I grew up in the 'burbs of Motown in a house with a recording studio. Although I didn't realize how lucky I was at the time for this, I now look back fondly on all those years my dad interrupted my social gatherings to record harmonies on one of his latest tunes. My dad is a freelance singer/songwriter, producer and engineer. He started a restoration business years ago, but continued to write and record during his free time.
I was an impatient teenager yearning for fame and fortune. This was the age of bubble gum pop music and my musical diet consisted of (in exact order): Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Mandy Moore and N*SYNC. Pop was cool and trendy, and popularity was my priority. Listening to music outside of this genre felt awkward and uncool. I left The Beatles, Neil Young and Simon and Garfunkel (even Biggie Smalls) to my older sisters who were intellectually versed and adept. Early musical acts associated to emotion and nostalgia, which I wanted to avoid (or maybe couldn't quite grasp) as a pre-teen.
Hellooo! I wanted to be a star baby, I wanted my name on the hollywood walk of fame. I memorized dance moves like Britney in the "(You Drive Me) Crazy" video like every other conventional American middle schooler in the early 2000's and won second place on a local radio talent show with Britney's song, "Sometimes". I thought, "this is my ticket to fame!" and proudly walked around school playing my boombox with a cassette of my performance from the talent show.
But truthfully, I was just a dork at heart trying my best to fit in with Adidas flip flops and braces (check the photo above). I was figuring myself out like every other kid, but I wanted attention and knew I could achieve it with some sort of boldness.
Bold meant superficial attention: popularity, image and shock value. Look, it's what MTV told me to do, so I followed suit and swapped the Adidas and braces for mini skirts and a tan.
However, my parents were pretty old school, so there was no mention of a Hilton or Kardashian in our household. We were sent to orchestra, choir and intellectually stimulating day camps. My dad worked hard at building his business and he expected the same from his four daughters. I can still hear him respond to my resistance with: "this is all apart of character building, kid." AKA:
No hand outs. no shortcuts to success.
"Do the work! You're smart, you're talented. You got this." And so one day, he wrote me a plan of action. "You want to be successful? Then we gotta make a plan."
He wrote out a POA for me while I passively contributed, still let down by the fact that I couldn't just get signed to a record label and rise to the status of Britney Spears (my dreams have since evolved, FYI). A few years passed, I matured and followed his POA, entering music college. Dad still chugged along on his musical pursuits, sometimes putting out a song per week. He continued to ask me to record on his tunes throughout my education, which I did, but in a lackluster way. I didn't want to listen back to the recordings and hear my mistakes. I expected perfection from the beginning.
But I learned the hard way that it doesn't work this way! It takes butt loads of practice, ambition, vision, dedication, conceptualizing, laboring, successes and failures to reach a certain level of achievement. It means knowing yourself to express yourself. It means accepting the crap takes with the good takes.
It's about acceptance and forgiveness of our mishaps, and the ability to move forward stronger and improved.
So where's dad? He's retired and still cranking out music for fun, but also reaching out to licensing companies. He's still carving out his name for that star on the walk of fame, but he's already earned them ten fold in my opinion. Because he has the passion, dedication and unconditional love for the music.
It's about finding the joy throughout the journey.
So readers and musicians, GO and find the JOY in your mistakes and embrace them. Don't stop pursuing what you love, and do it with purpose and integrity. Keep the long run in mind and protect your dreams.
I've included a favorite song of my dad's; "Cold Winter Day" circa 1980. The song was written for my older sister, Nikki, who was two at the time it was written (she's also the little girl speaking at the beginning). And just a fair warning, you might want to grab some tissues. I find this song to be a total tear jerker, but then again, that's probably because it's written lovingly by my dad and reminds me of Michigan and my childhood.
My dream isn't to be Britney Spears anymore (and honestly, just no), but it is to be great at what I do and to be joyful and purposeful throughout the journey.