Nov 28, 2014

The Ten Commandments of Being an Awesome Female Texas Artist

Commandment 2: Support Isn’t Limited to Push Up Bras
By: Arwyn Benson of Calamity Janes
 
So…. It’s taken me 5 months to get the second part of this 10 part series to you…. Sometimes life kicks ya in the balls and life has done a LOT of lady-ball kickin’ since the last time I felt the inspiration to write anything. I’ve found it impossible to write- not a line of poetry,  not a long Facebook post… nothin’. I’ve had the emotional depth of a teaspoon- and well, that’s just not good lookin’ out  for a singer/songwriter/blogger/generally opinionated loud mouth… and I’d apologize for the length of time it took to get this next part out, but I can’t actually say sorry ‘bout that because well…. I’m not sorry. I have a lot to say when I’m feeling inspired (as you will see) and it’s taken up until today to feel inspired by much of anything. This has been marinating for a while, so put on your big girl panties, take a deep breath, grab your wine and hang on…. Shit’s about to get real.

Life has a funny way of letting you know something isn’t balanced. Life got really, really real with me (or as I affectionately like to call it- self- implosion) this year while our career continued to grow and I was left scratching my head and wondering what the actual EFF just happened.  When all was said and done, it all came down to my support system not being RIGHT. I wasn’t balancing life right and it cost me dearly.
Let’s look at the truth of the music industry in Texas for a moment- every one of us who isn’t out doing NATIONAL touring with NATIONAL booking support and promotions are blue collar musicians. None of us are or should be Hollywoodin’ it (and if you ARE stomping around Small Town, Texas with BeyoncĂ© size diva boots on but sporting William Hung level talents and abilities, then you need to re-evaluate and possibly get medication because you are delusional). What is the secret to success, fame and fortune, you ask? Well, there isn’t one thing, but there is SOMETHING that is probably more important than almost everything else: Support. I have a short list- of COURSE I have a list… what’s a woman without a list?- of important ideals on balance and support that might be helpful while we all exercise our socially acceptable form of mental illness we call a career path. While not the be-all, end-all of lists, they are ALL important in their own right.
  1. IF YOU WANT SUPPORT, YOU HAVE TO SHOW SUPPORT
If you think you don’t need the support of fellow musicians then you, my friend, live a very rich fantasy life. We are all just about a paycheck away from going completely broke chasing our dream and living our passion. Every single one of us. Sometimes, if our support systems aren’t right and we don’t have the right people supporting us in the right places in life, we stand to lose much more than our paycheck. Marriages…. Homes…. Lifestyles…. Perceived friends (let’s face it, if they were real friends you wouldn’t have to say you’d lost them). We rely on one another for a lot of things and the best thing we can do for each other as working musicians is to show support to one another.
As a group and as individuals the Calamity Janes are AVID supporters of live music and the working musician- the blue collar musicians, if you will- because, well… we are blue collar musicians at best. We don’t own a tour bus (yet…).  My sisters each have two kids ranging in age from 4 weeks old to 9 years old. We work. We live paycheck-to-paycheck without going all the way broke (mostly). We cook dinner, clean house, and fold laundry every day (most days…). We are working class broads that don’t come from money (Take that, T. Swift!).  
But make no mistake, if you are someone we consider a friend or you have shown our band support, we will go out of our way to support you. We will buy your merch and wear it in public places not just as a night shirt. We will come spend my time at your shows and invite people to come; Last week, I went to see one of my favorite friends and a hell of a musician- Big Joe Walker play on two different nights in two different cities. This past weekend, I drove nearly 4 hours in the pouring rain to Gruene Hall to support our good buddy Bo Phillips and his band (Ryan McCall, Luke Mullinex and James Purdy).  We will promote and share your shows on Facebook. We will re-tweet your stuff on Twitter. In fact, yesterday, I spent my last $10 in my bank account to buy my buddy Keith Owens new CD (don’t panic- today is payday!) because I support my friends and their dreams and I want them to be able to SEE my support. Saying I support you and SHOWING my support for you are two totally separate things.  
We do this because the universe will multiply our investment in and love for others. Karma has a funny was of repaying kindness with kindness and goodness with goodness. And just the opposite. You reap what you sow. Life is a garden….dig it.
  1. GET YOUR ASS OUT OF YOUR CHAIR AND OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE- ENCOURAGE YOUR PEOPLE TO DO THE SAME.
Social media has made an art of showing support in the most passive way possible. Social media removes the personal effort from support of important things like legitimate musicians, artists and true talent of the world and gives it to “internet celebrities” who get famous for things like showing ALLLL  your goodies to the world (put your vagina, nipples and bare ass AWAY, Kimmy. If your name was Victoria, you’d have just told all your secrets, sister).  Liking something on social media is easy… and meaningless. It takes a second to tap the screen on your iPhone and then life goes on, often without a second thought. The time investment in someone else’s art and passion is minimal. Meanwhile, the meme you just shared on Twitter of a unicorn farting rainbows on roller skates wearing a sombrero and you get 2500 likes, 1,000 shares and 800 comments about how amazing (or stupid) this meme is or how it reminds them of their childhood pet chihuahua Pedro (because he was Mexican, you know) who used to wear a sombrero when he was feeling festive and farted a lot.
