. Be yourself and try to fulfill your potential. Do what scares you. Not everyone has this privelege and for some it's taken away too soon - use it.