Since this blog is titled, "Behind the Mic," I figured it would be OK to blog about what's been going on in my life behind the mic. The most recent event that's happened is...getting engaged to the drummer in my band, Billy! WOOO!
I thought I would share the story with you all on how it happened, and all the romantics out there can get your fill of love for the day--and all the cynics can make fun of me!
The story begins on the twelfth day of December, when I rolled out of bed and headed to my day job (at Reba's Business). It was a Friday, so I dressed down for the day in a puffy vest and my fat jeans. Luckily I did straighten my hair. I was at work and it was a little stressful, so I remember sending Billy a text saying, "Is it time to go yet?!" at 10am. (Little did I know I wouldn't be there for long!) Billy came and surprised me at lunch, which is not unusual for his day off, so I didn't really think anything of it. But as we started driving to lunch, he started passing all the restaurants until there were only trees around us. I asked him, "Are we eating lunch in the wilderness?! How will I get back in time?" He looked at me and said, "I have a secret...you're not going back to work!" Apparently he had sent an email to my boss asking if he could take me away early that day to surprise me. Well...it worked! He brought me to Cheekwood, a botanical garden in West Nashville and we ate a picnic that he brought. Then, we went on a walk through the Japanese Garden.
We walked through a bamboo pathway and then came up to a pavilion that overlooked a zen garden. When I looked over to the right, there were photo albums and a polaroid camera laid out on the bench in the pavilion. It was then that I knew this was pre-meditated and felt like a proposal was coming on!
We went through the photo albums we had made together and reminisced on all the fun experiences we've had in our 3 1/2 years of dating. Then, we got to the 3rd photo album that I had never seen before, and we looked through Billy's favorite pictures and memories of us. When we got to the last page, it said, "And one last question..." Then, Billy got down on one knee, told me how much he loved me and that he wanted to make a lifetime of memories together--and then asked me to marry him. Spoiler alert...I said YES!
Then, he grabbed the polaroid camera so that we could take one last picture to finish the photo album. (I loved his photo theme!!!! So thoughtful!)
If that wasn't surprise enough, Billy surprised me later that night at dinner. When I walked into the restaurant, both sides of the family were at the dinner table! Some people had even flown in from Orlando for the occasion, and I started bawling just thinking of how sweet it was that everyone came to support us.
Then, Billy brought me back to his house where there was a bonfire with some of my closest friends there! So many surprises! Needless to say, I was emotionally drained by the end of the night, but it couldn't have been a more perfect series of events for this special day.
Thank you to everyone who had a hand in this engagement and the people who have congratulated us. We feel so loved and I cannot wait for what 2015 has in store for us!
The second part of my 2-part post is about my songwriting. Now, let me preface this by saying I am in no way an expert at writing songs and am still learning new things every day. I have, however, been privileged to receive the highest remarks from the Nashville Songwriting Association about my songs. In fact, they chose my song "This House Is Haunted" to be in their list of the best Top 40 songs written. Maybe their bar is low, or I just got lucky, but either way, it was nice praise for a novice songwriter like me!
I've realized that my best songs come from first-hand emotional experiences. Those songs flow freely and effortlessly out of me and end up turning out the best. When I can't think of ideas right off the top of my head, I journal about what I'm feeling that day or what strong memories I have that have deeply affected my life. Then from there, I can usually come up with an idea or title for the song. In most cases, I start with the title and go from there. However, many times I find that when I start writing the song, it evolves into something totally different and the title and direction changes.
Most writers have a strength. Some writers are melody people and some are lyricists. Of course, many claim to be both, but I'll let you in on a secret- most people lean towards one strength! My strength is lyrics. Lately I've been writing songs by myself and will do the melody on my own, but when I feel like there could be a stronger melody, I will try to co-write with someone whose strength is melodies. That's how I wrote my debut single, "This House Is Haunted."
I started with an idea I had based on my first-hand experience of breaking up with my boyfriend. I had to pass his house every day and so I started writing a song called "Pass By Your House." (I know, it sounds lame when I look back on it too) I had some lyrics penned down and the main line that stood out to everyone when I brought it into my co-write with Tammy Jacobs and John Milstead was "I go to bed sleeping in your old t shirt, it's like you're wrapped around me." From that line, and everything I had described to them about my break-up, Tammy came up with the better title "This House Is Haunted." (Tammy is also a lyricist) From there, John (who is the melody machine) came up with the melody and we started writing the chorus. Writing the chorus first is, in my opinion, the best way to steer the direction of the song. If you write the point of the song first, then the verses are easier to come up with. We wrote the chorus first, the verses second, and the bridge last.
Co-writing is great because you have multiple people's ideas and creativity in the song. You also have accountability--people who won't let you put just any mediocre line in the song because you want to move on. Co-writing challenges you to write the best possible melodies and lyrics. But, sometimes co-writing feels like dating. Many times you write with writers you don't know at all. It's such a weird phenomenon: you have to spill your emotional baggage to a stranger upon meeting them, and then try to write a good song about it. Sometimes you click and sometimes you don't. I've gone to many co-writes where I felt like I had the best idea ever and thought it was going to be a hit and then the writer and I didn't see eye-to-eye and the song ended up being a flop. But, like dating, you just move on, and hope you can write a better song next time!
Lately, I've been busy writing songs by myself and with other people, and I can't wait to share some of my new stuff with you all next year on my first EP! I'll be playing songs for my producer soon...so I'll keep you updated on how that goes!
