The artist’s journey is not an easy one. Finding your unique voice as an artist is a beast I’ve been grappling with for a while, and continues to snarl and snort at me every day. A problem like “finding yourself” seems big—overwhelming even—and certainly in my case can often lead to stagnation. It’s only through breaking it down into concrete action items that I can move forward and feel good about living out my passion. Here are 5 things I’m doing to help me through this time of searching.
- Talking to other artists. I’m so blessed to know some very passionate creators, but the way my life is right now, I have to seek them out. I’m making plans to meet up with artists I respect so I can pick some brains. It’s important to have other artists to talk to about ideas.
- Starting rehearsals. I’ve determined that all I need is to find ONE person who wants to work with me, and begin rehearsing my original material towards the creation of a live show. What form that live act will take I do not know right now. But I have songs, and booking a rehearsal is a start.
- Booking a show. One thing has become clear: I need to get back on stage. Even for just 5 minutes. The YouTube videos have been a remarkable learning experience for me, especially in terms of my songwriting, but I need to perform for audiences again in order to feel that what I’m doing actually matters to people and is grounded in reality. And I need to feel the spark of what excites me about performing, and feeding off of an audience, which I always found so brightly in solo improv comedy. So I have booked a 5 minute spot on the November 28 Comedy Open Mic night at the Making Box Theatre for which I have absolutely no plan! See you there!
- Being open-minded and patient. My particular set of skills may not be and probably is not conducive to a tried-and-true artistic format. And while that can be frustrating and unsettling, it’s also not ultimately a bad thing. For instance, if I were best suited to being a conventional “pop star” then perhaps my path would be slightly better laid out for me. But what I am best suited for is not as obvious, and so the path ahead is less certain. However, if I can create something that is uniquely me, then yes it will take longer to develop, but it will be fresh and new, and impossible to duplicate without me.
- Striking while the iron is hot. As winter sets in, and the days becomes shorter, energy tends to wane. We need more sleep, more downtime, and I’m ok with that. I’m ok with not creating as much during this time. I’m ok with this period of reflection, rehearsal, and reaping what I’ve sown. I will not force myself to write each day or each week as I have done. I have enough to go forward, I am enough to go on. But! If an idea grabs me, I will tend to it. If at all possible, I will set aside the daily routine to follow inspiration. And I hope in this way to find passion in my work again. May it not be a mundane and monotonous chore to write songs, but an act of self-expression and vitality. And in this way, may I accept the winter and also rage against the dying of the light.
If you are an artist who has found ways to move forward in your development, I would love to hear them!
This past weekend I got together with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while for an emotional closet cleaning. We each made a list of all the emotional baggage we wanted to be free of, placed the papers in an old suitcase, drove it 20 minutes out of town and threw it in a dumpster. Then we went for lunch.
As a woman, a musician, and an aspiring artist now knee-deep in her 30s, this birthday brought up a lot of stuff for me. My husband asked me what I want for my birthday, but this year I’m far more interested in what I can purge than in anything I could receive. Here are 32 things that were in that suitcase, in no particular order.
- Being unhappy with where I’m at in life. There is no magic finish line to life, and even if there was, I am not supposed to be there at 32. And even if I was there, then what would I even do with the rest of my life? Finish lines make no sense.
- Being unhappy with where I’m at as an artist. I’m on a journey, and I’m at a spot where every single other artist alive has been. Also, see #1.
- Being resentful of other people for things they have said or done to me without apology. Anger is a call to action, but resentment is a slow death. Use it, say something, make art, heal, move forward. Forgiveness must always be earned, but the Pheonix does not need validation from the ashes to rise.
- Operating from a mindset of scarcity. Recognize the dreams that have come true.
- Being out of touch with my friends and family.
- Being hard on myself for the low points in my creative productivity. Some times are for creating, some times are for performing, other times are for reflecting.
- Being afraid to try things that seem “unproductive” to me, like painting or rock climbing. Do things just for fun.
- Being fixated on a problem for too long, unproductively. Meditate. Let go. Return to it later with a fresh mind. Also, have I eaten/slept? I might need a time out.
- Being afraid of my own success and how my life will change if my career progresses. The career of a musician is hardly predictable, and there’s no way to know what shape it will take. But it will be of my own making.
