Desire

This post is going to be a little shorter mainly because I’m on the plane back to Brooklyn after a 6-week tour and I was so excited to see my friends that I could hardly fall asleep last night. The general end-of-tour energy suck and ramblings of a half-crazy person have been going on for about four days now and I seem to be hanging on by a very caffeinated thread. But, life is good nevertheless and my thoughts are rushing around in a frenzy.

I have learned so much in the last couple of months about myself, about music, and about performance. Most of all, I have felt consumed by what it it’s like to want something so deeply. So this post is about desire. That incredible feeling that takes over when you day dream so hard you swear you can almost stretch out your hand and grab it. The thing is so close, but at the same time so romantically fleeting. That’s what keeps me striving for something that may seem so impossible.

Maybe to achieve the extraordinary we need to be crazy enough to believe that somehow we are the exception to the rule, the defect, or the special one. When we were kids we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up and our answers were (most-likely) always pretty crazy-sounding. We believed we were the lucky one. When I was ten I told my mom I wanted to be a “pop star”. Pretty funny at the time, but I spend a lot of time in the pop world now.

I feel incredibly grateful to have been able to just get my foot in the door of the day dream so far. Unimaginable events have occurred and it feels that every time I end a tour with a new group, I sit back and think, ‘what the fuck just happened?’ And the thing is that it all happens so fast that I can’t even make chronological or logical sense of it. It’s like a speeding train that I just hopped on at the right stop and have tried to stay on without losing my footing.

So now I enter three weeks of “floating”. No tour, no apartment, no time-sensitive commitments except those of my own. It’s going to be a great test of focus and desire as a work on my own music. But, that’s exactly why I’m writing about desire, because I want to remind each and every one of you to hold onto that crazy fucking feeling. Keep it deep inside you because that fire will guide you through the bullshit. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, to stand up for what you believe in, and to let your voice be heard. I’ve heard you guys – I’ve gotten your emails and letters and tweets and Facebook messages and each of you seem to have this amazing story, and almost every letter expresses a desire to do something big. And I say just do it. Do it harder and with more fire than you ever have and amazing things will unveil themselves. I don’t know how else to explain this entire last year of my life. All I can say is that it started with me really, really wanting to get up off the floor and put the pieces back together and rise above a sadness and hopelessness. I’m still trying to make it better all the time, to achieve a better quality of life, to build greater relationships, and stronger internal happiness.

That’s all for now. I’m about to land and see my loved ones and hold them and dance with them. They are the fuel that always keeps my wheels turning. Thank you to everyone who has been reading my posts. I’m so happy to be able to keep them coming.

All my love,

Sulene

Insta-Gratification

The steady and inexorable rise of internet culture has without consent affected my daily life in the most intense ways. It was with the creation of MySpace in 2003 that 13-year-old me started to really hone in on how to present myself “on paper” as someone who is popular, quirky, and just fucking cool. Since this time I have handed over much of my precious brain-power to social networking sites including; Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, and Instagram and as I grew into the woman I am today, I watched myself and those around me forget how to be sociable, out-going human beings as we slip deeper into our online hedonism that seems to be growing by the Instagram selfie. But anyway! Let us talk about how this all relates to music.

Patience is a Virtue or One Viral Video Away

I can write and produce a song right now on my laptop while sitting on this plane. I can log into the wifi, create a Facebook artist page, toss up a hipstery sepia-tone photo of myself, and announce to you (with a sponsored Facebook add, so you’ll see it!) that I’m releasing the ground-breaking new single from “Sparkle Gvns” or some shit (that’s pronounced “Guns” by the way, not Governs) straight into your virgin ear-holes! I don’t have to wait on a producer or a record label or anyone, really. That’s a whole lot of power at my fingertips. This is obviously an extreme example – I personally will do no such thing because writing songs that I want to give to you takes me a lot of time and care (believe me, I’m about 30 demos deep and still chiseling away at what will be my next release). And if you’ve ever participated in my One Hour Song Challenge then that’s a whole different animal for self-exploration purposes. But this instant access to a platform for my art does make me think about how this has stealthily fucked with my brain over time.

