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A few weeks ago I responded to a tweet about white people appropriating black music and ended up in a chat with some hurt white people confused as to what qualifies as appropriation as some of their favorite artists came up as appropriators in the conversation. I’ve been musing how to bring this topic up for a while and with the recent Charlottesville madness I thought it was time to give it a crack and open up a dialogue on it.

 

 

According to Google, appropriation is “the action of taking something for one's own use”. This is done within the music industry often as music invented and developed within the black community is borrowed from or directly copied by a white a person. Here is where the confusion begins for many, as the valid point of everything begins with imitation is brought up. Every musician has influences, that is very true. The issue however lies with the lack of proper credit to these influences and more importantly that these influences aren’t getting their due monetarily and popularity wise. Moreover, these black influences experience barriers in terms of industry gatekeepers while the influenced white musician is skipping through an open gate. Lastly, the trend of showing off the negative stereotypes of black culture and disregarding the other parts that are involved, demonstrates a lack of understanding and respect for the music one is taking.

 

For example, this BET article: , features tweets from Richey Collazo, who points out the trend of white pop stars who go through a “coming of age” phase in which they begin to work with black artists/producers and incorporate R&B and Hip Hop into their music. This phase is often their “bad girl/guy” phase in which they “push boundaries” and are “edgy” where they were once innocent and pure. After this phase is over however and when they start to “want to be positive” again they start skating away from these genres and collaborators. As if all there is to blackness and black music is getting drunk, smoking weed and shaking your booty. I think these two tweets say it best:

 

“they either make R&B to prove how raunchy and grown and sexual they are or hip hop to show how hard and street and rough they've become. “ - @richey_collazo

 

“and all you're doing is showing us the stereotypes you place on blackness. you think us and our culture = sexual deviance & gang banging” - @richey_collazo

 

Taking what you want from black music, using it as a tool to be edgy while not respecting all of the genre/people and then throwing it away when it becomes inconvenient is cultural appropriation. Many of the pop stars we know and love have followed this formula.

 

I recently read a tweet where a woman believed that Blondie invented rap music and I was absolutely flabbergasted. What a GREAT example. While artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash (the actual inventors) were rapping since the mid-70s in order to uplift the black community and fight gang violence, the white gatekeepers of the music industry had no interest in playing hip-hop or rap on the radio at the time. But just as has been done time and time again (e.g. Motown), they were happy to feature the music in a white, blond package. The song “Rapture” became a #1 pop hit in the 80’s and then some confused white people decided that she invented it.

 

Rock and Roll is another great example, while jazz improvisation, blues and R&B were the starting points for the growth of the genre when artists such as Chuck Berry and the underrepresented Sister Rosetta Tharpe began to play around with the ideas on an electric guitar, you would never know it without going out of your way to learn music history. Elvis Presley is a classic example of someone who was influenced by black music but reaped the benefits that many of his black influences never enjoyed. Even nowadays I think we can all agree that rock music is considered to be a white genre, it’s history isn’t acknowledged by many. It’s not like black people aren’t making rock music, they just often don’t get as much attention because of the forgotten history. If only hip-hop and R&B are considered to be “black music” then a blog or radio show that typically features “black music” won’t include rock music into their line up. Vice versa, a black artist playing rock music may get passed over by a rock blog or radio station because, whether consciously aware of it or not, on some level it’s not “real rock” in this gatekeeper’s mind. The music industry is just as much about image as it is the music, so if an artist doesn’t fit within the stereotypical image one has of a genre or style, they can be/are very easily passed over. Rock & Roll definitely has been appropriated by white people in this sense.

 

There are many examples and arguments I could put forth that would be enough to write a book about the appropriation of black music. This is just a blog post however. At the end of the day, the appropriation is so rampant that we take it for granted. While we can all agree the white people that don’t acknowledge how black music influenced their writing and style are appropriators, the gray area comes in with those who do. Even if a white artists says they were influenced by a black artist, the fact that many of these black artists never enjoyed success or notoriety on the level of these influenced artists is a demonstration of the racist microaggression woven into our culture that people can’t or refuse to see. Furthermore the ala cart method of using the negative stereotypes within black music as a tool for gain and throwing them away when you’re done with them pays no respect to black music. While not always intentional and malicious, this all still is appropriation and an example of how ingrained racism is within our culture.

Music royalties are hands down the highest point of contention within the music industry. It’s a never ending battle as the way music is consumed evolves faster than law making. Add the fact that most musician’s aren’t lawyers and it becomes a feeding frenzy with people that “just want to help” vying to get a cut of a musician’s payday. Moving beyond the discussion of ethics and morals regarding collecting royalties and who gets what, the actual process of collecting the royalties is complicated.

If you haven’t experienced the joy that is learning how music royalties work here’s a basic watered down explanation. There are 4 types of royalties: mechanical, public performance, synchronization and print music. Then on top of that there is a split between the songwriter and the publisher. I won’t hurt your brain explaining what that all means any further, there’s plenty of literature available on the internet about it if you’re interested.

So that part is already complicated and an on going debate regarding who gets what. But there is more fun to be had because after the what there is the how do I get my money. You see, we musicians just can’t hit up Spotify or Pandora and be like “Give me my money please.”, no we have to go through organizations that get the money from them and give it to us (for a small fee of course!). But wait, it gets more fun because different organizations collect different types of royalties. You have to go to one place to get your mechanical, another place to get your public performance and another place to get your synchronization and print royalties (print royalties don’t apply for the average indie musician however). I should also add that it’s very hard to collect your own mechanical royalties as an independent musician and most are leaving this money on the table.

Now recently companies such as CD Baby have started programs to collect all of these royalties for you in one place, but the debate becomes is it worth giving these companies more of your money to collect your money. So why the complication? Besides the aforementioned reason of the speed of evolution of music consumption versus laws (as new types of royalties came in to existence, new organizations came into existence to collect) the biggest reason as I see it is so people can take money from musicians for doing practically nothing!