- Being afraid of my age as a woman in music. There is a place for me, and if there isn’t, I will carve it out myself. But I could not have written the songs I write now at 23.
- Setting time limits on pursuing my dreams; e.g. “If I don’t achieve X by the time I’m XX years old then I might as well give up.” My dream is my life, and it can only grow as I do. I will not go backwards.
- Taking on commitments that do not serve me, or anyone or anything I care about.
- Being afraid to speak my mind politically. I may not be a captain in the army, but I aim to be a brave and dutiful soldier of the causes I believe in.
- Blaming others for who I am. Quite frankly, if nothing bad had ever happened to me, if no one had ever hurt me, I would be boring. All the talent in the world cannot save a boring artist. So, these people who have wronged me have also given me a great gift. I have the power to transform their transgressions, if I so choose, and turn them into art. But these people don’t write my story, they don’t own my sorrows, and they certainly won’t share in my glories.
- Holding on to old grudges. I just don’t have the energy to hold on to anything anymore!
- Being unhappy with my appearance. I am not as old and ugly as I sometimes like to think. But I’ve noticed that putting in the effort to eat well, exercise, dress up for work, put on make-up, etc. does help my self-image because it makes me feel like I’m taking care of myself. Nothing wrong with that!
- Being ashamed of not knowing something. Sometimes knowing less is more.
- Talking too much to compensate for my imposter syndrome. My voice can’t handle it so let’s just say it once and move on, shall we?
- Comparing myself to other people and feeling like everyone else is doing better than me. In other words, drop the devastating jealousy. Everyone is on their own unique journey. But honestly, if someone is doing amazing then let that be motivating instead of crippling. Did they really do anything that I can’t do if I put my mind to it? Also fair question: do I want their life, complete with their time management breakdown?
- Feeling guilty about not knowing when I’m going to have kids. I know that we want kids, but financially and career-wise, we both know that it doesn’t make sense right now. People think owning my dog is like having a kid, but for all her medical expenses she should really have her own one-bedroom apartment. Besides, my husband made his greatest career strides in his mid-30s, and I just want the same opportunity.
- Feeling guilty for my lazy mornings. I work afternoons into the evening, so the morning is my downtime. I often feel like I’m supposed to be doing something because it’s the morning, but this is my time!
- Being afraid of changing course. Once I start something, I can get stuck in it for a long time beyond it’s expiration date in my heart. I’m trying to be more open to change.
- Hanging on to useless crap in my house. I’m talking literal garbage. I keep finding hiding places for all kinds of useless knick-knacks because, oh I don’t know, they’re in “good condition,” or “it’s a memento,” of that time, or “if we just find the missing piece it’ll be worth it.” Throw that shit out!
- Pretending I am a therapist. I am not a therapist. I need therapy.
- Procrastination, avoiding bed time, and other forms of self-sabotage.
- Letting myself feel bad for too long before getting help.
- Being afraid to reach out to someone I haven’t talked to in a long time.
- Spending too much time on the internet until I feel anxious.
- Diving into work to avoid addressing the problems in my marriage/career/friendships, etc.
- Taking criticism about my artistry too personally. Be open to feedback from people I trust and respect. (And screw the rest!)
- Being really harsh on Young Laura and the stupid things she did, how naive she was, how unable she was to navigate certain life-altering situations, etc. She was just a kid, so give her a break. She did do some pretty badass things, too, so remember those moments.
- My fear of ghosts. I bought a ouija board and I’m coming for you, ghosts!
Tomorrow evening will mark my first LIVE performance of S2S songs, and I could not be happier about the event! So for tomorrow’s video, instead of a 1 pm release, I will be livestreaming my set on Facebook Live at about 6 pm.
Nestled deep in the Ward, Laza Catering is Guelph’s tastiest Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant. It is run by the most incredible and sweet lady, Melku Gebrekristos (of Farmer’s Market breakfast bar fame), who will be serving up some delicious delicacies. The Kickstarter is aimed at helping her expand her business, which includes her new super-yummy Hibiscus Teas. There will be FREE SNACKS and drink samples! Ethiopian food is also gluten-free, and has vegetarian/vegan-friendly options.