As artists deep inside the internet age we now have the freedom to be our own record label, producer, and manager. Unfortunately, most of us are not good at these other roles (because our brains are all artisty and weird). We just make a thing and we’re like a little kid all exciting to show mom “look what I made!” and so we put it online and write a couple internet posts about how emotional it was to write, thank those involved, and think our job is done. We may even get good feedback or people sharing our work for a couple of weeks and so we soar above the clouds, drunk on the insta-gratification of our efforts, until the dark day when we come crashing back down to earth. Then we wonder why we’re drinking vodka at 3 pm and feeling like failures as it seems no one loves us anymore. You see, we took our best stab at successfully releasing our art into the world and now the honeymoon-phase is over. I’ve seen this, and experienced it myself, so many times. This instant access to a platform for broadcasting our art has intensified our inherent impatience and created starry-eyed expectations as we hope that either “the right person” will hear what we’ve made or that our song will somehow “go viral” while we’re sleeping.

I really do believe that shallow endeavors lead to shallow, short-lived success. Or maybe I just have to believe that so I keep working at it all. A friend of mine recently told me he was starting to really accept the idea that in order to pursue his project he was going to have to love building it from the ground up and stop looking for some sort of short-cut. I LOVE talking about the short-cut because I want to burst peoples’ bubbles so hard about that. Sometimes I hear people talk about their plan to write a hit song that will make their career blow up. First of all, you can’t decide if it’s a hit song – listeners decide and usually they don’t appreciate contrived, formulaic music. But in your plan this hit song is going to go so goddamn viral that a record label will sign you at which point you’ll get loads of money and be famous. Is this a result of our growing impatience? Or of our power to deliver the world our music whenever we please? Or of this narcissistic idea that somehow we know what other people will love? I’ve tried so hard to stay grounded among the bullshit, because to me there’s a HUGE part of this plan that’s missing. Okay, yeah you could write a hit song, that shit does happen. But when you get signed your record label is probably going to recoup all your recording costs from the sales of what will be your follow up HIT ALBUM (no pressure, right?) and put you on the road for a brutal 300 days a year to open for pop artists bigger than yourself, playing to some audiences who just fucking want you to clear the stage for the main act. The money you make may come from guarantees from venues, your merchandise sales, and if you’re lucky (by some fate of the licensing Gods), your song will appear in a commercial or a movie. And then you really will get the big bucks. Oh and small side-note; prepare yourself to be away from your home and your loved-ones and feel like you’re in a parallel universe where only you and tour-mates can relate on the road in your inevitable decline in normalcy. You will spend most of your time standing in lines, eating airport food, and trying to find new ways/places to sleep. I’m going to cut myself off here because I really could just go on and on about the short-cut-hit-song-instant-fame myth. Call me old-fashioned, but I just happen to like fool-proof, being on your grind, lots of touring to promote your music, mother-fucking hard work.

Some questions to keep you awake at night:

Do you want to write a song that’s hip to the kids right now or one that will be timeless?

Do you want to write a song that you hate but think is a hit and go on to play this anthem of hatred for the next twenty years?

Do you want to have a viral video that’s a hit but be unable to sell out a small 200-capacity headline show in your hometown?

You’re Only as Good as Your Number of Facebook Likes

When I was in college, certain venues wouldn’t book my band because we didn’t have enough Facebook likes. This indicated to them that we couldn’t fill their room and so people wouldn’t buy alcohol at their bar and they wouldn’t profit off of our show. Shortly after rejection email after rejection email, my band did go on to have some success as a result of our consistent grind – we played internationally and even performed on CNN and our drummer got a lot of press when he won the Guitar Center Drum-Off. All of a sudden, we looked pretty damn hot as our social media numbers went up as the result of press and TV-time. The general perception of us was that we were fucking killing it but we all just kind of sat back confused – we were still the same band with the same goals, playing the same music, and we still couldn’t fill a venue in Boston. Only now, promoters would give us the time of day and producers reached out as we seemed to be picking up steam. We looked successful, but in my stubborn managerial-mind I didn’t really give too many shits about social media numbers because I knew we wouldn't be satisfied until we could play a sold-out show in our hometown. I wanted my band to have tangible success and I didn’t want to be a bunch of fakes.