Disclaimer because I mentioned them, this isn’t a rant against CD Baby, I love them, but just the entire industry as a whole. It is comprised of a bunch of corporations who see how much money there is to be gotten off of musicians. I would happily put the work into collecting all of my royalties and cut out all the middle men who do, in my opinion, not very much, but take very much. Whether you’re signed to a label or independent, the amount of hands in your pocket that aren’t involved in creating the music is insane. With the label there is an argument of recouping costs, but history has shown that they continue to screw musicians over well after money has been recouped.

I fail to see the value in all of these middle men, of course the middle men all say they are necessary, but I don’t see why, I know how to ask for my money just fine without them. I have yet to hear a convincing (or anything of substance for that matter) argument as to why these middle men and complications are needed, I’m calling BS on all of it. I think we need to take the power back. So truly, legitimately, what do we musicians have to do to cut these guys out? I would love to do it myself or AM down to create a MUSICIANS ONLY organization where we collect our own royalties if need to be.

That’s me though, what are your thoughts musicians and music lovers?

For those who don’t know, busking means playing music in the streets for money. Since diving into being a full-time musician I’ve been doing it a lot. I think I did it for the first time about 6 years ago and have gained valuable lessons and skills from it since then that help not just with busking but life in general. Here they are!

1. Confidence

It’s one thing to play music on a stage or venue where people are prepared for there to be music, but to just plop down where it’s not expected and play to a mostly unwilling audience is just plain scary! I think it took me awhile to start busking for this reason. But let me tell you, there is nothing like making someone pull out their headphones or stop in their tracks as the walk by you or even run to the other side of the platform really quick just so they can give you some monetary love. The confidence doesn’t just come from acceptance however, sometimes people just sit there and ignore you or clearly walk away because you started playing, but it’s all good. This is such an important skill to have in life. Whether it be asking for a raise at work, asking somebody out or standing up for yourself, the only way you can do these things is by having enough belief and confidence in yourself to not let someone’s reaction affect you. Personally I’ve been pushing myself to leave my comfort zone when it comes to rejection and the more I do it the more silly it seems that I would stop myself from doing something just because someone might not like it, the possible benefits are too great! Confidence is a skill that is worked on by putting yourself in scary situations and I highly recommend it! (as long as your safety isn’t in jeopardy of course)

2. Frustration is a Sign to Try Something New

When I started busking sometimes I would go to a station, barely get any attention or money and then go home bummed. Not anymore! With the aforementioned skill of confidence gained, I squash any who ha in my mind that it’s because I suck (I’ve worked too hard to believe that) and start thinking of other more logical things such as “this isn’t a good location” which is often the case.  This is applicable in life, have you ever seen a small child trying to make a puzzle piece that clearly doesn’t fit, smush into the wrong spot? They get more and more frustrated when all they have to do is find the right piece and easily put them together. I know I personally have a problem with doing this in my life and I imagine others do. Yes persistence and sticking with something is good, but there comes a time when you have to realize that something just doesn’t quite fit when the solution we’ve come up to an issue; whether it be relationships, work or personal growth, isn’t working and to try something different. It’s easy to let frustration be a sign to give up, but often it is a sign to try to solve the problem a different way.

3. I am not psychic.

This is a BIG one, that I think all of us humans get in trouble with. Sometimes I’ll see a person with what I think is a grumpy “omg shutup” look on their face then they’ll walk over and give me the biggest compliment and donation ever. Fear is a great story teller and often will convince you that it’s psychic. Even if we don’t consciously realize we’re doing it, it’s so easy to assume “that person doesn’t like me” or “they did this to me because of [insert mean intention that’s all about hurting me]. Our vision of the world is colored by our experiences of love and pain and learned prejudices (we’re surrounded by media that reinforces stereotypes it’s silly to think it doesn’t color our vision). We can be SO certain that this person is thinking this and be SO wrong. Have you ever been in a situation where somebody’s like “Your clearly angry” when you’re not and they say they don’t believe you when you tell them you’re not, which of course makes you angry? Haha! Reminding myself I’m not psychic has been a HUGE help in keeping my sanity and zen in life. Repeat it with me, “I’m not psychic”, one more time “I’m not psychic!”.

So those were three top lessons I’ve learned from busking that can be applied to life. As a musician I find busking to be so valuable as you’re getting paid to promote yourself basically and the lessons you get from it really are valuable. For people that aren’t musicians this experience can be correlated to any experience of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So let’s do it!

There’s plenty of talk around musicians not getting paid, but not very much around why musicians aren’t getting paid. I’m curious about it, so here I go!

I’ve always found it interesting how people willingly (with a little grumbling sometimes) buy overpriced drinks at bars and then tip the bartender for opening a can, pouring into a glass or pulling a lever.  But when it comes to music unless the musician is already famous there’s a reluctance to even tip a buck at a show or to buy an album. While yes there are a lot of mediocre musicians who barely put any work into their craft, this is not the case across the board.  I think it all comes down to social psychology.

American society at least, expects that a waiter or bartender gets tipped (you look like a jerk if you don’t), additionally more people have done a service job than the job of musician so they can truly empathize. Furthermore, Whereas society is in love with the paradigm of a “starving artist” that suddenly “makes it big” there is no in between.  So while someone may shell out $30 to see a famous band that’s coming through town and $20 for their latest album, the $5 cover for the similar sounding local band and the $10 album just feels like too much to spend.

I think it’s also related to something that I’ve touched on before, the idea that good musicians got where they are on talent alone. As if there is some magical force that makes a person suddenly be able to shred guitar and compose music. But as Harry Potter learns his first day of school there is a lot more to it than just having magic and waving your arms.  I talk to so many people that quit music because they weren’t “naturally talented enough”, this thought process negates the large amount of hard work and discipline required to master an instrument(s) and learn to compose. I don’t think most non-musicians truly appreciate what it takes to spend tens of thousands of hours by yourself in a room repeating the same patterns over and over until you’ve mastered them (then again to reinforce them).  So not only can they not empathize as in the case with a bartender, they really can’t even sympathize.

