I published an article on Huffington Post today, talking about the expectations, disappointments and adjustments around the making, release and consequences of releasing my debut EP All We Are last year. You can read it below or on the Huffington Post website.
One year ago this month I released my first solo record, and the anniversary has got me reflecting on how I got there, and everything that’s happened since. Eight years ago I left a fairly successful band called The Rapture because I wasn’t having much fun anymore and I wanted to try something new. I made a bunch of demos with my good friend Dances, and those demos got me signed to a record deal with one of the biggest producers in the world. Everything was going great. I recorded an album I was proud of, but it sat on the shelf for 2 years while the label decided what to do. Eventually, I asked them to either release the album or release me from my contract — they chose to release me. I’m not the first artist that’s happened to and I won’t be the last. But though that’s usually the end of the story we tell, for me it was just the beginning of a new chapter.
Thankfully the label let me have my recordings, and because of that I was able to use some of the songs and self-release my debut EP, All We Are. Getting those songs into the world was a fantastic feeling, but still, it’s been hard. There’s a certain mental dejection that comes from being dropped by a label, even if you know it’s for the best, even if you asked for it. Like many musicians, I’m working hard to figure out how to connect with an audience and get my music heard in the new ecosystem. When I started out we just hopped in a van and played wherever we could. And then we got signed and there were record labels that handled all the promotion, marketing etc. Things are different now. I’m in charge of everything. It’s a lot to handle. It’s nice to be able to make decisions and move without needing anyone else’s approval, but it’s hard not to have anyone else to lean on. Freedom is free, but it ain’t easy.
Do I sound like I’m crying that the world ain’t the same as it was when I was 18? Because honestly, I feel pretty good about things. At first I was hanging onto a lot of outdated ideas about how things work, but now I’m starting to wrap my head around the new ways and adjust. I’m writing and collaborating with other artists and producers and I decided instead of an album I’m going to just release a series of singles and build my fanbase one song at a time. There’s no longer a label in the picture to pay for things, so I’m pursuing alternative ways of funding studio time, producers etc— raising money directly from my fans with my website and a Patreon page. It’s a different mindset, it’s not about trying to please everyone, but about really pleasing the people that ride with me, giving them my attention and doing everything I can to keep them happy. It’s not glamorous, but it’s starting to get me there and it’s proving to be rewarding in it’s own ways. When I make that connection with an individual fan now I feel it stronger than I ever felt any of the abstract sales figures while I was in the band.
This isn’t where I thought I was going to be. I thought I was going to release my album, inspire the world, climb the charts, win all the awards. But I don’t need to sell my records to millions, I just need a handful of people that really love me to show that support and help out. I may not have legions of fans, but still people write to me or come up to me at shows and tell me how my music has helped them get through a difficult time in their life, or made them happy, or helped them get laid—All awesome things to hear. I live a blessed life. How many people really get to hear that they’ve made a difference in people’s lives like that? Those are the folks I care about connecting with.
Last summer, in the midst of a pretty heavy depression, I was running on the treadmill at the YMCA and a thought struck me, a thought that inspired me enough to set it as a daily alarm in my calendar: “It’s time to let go of expectations and allow what will be to be. Stop choking one old dream and open yourself to the possibility of a thousand.” I put it as a repeating alarm in my calendar and still read it every day at 10 am. It’s been helpful at getting me to open up to new possibilities, new ways of creating, not just focusing on achieving one version of success. A friend of mine just said to me “don’t waste time waiting on one seed to grow... go plant some more…before you know it you’ll have a garden.” I’m ready to sow row a full of variety, and watch it bloom into whatever it may become.