At the end of the day, our efforts of playing empty room after empty room for two years was what I believe got us any sort of meaningful connection with our audience. That, and personal YouTube vlogs, being super responsive online, and also having contests where our fans won personalized joke songs from us. Those were the fucking days. If you’re not willing to put flyers in every coffee shop surrounding the venue you’re playing, write a couple online posts, hit up a couple friends, and basically do the minimum to promote your band's show, then I have some trouble respecting your cause. Sorry, jus’ sayin’. You better get busy building it from the ground up because no one is going to believe in your band more than YOU do. When I think back to those times I remember that we had a blast doing these tasks! We once flyered the entire Berklee dorms with a link to our free first album and after a couple weeks of giving out free T-shirts at our shows not a week went by that I didn’t see a Berklee kid wearing our shirt.

I’m not going to sit here and condemn Facebook and say that I don’t believe that social media hasn’t been the musician’s friend – it certainly has in many ways. I for one have been a huge advocate for utilizing social media to get your message out there as an artist. I guess all I want to get across is to remind musicians to stay grounded and to back up what you put up online. Focus really hard on your music and shows and bringing people to these shows. And hey, please don’t forget, people are spending their hard-earned cash to come hear you play – show them a fun time!

I’ll Just Get a Famous Person to Make Me Famous

Guys, I don’t want to ever sound mean on here but if you message me and ask me to promote your band or your song via my social media it confuses me. It is ingrained in me to be authentic in what I endorse and say, whether in person or online. If you came up to me today in person and asked me to tell my friend I’m going see tonight about your band, even though I’ve never heard your band, it would totally weird me out. But if you just want me to listen to a song, that’s a whole different thing. Though I’ll be honest, I hardly ever find time to listen to out-of-the-blue demos from people who I’m not personally friends with because free time is so fleeting and I desperately want to work on my own songs. It’s literally only for that reason. But I love talking about writing and art (clearly), and that’s where we can have a shared common-ground conversation. Also, by the way, I’M NOT FAMOUS. Not in the least. I’m just a regular sleep-deprived girl-woman sitting in a hotel room in puma sweatpants, drinking a cup of Starbucks coffee, on the road and trying to pay my expensive health insurance bills. Also, I don’t have an apartment so technically I’m homeless. I don’t have connections for you – I don’t even have them for myself. But I do have lots of friends in the music industry who are good people who would help out other good people if they like what they’re doing. Just remember to be careful of the way you approach someone, because no one wants to feel like they’re being used. Most people don’t like being treated like a connection. I recently had a friend text me, “hey can you tweet my thing because you have a lot of followers”, and I’m thinking like, I really don't have that many and you probably could have come at me from a better angle dude. Just be you and work hard and share what you love. It’s all authentic and genuine that way. In my experience, people respond very well to honesty.

I guess the last thing I’d like to voice about this is to be weary of riding on someone’s coat-tails. The best relationships you’ll have, whether personal or work, will be the ones that go both ways – where you can give to each other and not just one person giving and one person taking. Do you care more about being a good person or using others as a platform to become a well-known musician? I believe you can in time be both!

The Selfie

I can’t write a blog post about social media without addressing the selfie. I just want to go ahead and say how fucking weird it is that we take photos of ourselves, usually looking hot, and post them online for others to comment on. I still remember when selfies first started appearing in my news feed years ago – I actually laughed and thought what the fuck is this? But over time, they have been accepted as totally normal into our social media world. I mean hell, I post selfies and they’re pretty dumb. Maybe we're just looking for a little pick-me-up because we've had a bad day or we're bored. But it's still really weird. Also what’s with the retweeting tweets from fans – it’s a little self-adoring, don't you think?! Like no one likes the guy at the party who spews his resumé when you’re just trying to have a good time. Self-promotion is really hard to get right and not look egotistical, but maybe if we’re just a little more aware of what exactly we’re doing we can consider if this really is the way we want to be seen. I don’t know, I’m still figuring it out. I sure as hell post a lot of dumb stuff, but I’m aware of it and I own it.