For details, check out Laza’s Facebook event. If you can make it down, you will get to eat yummy food, hear cool live music, and see comedy from The Making Box for FREE! If you can’t make it, watch the action on my Facebook timeline!
Hey folks! I’m gearing up for my next shoot day this Saturday and boy oh boy am I freaking out! Let’s just say I’m a little behind on things, as I am wont to be. The truth is that I’m a bit of a procrastinator. So to remedy this problem, I’ve decided to start blogging and/or posting on social media every day to talk about what I’m doing, what I’m working on, so that, you know, I will actually work on stuff every day. Like a five-year-old who glues a stick to a piece of aluminum foil and goes “TA-DA!”
On the day of the shoot, I usually get up early to beautify myself and warm up vocally. Josh puts out the food for the crew and keeps Molly occupied. The sound engineer and videographer arrive at my house at about 11 am and start setting up. Our goal for the day is to record four songs live-off-the-floor on camera. Which means that I have to get a perfect take of a song before we can move on. A song that I JUST wrote. It’s not easy! In between songs the crew gets food and I go change my look. We usually finish around 5:30 pm.
My to-do list for this week is simple enough: finish editing the video for this Friday, finish up writing a song, write another song entirely, and practice them all to perfection! Should be a piece of cake! Hahahahahah… Well, time to face the music.
It is with a heavy heart that I must announce that my final shows with Countermeasure will be this weekend–one this Saturday July 22 and one on Sunday July 23, both in the Beaches in Toronto. It has become increasingly necessary for me to carve out more space in my life for my teaching and my solo career; but make no mistake, it was a very difficult decision. Countermeasure has been my musical family for the past three years, and I have loved every minute of it. I will never forget the friendship, the music, and the memories made.
It is hard to distill into one post what it meant to me to be in that group. Countermeasure was many things. It was 11-hour bootcamp rehearsals before touring. It was feeling weird if we had not seen each other for more than a week. It was drinking wine on an Italian beach and playing “swimsuit roulette” in the sea. It was learning insane chromatic lines that leap and wiggle and don’t make any sense on their own, but contributed to a beautiful harmonic language the likes of which I had never known, care of the brilliant Aaron Jensen. It was doing a 50 minute set every night at the Edinburgh Fringe with five-minute set-ups and tear-downs. It was drinking in hotel rooms in B.C. almost every night after a show. It was also little things like getting your hair braided by Nina before a show, or Marla showing you cute animal GIFs, or Icarus protecting you from ghosts, or J-M losing his train of thought mid-sentence and maybe starting some mouth sounds. And most of all, no matter how overwhelmed one might feel trying to live up to the very ambitious music or dance routines or performances, there was always someone to turn to about it. Thirteen other someones who knew exactly what you were going through and maybe even how to help. It was for this reason that I was able to push myself farther than I ever thought I could go as a musician and a performer. To all the ‘Measures, thank you so much for the last three years and for everything you gave me and all that we shared.
In closing… “Hayley, Elana, Chris Poole, Tara, Gianna, Nina, Qwyn, and Marla. Icarus, Aaron, Steve, and Taavi, Jeremy and J-M! Didn’t we have fun!?”
Photo credit: McPherson Photography
I will be on hand helping out our young performers this weekend as JAMSchool takes over the main stage at Hillside! The festival will be full of amazing performances and workshops on beautiful Guelph Lake Island, and it’s not too late to get passes! The JAMSchool Youth Showcase starts at 6 pm on Friday night. Be there!
Check out my new tradition, the end-of-the-month cover! I especially like to invite friends to do this one with me. Stay tuned for a new video on Friday at 1 pm!
Tonight Countermeasure will perform at Toronto’s Opera House as part of the SING festival’s Art Battle show. Watch as visual artists furiously compete to paint a canvas as an a cappella group sings their inspiration. Find all info including ticket sales here on the Facebook event.
I’m a bit late to post, but here is last week’s Stories 2 Songs video for “Too Late,” the real-life story of a cheating heart, inspired by a post from the Confessions in Guelph Facebook group. Thanks to Josh for lending a guitar!
Last Friday I released my latest song “Downtown” on my YouTube channel Stories 2 Songs. This one was inspired by a craigslist missed connection from Guelph! Videos are released on YouTube every Friday at 1 pm. Check it out!