This also swings me over to the idea that being a musician isn’t a “real job”.  Besides the point about people truly,not understanding how much work is required to make good sounding music, music is a career you get into for love. Sadly, many have decided that it is impossible for them to do what they love for a living and I think deep, deep down they don’t think musicians deserve to get paid for doing what they love because they have decided they themselves can’t do what they love.  I don’t think malcontent is meant but I think this is a major, rarely talked about point. Personally, I think that if someone can make a living off of “pet rocks” than anything is possible and people should stop selling themselves short, but this is a conversation for another time.

Now another, less noble reason I think people don’t want to pay for music is it’s so easy to steal!  Not only physically but it is more or less socially acceptable to steal music. If it was considered common practice to steal drinks from bars, and the chances of being caught and having to face consequences were as low as they are in with the music industry, I assure you more people would steal drinks from bars.  I’ve also heard the argument that “music is too expensive” but honestly people find ways to pay for overpriced food, booze and entertainment such as tv sports packages, video games, movies and television just fine.

So in the end, I think it all comes down to social psychology.  I’m no psychologist but this is what my observations tell me. What can we do to change this paradigm of the starving artist? I don’t know but I’m open for suggestions.

Sometimes when I look at social media, the news or talk to people I’m flabbergasted by the amount of people who go out of their way to cause pain in another.  I recently posted this video about how transgender people really need people to go out of their way to be kind to them and wanted to examine the motivations behind why so many people go out of their way to cause them pain. I truly believe people feel the need to hurt others because they hurt themselves internally.

Personally the more I look within and learn about myself the less I feel the need to worry about what other’s are doing and how they are doing it (unless they are in my way).  The fact is many spend more time learning about and studying other people and making sure they fit in with a particular cultural paradigm then they do learning about themselves.

While we are social creatures yes, we also are individuals.  Many cannot sit in a room with themselves and always need someone around them.  Many can answer superficial questions about themselves such as what they’re doing and wearing but not deeper questions about who they are and their motivation to keep breathing everyday.  This can only cause pain and confusion.

Pain is unbearable, we don’t like it and it’s hard to believe we are the cause of the pain so we deflect this pain on to others and blame them for the pain.  Which is how we get so many people going out of their way to be mean to another. A person who has spent a lifetime disregarding who they really are out of fear of not fitting in with a cultural paradigm, abhors someone who has the audacity to be themselves to the fullest.  They secretly hate themselves but can’t handle the pain of it and want others to hate themselves too.

This way of being is all too common and accepted as “how it is” and I’m determined to combat it.  Some ways I’ve gone about learning about myself is being brutally honest (but kind) about the things I do and think and why. Or forcing myself to hang out with myself sans television or any other distraction.  Just being alone in nature, observing all around me and following the flow of my thoughts teaches me a lot. Another big help for me has been spiritual plant medicine, this is often hard to talk about in Western culture as we are laden with quick fix pills, numbing agents and doing things just to get “f’d up”, so people do not understand fundamentally what I mean when I talk about my experiences but when approached with the right intent, mindset and through research and finding experienced teachers spiritual plant medicines can serve as a huge asset in learning about oneself.

The journey to the self is a personal one and we all get there in different ways but I implore you reader to take the journey and learn what works for you if you have not started.  You will be able to increase the joy and peace within yourself exponentially if you do.

We hurt ourselves just as much or more than the other when we take time out to spread hate while we heal ourselves just as much or more as the other when we take time out to spread love.  When we dig deep, learn who we really are and to love who that person is we are able to radiate love with ease. So why don’t we all give it a try?

It’s a paradox every up and coming musician knows about: going out to build a fan base by playing lot’s of shows at bars with no draw themselves who always ask “How many people can you draw?” Two parties who want and can’t provide the same thing for each other.

Now it makes sense to me when a music venue asks about draw, they are in the business of hosting concerts. As for the bars, I’m calling BS. If you are a bar you are in the business of selling alcohol. While live music is a great idea for creating a specific vibe and attracting new customers, the success of the bar should not depend on musicians but your ability to provide drinks and an environment that people want to drink in.

Many bars arrogantly treat musicians as if they’re doing us musicians a favor. No pay, no new fans, sometimes these bars have the audacity to charge the musicians (please don’t ever do this)! Thanks so much for the favor. Moreover, many of these bars have shoddy to no musical equipment and put zero to 5% effort into promoting the events. What a horrible business partnership.

Now there are bars who approach this the right way. One of my favorite bars in Brooklyn is The Way Station. I have a good time there whether I’m playing or just hanging out and the live music is a big part of it. Not only do they treat musicians with respect, but the booker puts thought into how the night is booked, pairing together similar sounding bands in one night, booking unique acts and ACTUALLY promoting. Every month they print out the shows for the month, they feature the acts of the week on their website landing page and they are happy to put up posters in their windows.

The difference to note between these two examples is what they’re focused on. The bars with no draw are focused on money (or their lack thereof) while bars like The Way Station are focused on the value they are adding to everybody they interact with which in turn attracts money to them. This makes the difference in any business and I think many bars that try to use live music to attract customers are missing this point.

If people can trust you to have good acts booked, they’ll just wander in repeatedly and randomly. If people can only trust you to book bands with a good draw, that may or may not sound good or have a good vibe, they’ll just go when their friend’s band is playing and as you’re not a real music venue you’ll have a harder time attracting bands with high draw.

So musicians, stop working with bars that treat you like crap and have no draw, they aren’t helping you! And bars with no draw trying to use musicians to attract customers, please focus on what value you’re adding and not what people are giving you, I think it will work out better for all who are involved in the end. What do you think? What are some of your favorite bars to play at or see live music?

You don’t have to tell me, but honestly ask and answer that question for yourself. Before I go any further, I’m not trying to suggest I have the answers to your life or am this happy all the time figured everything out being. I’ve just been through some stuff and see a lot of unacknowledged sadness around me as a result so I wanted to write this.

Many don’t know this about me but I struggled with suicidal depression for a long time. While I tried to kill myself a few times, there was one attempt my senior year of college where it became known to more than just me. I ended up in the hospital, which in the state of Maryland requires the doctor to check you into a mental health facility for two days. It was an eye opening experience into the state of health care and to the fact that doctors aren’t necessarily healers but that’s a story for another time. I mention this because I came out of the experience with the truth that I would either properly kill myself or properly figure out how to be happy and make my goals happen.

