arts & music

10 Things I’ve Learned While Pursuing Music in Music City

by Briana — November 22, 2013

Music City Nashville Learn

1) Pain in and of itself is not a reason to stop.

Any major goal takes some amount of pain. But it’s the type of pain that matters. Like distress and eustress, there is good and bad pain. There are growing pains, which are the only way to progress. There are overreaching pains, which are a signal that you need to pull back before something snaps. Finally, there are also asshattery pains, which come from other people attacking you because they think it’s a good way to get ahead in life. It’s essential that you keep reassessing the type of pain you’re experiencing, and lean in, pull back, or ignore (and refocus your energy) accordingly.

2) Politics are politics.

I took a songwriting class when I first moved to Nashville and a guest speaker once said, “Trying to make it in the music business here is like being in the NFL, except there are no helmets and no referees.” Music City has given me lots of bruises. Every bruise hurts, but every bruise is also a chance to learn.

3) Being a morning person makes some things significantly easier.

I’ve never been a person who sleeps through alarms. I never even press snooze – having more than one alarm go off makes me anxious and puts me in a bad mood. I’m eternally grateful for having morning-person genes, even if I consistently get made fun of for being a grandma. For example, I have a violin lesson tomorrow at 8:30am, and I’m totally okay with that because I normally wake up somewhere between 6-7 o’clock.

4) But it also makes some things significantly more difficult.

Being a grandma with a 10 o’clock bedtime (why yes, it is past my bedtime, ye who pay attention to post timestamps) has a major downside. Gigs rarely start before 8pm or end before midnight. At these times, I would much rather be crawling into bed (because I’ve been up since 6am). Making music is always worth the bedtime extension…sometimes it just requires a little extra coffee. Luckily, coffee is one of three things never in short supply around musicians (the other two: booze and cigarettes).

5) Having a dog is the best.

I can’t imagine living by myself otherwise. There is unconditional love waiting for me every time I come home, and nothing could be a better feeling.

6) It’s possible to “trick” yourself into things that you don’t want to – but have to – do.

I don’t always enjoy practicing classical music, so I often have to “trick” myself into practicing by playing some jazz or bluegrass or transcribing a new country lick first. It’s similar to working out – getting exercise clothes on is half the battle. If you can get changed, you’re way more likely to make it to the gym. This probably applies to other things, but I’m out of analogous situations at the moment. (Did I mention it’s past my bedtime?)

7) Not everyone is going to like you (no matter how hard you try).

Look up the textbook definition of Type A Perfectionist and you might find a picture of me. Learning to let go is a lifelong process (especially if you fall into the Type A personality). Learning to let go of other people’s opinions of you is an even harder lifelong process.

8) Dealing with stress is always difficult.

My main (terribly unhealthy) coping mechanism for stress is overeating. I’m great at eating as it is, so I have to really keep myself in check when I’m stressed. I still haven’t figured out how to cope with especially stressful months without gaining 6-10 pounds, but I’m really trying and someday I hope this kind of unhealthy fluctuating will be a thing of the past.

9) If you ever want to find a four leaf clover, you’ve gotta get a little dirt on your hands.

That’s a line from a Kacey Musgraves song, by the way. If you haven’t heard her album, do your ears a favor and take a listen. She’s a fabulous writer. But I digress. There is definitely such a thing as luck – being in the right place at the right time – but the only way you’ll ever be in the right place at the right time is if you do a helluva lot of hard work first.

10) Forward movement is necessary and inevitable, but you can’t always control when or how it happens.

I have heard more “no”s in the past 4 months than I have ever heard in my entire life, and it’s incredibly frustrating. I feel like I was just starting to grow and make some really great connections here, when a giant tornado ripped through my plans and put a redwood tree-sized hole right in the middle of what I thought was my future. Thankfully I’ve experienced enough “yes”es here they I know they’re there. You just have to keep on keepin’ on.


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