It’s cute when someone younger than you freaks out about turning a year older. You think, Oh isn’t that adorable, you think you’re old! Well, I’m ancient. So shut your trap or something totally innocuous like that.
I just turned 27.
So I will resist the urge to do that. Since this is the Holiday Season, I do want to reflect on all that’s happened in the past year. I am the sentimental type and will never pass up an opportunity to get touchy-feely (like in the back of a packed subway car, for example).
In chronological order, here is my Great Big Unexpected Grat List of 2013.
1) I released The Fits.
The Fits saved my life. There’s no other way around it.
Duane Lundy’s Clustferfuck of Record Production
Going back into the studio completely rebuilt my confidence as a solo artist. For the first time ever I had a clear vision of what I wanted my sound to be. It was my most ambitious project - drawing from string players, arrangers, and musicians from all over the country over the span of a year. I’m self-taught, with no music theory background, so running on my instincts alone was a rush. It was heaven.
The Fits was also my first fan-funded project. My parents (i love you i love you i love you) cut a check for my first album and honestly, it always made me feel like an amateur. Anyone can cut a check without earning their keep. So instead I saved up from money from the road and my fans came through with the rest. If you contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, thank you. You saved my life.
2) I shot my first music video.
I waited YEARS to put out a video because I was afraid of sucking in a very public way. But, just like my first album - I knew I had to finally take a crack at it if I was ever going to get better. My largest investment (time and money) was the “The Sweet on Me” video. We recruited 15 volunteers, including the director and camera crew. Day of, the bus broke down, the green screen kept falling over and we ended up having to change the entire concept.
Broken down bus on “Sweet on Me” Set
Bryan & Johnny On Set
Stop with the cute. just stop.
If everything had gone as planned we NEVER would have come up with the idea to use the freakishly adorable girls I babysit (shot out to my brother in law!) Because of the concept we picked up some amazing press. MTV Buzzworthy said it best: ”heads-up to all the chicks out there — this video will probably make your ovaries explode.”
3) I took a MAJOR break from the road.
After my fourth run of national dates I considered relocating to LA (because why not?). Then my agent suggested a cross-country tour and I nearly threw up into my phone. I’ve played over 700 shows. I’ve slept in treehouses, WalMart parking lots, five star hotels; just about everywhere other than my own bed. Earlier this year, I also slept here:
Five Star Towel
I burnt out. I wasn’t writing. Show attendance was low and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing everything wrong. So instead of hitting the road again, I decided to do something radical. I STOPPED. I signed a lease in a Half-Hasidic, Half-Trinidadian neighborhood close to Prospect Park and decided it was time I go back to the drawing board. It was scary; I’d defined myself by my busy tour schedule. When I finally slowed down, I began the process of re-evaluating what I actually wanted in life.
4) I went Pro.
Once I decided to take a break from the road, I hired a business coach. I didn’t have the money going in, so I sold my first classical guitar. When I met her I was depressed, struggling with alcohol and an eating disorder that had been my crutch for fifteen years. I was on the brink of quitting music altogether and badly in need of help.
Making that huge investment was my way of telling myself and the universe I very serious about and my career. I acknowledged that my way just wasn’t working.
Outtake from the Rebrand shoot with Jen-Painter.
It’s been six months, and her support has absolutely nurtured my transformation. Today, I am excited about the music I’m creating, writing more than ever - and in the best shape of my life: mentally, and physically.
5) I got sober.
Somewhere between the jug of J&D in my backseat and the water bottles filled with tequila in my gig bag, I realized I had a problem. Getting totally sober this year was a very personal and very scary decision - one that I’ll bridge here eventually. For now I’ll say this: I’m proud to say I haven’t had a drink in over six months. Of all the changes I’ve made - this has had the most profound impact on my life. Removing the buffer of alcohol has enabled me to face myself dead on, no filter. And guess what? I’m learning that I actually really dig me.
6) I said “NO.”
…and invested in Spandex.
No to open bars, no to networking events, no to music conferences - anything that didn’t excite me. Then I took all that extra time and joined Crossfit, a running team, songwriting workshops, and improv. I spend most Friday nights at home now with my roommate, drinking peppermint tea and songwriting. Am I picking up a million and a half business cards? NO. Am I still meeting incredible people that inspire me to be better evey day? HELL YES.
The point is, I started saying YES to the things that nourish my spirit.
7) I nerded out.
All the money I saved on booze I spent on books. I am a MASSIVE self-improvement and autobiography book nerd, so instead of forcing myself to read on the music business I went all out and only read what felt good.
The one book I keep referencing again and again is James Altucher’s "Choose Yourself".
James Altucher is a blogger, hedge fund manager and entrepreneur. He has made millions, lost it all, then made it back just to lose it all over again.
After reading (and re-reading his book) I realized that for any of this to work, I HAVE to take care of myself. Not in a selfish, trampling-over-you-at-the-grocery-store kind of way. For me, self-care means living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a spiritual practice, being a spaz and surrounding myself with positive, creative people.
James’ Blog is like crack to me. I STRONGLY recommend checking it out here.
8) I said goodbye to my dad.
A week before The Fits release my mom called to tell me my dad was dying. I had a three week tour slated for the West Coast, my biggest show in NYC and how I managed not to crumble into a million pieces is beyond me (see: water bottles of tequila). The months that followed were a roller coaster ride of close-calls, near misses and last minute trips home. When he passed in August, I was relieved. He’d been in a lot of pain, and it was time. I’d had a chance to come to peace with our relationship, his passing, and said my goodbyes.
My biggest anthem this year has been “When you resist reality, you cause suffering.” Accepting and learning find love in the hand I’ve been dealt has been the key to my serenity.
9) I lost friends, and gained new ones.
Three of my closest girlfriends totally cut me off the week before my dad died. Losing them and my dad in one-fell swoop was the massive punch-in-the-gut reminder that NO RELATIONSHIP is permanent. Think about it. Every single relationship in your life will end some day. Either you will part ways or one of you will die. Morbid, but it brought me a lot of peace. I started to look at loss as a natural and beautiful part of the circle of life.
I had other friends, old and new, who came out of the woodwork to hold me up. I was so RAW from shock, I couldn’t censor. I just CRIED LIKE A CRAZY PERSON. And they loved me through it. I love them for it.
10) I started to give a fuck (literally).
I love swearing as much as the next sailor, but as a gal raised in the south it makes me extremely nervous to do things that might be considered “unlady like.” On stage I went as far as using ‘clean’ words in place of swear words: ”skit” for “shit,” “God Darn” for “God Damn,” all to avoid pissing off the language police.
Then I thought, What the hell?! I do this so I get to BE me, under a magnifying glass, times a million. So I stopped censoring my emails and tweets. Then I said shit on stage….AND there were children present (GASP!). Guess what? I didn’t get arrested.
This year has taught me that the shit-tacular is my biggest teacher. It’s taught me to LOOK for the stuff that scares me, and then chase it down like a wild banshee in the night. That’s why I’m sharing this with you. I know just HOW GOOD it feels to face down your demons and come out on the other side.