The bottom of the barrel was a blessing that got me to where I am today. It gave me a perspective and clearness of vision that not all have. I see a lot of people saying they’re happy and content, but based on their actions, words and the look in their eyes, I think it’s all bs. For instance, when I was depressed something someone said or did to me could ruin my day, week, month or even longer completely. I would keep going back to it in my head “Why would they treat me like this?”, I would bring it up with others “Can you believe this thing so and so did?”, I would use it as proof that said person was not a good person and that others probably weren’t as well.

I see this manifested in those around me, vitriolic or snippy statements that are “just a joke” in response to a real life event or social media post. People passionately and endlessly complaining about one thing or the other, that at the end of the day is petty and doesn’t matter. Talking to someone who is constantly putting themselves down and giving themselves negative labels.

These are the actions of unhappy people, because when we are unhappy, we blow small, insignificant events to epic proportions. Happy people however do not like to focus on things that don’t make them feel good and are constantly focused on the abundance that exists in their lives. If something upsets them, they simply address it and move forward. Happy people believe in themselves. I’m not saying happy people never feel sad, frustrated or offended, but the response to these feelings is different in the mind of a happy vs unhappy person.

When I worked in the corporate world I would constantly hear people say things like “there’s nothing left for me really because I turned [insert age].” Or I would ask them what was going on in their lives and they wouldn’t have much to say about themselves. Or the real kicker, “I hate this situation and this situation, but that’s adulthood right? Everybody’s doing it.” (WRONG!) And not just in the corporate world, in general I look people in the eyes, I feel their energy and it’s SO BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS to me how many people aren’t actually happy. Because when I meet truly happy people, it’s SO BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS how happy and at peace they are with existence.

I think this happens because as a society we are kinda taught that learning and growth stops after you turn 18, get the “good job” and the “good relationship” (or that the relationship is supposed to do the growing for you). If you accomplish these few tasks you are supposed to be content and happy. We are also surrounded by media that focuses on concepts of vengeance, ulterior motives and negative stereotypes to a high degree. We are surrounded by advertising campaigns that say “You’re not enough, but my product will make you enough”.

I could go on and on with examples and thoughts on this matter, but I wrote this post to try and get more people to truly sit down and ask themselves, “Am I happy?”. If the answer is no, please don’t except that as the only reality that can exist. With time, learning and different actions you can truly be happy. And if the answer is yes, YAAAAAAAAAAYY!!!!!! Please comment below or feel free to directly message me or email me at tg@trumpetgrrrl.com if you have any thoughts on this or just want to talk. Here's the song I wrote on this topic. Peace :)

You’ve been practicing and promoting really hard for your show and finally the big day is here! You set up and begin to play. You're putting all your heart and soul into a song that means very much to you when suddenly a loud laugh cuts through your concentration and the voices at the table in front of you get louder. You’re furious and insulted and ask them to please be quiet.

Now switch perspectives, it’s been a long week and you’re excited to head out to happy hour with your friends. You’ve gotten a drink and have started to settle in, the ambiance is chill in this place and you excitedly chat. Then your buddy tells a hilarious joke that has you dying! You and your friends start talking about the joke when all of the sudden an irritated voice cuts into your conversation and tells you to “please be quiet”. Now you’re furious, insulted and kinda want to leave.

So who’s right? I’ve personally been on both sides of the fence and when I was younger felt like people should keep their voices down when a performer is playing. But through the years I’ve gained a different perspective and I think the answer is, it depends.

In the book “Live Music Method” by Tom Jackson, he compares the band - audience relationship to that of a romantic relationship. If you go into a room where no one knows you or had any intention of seeing you perform you’re on a blind date, if they came out to see you specifically and have seen you before, you’re dating and if they buy every single thing you put out and come out to all of your shows you’re married.

Now if you were on a first date with someone would you show up, slap them on the ass and then proceed to talk to them about every bad thing that ever happened to you in your life? Hopefully you answered no. Now if you’re married you can get away with such things as there’s a connection formed.

I equivocate showing up to a bar where people aren’t there to see you play and having expectations of them raptly listening to you to slapping the ass on the first date. The fact is we’re entertainers and if you’re entertaining enough, people will stop and look over at you. Putting in the work to make this happen feels so much better than scolding an audience member into staring at you. Furthermore, if you’re leaving your house to play music for others it’s probably about making others feel good, as painful as it can be to have someone talk over your performance, reproaching them definitely is going to help with that mission.

That being said, I go to open mics where 90% of the people present are there to play the mic and people loudly talk and ignore every act until it’s time for them to go on. This imo is rude as open mics aren’t just about you but are about the music community, you should support others just like you want support.

Moving beyond this if I payed money to see an acoustic Christina Aguilera performance and somebody was talking loudly in my ear the entire time I would be QUITE annoyed. As we all payed to specifically see Ms. Aguilera do her thang, we should be quiet and let her do her thang.

So, yes I think it can be rude to talk during a show depending on the scenario. What do you think? Should we always be quiet when a performer’s playing or should we be able to talk freely no matter what? Please comment and let me know!

It’s evening, you just got in after a long day of work and you’re starting to get your relax on. All of the sudden you get a text; “Hey! How are you?? I’ve got a big show coming up on [enter date] and would love it if you can make it!”.

Emotions flood your body; a sincere desire to support, guilt if you say no or perhaps annoyance as this person only seems to want to talk when they have a show or album coming out… the list goes on.

I know because I am on the receiving and sending end of correspondences that go more or less like this all the time. This is a sore subject for all involved, so I thought I’d pull it into the light and get a discussion going about it.

With the invention of the internet and cheap modern recording equipment, more people than ever are exploring their passion for music. We all have a desire to express ourselves and music does it in a way that words just can’t. As a result, we all know people of varying degrees of musical acumen vying for attention; because your voice matters, just like their voice matters, just like my voice matters. And in today’s environment it can be a bit cacophonous.

