The music industry can be a rough world on your own as a musician. Without a team of branding and marketing specialists getting the word out about you and your, assuming awesome, band, it can be one of the most difficult hurdles to jump. However, below is a step-by-step process of how an independent band can brand and market themselves, including tips on brand vision, audience, assets, and the necessary evil, social media. The music industry has changed dramatically in the past few years, and now more than ever has it become a great time for independent musicians to find success in today’s music industry. Read below to learn how you can give you and you’re a band a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Create A Personal Brand Vision for You Or Your Band
Some of the most successful bands in history have a very distinct image that they have created as their vision. The Beatles with their matching haircuts and Boy Band appearance. The Spice Girls with their multiple yet cohesive personas. Beyoncé with her general awesomeness -- enough said. This vision is the first step to creating your personal brand and should help organize your thoughts. Like the artists above, this brand vision should reflect how you want yourself to be perceived by others, specifically your target audience. Here are some questions to consider for help with this step...
· What are the themes of your work?
· What values are most important to you as an artist?
· What inspires you?
· How would you describe your personal style?
· How do you want your audience to describe your live show?
Connect With Fans
If you’re a people person, this is the fun part. Building a bridge between you and your fans is important for success as an independent artist. This is where social media -- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- come in handy. It allows constant access between you and your fans at all times and free publicity on your upcoming shows, albums, meet and greets, etc. It also allows a chance for you to interact with your fans. In other words, if a fan compliments your track or album or show, thank them!
But also, the old school approach of playing live as often as possible takes the cake. A killer live show is a great way to gain new fans and keep the ones you have happy. It’s all about first impressions with this one, so hit the pavement and busk in cities you have never been to and put yourself out there...
...which brings me to my next point. Many young musicians have been discovered on YouTube -- Justin Bieber, Jasmine Thompson, Shawn Mendes, to name a few -- so if you have a little stage fright or are just starting out, YouTube is a great option to dip your toe in the water. But even if you’re fully submerged in your music career, a popular YouTube channel can be a great -- and cheap -- platform to launch yourself on. All you need is the internet and a camera and you can dazzle everyone with your talent.
Streaming sites is a huge controversy in the music industry today. Some artists have reservations about putting their work on streaming platforms, but it's a huge tool that can help raise your profile and reach new fans. Getting your songs on a playlist with some well-known artists on Spotify or Apple Music is an extremely useful, and free, way to get your music out there. Did I mention it was free?
Connect With Mentors
Consistent learning and growth is one key to success. Mentors are great assets when building your personal brand and are also just great for advice in general for when you need that little extra push. You can learn the tricks of the trade so to speak from someone who has experience in the field. Also, connections are everything in the music industry. It’s a community and you never know what doors may open with a new friend and mentor. Plus, it’s always nice to have a new jam-sesh buddy who gives you advice on music too.
I know, as cheesy as it sounds, it is true. You or your band are unique, so don’t build your brand trying to be the next Beyoncé because, let’s face it, there is only one Queen B. Figure out what your strengths are and what makes your brand particularly unique. That is what will set you apart from the rest.
This has been a guest post written by Charlotte Kohlberg, a recent graduate of Art History from New York University. After working at a publishing company, she realized her affinity for writing when she had to write weekly newsletters on authors and podcasts. She started her journalism career contributing for online media and entertainment source, The Knockturnal. Currently living in New York City, Charlotte enjoys going to concerts and art museums and mixing cocktails for her friends.
Success comes from hard work, networking, dedication, talent and a little bit of luck. Something that makes a huge impact on each one of those things is your mindset.
Your mindset should be positive, uplifting and attracting success. This will, in turn, make you confident in every aspect of your life and will affect your success in music.
An example of how your mindset can affect your success in music can be the following: Picture this, you have an important gig coming up that you have worked hard for. You’re trying to psych yourself up but you keep having these anxious thoughts of “what if I mess up?” “what if no one likes my music?” etc. That’s thinking negatively and having that mindset can damage your chances for success.
Instead, here are some tips to help you improve your mindset to positively affect your success.
Step 1 Choose something you want to have come into your life. It could be something like a publishing deal, a manager, a sale on your song, an artist cutting a record you wrote or something else you really desire.
Step 2 Focus on what you desire. Really visualize what it would feel like to have this thing in your life. Think about the emotions you would feel towards it. If it would make you happy focus on that feeling. It takes 17 seconds to start creating momentum for manifesting something. So you want to focus for at least for 17 seconds on the thought.
Step 3 Write out yourself having it in the present. Try using ‘I Am’ statements. So if you wanted to manifest or bring into your life a manager you could say:
I am working with an amazing manager.
I am recording an amazing album.
I am a grammy winner etc.
Write it out many times. The more times the better.
Step 4 Write a gratitude statement about having it. Here are some examples:
I am so grateful for getting my first record deal.
I am so grateful for winning my first grammy.