I’m afraid my coffee is wearing off and my brain is nose-diving into sleepiness. I hope this post finds you well and gives you some fire. If I may write any sort of disclaimer here, please know all these ideas are my own and in no way are they hard and fast rules. This blog is here to tell my story and hopefully offer a little bit of insight. Just like you, I'm trying to navigate my way through an industry without a formula, but we can be in it together.

Welcome to Costco, I love you.

Sulene

The Trouble with Freedom

Can you think of a time you were so incredibly busy doing obligatory bullshit things you didn’t care about that you swore when free time finally came around again you’d take full advantage of it? You probably had all these plans to be so pro-active; to lose your love-handles or do volunteer work or start writing a memoir. But, let me guess what most-likely happened; you slept in, told yourself you had all the time in the world, re-watched all of Seinfeld and tried all the new Ben & Jerry’s Core flavours. There is such a thing as having too much time on your hands, my friend. And I’m here to call us all out on our misguided intentions.

A wise psychology professor of mine once remarked in a lecture, “your trouble with freedom is freedom”. It always haunted me, and as the years go on it bares heavier meaning. You see, no one wants to admit it but people love excuses because they are a reason to not pursue something. You may not even realize it but that “not enough money” or “lack of equipment” or “too slow laptop hard drive” or “too shitty guitar” are usually just fat excuses for not having to put in the real work for what you desire. I’ll even go ahead and admit that I’ve had crazy thoughts of “thank God, now I don’t have to do anything” when I come down with a cold. It’s almost like I’m wishing to be incapable of work so that I have an excuse to lie around all day and not do it. It reminds me of my high school days when I would wake up with a headache or sore throat and tell my mom I’m too sick and I’m not going to school, when I knew it was an exaggeration and I just didn’t want to go. (PS – sorry mom, I know you read my blog but it’s too late now to ground me). If there was a mathematical equation for this phenomenon I’d describe it as: excuses lead to the threshold of acceptance of your own laziness going up and up until it becomes your normal reaction to challenges.

In my twenty-five years of life, I have unfortunately found that too much time on my hands usually just turns out to be really boring and depressing, instead of productive and amazing like I always plan it to be. I believe that it's actually very hard to harness your freedom in the way that you intend. Without any real deadlines or timelines to follow one can easily become all talk and no action. Sometimes a sense of urgency is what forces the most important art into this world. Your intentions may be beautiful and exciting to vocalize, but they are not tangible. Your day dreams will live on forever as exactly that if you don’t make sure to manifest them. That’s what this post is all about.

Let me tell you a little story about my friends and I.

Part I: I Must Work My Ass off to Survive

In 2010 I started a band called Helicopria while attending Berklee College of Music. All of us were pursuing full-time degrees and part-time jobs, but (bless our souls) we also wrote and recorded two albums, played a large amount of shows, and did a couple tours. We were all-in with our band, college, and jobs. During this time I also worked on several film scores, commercials, and songwriting co-writes. I even played in a 2nd band for two of those years. That means for two years there were two bands, film scoring, college, and day-jobs that overlapped daily for me. Looking back, this was probably the busiest time of my life and I remember constantly expressing the desperate need for more free time to do exactly what I really wanted to do (which was pretty ironic because I was accomplishing a lot of important goals). I felt like I was always looking forward to this mystery time when I could dictate what I wanted to do everyday. A bit of a grass-is-greener attitude. The truth is, I had no fucking clue how much trouble I was going to have with my own freedom when I had finally earned it.

Part II: Glimpsing My Freedom like a Light at the End of a Tunnel

Fast-forward two more years of constant work, post-graduation. Our efforts and pulling-our-hair-out days had started to pay off. We were emerging from our windowless-basement-bedroom-work-caves and started going to parties and on dates again and buying ourselves new clothes. All of a sudden we could afford rent without a panic-attack by the end of every month! We no longer had to eat beans and rice every day and we could buy drinks at bars instead of sitting on our stoop with 40s. We could get fashionable hipster haircuts and drink cold brew coffee. We had done the unthinkable – we were now earning a living playing music (oh my god, who would’ve thought?!) The problem is that most of us didn’t know how to spend this newly earned liberty. With financial freedom comes great financial and social responsibility, and we were generally just fucking up. Buy hey, we’re child-like adults and this is how we learn ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Part III: Getting Comfortable and Maximizing Distractions