Now at the end of the day 99% of people love playing or hearing music. If you aren’t a musician I know you are truly interested in discovering new music that excites you and supporting musicians that haven’t gained massive fame or popularity yet. And let’s be honest, it feels special to discover an artist before they really blow up. On the other side I know how good it feels as a musician when people take time and/or money to support. When someone goes out of their way to give you kind words and encourage you to keep pursuing your dream.

So why does it feel like whether you’re the musician or the music listener, that it’s never enough?

We’ve all seen the impassioned plea for support of a crowdfunding campaign. We’ve all seen a post or two from a frustrated artist who is putting in so much time, money and energy but not seeing much of a return. We’ve all supported in one way or another, whether it be buying an album, contributing to a campaign or going to a show. But it never seems like enough; there’s always another crowdfunding campaign, another show next week and another new single coming out. It’s just overwhelming to support all of your local music scene.

It goes the same for the musician side as well. I often debate whether or not to reach out to friends about shows because sometimes it just feels like they’re going out of obligation (which nobody wants, not the point of music) and sometimes it’s just plain overwhelming dealing with a bunch of “Sorry, I can’t come [insert long story]” or “I’m totally coming!” and then they just don’t or my least favorite just no response at all. Sometimes I’ll run into a person who has done the later and they’re clearly feeling guilty or some other negative emotion about it and try to avoid me or they’ll pretend like nothing happened. I say this not to make people feel bad, just to point out it’s difficult for everybody and not what anybody wants. In my opinion the point of music is to spread healing not stress or guilt.

So, do I have the answer to this on how to make everybody happy? Nope, I just wanted to write this article to note it’s overwhelming for everybody involved. You’re not a bad person for not going to every single show your musician friend has. Your musician friend isn’t trying to get one over on you and just take your time and money.

We all are doing our best and we all have value to add to the world.

These are my thoughts however, what do you think?

 

1. Not Being honest about what I want in my career

I started Trumpet Grrrl because I wanted to give myself a platform to express myself in my own way and play trumpet how I wanted. When I was out of college I would play trumpet for pretty much whoever asked me just so I could make money and get myself out there. There is nothing wrong with this but at the end of the day, my passion doesn’t lie in playing trumpet for other people how they want. Upon reflection I wouldn’t put as much effort as I know I could have just because deep down I didn’t care and at the end of the day there are so many trumpet players out there that are happy to play what you want them to play. It took me awhile to start turning down gigs I didn’t want and accept this as a decision best for everybody. I occasionally play trumpet for other bands, but usually just to push my chops or experience something new. I still am very upfront with people about not wanting to be a permanent trumpet player in their band because I feel it would be a lie and disservice to them. I’ve been on the other end where people have said yes to playing a gig with me but it soon becomes clear it’s a chore to them and they end up half assing or bailing on the gig. This serves no one and I think we can be more successful by going within and being honest about what we truly want. The more we give, the more we get and if we’re doing something we only kind of care about our energy runs out and we can only give so much. You are additionally taking attention and energy from your true destination.

2. Letting other people’s opinions get into my heart

When you pursue an artistic career EVERYBODY has an opinion on it, more often than not people with no experience in the industry will tell you how you need to be “realistic” and get a “real job”. Then there’s the second tier of people who have tried but deep down never believed they could do it (probably because of the first group) and will spend time and energy telling you “how hard it is” or “how lucky you have to be”. I let this depress me and distract me as I was hearing things like this since I started being vocal about my desire for a music career at a young age. In the end I realized how much my depression was distracting me from working on my career. When I talk to successful people or observe them on television very rarely do I hear the words “blind luck” they talk about hard work, analyzing what is working and what isn’t working, perseverance and about being prepared to recognize and pounce on opportunity when it comes. And they all say majority of people said they couldn’t do it. I’ve learned to just smile, nod and change the subject when people want to give me “advice” about my chances of success. There’s enough that needs to get done without letting these people sap your energy.

3 .Hinging all of my hopes and dreams on one event

When I was younger, if something didn’t go according to plan I would fall to pieces and despair for clearly my career was going no where. If I got a nice interview or recorded a new song, I would impatiently wait for the masses to roll in as clearly everybody had to have figured out how great I was. This is a stressful way to live life in any regard and boy did it cause me stress. The fact is opportunities often come out of no where, sometimes people have a concrete reason for contacting you for a gig, sometimes it’s just “I remember hearing about you but not where” or “I was just googling”. And sometimes when it feels like you’re making no sort of impact on the world out of the blue you’ll get a super positive note of love from someone you’ve never met thanking you for doing what you do. The fact is it comes down to doing many small things, day in and day out. I’ve found cheering myself on for these day in and day out victories to be very helpful. More than likely one mistake, one thing going wrong or one thing going right isn’t going to make or break anyone’s career. But the strength and character you build along the way will prepare you to handle success and be happy about it when it comes. Which leads me to…

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4.  Waiting for success to make me happy

For the longest time I had this “If I could just get this….”, “Or if this many people just liked...”, etc. mindset. What a horrible (and false) way to live! Happiness can not depend on circumstances and having that mindset distracts you from the abundance around you. There is SO MUCH to be grateful for if you pay attention. Furthermore, I see a lot of “successful” people who are rich and famous but based on their actions are clearly miserable. The “if this thing just would happen I could be happy” mentality always leaves you wanting more, perhaps you will get a big high when you first achieve that “If I could just...” goal but it will not last. I consider success getting your goal and being happy about it. Finding joy in everyday life as you work towards your goals, recognizing the many things to be grateful for and diving within to learn how to be happy no matter what storm is passing over is the key to actually enjoying success when it comes. Moreover, if you’re bummed about life you are more likely to not notice the opportunities swinging right in front of your face because your vision is clouded. It took me a long time and a lot of exploration to understand this one but it really made a world of difference when I did.