I am so grateful for finding the perfect guitarist for my next song on my album.
Step 5 Move on! You don't want to focus on it too much or you'll introduce resistance. Go have fun! Do things that feel good so you can keep your vibration up and have faith. This is always the hard part! Waiting but you must have patience.
Want to learn more details? Check out our program where we teach musicians how to manifest your wildest dreams here: www.artistpluginprogram.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dani is a music entrepreneur as well as singer/songwriter outside of Philadelphia. She is the Founder of the Artist Plugin Program the online course to help artists with mindset, networking, branding and monetizing. She also is the Founder of Music Industry Mastery a music consulting agency to help artists with branding, promotion and content creation. She is also the co-author of In The Spotlight: Over 100 Voices in Music a book that features advice from over 100 indie artists, producers, publicists and more. Her passion is to help artists connect with the right people. She is the master connector. She plugs artists into the right people, resources and opportunities.
Coachella: the Mecca for trendsetters and music stans alike. But why? Who deemed the Indigo, CA festival the intersection for all things popular music, boho-chic fashion, and creative expression? Perhaps it was Vanessa Hudgens, dubbed the Queen of Coachella, who has been a fixture at the festival since what feels like its inception. Maybe social media is to blame (or thank?) for bringing the festival to the mainstream due in part to its insta-worthy grounds and flocks of celebrity attendees.
I, for one, have never been to Coachella. This is not a product of me not wanting to go; you definitely wouldn’t have to beg me to go to a weekend-long festival in beautiful weather among beautiful people and great music. In a way, I feel like I see all I need to of the festival thanks to social media posts and live streams of artists’ sets online. Half of the allure for me personally is the fashion; every year post-Coachella I stalk the pages of my favorite fashion websites for photo diaries of festival-goers in various states of undress or in outfits so elaborate I wonder how they slink themselves through the crowds and the heat without doing damage to themselves or others.
Every artist can tell you that performing for a crowd is a form of pure release -- a form of creative expression that can’t be replicated or fabricated. I believe this is the role fashion plays for many festival attendees. Fashion in and of itself is a form of creative expression, personal and specific to each individual, and similar to performing in that the feeling you get from putting together a great outfit is similar to the satisfaction a performer gets when killing a set in front of a great crowd. When thinking of it this way, the outrageous festival fashions make sense.
One of the best things about any festival is the feeling that everyone there is truly just living their best life. And you’re all there for the same reason! The community vibes are always there and I’m here for that! Next time you can make it to a festival, whether it be Coachella or its equivalent in your neck of the woods, take advantage of the truly spontaneous and judgement-free environment and live it up, dress to EXpress, and have a great time.
#TheCrush Report is a monthly recap of what's happening in the biz by music publicist Chloe Cardio. You can follow Chloe on Instagram and Twitter.
Sam Creighton is no stranger to the stage -- she's been part of theater programs in both middle school and high school and performed with her college a capella group, Northeastern University’s The Nor’easters, at the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella in 2015. Since graduating, Sam’s been on a roll in her solo journey as a singer, creating and releasing singles with messages of female empowerment, self-love, relationships, and saying bye to fuckboys. She sat down with us to talk about her badass new single “Smile" (which calls out catcalling!), give advice about finding balance between your passion and your work life, dish on her upcoming music, and offer words of wisdom for women singer-songwriters in the industry today.
How did you get started with music?
I started singing when I was around 2 years old. My grandfather has a vast musical history with songwriting, piano, violin, and choral singing, so he took me under his wing from a very young age! He would prop me up on his lap at the piano and teach me how to harmonize with him. My favorite memory is singing a duet called “What’ll I Do” with him! After that, I just never stopped. I took voice lessons in elementary school, joined the theater program in middle and high school, sang in choirs and school talent shows -- it was never-ending. Music became ingrained in who I am as a person.
I read that in college, you were studying behavioral neuroscience and were also part of The Nor'easters, a competitive a capella group on campus, which was featured on a reality TV show called Sing It On, produced by John Legend. What was the catalyst that led to your becoming involved with The Nor'easters? Did you feel lost without music?
When I had to make the tough decision between following my dreams in higher education or taking a more practical route, something pulled me toward the safe decision. I can’t exactly say what it was, but I’m grateful for it -- because had I not gone to Northeastern to study Behavioral Neuroscience, I would have never felt the emptiness of not having a musical outlet in my life, and I would have never searched across campus for different musical clubs that ultimately led me to The Nor’easters. It only took two weeks of college to realize that I couldn’t be without music, so I guess, in a sense -- yes, I do feel lost without music. Once I auditioned for the group and started rehearsing with them, my whole demeanor shifted. I became myself again. It was a lovely break from the monotony of Organic Chemistry at first, but it quickly took over and I spent more time in the rehearsal room singing than I did in the library studying. Can’t say I regret it though!