Something astounding happened somewhere down the line after sitting back a little… we all got lazy. And I know why. As young musicians a couple years into “the real life industry”, we had all seemed to hit the musical jackpot of starting to have some success and no longer constantly struggling. You see, most of us spent our childhood being told by whoever the fuck felt like putting us down for whatever the fuck reason the statistics of “how few musicians make it” and “how rare it is to be a successful artist”. Most of these people also equate success with income, so really they were talking about making a ton of money and maybe also talking about fame. But that’s really beside the point because there are so many amazing artists who work behind the scenes to make an entire production run. Not every artist strives to be rich and famous. But, I digress.

With musical chores aside, rent paid, food on the table, and ample time to work on our most burning desires as artists we ended up… doing a whole lot of nothing. We were out of practice with freedom, it had been a long time. We had adequately given the skeptics the finger and now we were wasting days, even weeks at a time, when we used to hustle every single day like the world would end if we didn’t. It really is so hard to explain how this affected our art without one having experienced it oneself. I’ll try paint a picture of some examples of the way this freedom, and effectively laziness, had affected us:

    •    We slept in, stopped making breakfast and instead bought it from the a coffee shop every morning

    •    We took up every friend on grabbing a drink because we actually now had time and it’s no longer an issue to postpone our work

    •    We drank more alcohol than we usually did

    •    We bought a PlayStation and SSX Tricky (main culprit of the time-suck)

And here’s the kicker… we all got a little depressed. Without a fire under my ass of the previously lived reality that if I don’t make this happen now I will probably have to pack up and leave the U.S. and restart my life, it became easier to give into distractions and relax a little too hard.

So how does this make sense? I’m basically proposing the idea, in my experience, that the less time you have for something, the more likely it is that you’ll pursue it because you’re in the flow of working. The more time you have, the more likely you are to sit back and put it off - because you can. I have started understanding how to fix the problem, because you see, true progress is about always having goals that excite you. There’s always so much more to strive for, and I have a feeling that this is truly the hard part – doing something meaningful when you don’t have to, but because you want to. For me, staying in a comfortable position would be to plateau. I don’t want to stop growing. Chasing excitement is what makes me feel the most enriched in my life.

Nowadays, I don’t spend every day, all day making music like in those crazy years of work madness. And I also don’t spend it day-drinking and playing SSX Tricky (except on occasion). I try to exercise every day, work, and spend time with people as well as time with myself. Like I’ve said before, very little music is written about writing music. You have a sweet life to live, and you’ve got sweet art to make about this life. Strive for some kind of balance that fuels and centers you, especially as your goals and environments change. Hopefully I can start maintaining some kind of balance. Or not, who knows – either way, you’ll read about it on here.

Work hard, play hard!

Xoxo

Sulene

Why It’s so F-ing Hard to Be Yourself

It’s 6 pm on Thursday, September 10 and I’ve been thinking about what to write all week. It’s important to me to keep these posts true to recent experiences, and so this one isn’t going to be the usual artisty, careery talk but rather something a little different.

I spend a lot of time thinking about individuality and what that really means, now more than ever. Does it mean wearing weird clothes? Does it mean saying outrageous things? Does it mean dancing on table-tops wearing a Borat swimsuit and cowboy boots and pouring tequila in your eye-balls while reciting a battle cry backwards? I’m not sure. To some that might be it but to me it all seems much more profound and a lot less superficial than that.

Like a bad college graduation speech, I’m now going to tell you that the dictionary defines an individual as “a single human being as distinct from a group, class, or family”. Doesn’t that sound terrifying? Be honest, because for most people the thought of being “distinct from” would mean being the outcast and being the outcast is usually a lonely and misunderstood place. To most it feels better to be accepted into a group. That’s why we had cliques in high school like the popular kids and the jocks and the nerds and the music nerds (proud member of).

