February, even though it’s the shortest month, always feels the longest. You’re far enough removed from the holidays where all your New Year’s resolutions start to wear off (unless you’re just better at life than most people, in which case, good job, we’re all jealous), and the at-least-two-month-stretch of cold, wet, and gray yawns before you like an endless winter.
As an artist, I try to do my best at setting my goals for the year so that I have a checklist of things every day that I can be doing to move stuff forward. It’s intimidating at times. Most of it isn’t stuff you can check off super easily by sitting down for an afternoon (i.e. go to the grocery store), but instead things like: figure out who to talk to to book this festival, or find out who can get me onto a Spotify-curated playlist. And like everything that we do as independent single-employer CEOs of our own business, if we don’t work, the treadmill stops. We have to wear all hats, from artist, to writer, to marketing team, to promotions, to booking manager, etc. It’s more than a full-time job (mostly non-paying), and unless you’re one of those lucky few, we have other part/full time jobs on top of it.
I said before that this business is a rollercoaster, and along with that comes both the rush and the disappointment. We have the highest highs and the lowest lows– it’s part of what makes our art authentic and emotionally gripping. And while we would love to be able to rely on others for help, it’s also terrifying knowing that at the end of the day, the only person you can 100% rely on is yourself.
Last week had disappointment after disappointment for me. Everyone has those weeks where bad things just seem to come in threes. I had been denied for two larger gigs, money’s been tight, and I couldn’t get any leads on the things I had been searching for. I usually consider myself a pretty upbeat person, so this feeling hit me harder than it might’ve otherwise, and that coupled with the dreary weather just put me in a mood.
It’s hard when you’re in that headspace to celebrate or enjoy the moments or small victories that come your way. Thursday night I had my first real show at the famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. I had played open mics there before where you stand out in the rain in a cattle call line for hours just to see if you can get in. This was the first show that I had scheduled in this legendary place, and I should have been looking forward to it a lot more, but I was letting my emotions about the other disappointments get the better of me.
I got there when doors opened. Like a typical Bluebird show, it was sold out, people sitting on side chairs in aisles, at the bar, and in the pews in the back of the room. The kind of magical thing about the Bluebird is that it is a total listening room. Nobody is talking, whispering, on their phones, or focused on anything, really, other than the songs. When it came my turn to play, I put on my artist face and tried to access the place all songwriters try to access when they play their songs back for an audience.
The ovation I received after playing made everything else melt away, if only for a moment. Just when you start to lose the faith, people surprise you and boost you back up again. Life has a way of coming full circle. When your wheel is at your lowest, you have to know that it’s going to spin back up again when you least expect it. Always count your blessings, no matter how small. It’s the little things that make the big things worth doing.