Manifesto of an Unchosen Musician

Heaven and the music industry* have twisted themselves together in my brambled mind. I mean the heaven I used to believe in, and the music industry I used to dream about, and the way they both still affect me on a gut level I’ve not paused to think about before.

Something about being chosen, about higher-ups moving in mysterious ways, about knowing the right people, being in the right place at the right time.

And clashing with that, having a voice and a soul that feel too large for my timid self, that come tearing out sideways if I try to box them up – but not having enough of the mysterious something – the look, the drive, the belief, the secret decoder – to make it with the gatekeepers.

Something about scarcity, about me and scads of people I know or have heard, who keep making music and living big soulful lives because what else can they do? – and the airwaves being just too crowded, the need for the higher-ups to choose only some, the ones who work the hardest, clamor the loudest, get born into the right family at the right time.

And how I don’t feel like I really want to be chosen in a system like that, and how I feel more alive outside the contrived paradise, where kids and old people and loud people and shy people and generally awkward people and anyone else below the industry standard are making their music and living their lives, sans audience, sans halo.

No mansion for me, and no platinum record. I’ll just be out on the front steps of heaven, singing my guts out** with the rest of the unchosen.

 

*Whatever heaven may be, this ain’t it; and “the music industry” is hardly such an easily-generalized monolith, and there are many highly successful musicians making music I love and doing good authentic work. This post is about opting out of elitist mentalities, wherever they crop up, and not letting fear of being unchosen keep us from being who we really are, making music whether anyone listens or not, searching our souls despite the disapproval of the gatekeepers of faith or tradition or clout in any form.

**“You’ve been singing your guts out / Is that not enough to do?” – I love this phrase from a Luka Bloom song, whose lyrics also seem relevant to this post: http://www.lukabloom.com/lyrics/riverside_album/the-one/

 

Extra credit – these songs:

 

 

10 Comments

  1. Julia, I hope you always continue to “sing your guts out”. You have a beautiful gift and have touched (and will continue to touch) many with your music and your life! Love from MN! 🙂

    • Thank you Sarah. I promise I will. Just as I know you will always continue to be a genuine, deeply kind person and a steadfast encourager. CO love right back at ya!

  2. Once again, my lovely daughter, you have managed to craft your words in a way that easily spills out heretofore unexpressed angst, living deep within my spirit. You have described your own personal experience, from your own life’s window, with words that ring true for artists, religionists, teachers, musicians, philosophers, and others who find themselves in communities pressured to trade the high gift of spirit-expression for the low consumer price of 30 pieces of silver.

    • Well, there is no doubt that I am my father’s daughter! Thank you for being honest and open about your own thoughts and struggles, and continuing to live authentically. You and Mom are forever encouraging me that every day, every year, every decade just brings new adventures for those who keep their hearts and minds open.

  3. Derry: “Who told you Jesus was a rich man and he stayed in the best hotels?” Who sold you living water then put poison in your wells?”
    Gene: “You know your wealth will never save you, can’t run a river that’s run dry. You can’t bribe a camel to go through a needle’s eye.”
    Sweet Work of Love, Green Room Serenade, Lost Dogs

    How long, how long will we sing this song…. (some famous song from U2…)

  4. Well, did anyone watch the Grammy’s this year? Yikes, what a freak show, maybe it is best not to have been chosen, Julia. Google “Grammy awards/illuminati,” or don’t, what a rabbit hole that is…but whatever pulls the strings behind the music industry, it seems nasty.

    I guess I have wished some of your stuff would get picked up and you would get, you know, mildly famous, or at least, you know, borderline rich, but since that has not happened (yet), just know I admire someone who sticks to their art and doesn’t give into the drudgery of adult life. I am in the process of selling one of my old guitars, its unusual and rare, but it just sits. But, happily, I will be turning the proceeds of the sale into instruments for my kids; maybe they will do something.

    Anyway, keep singing and playing, you’re always interesting.

    • Well, no, I didn’t. Not sure I’ve ever actually watched the Grammys. I’ve never really enjoyed awards ceremonies, contests, talent shows, American Idol, etc. – it all feels so unreal to me.

      And yeah, not giving in to the drudgery of adult life is the actual battleground for me right now! Nathan set up the drums and sound system in the basement so we can play some loud music now and then, and just getting down there to play a song or two every now and then while the kids are doing something else always feels like a major victory.

      Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

  5. This is such a struggle, that desire to be recognized for the hard, true work you’re doing, but simultaneously rejecting the consumerism and shrink-wrapped packaging those gatekeepers offer. Why do we crave that validation from a source outside ourselves? And how come they get to hold the keys anyway?

    You’re such a prophetic voice, Julia. Don’t allow that voice of scarcity and “success” drive you to self-doubt or compromise. Keep being true to that song in your heart. It is beautiful.

    • Thank you TC! And the very same to you. Reading your blog and seeing your faithfulness and honesty in your own writing life consistently encourages me to keep going, in whatever creative endeavor I’ve got going.

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