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5. Doing the same thing over and over again that doesn’t work (definition of insanity)

I remember learning the Scientific Method in school. If you don’t recall it, basically the formula is; form a hypothesis, act on the hypothesis, observe the results and form a conclusion on whether or not your hypothesis was correct. Even though I’m a huge nerd and this totally makes sense how often I forget this one! I would get frustrated that my social media posts weren’t convincing people that my shows were worth coming to or my music worth purchasing, so what was the solution? More social media posts in the same way! And honestly, a lot of the advice on the internet pretty much says this, just promote, record an album and play a lot of shows, then success will surely be yours! That is because there are a lot of people that have decided to make money off of musicians, they see this work for other artists and assume that is what must be done. And while all of these things are necessary, perhaps the focus should be on how and why we are doing these things and not so much on what we are doing. If playing 50 million shows isn’t increasing your audience perhaps it’s the way your playing these shows and there’s more to learn about performance. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or not working hard enough, but just doing something that doesn’t work. When you’ve been working hard in a field for decades and have invested in professional education it can be easy to believe you’ve read it all and that the problem is that no one realizes how great you are. I’ve been adopting a habit of finding a new book or article that speaks about what I’m trying to get done in an original way or forcing myself to brainstorm new ideas and have been noticing a difference not only in results but in my inspiration to get up the next day and take another crack at it. Don’t keep doing the same actions, reading the same types of articles and expecting the same results, that literally will drive you crazy!

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6. Taking things personally

Being a musician is all about working with other people. People will express their undying love for you and your music one day then ghost you when you try to hit them up the next day. People will say “You can count on me!” with such fervor and genuine enthusiasm, then bail at the last minute or just ghost you and leave you hanging in the wind trying to figure things out. Sometimes people just don’t like your music. Sometimes people assume you’re one thing than get upset at you when they realize you’re not that. The list goes on and on, but the fact is people will let you down and not everybody is going to like you. First, besides oxygen there is not a single thing on this planet that everybody likes. Second, I used to get so upset at people letting me down or changing their actions towards me and would spend days being upset at a person, trying to figure out what changed or nitpicking at myself for something I did wrong. The fact is people aren’t perfect and 99% of the time they are only thinking about themselves, just like you are. More often than not the thought isn’t “How can I make this person’s life crappier?” but “I can’t handle saying no.”, “I’ve got too much going on.” or “I don’t feel like it.”. Pointing out to yourself how a person could have handled the situation better won’t make them better so why focus on it? And if they are focusing on how to make your life crappy, they have some serious personal issues to deal with and are worse off than you. I recently had a situation with a house show where the host was super like; “Anything I can do to help!”, “So excited for the show!” then day of the gig he just stopped responding and when I went to his place I couldn’t get in! Now a younger me would have been angry at him, cancelled the show and went home sulking at how unreliable people are. Instead when I realized he wasn’t going to come through I started focusing on a solution, not the problem and moved the show over to a park across the street. After words when he reached out with a weirdly worded excuse to the organizer (not even me, he never said anything to me) I just laughed and let it go. I additionally gained more confidence in my resourcefulness. We are all learning and on different lessons, it’s not worth it to be angry that someone is on a different lesson than you. I can only focus on myself and I decided to be the kind of person who can make lemonade out of lemons, life is much sweeter since I’ve done so.

I have more mistakes to list but will stop here for now and post more if this seems to help people. Have a lovely journey and thank you for being you!

Before I get into this I should warn that anybody who has dealt with suicide may find this difficult to read, prepare yourself if you’ve decided to read. Some parts are a bit graphic as well.

I’m writing this for two main reasons:

1. I know suicide attempts increase in the winter and around now for college seniors. Hoping hearing my story will help someone.

2. There is a lot of ignorance surrounding depression and suicide, as a result sometimes people say extremely detrimental things that can increase the chance of a person commiting suicide and/or cause pain to people dealing with the death of a loved one by suicide.

It’s a long story so I will put it into chapters. :)

Chapter 1. Taking The Pills

In the winter of my senior year in 2008 I attempted to kill myself by taking as many pills (I can’t remember which brand, advil I think) as I could stomach and washing them down with vodka. It was nothing I hadn’t lightly tried before in my younger years, my depression started around middle school, but this was the first true “I’m definitely not going to wake up after this” attempt.

I had come out to my parents about a year and a half before, the experience was horrible and still to this date is one of the most painful experiences of my existence (I’ve since healed and now draw strength and self reliance from it however). As we neared the end of my college career and prepared to enter the “real world” I had no belief that I could make my true passion of music, my career. You see, I had been vocal about my intent to be a professional musician since picking up the horn at 10, it goes beyond intent, I feel ordained to do so. While I was encouraged to keep playing music throughout the years, adults had given me a steady mantra of “It’s not realistic”, “you’ll never make any money”, you know the same old stuff you’ve probably heard about any job that isn’t soul sucking lol. Lastly, I also had a pretty crappy go at finding love and finding a woman who regarded me as anything more than a fling.

So, here I am, on the lawn between Route 1 and South Campus Commons (for anybody who knows the University of Maryland campus), crying, swallowing as much as I can stomach and looking at the stars. The depression cycle is in full swing as I think about everything in my life, and most importantly the fact that I don’t believe I can make what I came to this Earth to do happen. People that haven’t found their purpose find this hard to understand, but when you know what you live for and think you can’t make it a reality, there is seemingly no point to life. I still believe this but view it from a different, more healthy perspective, but I’ll get to that later.

I remember taking everything out of my wallet and attempting to spell “I’m sorry” with them, my only attempt at a suicide note as I had nothing else on me. I can’t remember what triggered me this night. When you live with depression, all it takes is one trigger to send you spiraling into a cycle of unhealthy, self defeating thoughts. Somebody being rude, something small going wrong — can bring your depression out of the shadows, which is probably why I don’t remember what triggered me this night, it was probably insignificant and beside the point.

I blacked out and everything gets a little hazy from there. Somehow I stumbled over to my friend’s quad and got buzzed inside. The next thing I recall is laying on a sofa with some of her roomates looking at me with a kind of concerned look, I mumbled something like “leave me alone” at them and they let me be, probably just assuming I was really drunk. Next thing I remember is being at my apartment trying to go to sleep but my stomach hurt extremely bad, something was definitely wrong.

