Some days you're in the high, and some days you're in the low...and somedays you're high and low in the same day. A lot of my life has seemed like that lately. You can come off the stage thinking you just had the best show of your life or you can leave the stage wondering if anyone cared you were up there. You can be really encouraged by something someone says, or you can be discouraged when someone whips out the Billboard Country Top 100 and gently reminds you that there are only 3 females on it. But I guess it's the balance of highs and lows that keep you level headed. The lows are there to put your pride in check, and the highs are there to remind you to keep going.
I thought that since we survived the craziness of our last Birmingham show (see previous post) that surely our next Birmingham show would be a breeze. However, it seems that something always keeps us on our toes. On this particular day, the guitar locks, that are supposed to be an extra precaution for keeping the strap on your Gibson electric guitar in place, decided not to work, and caused my guitarist to drop her guitar, inevitably breaking the headstock. It was a tragic occurrence. We panicked and weren't sure how some of the songs would go since we had planned our set around having an electric guitar. Luckily we were playing at a University and a student called their friend to borrow a telecaster, but the sound of the borrowed guitar would go in and out and it put a damper on the evening. However, we managed to get through despite it all!
The next day I was sitting at my day job (working at Reba's company Starstruck Entertainment), probably looking like a zombie because we got back in town from Birmingham at 1:30am, and Kelly Clarkson's assistant, Ashley, asked how I was doing. I was explaining my exhaustion and how touring and working 45 hours a week was a little taxing. She said she had no idea that I was a singer and that she would look me up. I didn't think that would actually happen, but I was grateful that she seemed interested.
Well, fast forward a few days, and I'm sitting at my desk when Kelly Clarkson and Ashley walk in and Kelly says, "I watched your music video! I had no idea you sang! The video was really good and you sounded great!" And Ashley said, "I totally looked you up after we talked!" There were a million things running through my mind. Wait a second- did Kelly Clarkson-my biggest musical influence- really just watch my music video in her spare time?!...and said I sounded great?! I got a little sappy and told her, "Well you're my biggest influence!" and she said, "I had no idea of that either!" It was definitely a high I needed!
As my real-life American Idol was walking away, I got a text saying one of my band members has tendinitis and that I'll need to find some replacements for our shows.
So as you can see....highs and lows!
My viola player, Katherine (learn more about her here), was telling me that lately she's been grateful for the highs and lows--grateful for the journey between learning and arriving at your destination.
She sent me this quote that really spoke to me, "O Lord, our God, so much of this life is lived in between; between the now and the not yet, between arriving and departing, between birth and death and rebirth, between growing up and growing old, between questions and answers. Help us not to live only for some distant day when the in between will be no more, but help us to step into the mystery of that sacred space here and now--knowing that it will be a place of genuine change and true transformation." -Unknown
Sometimes you will break your proverbial prize guitar, and sometimes Kelly Clarkson will watch your music video. But in the end, both times will help you grow and transform you into the person you were meant to be.
Many people have been noticing that I mention my band a lot in my posts and have been asking me more about them. So, this week's post is dedicated to meeting the band.
When I got to Nashville, I started hearing the term "good hang" thrown around when referring to traits people look for in band members. At first, I really didn't understand why people cared that much about personality and thought it seemed like a popularity contest rather than based on pure talent. But now that I've been touring more, I understand why a "good hang" is so important! My band spends hours in the car together, on top of rehearsals, video shoots, performances, recording, etc. I feel like we're never apart anymore! Luckily, I love these people to death. We have so much fun and spend a lot of rehearsal laughing instead of practicing (I hope you can't tell....).
If you've been out to my shows, you may have seen a few different faces on stage. Sometimes I add people to the mix, or someone has to sub-in, but on the whole, these are the faces you will see with me at my shows.
Meet Katherine. Katherine hails from Wichita, Kansas, and came to Nashville by way of Belmont University. While at Belmont, she studied Classical Viola Performance. Katherine and I met at a church new member meeting, and while I was getting to know her, she mentioned she played viola. After our initial meeting, I hired her to play on a video with me, and then asked her to play a show with me...and then another, and then...the rest is history. Katherine is a comedian at heart. While we're in the car, Katherine is always pulling up new comedians for us to listen to. On our one weekend off of touring, she suggested we all get tickets to a Comedy Show...which ended up being an awesome decision.
You may find it unique that Katherine plays the viola. Many people don't understand that the viola is different from the violin. She gets many comments about playing a "big violin" gets asked why she just doesn't play the violin instead. Although the viola is misunderstood, I couldn't imagine a world where Katherine didn't play her emotion-evoking viola solos in my songs. You can follow Katherine on twitter and instagram @keholmgren.