But ask someone to spend any length of time with you while you pour your heart out singing your original work (a lot of time, as a full time job to pay your bills, feed your kids, and conduct the business of your band on top of that) and the very deep well of Facebook likes, shares and comments runs dry faster than a West Texas creek in the summer. Better still- ask someone to spend $1.29 to buy your single on iTunes… tried that super-fun method of evoking self-doubt for your career path yet? We’ll approach THAT subject later!
Put the damn cell phone away. Make meaningful social connections. This is a quickly dying art form, but it’s importance can not be ignored. People will always remember how you made them feel. They will not remember your FB post (unless it’s about the rainbow farting unicorn… THAT they will remember).
  1. BUY THE DAMN MUSIC!
No, but for real…. SCREW stealing someone’s work through free streaming or some other stupid shit. This is someone’s life work, soul and spirit pressed onto a hard plastic disc. Don’t be an asshole and ask your friend for a free CD. They are your friend. Buy their music. SHOW your support. You know how much those things cost to make? Not just the plastic disc with some print on the front but the WHOLE THING from start to finish? If you guessed somewhere in the ballpark of a down payment for a house or a year of college education at a mid-level state university for a full album without paying a radio promoter to get a person at a radio station to actually open your envelope and listen to the first minute of this disc with your Opus Magnum on it, then you are correct. $10,000 to $15,000 EASY.  My friend, Big Joe Walker, told me one time “Arwyn, it’s easier to walk up to a complete stranger on the street and ask for a dollar than it is to get people you “know” to purchase your music for the same price.” No truer words have been spoken… so, buy our crap! Don’t make us or your friends resort to panhandling. All though, we’d probably make better money that way…. Hmmm…..
  1. FIND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YOU AND YOUR ART- SCREW ANYONE WHO DOESN’T
In fact, kick them out of your bubble and move on. You don’t have time for that kind of negativity in your life. I can’t lie and say that we aren’t extremely lucky in the support department in a lot of aspects – I sing with my sisters. We’re basically a small, wildly inappropriate, wine drinking gang all on our own- minus the crazy initiation violence (childhood was pretty close to gang initiation though… we had a clubhouse and beat up mean boys on the playground).  Our mama is our business partner and CFO. Our friends show up for shows, encourage our work and wear our merch and with all luck will buy and share our music when our album comes out in February. BUT- not everyone has shown support for our craft- or for us on a personal level for that matter. We know there are some people who “don’t like girl bands” (ass hat) or who just don’t like us (that’s cool too… not everybody “gets” us… we probably don’t like them much either *cough* Hater *cough* judgy *cough* self-important non-musically talented person *cough*). Pardon me- I got a little choked up on my own words just then…
And finally, but probably most importantly….
  1. GET YOUR HOME GAME RIGHT…. THIS IS A TOUGH ROAD, KID.
I was married for 10 years to someone I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought incapable of handling being the spouse of a musician. When my marriage imploded, it went down in epic fashion. And I was totally unaware that my spouse was struggling or hated the music career that I chose. My home game was not right.  It’s a pretty well-known fact that artists have a tough road in this industry and most days gaining and keeping support can feel whole lot like you’re that circus performer that spins plates all over the place- you gotta keep ‘em all spinning without losing control of one because then it all goes to hell in a hand basket and you end up in a giant heap of useless, broken plates and your show is over- sometimes permanently.  On any given day, the most support we get is from our push-up bra- and even then, if you have a cheap bra we can use the term “support” pretty loosely (we’ve all seen the horrors on peopleofwalmart.com so you know what I mean).  Lacking support at home makes that road even harder. Having your life implode on you while you’re working blows.  Musician life is TOUGH to deal with. Spend more time with your band than your spouse?  Have an insecure partner? Take too long talking to fans of the opposite gender? Kiss that relationship goodbye. Harsh? Yes. True? 100%.
Being a life-partner to a musician ain’t for everyone… in fact, it’s not for most people. Not everyone dreams of living the Willie Nelson Family Band lifestyle (and those people aren’t for me… ).  When all the “cool stuff” is removed, there is a lot of trust and respect that must be given and shown, a lot of  sacrifice involved on the part of your partner and if you don’t have your home game tight and you let your house’s foundation start to crumble, you’re whole house will fall in on itself eventually. If you happen to have someone who loves you and supports your art- TAKE CARE OF THEM. Love them. Share with them. Make sure they know their place and importance in your life because if you don’t, someone else will.




The very long (winded) and short of this is all to say: Support goes a long way. Get the right people in the right places in EVERY aspect of your life and make sure they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their support and love is as important to you as air- this factor alone will have more to do with your success or failure than any other single factor.

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