What would you say to people who want to follow their passions but default to making a different, "socially acceptable" career choice for the sake of financial stability? Is there a balance that can be achieved?
I think there is definitely a balance. Listen, at the end of the day -- we all have bills to pay. It’s an unfortunate reality but it comes with the privilege of being alive in modern day society. Most people (including myself) that I know in LA have at least one or two side hustles that we work to pay our bills and the rest of our free time is spent honing our craft and working to make our passion into our livelihood. If anyone out there is contemplating following their passions instead of a more “socially acceptable” career choice, I have a few words of advice. Do you want to settle for a job that only somewhat fulfills you, just to be able to retire peacefully and comfortably? Will you look back at the end of your life and say, “yes I did everything I wanted to do, working the same job day in and day out”? Or will you agonize over the idea of “What if I had just tried? What if I had just gone after it and potentially have lived my dreams?” That thought alone gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the leap into music. I may not know what my life is going to look like, what the outcome will be, or what level of success I will reach, but I know one thing. I know that I can look back and be proud of myself for choosing to be courageous and trying to make my dreams a reality while I am still young and able.
Your previous single, "After Midnight," which you released last fall, was the ultimate Say No To Fuckboys anthem. When you came to that realization of "I'm not anyone's booty call, I'm my own person and I will be treated with respect," did that change not only your approach to loving yourself and to dating, but also to the industry and how you write music?
It certainly changed my perspective on myself and dating. That song was written after a Tinder experience. I only ever download Tinder when I am heartbroken and coming out of a relationship or feeling lonely. The relationship broke me down and made me hate myself, and leaving it had the opposite effect. Leaving it gave me the strength and power to see my own value and worth. He literally hated me into loving myself. He didn’t deserve a song, but funny enough, I was so inspired by this one Tinder experience. I wasn’t upset or saddened by it -- if anything, I felt bad for him, because he was about to get the wrath of a new, self-loving, self-respecting powerful WOMAN!!! This feeling was so familiar to me, but my reaction to it was so new. I was almost shocked by my own self-respect, and that deserved a Fuck You anthem! As for writing music and being in the industry -- I saw how my music with a message could alter and change people’s lives -- and there is no greater feeling. So, with that, I think I stopped chasing the “hits” and started writing my own personal stories in a way that people can relate to them and feel inspired the way they were inspired by songs like “After Midnight."
You have a new single out now called “Smile" which takes aim at catcalling and at a situation that very many women can attest to being in: being told to “smile more” by men who are, frankly, gross and disrespectful of a woman’s space. Was this song inspired by that general situation or was it something more specific?
This song is inspired by a specific situation that happens so frequently that it became general! Does that make sense? I hope so, haha. How sad is that? Being a woman, especially in the city -- it’s almost impossible to escape misogynistic remarks and cat calling. I literally don’t wear dresses anymore because the chances of being objectified when I’m in a dress literally shoot up at least 50%. That’s not a factual statistic, but it FEELS like that much of a difference is made based solely on the clothes I choose to put on my body. I’m so sick of women being looked at as lesser than. I feel powerful, I feel singular, and I feel strong, so why can’t men see me as that as well? It’s 2019. Women are humans. We are not dolls. We don’t have to smile. And we don’t owe you anything.
Anything you can tell us about upcoming music?
Oh, the music I have coming up is my favorite. There is this weird curse with artists -- we’re always a step ahead of ourselves. So when one song comes out, chances are we’ve moved past it and are already ready for the three songs that come next. Of course I am proud of the art I’ve released so far, but the stuff I have coming is just a different level of vulnerable and personal. It will be scary to share it because it’s not my bitchy, powerful, stand-up-for-myself side; it’s my vulnerable and courageous side. That’s scary! But so exciting.
What advice would you give to the rising women songwriters in our community?
I would tell all girls, all women, all female-identifying humans -- keep going. You have something to say. You are important and your story deserves to be shared. Stay honest and stay powerful. I see you and I am with you. Also, LET’S WRITE TOGETHER!!! You’re the only ones welcome to “slide into my DMs”. Go away boiz!!! Hahaha.
“Smile” is available on all streaming platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and YouTube. Keep up with Sam on Instagram and Twitter!
Interview by Anna Sejuelas
Anna Sejuelas is a New York-based LGBTQ+ writer whose work has been published in This Bitch Magazine, Her Campus, College Candy, Medium.com, and FLURT Magazine. The way she writes and sings is the way she wears red lipstick and leather jackets: classic and with a purpose. You can read her work here and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Words have enormous power. They can uplift us and cheer us up; they can cast us down and make us wail and whine as soon as we hear them. Their power is so strong that they should not be underrated when writing songs. Let´s see why lyrics matter!
1. Connection: The lyrics of your song can build a bridge between the author and any listener who identifies with them; common ground is immediately established in the light of shared feelings. This song-to-heart relationship is a precious jewel to be cherished indeed.
