the long version: (there is no short version)
where do i start?
maybe the best place is to ask where am i going?
what does it mean to be an independent recording artist today?
what does it mean to be 60?
all good questions and i'm not sure if i have any of the answers...yet.
here's what i do know.
i have 15 albums and 5 singles. i am proudly a yamaha recording artist.
i recorded my first album in 1995, mostly because of some synchronicities. i was, literally, composing a piece of music on the fly at a piano in a restaurant in a little town in illinois called galena. three girlfriends challenged me to 'go play the piano', so i did. people there asked for the piece i had just played - on an album - so they could purchase it. and that was what started it...this journey. my earliest albums were totally celebrating solo piano, a genre for which we can thank george winston and then in a more contemporary radio-friendly way, jim brickman.
there was a point when the recipe for airplay success meant adding in orchestration - emotional cello lines, stirring string sections, percussion. my really brilliant producer ken abeling wrote arrangements to track these additional acoustic instruments with my compositions and the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY was born. the first time i heard one of my pieces of music on the radio, it aired on an adult contemporary station in chicago. any artist can tell you that is a breathtaking moment.
in concert back in the early days, on stage, in boots and jeans and black shirts (for i am not a fancy-concert-candlelabra-type) i'd tell stories, play pieces off albums, and insert maybe a vocal song or two. FISTFUL OF DANDELIONS is one of those songs and when it was released on the compilation album THE BEST SO FAR, it was played so much on MIXX 96.1 in washington, that i started thinking about a full-length vocal album. when i released AS SURE AS THE SUN, it was in olympia, dedicated to the listeners there for their encouragement and support.
i've since written all the material for seven albums (vocal & instrumental) and recorded eight others with music i arranged with themes like christmas, oldies, lullabies, hymns.
i've played live on qvc (a home-shopping network where they sold five of my albums), had the pleasure of radio interviews around the country, traveled all over toting boxes of product and displays, selling cds at wholesale and retail shows. for a couple years, i co-hosted a morning drive show on radio once a week, which was total fun, thanks to don rosen, the program director at 92.1. i had the honor of working with my dear friend heidi, an inspirational speaker who is a breast cancer survivor. together we performed at innumerable oncology and cancer survivor events across the united states. i have received feedback from listeners in letters, phone calls, emails; i have no words for how much it means to hear that this music - my music - has touched them, moved them, helped them in even a small way. i love performing on stage; my boots and jeans and black shirts are always ready to share time, share myself, with an audience.
like all of us, in business, i've made good choices and i've made mistakes. i hired a radio promoter to promote a single to the radio market which cost me as much as producing my most expensive album to date; although my song reached "#13" on the secondary AC charts, i realized much later that this effort was a smokescreen. the industry is not designed to actually help independent artists who choose to pay promoters and media agencies in their quest to achieve a bigger audience. instead, it amasses a small fortune of debt and accomplishes little in reality. a daunting realization and, certainly, perspective-arranging.
maybe that's the main lesson i've learned: that as an independent artist i have a different reality than a chosen signed artist on the constantly-moving fast-train of upwardly moving success. my path is a bit grittier. without the machine behind you, you are lugging boxes, standing in the rain on flatbeds, taking out home equity loans, playing all the roles in the office yourself until you were able to afford help.....while all good learnings, there is little that is about the actual music, more about the mechanics.
which brings me back to my initial questions. now what?
there are certainly songs to write, songs to sing, music to share from the incredible instrument that is the piano. there are moments from the bench on wooden stages with a boom stand mic in front of me, all the while wondering if my jeans are stuck in my boots funny. there are opportunities i can see and, most definitely, ones i can't see - somewhere in the plan that this universe has. maybe i'll just sing some songs with a ukulele on the next album. maybe there won't be a next album. the streaming thing has decimated earnings and royalties for recording artists everywhere, making it next to impossible to afford a new project. i'm just not sure. it's time to get creative.
in the meanwhile, i am grateful to have lived BOTH in a time where john denver's simple melodies and delivery are celebrated on a vinyl album where i can hear the dust on the needle AND i can instantly text both of my amazing children in their corners of the world. the juxtaposition of these things is our world now. i turn and look at my artist husband, our crazy aussie dog and fat cat, my children and all our family and friends, our adventures and quiet times and give thanks.i'm not