So at this point, I’m not dead but I’m in a lot of pain. I’m so disgusted by pills I don’t think I could take anymore to finish the job (to this day I hate taking pills and only do if I absolutely have to). I need help, but definitely am not going to call my family. I can’t remember why anymore, but something was wrong with my phone and I couldn’t get to my contacts. I went on to Facebook and looked for some people who had their number on their page. I found one and called it, no answer. I found another friend and called her. This wasn’t even a friend I particularly hung out with that much, I knew her from work, she definitely saved my life. I spoke to her and just mentioned what I had done, she said she was in North Carolina. To me, it wasn’t all that big of deal haha, but my friend was smart and called 911 after speaking to me.

Before I move on to the next chapter I want to note that women are most likely to kill themselves via pills or cutting. While men usually use firearms, jump in front of trains/off buildings. While YOU CANNOT PREVENT SOMEBODY FROM KILLING THEMSELVES IF THEY HAVE DECIDED TO, if you have somebody in your life suffering from depression it’s good to note this and try to keep these materials out of their reach. Again, YOU CANNOT PREVENT SOMEBODY FROM KILLING THEMSELVES IF THEY HAVE DECIDED TO, it is a personal decision, if you are dealing with the death of a loved one by suicide, know that there is only so much you could’ve done, suicide is a personal choice and there are other factors like brain chemistry at work that are out of your control.

Chapter 2: The Hospital

**Warning - this is where things get graphic **

The ambulance comes and takes me to the hospital. I’m still pretty out of it and in pain. We get to the ER, I hear the paramedic telling one of the doctors about me and hear the doctor say “Why is she here?” in an annoyed voice. This was the beginning of an eye opening experience into the consequences of monetizing health care. Eventually they put me in a bed.

They give me some morphine or something very strong, as I was too doped up to really talk or lift my head. I’m still very out of it and a man I’m assuming was a psychologist comes over and asks me “Why did you do this?” repeatedly. I don’t say much because I’m out of it, and who is this dude who barely introduced himself that wants to know all this personal stuff about me? He leaves and eventually another doctor comes over. He says he wants me to drink some charcoal to get the pills out of my body. He explains what I took could really do damage to my liver. You see I picked the wrong pills to quickly kill myself, I was slowly killing myself.

The charcoal was nauseating, even the smell of it made me want to vomit. I tried to drink it but would gag everytime I tried. The doctor would come over and egg me on to drink it as if I was being obstinate on purpose and choosing not to drink it, threatening to do it via a tube. Eventually they tried just that. Basically how it works is they stick a tube down your nose and directly put the food in your stomach. So the doctor starts trying to do this, it feels like he’s taking a scalpel and trying to force it down my nose (some of the most excruciating pain I’ve ever experienced in my life). My nose is bleeding profusely and they are having trouble getting the tube down my nose. After about 15 minutes of this torture the doctor flippantly says “Well, with the amount of hours it’s been since she took the pills, it probably wouldn’t have done much anyway” I’m floored at this point.

The only resemblance of humanity I experienced in the hospital was from the nurses, all of the doctors were cold, calculating and in the wrong profession imo. (Takoma Park Hospital -- avoid if you can!!!)

They sent me up to the ICU to continue flushing the pills out of my body intravenously. My friend eventually came and visited me. After that I was sent to the psychiatric ward as it is mandatory for them to hold you for 48 hours after a suicide attempt. I still haven’t called my parents at this point.

I’ve never been in prison, but the psych ward felt like the closest thing to it. Gray drab walls in a basement with very few windows. Everybody talks to you as if you’re a child and treats you accordingly. So here I am, a psychologist see’s me for all of 5 minutes. I try to talk to him but he says he doesn’t have time, he just tells me they won’t release me from the hospital until I’m signed up for an Alcohol rehabilitation program. Talk about phoning it in! I eventually lie and say I did, to get out of the hospital, nobody confirms or checks up on my claim, nor did they even offer me any resources to call. They were just going through the motions.

We had forced group activities like arts and crafts. I remember us doing a group activity and one of the people running the group (some sort of mental health medical professional) mentions something about herself, I can’t remember what, and says “You see even normal people go through issues!” or something to that effect. I’m like, these people went to school and have degrees???

To me all of this demonstrates the issues with monetizing health care, true healers (like the nurses) would not behave and talk like all these doctors, but alas too many become doctors for the money and accolades, compounded by a system that demands the doctors see a certain amount of patients a day to keep the insurance companies happy.

But moving on, I eventually call my parents (they are in control of my health insurance after all lol). It’s of course horrible. My parents are obviously upset but respond more calmly than I expect, it’s not their first time dealing with family issues, they’re just there for me. The gravity of what I had done really didn’t hit me until my big sister called me in the hospital. I think I have heard her cry twice in my life, this was one of them and it really struck a chord with me. Eventually my mom comes, we talk to a social worker (the only other professional I felt actually had a soul haha) who wants me to take pills. I 100% don’t want to have anything to do with pills anymore and my mom having dealt with mental health issues with another family member also isn’t down. It’s a temp fix bandaid and people get addicted to pills.

In the end I left the hospital with one concrete thought: I was either going to properly kill myself or put everything into finding peace, happiness and the life I wanted to live. Because I never, ever want to experience what I experienced in that hospital again, it was traumatizing, especially considering my mental state at the time. In the end, I chose to find peace in this life.

Chapter 3: Recovery

Now the path to recovery is a long and ongoing process, it was years before I wasn’t in a place where I considered suicide when things went wrong in my life. I view depression as an addiction, addiction to a way of thinking, it never will go away. I just needed to learn how to manage it. It took me years to build up the thinking habits that lead to my suicide attempt and thus it took years to get me out. These are things that worked for me and may or may not work for you if you’re suffering from depression:

1. Deleting my Facebook “friends” page. Seeing highlight reels of the lives of people you don’t actually hang out with can be dangerous psychologically. It’s not realistic, everybody’s struggling but that’s not what people post, so you only know if you see them in person and are actual friends. As a result social media can give you the impression that you’re doing something wrong in life, especially if you’re already living in a darkened self-doubt headspace.