As a young adult who was largely defined by the conservative family I grew up in, along with being entwined in a serious relationship for many years, it’s been a huge transition for me to go from the person who I was then to the person I am now becoming. The issue I had with the person I was then was that so much of my joy in life was based outside of myself. I wanted to be complimented and accepted and told I was doing great, because without that reflection, who was I and how did I know I’m doing the right thing? This is why so many people stay in long-term relationships even when they start going down a long one-way street to Sucksville. Effectively, my source of contentedness was external rather than internal, and as the years went by and things and people outside of my control were shifting and even taken away, little pieces of me felt like they were being taken away too until a very bad year in 2005 where I lost so much I could hardly recognize myself. At rock bottom is where it all started to change.

I accept that I am still today largely defined by the environment and people around me. Like a child, this is where I learn every day what is right and wrong, what is “cool” and what is not, and most dangerously, what musically sounds good and what doesn’t. As children we were not as afraid of what people thought until we started getting reprimanded for doing things the “wrong way”. In time, we started conforming to social expectations… but to what extent?

Tracing back my steps, I can see that I have always naturally felt tied to my particular family’s standards. My family is an extremely loving one that I am so grateful for, but looking back I can see that there are standards I have found myself unintentionally having to live up to which include; being highly intelligent and educated, being “naturally gifted and talented” (I don’t think it's as much talent as it is a labour of love), being tidy and organized at all times, and classically beautiful (no hair dye/tats/piercings). This means that when nine-year-old me showed up at grandma’s house with bruises on my knees I was told that this was not lady-like and little girls shouldn’t have bruises on their knees when they wear dresses to church on Sunday. This is the first memory I have of feeling guilty about who I am. It’s such a small, seemingly insignificant exchange, but it speaks loudly when nine-year-old me went on to play soccer, hockey, volleyball, basketball, as well as skating and snowboarding for a decade after that. When I was a little girl, I was taught that pink was for the girls and blue was for the boys. But I never liked pink and I told my mom I didn’t want any pink clothes and I wanted to paint my bedroom walls blue. My mom is a saint who went above and beyond to understand my rebellion from this early on. She accepted my requests and did the explaining to family members. At ten years old I became a tom-boy and got made fun of for my baggy pants and backwards hat. Kids started to stereotype me and my best friend as early as they had learned the word “lesbian”. This was all very confusing and amusing to me because I didn’t know yet if I was a lesbian or not. I just liked the things I liked – what that had to do with my yet-to-be discovered sexuality I didn’t know. Labels. Stereotypes. Right and wrong. Do you see what I’m saying? Also, by the way, if I was a lesbian that’s incredibly insensitive to make fun of someone for that… you’re actually teaching that straight is right and homosexuality is wrong, and I never got that. Ten-year-old me didn’t care who loved who and still doesn’t.

Back to the topic at hand… pretty early on I recognized that I was the black sheep in the family and I felt the beginning of a sense of being torn between who I truly am in all my weirdness and wonderfulness and being the person who some would like me to be. I tried the second one on for size for two very stupid teenage years and it just wasn’t nearly as fun. I dressed like everyone else, I agreed with the popular kids about things I shouldn’t have, and I didn't even recognize peer-pressure because I just did whatever everyone else was doing. I did get to date the most popular guy in my grade though and that made me like pretty cool.

Have you ever noticed when you start spending a lot of time with a new friend that you start to take on the way they ask questions? Or you start to pick up some of their slang? Maybe they say “dude” a lot so now you're starting a lot of your sentences with “dude, blah blah.” Every time I notice this about myself – since I do spend a lot of time in close quarters with other people – I start to wonder how many other habits or ideas from the external world have gotten under my skin, and which I would truly like to embody and which I really would like to reject.

The point is this: it’s very hard for me to always be myself. I get really shy, especially around people who I look up to. I want them to like me and think I’m funny and articulate and cute and good at music. But it gets exhausting trying so damn hard all the time, so I’m trying something new which is to stop holding back and being to sensitive to what everyone may think of me. Because most of the time they're not even thinking about you at all, they're thinking about if they should have another cup of coffee or if they really need to work out today because they did yesterday and did their package from Amazon arrive. I want to let everything inside my unique brain come out and I really feel I need to back-up what I believe in and excel at the things that move me or I will start to feel like a shell of myself. I want to stay respectful to others, but always true to myself. I also would like to stop judging others and myself, and just let it all flow and enjoy everything. Over-thinking has been so exhausting. We’re all different, let's get over it. Oh, and if you remark one more time in a condescending tone, “seriously, you haven’t heard that band?! What, have you been living under a rock?” I’m gonna punch myself in the face because no one knows every band you know nor do they probably want to.