Meet Amy. Amy comes to us from the small town of Hickory, North Carolina. She came to Nashville for a recording studio internship to finish up her Commercial/Electronic Music Degree from Western Carolina University. Amy and I met at her internship and became fast friends! She told me her instrument in college was Jazz Guitar....so you can probably guess what happened next...I recruited her for the band! Amy is also a talented Mastering Engineer and is an Assistant Mastering Engineer at Yes Master Studios. (So, if you need a song mastered, contact her!!) She mastered my debut single, "This House Is Haunted," and did a fabulous job. Amy is the one in the band that's always happy. On stage, she's always smiling, in the car, she's always laughing, and on guitar, her leads are always upbeat! You also never know what Amy is going to say. One time I needed to kill some time at one of our shows because we played through our set pretty fast, so I asked everyone in the band to tell an interesting fact. Amy's fact was that she enjoys pickle juice with her potatoes. I have never heard of this, but I guess I'll have to give it a try before I can judge it! You can follow what Amy will say on twitter @amybrown214 and instagram @ambrown21492.
Meet Billy. Billy holds a soft spot in my heart because we've been dating for over 3 years (Sorry Amy and Katherine...you have soft spots in my heart too...just not the same spot). Billy grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, and came to Nashville...well...because I moved here. (haha) He also thought it would be a good move for him so he could pursue professional drumming after receiving his Percussion Performance Degree from Samford University. After he attended Samford, he taught Percussion at Spain Park High School for a few years and continues to teach here in Nashville. He also plays for another band, Gil and the Harbor, but I'm always happy to snag Billy to play with me whenever possible. Billy is often times the only boy on the road, so he is our resident driver and roadie when we need some heavy lifting. Billy is also a comedian at heart, and Billy and Katherine sit in the front of the car and plan out their own comedy routine, which they hope to perform soon. (Amy and I sit in the backseat and end up sleeping a lot...so it works out.) You can follow Billy's budding comedian career on twitter and instagram @billy_gunter.
I've started expecting the unexpected when it comes to out-of-town shows. It's a good habit to build, because you never know what you're going to run into on the road. My last show was no exception.
The day started at 8:30am, when we met at one of my band member's houses to load up the Delta Mama (our "tour" bus...see previous post). We headed to Chick-Fil-A, a band ritual for early morning drives, then headed down I-65 from Nashville to Birmingham.
The trip was fairly uneventful, just a lot of laughs at the comedian we were listening to, and some bathroom breaks. After 3 hours, we pulled up to the house we were staying at, got out of the car, and my guitarist/bassist said, "I just realized I didn't bring my bass." My initial response was, "Wait- is this a joke? Is this serious?" She confirmed that this was, indeed, not a joke. Luckily, the band member we knew the best, from the other band we were playing with that night, was the bass player. So, we asked him if we could play his bass. He kindly responded that we could. Phew! Disaster was averted...for now.
We then ate some lunch, had some rehearsal, and went on our way to the show. At 7:30pm, we got to the venue. When we walked in, it was a brisk 90 degrees inside, and we were aptly informed that the air conditioning was broken. My immediate thought was of my drummer's Grandma, who was going to be in attendance, and thought that she would probably not enjoy watching the show from a sauna. They said they were going to bring in some fans, but never did. However, my band is awesome, and 2 of them took initiative to find the fans and assemble them in the room.
While the fan fun was happening, the other band was sound checking. However, that band had already been there about 2 hours trying to sound check, and there seemed to be some confusion with the sound guys that took a while to figure out. So, we just waited a while. After we waited what seemed like eternity, one of my members said, "Maybe the sound guys don't know that we exist?" I thought, "there's no way they don't know we're playing tonight...but maybe we should tell them just in case?" So, he went up to them, told them we existed, and their response was, "There's another band?!"
At this point, it was 8:40pm and our show start time was 9:00pm. We hadn't even put our equipment on the stage yet. They were already letting people in the doors, so our audience ended up watching us put the instruments and cables on the stage. We then sound checked for our entire audience.
Finally, we got everything situated and started our actual show around 9:10pm. There were many loud drones of sound feedback throughout our set, but considering everything we had just gone through, it was the least of our worries.
When people ask how our show went, my response is simply, "What we could control went very well."
Sometimes you have experiences that make you feel confident, and may even puff you up a little. Like when the sound guy says, "We need to end sound check now because there's a line of people out the door waiting to get in for your show." Or, when someone asks you for an autographed picture because they think you're worth something...(or at least your handwriting!)
Then, there are experiences that are completely humbling.... Like when someone asks you, "Are you making a living off of music alone?" and you say, "No, I can't live completely off of music yet," and they say, "Oh, so it's still a hobby for you."
Or, when you record vocals on a new song and the sound engineer says, "Wow, that was WAY better than when we recorded your last song!"
Or, when you play for tips, and there's no one there...
In this pic, Billy and I are playing at a frozen yogurt place, serenading....no one.
Or, when people are there, but you only make $2...from your friend.
In this pic, the ladies of my band were playing at the mall, hoping to make enough tips to pay for our next music video. We made $2.
You'll be glad to know that the ladies and I came back to the mall to play another show the next day, and ended up making enough money to pay for our gas to our next out-of-town show. (This Saturday 9/6 in Birmingham, AL!!!!)
Although there are the bad humbling experiences, there are also the good humbling experiences. The ones where God opens a door for you that you know you don't deserve and couldn't earn with your own strength. And these are the humbling experiences that keep me going.
Sometimes I think I'm crazy. But sometimes, I think I know exactly what I'm doing.