My journey with songwriting started when I moved to Nashville. After a few weeks of living here, I had a meeting with Brian White, who ended up getting me a job interning at his brand new publishing company called SB21 Music. The CEO is Steve Pasch, who wrote the Number 1 hit for Lenny Kravitz, "Stand By Your Woman," among many other songs, and Brian wrote the Number 1 hit for Rodney Atkins, "Watching You," as well as many other big country hits. They needed someone to register their catalogue of songs, keep things organized, and answer the door when the writers arrived for their co-writes. I had no knowledge of songwriting or music publishing at all. Honestly, I don't even think I knew what a Music Publishing Company even was. But soon enough, I was in the middle of listening and watching songwriters write songs every day and learning about copyrights and registering songs with PRO companies (the people who count your radio play and then give you your money!). I also learned that many artists write their own songs. I just thought that artists sang other people's songs, but I learned that songwriting is an essential step in becoming an artist. So, I decided to try my own hand at songwriting. The SB21 writers were so sweet to me and often mentored me about songwriting. After I was done interning for the day, the writers would sit me down and give me tips on how to write a song. I got out a pen and paper and wrote down everything they said and would apply the principles at home with my own songs. They would tell me things like the use of opposites (like Katy Perry's song "Hot N Cold"...tons of opposites in there!) and mixing tempos between the verse and chorus- I began to look at all music differently and see these techniques being used in songs on the radio.
Then, right before I left the publishing company to go work for Reba's Business, I asked Brian if he would co-write with me as a Christmas gift. (I wasn't getting paid, so I figured they owed me one!) He agreed, and there it was, my first co-write of all time, with someone who had written a Number 1 song. I have a feeling not everyone gets to do that on their first go at it- but also feel that no one should...I quickly realized the songs I had brought in were elementary and anything but impressive. But, he kindly gave me some pointers and we did end up finishing my first song called, "Faster Slow Down." (Can you say opposites?!)
Since that first co-write, I've written with many other great writers, and am happy to say that my songwriting has vastly improved. I've even gone back and written with the writers at SB21 Music, so everything has come full circle.
Stay tuned for part 2, about how I approach songwriting and how I come up with lyrics and ideas, and give some insight about how I wrote my last single.
Music is not my passion. Wait a second...let that sink in. You're thinking, "What?! How could you dedicate your life to something that's not your passion?!" I know. It's a shocking statement. But, it's a statement that I firmly stand beside. The older I get, the more I realize that there has to be more to life than being "passionate" about a spotlight. Don't get me wrong, I love performing. In fact, it's all I'm motivated to do. When opportunities for promotions come in my current day job, I turn them down, because I didn't move to Nashville to become a music business executive. I came to perform, and I will keep performing in all the different avenues I can. But, that's not my passion. No, my passion is deeper. It's more life-altering. And it's more important.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I'm more afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.” -Bob Goff, Love Does
My passion is this: to live out my Christian faith by loving and serving those in need. Personally, I feel that I have been led to specifically serve women who have experienced injustice. The injustice of women can come in many forms: physical and sexual abuse, sexual slavery, how the church views women, the status of women in other cultures, etc. The list could go on and on. And the more I research these injustices, the more I can't just sit around and think a life of "singing" is all there is. No, I have to fight and I have to do something. And ideally, my music and passion will coincide together.
What really rocked my world was delving into the book of James a while back. I knew I had a passion for helping women in need, but I wasn't acting on it. James, however, is pretty matter-of-fact about not acting on something. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (James 2:14, NIV) And there it is. It was time to get off my butt and do something. At first, I just started serving wherever needed help. Then, I started finding specific channels of service that matched my passion, and found Morning Star.
Morning Star is a mentoring program that mentors women who have been domestically abused. Before Morning Star, the women spend significant time in an abuse shelter, and after they get out of the shelter, they begin to pick up the pieces of their lives with the help of Mentors. The Mentors help them get their finances together, help them find jobs, and encourage them. I knew I wanted to help this organization but didn't think I would be a good Mentor--and let's face it, I would not be a good financial advisor with my music salary. One of the leaders suggested I help with the kids during their Mentor Meetings. I was a little hesitant at first. From years of babysitting and nannying, I know how spoiled kids can be. But, at the urging of the Holy Spirit, I decided to give it a shot. Turns out, these kids are anything but spoiled. They have been through such a tough time with their family history, and yet they are the most joyful kids I've ever seen. Despite everything they've been through, they are the most polite and well-behaved children and I love every minute I spend with them.
Here, some members of my band and I made drums with the kids and had a drum circle!
While I loved spending time with the kids, I felt like there was a disconnect between my music and my passion. I wanted them to come together. So, I talked with my band, and we decided that a percentage of all our sales and tips would go to help the kids of Morning Star. Now, at every show, if you buy a CD or tip us, a portion of the money goes to the kids fund, where we give the money to help them buy school uniforms or pay for their extracurricular activities. It's not on the grand scale that I would like, but it's a start.
My band and I playing at the Morning Star Thanksgiving Dinner.
I've talked to many people (and I used to think this way too) who say, "When I get big, I'll donate all this money to..." But, I've realized our serving shouldn't be dependent on our success. I think God calls us to serve right where we are with what we have, even if it's not much. So while you're counting your blessings this Thanksgiving week, maybe start counting the ways you could bless people with what you have. You may just find that the people you bless will be the ones blessing you.
Sometimes I think I'm crazy. But sometimes, I think I know exactly what I'm doing.