I’ve been dreading sitting behind my piano. I’ve been dead scared of finishing the writing of my new album.
I burned out, after releasing my 2nd record. I couldn’t take any of it anymore. The indie musician reality – and the entire way my life was, at that point, to be honest – was killing me.
I took some time to reset my foundation. I stopped working jobs that were draining me. I did my yoga teacher training in 2019, and graduated in 2020. And now, post-lockdown here in Montreal, I finally have a job that sustains my heart, mind and soul, as well as my bank account.
The music’s been coming, don’t worry ’bout that. I’ve got this album in the works, and I wanna do it. But to even think about anything beyond my production process, anything beyond my studio experience, puts me in such a fear that I can barely allow myself near my keyboard at home.
It hurts me. It hurts me to play. It hurts me to sit behind my piano and play because it’s what I love doing above anything else. It hurts me because what was once my peace haven was broken by the trauma of exhaustion, financial problems, rejection, and abuse.
Last month, I was writing about wellness, and how important it is to put it first. As I sit here facing my own words on my computer, I wonder – where does balance fall from self-care to self-harm?
By keeping myself from playing, because of how traumatized I am of my experience as an indie musician in the 21st century for the past 15 years, am I actually hurting myself even more?
Music is what brings me the most joy, the most freedom, the most balance and alignment. When I play music, I am free. When I play music, I know why I’m alive.
Music saved me. As of sec 2, I think, I started walking around with my music all the time. I had a walkman. It might even have been sec 1. Always with my headphones on.
Eventually I had a discman. I’d usually bring 2 CDs with me for my day, putting 2 disks in 2 box, so my bag wouldn’t be overloaded. And eventually, I received a CD case for my birthday, if I remember correctly, and so I would bring myself quite a few albums for my day.
I remember listening to Lateralus on the city bus from LaSalle back to Verdun. It was a pretty long ride. I would either close my eyes or not. I’d take lots of space in the bus, always putting my feet up on the seats or seat arms. I’d put my backpack on the seat next to me, always, so no one would sit next to me. I made space for myself, at a time where I felt like no one was giving me any. I hated high school.
I’d spend lots of time writing out parts of the lyrics of songs I really liked in my agenda or notebooks. When everyone else in the class was very determined to spend the class aggravating the teacher, or when I couldn’t care less about the subject that was being presented to me, I would just write out my lyrics. Get in my little bubble. Get back to Music.
On the bus I would daydream. Like, radically zone out of reality, and picture a reality and/or future for myself where I was touring or even just friends with my favorite musicians. Or just by myself. In my Music-Space, I wasn’t one of the school rejects. I was a great big rockstar.
That’s what got me through my high school trauma – my escape dream that became my career goal. It mattered to me to become a musician, and as soon as I was out of high school, I set myself to do everything/anything I could do Make It.
I obviously did that too literally – doing EVERYTHING by myself – and it got the better of me.
I’m not exaggerating here – I AM completely traumatized by my experience in the field of the past 15 years. It doesn’t make sense to be doing the job of 8 different people, as an indie musician. That’s how it is – sure, ok, but it’s not good for anyone.
Yeah, but that’s how it is – yes, I know, but I really don’t wanna do any of that anymore. I don’t wanna do anything that depletes me or that goes against my own values anymore.
Good for you, Robshaw, but then you gotta accept that you might not get where you wanted to go with your music career.
You know what? I don’t think I wanna think about that. For now.
Treat your music like a small business, it’s really what it is nowadays – I guess so, but all I want is to sit and play. I never wanted to run my own business. I’d have done quite a lot of different things in school if I wanted to become a business owner.
I just wanna sit and play. I wanna be able to sit behind my piano, and enjoy myself. I wanna just sit and create music, and sing, and finish my songs. I wanna hit the studio, and let myself go, and enjoy the production process. I don’t even wanna think about anything else other than that.
I do want to see how far my music can take me. I want to believe I can experience a sustainable career in music. I wanna believe that I can tour the world, and set people free, through my songs. Achieving this matters to me very much.
I wish I could feel safe. I wish I could sit behind my piano and feel this great big comfort, the comfort I used to feel 15 years ago, when I was so sure that Making It was right around the corner for me.
I’m working on it. I’m doing everything I can to rewire my brain out of trauma, and it’s happening. I can tap into the feeling of enjoying myself in the studio, I can remember what it’s like to jam out with my friends in my band, laughing and grooving and rocking out. I can feel in my body the expansion and release I experience whenever I play – the one space of perfect freedom, where I feel completely safe to be myself.
I don’t want anybody to read this and embark on the hOw To MaKe It In ThE MuSic BuSiNeSs spiel. I really couldn’t care less about that anymore. Not at my age. Not with my level of experience on the field. This actually isn’t about that at all.
When the time comes, I’ll see how I feel. I’ll see how my life is, and how much I can dedicate to the business side of things -and hey, who knows what can happen until then!
But right now, all I wanna care about is my music. All I wanna be is the Great Creatrix. All I wanna be is a Mother to my new songs. I don’t wanna worry about taking pictures for the ‘gram, and how I can win over the algorithms of fb so more people can see my posts.
What matters right now is making music. Actually, what matters right now, is resetting my relationship to music. What matters is that I overcome the trauma.
This month, I chose to share my story. Raw, as personal as can be. Indie musicians may or may not relate. If you’ve burned out before, you might relate. If you burned out because you wanted your career to be based upon what feeds your heart and soul, you might relate a bit more.
I think it’s important to expose the reality of indie musicians. I think it’s even more important to take our power back, from whichever point we stand, and decide what we do with our time and energy. There’s no way I’m doing anything anymore that goes against my own nature. To be a human alive in this society, in this day and age, has me do enough of that already. I don’t need to be out of alignment even more. What we have to go through everyday is enough.
I don’t know what this decision will bring to my career as a musician, but as a human person, I know it’s peace -and when we come down to it, isn’t that the point?