2. Memorability: A catchy, moving, soulful chorus can work miracles! It can make you stand out in the sea of dull, hollow, repetitive songs -- a few appealing lines may bring you to the limelight as the author of a hit... and the prospective writer of another hit down the line.
3. Inspiration: If your lyrics are heartfelt and based on personal experience, they are bound to strike a sympathetic chord. They can inspire listeners who are going through a rough patch; they can brighten their days and help them move on. You can become a part of their lives in a most meaningful way -- being the helping hand of an unseen friend.
4. Quotability: Your lyrics, if carefully polished, can be a source of memorable phrases to be quoted. Think of fans who wear tattoos with their favorite lines or brands who choose a tagline for their commercials or even merchandise featuring famous phrases. Just imagine your own words making that impact!
5. Uniqueness: Last but not least, your lyrics tell all about you: who you are, what you believe in, and what you stand for. They highlight your uniqueness; your personal and individual outlook. They tell your story in your own way. The truth about yourself is poured forth in every line -- the message you and only you can sing. Your lyrics are as singular as your own voice.
As we can see, the power of lyrics should never be overlooked when creating a song. If you want your lyrics to be really effective, just let your heart dictate and write on.
This has been a guest post by Argentinian music consultant, musician, and writer, Mariana Dayan. You can connect with her on Facebook or shoot her an email!
You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must fill your cup first.
Has your cup ever been empty? No? You are one of the lucky few ☺
In the fall of 2017, my cup was empty. I felt drained by the constant support I gave to my fiancé’s community choir, where I was also a board member and singing member, to the point where it was affecting our relationship. Ironically, what began as a lifelong passion for singing and music, and brought us together, was turning into an obligation and burden. I felt apathetic about practicing between rehearsals, and bitter about actually having to go to rehearsals since I would spend hours every week working on other administrative tasks to keep the organization going. And this was just my hobby. Professionally, my job had become a dead end for me, and I was the odd woman out in my department. My coworkers excluded me, withheld department info and processes from me, and even bullied me. It was so subtle that even my boss had difficulties trying to identify and address it.
By August 2017, I began to struggle with depression and anxiety. In reality, I had been struggling with depression for several years, but ignored warning signs and felt like I could manage it without medication. Developing anxiety along with the depression practically made me implode. I could barely eat or sleep, my hair and skin were dull, and my skin crawled almost nonstop. The feeling of wanting to escape from my own skin, yet somehow observing all this from overhead was completely overwhelming. My fiancé was so worried about me that he’d get up to go for neighborhood walks with me at 3:30am, just so I wouldn’t be alone (he’s a keeper, for sure). Walking seemed to be the only thing that gave me a feeling of calm.
Flash forward to February 2019, and I look back on this time with mixed feelings. It was a difficult time, but now I feel happy, healthy, and eagerly look forward to work, and coming home to my husband (see how I did that? ☺). My glass is full again, and when it dips below a certain level, I rely on self-care to restore it.
So, what steps did I take to go from an early 30’s empty glass crisis into a much more settled, fulfilled woman? This is where self-care came in, and when my cup finally began to refill. My employer had begun to embrace the self-care concept, but didn’t really provide adequate tools for explaining what self-care was and how we as employees could incorporate it into our daily lives. If self-care is defined as the practice of taking an active role or action to preserve or improve one’s personal health, where do you start? Here is how I started my journey:
Reach out and ask for help
The turning point for me was November, 2017. I knew I needed help, and I couldn’t continue plodding along on my own. I finally made an appointment with my primary care provider to discuss medication therapy. My brain was out of whack, and needed that chemical help to reset, and grow. Prescription for a mild antidepressant in hand, I felt stronger knowing that I had something supporting me from within. I also began to see a therapist, someone whom I could talk to that wasn’t a friend, and could give me honest, sometimes hard advice. This combination of medication and therapy was the foundation for getting myself well, and for sustaining me when things got even harder in February 2018 (a topic for another day). Once this foundation was established, I was able to focus more on the self-care that I had been hearing so much about, but hadn’t been able to put into regular practice.
Take time for yourself
I enjoy a glass of good red wine, and I would use it as a reward for getting through my work day and not coming home in tears. Usually I’d crawl in bed with a glass and watch an episode or two of Sex and the City. It was one of those little things that took very little effort and time, but felt like a guilty pleasure (I never felt guilty, actually). If my fiancé was home, I’d probably stay in the living room and watch it from the couch.
Another thing I love to do is give myself 10 minutes to meditate in the morning (more on that below). This gives me the opportunity to check in with myself, which I have found to be very beneficial, as it starts my day on a positive, focused note.
Exercise and sweat are amazing endorphin boosters, and I work out seriously 3-4 times weekly at the gym. I decided to join Planet Fitness, and I absolutely love it there. It’s very relaxed, no pressure, no judgment. I still continue with my walks, enjoying that time with my husband when he is able to join me, as well as with friends. It was so pleasant to catch up and chat outside, rather than always meeting at bars and shouting at each other over the music. Summertime is hiking season, so hikes usually replace walks for a few short months of the year. I do give myself rest days because I need them, but I love burning off that excess negative energy, and knowing that I committed to myself and pushed myself every time.