Sometimes I hate admitting it but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the strongest relationships I’ve ever had, whether friendships or love relationships, were with people who I share a love with that is not smooth and polished all the time. We have been all across the emotional spectrum together and can say we really know each other. We may drift apart at times or even cut ties and then months or years later we come back together in celebration of our love for one another in a realistically awesome ebb and flow. I’m realizing now that these people are such pillars in my life because they have the boldest, most head-strong personalities and I fucking love them for it. They are themselves and not afraid to show it and they won't put up with that bullshit of me hiding myself. I have never once been forreal worried that they will disappear forever, no matter what has happened between us. I can see that at all times we are just so comfortable with one another that we’re expressing ourselves freely and sometimes this clashes, and that’s okay. To me, being best friends doesn't mean we're always cool with each other and always agree on everything and paint each other's toe-nails while watching Gilmore Girls. It means we can withstand the crashing waves of life and depression and mistakes and disagreements and still always love each other unconditionally. And that we can forgive. These relationships inspire me because they are the ones in which we give fewer fucks than we usually do around those who we want to be accepted by. These people are the ones that make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts as I beg them to stop saying the hilariously bizarre thing they just said, and they’re the people I can tell my darkest secrets to. They may not realize it, but every time I’m with them they encourage me to be myself – to be an individual rather than a chameleon-like part of a group. I'm just lucky enough that they have accepted me into their lives and that we can have one another's backs.

I imagine this world where everyone is so unique and truly themselves and it looks so colourful and exciting and insane. Maybe the best we can do is to find those who reflect back exactly who we are so that we don’t get lost in the noise of who we feel we should be. We’re individuals – we are ultimately alone, and I’m starting to really love this idea. When we come together as individuals something amazing happens. Great bands happen, love happens, movies happen, babies happen. So today I want to leave you with the thought to embrace being yourself as a total individual. And remember, the sooner you show your true colours the quicker you can weed out those who are toxic to you versus those who enrich you.

You’re doing great.

Fuck the haters.

Sulene

Being Your Own (Not Shitty) Boss

It’s 8:30 am on a Tuesday and you’re hungover from a night of drinking with your roommates. While you sit on your stoop with your iced coffee and watch the working-class walk to the bus stop to get to their 9-5 you indulge in just how lucky you feel to not be part of the system. You’re punk as fuck. You’ve got no money and nowhere to be today, and you don’t really know where you’re going.

If this is you then you could be what one calls a “self-employed artist”. The day I entered the working world and proclaimed that I’m a self-employed musician I felt so cool and liberated and thought I was totally awesome for working for no one but myself. Two years later in New York City, I’ve worked for many bosses on many different jobs and I’ve also consistently worked for myself, and let me tell you, working for myself was the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s really hard to be your own boss and be good at it.

I believe the biggest struggle for those who are self-employed is being disciplined. It’s actually really difficult to make sure you get up at 8 am and that you work a full day without messing around on Facebook or watching Spongebob Squarepants in your pajamas ‘til noon. If you do the experiment of adding up how many hours a week you actually worked on your craft it’s amazing how few people reach at least 40 hours. So you might want to hold off on indulging in that feeling that you’re beating the system, because it’s way more likely that the system is beating you.

Some people don’t pursue their passions because of fear of failure. But in my experience, it’s way more likely that you’re just straight up lazy or that you’re not aware of exactly how much you are not working. The in-between of working and not working is a dangerous place. Sitting in Starbucks on Tumblr while writing your novel isn’t really working. Sitting in a public place where you know you’re going to run into friends (I went to Berklee, I know we all sat in Pavement Coffeehouse to get a whole lot of nothing done), is already setting yourself up for a wanted distraction. Jamming every day with your friends while never getting a solid songwriting idea laid down isn’t really productive. It’s super fun, but it’s not going to move you forward in the long run. There’s a time and place for everything. I call this 21st century anomaly “half-working”; it’s the in-between where you fool yourself thinking you’re being productive, when really you’re not.