2. Changing the way I talk to myself in my head. We all should be our biggest cheerleader, but many of us are our biggest critic. I would call myself “stupid”, get angry at myself when I made mistakes and generally would be mean. But I slowly stopped this, it took a lot of work over the years. I still work on this and catch myself, but in general I am much kinder to myself :) And you know what else I noticed? It changed how I talk to others and continually increases my compassion and ability to just let things go.

That being said, I also have gotten very good at pushing away people that don’t serve my headspace. I avoid people that constantly are finding the negative in situations. I don’t hang out with people who don’t encourage me to follow my dreams.

3. Falling in love with myself. It took years, but I love just hanging out with myself!! Taking myself out on dates, being as sweet to myself as I would to a lover, doing activities I like just with me. I put this one in bold because I see a lot of people who are uncomfortable being alone and just accept it, trust me when I say it is holding you back from being content with existence, if you’re not your own best friend I really suggest working on it. Part of falling in love with myself involved learning more about myself. Asking myself “why did I think/do that?” in a curious, non judgemental way. Acknowledging my demons and instead of beating myself up about my sins, figuring out the root of why it exists and constantly cheerleading myself on that I can do better. People die, people move, people change, you are the only constant in your life, so pleeease learn to enjoy being with you if you haven’t yet.

4. Spiritual plant medicines. Now before I get into this, I want to express my reticence to do so because there is a lot ignorance regarding the difference between medicine and drugs in Western culture. Imo, most pills you get at the doctor are drugs meant to mask a symptom, they don’t really heal but most regard this as “medicine”. Meanwhile, tools for healing and growth that the Earth was generous enough to give us such as Marijuana and Mushrooms are used to “get lit”, do what you want, but that’s not me. I use Marijuana as it always helps open the door to positive thinking, I have to walk through it, but it helps. It really saved my life in the earlier years, I would be sitting in a depressive funk just crying and pity partying, then after a few puffs I was over it and would just get to work on something. If you have issues with MJ giving you anxiety I suggest learning more about the strains, certain types are horrible for you if you have depression and anxiety while others are a saving grace. Read, learn and try to find a supplier who can get specific about what they’re selling you.

I also used various psychedelics, always going in with an intent of helping my spirit breathe, finding answers to my life and finding internal peace. The most effective medicine I have taken is Ayauascha, a spiritual plant medicine from South America that they have used for centuries. This is an intense medicine, I always have done it with a Shaman in a confirmed safe place. Everybody’s experience is different, but I have found the most healing through this medicine. It continues to heal you even after the effects are gone, it stays with you for life. Please don’t take this as an endorsement to just go out and try all these things however, EDUCATE yourself. I am happy to talk to anyone about this, but dealing with powerful plant medicines is a big deal, you can do more damage than good if you go in unprepared, half willingly or without a clear intent. Educate, learn from others, speak with professional healers that deal in plant medicine. This method is not for everybody, if you have a strong history of mental illness in your family or are taking other medicines, this might not be for you, please educate yourself.

5. Avoiding alcohol. I know society trains us to turn to booze when things are wrong, but alcohol is hands down a depressant. If you’re in a really depressed state alcohol is your enemy. To me it just pokes at the wounds and numbs. Your chances of killing yourself go up when you drink.

6. Nature. Something about being still in nature brings me back to the point of it all. I think disconnecting ourselves from nature does more damage than we appreciate. We are of this Earth and connected to everything in it. Just existing in a natural environment, whether it be the woods or the beach, observing all the animals/insects go about their day, staring/listening to the water, watching the sky, they all seem to take the weight of this society off of my heart.

7. Believing in myself, following my dreams, and disregarding the thoughts of anybody else. Going back to the logic of “well if I can’t have my dreams f’ life”. I don’t meet too many people that understand this, because honestly most don’t know and/or don’t pursue their passion. Many are content to just pay bills and find love, that’s not me though. I used to watch motivational videos and one day I came across an interview of Will Smith. In it he spoke of going all in for your dreams, like either succeed or die trying. He says it more eloquently but it was the first time I heard my thought process from a positive perspective. The difference being in one scenario I believe and another I don’t. So I’ve gone all in for my dreams, all of my time, money and sanity has gone in. It hasn’t been and still isn’t perfect but I can honestly say I am the happiest I’ve ever been, because I know if die today I went all in. I’m dropping my fourth album this year, have lost count of all the love and positivity I’ve gotten just because of what I do with music. People tell me how my music heals them, I’ve lost count of how many. I’ve had so many beautiful experiences and met so many wonderful people just because of pursuing my dreams. I can’t tell you how much peace going ALL IN has given me, my spirit can breathe without the help of psychedelics nowadays and I don’t need weed like I used to.

So those are the heavy hitters that have helped me. Perhaps they will work for you, perhaps not. I’ve tried things that don’t work for me but work for others. I went to a psychiatrist for a bit by myself and with my mom, they were cool but didn’t do much for me. I really don’t connect with Western healing methods, I think Western medicine is most useful for major things like needing a surgery, but for me it doesn’t do much when it comes to spiritual/mental healing.

If you are contemplating suicide please call a hotline (1-800-273-8255), go hang with positive friends (tell them if you don’t feel like talking, sometimes just being around the positive energy helps) and remember that YOU ARE LOVED. If you’ve convinced yourself everyone will be better off without you (which is not true) just think about simple logistics, if you kill yourself somebody will have to setup a funeral, clean your place out, talk to other family members and do all these expensive, time/energy consuming things. I know that sounds like a cold and calculating thing to write, but just thinking this has stopped me sometimes.

So if you’re depressed, it is possible for you to feel peace and happiness, trust me!!!!! And if you’re dealing with a loved one going through this do your best to help and be there but please remember this is a personal journey that they have to work out, you can only do so much and if someone you love kills themselves IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT, SUICIDE IS A PERSONAL DECISION.

Peace, love and healing to you. I hope this helps. Feel free to hit me up to chat. <3

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