I had mildly dabbled in meditation techniques in college, mostly due to a theology professor who made us begin class every day with breathing exercises to focus and calm us. Once the anxiety crept in, I turned to meditation to help calm myself. I have meditated every day since October 2017, and I love it. I mostly use meditation apps downloaded to my phone. The first is Meditation (white square with blue circle inside). The guide is female, which is awesome because so many of them have a male voice with an ambiguously British accent. They have 7, 14 and 21 minute single meditations across a wide variety of topics, and 7 day programs to further enhance your meditation experience. Additionally, I also like Calm, which has a great Instagram page with small entries that take 30 seconds to 1 minute to complete. Headspace (yellow-orange icon) is another great app with countless options for meditating, although I haven’t utilized it to its full potential.
I also think nutrition plays an enormous part in how we feel on a daily basis. While I’m sure many of us could write novels on the diets we’ve tried, I think small changes can have a huge impact. For me, I try to eat a larger breakfast, a good lunch, two snacks and finish my day with a smaller dinner. I also try to keep my dinner heavier on protein than carbs and fat, as it helps avoid that uncomfortably full feeling, and I swear helps me sleep better.
Ultimately, your self-care priorities might be vastly different from mine. However, my biggest piece of advice to you is to not wait for a problem to arise before you start practicing self-care, and start small. A few minutes here or there can pay huge dividends over time. By refilling my cup, I was able to begin helping others fill their cups without sacrificing my own well-being.
By: Susan Tower
Susan is a nonprofit executive, based in Missoula, MT. Until last year, she had been actively involved in school and community choirs for almost 28 years, but decided to take a break to focus on self-care and being a newlywed. In addition to her passion for nonprofits and choir, she loves to travel, and believes deeply in self-care, and the magical power of koalas. Some of her travel musings can be found on her blog, kimchiintheoutback.com.
Note: The contents of this article relate the experiences of the interviewee for informational purposes and should not substitute for professional psychological advice. Always consult a qualified mental health provider with any questions you have regarding a medical disorder.
Ah, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One of those musical milestones that sounds really important and prestigious, but how important and prestigious is it really? Is it really even about rock and roll anymore considering the likes of Tupac Shakur, N.W.A., and Run-DMC have been inducted? This topic is something that has been debated by industry professionals and artists alike, with no clear consensus. There is, however, something that is glaringly obvious to everyone in the music community: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is seriously lacking in women inductees.
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic
Before I go on, let me preface this by saying I went through and tallied actual INDIVIDUALS inducted from each act and didn’t base this on the total number of acts in the Hall itself. After this year’s induction of the Queen of the Coven Stevie Nicks (for the second time!!) and Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson, if ya nasty), the total number of women who are members of the Hall is shy of 100, while men are nearing a thousand. That is a crazy discrepancy which so clearly paints men as the arbiters of rock and roll when women too have made significant impacts on the genre and on music itself. So why is this?
I was recently having a conversation about the industry with a classmate who simply chalked up bad behavior by male artists to the ethos of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. But the idea of the “rock 'n roll” lifestyle permitted so much more than that. It not only gave men permission to behave badly because it was “part of the culture,” it also allowed people to dismiss women pursuing careers in music, specifically in rock genres. The rough-and-tumble lifestyle of a musician was seen as one only attainable by men, because women simply couldn’t handle it. I mean, after all, rock and roll shows are no place for any well-respected lady.
Does this sound familiar? Of course! Women are often not taken seriously when entering spaces that are predominantly male, regardless of the industry. Of course women are having a hard time receiving these sorts of lifetime achievement awards now -- it’s simply because they were never given the chance to shine in the first place. It’s a story we’ve seen time and time again, and one that seriously needs to be rewritten.
Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In her acceptance speech, Miss Jackson called on the Hall of Fame to induct more women in 2020, and I second that call! Let’s start giving more women credit where credit has been due to men without question. I’d like to personally nominate Cher, for literally being CHER, No Doubt for giving girls permission to be loud and opinionated and to not give a damn (here’s looking at you Gwen), and TLC for their fierceness and blessing me with my go-to karaoke song “No Scrubs.”
Who do you wanna see get nominated next year? Let me know by commenting on this piece or finding me on social media below!
#TheCrush Report is a monthly recap of what's happening in the biz by music publicist Chloe Cardio. You can follow Chloe at @chlo_vah on Instagram and Twitter.
