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Thursday, September 10, 2009

What legacy will you leave?

When I was in line behind a loud, boisterous cowboy hat clad man, who was speaking to a boy in his early twenties who hust claimed he had brought a 1976 Gran Turino, I knew I was heading to the South. This was a full flight and I know that no matter where I stood in line to board the plane, I wasn’t going to escape the cowboy’s hollering. I knew that I had to expect certain personalities when traveling and so I just plugged in my earphones and drowned it out with some peaceful music on my iPod.

I love going on my “music meccas” as I call them. At least once a year if not three times, I send myself to an exciting destination that always includes music, fun, new friends and lots of adventure. Thus time it was Nashville, Tennessee, home of country music, and where all songwriters are either getting cuts, or giving you business cards and networking in the hope to get a cut. (A “cut” traditionally is when one of your songs is chosen for a well known Artist’s record.)

I was at a barbeque the first afternoon surrounded by these songwriters, and the typical conversation was, “oh yeah I’m just banking my first mechanical royalty check this week”, or “I have five pending mechanicals” or, “I’m writing with someone and we hope to get a cut”. It’s all about songwriting, and more specifically, making business from the songs. Any where you go, and anything you do, is aligned with writing and then meeting the right people to further your songs. No one writes just for the sake of writing. It is a business town, always has been, always will be.
I had been to Nashville before. Once in 2002 where I actually conducted my first seminar for Artists about DIY (Doing it yourself) at a music convention run by David Hooper (one of the forefronts of the DIY movement, if you call it such). I also spoke that time at the Songwriters Guild of American (SGA) to songwriters about the same notion, and they were completely shocked at the time that one could actually run their own business or publishing company. They all assumed that one needed to be signed to a publishing company to actually get any success from your songs, rather than actually have your own company. What a concept! What I spoke about in ’02 was revolutionary because practically no one were doing it independently. The second trip was in ’03 when I was flown there by Jeff Young, ex-guitarist of metal rock band, Megadeth, to record vocals on a song he wrote with well-known Brazilian artist Badi Assad. We recorded it at Michael Wagener’s studio (Alice Cooper, Janet Jackson, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne,… just to name a few). Suffice to say, that I’ve had some cool trips to Nashville. Cut to this year and I couldn’t believe it had been 6 years since I’d been to this unique music town.
This year, 2009, I was in Nashville to be honored by the non-profit women in the arts music organization, Indiegrrl, for my contributions to the arts and music, with a lifetime membership, and I also spoke at their conference. It was truly a great 10 days. I also got to speak at the new IndieConnect seminars about artist entrepreneurship, and sang a few songs each night at songwriter rounds around town. I seemed to be the token pop artist amongst a sea of Tim McGraw sound-alikes. No matter what, I was enamored by the notion that Nashville catered to the most important aspect in the music industry: the song. For without the song, there is no business. This whole town revolves around writing songs, writing with the right writers to write songs, and pitch to the right people who can place songs with the right artists (thereabouts making “a cut”).
A lot has happened in the 6 years since visits. Now it’s standard that artists are indie, or do it themselves (DIY) and I don’t want to think I may have been a trail blazer in that department, but I can at least remarkably say, “I’M STILL HERE”. It’s all about the journey, really, and that’s the most important thing as an artist: to enjoy the process of living it. Then hopefully, when it all ends, that wonderful, blissful day when we all sail to the sky, heaven, reincarnate or whatever you believe your body and/or soul does…. You can look back on your life and say: I’ve done something. I’ve left a legacy.
Legacy: The values, principles and wisdom of a well-lived life. I like that. I saw that on a website as a definition for legacy.
What will be your legacy? What will you leave behind? Will you have made an impact somehow? Will people remember you for something significant? Perhaps it will be your songs? Perhaps it will be your message? Perhaps it will be your contribution to the greater picture of the world. Who knows?
What is my legacy? I thought it was to share my songs and be a well known talented artist. I believe my songs are timeless and they do send a message. That’s for sure. I would hope that they will live on way past me. That’s why I spend so much time getting them right, in writing and in producing them. They are like babies, with their own lives, really. But more and more I feel my legacy is about being a role model for other artists to define and master their destiny. I hope to be remembered as someone who walked their talk, who just ‘got out there’ and wasn’t afraid to show up and DO It in life. I hope to be remembered as someone who lived her truth, lives with passion, pursues excellence and was constantly creative. I hope to inspire others by how I lived my life.
Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime? Yet he left an enormous legacy. Why? Because it wasn’t about how much money he made in his life (though he probably wished he made more money, as he lived on the poverty line). His legacy was large because a) He was a prolific artist. He painted many paintings and every day was about being creative. b) He was innately talented. You can’t bluff talent. You either have it or you don’t. He had it. c) He spoke his truth. He lived his pain and emotions through his art. It was very evident in his subjects, colors, and swirling lines. His truth is what made him unique, and what we remember about him the most. In making music, or doing your art, it is crucial to always capture your personal essence. People will talk about you, promote you, critique you, applaud you, or idolize you. But they will do that especially if you are TRUE in your artistry. Live your art.
When you’re standing on the mountain looking back, that’s when you appreciate the journey. In the meantime, just live your art and speak your truth. Let the masses react, decide, glorify or judge. It doesn’t matter. Live your truth, because this is the legacy you’ll leave behind. By gilli moon
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