I have a lot of respect for those who work a 9-5. A lot of creative people talk about a 9-5 like it’s the enemy because their “personality type” can’t handle it. But I think that anyone who works a consistent job every day faces the same issue on a varying degree – the issue of how to not get bored or depressed or uninspired. Even writing an album every day from 9 am to 5 pm will probably start to feel mundane and Twlight Zone-ish after the first two weeks. We’re basically spoiled, over-indulgent, overly stimulated children who refuse to believe that our parents' old-fashioned way of career is the answer to our woes of boredom and being broke. But the thing is, not even working for yourself is going to feel amazing all the time – it’s still work. You can’t really escape it, so learn to embrace it.

If laziness is our biggest culprit, then its sister is excuses. People will always find excuses for not pursuing things. The biggest one is not having enough money. But every fulfilled and successful person believes that there is an answer to every problem and that no hurdle is so big that it’ll end your career. It’s important to remember that no matter how stuck you feel in a situation in your life, there’s always a solution to your problem. Isn’t that cool? How liberating. It usually comes down to just how lazy or not lazy you are in pursuing the solution. It's usually really difficult but that’s not any reason to shy away from it, right? Since we’ve already figured out that working for yourself is a life of kicking your own ass consistently that you've willingly signed up for.

One of the best things I ever did was work as a composer for another composer. My boss told me everyday how much music I had to write by when, and he checked on my progress over my shoulder about every 4 hours. After this experience my mind was blown by just how much music I was able to write everyday, mainly out of fear that I was going to screw up and get fired, but I also learned that I’m capable of much more productivity than I had originally given myself credit for. If you want to be your own boss you have to be really good at looking over your own shoulder.

Some creatives may find themselves at a crossroads at times asking, “what if I’m just not feeling it?” Well, you could either “write the bad stuff out” (another blog post to come) or just give up and watch Netflix all day until you feel inspired again. Just kidding. I’ve actually found from personal experience that it works very well to balance your day or week with creative and non-creative work. Writing this blog is a great example. You may be wondering why I write a blog when I’m a musician for a living. It’s because it’s good for my mental state, to be honest. It helps with this exact problem that I mentioned above. Mornings are difficult for me and I often need a little bit of time to get my bearings before I’m ready to like enter into self-therapy and write my heart out into song. I usually make some coffee, put on a new record, and sit and write blog posts until I feel ready to write music. I also do a lot of non-creative work for other people. I’ve been hired to edit videos and tune vocals for people’s albums. This is still interesting to me, but it’s not self-expression and it's not forcing me to bare my soul the moment I wake up until the moment I stop working. If you’re able to be 100% creative all day every day then you’re a freak of nature and fuck you. Figure out what triggers you being able to relax and get into that place where you transcend menial every day worries and just write freely. Sometimes non-creative work is the key, sometimes going for a run or cleaning your bathroom puts you in the mood. You do you.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I believe there is something incredible that comes from the forward motion of being pro-active. There’s no denying that you get from the universe what you put out. If you’re a good person trying to do good things, you have good people in your life who nourish you with support and optimism. If you’re a negative, lazy person then it’s way more likely that you see the world as a desolate, lonely, shitty place that won’t throw you a bone. Don’t perpetuate the latter. If you’re your own boss you’re unfortunately going to have to work on being good at it. Try to be disciplined; show up to work on time every day and write down your daily goals. Once you lock into that cycle of being professional with yourself amazing things will happen. I’ve been told by many that I’m very lucky for the “random” opportunities I’ve gotten. But I try not to see them as random and instead every day feel grateful for those who invest and trust in me. It’s interesting because the harder I work, the luckier I seem to get. And this is the part where I give credit to whoever wrote that quote but Google is telling me it was Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin or Samuel Goldwyn and apparently there’s an entire debate around who originally said that. I’m not going to get involved.

Get back to work! :)

Sulene