April is Sexual Harassment Awareness month and Brooklyn based band, Kirsten and the Pretty People, are starting it off by crowdfunding to record a 5-track live studio EP, Blood & Guts & Human Stuff. Kristen and the Pretty People is not your average band, but a collective of 14 musicians that create a curious blend of punk & soul. The band’s goal to raise $7,000 and record the 5 cathartic and empowering songs by her birthday on May 2 is ongoing. You can donate here. Kristen agreed to answer some questions to enlighten us about the album, her experience, and the importance of promoting Sexual Harassment Awareness month. Read below for the exclusive interview:
#WCM: How did you first start the band and get started as a musician?
K: I've been a singer since I started speaking. My dad played piano and I would always sing with him. I went into intensive vocal/music theory training with a classical chorus in elementary school and performed in operas and concerts with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra until I was in high school. I had a rough start to college and bought a ukulele to give myself something to do. I kept all of my writing to myself. I moved to Las Vegas after college and taught myself piano and guitar overnight when I couldn't sleep. I got really serious about songwriting and decided to move to New York to pursue my passion. I kept all of my work to myself for about eight years. It took me two years of working on music alone in a basement in Brooklyn before I performed my first set. I didn't share my music with other musicians until October of 2018. It was always my goal to have a band, but I felt so insecure in my abilities and very embarrassed by my work. My writing can be dark, and very revealing, and I thought nobody would want to play my music. It's really introspective, and ultimately my tool for healing. I had no idea people would be able to relate to it. I went through a really rough break up and decided that I had to get over my fears and made myself put on a show. I created The Pretty People as a platform for collaboration. I play with different musicians all of the time. I feel limited by my skills playing actual instruments, so I love to hear the way a new musician interprets my work. I'm just starting to fully understand the real potential of the songs that I'm writing. Collaborating with new musicians so regularly has given me a much clearer direction for the sound. Since forming the band, I've worked with over 40 musicians. We've been performing a ton, and really creating a community feel around the music
#WCM: What is the album about?
K: The album is about my toxic relationship with both men and myself. My first experience with romance was extremely damaging, and it's taken years to unpack what I went through. Writing music is my way to learn how to heal. The five songs we chose for this EP tell stories of manipulation, anger, and heartbreak, but it ends on a positive note with reminders to stand up for yourself and put yourself first. It's a deep exploration of relationships and how to navigate expectations.
#WCM: What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
K: My two favorite songs are "So Tired" and "Lost Time." "So Tired" is a song of defiance. It's about standing up for yourself, and not letting anyone else make you feel small. Singing it makes me laugh and feel very strong. "Lost Time" is my promise to love and take care of myself first. I wrote it after a very painful breakup, as a reminder that I need to be less forgiving. Sometimes it's better just to move forward than to try and fix something broken.
#WCM: What about some of the more difficult songs to write about?
K: "Fairytales" wasn't difficult to write but is the most difficult to perform and talk about. "Fairytales" is my first exploration of talking about sexual abuse. I was raped by my first boyfriend at fourteen years old and buried the experience until December of last year. I had never considered writing about him, or that relationship. I was deeply in denial about what I had been through. Once I started writing about it, everything in my life opened up. I started to understand myself so much more, and a huge weight was lifted. I realized that that experience affected every single relationship in my life. I am drawn to manipulative, controlling men because that was my introduction to relationships. Everything that I write is from the POV of an assault survivor, because it deeply impacted the way I relate to the world. The actual process of writing the song wasn't difficult - I woke up in the middle of the night, threw up, accidentally lit a fire, then wrote the song in about twenty minutes. I didn't remember that happening - I listened to the voice memo on my phone the next morning and cried so hard. The song basically fell out of a bad dream, and I was left to pick up the pieces of my truth the next day. Writing "Fairytales" put everything in motion for creating the album. It took me two months to be able to perform the song without crying. I was going to keep it to myself because I thought it was too sad to share, but I went to an open mic and there was a woman reading poetry. She was African American, from an entirely different background than me, and her poem shared the same words as my song. We had lines and descriptors that matched - it was mind blowing to me that such different people could describe their (very different) experiences with this type of accuracy. She inspired me to perform the song that day, and I'm very grateful that I finally felt brave enough to speak out. It took a really long time to accept the truth.
#WCM: What is your writing process like?
Writing music comes naturally. It's my way of understanding my relationship to the world around me. It's difficult for me to process intense emotions logically - I have to look at the lyrics after they're written to really know what they mean. I pick up my guitar and empty my brain. I play by ear until I come up with a chord progression that I like, and then wait for the lyrics to come out. This part usually takes the longest. Once a subject matter comes through and the song is starting to make a little sense, the rest falls out of thin air. It's gross, but I say it's like I puke it up. After the song structure exists, I usually let it sit for a few days and then go back through to edit it. Songwriting keeps me tethered to reality. Anytime I'm going through something, or am feeling an emotion I can't understand, I can get past it if I can put it on paper. I've always been inherently sad, so writing out my feelings has become my personal version of therapy. I have over 30 notebooks completely filled with songs, poetry and other forms of writing. It's all an exploration of self, and my attempt to find moments of peace.
