Changing Leaves: An October Recap
Description: The journey of a Nashville singer-songwriter. Sharing my experience navigating the music industry as a woman somewhere in her twenties.
In my “past life” pre-COVID I was gigging regularly in the DC-area with my band. In January 2020 I moved to LA to pursue music. Now based in Nashville, I didn’t know how much life would change.
The falling leaves and the beautiful weather inspire me to sit outside more…the fresh air definitely does wonders. I’ve joined a running group and completed my first 10K this month alongside some new runner friends. Getting up early is not my favorite, but it has been well worth it for my mental and physical well being.
Just as the leaves change with the seasons, so does everything in life. This month, the highs and lows included two musical experiences coming full circle.
This past month I’ve been settling into a new routine after recently adjusting to a new schedule and have been making more space for music again. After COVID and changing cities 3 times in 3 years, I (somewhat involuntarily) took a break from playing out and from teaching music to the same degree that I was pre-COVID. After moving away from the DC area, first to Los Angeles, and for the past almost 2 years in Nashville, I had to let go of most of the teaching schedule I’d built up over the past several years in the DC-area. This was something past me didn’t realize I would regret giving up. Teaching music had become a part of my identity and I cherished the relationships I had built with students and their families. Since moving to Nashville “Music City,” there is no shortage of music teachers. I’ve been slowly rebuilding my teaching schedule again at Greenhills Guitar Studio in Nashville, and I feel like I have a part of my ‘old life’ back.
A Tough Pill to Swallow: Criticism
A few weeks back I had received some very direct and not-so-positive feedback from a music publisher on a song I had recently written. I brought the song to a pitch night in Nashville. This is where songwriters have the opportunity to play one of their songs for a music publisher, and the publisher can choose whether they want a copy of the song, and they can choose to provide feedback.
It was the first draft of a song and I had written it the night before. As per usual, I was blinded by my excitement for my newest song and didn’t think to bring a an older, fully formed and developed song. After listening to my song and reading the lyrics, the publisher’s remarks were that it, “had nothing that stood out musically or lyrically at all” and “it sounds like something that people write really early on.” He didn’t know that I’ve been writing songs for 18 years, and have won multiple awards for my songwriting. And I know one person’s feedback doesn’t define me / and it is just one song of many. But, I really took the feedback to heart.
I wallowed in it for a few days. And eventually my sulking led to learning. I learned to submit my absolute best material. I knew I had not dedicated the proper time to this song and had actually done myself a disservice. Putting your best foot forward, and submitting completed, polished work when pitching music to a publisher in Nashville, (or frankly anywhere) is professionalism. It sounds like common sense…and probably is (ha!) but we all have to learn one way or another.
Quit Taking It Personally
I’ve been working on this acronym (thanks Mom): QTIP–Quit Taking It Personally.
Check the ego at the door, come prepared with completed material you believe in, and take the criticism with a grain of salt. Roll with the punches. There’s always another opportunity.
A few weeks later, I had a meeting with Jill and Lisa at NSAI and they encouraged me to submit my original song, “When I’m With Ya” sung with James Britton, and produced by Austin Bello at the next Pitch to Publisher Night. I have received an overall positive response to this song, but after the recent publisher’s feedback, I did not have high hopes, and went in with a “whatever happens, happens attitude.” To my surprise, the publisher wanted a copy of it and it was one of only a handful of songs picked that night! That was pretty cool! A little bit of luck, forethought, and preparation made it possible.
A Full Circle Moment
The next day, I attended the Allen Stone Karaoke Extravaganza concert at the Analog Hotel with my friend Carly. A few years back, in 2020 I was asked to sing backing vocals with the incredibly talented Andy Suzuki and the Method opening for Allen Stone, but I could not make the DC show because I had recently moved to LA and gave up the gig. I was scheduled to sing with him opening for Allen Stone at the LA and San Diego shows. Much to all of our dismay, COVID canceled everything. Major bummer.
Fast forward two years to January 2022, and because we are both longtime fans of Allen Stone, I got my partner James VIP tickets to the Allen Stone show in Nashville for his birthday. We were still wearing masks, but it was incredible to be at a real in-person concert for the first time in a few years. We had such an incredible experience. When my friend Carly asked me to come to the Allen Stone karaoke show this past month in Nashville, I briefly considered the $75 price tag, and decided why not! I had zero expectations of singing with him but a nervous feeling in my gut about the possibility that it might happen. James and I discussed my song choices earlier in the day in the off chance that I may be selected to sing and I did my makeup and sang through Kelly Clarkson’s, “Stronger” once or twice in the bathroom.
When we got to the venue, the energy in the room was electric. The chance to sing with Allen Stone!!! Allen Stone and his best friend did a few comedy bits and sang a few songs and as the first few people were selected to sing karaoke songs, the energy of the room was palpable. Then we saw on the screen, “On Deck: ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ – Hayley F.” I was selected to sing karaoke with Allen Stone!!! I practiced my deep breathing (lol!), walked on stage, and was greeted with a hug by Allen Stone! It was a mind blowing experience to sing with such a vocal phenom…to say the least.
Summing it Up
You really never know what life will throw at you. What goes up sometimes comes back around. Just keep swimming.