#WCM: Why record a live album instead of an edited album?
K: Honestly, I really just want to record a live album. The musicians that I've been working with are killer - I totally trust that everyone will be able to deliver a stellar performance. I've always been a live performer - I've been on stage since before I was in kindergarten. The energy and emotion that come out of a live performance are unmatched. I'm definitely interested in eventually having an edited studio album, but for my first project, I wanted to do something unique and challenging. I don't usually like following conventions and prefer to do things my own way. It just seemed like more fun to throw a bunch of musicians in a room and see what we could come up with. We've been preparing for months, and I really can't wait to hear the full arrangements. I also believe that the listener will be able to connect differently to a live album. I want the little mistakes, the unexpected improvisation; I don't want to remove any authenticity from the experience. These stories are real and vulnerable, and I want the sound to match that. We are also going to record the album on my birthday. I feel incredibly lucky to have made it to where I am; I want to celebrate by making something epic.
#WCM: How much money do you hope to raise for the album?
K: Our goal is $7,000 and we have currently raised $4,100! This covers the cost of a ten-hour day in a studio, payment for 14 musicians, audio engineer, post production on the EP, the producer fee, and distribution. If we are able to hit the goal, we would also be able to cover marketing costs and film the recording process. It also will cover food for the day of recording so that everyone stays happy.
A courageous woman fighting for a noble cause, Kirsten and the Pretty People are our very own Knights of the Round Table. We here at #WomenCrushMusic wish her the greatest success in her cause. Another woman crushing music.
Charlotte is a recent Graduate in Art History from New York University. After working at a publishing company, she realized her affinity for writing when she had to write weekly newsletters on authors and podcasts. She started her journalism career contributing for online media and entertainment source, The Knockturnal. Currently living in New York City, Charlotte enjoys going to concerts and art museums, and mixing cocktails for her friends.
Turn your attention to one of the edgiest original artists in the Portland music scene right now: Feminist, multi-instrumentalist, and all-around amazing human being Olivia Awbrey is working hard on what could be one of the best albums to come through Portland in a long time. After leaving her full-time job as a social worker, she has turned back to music as a way to engage others and empower herself. The healing power of music can be heard in her lyrics, rich with stories from her life and visions for the future.
Olivia’s music has taken her on an incredible journey- starting when she learned to play the piano at just 8 years old. More recently, she’s flown some 4,900 miles away to the bustling music-metropolis of London, England to complete her most recent original works of art. With two decades of songwriting experience, it’s no surprise this upcoming album has gained so much traction on the international scene.
In what will be her fourth experience recording a full-length album, her prior influences of folk, punk, and rock are creating what is sure to be a genre-bending musical phenomenon. Olivia’s goal is “to make a record that combines the rain-soaked psych/folk sounds of the Pacific Northwest with London’s rich underground rock influence.” The album is soaked in themes of science fiction and vigilante-style feminist justice. “This is my most experimental and rawest album yet,” said Olivia during an interview from her London bedroom. “It's a story-driven album set in Portland, and the plot follows two friends who plan a feminist revolution.” The passion in her voice behind the messages Olivia brings forth in all her works are phenomenal- Olivia is the dystopian punk feminist goddess we never knew we needed.
Since her first solo EP in 2017, Olivia’s music has taken off like wildfire. Right now, her Kickstarter page is raising the funds necessary to fund the album. Her hard work promoting has helped it to already reach 75% of its $10,000 goal. You can find more information about the album and Olivia’s journey by watching the brief video on her Kickstarter page. Her powerful message is one that demands to be sung and needs to be heard.
Before she finishes her second album, Olivia is touring the UK for the month of April.
With international touring experience in the US and UK, Olivia continues to wow audiences as she hones her craft tremendously. You can check out the 2019 UK tour dates Olivia’s Facebook page for this rare opportunity to see her band play abroad. (If you’re lucky enough to be in London when she is!)
Olivia has also surrounded herself with an incredible team of musicians for this album. Her crew includes the rock-steady Portland band: Dan Klee, Noah Merrill, Pete Abraham and Margaret Wher contributed to the creative flow of Olivia’s album back home in Portland. Partially recorded at Portland’s own Destination:Universe Studio, she has moved to the London-based OneCat Studios to complete her vision. As the end of the recording work nears, the UK team has been working in overtime. Drawing on the gritty sounds of London’s rock scene, her talented crew of UK-based artists and producers are giving the album the last touches it needs. Studio owner Jon Clayton, Jen Macro, and Chris Thorpe-Tracey provide the finishing touches for her masterpiece. The UK crew is well-versed in the world of London’s eclectic and bustling music industry, a world vastly different from Portland’s small yet tight-knit music scene. Their history of prior collaborators is impressive- full of amazing artists like Ben Folds, Steve Albini, My Bloody Valentine and more.
When she’s not working hard to complete her all-original rock album, she’s doing everything she can to promote her creativity within London’s vast and diverse music scene. With the Kickstarter deadline approaching soon, now is the time to donate to this incredible artist. Be sure to check out the special goodies available for backers of the album Kickstarter- it’s nice to get rewarded sometimes!
Read more about Olivia on her website, in Poptized Magazine, or listen to her #MeToo interview on KBOO. Olivia’s story continues to be an inspiration to feminists everywhere. Watch her story unfold as she completes this album with your help. Be sure to follow her page so you won’t miss the next time she’s playing in your city- her performances are a guaranteed treat that should not be missed!
By: Holly Kevan Brooks
Holly is a Portland-based author and musician, working hard in the scene to promote creativity and comfort for all artists and fans alike. You can follow Holly on Instagram at @janedeauxofficial and at JaneDeaux.com
Ever since she was a little girl, Jessica Raja (known by her stage name Jesseek) knew she was meant for the stage. She’s always been on her grind, her dreams of singing always in the front of her mind while she worked her way through college and graduated a semester early with a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Entertainment Management. Jesseek’s recently released EP, entitled “All I’ve Got,” is one comprised of R&B-infused bops that inspire listeners to get past heartbreak and to focus on themselves, because self-love is the best kind of love and inspiration. Currently the frontwoman for a new cover band called CrashTheParty, Jesseek took time out of her busy, boss schedule to talk to us about her beginnings as a singer, how she feels fronting a band, women’s empowerment in the industry, and her soon-to-be released summer hit, “Summer Things.”
Did you always know you wanted to be in the music business?
I’ve always loved singing and dancing since I was a little girl. I knew that deep down it was my dream and one true passion. I never thought I’d actually try and pursue it though, just because I was always scared and thought my dream was too far-fetched. But then I didn’t want to live the rest of my life wondering... “what if?”
In May 2018, you released your EP called All I’ve Got on iTunes. The vibe is very R&B, which I love. Can you tell us about how the album concept came about and what it was like to see your very first EP come into fruition?
I knew I wanted to drop my EP before my college graduation, just to kind of end one chapter of my life to finally focus on the next. School was great and I really enjoyed college, but now that I don’t have to worry about my studies, I have a lot more time to focus on what I really want. I want that when people listen to my EP they feel motivated, inspired, and get to know me a little bit, even if they don’t know me personally. I speak about myself, issues I find important, and of course love. How could you not? When my EP was finally finished, I had tears in my eyes. At that moment I knew that I could do
this and that I won’t stop until I get to where I want to be.
I know you do a lot of open-mics and have really established yourself as a solo
singer, as seen with your EP. Recently, you started as the front-woman for a cover band called CrashTheParty here in NYC. Is there a difference in mentality when singing solo and singing in a band?
There’s definitely a huge difference with solo shows and band shows. Working with others means a lot more focus and we have to constantly make sure we’re ALL on the same page. It’s not just me anymore. The great thing about it is that putting a bunch of talented individuals together can really make some magic. Although we’re strictly a cover band, me and the guys have spoken about working on some original work too, so stay tuned!!
Can you tell us a little about CrashTheParty and how you get started with them?
We’re a cover band based in the east coast and we’re honestly freaking dope. The other lead vocalist, Carlos, has been working on this project for a couple years and found me on Instagram. It was up from there ever since!
You’re a big advocate for women’s empowerment, especially supporting
upcoming female artists. What’s your advice for women trying to balance practicing empowering other women in the music industry with playing the same game to make it in the industry?
Listen, competitiveness is always good, it means you want to succeed. However, the stigma that there’s only one winner is where we all become losers. As a woman, I want every woman who’s pursuing the same thing as me to keep on grinding, as long as they’re authentic and passionate. The only thing stronger than a woman is a GROUP of women sticking together.
6. What’s next for you and your music? Any new sonic flavors that are going to be
different from the content on “All I’ve Got”?
I definitely got some stuff in the works, a couple things with similar R&B vibes as my current EP, but I want to dabble a little bit more in the Latin/ reggae vibe music & maybe even incorporate some Albanian flair into some of my songs, which is my family’s culture. I’ve been working on a song I want to drop for the start of summer called “Summer Thing” and I’m really excited for y’all to hear it. It’s definitely different than some of the content I have out now.
You can find Jesseek’s EP All I’ve Got on iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music. Keep up with her on Instagram and check her out in CrashTheParty here.
Interview by: Anna Sejuelas
Anna Sejuelas is a New York-based LGBTQ+ writer whose work has been published in This Bitch Magazine, Her Campus, College Candy, Medium.com, and FLURT Magazine. The way she writes and sings is the way she wears red lipstick and leather jackets: classic and with a purpose. You can read her work here: https://annasejuelas.journoportfolio.com/ and find her on Twitter: @AnnaSejuelas10 and Instagram: @annasejuelas.
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